I’ve always been curious about what sets normal people apart from those who become massively successful. Is it luck, upbringing, intelligence, …?
While it’s almost certainly a combination of factors, personality traits play a role and successful people tend to have these 8 in common.
Whether you want to get ahead financially, advance in your career, or simply lead a more fulfilling successful life, paying attention to and fostering the below traits in yourself can make a real difference.
1) They are focused
We can’t do it all at once; we all know this. Life is simply too short.
It should come as no surprise then that successful people are focused. Getting meaningful things done requires it.
This is mentioned in countless books by authors who are deeply focused on sharing what it takes to be successful.
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, best-selling author Cal Newport says “To learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.”
Having worked with leaders of some of the most innovative company leaders in the world, Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, also preaches focus.
He suggests that reducing the number of tasks we have to the most important ones results in more productivity, fulfillment, and success.
That said, no matter how organized and focused you might be, you will need to possess the next trait on this list…and you’ll probably need it in spades.
2) They persevere
Just like yours and mine, the lives of highly successful people are filled with failure and disappointment.
Like you and I, they have had setbacks…setbacks that would probably convince most of us to give up.
The difference? They don’t.
When J.K Rowling started to write her first Harry Potter novel, she was a single mom living off welfare.
But when she finished it, it was an instant success, right?
One of the most famous novels of all time was rejected by no less than 12 publishing houses.
I’d bet most people would have called it quits after the third or fourth blow but she persevered and is now one of the most respected and well-known authors in the world.
That’s not enough to convince you?
According to CNBC, Jack Ma was rejected from 30 jobs in his hometown. He was also rejected from Harvard 10 times.
Most people would have given up; many would say it would have been logical. But he didn’t. He would go on to start Alibaba, one of the most successful e-commerce websites in the world.
Before building what is now an empire, Walt Disney was fired for not being creative enough. Yes, not creative enough!
I could keep going but you get the point.
3) They have a growth mindset
We’ve all heard the phrase “knowledge is power” but how many of us actually act on it?
I don’t know…but I can tell you many successful people are continually trying to grow and get better.
In a 2017 interview with Time, Bill Gates discussed his love of reading. In the interview, he credits reading as being essential to his success.
“Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career and in the work that I do now with my foundation.”
At a Columbia Business School speech, while holding a stack of paper, Warren Buffet advised his audience:
“Read 500 pages like this every day,”…” That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it” (CNBC).
It’s not easy to find the time and motivation to read 500 pages a day.
For that, you’ll need the next two traits on this list.
4) They are organized
Successful people know the value of being organized.
In a 2011 interview, Twitter and Square co-founder, Jack Dorsey gave us an insight into how he organizes his schedule.
He mentioned that each day is reserved for a different focus. He said that he focuses on product on Tuesdays and that Sunday is an important day for “getting ready for the rest of the week.” Each other day also had a specific focus.
Is your week that organized?
This link between organization and success is also backed up by wider studies on those who aren’t CEOs of multiple companies at once.
So whether you want to climb that career ladder, feel more fulfilled in your job, or both, organization is key…but you will also need to possess the next trait.
5) They are disciplined
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
— Jim Rohn, Entrepreneur, and Motivational Speaker
You have all the organization in the world but if you lack the self-discipline to consistently work toward your goals, you are unlikely to achieve them
This view is echoed by best-selling author Brian Treacy.
In a video for Entrepreneur, he noted that self-discipline is a trait that is common in all (yes, all) successful people.
Keep in mind, he has spent his entire career essentially studying what it takes to be successful. When he shares his knowledge, it’s worth taking note.
Need some more food for thought?
For many of us, getting up earlier is something we aspire to do but it takes discipline to do it day in, day out.
It seems highly successful people don’t have an issue with this. Here are just a few examples as reported by The Independent:
- Apple CEO, Tim Cook – 3:45 a.m.
- Square & Ex Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey – 5:30 a.m.
- Michelle Obama – 4:30 a.m.
- Disney CEO, Bob Iger – 4:30 a.m.
- Virgin Group CEO, Richard Branson – 5:45 a.m.
Adding to this, many get up and start their day by doing something many of us consider to be very difficult, exercising.
As a point of reference, the US average waking time is 7:30 a.m.
Are you disciplined enough to be at the gym before the sun rises?
6) They are decisive
Success stems from action. Successful people know this and focus on being decisive and moving forward.
Napoleon Hill, in his 1937 famed book, Think and Grow Rich, noted that people who achieve exceptional financial success make decisions promptly and confidently.
His observation was based on a study of several hundred millionaires.
On the other hand, those who were least financially successful had trouble making decisions or made decisions very slowly.
If this isn’t a clear indicator that being decisive could help us to become more successful, I am not sure what is.
7) They are hardworking
Nowadays, it’s often believed successful people work fewer hours than the average person.
You’ve seen the articles…a teacher quit her job and now makes 50,000 USD a month working just two hours a week.
While this may be true in some cases (and it makes for a good title), it’s not the rule.
Multi-millionaire Grant Caronde told CNBC that he works at least 95 hours a week. That’s almost 14 hours per day, seven days a week!
But Grant Cardone is just one guy, right? He sure is.
Well, studies would suggest this holds true for most people who have achieved exceptional financial success.
According to an article by The Money, the typical millionaire works 60 hours per week.
While this might not seem like that much compared to Grant Cardone, consider that the average number of hours worked in the US in 2021 was 38.7 hours per week.
In other words, the typical millionaire works 50% more hours than the average person in the US.
It may not be the only factor and it might not be what you want to hear, but hard work and success do appear to go hand in hand.
8) They are confident
This is an obvious one so I’ll keep it short.
Without belief in their ability, successful people would not take on the challenges they do, persevere as they do or be as decisive as they are.
Believing in yourself is critical for success.
The bottom line
I am not saying that having all of these traits will make you an overnight success.
Nor am I suggesting that not having some of them will make you a complete failure.
I’m saying that many successful people have these 8 traits in common and fostering them in yourself would certainly put you in good company.