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Revisiting What It Takes to Be Successful

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Back in May, I wrote an article where I described 15 things that I believe it takes in order for you to be successful in your career.  But being the curious individual that I am, I didn’t stop researching the topic of success there. In the ensuing months, I began to binge watch Evan Carmichael’s ‘Top 10 Rules for Success’ videos that feature the likes of Barack Obama, Conor McGregor, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and plenty of others because I wanted to hear what proven successful people had to say about the topic.

I really enjoyed listening to what they had to say about the topic of success and I even took notes while watching the videos (also, Evan Carmichael does a great job putting these videos together, so I highly recommend checking them out). I looked for patterns on what was discussed in each video and after performing a mini meta-analysis, I’ve settled on the top ten rules that appear on a regular basis in the videos. 

Unlike my previous article where I took a look at professional skills that lead to career success, this one looks more at your personality traits. This isn’t meant to replace my previous article, but rather it’s meant to act as a ‘Volume 2’ and is meant to supplement my initial article. In no particular order, I present you with my top ten rule takeaways for what it takes to be successful:   

Earn it, do the work, and stop making excuses

No one is going to give you something that you haven’t earned yet so in order to get what you want, you have to deserve what you want.  You have to put in the hard work and the effort.  Your success is your responsibility, and there are no easy ways to success.  You should expect there to be some difficulties along the way because everyone encounters them at some point, but what matters most is how you react when you encounter them.But on the positive side, difficult times give you the opportunity to build your character and your resilience

It’s important for you to persevere when you face adversity because your lack of optimism can prove to be your biggest obstacle. So have a great and admirable work ethic, because eventually it’ll become muscle memory.  Don’t procrastinate, don’t make excuses, set your priorities, overcome obstacles, devote yourself, practise daily, work hard, work smart, remain focused, and earn your success.  But just as important, be patient because success isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s going to take time.

Be positive and believe in yourself

If you don’t believe in yourself then why should or would you expect others to believe in you? You need to have faith and confidence in your own abilities, and maintain a positive attitude and outlook.  Studies have shown that those who are happy and positive are more successful, and that happiness and positivity leads to success, not vice versa (on a side note, I recommend reading Shawn Anchor’s The Happiness Advantage).  As previously mentioned, a lack of optimism can prove to be the biggest obstacle between you and the attainment of your goals, so maintain an optimistic outlook – even when it’s tempting to do otherwise. 

Be your authentic self

Don’t try to be like everyone else, be bold enough to be different and allow yourself to be your unique self.  Understand your own personal ambitions, preferences, and priorities, and do what comes naturally to you.  Say and do what you believe and you’ll attract what you do and believe.  Just be the real and authentic version of yourself.

Set goals and focus on continuous improvement

Your goal should be to be better than who you were yesterday because you are your own competition. True joy comes from personal advancements and not from social comparisons, so look at areas where you can improve yourself and then aim to outdo yourself.  Never allow yourself to become complacent, because there is always a next level for you to aspire to hit.  Set new goals for yourself periodically. 

Live in the moment

While it’s important to plan, you can’t allow yourself to think too far ahead because it’s important for you to be able to take things day by day and enjoy the journey.  Embrace the present moment, and just focus on what you’re doing right now. Disconnect from the outcome that you’re chasing, and be excited right now, because you really don’t know what path you’re going to be on in 5–10 years; you might not even know what path you’ll be on 6–12 months from now either.

Engage in time chunking, and break down your long-term distal goals into more immediate short-term proximal goals.

Do what you love

You work harder when you do something that you love to do.  Follow your passion and be curiously fascinated by what you do. Have fun, pursue your desires, and do something that you’d do for free because your life is too short for you to not enjoy what you do for a living. This is important because after all, we spend about 70% of our waking hours at work.

Be a trailblazer and be willing to break the rules

While I’m certainly not advocating for you to break the law by any stretch of the imagination, I am advising for you to be willing to break ‘traditional rules’ and do things your own way (on a side note, who made these ‘rules’ anyway?). Be different and be great in your own way, and don’t be afraid to take the road less travelled by. Know what you want, think outside the box, and become the hero of your own film in order to get what you want. 

Have a good support system

You can’t do it alone, so create a positive environment that provides you with positive inspirations because you can’t allow haters to pull you down.  Build a good team around you, one that you care about and can ask for advice when you need it. Be able to ask for their input on key things.

Learn from those around you and take advantage of their knowledge to help you succeed, because no one becomes successful on their own.

Embrace failure, uncertainty, and discomfort

Not only is it important for you to be willing to screw up, but it’s also important for you to be willing to not freak out when you screw up.  Embrace the hardships and the challenges that you face, because they’re opportunities for you to learn.  Be prepared to do something wrong, and don’t dwell on your prior mistakes, but know that you’ll learn from it as a result.

Everything in your life is a learning experience, and failure is your tool to become the strongest version of yourself, so use it to pick up tips along the way.  When things are going wrong, be rest assured that some good will come of it, so train your mind to perceive failure differently. Comfort can act as a cage, so try new things because you won’t know until you try it.  Explore those difficult tasks and find what you’re good at (as well as what you’re not good at). The more familiar you are with something, the more you can have fun with.  Have the confidence and courage to take action.

Take action right now

Stop putting it off, because right now is the time for you to go for it.  Take action that moves you in the direction of your dreams, and continue to work at it. Remember that the route that you take to your destination isn’t as important as just flat out reaching your destination.  Continue to push forward and make it happen because your ideas aren’t going to execute themselves, you need to execute them.  The best time to take action is right here, right now.


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Matthew Buckley is an organisational psychologist. He earned his master’s degree from the University of New Haven. 


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