Performance Improvement & Professional Development

6 Characteristics of Success

success-and-failure-signSix Characteristics of Success

When you study success, you’ll find unequivocally that successful people in any endeavor have one thing in common: they think differently than less successful people. Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of the Fox News Channel, is quoted as saying: “There’s a big difference between those who want to be something and those who want to do something. About 95 percent of America is made up of people who want to be something, and they cause all the problems that have to be solved by the five percent who want to do something…”

Not only do successful people think differently, they also have certain characteristics that set them apart. Here are six prominent characteristics of successful people.


Helen Keller once described optimism as “the faith that leads to achievement.” Successful people expect positive outcomes. They don’t sit around wringing their hands wondering what will happen if “it” doesn’t work. They simply expect that trying something new will work. If it doesn’t work – it doesn’t work. So what! Successful people just roll up their sleeves and take another run at it.


Successful people focus on innovating – not fixing. They realize that fixing a problem, more often than not, just gets them back to the status quo. Nothing changes and nothing gets better – it just gets fixed.

Successful people look at something that’s not working very well and start thinking of new, creative and innovative ways to deal with the problem. They ask “why” questions and “what if” questions. Successful people have a healthy fear of failure (more on that next).


Being able to spring back into shape after being bent or twisted is a dictionary definition of resilience. Successful people have a very healthy view of failure. They fully embrace the cliché that failure isn’t falling – it’s failing to get back up.

Thomas Edison was famous for this. After more than five thousand failed tries to invent the incandescent light bulb, he was asked by a reporter why he kept trying. Edison’s reply was that he hadn’t failed five thousand times – he simply figured out five thousand ways the bulb didn’t work. Five thousand experiments later – he created the incandescent light bulb.


If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that our self-control will be tested on a daily basis. Temptations abound. Successful people learn to harness their passions, emotions and their will.

Jim Rohn offered the best definition of failure and success I’ve ever heard: “Failure is the result of a few errors in judgment – repeated every day, and success came from a few simple disciplines practiced every day.”

Emotional Awareness

Successful men and women have outstanding emotional awareness. Not only are they focused on building strong, lasting relationships, they’re also keenly aware of the feelings of others. They consider the impact of their words and actions on others and are highly skilled at using the right words at the right time.

Winners don’t preach; they persuade. Some people tell you what you want to hear and some tell you what you need to hear. Successful people tell you what you need to hear in a way you want to hear it.

Goal Focused

Successful people keep their eyes on the prize. They identify the real priorities and focus their efforts (and the efforts of others) on what really matters. They realize there’s no “magic moment” and no “silver bullet” to achieving great things. Their success formula is pretty simple – clearly establish what you intend to accomplish and do those things that will accomplish the goal.

Brian Tracy describes goal setting as the fuel for the furnace of success. Here’s an interesting conundrum though; ninety-five percent of people believe goal setting is critical to success, yet only five percent have written goals they focus on constantly. Guess where they stand when it comes to the overall success of the population: right at the top!

There you have it, the six characteristics of success. On a scale of one to six, how did you fare?

About the Author

Les Taylor is the founder and managing partner of Outperformers International. He is an award-winning author, professional speaker and recognized expert in the field of performance improvement and professional development. Les is a former law enforcement executive, served as the executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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