Common Behavior Traits of Highly Successful people|
Posted Jul 13, 2003 - 03:54 AM
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The points discussed in this article have been harped on over the years in countless motivational seminars across the United States. The Dale Carnegies and Zig Ziglars have been pounding these same themes for so long that most people accept them as conventional wisdom. Yet, I am baffled why so many people in quest of that holy grail--a happy, successful life--still stubbornly disregard these simple truths.|
I once heard someone remark that the only difference between success and failure is the net worth of one's parents, the implication being that wealth can ensure success. I disagree. on the contrary, wealth which underwrites projects guided by people with limited skills, lack of vision, and questionable maturity and intelligence almost always leads to failure. In fact, wealth uncoupled from the commonly accepted virtues of integrity, intelligence, maturity, vision, tact, ability, to name a few, often results in serial failure, failure over and over again.
A quick inventory of my mental rolodex leads me to believe that successful people achieve their goals in different ways, while the failures all trod virtually the same path. This is not to say that successful people have nothing in common. Of course, they do--hard work, perseverance, a positive attitude, these are all common factors in successful behavior. But the successful people in my life have all arrived at the promised land via different routes, while the failures have all travelled the same road. This implies that successful behavior can be distilled by filtering and identifying the common pitfalls of the unsuccessful.
What is Success?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines success as "...the achievement of something attempted or...the gaining of fame or prosperity." Simply put, it is happiness or satisfaction derived from a goal accomplished or a purpose realized. It can be of a personal nature, such as losing weight or giving up smoking, or it can be of a professional nature, as in winning an election or securing a job promotion. It can be small, let's say, finishing a crossword puzzle or big, for instance, winning a world championship, something as palpable as becoming a millionaire or as intangible as waking up happy every morning. It is quite simply, defining a mission or having an objective, then achieving it.
Learn From Your Mistakes
The first common thread in the fabric of failure is that failures almost never learn from their mistakes. They repeat them again and again. Benjamin Franklin said that "experience is a dear school, but fools will learn in no other." You don't have to be a fool to learn from experience. Everyone stumbles at some time. The failures, however, keep repeating the behavior that led to their failure, the successes make changes and modifications which minimize the chances for future failure. They try to fix the broken car before continuing their journey, while the failure blithely drives on to the next accident. A commonly heard expression is, "he always lands on his feet," implying luck or a charmed existence. Actually, people who always land on their feet are those who learn from mistakes, make positive changes, and succeed in avoiding subsequent calamities.
Be Willing to Take Advice
A second common trait in failures, related to the first, is that failures refuse to take advice. This is not to say that advice is always good to follow--many people who invest on a tip lose money. However, when circumstances warrant, being able to solicit counsel and listen to what others have to say is important. Many people don't feel secure enough to do this, others are just obstinate, but there are times in everyone's life when their viewpoint is clouded and they need an outside opinion. A willingness to listen to others, and being humble enough to take advice, is important for success.
Procrastination is a common attribute of failures. Their common cry is, "I could have done that!" or "I once thought of that." Deliberation is fine, but in chronic delay are the seeds of failure. First, a task becomes more difficult to undertake with each successive postponement. Second, in this world, real opportunity often has a shelf life, as in "window of opportunity." Excessive delay increases the liklihood that the window will snap shut before you have a chance to leap through it. The end result of chronic delay is that things don't get done, and things not getting done are the building blocks of failure.
Finish What You Start
Related to the advice on delay is the admonition to finish what you start. Admittedly, when you embark on a course which is obviously ill-conceived, it is best to disengage; that is, cut your losses. Failures, however, have a nagging habit of starting projects, often with grandiose fanfare, only to lose enthusiasm and give up before the project is completed. These are the quitters, people who have a low threshold of discomfort and will disengage whenever they encounter setbacks. In short, they don't have perseverance, they can't stick to a task which offers any unexpected difficulties. Successful people, on the other hand, will see tasks through to completion, even through difficult times. They are not short-termers, they keep their eyes on the goal even though they have to suffer some temporary pain to get to it. These are the people who exhibit professional behavior, who perform what has to be done even though they don't always enjoy it. The failures are left in the familiar position--tasks not completed, desired result unattainable, goals unrealized.
Stop Running Around in Circles
One common trait of failures is that they are almost always inefficient. Many of these people are subconsciously aware of their shortcomings, don't want to be perceived as indolent and, as a result, are always in motion. But, the motion is circular, not linear--they often expend tremendous energy, but end up back at the starting point. The failure impulsively moves a computer from his home to his office, only to change his mind the following week and move the computer back home. Result: a waste of two hours labor, two gallons of gas, and a buck's worth of shoe leather and tire rubber, without a corresponding change in situation. The success will be more prudent--decide the computer is best utilized at the office, hire a delivery service at $10/hour, because his time is worth $20/hour, and have the computer swiftly sent to the office. Result: a savings of $10 in labor costs, and a computer situated in an office where it can best be put to use. Digging ditches and filling them up can be good exercise but, in the end, it is a zero-sum game.
Don't Be a Victim
In our society, victimization is often used as a means to gain empowerment. This, unfortunately, has several toxic side effects, one of which is the right of the victim to damages in order to redress a grievance. From a legal point of view this makes sense; from a political point of view, however, this concept is often paired with class status to create a category of victims. These victims, as a group, are awarded ongoing damages which often, rather than righting a wrong, creates a dependency. This dependency often discourages personal responsibility and pro-active behavior, resulting in personal stagnation. Victimization today carries so much political legitimacy that people, instead of marshalling energy to move from victimized status to empowered status, often spend all their emotional capital trying to convince others they are victims and, hence, a politically legitimate, privileged class. Chronic whining wastes productive time and underscores one's impotence. It's a fairly common trait among failures--the focus on assigning blame rather than rectifying the situation.
Beware of the Company You Keep
Failures always seem to attract failures; likewise, successful people tend to migrate towards other successful people. A child's initial role models are her parents. But, as we move into adulthood, we still seek out peers who reflect our shared values. Failures, often because of damaged self confidence, are intimidated by the conventionally successful and, as a result, shun them. They often seek out, or are thrown together with, people who, like them, have developed dysfunctional habits which will prevent them from realizing a more satisfying, successful life. Jack Nicklaus, the famous golfer, said that he learned early in his career to surround himself with well-adjusted, sound-thinking people. He claims to have learned as much about successful living from this peer group as he did from his achievements on the golf course. Most people are motivated not to learn from others, but to be accepted by others. So, failures often aren't exposed to role models who can spur positive change.
Feel With Your Heart, Think With Your Head, Don't Deny Reality
Failures tend to stress impulsive, often passionate decisions over rational ones. Passion is an essential requisite to the full enjoyment of life--most pursuits in life often benefit from a passionate commitment. However, when a person relies solely on emotion, not reason, to arrive at a major decision, the results are often regrettable. A balance can be struck by asking a few key questions. Perhaps the most important question is: What will the consequences of this decision be, especially if there is a substantial downside potential? There is always an upside and downside, but many people refuse to confront the negative possibilities--I am inundated with business propositions which quantify latent profits, but don't address the possible losses I might incur. If you want a further illustration, simply try to to engage a realtor in a discussion about depreciating real estate and see how far you get. This "it can only go up" thinking represents a denial of reality, which is the corollary to over-emotional decision making. In order to make the choice based on emotion, you must suspend reason, which is most often based on reality. Failures act in the heat of the moment and later often suffer regret and guilt, while the successful tend to balance desire with rational deliberation. Their decisions often lead to better outcomes and when they don't, there is no lament or second guessing.
The points I've been discussing here have been harped on over the years in countless motivational seminars across the United States. The Dale Carnegies and Zig Ziglars have been pounding these same themes for so long that most people accept them as conventional wisdom. Yet, I am baffled why so many people in quest of that holy grail--a happy, successful life--still stubbornly disregard these simple truths.
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Note: By : Steve Schackne
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