Ten Traits of Successful People

“Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles.” – Washington Irving (“Roscoe,” The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, 1819-20)

Investor’s Business Daily, according to Investor’s Business Daily, “has spent years analyzing business leaders and successful people in all walks of life.” Most, the editors say, have 10 traits that, when combined, can turn dreams into reality:

IBD: How you think is everything. Always be positive. Think success, not failure.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: Behavior, not attitude, determines success. Yes, attitude can influence behavior. But behavior can also influence attitude. I’ve found that I get more results by focusing on my specific behaviors (e.g., writing down my daily objectives, stretching after exercising, shaking hands strongly and warmly, smiling once during every encounter, etc.) than by trying to change my attitude (“I am a positive person. I am. I am.”).

IBD: Decide upon your true dreams and goals. Write them down and have a plan.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: I agree completely. See Message #102 (“How to Accomplish All Your Most Important Goals”), Message #106 (“Measuring and Improving Your Personal Productivity”), and Message #259 (“Why You Should Write Down Your Goals”), among others.

IBD: Take action. Goals are nothing without action.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: Duh …Everyone knows you need to take action. The tough part is getting your butt into gear. We’ve covered dozens of ways to do that. For example, Message #127 (“The Junkie’s Secret”), Message #151 (“Breaking Through the Pain”), and Message #190 (“Taking the Big Leap”). The most important thing you can do is get up and go to work earlier in the morning. (See Message #241, “What’s Better Than Getting Up at 6:30? Getting Up at 5:30.”)

IBD: Never stop learning. Go back to school or read books.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: I’m completely in accord. See Message #189 (“How to Educate Yourself for Success — and Get Wealthy the Smart Way”) and Message #325 (“Read Good Books”).

IBD: Be persistent and work hard. Success is a marathon, not a sprint.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: Yes, indeed. But it helps to know beforehand how long it will take to get what you want. Read Message #112 (“Getting Your 1,000-Hour Program Going”) to plot out the work you need to do over time. See yourself get closer to your goal every day. Believe in the system. It will not fail you.

IBD: Learn to analyze details. Get all the facts, all the input.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: Yes and no. You do need to know what you are doing — in an “insider” sort of way — before you invest a lot of money in a dream. There are ways to get that kind of education. See Message #130 (“If You’re Lucky Enough to Be in the Company of a Successful Businessman, Ask Questions — and Learn”), Message #239 (“Get Yourself a Free Mentor”), and Message #319 (“Take Your Business Education Seriously. It Pays Off Big-Time”). But then when you are ready to go, don’t delay your start endlessly by refining the project ad infinitum. Instead, use the “Ready. Fire. Aim.” approach.

IBD: Focus your time and money. Don’t let other people or things distract you.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: I don’t know what this means.

IBD: Don’t be afraid to innovate; be different. Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: This is a big, complicated subject. Yes, it’s good to have your own unique selling proposition — but don’t take originality too far. Most original thinkers die young. Pay attention to what the market wants … and says it wants. Figure out how you can serve that market in some fresh way. Don’t ignore the market leaders. They are doing something that is mostly right. Don’t be embarrassed to be No. 2. (See Message #214, “What’s Wrong With Coming in Second?”) I’m happy to take second position any time I can get it.

IBD: Deal and communicate with people effectively. No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: This is something you should do because it’s better to do it than not. It will make your success last longer, and it will make you happier. But it’s not essential to success. Most of the most successful businesspeople (as well as artists, actors, etc.) I know began as self-centered megalomaniacs who had virtually no listening skills.

IBD: Be honest and dependable. Take responsibility for your actions.

ETR’s TAKE ON THIS: Same as above. You should do it not because it’s necessary for success but because it’s necessary for having a good and humane life.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]