If you've been around long enough, you begin to realize that success is just as much about what you don't do as what you do. Any CEO, entrepreneur, or venture capitalist will tell you that lack of focus is one of their most insidious enemies.

It's always been true, but the temptation to try to do more or give in to distraction has never been greater than it is today.

Don't get me wrong. Some people do manage to find ways to capitalize on their natural tendency to get easily sidetracked. I should know. I'm one of them. Still, it's a constant battle that I fight to this day. No kidding.

In my experience, and I've worked with hundreds of successful executives and business leaders, there are certain things they simply don't do. I don't know if they're instinctive or cognitive, but I've noted seven things they rarely, if ever, do.

1. What everyone else is doing.

Quite the contrary, they tend to have a natural tendency to question conventional wisdom and challenge the status quo. Fads, cultural norms, groupthink, forget it. They don't worry about their personal brands, personal productivity, or social media.

That is, unless that's their competency, their passion, who they are. I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey manage to update their Facebook and Twitter pages from time to time.

2. Worry about weaknesses.

Maybe they should. For all I know, maybe that's the difference between successful people and really successful people. All I know is, they're usually confident and comfortable with who they are. They're not plagued by the fear and self-doubt that derails so many people. They don't fixate on what they're not. They accept it.

Don't get me wrong. They are human. They have fear. But one of the key reasons why they're so successful at what they do is because it is their passion. They've found their true path. When they're doing what they love, they're comfortable with it, not fearful of it. And it shows in their work.

3. Waste a lot of time.

It's not that they're concerned with productivity or time management. They don't waste a lot of time because they have a vision--a mission. They truly want to spend their lives on whatever it is they love doing, so that's what they do. Period.

They don't indulge activities that so many people waste their lives on. They don't try to get inside other people's heads. They don't ask why things happen or why people do the things they do. That is, unless it's a problem they really want to solve.

They don't wish for things to be different. They make things different.

4. Try to be successful.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying they're not savvy business people. What I am saying is they're usually just trying to accomplish something. Then they're trying to accomplish another thing. Then another. Most successful people are driven to do, to accomplish, to win. It's one thing at a time. Success just comes with the territory.

5. Breathe their own fumes.

There is a downside to being too indoctrinated with your own vision. You can become blinded by it. That's what ultimately takes down lots of people who are initially successful but can't sustain it. They stop asking questions, succumb to their own status quo, stick with flawed ideas.

Highly accomplished people do not surround themselves with yes-men, give in to group think, or accept anything other than the genuine unfiltered truth. Sure, they might bite your head off at first. But that doesn't mean they're not listening. What can I say; that's how it is.

6. Fear competition.

They understand competition, know their competition, are comfortable with competition. They're generally confident in their abilities and courageous in the face of competitive battle.

That said, they're not fools. They're not sure they'll prevail. It's just that, the question doesn't usually enter their minds. They just do what they do best and give it all they've got. After the fact they may look back and see that they've won, but only briefly. By then, they're usually on to the next battle.

7. Try to be what they're not.

Not a single successful executive, VC, entrepreneur, or business owner that I've ever known has ever gotten to where he is by being something he's not. Not a single one. Anyone who tells you to focus on self-promotion instead of doing whatever it is you love to do just doesn't get it.

It sounds so simple, but this is the big takeaway that will set you apart. In a world full of wannabe entrepreneurs and leaders, where everyone's a CEO of their own little world, don't try to be what you're not. Just be you.

Published on: Feb 25, 2013
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