3 Non-Negotiable Traits of Successful People

young girl with hands over her head in front of lake

Think of someone wildly successful. What are the traits that define them? While there are potentially hundreds, here are three that I believe are non-negotiable.

1. Do the hard things.

People wildly successful run towards danger —especially conflict —and not away from it. Abraham Lincoln was advised that his life was in danger prior to even coming to Washington D.C. after he was elected president. He went anyway, and going eventually cost his life, but not before he changed the history of our Country. You might not be leading a nation, but to be successful you have to do the hard things: Have the one-on-one conversation, travel to see the customer in person, even discipline —out of love —your child. These aren’t easy, but they define successful people.

2. Persevere

Of all the people in the twentieth century who faced tremendous adversity, Martin Luther King, Jr. has to be at, or near, the top of the list. He was beaten, thrown in prison, and hated. Yet, he kept going on with the mission of racial equality. He faced his oppressors head-on and returned non-violence for their violence. I fear this example has become so commonplace that it long ago lost its wonder, so take a minute to consider how many others would have given up along the way. Or, look around. Who in your life has overcome unthinkable odds, even systemic racism or poverty, and persevered? While I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for God’s blessings on their upbringing or family, I do think we should take notice of those who have had the odds stacked against them from the beginning of their life. And this trait is evident in business, where far too many people succumb to the challenges faced everyday. The next time you are hit in the face, get back up. Repeat as necessary.

3. Accept responsibility for what you can control

Michael Jordan almost always took the last shot with the game on the line. In his famous Nike commercial, he sums up his views: “26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan never blamed Scottie Pippen for missing the game-winning shot. Rather, he accepted responsibility. Run through the tape–he never blamed teammates. He may have gotten into fist fights with them in practice, but he never blamed them publicly post game. Winners don’t. Yet, we live in a society filled with “experts” that blame others all the time. Not only is this toxic, but it is exactly the kind of thing losers do. As my dad has told me since I was a child: “Son, in golf you have no one to blame but yourself. That’s what makes it such a great game.” Same goes for leadership, for people worth following accept responsibility for their contribution rather than blaming others or making excuses.

I challenge you to think this week about these three attributes. Which one, if you are honest, do you need to focus on? Admittedly, this is not rocket science. My experience tells me that while people understand this content, they fail to implement it. How do I know? Because I have to constantly remind myself to do the hard things, persevere, and accept responsibility for what I can control.