Blist – 5 Traits of Success

29Jul08

BlistBlist Blog

I really enjoy learning from Kevin Merrit’s blog at Blist. Blist is a spreadsheet/list application tool, it sounds boring but its a brilliant tool, i intend to use more often when i launch my new business. Kevin’s latest post is about successful people.

I’ve thought a bit about success as relates to the people I know. Five elements are present in every successful person I’ve met.

1. Successful people have a clear definition of success itself.

If you’re a salesperson, it might be achieving a $1M sales quota. If you’re a baseball player, it might be making it to the major leagues. To a video gamer it might be setting the high score in their favorite game. Successful people set goals for themselves. They write their goals down. World champion swimmer Michael Phelps wrote down his goals at age 11 and still reads the list almost every day.

2. Successful people regularly revise their goals upward. When the salesperson reaches the $1M quota, she tells herself “Next year I’m going to reach $2M!” The baseball player revises his goals from making the majors, to breaking into the starting lineup, to making the all-star team to being inducted into the hall of fame.

These first two success markers carry a hidden trait. Successful people measure their progress.

3. Successful people are usually smart. This one is fairly self-evident. That said, smart people have a tendency to procrastinate and be somewhat lazy, which often results in them not investing heavily enough in themselves (see the 5th trait below).

4. Successful people aren’t afraid to fail. If reward is a function of risk and fear of failure discourages taking acceptable risks then reward must correspondingly diminish. Successful people take calculated risks.  Failure is also a great teacher, which leads to the final trait.

5. Successful people invest in themselves. In my opinion, this is the most important factor contributing to success. Practice is essential whether you are (intend to be) a concert pianist, an Olympic athlete, a doctor or a software engineer. To the uninitiated, this trait looks simply like hard work. Successful people are often inappropriately characterized as workaholics. But if you love what you do and you’re learning, growing and improving by practicing, is it really work? Successful people are learnaholics. Over a specific period of time, they learn more than their peers. Effort is a compounding force. By spending more time, you learn more and improve. Efforts and contributions are then recognized, often with increased responsibility, which results in new learnings which equip you with even greater skills. It’s a virtuous circle.

Have you ever seen anyone succeed at something they don’t enjoy? I don’t know if we enjoy what we’re good at or if we’re good at what we enjoy, but it seems like enjoyment and success are linked. Decide to be successful at something you love.

Success isn’t preordained. Four of the five traits are entirely elective. But what if you’re not all that smart? They’ll call you an overachiever, that’s all.

The predictable path to success is to set goals and track your progress, be smart, don’t be afraid to fail from time to time and learn as much as you can along the way.

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