Does success seem to follow you around like a lost puppy?

You may have what I've been calling a successful spirit.

The hallmarks of this attribute are crystal clear, although they're a little hard to quantify. We know when people are successful at work and in life, much the same way we know when someone has character or they are likable and fun to be around. It's almost like an aura or a vibe. When someone emanates success, we always take notice.

The question is: How do you develop this attribute?

And, how do you know when you have it?

For years, I struggled with this issue. I wasn't sure if I would ever find success. At one of my first jobs out of college, working in a shoe store, I made so many mistakes as a manager that an employee once threw a pair of shoes at me. If you haven't read this column, you don't know that I worked in the corporate world for about ten years...then fizzled out. At the time, I had an inkling for what it means to be successful. Now, after writing for 16 years and interviewing countless entrepreneurs and celebrities, I have a good handle on what a successful spirit means.

For starters, the one distinguishing factor is that you are a problem solver not a problem maker. People seem to fall into one of those to general categories. I've heard it said that a complaint says more about you than the person or thing you are complaining about. It makes you a complainer--someone who is negative and a little unhappy in life.

Problem solvers generate a totally different vibe. They are curious, open-minded, and resolute in finding answers. They emit a totally different attitude.

Another sign you have a spirit of success--you are almost always in a good mood. You realized at one time, maybe as a college student or much later in life, that many of the things that seem insurmountable or earth-shattering are not that important after all. It's more than not sweating the small stuff. You don't sweat the big stuff, either. It takes a mountain of disappointment to crush you, and even then, your attitude is always positive. You know there will be a way to resolve a bankruptcy issue or a personal conflict. You trust in yourself and others. You're hopeful to almost an annoying (or at least, obvious) degree, and everyone knows that about you. You don't accept a no.

You also define success differently. There's an aroma involved--you can smell it from a distance. It's more about your attitude, your outlook, and your motivations than the number in your bank account or the title on a business card. It's a decision you make when you wake up in the morning. You assume success. When you decide to be successful, you act successful. That generates an aura that is easy to recognize.

This is not always easy. You will have down days. Working with some college students this summer doing some mentoring, I've noticed when young adults--those who only have the future ahead of them--have a spirit of success that puts them in high demand. You want to work with these folks, you want to promote their cause. It's almost like you're a fan on the sidelines, ready to cheer them on to greater things. (In the end, that's probably the best definition of mentoring you'll ever find.) You see potential for success because you know the individual has already decided to be successful.

It's a little sad when this aura is not present. It's more like a dark cloud. You realize the person is going to get stuck in some thick mud, spinning deeper into the dirt. It's a spirit of failure, a sure sign that a team is going to suffer, there will be work conflicts, no one will be happy, and projects will slip. It's also sad because, until that person really decides to embrace success, there isn't a lot you can do.

Where do you fall? Do you have a spirit of success? Know that you can develop one. Start looking at problems as a challenge. Start seeing people as helpful comrades on the road to greater things at work and in life--and bring them along with you. Decide--right now, today--to stay in a good mood and don't let anger and emotion rule over you.

Let a successful spirit become your one defining characteristic.