There was a time, back when I was young and callow, when I measured success primarily by a person’s material wealth and ability to act freely to pursue their interests. I’m a little ashamed of that, but that’s youth for you.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to earn a generous living. And as that fortune came along, I realized very quickly that making money didn’t make me successful, it just bought a nicer car.

Truly successful, even inspiring people are measured in ways that are far more important and impressive than wealth. They keep their friends, and when they die a lot of people show up and weep.

Successful people are genuinely good people, and they usually feel an internal motivation to be nice and do well for others. Successful people care about their friends and the larger community, and they give away their money – to those in need, to charities – all the time. That’s what sets them apart from people who are just wealthy. A lot of people who are just wealthy don’t give a lot of their money to others – they don’t believe in it.

As part of my research for a new seminar, I have been compiling a list of traits that successful people share.  I have learned to pay far more attention to how people do things rather than what they do.

They work hard!

Successful people get up early, and they rarely complain.  They expect performance from others, but they expect extraordinary performance from themselves.  Long-term sustainable success and accumulation of time and capital (freedom and money) begins with a recognition that hard work pays off.  It truly amazes me the things that not-so-successful people will find the time to do and make a priority.

Time and Money.

Very successful people don’t waste time or money, and they are often completely perplexed by people who do.  “Time wasters” was the #1 aggravation listed when I asked, “What drives you crazy?”

They get organized.

Successful people are not always naturally organized, but they understand how important it is to be organized, and they will pay someone to do it for them (see #8 below).  They meet deadlines and they ship on time. Successful people can give a very clear update on the status of any project or endeavor.  They are realists, and they take responsibility when things do not go as planned.  Not only are they organized, but successful people are orderly.  They have clean homes, cars and desks.  Disorganized, untidy millionaires are rare.

They are incredibly curious and eager to learn.

Sit in the first-class cabin of a jet, and everyone is reading.Go to the lounge in the airport, everyone is reading.  Go to the concierge lounge in the hotel, and everyone is reading.  Successful people may not all have post-secondary educations (though they usually do).  However, they will usually say something about “never stop learning” or “my greatest education came after I left school.”

Curiously enough, successful people often know shockingly little about matters outside of their industry or family.  I call this The Sherlock Holmes phenomenon.  The famous detective was brilliant, but he didn’t know that the earth revolved around the sun, nor could he understand why that fact was particularly interesting since that knowledge had no practical application to what he did for a living – solving crimes.

They network.

“Networking” is a nicer way to say, “They talk to anyone, all the time.”  Successful people are curious about other people, what they do and how it works.  They know lots of people, and they know lots of different kinds of people.  They listen to friends, neighbors, co-workers and bartenders.  They value relationships, and they see themselves as part of a community.  They often drive around their neighborhood to keep an eye on things, to see new businesses opening or old ones closing.  They are keenly aware of their environment.  Successful people are well thought of and have a directory of friends and associates who will return their calls.  Sometimes, they are quiet and even shy, but not as often.  In these instances, what quiet successful people share with their more talkative cousins is a keen interest in conversation and dialogue.

Personal Development.

In addition to reading and remaining curious, successful people also read personal development books, hire coaches, and seek to implement a better way.  I am never hired by people who are struggling; I am hired by people who are already very successful.  They want to know if they are missing anything.  Last week, I visited an office with twenty people in it.  The only people who stuck around and asked me specific questions all made more than $1,000,000 per year, and they were all really nice people too.

They are extraordinarily creative.

Everything is possible.  Successful people see opportunities.  They appreciate how important details are, and they are in a constant state of evolution.  When they find something they like, they try to incorporate it into their own life or business.

They do what they do best and delegate.

Successful people know what they do best, and they spend most of their time doing that.  Not-so-successful people say things like, “It’s easier for me to do it myself than it is to explain it to someone else.”

I generate the most money for my company when I speak to large audiences, to key decision makers on the telephone or when I write.  When I do anything that isn’t one of those three things, it better be “vacation” because otherwise, I am wasting time and money.  Successful people pay for professionals, delegate, and remain focused on what they need to do.

They are relaxed and keep their perspective.

Even in times of stress or turmoil, highly successful people keep their balance.  They know the value of timing, humor, and patience.  Only rarely do we panic or make decisions on impulse.  Successful people turn away money to spend time with family.  They work hard, but they understand that playing hard is also important.  You only live once.

Extremely successful people live in the present moment.

They know that “now” is the only time they can control.  They take full advantage of each day. Successful people don’t waste time and when they do, they correct quickly and often make an immediate and permanent change.

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