Success has many definitions and means different things to different people. Just Google “success” to see what I mean. The truth is, no matter how we define or perceive success, we all want to be successful in our own way, and to be seen as successful to others. This post is not intended to judge others for their own definitions: it is not my place, or anyone’s for that matter, to say what success is. I have known individuals for whom success is getting that big house, driving a marquis car, becoming CEO of a company or running their own successful business. I have also known individuals for whom success is having a comfortable lifestyle, being able to travel, seeing their children doing well in life. They just “feel good” about where things are in their life.
I believe we also have to be careful how we define motivation as it relates to success. Just because someone is satisfied with where they are—with their success at any given time—doesn’t necessarily mean that they lack motivation. Their personal motivation got them to that point their personal motivation will have just shifted to help them maintain where they are now.
The question is: what does success mean to you? Can you define it? Do you know what it will feel like when you achieve it? What are some of the skills or abilities you need to become successful? In their book The Great American Success Story (Dow Jones-Irwin, 1986), George Gallup Jr. and Alec Gallup list the characteristics of success from a survey they completed on 150 Americans who had reached the top of their fields. No matter how you personally define success, I believe these 12 characteristics will be significant in helping you reach it.
Common sense. I love that this is the first characteristic. For me it pushes all the psychobabble and business babble aside. Having common sense, being able to make sound judgements on everyday events, being able to get to the core of what really matters is an important first characteristic of successful people.
Specialized Knowledge of Your Field. Being a continuous learner and keeping up with what’s new. Being able to demonstrate to others that you are aware and knowledgeable in your area of expertise. Keep reading and keep doing.
Self-reliance. The courage to get things done by relying on your own resources and abilities. This is where setting goals fits in to achieving and maintaining success.
General Intelligence. Those surveyed by Gallup indicated that they meant specific things such as an extensive vocabulary and good reading and writing skills.
The Ability to Get Things Done. Not only just getting things done but also being able to prioritize and getting the most important things done first.
Leadership. Leading through motivation, not by intimidation (goodbye, command and control).
Knowing Right from Wrong. Being sensitive to both moral and ethical concerns.
Creativity. Natural talent plus insight equals creativity. Gallup noted that having natural talent was not enough unless you were able to make the best use of those abilities.
Self-confidence. Being confident in your abilities and skills and knowing you can make a difference. This doesn’t mean overconfidence to the point of taking impulsive risks, but it does indicate a willingness to take calculated ones.
Oral Expression. This is the characteristic of being able to get your message across, whether one-on-one in a private conversation, or in group presentations and speeches.
Concern for Others. Even though concern for others is a significant factor for successful people, Gallup also notes, at the very least successful people are able to get along with others.
Luck. Luck always helps but it is never enough. Gallup concluded that education, individual drive, initiative and hard work are the ingredients of success – providing the person has a balanced personality and high ethical standards. These attributes will help you to exploit luck, taking advantage of good luck and minimizing the effects of bad luck when it happens.