By Dandan Zhu
As a millionaire by 30 and headhunter, I’ve recognized certain characteristics in myself and those of my candidates and clients that has accelerated achievement and success*, namely these traits:
(*Success as defined holistically as having reached an exceptional financial net wealth, career achievements, physical condition, mental health, possessing fulfilling and strong personal/friend networks, etc.)
#1. Generally non-toxic behavior patterns.
Successful people have to be diplomatic, likable, and relatively drama-free to achieve their career and life goals. Whether at home or in the workplace, they can’t yell, scream, and berate whomever they want, whenever they want. Those who do, while they may be rich, are not holistically successful as generally being hated or resented does not necessarily equate to success.
When faced with challenge, suffering, and pain, successful people tend not to play the blame game, emotionally act out, exhibit self-sabotaging temper tantrums, or otherwise cause chaos and make things worse.
Many successful people are the ultimate communicators, unafraid to share direct feedback, set clear expectations, and transparently discuss any subject.
#2. High-level of self-discipline.
Similar to #1, successful people must restrain themselves and their thoughts to act carefully, thoughtfully, with the end goal in mind – not momentary, short-term gratification. A visual example would be someone who is obese versus healthy people who can exert self-control and restraint over eating patterns and follow through with commitment to daily exercise and healthy choices.
In a less obvious example, successful people can reject fun activities that create no lasting result or return on effort invested. If someone overshoots the “fun” and leisure part of life like socializing, partying, indulging in time-consuming past-times and hobbies, their real life, wealth, and career may suffer.
Life is about balance and prioritization. Unsuccessful people tend to discount the “work” part of work-life balance. Successful people tend to be more career-oriented, future-minded, and can make the short-term sacrifices necessary to reach long-term success. Unlike how the mainstream environment encourages immediate indulgences, true success relies on a series of sacrifices and YES – overweighting the “work” part of work-life balance.
#3. Positive outlook over their life and their prospects.
Successful people believe that, at the core, they are accountable, responsible, and IN CONTROL of their future. They’re unlikely to blame external and environment factors for the outcome of their life and their decisions. Because they believe that their future is dependent on their own actions, they tend to view the future with a positive outlook. The thinking goes: if my future is what I make it out to be, then I’ll make it good.
Therefore, optimists have a higher degree of success overall. The times I was the most unsuccessful, it was mostly mental where I couldn’t see past my own victimization, misery, and feeling lost. When I shifted my mindset at 22, it was the beginning of how I went from broke waitress to millionaire by 30.
Believe that you have locus of control over your life. Take ownership of your decisions and you’ll unravel the next stage of growth and self-awareness.
I have never had the luxury of not working hard and experiencing success. Unsuccessful people often downplay the work it takes to truly become successful by saying things like “don’t work hard, work smart”. The reality is that it’s hard to reach success in something without putting in the effort success requires.
I don’t have any empirical evidence for you here, this is just my observation from fellow successful people I know, like Cody Shirk and Meredith Shirk. Their network of successful people has to work hard to constantly grow their wealth and business influence. And I do too. There is no such thing as free lunch unless you’re living off a trust fund.
Along the lines of working hard, you also have to follow through to accomplish some degree of completion and goal-achieving. Working hard but not working until the very end will lead to unfinished business and unfulfilled dreams.
I remember in 6th grade, during one of the most crucial soccer games, as the lead striker I was so tired, I begged coach to let me sit out the rest of the game. Immediately after, the opposing team knocked in two goals. That lesson stuck with me. What would have happened if I just pushed through? Perhaps I could have altered our story to have been more meaningful that year.
Although I played hard, I didn’t play to the end. Of course, a 6th grade soccer game doesn’t matter in the long run, but imagine if you continue to tap out at crucial junctures in life. Those mistakes will count and may add up to hurt you. The key is to push through on decisions and commitments you make in your life.
#6. Evolving and growing your dreams.
Complacency is the killer of what little success you have achieved. Worse yet, complacency usually leads to regression back to your lower-level self. “When you’re not busy living, you’re dying” goes the saying, and success is the same. When you cease to improve or develop, you’ll face hard times ahead.
The game of life doesn’t stop like the movies we watch. There is no happy ending because the goal posts are constantly moving! Today what makes us happy may make us feel “meh” tomorrow. Due to inflation, career challenges, the speed of technological evolution, everyone has to keep up with the times to just stay afloat of all the changes.
In today’s world, flexibility and adaptability determines your ability to survive. Never get comfortable. Stay vigilant.
#7. Conviction and character.
Someone who is rich who cheats on their spouses and sexually harasses, swindles, bullies, or belittles others is not someone who truly is successful. They would have failed the moral litmus test. As animals who have formed a society, humans rely on a community to survive, thus we must abide by the social mores a safe and stable society relies upon.
It’s hard to admire someone who gives in to their most basic and primitive needs with no further regard for the impact that has on the larger repercussions of their actions on others. Like #2, one must remain in control of their weaknesses, with or without the aid of religion. I’ve met people who preach like they’re god incarnate, but in reality are moral-less people.
My point is: if you need someone else, religion, what-not to hold yourself in check, you are playing with fire. Whether through the use of therapy, reading, introspection, joining a community or seeking advice from others, try to address your demons so you treat the root causes of any moral deficiencies without using ANYTHING as a crutch. Crutches break – don’t rely on them.
The most successful people in the world are able to give back very meaningfully while the merely successful people can take care of their immediate family and that’s about it. That would be the last area that I think truly successful people today need to seriously think about contributing to.
What I noticed is that the more I give, the more I sacrifice as a business leader to my team and stakeholders, the more I get. Thus, personally, as someone who has reached the most basic tier of success, I plan to continue growing my story, my impact, my businesses, my influence by undertaking the last behavior all super-successful people do, which is to give back, donate to charity, and establish foundations and scholarships.
Ultimately, no matter how hard we try, nobody is perfect. That’s why success indeed is all about the journey, not the result. As long as we truly work for a better tomorrow, we will have tipped the scales in favor of success for our world and our species.
Originally published on Quora.
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