Traits Successful People Have in Common

09/19/2016 06:25 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2016

Have you ever stopped to think about what it is that successful people have in common? The fact is that there are many things that they have in common, success being one of them, of course. But that’s too obvious.

If we were to examine the lives of successful people around the world, what do you think would stand out? I have analyzed this question in depth. And the things that kept coming back time and again really drew my attention, especially the way successful people deal with failure and rejection, as well as their ability to change and adapt.

Many of us are scared of both success and failure. So we fail to get started or get stuck in the process. Fear keeps us from reaching for greater goals and greater success.

But people who attain success, do they also fail and get rejected? This is one of those, “Of course they do!” rhetorical-type of questions. But it merits a deeper look and greater insight.

Insights into success:

In the video above, CNA Insider interviewed Japan’s richest man, Tadashi Yanai ( (柳井 正 ). In the video, he states very clearly his belief that “[People] are usually quite afraid of failure.” In his opinion, it is this fear that keeps them from succeeding.

He then goes on to talk about his experience when trying to expand UNIQLO overseas. “We failed in Britain, right?” he says. Then adds, “We failed in China. We failed again in America. Failure, failure, failure, failure.” But failing “lit and amazing fire” in him.

He asked himself what he needed to do to succeed. And then he came up with the central idea that “failure should not be seen as failure but as a challenge.”

In a Huffington Post article from June 27, 2012, Mr. Yanai was also quoted as saying, “If we fail, at least we can say we were bold.” Read the rest of the article here.

More from “successful failures”:

Let’s take a look at Thomas Edison. He also had a very unique view on failure and rejection. When questioned about his failures, he retorted:

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

Robert F. Kennedy also had a different outlook on failure. He was quoted as saying:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

And it goes on and on. This article in Forbes magazine has “30 Powerful Quotes on Failure.”

If you read the article, you can see that the recurring theme is being able to face the challenge; either that or being so single-minded in the pursuit of success that you don’t even recognize the chance that you might fail.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable,” as Coco Chanel famously said.

The Same Traits:

All of the people quoted above had or have the same trait. They believed in themselves wholeheartedly. When faced with failure or rejection, they saw it as a challenge and opportunity.

People who achieve great success learn from the things that they have done wrong or incorrectly. When faced with what others might consider failure, successful people take it in stride and apply the lessons they’ve learned. And they don’t often repeat their mistakes.

Another important takeaway is that these people did not get paralyzed by an irrational fear of failure or fear of success.

There is an often misinterpreted quote that bears mentioning here. When writing his essay on Self-Reliance in 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

This quote is often taken to mean that one should not be consistent, but that is an erroneous interpretation. What Mr. Emerson is saying is that you cannot be “foolishly consistent.” You cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect to get the same results. That’s foolish consistency.

Mr. Emerson understood the necessity of adapting to change and circumstances. Every successful person I have looked at for this article also shares this ability. These people aren’t daunted by circumstances or change. They simply adapt and change.

And this is another takeaway from researching the things successful people have in common. You too must overcome your fears and be ready to adapt and change.

Hard Work:

As with anything else, there are no magic formulas.

"Early to bed, early rise, work like hell and advertise." Ted Turner

Another trait that people who achieve success have in common is that they outwork their competitors. When you are ready to start laying out your master plan for success, you will have to keep this in mind.

If you look at stumbling blocks from a problem-solving standpoint rather than whether it’s a failure or a bust, then you will have a head start on everyone else who’s looking to be successful. But does this mean that you will be successful, too? Will you become successful if you do all of the things successful people do?

Well, there’s much more to it than that. This is being simplified so that you can begin an action plan and have a fairly good idea of what’s at stake.

  • Face your fears
  • Failure is a learning experience
  • Focus on your goals
  • Outwork your competitors

If you learn the traits successful people have in common, you can emulate them, which is another trait successful people have. Emulate and make these traits successful people have habitual in your life.

As I mentioned previously, there are no magic formulas, just like there are no overnight successes. My “overnight success” has been 53 years in the making and I will continue working on my success. As far as I am concerned, success is always a work in progress.

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