6 Habits of Remarkably Successful People

successful people habitsI've had the privilege of being career coach to some of the world's most successful people: from college presidents to Fortune 50 C-level executives to world-class scientists. Here are commonalities among them:
They aim for world-best. They realize the excellent risk-reward ratio of trying to make each work product world-class. Even if one doesn't become that august, they and their employees will be more invigorated about having aimed high, and the project will have gone further than if their goal was merely to be good. As Jill McLemore wrote, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars."

They treat time as treasure. Most of those super-successful people recognize the truth of what Thomas Edison said, "Time is really the only capital that any human being has and the thing he can least afford to waste or lose." Before pursuing any activity, they consciously ask themselves, "Is this a good use of my time?" And as they're tackling each task, they ask themselves not, "Is this the best approach," nor "Is it the fastest approach?" but "Is it the most time-effective approach?"

And most of them believe that time beyond the standard workday is often more wisely spent on work than on recreation. Yes, they veg out but less often than do mere mortals. They believe that spending more time building their company or nonprofit, doing more research, or seeing another patient benefits society and themselves more than spending every evening with their kids. Most of them believe that good parenting is more a matter of quality than quantity time.

They laser-focus. Dabbling is fun: learn a little about this, a little about that, and then when, to get to the next level, you have to mess with difficult details, you just move on to dabble at something else. Alas, that's a formula for mediocrity if not termination.

That doesn't mean that megaproductive people stay with the same endeavor forever. It doesn't even mean that they tackle only one project at a time. But when they take on a project, they are driven, laser-focused on getting it done well. Super-performers take an idea and push it forward to a conclusion with the perseverance of a winning Iditarod sled dog.

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They think 'probabilistically.' Before making any decision, even small ones, the super-successful, often at remarkable speed, consider the probabilities and import of all major positive and negative factors. For example, before investing time and money in an idea, they consider:
  • All the factors affecting the probability of the idea becoming a success: the team, competition, time to market, cost and potential for running out of money.
  • The opportunity costs: What could the resources otherwise be used for?
  • How important would the success be to him/herself, the organization and society?
  • How hurtful would a failure be to him/herself, the organization and to society?
  • The side effects of taking on the project: Would tackling it be fun, toxic, etc.?

I attended a talk by Alan Webber, founder of Fast Company, who has interviewed most of Silicon Valley's heaviest hitters. He said that most of them operate from "Ready, fire, aim." They know they're more likely to succeed by getting started after only moderate deliberation and then revising as experience dictates.

They are storytellers. The remarkably successful recognize that while they are mainly persuaded by data and logic, most people are more influenced by story. So the hyper-successful take the time to develop powerful stories and the art of telling them well. They pepper their talks, meetings, sales pitches, and media appearances with such emotional appeals.

They never look back. They recognize that revisiting past failures and mistreatments has little value. It usually serves mainly to engender unproductive anger or depression. Indeed, my father, a Holocaust survivor, rarely talked about the experience. When I asked him why, he said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Never look back, always take the next step forward." I can leave you with no better advice.
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Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko

Contributor

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News where he now also blogs. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America . More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here weekly.

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