How to be Successful at All You Do – 7 Crucial Personality Traits

By on June 8, 2010

SuccessJudging from the number of self-help and business books sold every year, millions of people want to know what it takes to be successful in business and in life.  Of course we do.  Especially if you define success as abundance in all areas – not just money – then being “successful” is what life’s all about.  The other thing you can guess from the millions of these books sold is that not everyone agrees about what it takes to be successful.  If they did, there would only be one book, right?  Well, not necessarily.  If you read all the books, you’ll mostly hear similar themes repeated in various ways.  This is good, because different people learn and absorb information in different ways.  Some will resonate more with books and programs that incorporate humor, while others prefer to take a more serious approach, for instance.  When it all comes down to it though, most of the books talk about at least one or several (or all) of the following personality traits as being necessary for success.   In fact you’ll find that few if any successful business people are lacking many of these traits.

Successful people are…

1. Optimistic. People who have achieved success in life tend to be optimistic.  They are far more likely to be heard talking about solutions than problems, whether in their business or personal lives, and they don’t dwell on past failures but focus on future opportunities.

2. Passionate. Successful people look forward to doing whatever it is that they do.  While they’re excited about weekends with the family or vacations away, they aren’t the ones dreading Monday morning.  They have passion for work and for life, and if they find themselves doing something they dread, they won’t do it for long.  Instead they’ll find an alternative that drives them and inspires them.

3. Persistent. Those who have found true success have done so through persistence and tenacity.  Successful people don’t have fewer obstacles than those who have not experienced success.  They just keep going even after the obstacles come up.  They deal with challenges and move on, learning as they go.  They feel sick at even the thought of giving up just before a successful breakthrough.  And because of their passion, persistence doesn’t feel like a chore – it’s fun!

4. Flexible. Being able to change course when necessary contributes to success in big ways.  While successful people follow plans, they know that the unexpected will arise, and when it does they’re willing and able to adapt as needed and turn change into opportunity.  They don’t wish for the good old days – they relish progress and go with the flow. (Or they change the flow they don’t like!)

5. Educated. This isn’t exactly a personality trait, and it doesn’t have anything to do with schooling.  The personality trait that relates to education is a thirst for learning.  Look at any success story, from Walmart founder Sam Walton, who didn’t even finish high school, to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who has degrees from Stanford and Oxford, and you’ll find someone who is committed to lifelong learning and improving him or herself.  Successful people are educated in their areas of passion, even if they aren’t “book smart.”

6. Focused. People who have experienced success in their business and personal lives have done so in part because they’ve been focused on success.  But more importantly, they’re focused on the long-term.  From managing personal finances to running companies, these people know that sacrificing now can pay off big in the future.  Successful people understand that while short-term victories are critical, they are only so important because they contribute to long-term success.  So they are not easily distracted by the lure of making a quick buck – or by the pretty secretary in the next office.

7. Altruistic. Contrary to the stories of greed and gluttony you sometimes hear about in the corporate world, politics, and elsewhere, truly successful people tend to be unselfish and often philanthropic.  That doesn’t mean they’re pushovers, but they are concerned about people and about contributing to the greater good.  In fact many of the most successful people in the world, both financially and personally, have found their true passions in helping and giving, more than in selfish pursuits.

Ask yourself how many of these seven personality traits you have.  If you’re seriously lacking in any of them, what can you do to change that?  And what other traits do you think a person needs to be a true success?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.