5 Characteristics of Successful People … and a Few Key Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Who are the most successful people in business today? You could probably build quite an extensive list of innovators and visionaries who have built impressive careers and truly made a mark on the world. Even on a smaller scale in your local business and personal networks, there are probably people who just seem to have superior insight and always catch all the breaks.

Can you chalk it up to just pure, dumb luck? Or being in the right place at the right time? Sometimes, maybe, but if you look deeper, you‘ll likely notice a few key characteristics highly successful people seem to share. And the best part – those characteristics aren’t unattainable. You may just need to ask yourself a few key questions.

Successful people have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Albert Einstein said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Highly successful people have a predisposition for curiosity – and they’re willing to go to great lengths to satisfy it. From reading the latest business books, attending seminars and workshops, or seeking out a subject matter expert, successful people are forever on a quest to build their knowledge base.

Quench your thirst by asking yourself:

  • Who are the knowledge leaders in my industry and how can I connect with them?
  • Who are the people in my own business or personal networks I may be able to build a mentoring relationship with?
  • To what length am I willing or able to go to build my knowledge base (i.e. advanced education, getting more involved in professional organizations, etc.)?

Successful people have an unshakable system of moral and ethical codes.
Just as many companies have a set of core values that serve as guidelines for the way they do business, highly successful people have a set of core values that govern their own personal conduct. And they refuse to stray from them – even when an alternative course of action seems easier in the short run.

Stay true blue by asking yourself:

  • What is my personal mission statement?
  • What are some moral/ethical issues I have confronted in the past and how did I respond? How would I do it differently if given the chance?
  • How will other key stakeholders be affected by my actions or decisions in the short-term? In the long-term?

Successful people are unapologetically passionate.
Driven by passion, successful people don’t view their work as something they have to do; rather it’s something they get to do. And it’s that drive that often makes them a formidable competitor. Success, at its core, is driven by passion. Passionate people are focused, steadfast, and often very stubborn.

Feed your passion by asking yourself:

  • Is my job something I would do even if I weren’t being paid to do it?
  • What are the biggest influences that have defined my career path (i.e. family, salary, work-life balance, etc.)?
  • What are some of my perceived constraints, both personal and professional, and am I willing or able to take steps to overcome them?

Successful people prefer the road less traveled.
Big risks often come with big rewards. Successful people know this fact and rarely shy away from an opportunity to blaze a new trail. Some of history’s greatest achievements and innovations are due to people who weren’t afraid to take a chance on a big idea. And if you were to look at the path they took to success, you’d likely see a pattern of consistently pushing the limits along the way.

Step out on a limb by asking yourself:

  • What are some of the biggest risks I’ve taken and what factors – both positive and negative – could have affected the outcome?
  • What can I truly gain from taking a leap of faith? Am I taking a risk for the right reasons?
  • Are there significant consequences to not taking a particular risk?

Successful people have failed, and will fail again.
Renowned author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.” It’s sage advice that may as well be declared the official mantra of highly successful people. Not only do they acknowledge that they have failed, but they also know it could – and probably will – happen again. The difference – highly successful people take the lessons they’ve learned from past failures to heart, learn from it, and are thus better prepared to deal with it in the future.

Get back up on the horse by asking yourself:

  • Now that I’ve learned what not to do, what are my immediate next steps? Then, how do I adjust my tactics for long-term success?
  • What scares me most about failure? Is it a truly rational or legitimate fear, or is it all in my head?
  • Looking back on some times in the past when I’ve failed, at any point did the world end?

This is by no means a definitive list.
Everyone’s journey toward success is different and there are many more questions that should be asked along the way. This piece is only meant to plant the seed and start a conversation. What are some other important characteristics you have found to be vital to success? What are some other questions you should ask yourself to ensure you’re heading down the right path? Let us know in the comments section below.

8 Responses to 5 Characteristics of Successful People … and a Few Key Questions You Should Ask Yourself

  1. Clayton December 5, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Thank You for your very useful e mails. It provides an extra boost of positivity. Keep em comin!
    Thanks Jim

  2. Rebecca January 21, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Refresh Leadership is the best newsletter that I receive! It is timely, informative, and brief. Thank you for attitude boost that comes with it too! Thank you, Jim!


  3. Carolee Turner May 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    I am interesting in obtaining this newsletter on a regular basis. Great information!

  4. Megan July 1, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    Thank you for the positive note! It will help me stay positive throughout the day!

  5. Helen Lomax October 19, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Great article and reminder that we should all put ourselves under a microscope and see if we are on the right path!

  6. Santosh BR January 9, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    Here is a list of questions that I ask myself often to keep myself going:
    a) Do I look forward to get to work each day?
    b) Is my current work profile in-line with my goal?
    c) Have I- acquired more knowledge, polished my skills compared to last year/month/week?
    d) Am I building a professional network with people in my industry?
    e) Am I striking a balance between my personal and professional life?
    f) Last but not the least, Am I physically healthy and mentally satisfied with my life?

    • Refresh Leadership January 12, 2015 at 8:13 am #

      Those are all great! Especially the last one. We spend so much time at work that it’s inevitable that it will spill over into the rest of our lives. So, when one or the other is out of sync, it has the potential to affect the whole system!

      Great comment! Thanks!


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