We live in a world where success is usually defined and measured with very specific thresholds like wealth and fame. However, I am under the opinion that success looks different for everybody.
What separates truly successful people from the rest of us mortals is their ability to define what success means for them, then reach it. Perhaps even surpass it.
With that said, you will find lists upon lists of what successful people do in their lives, public or otherwise. In this one, let’s discuss a few of what they don’t and won’t do, in public or otherwise.
Who knows? Maybe this can help you shape or reshape your idea of what being successful means. Or better yet, you’re probably already doing it!
1) Successful people don’t belittle anyone
I think there’s a level of empathy one needs to reach to be truly successful. I saw a quote recently—and I’ll include the whole thing below—that said “It is a lonely road to success,” and it explains why I think empathy is necessary.
Unless someone lives a completely privileged life, being successful is a difficult undertaking. Obstacles after obstacles, rejection upon rejection can break anyone’s spirit.
The lonely road to success is a humbling one too, I reckon. I wanted to give the spotlight to the person who said the quote, the first-ever Filipina to be nominated for a Golden Globe: Dolly de Leon.
The whole excerpt is from a feature piece about her on Tatler Asia. She said,
“It is a lonely road to success, especially when you are unknown, and you cannot blame people for not giving you attention. It helps when you read or hear a story like [mine] somewhere in the world, someone worked hard and finally got a reward. It motivates you to continue and keep doing what you love.”
Starring in Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning film Triangle of Sadness may be the beginning of her international recognition, but her success story started by playing small bits and background characters.
It must be why she advocates so strongly for better treatment of talents and extras, as she also said so in the Tatler piece.
My point is, successful people know the struggle and would never intentionally belittle anyone. Better yet, they will uplift, amplify, and advocate. (More on this bit down the list.)
2) Successful people don’t conform
Initially, I wanted to put this point as “Successful people don’t blend in” but then remembered that there are so many low-key people who love blending in; whose successes will probably never be publicized.
So, I changed it to “successful people don’t conform.”
Even the fact that a successful person can choose to live simply and quietly seems to be nonconformity. I love that. It bears repeating that success will look different for everybody.
And I mean, everybody.
It could be a pop star like Lady Gaga who is known for her larger-than-life presence or maybe the owner of your favorite restaurant that survived the height of the pandemic. (Like OMG Squee that was featured in Queer Eye season 6)
Surviving and thriving despite odds, despite expectations.
3) Successful people don’t accept disrespect
I’ll keep this short and sweet: Successful people know their worth.
And when you know your worth, you won’t allow other people to disrespect you. You will have the capability to walk away from things, people, and situations that do not appreciate nor serve you.
4) Successful people don’t pass opportunities by
You really find wisdom in the most random of places, this one I saw as a tweet and had stayed with me since, “If you weren’t capable, the opportunity would have never come your way. You belong.”
Those of us prone to impostor syndrome best remember that quote above. I think this is another thing that strongly sets successful people apart from us mortals, they don’t let opportunities pass by.
You can never know what doors will open once you say yes after all.
5) Successful people don’t flake on others
Successful people know when to say Yes but they also know when to say No. And being able to identify when to say no is also important and probably honed throughout the years.
So something successful people won’t be caught doing? Flaking on people. And that’s because successful people don’t overcommit.
Successful people give themselves time to breathe and rest. They set boundaries. They are able to say no.
There’s a quote that I still remember to this day… (for the life of me I can’t remember who said this, where I’ve seen this, or if this was a fever dream but it’s too good a statement not to be shared.)
“Success is being able to choose who to say no to.”
6) Successful people don’t pretend to be perfect
Successful people don’t claim to be perfect. They are rarely perfectionists, too.
Perfection is unattainable, first and foremost. It’s also not sustainable. Can you imagine just constantly trying to not slip out of perfection? I imagine how exhausting that must be.
Society’s idea of “perfection” is so steep and narrow that it’s almost impossible to take risks, take chances, or go off the beaten path when you attempt it. It’s the complete opposite of #2 which is nonconformity.
It’s also important for me to note this because we put successful people on pedestals and we need to remind ourselves that they are also human beings, flawed and imperfect. Just currently under better circumstances.
7) Successful people don’t overcompensate
Successful people don’t overcompensate. There is a sureness in their identity that prevents them from doing so.
Aren’t people who overcompensate trying to hide something about themselves that they consider a shortcoming? See, successful people don’t do that.
This is, I think, where it’s especially important to define what success means to you. Is it having a stable home life? An illustrious career? Loads of cash? Being a household name?
Finding the cure for cancer? Winning awards left and right? Raising amazing children? And so on.
Successful people know what success means to them.
Quick clarification: Just because successful people are sure of their “destination”, doesn’t make them immune to failure or insecurities. What differs is they don’t let these failures or insecurities define them.
8) Successful people don’t panic
“We are more capable than we give ourselves credit for,” is something I came across that has stayed with me since.
Mind you, it’s very difficult to remember in the thick of a crisis, panic sets in with a vengeance. But that’s another reason successful people are different.
They stay calm under pressure.
9) Successful people don’t fail to celebrate others’ success
Jamie Lee Curtis recently went viral for her reaction to Michelle Yeoh’s Best Actress win at the Golden Globes. The absolute sheer joy she expressed over someone else’s win: mouth open wide in a shout, arms up in cheer.
It must be noted that Jamie Lee Curtis was also nominated that night for Best Supporting Actress, the award was ultimately won by Angela Bassett for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Despite this, Curtis was still the ultimate hype woman for Yeoh.
It reminded me so much of something I read, “Until it’s my turn, I will continue to clap for others.”
Another viral moment: Lizzo sharing the stage with activists.
Lizzo was awarded People’s Champion at the People’s Choice Awards last December 2022. In her acceptance speech, she said…
“To be an icon isn’t about how long you’ve had your platform, being an icon is about what you do with that platform. And ever since the beginning of my career, I’ve used my platform to amplify marginalized voices.”
Lizzo shared the stage with 17 activists. She introduced each person by their name and the work that they do. The stage was filled with women and gender-diverse individuals who fight the good fight.
You can watch the entire speech here, and I recommend you do so.
The lesson to take here is, the stage is wide enough for all of us and successful people know that!
As Lizzo sang, “If I’m shining, everybody gonna shine.”
10) Successful people don’t forget to celebrate their wins
I adore Viola Davis, she’s such a force to be reckoned with. She’s also just won a Grammy for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording for her autobiography “FINDING ME”.
In her acceptance speech, she said, “I just EGOT!” referring to the elite group of individuals that have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. It’s so elite, Viola is only the 18th to have ever gotten it!
As she acknowledged her win, the crowd stood up, and the crowd clapped. They celebrated her and also with her.
Not everyone reading this now will get an EGOT, our wins might not be as fancy as hers, but we should take a page in her book and acknowledge those wins anyway.
It’s easy to dismiss our accomplishments because well… sometimes we might think they aren’t special enough to be celebrated. Or they are not as impressive just because we managed to do them.
But they are! They are! Our wins, no matter how small, should be celebrated!
I know I included a lot of people winning awards in this article but that’s mostly because it’s one of the most public ways that success could be recognized. This doesn’t change my stance on success looking different for everybody though.
Look, not everyone will get awards for their life’s work, but all of us are capable of achieving our version of success just the same. By doing bit by bit, and knowing what to avoid, we can build our definition of success.
Good luck, stranger. The world is ready for you.