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Who Gets to Achieve Success?

By Philip E. Humbert, PhD

We have long known that many so-called predictors of success are totally unreliable. Rich kids end up as failures. Bright kids end up working for other people. Attractive kids grow up to be lonely. The most popular kids and best athletes do no better (and often worse) than the "average" kids. Ambitious kids flame out, and so forth.

So what does predict success? Who gets to achieve external success (wealth, fame, power, prestige, etc) and the internal blessing of happiness? What are the predictors of success in both realms? Who are the winners who have the things we want on the outside, while also having peace and fulfillment on the inside? Who gets that???

There are specific skills and behaviors that highly successful people share and the good news is that they are not genetic! You do not have to be born "lucky!" You can learn or acquire these things. Here are a few of the traits and skills of highly successful people:

  1. A paradox. Success is a "do-it-yourself" project and yet no one gets there on their own. Successful people LEARN to be successful by watching and emulating successful people. Winners attend the seminars, take the classes, read the books (including biographies) and work with coaches and mentors. I was reminded of that this week when Vic sent his special about the Jim Rohn recordings. Jim taught me a lot! Hanging around him, watching him, learning from him was one of the best investments I've ever made.
  2. Simplicity. This is a very sophisticated concept and has more to do with balance or clarity than with the number of appointments on your calendar. I've met famous business leaders who lead astonishingly quiet, orderly lives. Others are busy, high-energy, on-the-go, making deals every day. The outward "style" is not the issue. It's their inner quiet. Successful people know who they are, keep their feet on the ground, and are rarely stressed.
  3. Focused ambition. Successful people are ambitious, but their ambition is aimed at a very precise outcome. They work hard, but they are rarely ambitious for "success." Rather, they are focused on a precisely-defined result. Their ambition is not to "be successful" or to "become" anything! Whether their success is teaching a 5-year old to read or building a global enterprise, their ambition is focused and specific.
  4. Insatiable curiosity. Successful people know there is a way to achieve their goals and they will try any legal, ethical technique. They ask for suggestions, borrow ideas, modify techniques, study and ponder until they find the solutions. Remember Sir Isaac Newton and his insight about the nature of the universe when an apple fell from a tree? Successful people are eager, curious observers.
  5. Determination without stubbornness. Again we're back to a paradox. Successful people never stop. They are hard working, persistent people who never, ever give up. But, they can change their mind in an instant. They are open to new information, a new way, a new solution and when they find it, they can instantly change direction. No one sees them as unpredictable or chaotic, but when they find a better solution, they grab it.

Success is built on skills that can be learned. The skills come more easily to some than others, but anyone can nurture their curiosity. Anyone can learn from a mentor. We can all persist and "stay the course" in hard times. We can all learn the skills and achieve success in life. So, who gets to achieve success? Anyone who will study, learn and use the skills of highly successful people.

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