Key learning outcomes:

  • Recognise that success takes many forms, ranging from, for example, financial success to performing to the best of one’s ability.
  • Understand the importance of focusing on a successful outcome rather than the possibility of failure.
  • Acknowledge that patience is a key element in achieving success.
  • Develop your communication skills to improve your chance of success.


What is success?

If we look up the definition of “success” in a dictionary, we will find the following:

We know that success leaves clues, and that those we admire because of their success can offer us great inspiration and direction through their actions and behaviour. Of course, success can mean many things. It does not have to be financial or business success. It can be something as simple as achieving a goal that you set yourself or watching someone perform to the best of their ability, no matter if they win or lose. Inspiration can come from so many walks of life; you just need to be alert and on the lookout for it. If you research the traits that are common among successful people, the following crop up over and over again. Use them as a source of inspiration and as a checklist in your own life.


“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn

In any field, successful people tend to be very disciplined. They are able to keep themselves on track to meet their goals and are able to sustain high and consistent levels of effort over an extended period of time. Take successful athletes as an example. Almost without exception, the ones that stand on the winner’s podium are those that have trained the hardest, maintained a strict regime and have been relentless in their pursuit to be the best at a particular moment in time.


“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Helen Keller

Having a clear vision is essential to success. It does not matter how big or small your goal is. If you are not clear on what success looks like, it will be almost impossible for you to achieve it. The more defined your vision, the more likely you are to succeed. As a leader you also need to be able to communicate this vision to your team. Successful people are able to articulate their vision to others to such an extent that their goal becomes a reality.


“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” Tommy Lasorda

Successful people are able to drive themselves to work harder than everyone else. They pride themselves in getting things done and on moving towards their end goal. Like anyone, successful people suffer setbacks. The difference is that they push through them with a strong determination to succeed – they simply do not take “no” for an answer. When they hit an obstacle they look for solutions rather than excuses.


With confidence, you have won before you have started.Marcus Garvey

Confidence and self-belief are keys to successfully achieving any goal or target. You will find successful people do not think a lot about how they might fail. Instead, they visualise success. This is not to say that successful people do not take the risks into consideration. Through planning and preparation, they weigh up the risks and put controls in place. They then move forward with confidence and with an unswerving belief in their ability to succeed.


“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” Donovan Bailey

The thing about successful people is that they have a true passion for their chosen pursuit. You see the sparkle in their eyes and you can hear the enthusiasm in their voice when they talk about their goals, aspirations and their journey. To be truly successful at something, you really need to love it. Think for example about cooking. We can all learn to follow a recipe, but when someone really has a passion for food and its preparation, somehow what they cook transforms into something a little more special. Sometimes when the going gets a little tough, it is good to stop and think about why you are doing something or to remind yourself why you started – to re-ignite your passion!


We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.Walt Disney

Successful people tend to be naturally curious. They are always interested in finding out what is around the corner. They tend to have a sense of adventure and are willing to take some risks to push the boundaries of possibility. Their sense of curiosity also means they tend to be lifelong learners and are always looking for new or better ways to do things. They do not stand still for long – they are always searching for new challenges and new interests to keep their minds and bodies active.


The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker

The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most common skills that we see in successful people. They are able to communicate their vision clearly and this allows them to enlist any help that they need in order to successfully achieve their goals. They also understand that effective communication is not just about being able to speak, but also about being able to listen to those around them. Often the most successful people speak the least in a meeting; they listen and take in all those around them, to ensure they fully understand a situation before making decisions and moving forward. Great communicators understand that it is not just about what is being said, but also how it is being said that is important.


“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.” Saadi

As they say, patience is a virtue. The most successful people understand that real success takes time and they are willing to put in the effort over a sustained period. In reality, there are very few overnight successes; most have put in a lot of hard work, have tried many different ideas and have had to overcome some obstacles along the way. Think about training for a marathon. You need patience to build up your stamina and fitness over a period of time before embarking on the challenge. If you go out expecting to run the long distance on your first day of training, you are unlikely to get the result you want. Successful people understand that success is more often about the journey rather than the final result.


“Accountability breeds response-ability.” Steven Covey

One trait that successful people display is an ability to keep themselves accountable. They like to measure their progress towards their goals and they tend not to sugarcoat things. They take time to determine the activities and actions that will be required for success, and then measure themselves against these on a regular basis to ensure that they stay on track. For example, a successful salesperson will know how many people they need to speak to on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure that they get the result they want. If they find midway through the month that their numbers are not where they should be, they make adjustments and work harder to get themselves back on track. You do not often hear successful people complaining about circumstances. You find them making decisions and creating action plans that allow them to still move towards a successful result.


“Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” Frank A Clark

The thing about successful people is that they tend to adhere to the belief that it is far better to give than to receive. True generosity is not about giving and then looking for a way to benefit from it; it is about giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return. You will often find successful people giving their time to others through mentoring or other means, or using their profile to help a worthy cause. Look for opportunities to help others and to give back to your community.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of the traits successful people possess, but it will give you some useful guidelines to work from. A great exercise is to think about the people that you admire and gain inspiration from, and the traits they show in their pursuit of success. If you take the time to think not just about the results, but what these people achieve on their journey, it can give you a great insight into the areas of your own life that you can work on. We think this statement from Winston Churchill is a great one to finish on:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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