Over the years, we have profiled a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and we’ve asked almost all of them for their definition of success. The range of answers is interesting, and it illustrates something that we all know: success is different for everyone.
For some, success must include having a boatload of money in the bank; for others, as long as their family is well cared for, they feel successful; and for a growing number of entrepreneurs, they can only think of themselves as successful if they are giving back and contributing to the world in some significant way.
The Two Sides of Success
Regardless of your exact definition of success, there are likely two sides of your “success coin.” On one side, there are the business and monetary accomplishments that most entrepreneurs strive for. These often include running a profitable business, having a certain amount of money in the bank, driving a specific car, living in a specific area, being able to travel the world, etc. These are the “things that money can buy.”
On the other side of the coin are those things that contribute to the feeling of success which cannot be bought with money. These can include, having a family and being able to spend time with them, feeling good about who you are and where you are in your life, being respected among your peers, feeling healthy in body and mind, and for many, having a spiritual connection of some kind.
Each side is important, and true success cannot be found without both sides being satisfied. If you have a billion dollar bank balance but are miserable, bitter, and unhealthy, no one can claim you’re successful. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to have great relationships and feel good about yourself and your life if you’re in a constant state of worry over your career and finances. (This is especially the case for entrepreneurs. If you’re a monk, the money side of the coin might not be important for your happiness, but you’re probably not reading this either.)
We often hear this whole concept referred to as work/life balance, and it is a concept that many entrepreneurs struggle with. So we want to give you a list of the traits we feel all “successful” entrepreneurs possess. These are traits that will contribute to success in business as well as in life.
Successful people are…
1. Optimistic. Those who have realized success in life are inclined to be optimistic. Whether speaking about their business or personal lives, they’re far more likely to be heard discussing solutions than problems. You won’t find them dwelling on past failures, but rather focusing on future opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs are realistic in recognizing challenges and don’t ignore them, but they expect a positive outcome and face obstacles head-on with optimism. When things don’t turn out well, despite their optimism, they don’t let failure bring them down for long. Instead, they learn from mistakes and failures and apply their knowledge to the next challenge.
2. Passionate. The most successful entrepreneurs feel, speak, and act with passion. While they’re stoked about a weekend with the family or a vacation far away, they aren’t the people we all know who dread Monday mornings. They exhibit passion in their work and in their lives, and if they find themselves doing something they don’t like, you won’t find them doing it for long. Instead they’ll find an alternative that motivates and inspires them. Their passion fuels their businesses as well as their personal lives. Not all passionate entrepreneurs are loud and boisterous. Some are more reserved, but when you talk with them about what they do, their passion is unmistakable.
3. Persistent. Those who have realized balanced success have done it with persistence and determination. It’s not that successful entrepreneurs have fewer road blocks than people who haven’t found success. It’s that they keep going, even when obstacles arise. They deal with tests and trials and move on, always learning as they go. They feel ill at the very thought that they might give up right before a big breakthrough. And because of their passion, persistence isn’t a chore – it’s fun and energizing. Challenges are seen as opportunities by successful entrepreneurs – not reasons to quit, but reasons to push even harder. “Bring it on!” is the cry of the persistent, successful entrepreneur.
4. Flexible. Having the ability to change course when needed can contribute to success significantly. While successful business owners definitely create and follow plans, they know that the unpredictable will arise at some point, and when it does, they’re willing and able to adjust as needed and turn changes into opportunities. You won’t hear them wishing for “the good old days” – they appreciate progress and go with the flow. (Or they change what they don’t like!)
When it comes to their personal lives, successful entrepreneurs apply flexibility to their business as well as their home life to accommodate the balance they know is vital to true success. Unexpected challenges arise in life as well as in business, and taking on both successfully requires flexibility.
5. Educated. Being an educated entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with formal education. The trait associated with education is a hunger for knowledge. Read any success story, from Walmart founder Sam Walton, who never finished high school, to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, who has degrees from Stanford and Oxford, and you’ll find someone who is dedicated to lifelong learning and improvement.
Successful people are educated on their passions, even if they aren’t “book smart.” They learn all they can about the areas of their lives that are most important to them. Whether they are attending a workshop on social media marketing or reading a book on effective parenting, you will find successful entrepreneurs spending a good portion of their “non-productive” time filling their heads with knowledge.
6. Focused. Entrepreneurs who have achieved success in their business and personal lives have done so in large part because they’ve been focused on success. But more significantly, they’re focused on the long-term – their “Big Vision.” From personal money management to starting and growing business ventures, successful entrepreneurs realize that sacrifices in the short-term can mean big rewards in the future. Successful people also recognize that while short-term wins are important, they’re only so important because they add to long-term success. So, successful people aren’t easily sidetracked by the allure of making a quick buck – or by things that cause them to neglect personal obligations. They are instead focused on those activities that will help them to achieve their vision and lead them to their idea of true success.
Are there other traits that you have noticed successful entrepreneurs have in common? Share your thoughts in the comments below!