What Does It Take to Be Successful?

What does it take to be successful? What unique traits do successful people have that ordinary people don’t? Is it something in their blood when they’re born, or maybe how they’re raised? Is it just luck or birthright that makes people successful?

No. Success rarely, if ever, falls into people’s laps. Success is a self-made situation, and anyone is capable of achieving it – anyone!

However, very few people are born with the full toolkit required to be successful. It takes practice, lots of failures, the right mindset, ambition, and a strong work ethic to find success, among other things.

By looking at those who have already found success, we can get some clues as to what steps to take. We can’t directly copy them, though. Every generation has trailblazers that mark the new, unique paths to success that come with the changing times. In this article, we aim to teach you to be one of them.

What Is Your Success?

Success can take many different forms for many people. For some, success is finding your soulmate and starting a family. For others, success is making enough money to buy whatever you want or need. Regardless of what your definition of success is, having a goal of success means nothing if you don’t take steps to reach it.

The one binding feature behind all success stories is the work people put in to get there. If you want to become rich, put in the time and effort to earn a well-paying job position. If you’re looking to find your perfect match and start a family, make sure you’re really ready for love and that you’re serious about commitment.

American Express defines six things that successful people do that we don’t. They are as follows:

  • Set goals
  • Get started
  • Think positive
  • Take action
  • Be determined
  • Attract it

While the above list is an excellent place to start, there’s no hard-and-fast guide for achieving success. Rather than following someone else, it’s better to pinpoint what will help you achieve success. To start, changing how you act toward your goals – and success in general – is the first part of having what it takes to reach it.

Setting Goals for Success

Setting goals in and of itself is essential, but the way you set goals also plays an equal role. For example, giving yourself a goal like “I want to start saving more money,” is the wrong way to go.

Instead, set a concrete, measurable goal, like “I want to have two thousand dollars in my savings account by the end of next month.” This goal feels more tactile than the former, and in actuality, it’s far more achievable.

The way you set goals plays a role in how likely you will be to fulfill them. Setting a quantifiable goal like the above is better for motivational purposes. You’ll feel like you’re closer to your goal as you watch your savings add up.

A vague goal, like “saving money,” is easy to eke your way out of. It makes it too easy to rationalize failure. If you don’t have two thousand dollars saved at the end of the next month, you’ve undoubtedly failed. A goal of just saving money, however, can be rationalized like this: “Well, I didn’t put any money in my savings, but I did buy those shoes I wanted. If I hadn’t, I would have saved more.”

The next step is taking action on these goals you’re setting. It’s all well and good to set measurable, achievable goals, but if you’re satisfied with not fulfilling them, you won’t get anywhere. Pushing back your resolutions to next month or next week won’t result in any progress.

The Successful Mindset

A huge part of success lies in your mindset. If you don’t believe you can achieve success, it will make it much harder to get there, at the very least. In the worst-case scenario, having no belief in your own potential can hold you back completely.

Fostering this belief in yourself and your potential is one of the best-kept secrets to success. Confidence, leadership, ambition, and resilience are all personality traits that help. If you lack in one or more areas, shore up your best features to make up for it. This philosophy is a good one to live by, too – if you can’t be good at everything, master the one thing you’re good at, and you’ll find opportunities to use it.

If you’re having trouble with confidence in your own skills, the best thing to do is develop those skills. Procrastination is your biggest enemy here. Successful people all share drive and a hardworking nature. If you can’t motivate yourself to do what you need to do, you won’t make any progress, whether that be with your skills or your mindset!

Building up what you’re good at has the natural effect of boosting your confidence in that skill. However, knowing you’re especially good at something can increase your overall confidence, too. For someone that feels that they might be useless at a lot of things, cultivating a skill – even an obscure one; it doesn’t have to be business related – can provide an essential foundation for stronger belief in oneself.

However, if you’re the ambitious type, cultivating a business-related skill to boost your confidence, especially if your idea of success is related to money and your career, can be a forward-thinking move. Building skills like debate, public speaking, marketing strategies, or anything else related to your dream career can save time and effort in the long run, and it might be your advantage over other people trying to edge you out!

There is a quote (incorrectly attributed to the Buddha) that says, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” This misquotation is incredibly relevant here, though. Belief in yourself, a positive mindset, and focusing on what you want are essential traits of those who find success.

If you think you’ll be successful, you’ll eventually get there. If you believe you’ll fail, you’re only going to fail!

However, failure is an important thing to get used to on the path to success, as well. Even if you believe you’ll be successful, you will, without a doubt, be a failure first.

If you don’t succeed, you fail. And you will fail many, many times. The resilience to keep going and the ambition to reach the end are both a part of what it takes to find success.

Surrounding Yourself with Success

According to HuffPost, carefully choosing your best friends will help nurture success in yourself. It’s well-known that surrounding yourself with people who are less than you will bring you down, too. This isn’t meant to be said condescendingly, either – if you want to climb the ladder, so to speak, you need to hang around people that will boost you up!

We’re not saying you should abandon your friends every time you get promoted. That will only make you enemies, and it’s the wrong way to climb the social ladder. Instead, surround yourself with good friends who will celebrate, not envy, your success.

Hang around people that will boost your confidence, not shoot you down. The friends you keep don’t need to be concerned with the same type of success as you are, but they should be just as eager to improve themselves and celebrate that improvement. You can even turn it into a competition of sorts, as long as you’re both careful to keep resentment out of the picture.

Hanging out with someone who has no desire to succeed will inevitably bring you low. Spending time with someone who believes they have no future and no chance of success can bleed into your own mindset, blocking your path.

Think about how gang mechanics work. An average teenager who hangs around bad influences will be exponentially more likely to become a delinquent. A troubled teen who joins a gang is far more likely to become a criminal. The same principle applies to success, as well.

Keep in mind, though, that the people that are attracted to you will be influenced by who you are. If you’re a deadline-keeper, you’ll draw (and want to hang around) the same people. The same will be true if you’re a procrastinator. In this situation, opposites do not, and should not, attract.

The Uphill Grind

Jim Rohn says, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

Success doesn’t require a key to decode. As a concept, it’s fairly simple to understand. However, success is hard to reach.

A lot of people don’t have the drive necessary to reach what they consider to be success. It’s much easier for a person to take the lazy route and say, “Well, I just haven’t met the right person yet. It’s not like I’m afraid of commitment,” when they’re dreaming of starting a family.  While waiting for the right person is all well and good, letting yourself stagnate in the meantime is not.

If you want any chance of staying relevant and successful after you finally reach it, you will need to accept that self-improvement is a perpetual requirement. Perhaps, once you’ve earned enough money to retire comfortably, you can say, “I’m done. I’ve achieved my success,” if that was your goal.

However, if your goal is to become the CEO of a mega-corporation, for example, you can’t just rest on your laurels once you get there. Unless you want to be replaced, that is.

In order to reach and maintain success, you will need to always be open to failure. In order to be at the cutting edge, you’ll have to jump into new things, fail at them, find out what you learned, and apply that to get ahead of your competition.

The raw truth of things is that most people aren’t willing to do that. The human condition holds infinite potential for growth and change, but this must be tapped into by the user. Jim Rohn also says, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”

The amount that you may need to do depends a lot on the ambitiousness of your goals. However, there will always be a price to pay in order to achieve your dream. If you want to find your soul mate, you may need to take a good, hard look at your own personality and desirability first. If you’re looking to attract a fit, handsome partner, for example, you may need to start going to the gym yourself first.

This may not be a hard concession to make for some people. However, the loftier your goal, the more it will cost you. The longer it will take you to get there, the more effort you’ll have to put in. If you want to be the next Jeff Bezos, you’ll need to work on building a mega-corporation from the ground up – just like he did.

Any average person would remark that that’s way too hard. Building a successful corporation like Amazon is too far out of their skill range. There’s no way to know what the next big thing will be, so why take the risk of failing?

Being unafraid of failure, or at least being able to handle it and get back on the horse, is a piece of what it takes to be successful. Being able to work hard despite this constant looming failure is another. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was Amazon, but here we are today with Amazon drones delivering packages. Amazon drones!

Failure Is the Only Option

When people think of success, they don’t usually realize that if you’re not succeeding, you’re failing. Most people aren’t willing to accept that. In any successful person’s life, their endeavors will be ninety percent failure and ten percent success. It’s not a “try once, learn better, then make it big” situation. This problem discourages many from ever trying to reach a measure of success.

Failure is scary. Fear of failure is a trait that every human on this Earth shares. It’s okay to be afraid of failure, but you can’t be unprepared for it if you want to have what it takes to find success. You also can’t let the fear of failure keep you from starting over again – sometimes from the bottom.

Humility is a big part of accepting this failure. A lot of the big-name successes we see on the news don’t seem the least bit humble. However, they all know that failure is just another part of the business. Even Donald Trump, our current president and the owner of a business empire, has filed for bankruptcy before.

It may be hard to relinquish the tight hold you’ve had on your ego for your entire life. When trying to achieve success, you sometimes need to let go, admit that you don’t know all the answers, and grow.

It may feel like the worst thing to admit that you’re not as knowing as you’d like to be, and you might feel humiliated or defensive if someone else sees you fail. However, in order to move forward, you need to learn to accept failure, criticism, and wisdom from others without defensiveness or resentment. Take a deep breath, loosen your bindings a bit, and become the best version of yourself.

The Road Less Traveled By

In 1916, Robert Frost published a poem called “The Road Not Taken.” Many of us are familiar with the last lines of this poem. It goes like this:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Frost was onto something here. Taking the road less traveled is absolutely a requirement of success. You can reach your goals by taking the easy path, sure, but you won’t make any real progress with yourself. Taking the easy way out always results in stagnation. It’s the difficult times and choices that spur your development.

Anything that scares you should be your goal. Radical improvement can be achieved by diving in headfirst, learning from the result, and moving forward again. This will require abandoning your fear, your hesitancy, and your reservation. The pace that you set for yourself becomes the speed at which you reach your success.

The road less traveled by is filled with rocks, cliffs, roots, and other stumbling blocks. However, that is a requirement of success. There will be little comfort to be found if you follow the footsteps of the truly successful. That’s why so few people do it.

To find success, you will need to put this philosophy into practice in all aspects of your life. If you have free time, spend that free time improving your skills or reading about something. Don’t sit down and watch TV. If you’re at work, work as hard as you possibly can, all the time. Give nothing but one hundred percent. If you do this, you will find success.

Taking the road less traveled involves a lot of different things – many in forms you might not realize at first. For example:

  • Defy every norm that you can
  • Get that “useless degree” that everyone said was silly
  • Run your own life and career; don’t defer to others
  • Study what impassions you, not what’s “trendy” and “viable”
  • Believe in your own power; no one has any right to control you
  • Make whatever lifestyle changes necessary to pursue your dreams, whether big or small
  • Be willing to anger or upset those close to you
  • Embrace impracticality and ludicrousness
  • Only blame yourself for your setbacks

Chances are, you weren’t taught how to be successful as a child. Moreover, you probably weren’t even told that it was an option. Most likely, you were taught to conform. In primary school, you were taught to walk single-file through the hallways. In class, you were taught to always raise your hand before speaking. In college, you aimed to get a decent job and make just enough to live comfortably.

Part of taking the road less traveled is throwing these preconceptions out the window. There are times and places for respect, of course, but don’t be afraid to throw caution to the wind. A trailblazer, by definition, is “someone who blazes a trail to guide others,” or “a pioneer.” The whole point is to do something that hasn’t been done before. Instead, take the overgrown path, and leave large footsteps behind you.

Own Yourself

We’ve mentioned that confidence is part of what it takes to be successful. However, it goes a bit deeper than that. The sense of self needed to be successful is a combination of several different things, all of which come together to create a successful mindset. We call combination of things “owning yourself.” To learn to own yourself, start with what we’ve stated below.

  • It’s okay not to know what to do. However, it’s not okay to wallow in the fact that you don’t know what to do. Instead, read, educate, and improve. Bounce your ideas off of people that you trust. When you don’t know what to do, make every effort you can to make sure you know what to do next time.
  • When you need to make a blind decision, use deductive reasoning to pick your most logical option. Then, see what you could have done differently and why after the fact.
  • Have confidence in your choices, even if you don’t know the correct answer. Don’t discount the expertise of others, but also have faith in your gut decisions.
  • Absorb any information you can like a sponge. Learn to crave criticism from others rather than hate it.
  • Stop caring what others think about you and your goals. Doing so only holds you back.

When you develop a strong sense of self, your future unfolds before you. Many people don’t realize that owning yourself, complete with all of your flaws, is a good thing. You should still always be looking to improve yourself – owning yourself is no excuse to stagnate or be a bad person – but others will look up to you more if you embrace your flaws, rather than trying to hide them.

I once knew a professor who was not particularly likable. He had a habit of being rude and arrogant in the presence of others, but he was always brutally honest, concise, and fair. He was also extremely skilled in his profession, so he commanded respect despite his personality. This is an example of owning yourself. Just be aware that a character like his will make you enemies as well as friends.

How to Do It

Much of the steps to success depend on you. The downside to this is that you will need to be your own policeman. You are the only one responsible for yourself. If you don’t work hard enough to reach the goals you set, or if you give in to watching TV when you really should be reading a book, you are the only one who will suffer.

There are some creative ways to lift this self-imposed policing a bit, though. Like we suggested earlier in the article, surrounding yourself with people who also desire to succeed will boost your own inspiration. All you need is one person: a lover or friend who will work alongside you or even compete with you.

If you can’t do that, look into finding a lifestyle coach instead. A life coach or therapist can provide that policing presence that you may need to stick to your self-improvement regimen. A professional, especially one who works in the same area of your goals (think a finance coach for financial goals, a relationship coach for couples, etc.), will be doubly effective at finding ways to help you.

Start treating yourself better. AJ Rivera recommends keeping yourself happy in order to maximize your potential in this article at success.com. The challenges associated with finding success can get you down. However, keeping your mental and physical health optimal will make these challenges feel less stressful. The path to success is hard, but it doesn’t need to be miserable.

Meditation comes highly recommended along with a healthy diet and exercise in order to promote good overall health. Meditation isn’t for everyone, but for those it benefits, it has a calming, mind-clearing effect that can help reduce anxiety and stress. A healthy person will always find more overall success than a miserable one.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy. This goes hand in hand with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you cut all of your enjoyable activities out of your life, you’re doomed to fail before you get anywhere.

Make time to hang out with friends who also want to better themselves. Adopt a dog that will keep you company when you work at home. Travel and expose yourself to different cultures, if you can afford it. This has the dual benefit of opening your mind to new ideas as well as boosting your happiness.

Last, but not least, take a class! Most of the time, any class you take will cost money. More often than not, a free class won’t be worth considering, either – that, or there will be hidden costs somewhere down the line. If you’re self-disciplined enough, you may be able to learn the same things from reading a book, but someone with proven results can also give you a lot of insight from experience that books cannot.


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