I have been studying successful people most of my life and have found the differences between them and the people who accomplish less worth noting — and they’re not what you might expect.
Successful people talk, think, and approach situations, challenges, and problems differently than most people. And the only way to be successful is to take the same actions that successful people take. Success is no different than any other skill. Duplicate the actions and mindsets of successful people, and you will create success for yourself.
Here are 31 commonly found qualities, personality traits, and habits that make successful people the way they are. As you read this list, think: How many items pertain to you? What areas do you need to work on?
1) Have a “Can Do” Attitude
People with a “can do” attitude approach every situation with the outlook that no matter what, it can be done. They consistently use phrases like “We can do it,” “Let’s make it happen,” “Let’s work it out” — and they always maintain that a solution exists. These people talk in terms of explanations and resolving issues and communicate challenges with a positive outlook.
2) Believe That “I Will Figure It Out”
Even if you’re not sure how to do something, the best answer is “I will figure it out” — not “I don’t know.” You can admit that you’re unfamiliar with something — as long as you immediately follow that admission up with the promise that you will figure it out or find someone who will.
3) Focus on Opportunity
Successful people see all situations — even problems and complaints — as opportunities. Where others see difficulty, successful individuals know that problems solved equal new products, services, customers — and probably financial success. Remember: Success is overcoming a challenge. Therefore, you can’t succeed without some kind of difficulty.
4) Love Challenges
Whereas many people loathe challenges — and use them as reasons to sink further into indifference — highly successful individuals are compelled and invigorated by challenges. Challenges are the experiences that sharpen successful people’s abilities. To achieve your goals, you have to get to a place where every challenge becomes fuel for you.
5) Seek to Solve Problems
Give me a problem — any problem — and when I solve it, I will be rewarded and I may become a hero. The bigger the problems — and the more people who benefit from the solution — the more powerful your success will be. One of the fastest and best ways to separate yourself from the masses is to establish yourself as someone who makes situations better, not worse.
6) Persist Until Successful
The ability to persist on a given path regardless of setbacks, unexpected events, bad news, and resistance — to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, or course of action in spite of conditions — is a trait common to those who make it. This quality is necessary to make any dream a reality.
7) Take Risks
Most people never go far enough in getting recognized, gaining attention, and making a big splash; they are trying to protect or conserve a reputation, a position, or some already achieved state. The successful are willing to take gambles — to put it all out there and know, regardless of the outcome, that they can go back and do it again. Remember the old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
8) Be Unreasonable
Unreasonable doesn’t mean being mentally unstable — and let’s face it, who isn’t just a little off the rocker — but that you refuse to validate the alleged “sanity” of reasonable actions that will never get you what you want. Think about it: Would we have cars, airplanes, space travel, telephones, and the Internet if someone hadn’t done something that another person had labeled “unreasonable”? Man would do nothing exceptional if it were not for the willingness to be unreasonable.
9) Be Dangerous
Being careful requires you to take actions cautiously — and there is no way that you will ever hit 10X activity levels by being cautious. Massive action demands that you throw caution to the wind, even if it puts you in the path of danger.
10) Readily Take Action
The highly successful take unbelievable amounts of action. Regardless of what that action looks like, these people rarely do nothing — even when they are on vacation (just ask their spouses or families!). The unsuccessful talk about a plan for action but never quite get around to doing what they claim they’re going to do — at least enough to ever get what they want. Successful people assume that their future achievements rely on investing in actions that may not pay off today but that when taken consistently and persistently over time will sooner or later bear fruit.
11) Always Say “Yes”
When given an option to do or not do something, always say yes! Life is to be lived — something that becomes impossible to do when you’re constantly saying no. Give this a try: Say yes until you become so successful that you are forced to add “no” to your arsenal and start managing your time and efforts. Until then, make saying “yes” part of your success-building habits.
12) Habitually Commit
Commitment is actually one of the things of which there is a shortage. Far too many individuals and organizations fail to commit fully to their activities, duties, obligations, and responsibilities to see things all the way through. To acquire success, it is vital that you quit testing the water’s temperature and simply jump in!
13) Go All the Way
Until an action is turned into a success, it is not done. Until you make the potential client a client or the potential investor an investor, you have not gone all the way. This might seem harsh, but if you called a client 50 times and didn’t get the deal done, then you might as well have not called that person at all. This is the point at which people become reasonable and therefore don’t make it. Commit to being completely unreasonable and going all the way.
14) Focus on “Now”
Taking actions immediately allows the most successful to design the future they desire. They’re well aware that procrastination is the ultimate weakness. Anyone who puts off doing what he or she can do right now will never gain the momentum and confidence that result from doing so.
15) Demonstrate Courage
You’ll often notice that successful people carry themselves with an air of confidence and conviction, a sense of comfort, and maybe even a touch of arrogance. Before you start thinking that they are somehow inherently “different,” you should understand that they acquired these qualities as a result of taking action. The more frequently you can do things that scare you a bit, the more others will label you as courageous — and then gravitate toward you.
16) Embrace Change
How can you create success when you are trying to keep things from becoming any different? It is impossible. The successful look at how the world is shifting and apply this to how they might grow their advantage. They know that they must continue to adapt. The willingness to accept change is a great quality of the successful.
17) Determine and Take the Right Approach
The successful know that they can quantify what works and what doesn’t work, whereas the unsuccessful focus solely on “hard work.” Whatever the method may be, the successful don’t think in terms of hard work (even though they are, of course, willing to work hard). Instead, they figure out how to work “smart” and handle the situation by finding and using the right approach until they succeed.
18) Break Traditional Ideas
The most successful are looking to create traditions—not follow already established ones. Do not be a prisoner of the thinking agreed upon by others. Figure out ways to take advantage of the traditional thinking that holds others back.
19) Be Goal-Oriented
Successful people are highly goal-oriented and always pay more attention to the target than the problem. They are seemingly able to bend bullets because of their commitment and focus on the goal. Although I try to stay focused on the present, I want to keep most of my attention on the bigger picture of my goals rather than on just the task I’m accomplishing at that moment.
20) Be on a Mission
Until you start approaching your job as though you are on a mission, it will always be reduced to “just a job.” You must undertake every activity with the zealous attitude that this endeavor could forever change the world. Approach every phone call, e-mail, sales visit, meeting, presentation, and day you spend at the office not as a job but as a calling for which you will forever be known.
21) Have a High Level of Motivation
Motivation refers to the act or state of being stimulated toward action. To succeed, it is critical that you be stimulated, excited, and driven to some action or actions. This isn’t the kind of enthusiasm that lasts for a few hours, a day, or a week; it’s based on what you do each day to stimulate yourself toward actions and inspire yourself to keep going. Highly successful people continually seek and uncover reasons to stay perpetually provoked to new levels of success.
22) Be Interested in Results
Successful people don’t value effort or work or time spent on an activity; they value the results. Let’s face it: Like it or not, the results are all that matter. Be hard on yourself and never let yourself off the hook until you get results.
23) Have Big Goals and Dreams
The greatest regret of my life is that I initially set targets and goals based on what was realistic rather than on giant, radical thinking. “Big think” changes the world. Dream big, go big, and then figure out how to go bigger than that!
24) Create Your Own Reality
The successful are a lot like magicians; they don’t deal in other people’s realities. Instead, they are bent on creating a new reality for themselves that is different from the one that others accept. They aren’t interested in what other people deem possible or impossible; they only care about producing the things they dream are possible.
25) Commit First — Figure Out Later
Most people assume that they have to figure everything out first and will commit once they do; however, they never seem to get around to it. Although it can be dicey to commit first and figure the rest out later, it is my belief that creativity and problem solving are stimulated only after a person fully commits.
26) Be Highly Ethical
To me, being ethical doesn’t just mean playing by society’s agreed-upon rules. I also believe that being ethical requires people to do what they have told others they would do—and doing so until they get the desired results. I am not talking about “cash register” ethics here but rather the bigger concept of living up to your abilities and potential as well as your unspoken or explicit commitments.
27) Be Interested in the Group
You can only do as well as the people around you. The larger population’s health and well-being should be of utmost importance to each individual member — which is something that the most successful know. You want everyone on your team winning and improving because this is likely to improve your game. For that reason, you always want to do everything you can to bring the rest of the team to higher levels.
28) Be Dedicated to Continuous Learning
The most successful CEOs are reported to read an average of 60 books and attend more than six conferences per year. The most successful people I know read everything they can get their hands on.
29) Be Uncomfortable
The most important things I have done in my life were not the things I was comfortable doing; in fact, many of them made me very uneasy. It is so tempting to become content with your surroundings, daily rituals, and habits — most of which are probably not furthering your mission. It feels good when things are familiar. However, successful people are willing to put themselves in new and unfamiliar situations. Be willing to be uncomfortable. It is a sure sign that you’re on your way to success.
30) “Reach Up” in Relationships
Make a habit of “reaching up” in all of your relationships — toward people who are better connected, better educated, and even more successful. The people with whom you surround yourself will have a great deal to do with whether you achieve your goals — or not. You don’t want to go horizontal. You want to go up — and you do this by associating yourself with bigger thinkers, bigger dreamers, and bigger players.
31) Be Disciplined
In order to ever attain and keep success, you must determine which habits are constructive — and discipline both yourself and your group (see point 28) to do those things over and over again.
None of the things on this list is a superhuman quality. Every single one is attainable. Don’t use just one or two of the techniques. Start thinking and operating with them, and they will become a part of you. Use them all.
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the book The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. It is published here with permission.