Successful people aren’t luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

Ask incredibly successful entrepreneurs–or people incredibly successful in any pursuit–and all of them will say luck played an important role in their success.

Talent, expertise, determination, perseverance: All those qualities and many more are certainly important. But so is luck: meeting the right person, being at the right place, making a snap decision that turns out so much better than you ever expected it would.

But can you make your own luck?

The following is a guest post from Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot, the inbound marketing company named to the 2016 Inc. Founders 40 list, and the author of the HubSpot Culture Code slide deck that has been viewed by 2.5 million people on SlideShare alone.

Here’s Dharmesh:

It’s easy to assume successful people are just luckier than the rest of us.

Take Bill Gates: lucky enough to go to one of the few schools with a Teletype connection so he could learn to program. Or Paul Allen: lucky enough to stumble across an article that led to the idea to convert Basic into a product that could be used on an Altair computer . and lucky enough to be friends with Bill Gates . who was lucky enough to then be at Harvard and with access to a PDP-10 computer to use to develop and test the new operating system.

But were Bill and Paul simply lucky? Of course not.

Luck isn’t just a random gift from the universe. (Winning the lottery is, but that’s a different kind of luck.) Luck actually has less to do with what happens to you and more to do with how you think and act.

Luck does involve an element of chance, but “lucky” people respond to circumstances by spotting the opportunity and then acting on that opportunity. In fact, lucky people create their own luck by actively seeking to put themselves in the right place at the right time–and being in the right frame of mind to seize “lucky” opportunities.

So how can you become incredibly lucky? How do you manufacture luck? Do what other “lucky” people do:

1. Meet more people.

Think of someone you know who got lucky and met the right person at just the right time: the hiring manager your friend met at a party, just days after she had lost her job; the angel investor your friend met at a fundraiser just days before his startup would have run out of operating capital; the CEO your friend met at a school play whose company became his company’s biggest account.

Luck? Yes and no.

You can’t luck into meeting the right person unless you meet a number of people: The more people you meet, the more your odds of getting lucky increase. If what you need involves people–to buy, to connect, to mentor, to advise, to anything–then you can only “luck” into the right sale or relationship or partnership if you actively try to meet the right kind of people.

Get out. Meet people. Talk to the guy beside you on the plane. Talk to the woman behind you in line. Send a complimentary note to someone you don’t know who did something awesome. You never know whom you might meet, especially if you assume good things will happen.

Fortune favors the brave, but fortune also favors the prepared. When you assume good things will happen, you will be primed to seize the opportunity when you meet–and in time, you will–the right people.

By the way, a quick confession–I’m really bad at meeting new people. As an introvert, it consumes energy for me to meet new people. One way I work through that is using social media (I’m very active on Twitter). I find it an easier way to make connections without the associated anxiety.

2. Try more.

You would love to sell to bigger customers. You never will unless you try. A lot.

You would love to connect with influential people in your industry. You never will unless you try. A lot.

You would love to land a better job. You never will unless you try. A lot.

Most incredibly lucky people are incredibly persistent. They try and try and try some more. Many of those efforts don’t pan out.

A few do. Is that luck or is that persistence, and a willingness to learn from what didn’t work so that next time you are even more prepared, more skilled, more talented, and therefore more “lucky”?

Take chances. Reach. Try. When you succeed, others will think you were lucky. (You’ll know you weren’t; you’ll know you made your own luck.)

3. Expand your boundaries.

Doing the same things day after day typically yields the same results. Take on a side project. Learn a new skill. Open up to different experiences. Do something you assume (but don’t actually know) you won’t like.

The more you do, the more likely that good things will happen.

Quick tip: Next time you’re at the newsstand (real or virtual), pick a publication that you normally wouldn’t read. Something out of your immediate industry. Read the articles and the ads.

4. Give.

Birds of a feather do actually tend to flock together. Mediocrity tends to flock with mediocrity; exceptional tends to flock with exceptional; only fools tend to suffer fools gladly.

And giving people tend to associate with other giving people–and by giving, they make each other “lucky.”

Giving creates relationships. When you’re sincerely generous, other people respond in kind: with advice, with connections, with assistance, with everything.

When you give out of sincerity and without the expectation of reciprocity, you won’t have to hope you’ll be lucky in your friends.

You will have earned your friends–and the luck that comes with them.

5. Ask.

Luck often comes down to the right person saying yes: to your idea, to your startup, to your pitch, to your proposal, to your request.

No one can say yes until you ask, though.

Unlucky people wait to be discovered and given what they want. Lucky people discover themselves and ask for what they want.

Want the job? Ask for it. Want the sale? Ask for it. Want the investment? Ask for it.

Many people will say no. A few will say yes.

Other people will assume you got lucky. You will know you made your own luck.

Another confession: I’m terrible at asking for things. Really, really bad. If you’re like me, try to give more instead of asking.

Here’s the bottom line: Luck, true luck, is something you can’t control. Luck, bad or good, happens to us.

What we can control is how we respond to circumstance or chance and, more important, how often we put ourselves into positions where we can be “lucky.”

You know the old phrase “It’s better to be lucky than good”?

I disagree: It’s better to be good–because then you will also be lucky.

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

If you’re an ambitious person who dreams of being super successful, it’s natural to look up to those who have already made it and ask: How did they do it? Was it incredible talent? Focus? Hard work? What techniques or strategies did they use that I can steal?

There’s only one problem with that approach, according to both fascinating new science highlighted by the MIT Technology Review and a handful of honest entrepreneurs. Luck plays a way bigger role in success than most of us acknowledge. If you try to follow the path of your business role models without acknowledging that fact, you’re likely to run into some very serious problems.

Modeling the role of luck and talent in success

Success, as we all know, isn’t evenly spread throughout the population. In fact, its distribution follows what’s known as a power law curve. Or in plain language, a tiny number of people end up with the vast majority of money, or hits, or whatever other marker of material success you’re looking at. That’s probably not a surprise to you if you’ve been paying attention. But as the MIT article points out, it is still kind of weird. Outcomes may be wildly unequal, but talent and intelligence are spread much more evenly throughout the population.

“While wealth distribution follows a power law, the distribution of human skills generally follows a normal distribution that is symmetric about an average value. For example, intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, follows this pattern. Average IQ is 100, but nobody has an IQ of 1,000 or 10,000. The same is true of effort, as measured by hours worked. Some people work more hours than average and some work less, but nobody works a billion times more hours than anybody else,” notes the post. Yet some people do end up with a billion times more money.

To investigate why, a team of Italian scientists recently built an eye-opening computer simulation of career success. The team created a hypothetical population of people endowed with the standard distribution of talent and intelligence and then ran these individuals through a 40 year simulated working life, injecting both lucky and unlucky events into the timeline. At the end, the researchers checked to see if the resultant spread of wealth matched the distribution of wealth in the real world. It did, again and again. The model held up.

So what drove the unequal distribution of success in the model? Was it that talent and drive compounded over time produced the simulated equivalent of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos? Nope, the scientists found that success is mostly a matter of luck.

“It is evident that the most successful individuals are also the luckiest ones,” the scientists report. “And the less successful individuals are also the unluckiest ones.” Talent and effort matter, but pure chance matters a whole lot more.

Not news to the successful

It’s a fascinating result, but it wouldn’t come as a shock to a number of successful entrepreneurs who have recently come out to caution those looking to emulate their rise that their success had way more to do with dumb luck than is immediately apparent from the outside.

“Work ethic/skill/whatever definitely played in a role in getting me here, but IMO more than that was the hand I was dealt (which, let’s be honest, was a far better one than I deserved),” tweeted mononymous developer and Carrd founder AJ a few weeks back.

Fellow developer and entrepreneur Paul Jarvis picked up the theme on his blog, retelling his own fortune-filled path to success and cautioning others who think of him as a role model, “I’ve definitely worked hard to get to where I’m at and leaned heavily on skills I continue to build, but I’ve also been incredibly lucky that a lot of small bets have payed off. Bets I wouldn’t have made if the stakes were higher or if they were work out or bust.”

Don’t quit your job to be like him, Jarvis concludes, because being like him involves a lot of good fortune he can’t guarantee you’ll also experience. Chasing your dreams is great if that’s what you want to do, but don’t think anyone can offer you a template or a sure bet.

How to be luckier

Which gets to the most important question raised by this research: How should you respond to it in real life? If success isn’t mostly about talent, effort, or anything else you can control is there anything you can do to increase your chances of getting where you want to go (aside from investing in rabbits’ feet and horseshoes)? There are steps you can take to court good fortune, but you need to start with your eyes wide open.

First, there are no surefire paths to success so, as Jarvis stresses, take other people’s advice with a grain of salt. Many are reluctant to admit just how much luck played a role in their success, skewing their recommendations. Your role models can provide inspiration, but they can’t provide a road map. Chances are great they didn’t really know where they were going until they arrived there.

Second, both the Italian researchers and Jarvis hint at another key strategy for improving your odds of success in a world ruled by chance — place lots of bets. The researchers followed up their simulation by investigating how funding for scientific research should be allocated given the hefty influence of luck on success. Their conclusion: give everyone a shot by handing out a little funding to all, or if that’s not practical, then choose folks for funding randomly. But whatever you do, don’t think you can predict who will be successful. You can’t.

That might not sound applicable as general life advice, but Jarvis and other experts suggest the same strategy of giving up your delusion that you can predict which ventures will be successful in advance. Instead of trying to pick one basket to put all of your eggs in, spread your bets by trying multiple projects and small experiments. You can’t increase your odds of any one taking off, but you can increase your odds overall by playing more hands.

The bottom line is, like it or not, luck plays an outsized role in success. The right response isn’t to pretend that you can somehow outwit or outwork that reality (though it is true you’ll definitely not succeed if you learn nothing and sit on the couch all day). Instead, increase your odds of hitting the success jackpot by trying lots of things and following your own skills and passions. Sorry, but this science confirms that’s as close to a sure bet as you’re going to get in life.

What is it about successful people that makes them so good at hitting their goals and realizing their visions?

How you answer that question depends greatly on your state of mind at the moment you ask it.

When you feel beaten-up and bad about your own life and career situation, you might say “Most successful people just got lucky! Their parents were already successful or they had advantages I never had.”

You might feel that way when you look at people you admire and ask yourself “How could I arrange things to live that kind of life?” but you can’t see the path from where you sit to where they are.

The path looks impossible — or maybe there is no path at all.

That’s when fear takes over and you might tell yourself “If I had the luck that person has, I’d be successful too!”

That kind of message seems like consolation when you feel bad, but it does not console you for long. Eventually your soul wakes up and asks again “But why can’t I live the life and have the career I want? What is actually in the way?”

We can stay locked in fear for as long as we want. Everyone has spent countless days and nights on Planet Fear and we know how grueling it is.

One lovely day you might wake up and ask “Why shouldn’t I reach for my dream? What’s the harm in trying?”

That day you’ll begin to throw off fearful, defensive thoughts that only add strength to the very flimsy barriers that keep you from being successful yourself.

You’ll start to think about your dreams as concrete things you can reach if you want to, although it may take time.

Then you’ll ask yourself “What do I need to do differently to be as successful as I aim to be?”

Here are five things that separate successful people from everybody else.

1. They value the dream they hold, rather than focusing on pleasing other people or hitting artificial yardsticks.

2. They focus on the dream and not the obstacles between it and them.

3. They fall down and get back up like breathing because to them, trying and learning and trying again are as natural as breathing. They look forward to falling down, learning from the fall and scrambling back up to fall again.

4. They don’t fall asleep on their lives and careers. They keep asking “What is the next thing I need to do?” Their comfort comes from stepping into their own power — not from settling into a life they didn’t choose and deciding they don’t deserve more.

5. They get frustrated the way we all do, but they don’t view their frustration as a reason to give up. Frustration must be processed somehow — a long bike ride, a marathon cookie-baking session or in some other way — but it doesn’t change the vision or the prize.

Whatever you want to accomplish and however you want to live, you have only your time and your focus to invest in reaching your goal. You only have those two things to invest, but they are the only ones that matter.

Your to-do list will always be in front of you, mocking you for your inefficiency.

Your t o- d o list has its place in keeping you sane and organized, but there is also a time to put down the t o- d o list and dream about what’s possible.

You are alive right now — that’s the key!

You have your breath, your hands, your feet, your strong body and mind and your imagination to power you toward something. You only need to figure out what that something is.

Every step you take will be a step in the right direction as long as it teaches you something.

You can take a step toward your vision right now, just by sitting on the couch and thinking about the rest of your life.

You could write about it, or tell a friend about the vision that is taking shape in your mind and heart.

Now is the perfect time to take a step for yourself. What will your first step be?

Beware the downfalls of hubris if you want others to like you.

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

Optimism is generally considered one of the most desirable psychological qualities. We like to be with optimists more than we like to be with pessimists, and we believe that optimism is generally a more successful life strategy. Being a “cockeyed optimist” (in the words of the famous “South Pacific” song) means that you’ll be better able to cope with whatever challenges come your way. To Leuven University’s Vera Hoorens and colleagues (2016), however, being an optimist can come at a price: It may make you look naïve, and you may be in for disappointment when your sunny predictions fail to materialize.

There’s another trap involved with optimism, and it occurs when you fall prey to the hubris hypothesis. As noted by the Belgian team, the hubris hypothesis involves comparing yourself favorably and explicitly with other people. This leads others to believe that you hold disparaging attitudes toward them, because you’re letting them know that you think of yourself as superior. It’s a particular form of pride in which the claims you make about your own worth come at the expense of acknowledging that of other people. The example used by Hoorens et al. contrasts the statement “I am a better friend than others” with “I am a good friend.” When you make the comparative statement with others, you’re showing an explicit form of hubris. When you simply state what a good friend you are, the claim of superiority is implicit, and it’s no harm, no foul to everyone who hears you make that claim.

When optimism involves a similar comparative spin, it’s likely to trigger the same reaction as explicit hubris. If you think the odds of something bad happening to you are lower than the odds of something bad happening to others, according to this view, you’re invoking the hubris hypothesis. Why should you be so immune to misfortune? What makes you so much luckier than the people around you? When it comes to something favorable, why should you be so much more likely than your competitors to get a job for which you’ve applied? In terms of absolute optimism, you can think that you’re qualified for the job. If you’re using comparative optimism, though, you believe you’re more qualified than everyone else, and therefore, you should get the job — and of course, they shouldn’t.

In the two experiments conducted by Hoorens and her team, participants rated the warmth and competence of claimants (people making claims about themselves) expressed in either absolute or comparative terms.

In the first experiment, the researchers presented three scenarios depicting individuals who were either optimistic or pessimistic about living to be old, finding romantic happiness, and experiencing happy family relationships. Absolute optimism was represented by having the claimant project optimism for him or herself without comparison to other students; comparative optimists projected having more positive outcomes than would the average other student. Participants then rated the claimants on five traits reflecting warmth (forgiving, helpful, honest, loving, polite) and five reflecting competence (ambitious, cheerful, competent, independent, intellectual). They also rated how much they would want to be around these individuals. In the second experiment, the claimants also indicated whether they would have more favorable outcomes not just compared to the average other student, but compared to the participant him or herself.

People rated the comparative optimists less warmly than the absolute optimists, and as a result, didn’t want to affiliate with them. The second experiment, with its added feature of having relative optimists believe they were better off than the participants, provided the full test of the hubris hypothesis, because the sunny outcomes expected by the claimants came at the expense of the participants themselves.

The authors concluded, therefore, that “optimism loses some of its appeal when it is expressed in a comparative than an absolute manner and that it does so because comparative expressions of optimism suggest that the claimant views the observers’ future gloomily” (p. 9).

Ironically, most people do prefer to see themselves as “better” than the average person which, of course, is an impossibility. What happens with the hubris hypothesis is that we don’t like it when someone else openly expresses that viewpoint. It’s fine to think you’re luckier, happier, or more likable than everyone else, but if you happen to voice this assessment, you’ll end up facing the exact opposite outcome.

One reason we don’t like hearing others brag in relative terms about their qualities is that, as the Belgian team notes, we’re always processing information about other people through the somewhat egocentric eyes of our own self-images. If your best friend’s mother is constantly trying to show how much better a cook she is than everyone else, you won’t go over there for dinner, no matter how good the food actually is. Her tendency to self-promote puts your own mother, or perhaps you, in the position of seeming inferior. For her part, she won’t see how much she’s offended you and will be puzzled when you turn down invitations that seem so well-intentioned.

In summary, we know that bragging is the kind of behavior that most of us would rather avoid being exposed to. These studies on comparative optimism show, further, that it’s the hubris expressed at the expense of others that make that bragging so objectionable. Optimism is certainly one well-known path to fulfillment. As long as you can express it without casting aspersions on the possible fates of others, you’ll be able to make full use of its advantages.

This is a theme we’ve heard from some of the most successful people across industries — from entrepreneurs and executives to famous artists.

With this in mind, we’ve put together some of the most amazing insights we’ve found on how successful people think differently than everyone else.

Instead of leaving unproductive policies in place, they change them.

When Donna Morris joined Adobe in 2002 as a senior director of global talent management, she noticed that the annual performance-review process wasn’t serving anybody in the company.

“We fundamentally believed people were our most important asset,” she tells Business Insider, “yet once a year we had a process that pitted person against person.”

So she soon abolished it. Goodbye annual performance review, hello regular check-in.

Reflecting on the experience, she says that ” people should have the courage to disrupt a process that might no longer be providing the company with value.”

Instead of just having a job, they have a craft.

If you spot popular talk-show host and comedian Bill Maher on a plane or in the back of a car, he’ll be scribbling on a yellow notepad. This is his craft, he says, the incremental work of perfecting a joke.

The craft is in “moving one word around, from the middle of the sentence to the end of the sentence,” he says. “It’s moving one joke that works pretty good over here, moving it behind this other joke, and now it’s a giant laugh.”

He compares his approach to comedy as that of making violins — a profession that takes decades to master.

Instead of trying to change everything about a company, they focus on one important factor that ripples out.

When Paul O’Neill became the CEO of aluminum manufacturing giant Alcoa, he stepped on stage before a crowd of Wall Streeters and decreed that the company would have a newly committed focus. Not on revenues or R&D but safety.

“If you want to understand how Alcoa is doing,” he said, “you need to look at our workplace safety figures.”

O’Neill’s emphasis didn’t just increase safety; it changed the company. Over his tenure, Alcoa dropped from 1.86 lost workdays to injury per 100 workers to 0.2. A year after O’Neill’s speech, profits hit a record high, and when he retired 13 years later, the company’s annual net income was five times higher than when he started.

“I knew I had to transform Alcoa,” he says. “But you can’t order people to change. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

Instead of trying to come up with something completely original, they borrow from the best.

“Game of Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin has created a world that people love to live in.

His “A Song of Ice And Fire” series has sold 24 million copies in print, while the premiere of season four of the HBO adaptation brought in 6.6 million viewers.

But the world isn’t entirely his own.

“You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots,” Martin says. “In ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.”

This happens again and again in business. Apple didn’t create the first MP3 player. But it made the most beautiful one.

Instead of following a schedule, they stick to an agenda.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is relentlessly efficient in the way she approaches her workday. Rather than being beholden to blocks of time, her workflow depends on what needs to get done.

That’s why she brings a spiral-bound notebook with her to every meeting. In that notebook is a list of discussion points and action items.

“She crosses them off one by one, and once every item on a page is checked, she rips the page off and moves to the next,” Fortune reports. “If every item is done 10 minutes into an hour-long meeting, the meeting is over.”

Instead of accepting the standard definition of success, they reframe it for themselves.

Arianna Huffington has every worldly metric of success. She launched and sold The Huffington Post, pocketing $21 million. She lives in a swank luxury loft and is a well-known media personality, followed by millions on Facebook and Twitter.

Yet she didn’t feel so successful one day in 2007, when she found herself in a pool of blood on the floor of her home office. She had collapsed from exhaustion.

It was a wake-up call: She had to include well-being in her conception of success.

“The difference now is a consistent prioritizing in my life,” Huffington tells Business Insider, noting how she incorporates yoga, meditation, and rest into her schedule. “It doesn’t mean that I do it perfectly by any means. But it is very much part of my life every day.”

Instead of letting big-picture thinking happen on its own, they schedule it.

While Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy may have lost a few battles in public relations — his slamming of gay marriage made the sandwich chain look a little deep-fried in the public eye — we do appreciate his “thinking schedule.”

The book “How Successful People Think” reveals that Cathy blocks out lots of time to think: half a day every two weeks and a whole day every month. Lots of execs take the same approach: LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner makes a point to schedule nothing, while President Obama takes a thoughtful walk when he’s working from the White House.

Instead of adhering to industry tradition, they change the industry.

James Patterson is the best-selling author of the past decade. He’s set to publish 15 books this year.

He doesn’t do it alone.

Patterson has shifted publishing’s standard for writing, where a single author works on a single book. Instead, he treats his books like a TV writer might approach a new season of “The West Wing” — he’s worked with more than 20 coauthors.

The collaborative method is everywhere, he says.

“You start wandering through Florence and Venice and start looking at these churches,” he told Business Insider . “You look at these ceilings and you see, like, nine painters. TV scripts — 60 pages, two writers. Movie scripts — four writers. It’s a lot more prevalent than people think it is.”

Instead of looking for the right answer, they try to find the right question.

“Freakonomics” coauthor Steven Levitt was consulting with a tech company with a difficult problem.

” The question they were asking was: How can we reduce turnover to keep our subscribers for a longer period of time?” Levitt recalls. He suggested they look at the data.

Levitt and his team discovered a quizzical trend: Frequent users of a subscription product were canceling their subscriptions. But why?

Digging into the data, Levitt found that there were customers who used the product frequently, but when they tried to renew, they ran into a credit-card failure.

“No one understood this,” he says. “It was in the data, but no one had thought to tunnel down in that exact way.”

The company made an intervention and retention spiked.

“It wasn’t that they didn’t have the data to come to the conclusion,” Levitt explains. “It’s just that it’s rare for people to have the patience to look at the data before trying to solve the problem instead of immediately reacting to a perceived problem.”

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

How can you spot a leader?

Is it because they have a nametag that proudly displays “Manager.” Are they the founder of a startup? A superintendent? Politician? Head coach of a baseball team?

If you noticed a theme, those were all titles.

As Eric Sheninger, Senior Fellow, International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), writes perfectly in the Huffington Post, “A title doesn’t automatically anoint one as a leader. Leadership is comprised of a dynamic mix of behaviors, mindset, and skills, which are used to move people where a leader wants them to be for the betterment of the organization.”

In other words, it’s the actions, not the title, that make someone a leader. What actions? Well, here are nine of them that successful leaders do day-in and day-out.

1. They clearly communicate their vision and performance expectations.

Leaders are known to be excellent communicators. That’s because it’s a necessity. How else do you expect to get others on-board with your vision and explain the steps needed to achieve this vision?

This starts with leaders having to be authentic, meaning that they know who they are and what their values are, as well as what their plans are for the future. Relaying your excitement for the future is a surefire to get your team to buy into your vision. But, you also need to be able to clearly explain the performance expectations to your team so that they can see the bigger picture.

  • A strategic planning process that defines direction and objectives.
  • A communication strategy that informs team members where they fit within the big picture.
  • A process for goal setting, evaluation, and accountability.
  • Organizational support.

2. They make lightning fast decisions.

During his farewell address, President Harry Truman said, “The President — whoever he is — has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

That’s also a trait of successful leaders, not just the President. Leaders are known for being expert decision makers.

They’re also known for making these decisions incredibly fast. How fast? Some say that they can make a staggering 30 decisions in 30 minutes. But, how are they able to make these good decisions so quickly?

Nick Tasler, CEO of Decision Pulse and the author of “Domino: The Simplest Way to Inspire Change,” writes that it’s because of a “simple, flexible Know-Think-Do framework,” that involves:

  • Knowing the ultimate strategic objective, a.k.a. what will have the biggest impact.
  • Thinking rationally about how your options align with the ultimate objective.
  • Being proactive with the knowledge and thoughts that you’ve had.

3. They put the spotlight on others.

Leaders rarely make themselves the center of attention. They acknowledge, and show their gratitude, of the hard work, dedication, success, and even other leadership efforts from team members via a monthly newsletter, weekly meeting, social media shout out, or award ceremony.

They also encourage others to share their ideas and to speak-up so that they can voice their perspectives or point-of-view.

4. They put themselves last.

“Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last,” writes Simon Sinek in “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” Sinek saw this in the Marine Corp where the most junior person eats first and the most senior person eats last. It’s not a rule. It’s viewed as the leader’s responsibility for others.

In short, leaders always put others first – even if they must sacrifice something in return.

5. They accept full responsibility and share the credit.

Successful leaders don’t make excuses or throw their team under the bus when something didn’t go as planned. They don’t embarrass employees in front of everyone. They take full responsibility and blame. And, if they feel a team member made an error, they give this feedback to them in private.

At the same time, when things go as planned, or have exceeded expectations, they don’t take all of the credit. They share this success with the team that worked with them side-by-side – remember, my third point, they put the spotlight on others.

6. They keep people on their toes.

One of the most interesting traits that successful leaders have are being able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their team. Instead of letting them get complacent or setting them up for failure, great leaders foster an environment where they can encourage and challenge their teams to learn and grow – both personally and professionally.

Regardless if it’s bringing in a yoga instructor, paying for them to attend a workshop, launching a hack-a-thon, or embracing new technology that streamlines processes, leaders realize that in order for their team to grow, they need to be learning new skills and push their current skill sets to the limit.

7. They focus on the ‘how’ and ‘why.’

Effective leaders don’t focus on numbers and “what” tasks were accomplished. It’s cool that you just landed five new clients. But, “how” did you land those clients? How did your specific team members play a role in that accomplishment? When they congratulate a team member, then explain “why” they did a good job.

Highlighting the “how” and “why” cultivates positive character qualities, as well as provides more in-depth recognition. It also allows the leader, and the team, to realize what worked so that it can be replicated.

8. They take risks without being reckless.

Everything that is worth doing involves risk. Like Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

Here’s the thing. Successful leaders aren’t risk-takers. They’re calculated risk-takers. They realize the importance of taking risks, and are willing to try something new, even if they fail, but they’re not going to jeopardize the future of their colleagues.

They’ll use their existing knowledge and expertise, resources, and intuition to judge whether or not the risk is worth it.

9. They lead by example.

Cliche statement? Absolutely. But, that doesn’t make it any less true.

The greatest of leaders are the ones who “walk the talk.” They don’t run out of the office before everyone else to go golfing. They don’t gossip or talk-down to others. They don’t sabotage someone else’s work. They don’t make questionable deals.

They’re hard working, trustworthy, transparent, ethical, and treat everyone with respect. To build trust and earn respect, they lead by example.

6. They assume everyone adores them.


  • What Is Narcissism?
  • Find a therapist who understands narcissism

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

You’ve likely encountered a narcissist or two in your life. Perhaps a former lover could never put your needs first. Or maybe you’ve worked with someone who just couldn’t stop promoting his accomplishments long enough to do any work. Whether your encounters are professional or personal, there are telltale signs that you’re dealing with a narcissistic person. And when you are, establish healthy boundaries and keep an emotional distance.

1. They make it clear they know everything.

Narcissists don’t hesitate to educate lawyers about the legal system or enlighten doctors about medicine. After all, they know more about everything than anyone else, and they’re not afraid to show it. In fact, they can be expected to argue, educate, and inform you about virtually every topic you bring up in conversation: “Here’s where you got that wrong. “That’s what most people think, but that’s not actually true.” They don’t shy away from disagreements or opportunities to tutor others about their way of thinking.

2. They insist on being the exception to the rule.

Rules are for people who aren’t smart enough to make good decisions on their own, the narcissist believes, but they know they’re exceptional. And so the usual rules, laws, or policies don’t apply to them. They’re often good at manipulating others to bend the rules for them, reinforcing their belief that they shouldn’t have to succumb to the same regulations as everyone else.

3. They project an image of superiority.

Narcissists care greatly about their image. They want to make sure they appear wealthy, popular, and elite. They’re often materialistic and greatly enjoy name dropping, as associating themselves with the hottest brand or famous friends makes them feel important.

4. They make a great first impression, but quickly wear out their welcome.

Narcissists’ charming personalities tend to win them favor with new people—at first. They may come across as confident, exciting—maybe the most endearing and engaging person in the room. But over time, their selfish tendencies cause people to run the other way.

5. They boost their egos by implying others are inferior.

Not only do narcissists need to establish how superior they are; they also tend to imply that everyone else is less intelligent, experienced, or likeable. No matter how much training or education someone else has had, the narcissist is he or she is the real expert.

6. They assume everyone adores them.

The narcissist truly believes that everyone from former co-workers to past lovers holds them in high regard—and assumes that anyone who doesn’t like them must be jealous. But while they can be very sensitive to criticism, outwardly they try to dismiss any negative comments about their personality or performance, and may try to punish anyone who dare express an unfavorable opinion about them.


  • What Is Narcissism?
  • Find a therapist who understands narcissism

7. They put their own feelings ahead of other people’s needs.

A lack of empathy is the most telling characteristic of the narcissist. They don’t care what other people need or how they feel. Everything they do centers around what they want and need. They don’t care what type of pain they inflict on others. While fundamentally unsupportive and manipulative, they can fake empathy when it helps them look better. But they lack a genuine desire to put anyone else’s needs above their own desires.

Successful people aren't luckier than everybody else they just know how to make good decisions

Want to learn how to give up the bad habits that are keeping you from being mentally strong? Check out my book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Interested in learning more about how to build your mental muscle? Sign up for my new eCourse Mental Strength: Mastering the 3 Core Factors.

We’re always chasing something—be it a promotion, a new car, or a significant other. This leads to the belief that, “When (blank) happens, I’ll finally be happy.”

While these major events do make us happy at first, research shows this happiness doesn’t last. A study from Northwestern University measured the happiness levels of regular people against those who had won large lottery prizes the year prior. The researchers were surprised to discover that the happiness ratings of both groups were practically identical.

The mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness and sadness is so prevalent that psychologists have a name for it: impact bias. The reality is, event-based happiness is fleeting.

Happiness is synthetic—you either create it, or you don’t. Happiness that lasts is earned through your habits. Supremely happy people have honed habits that maintain their happiness day in, day out. Try out their habits, and see what they do for you:

Watch on Forbes:

1. They slow down to appreciate life’s little pleasures.

By nature, we fall into routines. In some ways, this is a good thing. It saves precious brainpower and creates comfort. However, sometimes you get so caught up in your routine that you fail to appreciate the little things in life. Happy people know how important it is to savor the taste of their meal, revel in the amazing conversation they just had, or even just step outside to take a deep breath of fresh air.

2. They exercise.

Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Happy people schedule regular exercise and follow through on it because they know it pays huge dividends for their mood.

3. They spend money on other people.

Research shows that spending money on other people makes you much happier than spending it on yourself. This is especially true of small things that demonstrate effort, such as going out of your way to buy your friend a book that you know they will like.

4. They surround themselves with the right people.

Happiness spreads through people. Surrounding yourself with happy people builds confidence, stimulates creativity, and it’s flat-out fun. Hanging around negative people has the opposite effect. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with negative people.

5. They stay positive.

Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, happy people reflect on everything they’re grateful for. Then they find the best solution available to the problem, tackle it, and move on. Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, apart from the damage it does to your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to experience negative events. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognize how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.

6. They get enough sleep.

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to improving your mood, focus, and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, removing toxic proteins that accumulate during the day as byproducts of normal neuronal activity. This ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Happy people make sleep a priority, because it makes them feel great and they know how lousy they feel when they’re sleep deprived.

7. They have deep conversations.

Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand-in-hand. They avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Instead they focus on meaningful interactions. They engage with other people on a deeper level, because they know that doing so feels good, builds an emotional connection, and is an interesting way to learn.

8. They help others.

Taking the time to help people not only makes them happy, but it also makes you happy. Helping other people gives you a surge of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which create good feelings. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. As long as you make certain that you aren’t overcommitting yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood.

9. They make an effort to be happy.

No one wakes up feeling happy every day and supremely happy people are no exception. They just work at it harder than everyone else. They know how easy it is to get sucked into a routine where you don’t monitor your emotions or actively try to be happy and positive. Happy people constantly evaluate their moods and make decisions with their happiness in mind.

10. They have a growth mindset.

People’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged, because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. This makes them happier because they are better at handling difficulties. They also outperform those with a fixed mindset because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

Bringing It All Together

Happiness can be tough to maintain, but investing in the right habits pays off. Adopting even a few of the habits from this list will make a big difference in your mood.

What other habits make you happy? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

For years we clung to an outdated definition of career success.

In the old definition of success, successful people were people who had “big” jobs and earned tons of money.

You could tell the successful people apart from everybody else by their clothes, their cars, their houses and other material things.

Now we know better.

Watch on FORBES:

If you have an important job and a huge house but you die of a heart attack at an early age due to stress, could anyone still call you successful?

If you have a massive bank account and people on call to tend to your every need but you have no relationships with your own kids because your career is everything to you, are you successful?

Most people would say “No!”

Here are five signs you are already successful, whether you have a great job, a so-so job or no job at all.

Remember, success is not about the things that other people have given you — things like fancy job titles, company cars, big salaries, massive expense budgets and corner offices.

More degrees don’t make you more successful. A better zip code doesn’t make you more successful.

Real success has to do with the power you build in yourself, power that no one conferred on you and no one can take away from you.

1. You are successful if you call the shots in your career. If you have a fancy job but you’re afraid to tell your boss the truth because he or she might not like it, you are not successful yet!

2. You are successful if you know what you bring to employers and/or clients that helps them become successful themselves. If you let other people tell you what you should be doing in your career, you are not successful yet.

3. You are successful when you know how to find your backbone and your vocal cords and speak up when it’s appropriate. If you keep your mouth shut at work when a more self-confident person would speak, you are not successful yet.

4. You are successful when you give yourself permission to dream as big as you want. When you have a vision for your own life and are taking steps toward it — no matter how small the steps are or how long it might take you to reach that vision — you are already successful.

5. If you have people around whom you love and who love you back, you are successful. You can always get another job if one job goes away. Your career status at any moment does not mean a lot. Your state of mind, your belief in yourself and your passion for your own values mean everything!