It's not that hard to be successful. But it is hard to be incredibly successful.
Yet we all hope to achieve exceptional success (something we all define differently--and should define differently.)
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription. But there are certain qualities that incredibly successful people share...especially those who make a significant impact on the lives of other people in the process.
See how many apply to you:
1. You find happiness in the success of others.
Great business teams win because their most talented members are willing to sacrifice to make others happy. Great teams are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside personal goals, and value team success over everything else.
Where does that attitude come from?
Every successful person answers the question, "Can you make the choice that your happiness will come from the success of others?" with a resounding "Yes!" (Here's more on that.)
2. You relentlessly seek new experiences.
Novelty seeking--getting bored easily and throwing yourself into new pursuits or activities--is often linked to gambling, drug abuse, attention deficit disorder, and leaping out of perfectly good airplanes without a parachute.
But according to Dr. Robert Cloninger, "Novelty seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age.... If you combine adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it's not all about you, then you get the creativity that benefits society as a whole."
As Cloninger says, "To succeed, you want to be able to regulate your impulses while also having the imagination to see what the future would be like if you tried something new."
Sounds like every successful person I know.
So go ahead. Embrace your inner novelty seeker. You'll be healthier, you'll have more friends, and you'll be generally more satisfied with life.
3. You don't think work/life balance, you just think life.
Symbolic work/life boundaries are almost impossible to maintain. Why? You are your business. Your business is your life, just like your life is your business--which is also true for family, friends, and interests--so there is no separation because all those things make you who you are.
Incredibly successful people find ways to include family instead of ways to exclude work. They find ways to include interests, hobbies, passions, and personal values in their daily business lives.
If you can't, you're not living--you're just working.
4. You're incredibly empathetic.
Unless you create something entirely new--which is really hard to do--your business or profession is based on fulfilling an existing need or solving a problem.
It's impossible to identify a need or a problem without the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes. That's the mark of a successful businessperson.
But exceptionally successful leaders go a step further, regularly putting themselves in the shoes of their employees. (Here's what that looks like in practice.)
Success isn't a line trending upwards. Success is a circle, because no matter how high your business--and your ego--soars, success still comes back to your employees.
5. You have something to prove--to yourself.
Many people have a burning desire to prove other people wrong. That's a great motivator.
Incredibly successful people are driven by something deeper and more personal. True drive, commitment, and dedication spring from a desire to prove something to the most important person of all.
6. You ignore the 40-hour workweek hype.
Studies show that working more than 40 hours a week decreases productivity.
Successful people work smarter, sure, but they also outwork their competition. (Every successful entrepreneur I know who reads those stories probably thinks, "Cool. Hopefully my competitors will believe that crap.")
The author Richard North Patterson tells a great story about Robert Kennedy. Kennedy was seeking to indict Teamsters head Jimmy Hoffa (who some still believe is hanging out in Argentina with Elvis and Jim Morrison). One night, Kennedy worked on the Hoffa case until about 2 a.m. On his way home, he passed the Teamsters building and saw the lights were still on in Hoffa's office, so he turned around and went back to work.
There will always be people who are smarter and more talented than we are. Successful people simply want it more. They're ruthless--especially with themselves.
7. You see money as a responsibility, not a reward.
Many entrepreneurial cautionary tales involve buying 17 cars, loading up on pricey antiques, importing Christmas trees, and spending $40,000 a year for a personal masseuse. (Wait--maybe that's just Adelphia founder John Rigas.)
Successful people don't see money solely as a personal reward; they see money as a way to grow a business, reward and develop employees, give back to the community...in short, not just to make their own lives better but to improve the lives of other people, too.
And most importantly, they do so without fanfare, because the true reward is always in the act, not the recognition.
8. You don't think you're remarkable.
In a world of social media, everyone can be their own PR agent. It's incredibly easy for anyone to blow their own horn and bask in the glow of their insight and accomplishments.
Truly successful people don't. They accept their success is based on ambition, persistence, and execution...but they also recognize that key mentors, remarkable employees, and a huge dose of luck also played a part.
Exceptionally successful people reap the rewards of humility, asking questions, seeking advice, and especially recognizing and praising others because...
9. You know that success is fleeting, but dignity and respect last forever.
Providing employees with higher pay, better benefits, and greater opportunities is certainly important. But no level of pay and benefits can overcome damage to self-esteem and self-worth. (Here's a heartbreaking story that illustrates the point.)
The most important thing successful people provide their employees, customers, vendors--everyone they meet--is dignity.
And so should you...because when you do, everything else follows.