To invent a product, turn a profit or start a business is to be accomplished. To be successful is to maintain ethics, principles and self-awareness regardless of how your professional pursuits are going, and it is the latter to which we should strive.
“Successful people,” as we’ll call them here, are defined largely by their willingness to lean into difficulty and transform it, rather than avoid it or cast blame. Some of their most consistent and outstanding traits involve being individuals who see opportunity in challenge, and who strategize in the face of crisis whereas others only react emotionally. They understand the value of being good over being “right,” and are always willing to grow.
Interestingly, these individuals aren’t always the most visible individuals in their workplace – and even if they are, they would be the last to applaud their own self-development. What we can learn from them is that life will consistently present different circumstances to which we control how we respond. If we can garnish from those situations wisdom, patience and potential, we can yolk the true essence of a leader, which is to see change and growth where others see crisis.
Here, some of the most difficult things that highly successful people learn to do early on.
1. Admit fault.
Highly successful people understand that the sooner they can acknowledge a mistake, the sooner they can take action to rectify it. Getting past the ego-block of denying wrongdoing not only holds them back further, it looks like a poor display of character.
2. Value being good over being right.
Successful people are never the smartest person in the room. To achieve this, they forfeit the need to always be right with the commitment to always do better. Their goal is not to be the best, but to create something that is the best, in collaboration with those capable of making that happen.
3. Maintain humility.
To be humble is to see oneself as whole and human, rather than defined by a few standout achievements or circumstances. It is to stay connected to others, whereas some use their success as a way to disconnect and disassociate, positioning themselves as “better than” someone else.
4. Communicate with precision.
The value of a good communicator cannot be understated, but to speak with precision is to find and use the correct combination of diction and tone to express an idea as clearly as possible. This requires clarity of thought, and the objective to convey ideas, rather than elicit emotional responses like awe, pity or intimidation.
5. Embrace failure as a process, not a finality.
Those who fear failure – and subsequently avoid risk – tend to see it as a permanent mark against one’s character or reputation. In reality, failure and success is an ongoing process, and the former almost always has to precede the latter.
6. Not exaggerate or conflate issues.
Anyone can make an issue more complicated than it needs to be, and in fact, most people do. It takes true genius – and a touch of tact – to simplify them.
7. Conserve willpower.
It is not our time that is limited in a day, it is our energy. More specifically, it is our willpower that we run out of if we are required to use it for too long. This is why many highly successful people streamline or automate a lot of their day-to-day decision making about things like outfits or meal prep, so they can conserve their focus for when it really matters.
8. Meet judgment with understanding.
It is easy to become defensive when someone makes a snap judgment or derogatory mark about yourself or your work. It takes wisdom and vision to accept what they are saying and evaluate whether or not it is to be disregarded, or potentially used as a learning tool.
9. Meet pain with compassion.
To be successful but lose your humanity isn’t really “success” at all. When people become numbers and struggles become statistics in the eyes of those who are responsible for managing them, disassociating makes them seem out-of-touch, if not cruel.
10. Meditate on mortality.
As we go on aspiring to acquire more and more for our lives, it is imperative to “keep a skull on the desk,” so to say, or to remember that all of this is temporary, and all that will matter in the end is how much we gave, and how we made other people feel.
11. Consider the motivations of others.
Every brilliant inventor, entrepreneur, popular writer and artist in the world has a common skill, and that is to intuit the needs of others. To be able to understand why people behave as they do is imperative to meeting their needs. Rather than interpreting their actions or words on the surface, highly successful people ask why they are doing that.
12. Collaborate with the competition.
Working with the people that others would deem your “competition” not only makes your business stronger and more visible, but the principle of seeing others as partners as opposed to threats is not only a sign of good character, it makes for a more efficient businessperson.
13. See obstacles as opportunities.
Highly successful people are the heroes of their story, rather than the victim of their circumstances. They see life as being a reflection of who and how they are, and a field of potential onto which they can actualize themselves through committed practices and steadfast mental strength.
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