When you're young, you're often praised for your talents. If you are good at soccer or play piano really well, people think you should become a professional soccer player or pianist when you grow up.
But as you get older, suddenly, you aren't such hot stuff anymore. Talents and hard skills, while sought after, can go overlooked and underappreciated, which leads me to believe that talent alone is a little overrated.
Instead, I believe that certain personal characteristics can lead you to success in business (and life). And they don't require any particular talent on your part. Here are 15 practices that will help you succeed:
1. Putting in the Hard Work
You can't really teach someone how to be a hard worker. That's something people have to want to be, and when they are, it truly stands out. I am so impressed by members of my team who exhibit the willingness and ability to do whatever it takes to make something possible. Having a mentality that there's always more you can do will take you far in life.
2. Knowing Your Resources
Few things irritate me more than when people ask for help before they try to solve a problem themselves or review their resources. Those resources are there for you to take advantage of, so instead of taking the easy way out and burdening someone else with the task of walking you through something, do everything you can to find what you need on your own.
3. Communicating Openly
When you're honest and proactive in your communication, no one is left wondering what you really mean by something or whether they can trust you. This is important whether you're leading a growing company or you're the newest employee on the team. And it doesn't stop at verbal or written communication, either. Positive body language will also make you more approachable, meaning more people will want to work with you.
4. Being Up for Anything
You can't just say "yes" to every project and opportunity that presents itself, so evaluating each project is key. Being willing to work on a tough project and not dismiss it right away because it seems difficult is an admirable quality, and it will help you grow. And when people notice that you're up for it, they'll know they can count on you.
5. Looking on the Bright Side
Being optimistic doesn't mean you should keep a smile plastered on your face (because that would freak out everyone you work with). What it does mean is trying to find the silver lining. If you constantly dwell on the negatives, you'll miss opportunity.
For example, I once drove two hours to the airport on my way to a major conference and didn't realize until I got there that I had actually gone to the wrong airport. I felt ridiculous. But rather than dwell on it, I was able to change flights and fly out of the airport I'd driven to -- and I connected with someone on my new flight who ended up being a great relationship for Influence & Co. The moral of the story? Look on the bright side.
Enthusiasm is like the next level of optimism. If you're with someone who's very excited about something, the next thing you know, you're smiling and excited, too. Moods are contagious, and being enthusiastic about a project is a great way to get others on board and enthusiastic as well. It's so much easier to arrive at success with that kind of mindset as opposed to being disengaged.
7. Keeping an Open Mind
If you want to be successful, you have to let go of your ego and embrace the best ideas. Remember that your idea and your way of doing something may not always be the best. Keeping an open mind, recognizing trends and changes, and being receptive to new ideas -- even if they aren't your own -- are all better than clinging to your ideas just because they're yours.
8. Prioritizing Efficiency
We live in a world where quickness is key, and the faster you can turn something around, the more reliable you are. But what people overlook is quality. Say an article I'm writing is due by the end of the day and I haven't started it yet. Even if I whip up something in time, it's worth next to nothing if it's garbage. You can't be admired for being a speedy worker unless that effort yields something done right.
9. Staying Hungry
This may sound like a cliché, but having hunger for more knowledge, more opportunity, and more feedback is essential to success. People who are genuinely driven to be better and to do great work are the type of people who end up being the greatest powerhouses in the biz. So research, read every article you can, and feed your hunger.
10. Being Equipped
You never know when you need to be prepared to hit the ground running on something. Being ready for anything will help your team move things along and ensure there isn't any unnecessary lag time for a project. Always have a notebook and pen handy and keep your schedule nearby. If you're needed in a last-minute brainstorm or meeting, it's always helpful to have something ready to jot down notes with.
11. Remaining Organized
Organization is probably one of the most underrated traits someone can have, but man, is it helpful. Having great organizational skills keeps everything in line, especially when you're working with a number of moving parts. Never undervalue someone who is organized -- you'll be lucky to have him or her on your side when things get crazy.
12. Collaborating With Others
Being able to work with a team of people is a reality of the modern workplace. No one can do everything on his or her own. To be successful, you have to be able to work with other people, plain and simple. This means being willing to compromise, build on ideas, and focus on teamwork.
13. Challenging Expectations
Just because something has traditionally been done a certain way doesn't mean you have to follow suit. A lot of people think they shouldn't challenge something, especially if it's been somewhat effective in the past. But this mentality is your worst enemy.
I recently wrote an article on why being buttoned up isn't necessarily a good thing. For me, being "traditional" in the workplace just never seemed to fit. It's just not me, and honestly, I owe a lot of my success to challenging those expectations and being myself. Challenge the status quo, and see what good comes from it.
14. Accepting Constructive Criticism
This is vital, but it's a hard practice to master. No one likes to hear that he or she isn't doing something correctly. But constructive criticism is just that -- constructive. It makes you better. And the people who understand that and use it to improve will go far.
15. Being Early
Showing up when you say you will requires almost no thinking power, yet for one reason or another, people find it hard to pull off. If you're one of those people, wake up at least 20 minutes earlier than you think you'll need to, give yourself some wiggle room for those unexpected roadblocks, and get there early. Being on time is great, but being early gives you a real advantage -- and they're both much better than apologizing for being late.
Talent alone isn't enough to lead you to success. These 15 practices are the biggest ones I've noticed in others who seem to be on the right track. Take the time to grade yourself. If you're not applying at least a few of these practices, you've got some work to do.