If you're not happy with your life, either personally or professionally, take a quick look in the mirror. The problem may not be lack of opportunity, or education, or capital, or connections--the culprit could be you.

The difficulty could lie in what you believe--and what you do.

What do successful people believe and do differently?

1. They never mistake political gain for achievement.

Infighting, positioning, trying to look better by making other people look worse: Playing politics can help get you ahead.

But if you win through politics, you still ultimately lose, since political success is based on the impulses, whims, and caprices of other people (often other people you don't even respect or like). That means today's success can be tomorrow's failure, and success or failure is largely outside your control.

Real achievements are based on merit. They can't be taken away by anyone.

2. They're never afraid of sniping or sarcasm.

Try something different. Try something others won't try. Almost immediately, people will talk about you--and not in a kind way.

The only way to keep people from being snide, disparaging, or judgmental is to say and do what everyone else does. Then, of course, you live their lives and not yours. And you won't be happy.

See people talking about you as a sign you're on the right track--your track.

Your track is the happy track. Not theirs.

3. They never fail to be last.

Everyone likes to be first. But often it's better to be last: the last to give up, the last to leave, the last to keep trying, the last to hold on to principles and values.

The world is full of people who quit. The world is full of people who pivot (pivot is sometimes just a fancy word for "give up").

There will always be people who are smarter, more talented, better connected, and better funded than you. But they don't always win.

Always be the last to give up on yourself.

4. They never equate acquisition with satisfaction.

Psychologists call it "hedonistic adaptation," a phenomenon in which people quickly push the buzz from a new purchase toward their emotional norm.

That "aah..." feeling you get when you look at your new house? It quickly goes away. The same is true for your new car, new furniture, and new clothes. So to recapture the "aah..." feeling, you have to buy something else. The cycle is addictive. And so you're never satisfied. You can't be. That's not how we're made.

Real, lasting satisfaction comes from doing, not from having. Want to feel good about yourself? Help someone. Knowing you've made a difference in another person's life is an "aah..." that lasts forever.

It's also a cycle that's addictive--but this time, in a really good way.

5. They're never looking for a big idea.

Very few people hit the big-idea jackpot. I haven't. You may not either. And even if you did come up with the ever-elusive big idea, could you pull off the implementation? Do you have the skills, experience, and funding?

Me neither.

But here's what you and I do have: tons of small ideas. We don't need to look for a big idea if we act on our little ideas.

Success is a process, and processes are based on action--so act on all your little ideas.

6. They're never afraid to ship.

As Seth Godin says, we're naturally afraid to be "done" because then our idea, our product, or our service has to sink or swim, and we're desperately afraid it will sink.

And maybe it will--but if you don't put it out there, it can also never swim. No product can be successful until it's shipped. No application can be successful until it's released. No service can be successful until it's in the field.

When in doubt, ship it out. Then make whatever you produce next is a little better. And ship that. And keep going.

You can't feel proud until you ship. So ship--a lot.

7. They never see their résumé or CV as an end result.

Many people collect jobs and experiences in pursuit of crafting a "winning" résumé.

That's backwards. Your résumé is like a report card: It's just a by-product of what you've accomplished, learned, and experienced.

Don't base your life on trying to fill in the blanks on some "ideal" CV. Base your life on accomplishing your goals and dreams. Figure out what you need to do to get to where you want to be, and do those things.

Then let your résumé reflect that journey.

8. They never wait.

For the right time. The right people. The right market. The right something.

And life passes you by.

The only right is right now.


9. They never collect stuff; they "collect" people.

Walk around your house. Or look around your office. Look at your stuff.

Now have your extended family over for dinner. Or get together with friends. Look at your people.

Which is more fulfilling?

Thought so. You can love your stuff, but your stuff will never love you back.

10. They never lose perspective.

Close your eyes and imagine I have the power to take everything you hold dear away from you: family, job or business, home, everything.

And I exercise that power. All of it, everything, is gone.

Would you beg and plead and offer me anything to get that life back? Would getting that life back mean everything to you? Would you realize that what you had was so much more important than what you didn't have?

Would you realize that what I just took away was pretty freaking awesome?

Of course you would.

Now open your eyes. Literally and figuratively.

11. They never forget to call their parents.

Your parents give you love and support in spite of all your faults and failures.

You don't even have to work for it.

How awesome is that?