10 Shared Traits of Truly Successful People

10 Shared Traits of Truly Successful People


“We don’t want to theorize about successful people. We went straight to the source, finding the most amazing people in all fields and asking them, ‘How do you do what you do?’” – Josh Gosfield

We’ve all been told at one time or another how to achieve our goals. Many of the answers are the same, “Work hard,” “Study more,” “Know the right people,” “Follow your dreams” and so forth.

Of course, to achieve any modicum of success requires hard work. Hitting the books are necessary to achieve for some. “Networking” may lead to the right opportunities. All of this is good advice, but it’s not extraordinary. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Edwin Hubble, Leonardo Da Vinci, and others didn’t get their names etched into the history books by following “good advice.”

So, what is so special about these “super achievers?”  What do the historically-great artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, political activists, and business leaders have that is so rare? In their book, co-authors (and married couple) Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield sought to answer this question.

Sweeney and Gosfield interviewed a total of 36 super achievers, and had this to say:

“In the beginning, our goal was to uncover what was unique about each one of the dozens of super achievers we interviewed. But after months of research and over 100 hours of conversations, we were often surprised to discover how much a tennis champion (and) a rock band think alike, or how a racecar driver and an extraterrestrial hunter share similar traits.”

In other words, there are common characteristics that great achievers embody.

Here are 10 success rules that will change your life:

1. Pure Dedication

“Every great success starts with inspiration, but not every inspiration leads to success,” Gosfield said. “The most common thing we found was these people’s devotion to the day-to-day struggle.” The media loves to highlight all the glitz and glam, fame and fortune. This stuff sells. What doesn’t “sell?” 16-hour workweeks, missed family time, and the degree to which super achievers push themselves to “finish the job.” This trait is inextricable from the next one…

2. Unquenchable passion

There is no way someone like Elon Musk, someone who runs not one or two, but five companies could (or would) do so without being incredibly passionate about work. Ken Jennings, the multiple Jeopardy winner and “winningest game-show champion in history” used his earnings to do what he really loves: writing. Musk and Jennings are two examples of people who became extraordinary by seeking out and doing what they love.

3. Not “settling”

The truly great are not “resting on their laurels,” as Steve Jobs once said. The great artists are constantly working on their craft; the important innovators are learning and tinkering, and the best journalists are always researching and editing. Constantly evolving is a pillar of extraordinary success.

4. Remaining patient

While diligent work is certainly an attribute of the super achiever, so is mindful patience. In business, patience may be strategically waiting on a competitor to make a move. In sports, patience may be sitting on the sidelines as your body returns to form. In acting, it may be waiting for the “right script” to accept.

5. Managing emotions

Jessica Watson, an Australian sailor who, alone, navigated a course around the world at just 16 years old, is a model for managing emotions. In her 210 solo days at sea, Watson battled feelings of loneliness and utter frustration. Unlike her astounding journey, her advice for managing emotions is short and sweet: “You can’t change conditions – just the way you deal with them.”

6. Excellent listening skills

“You don’t normally think of hard-charging, action-oriented leaders as good listeners,” Sweeney says, but “These people’s ability to practice the art of listening helped them learn what they needed to know about the world around them.” Sweeney uses Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh as an illustration. Hsieh sought the feedback of every single employee so that he could merge their personal values to the company’s culture.

7. Building a community

Super achievers know that success isn’t achieved alone. Sir Edmund Hillary will go down in history as the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Like all tremendous accomplishments, Sir Hillary didn’t achieve this feat alone. A Nepalese Sherpa by the name of Tenzing Norgay directed Sir Hillary, eventually walking side-by-side atop the wondrous peak.


8. Intelligent persistence

We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” Wise words indeed. Super successful people do work hard, but one thing they don’t do is attempt the same fledgling tactics when tackling a problem.  “When something’s not working, you’ve got to tweak it. Some people just keep baking their heads against the wall,” says Sweeney.

9. Great storytelling

Elon Musk, an otherworldly-type visionary in the commercial spacecraft and clean energy industries, poured all of his own money into turning his dreams into a reality. Two of his companies, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, were both nearly bankrupt when Musk sold investors (and saved his companies) using nothing else than good ole’ storytelling. Being able to “paint a picture” for someone, whether it’s an investor, student, or audience, is a powerful gift.

10. Testing ideas

For many (not all) super achievers, their passion is also their livelihood. The ability to “tip your toe in the pool” to test the buying waters is an art form that can mean success or failure. Super achievers will ask questions, assess responses, and implement feedback from their customers before spending their precious (and sometimes limited) resources.

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