15 Traits of Successful People

traits of successful people

What traits help set successful people apart? What makes Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett different from anyone else? Small business owners and entrepreneurs realize success isn’t just luck. Here are some traits of successful people to help you catch a bit of that magic for yourself.

1. They Plan for the Future

Looking towards the future is a key trait among successful people, writes Kalen Bruce at Lifehacker.org. Whether it be making a to-do list for tomorrow or planning for your retirement, planning ahead is important to keep yourself and your goals on track. Set a goal that you can aspire to and take small steps towards that achieving that goal. It might not seem like you’re making much progress right now, but in the future you will be able to look back proudly at your accomplishments.

2. They Know When to Say “No”

Being able to say “no” to lower priorities will open you up to saying “yes” to more important things, writes Bruce. No one is able to say yes to everything, and having your priorities in line certainly helps when it comes down to making these decisions. Knowing when to turn things down also means knowing how to seize up an opportunity, and saying “no” at the right time might open you up to the opportunity of a lifetime.

3. They Don’t Let Failure Define Them

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. It’s how we react to our mistakes that is important. People are best able to react to failures when they have a strong support system (like friends and family to lean on in hard times), writes Carolyn Gregoire at The Huffington Post. It also helps when they remain optimistic and appreciate the little things. In order to succeed, you must be willing to fail, and pick yourself back up afterwards. Continue to work and push forward and you’ll eventually succeed. Use your failures as stepping stones to get to your goals.

4. They Manage Their Time Well

Be aware of your priorities and make time for them accordingly, write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival of Entrepreneur.org. Having a personal planner or journal to keep track of dates is extremely helpful. Planning for interruptions can help you stay on task. And taking a few minutes before each task to decide what you want to accomplish will help you envision what success will look like before you even start the task. If time management isn’t your strong suit, ease into it by using a timer to focus on one task for a set amount of time. Then take a short break.

5. They Do More Work Than is Asked of Them

John Paul DeJoria, self made billionaire and founder of companies like Patron and John Mitchell explains to Business Insider:

“The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do. Being able to go above and beyond what you are asked in order to complete a task well can … make your work stand out. Be willing to work hard, even when no one is around to see you doing so.”

6. They are Able to Tolerate and Resolve Conflicts

Conflicts are bound to arise. Your ability to deal with these conflicts can determine your success in other ventures, writes Eric Barker in Time. Sometimes you will have to stand up and fight for what you believe in. And the willingness to engage in these conflicts when most people would compromise is important. Although engaging in a conflict may not be the best tactic in all cases, knowing when to engage and when to compromise is important when it comes to attaining success.

7. They Take Responsibility

Whether major or minor, truly successful people don’t try to hide their mistakes or blame them on someone else, writes Dan Schwabel at Forbes. They also know it’s best to complete a job themselves rather than relying on others to get it done for them. Their work becomes more personal and they pay more attention to details — and take responsibility for their work.

8. They Make the Change, Instead of Being Affected

The most successful people, according to Schwabel, don’t sit around waiting for the next economic trend to come through. They create the trends themselves and get things started. They are not afraid of trying something new and unexpected, because failure is just another learning experience. Instead of constantly consuming media, they are out creating new tools and generating new ideas.

9. They Set Ambitious but Attainable Goals

Staying focused on your goals and working hard to achieve them, while working with a feasible deadline, is key in success as well. Remember to give yourself a deadline to work with, and stick to it. Write checkpoint dates in your personal planner and remember when you need to be finished. Keep a to-do list throughout the day in order to better divide your time among your tasks. You can learn how to balance long and short term goals, explains Michael Price. Maintain focused due dates, be aware of what you’re capable of, and don’t be afraid to push yourself a bit.

10. They are Confident

Price explains:

“Confidence is the belief and conviction in self and what you apply your time to.”

This means taking pride in something you’ve worked on. And it means presenting it in an appropriate manner. Don’t be afraid to show what you’re good at. After all, it’s our strengths that make us unique and help us stand out. Keep an optimistic attitude and focus on your goals.

11. They Embrace a Challenge Rather than Fear It

Don’t be afraid of the work needed to reach your goals. Instead, view your challenges as adventures and opportunities to grow. Price says that we live in a world where things are constantly becoming ‘easier’: from get rich schemes to weight loss pills. This makes people lazier, more willing to take the shortcut to reach their goals faster. Often, these shortcuts don’t work, so putting the effort in to challenging yourself will be beneficial in the long run. And you’ll have the knowledge that you came out of the challenge victorious.

12. They Ask the Right Questions to the Right People

No one knows all, so being able to seek out help when you need it is not a sign of weakness. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone if you know they’re perfect for helping you in your latest project. Always be willing to reach out to someone who may have the answer to your problem. And always be willing to assist them in return. In fact, successful people often take time to help those in their communities. So this may be something you want to consider being a part of as well.

13. They Get up Early and Follow a Routine

T. Boone Pickens, Chariman of BP Capitol Management, said in an interview with Business Insider that he follows a strict morning routine. His trainer shows up nearly every morning at 6:30 a.m., and he’s in the office by 8. According to Pickens, he likes knowing when he will be up each morning and how his days will begin. He explains:

“I’m programmed. Getting up early and taking advantage of a few extra hours in the morning helps free up the rest of your day to focus on more important tasks.”

14. They Don’t Multitask

Staying focused on one task at a time will help your work immensely. Despite being viewed as a positive trait among workers, multitasking cuts productivity time, makes it more difficult to concentrate, and produces lower quality work than when the focus is put into one project at a time, according to a paper from psychologist and educator Jim Taylor in Psychology Today. According to Taylor, true multitasking involves doing two tasks, such as listening to music and reading, or walking and eating, and what we see as multitasking is actually “stepping on the gas then hitting the brakes, over and over.”

15. They Have Passion for What They Do

Richard St. John, author of the success book “8 To Be Greatexplains in this TED Talk that over the course of 10 years and through over 500 in-person interviews, he has discovered the most common traits of successful people. At the top of that list is passion. If you don’t like what you do, you’re less willing to try hard to succeed. Loving what you do and putting passion into it can make all the difference. Work hard to improve yourself and put passion into everything you do. Focus on one thing at a time, and keep moving forward.

Jump Photo via Shutterstock


Aubrielle Billig Aubrielle Billig is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers business as it is impacted by pop culture, entrepreneurs in the arts, and other topics affecting creative businesses. She has a background as an illustrator and her design page can be found at AubrielleBillustrations.

5 Reactions
  1. #2 is hard but true. You’ve got to know what you DON’T do well as much as what you DO. And then with the things you do well (usually these fall in under #15) you make those your focus.

  2. These are brilliant points, maybe it should be something people strive for, however, I think there are successful people out there that do not subscribe to all these traits.

  3. 15 is really important. Passion is the fuel of successful people. without it, there will be no soul in what they are doing.

  4. I dont remember who was the guy, but I have seen a very interesting tv documentary about a billionaire talking to kids about success.
    He was stating that working “100 hours / week” is THE secret. Not just because you can use plenty of time to work, but because your mind shapes itself on your work.
    You dream of it, you think of it, … you live for it.
    Needless to say that if you are NOT passionate about your work as related in #15 this is a nightmare. But if you do, this is one of the major secret about success (with thoses listed above).

  5. #14, Is right on target. Multi-tasking is a myth, in terms of it being an asset.