What It REALLY Takes to Succeed

Eight Traits You Can Develop

Are you really going to accomplish the next thing you decide to do?

Now, I don’t know what your “next thing” — your next goal — might be. It could be a business goal, or a family objective. It may be connected with inner growth, or with your physical health.

But whatever it is, whatever you promise yourself that you’ll do, are you actually going to follow through? Will you keep on till you reach completion?

Whatever your next project turns out to be, I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty. If you usually quit before you finish, that next project of yours is already in jeopardy right now, today, before you ever even start it.

How do I know this?

Because the skills, personal traits and expectations that you brought to bear on earlier projects will probably be the same resources you’ll use on the next thing you tackle. And if your skills and resolve didn’t get the previous job done, they’ll almost certainly be inadequate for the next one.


Unless you actively do something to upgrade your skills and personal resources. NOTE – this does NOT mean you should read another self-help book. Yes, it’s true such books are great for helping you see things in new ways.

They’re more or less worthless, however, in helping you develop the grit, the spunk and the backbone you need for persisting when the going gets hard. They’ll open your mind in wonderful ways, but just reading won’t make your mind tough.

What WILL make you tough minded is the practical, real-world experience of bearing down on a task and keeping on with it until you come out the other side, winner or not. Yes, you’ll need the vision you can gain from good books, but then you’ve got to take it out into the field and put it to use.

Vision is priceless — without it you can’t succeed. But vision alone is not enough. Not nearly enough. The world is filled with visionaries who flail feebly away for years and never bring anything worthwhile to the world. In other words, ideas alone are a dime a hundred … the world’s cheapest commodity.

So what else does it take?

Here’s my shortlist of abilities, skills and personal characteristics that virtually all consistently successful people possess.


I’ve heard it said that energy follows attention. Translation: whatever you put your thoughts on, your body automatically generates the energy necessary to go do it. This is an important thing to know.

Maybe you’ve met someone who constantly thought about only one hobby or one idea. Such people tend to have tremendous energy for their one main interest, but can generate little energy for doing anything else.

On the other hand, you’ve seen folks who have hundreds of competing interests, duties, “ought-to-do’s” and “shoulds” sucking away their time. Often, these people can barely drag themselves through the day.

So now you know how to generate lots more energy.

You concentrate … you focus … you specialize. You pick the one thing that’s most important to you, and you give most of your attention to that one thing.

As long as you let your attention be pulled this way and that by anything that pops up in front of you, energy will continue to be a problem for you.

Of course, you’re going to tell me that you couldn’t possibly stop spending your time and energy on all those things cluttering up your life.

Okay … that’s one way. Is it working?


The ability to make decisions fast but change them slowly (if at all) is one of the markers of high achievers. Meanwhile, the opposite — lingering long over decisions, but changing them often — that’s the most common characteristic of non-achievers.

The ability to be decisive is a skill just like any other, and it CAN be developed. How do you do it? Read on … because there’s another aspect to this trait.


I should point out one additional thing. Winners have another trait that’s the twin of their decisiveness.

That twin trait isn’t always noticed in this context, but here it is: when high achievers make a decision, they then go out and MAKE that decision work. Bulldog-like, they persist. They do whatever it takes to accomplish what they’ve made up their mind to do.

Want proof of this? Go read some biographies. You’ll see this pattern emerging again and again.

Early in the last century, US President Calvin Coolidge wrote…

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

So are you persistent?

Do you keep on? If not, you can develop this skill. It starts with deciding to.


High achievers are also disciplined. This trait keeps them focused and prevents them from scattering their energies and time in all directions.

Executives who set schedules for themselves consistently outperform those who drift through their workday. Many managers say that when they start checking email only twice a day, they get more done. And when they set limited hours for co-workers to drop in with a “quick question,” their productivity goes up even more.

Discipline isn’t complicated. It isn’t really even hard. It only takes deciding to set some guidelines and limits, then sticking to them. Yes, even when you’re getting bored with the task at hand and it doesn’t seem very creative at the moment. This, too, is a part of becoming tough-minded.


Study after study has shown that highly motivated, highly successful people are just not very realistic. Their psychological profiles reveal them to be far more optimistic than average about possible outcomes.

They really do expect things to turn out well. Even in the bleakest of situations, they’re convinced that things are going to work out okay for them. These expectations keep them going, keep them scrambling forward, keep them from quitting when the smart money says “fold your cards and go home.” They have a knack for ignoring “facts” that stop more realistic folks.

And it’s these overly optimistic people who end up doing the impossible things that inspire the rest of us, winning when the odds are all against them.


If you want work that uses only what you know right now, go get a nice, boring job… one that’ll never light up your mind, never inspire you to greatness.

The top executives, the greatest entrepreneurs, the highest achievers all have this important trait in common. They are voracious learners.

The things they want to achieve always require more knowledge, more skills, more expertise, more awareness — require that they become a bigger person than they are now.

So they go out and get what they need. They learn the knowledge. They practice and acquire skills. New viewpoints and perspectives and understanding of themselves and others. Whatever it takes, they learn it.

Usually, they don’t fool around with night classes in junior college. They’ll typically go straight to the source; hire a highly rated coach who knows the territory; seek out introductions to leading people in their field of interest; dive into total-immersion experiences headfirst.

Their goal is never to waste time; it’s to get things done, preferably in as straight a line as possible.


Achievers don’t mind making mistakes. The reason they don’t mind is because they don’t stop and stay there. They quickly assess results, make adjustments, and try something else. They move forward.

They make progressively smarter mistakes, involving increasingly smaller errors, until their mistakes are indistinguishable from bullseyes.

This is important. In the fields of direct mail and Internet marketing, the most successful people are fanatical testers. They’ll pick a single variable, do a mailing, gather data, adjust something, then test again, gradually refining their sales material. It’s all those progressively smaller “mistakes” that make them so many millions of dollars in sales.

The same thing is true in any field. Medical research … structural design … automotive engineering … experimental art … professional dance.

And sports. Ever read how many hours top players devote to practice? What is Tiger Woods doing when he practices? A gradual refinement of technique, error, feedback and control.

Mistakes are good — when you know how to use them properly.


One of the most important characteristics of all for achievers is the way they actively seek out other, even higher achievers to be around.

EXAMPLE: On our vacation recently, the flight from Bangkok to the US was long and tedious. On such flights, I often get up and go stand around in the back of the plane to stretch my legs. And usually I meet other travelers and get a chance to chat.

On this flight, I met a man, a retired US Air Force Colonel, who was now running his own manufacturing business. This guy was a real achiever — he’d traveled in some 50 countries, and was just returning from visiting one of his factories in Thailand.

It would have been easy to be intimidated or overawed by his record of achievement, but instead, I stood and talked with him as an equal, and felt my awareness of my own potentials stretching in interesting new ways. This can’t happen and you won’t ever expand if you always avoid people who are “out of your league” or “over your head.”


Now, if you don’t have these 8 winning traits, don’t get discouraged. Nobody has all of them when they start. No, not even the highest achievers. They work at it, developing their skills and their character over time, becoming more tomorrow than they were yesterday.

And you can too.

So I ask you again: are you really going to accomplish the next thing you decide to do?

Whatever that “next thing” may be, you CAN develop the personal traits and skills you need. You CAN be more determined, stronger and more persistent than you were in the past. More tough-minded.

You’ll make mistakes, sure, but now you know how to make progressively smarter mistakes. Mistakes that will carry you forward to higher and higher achievement. And a pride in knowing that you DO get the important things done … you DO change your world for the better …

… and you DO count for something in your world.