We all want to attain success.
Some people find it easy, while the majority flounder and feel stuck in life.
What separates these people?
Unfortunately, there’s no single secret to success and there’s certainly no set path that guarantees success.
However, there are key things successful people do that have contributed to their ability to succeed when other people stall and give up.
Here are 10 important things successful people know but never talk about:
1. Don’t strive to be like everyone else
We’ve all been told that in order to be successful you need to learn how to play the game.
You need to work excessive hours, be controlling, position yourself better than your competition.
You need to say what others want to hear, rather than what your real thoughts are.
But if you try to mold yourself into the version of success you’ve been told, you negate your true value and lose what makes you unique.
If you’re going to simply do what everyone else does, then you’ll find it hard to stand out and achieve meaningful success.
Successful people know that true success requires you to be yourself.
When you embrace your true values and your instincts, you’ll ignite your true inner power.
And success comes naturally because you’re playing to your strengths and you’re not competing with others.
As Eric Barker says in his book, The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, being the best is really about being the best version of you:
“We spend too much time trying to be “good” when good is often merely average. To be great we must be different. And that doesn’t come from trying to follow society’s vision of what is best, because society doesn’t always know what it needs. More often being the best means just being the best version of you.”
And when you try to fit in and be like everyone else, you end up being average, and that is not where you want to end up according to CEO of famed advertising agency BBDO, Andrew Robinson:
“When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.”
2. You can find opportunities in obstacles
Successful people know they’re not always going to be successful. They’re going to encounter challenges along the way.
The difference is, they don’t wallow in self-pity when they’re going through tough times.
They search for the good in all the things that happen — because there’s always bound to be something that can be beneficial.
A study, conducted by psychologist Richard Wiseman, suggested that an individual’s outlook on life drastically affected how successful they were in life.
Basically, individuals who are less negative about their lives are more likely to take their chances when opportunities present themselves.
Each event and experience in life naturally has a good and bad side to them.
When you actively look for positivity, your brain is going to engage itself to find it.
Our minds can’t help but close that open loop, so it searches for the silver lining: like the chance to remake your life after losing your job or practice to become a better writer after a rejected draft.
And in the end, success isn’t necessarily about what you accomplished, but it’s about what you’ve overcome.
3. Taking action is everything
It was Eleanor Roosevelt that said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
It’s better to make a decision and move on than wait till you’re 100% ready to take the jump.
The fact is that you’ll never be 100% in time to make the jump worthwhile.
Once you think that you’re finally prepared to take on a large project, it might finally be too late.
In his book Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman wrote:
“Lucky people just try stuff. Unlucky people suffered from paralysis by analysis. They wouldn’t do anything until they walked through every single angle and by then the world had moved on. They don’t gain the benefits of learning through doing. I’m a big fan of starting small, trying lots of projects, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and iterating based on feedback.”
Successful people know it’s important to try new things and take action, even when they’re feeling fearful.
Acting in the face of uncertainty, especially when we don’t feel like we’re ready for it, can be scary — but behind those things that you’re scared of could be one of the more significant moments of your life.
If you believe in yourself, you’re more likely to find success along the way.
4. There is no point comparing yourself to others
It’s natural for us to care about what other people think.
But successful people don’t compare themselves excessively. They know there is no benefit.
They understand that life is complex and circumstances are different for everyone, so it’s impossible to accurately and fairly compare yourself.
They also realize that they’ll never understand what someone else’s life is really like behind the curtains.
The only person a successful person compares themselves to is their past self.
This is how they’re able to improve, and how they avoid the self-deprecating emotions that come from comparing.
5. Only focus on what you can control
The weather, your surroundings, the way a neighbor behaves, or the opinion of strangers.
These are things that will remain the same no matter how much mental energy you spend disagreeing with them, or wishing they were different.
A highly successful person understands that the only thing worth being concerned about is what they can control: the effort they put in, the words that they speak, their perception of events, and their ultimate action.
To focus on anything else would be a waste of precious energy and time.
6. Remember to be grateful
No matter how difficult days can get, there is always going to be something to be grateful for.
What is a problem today can serve as a valuable lesson tomorrow.
Such wisdom would not have been made possible without having gone through errors, mistakes, and hardships — and there will be plenty on the road to success.
So highly successful people always remember to be thankful for what they have and already achieved.
Challenges shrink in intensity when we remember to take the time to appreciate how far we’ve come since we started.
Being grateful also puts you in a better mood, which is key to being more productive and effective.
According to the book, The Happiness Advantage:
“…doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
7. Keep trying
Failures and hardships are inevitably going to feel discouraging.
It’s common to spiral into the mindset that the goal is unachievable and that you lack the emotional, physical, or mental strength to see it through.
What highly successful people do that others don’t is that they bounce back.
They try again.
They take another swing, submit another draft, try a different diet, and paint another canvas.
They understand the power of iterating; as long as they’re living and breathing, they can have another opportunity at achieving success.
They see failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Adam M. Grant, author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, says, it’s an opportunity to “rethink and unlearn”:
“Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.”
It’s important to realize that failure is rarely about who you are, but more about how you went about things.
This means that it’s always possible to improve your approach and succeed if you learn why something went wrong in the first place.
8. Always keep learning
Success can blind people to their own flaws.
Just because they’ve finally reached it doesn’t mean that they’ve hit the ceiling.
Standing still, letting the days blur into the next one without learning anything new sets a future fall.
Successful people know that success isn’t a permanent state.
Being successful on a Wednesday doesn’t guarantee success on Thursday.
With success comes bigger challenges: meetings with larger companies and higher expectations from consumers.
Improving oneself is never-ending, even if that improvement happens slowly.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, explains how consistent small improvements can turn into something much more in the long run:
“Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”
9. It’s important to take responsibility for your actions
There are going to be points where something goes wrong.
Maybe the client wasn’t able to receive the brief or a dicey investment lost the company some money.
Without taking responsibility for these actions, nothing productive is going to come from it, which increases the likelihood of it happening again.
Successful people take responsibility for their mistakes and modify their behavior and their systems to ensure that such things don’t happen again.
In fact, according to Shane Snow, bestselling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success successful people tend to prefer negative feedback than positive feedback:
“The research showed that experts—people who were masters at a trade—vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments.”
10. You need a circle of like-minded people
We are naturally social beings.
When we surround ourselves with a group of people that are as driven like us, we can be motivated to keep pursuing our goals.
It’s also an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from each other.
Prior to founding one of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers SpaceX, Elon Musk had no idea how to work rockets — he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in economics and a Bachelor of Arts in physics.
His interest in taking advantage of space couldn’t be stopped, however.
This drive led him to cold calling NASA scientists to ask them for help in understanding what he needed to do to get people on Mars.
And so he set off building a circle of people that he could learn from, which eventually helped him become something of a rocket scientist himself.
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