My Observations of Successful People

There are a lot of trees sacrificed in the production of books by high profile successful people purporting to tell you how they achieved it all. I find the problem with a lot of this genre is that the authors assume that EVERYTHING they did contributed to their success. So you end up with people saying nonsense like you must eat raw broccoli in the morning or you must speak to at least one customer every single day…

Of course it’s all very specific to the individual and as such of no real coaching value. So I thought I’d have a wee think about the successful people I’ve known and know still.

In my corporate life I had met a lot of people who would consider themselves successful. In the more recent coaching years, I have met a lot more, and from a much more diverse collection of jobs, industries and cultures.

A lot of these people are really successful. By successful I mean that at any given point they know what their “desired future state” looks like and they are making good progress towards it. The future state can, of course, be anything you like. Success has many forms.

I’ve been thinking about what characterises these people. I have constructed a short list of ten. The list is not comprehensive – there are other characteristics not mentioned. And it is not a blueprint – some of the successful people I am thinking of have characteristics opposite to those listed. But most of the success people exhibit most of the characteristics.

Here goes –

1. They are relentlessly positive.

Not head-in-the-sand-positive, but the positive that comes from having a goal, taking action, getting results, moving in the right direction and understanding that there is no failure, only results.

2. They focus on their talents.

They understand that by doing this they stand a much greater chance of making progress. The alternative – ignoring talents and trying to correct weaknesses is a mug’s game. I’m glad Plato did what he did instead of obsessing about his shyness.

3. They work, work, work.

Talents are raw materials. But it is work that turns them into strengths. Without the work we have what is known as “wasted talent”. You often find in sports that the most successful have the most talent AND the highest work ethic. It’s an intoxicating brew.

4. They are inquisitive and love to learn.

To successful people, nothing stands still, including their own world view. They educate themselves constantly. And this also makes them humble because they are constantly reminded of what they don’t know.

5. They think big.

They understand that most barriers are in the head. They ask themselves “and how could we do ten times more.” They don’t let a lack of something get in the way. They simply add it’s acquisition to their To Do List.

6. They are highly productive.

They understand what needs to be done and what’s just fluff. They spend a lot of time on the important stuff, in blocks of time, and they deal effectively with the rest. They have LARGE wastepaper bins that are well used.

7. They have lots of time off.

They know when the next holiday is. They often work in quite intense blocks of up to ten weeks (weekends off of course) and then have a holiday to refresh. Work hard, play hard – repeat to fade.

8. If they are men and married with children, their wives tend to look after the children rather than work.

I was surprised by this but there it is.

9. They help others to grow.

They delegate thoughtfully. They coach others. They see life as a win-win, not a zero-sum game.

10. They are happy.

They usually have a twinkle in their eye and a laugh is never far away.

All of these characteristics, and particularly the last one, are all predicated on the people being successful by THEIR definition, not someone else’s. There lies madness.

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One Response to My Observations of Successful People

  1. Eilidh Milnes July 11, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    It’s interesting don’t you think how some people allow others to define their ‘success and happiness.’ You are giving them clear guidance here.

    As someone who chooses to be an outstandingly happy person, I am so glad I read all 10 points. Am sure over the years, I’m certain some of my delegates have considered me quite mad; now I am reassured. Hello success!

    Thanks Mark,

    Ever Positive,

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