Over many years I've had the great pleasure of meeting and working with some of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs on the planet. This includes everyone from Richard Branson to Tim Ferris and a hundreds of others in between. In this time I've noticed some common characteristics that they all share.

By identifying these, those of us aspiring to be better entrepreneurs have a checklist to work with. Here are 12 of the most common characteristics I have observed with many of the world's most successful entrepreneurs;

1. Absolute clarity of purpose

Without exception they are totally clear on why they are here and their big picture reason for existing. It varies among them, some have the purpose of making money (a lot of money) and others are here to use their influence to change the world. There is no judgment here on the actual purpose, but the importance of knowing their purpose cannot be understated.

2. They believe in themselves - totally

This is an interesting characteristic. Again each and every one of the world-class entrepreneurs that I've worked with has an incredible sense of self-belief. They back themselves completely, even if no one else will. To me this is the toughest of all the characteristics because it means overcoming doubt, fear, self worth and self esteem issues and going against the tribe, something that is very hard for most of us to do on a purely biological level.

3. They are very good at finding needs and niches

I sometimes think that successful entrepreneurs have a pair of "opportunity glasses". They somehow seem able to identify opportunity in just about every situation. This opportunity tends to be in the niches, and as the old saying goes, the riches are in the niches. Once they find a niche they are even better at solving problems for people in that niche.

4. Ability to focus on the most important things first

Brian Tracy wrote the excellent book called "Focal Point" where he explains his process in getting focused and staying focused. I think that this characteristic exists among the successful entrepreneurs. They have the ability to control their thoughts and actions and be totally present and focused with whatever is in front of them (and important) at the time.

5. A contribution culture

These leaders all have an incredibly generous nature. It is a what we call a contribution culture and it is their way of leaving a legacy, making a difference, sharing their success and much more. For many it becomes their purpose for being, but I tend to think that it always was but they now have the resources to do it.

6. An open mind

The most impressive of these world-class entrepreneurs to me are the oldest and the youngest. The oldest have achieved things way beyond what most people could dream of, yet they still have an open mind. They don't rest on their laurels, instead they are always looking for ways to learn more about what they are doing and most importantly how they could do it better.

7. Incredible networks, which they foster and participate in

Clearly these entrepreneurs have incredible networks, but in talking them, it is interesting to note their attitude towards their network. Without exception they treat their networks with exceptional respect. They have built these relationships over many years, their contacts are highly influential in many ways and they have the ability to grow each others business in leaps and bounds. They spend time and energy investing in their networks, they give more than they take, and they act without expectation of reciprocation.

8. Invest in themselves on all levels

The elite entrepreneurs understand that they need to grow their skills, take care of themselves physically and mentally and take time out to recharge their batteries on a regular basis. This is not an optional activity, this is an essential activity.

9. They constantly challenge themselves

I certainly see this characteristic in this entrepreneurial group - they challenge themselves all the time, in every way possible. They are big learners, they do things that are way out of their comfort zones, they push themselves physically, they work hard, and they play hard. This attitude that encourages self-challenge makes them strong. It makes them better able to deal with the issues that we all face in life. It keeps their minds active, their bodies fit and their attitudes positive.

10. They believe in technology

Interestingly enough many of these incredible entrepreneurs are techno Neanderthals, but that doesn't stop them believing in the importance of it. Nor does it stop them investing vast sums of money into technology to do what they do better. It is that belief that is more important than their own individual skills. As new technology become available they will try it, invest in it and see how it can make their business and their life more on par with what they want to achieve.

11. Build resilience

We all face ups and downs in our life. Some unlucky people have a seemingly endless supply of downs that would break most of us. All of the high achieving entrepreneurs I have studied have had incredible challenges in their lives. They could easily have hidden behind these challenges and played the victim but they don't. They have become resilient over time and they get more resilient every day.

12. A millionaire mindset

Having the right mindset, one that embraces abundance and opportunity is often the difference between a rich entrepreneur and poor entrepreneur. I see so many people struggling in business, they always have and they always will, simply because their financial home base is to be broke. Anyone stuck in this zone needs to start reprogramming their brain. Any limiting belief can be changed, we simply need to have a strong enough desire to change. If you are sick of being broke, develop your own millionaire mind.