What Really Makes People Successful

There are countless articles, and books, available upon success and different kinds of success stories. We have all seen people succeed, in different kinds of settings.  All successful people, including their stories, share a number of common factors.  

One of the most important factors in succeeding is taking action. Yes. Successful people are active. Active does not equal to running around like a headless chicken. Successful people take action instead of just thinking about it. Say, for example, that you want to learn how to speak Chinese fluently (just like Mark Zuckerberg). What do you do? You take action. There are many ways of learning a new language, but it definitely always requires taking action. Mastering a language requires learning, practicing, and using the language. Or, if you want to write a book – the book won´t finish by itself. You need to take action, and start writing. Of course writing a book is much more than just writing – you need to be well-organized, capable of planning a writing process, having a common thread in order to create a good story. In addition, you need to understand something about marketing, and commercializing your book (unless you are writing a book only for yourself). Of course, if you do not have any marketing skills, you may need some help with it. Activity is the key word. No action = no results.

This leads us to the next quality of someone very successful.

FOCUS. Successful people are well focused, and they know how to focus. We all know how important it is for athletes to focus on their performance e.g. before an important competition. Well, actually athletes need to focus at all times, since they are training a lot – and they need to live accordingly, including what they consume, how they sleep, who they spend time with. 

And yes, here we come to the next point: Successful people choose how they spend their time, and with whom. Of course we cannot always choose who we work with etc., but basically there is a possibility of selecting who we spend time with when not working. Or, choosing who we work with if we are self-employed, or running our own business. In fact, we become like the closest people to us, and those we spend most time with. This is also one reason for why people often go apart when the other person starts changing to an extent that no longer allows them to continue on the same “level”. Unless the other person can adjust to that, and there is simultaneous growth in both. In this sense, weak links are often regarded more important for example in job search. Although friends and family may help us find new possibilities, they very often do not want us to change, to move, or to become different from what we are today. 

Succeeding also requires being capable of stepping out of one´s comfort zone. I constantly read about people´s problems stepping out of the comfort zone, behind which often is fear (of change). In fact, just last week I read somewhere that only 2 % of all people regularly step out of their comfort zone. The rest likes to enjoy the status quo, due to various reasons. Of course we are all different, but stretching one´s limits every now and then is not harmful. An interesting article, “6 Ways Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone Is Critical to Success”, was published in Forbes earlier this year (Caprino, K. 21.5.2014). 

Having confidence in one self is also extremely important in succeeding. If no one else believes in you, or cheers you up, you need to be your own best friend, motivator, success coach. In fact, motivation starts from within us. It can only be triggered by someone else, e.g. through inspiration and support. But we need to confide in ourselves in order to succeed. Other people may, in fact, sometimes show feelings of fear towards our success, which makes it even more important to be able to stay strong even in tough times. If you truly want to succeed, you won´t let criticism, jealousy or other fearful actions let you down. Constructive criticism is always at place, but if someone constantly criticizes you it may be because they are fearful of something. Don´t let anyone turn you down. If you don´t have a personal (success) coach – make sure to be the cheerleader of you own life, and career.  

Productivity is something all successful people possess, which relates back to being capable of taking action. Successful people do not hesitate – they take action – and they produce. Productivity usually increases with experience, but if you are successful in creating something new (think about Albert Einstein for example, or Thomas Edison), it often takes more trials and errors before the actual breakthrough. You just need to keep going, and trying.

Embracing failure. Admitted – none of us enjoys failure, but it is a crucial part of success. If you give up after every single failure, you are not succeeding. Being willing to succeed requires the ability of embracing failures as well. Failure makes us develop and grow. When we fail, we learn from it, and try even harder, or in a different way, after failing. 

Success also demands the capability of long-term planning. If you want to succeed, you need to be able to plan ahead, let´s say for the next five years ahead. Start by estimating where you want to be in five years, and then make a plan for how to get there. Just remember – always plan with room for adjustments, and possible drawbacks.

Finally: Other people do not always need to understand you. Those who need to understand will do so, and the rest does not matter. What matters is you understanding yourself.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way”.

Robert Kiyosaki


What Do You Want to Achieve?

 “All personal achievement starts in the mind of the individual. Your personal achievement starts in your mind. The first step is to know exactly what your problem, goal or desire is”.

(W. Clement Stone) 

Do you know what you want in life? Have you ever taken the time to consider what the purpose of your life is? Do you wake up in the mornings feeling empowered by life itself, by your everyday life, or do you merely, somehow, process yourself through another day without knowing the actual purpose of what you are doing?

If you are at all like me, you have taken the time to reflect upon your life, at least every now and then. In truth, we all reach a point at some stage in our life, where we start questioning ourselves certain things. This may happen several times during our lives, and to be quite honest, it is a sign of spiritual growth if we are capable of questioning ourselves, our actions, and to develop as individuals. 

Very often real achievement requires long-term goals, persistence, and the capability of continuous efforts without giving up at any stage. It is a matter of being able to focus on the final outcome, and there may be many obstacles and failures on the way to achieving your goal. 

Many people prefer to go with the flow, which probably is the easiest way to “get through life” – because, in the end, no one escapes from life alive. This is something worth keeping in mind e.g. when facing your fears. Life is not a gamble, but those who are never willing to risk anything, are neither capable of winning anything. 


“You never know beforehand what people are capable of, you have to wait, give it time, it’s time that rules, time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand, we have to guess the winning cards of life, our lives.” 

(José Saramago, Blindness)


Referring to J. Saramago´s quote, you will never know what you are capable of achieving unless you try. I have a deaf-blind cousin who is an excellent chess player, and he has also cycled throughout half Finland on a tandem bicycle together with his personal assistant. No one needs to be perfect in order to be capable of achieving wonderful things in life.


Achievement always starts with personal motivation, setting long-term (and short-term) goals, and a willingness to work towards reaching those goals. The road may sometimes be bumpy, even difficult, depending upon the complexity of the actual goal, but the more purposeful the achievement is to us, the harder and longer are we willing to work towards the final outcome. 


Sometimes we may lose the appetite, especially with obstacles coming our way. In these situations, it is important to take a break, to question our actions, perhaps the actions of others as well, perhaps consulting someone with similar (or more) experiences, to get a mentor and/or a coach who you can trust to help you on your way. 


“Part of the issue of achievement is to be able to set realistic goals, which is one of the hardest things to do because you don’t always know exactly where you’re going, and you shouldn’t”.

(George Lucas)