Warren Buffett is successful for investing and building long-term businesses. Bill Gates is successful for creating a software empire that has changed the way we use computers. Gandhi was successful for leading India into independence from the British.

Success comes in many ways and forms. What’s interesting is that most successful people have very similar qualities.

When I read lists such as this one, I want to see how I stack up against it. It feels good when I recognize qualities of success in myself. For the qualities that I don’t have, lists like these tell me what I need to work on.

I have enjoyed and benefited much from these types of lists and that’s why I decided to organize all my research, observations and experience and compile this comprehensive list.

If you want to achieve your life’s dream and be wildly successful, you need to model yourself after people who are living their dream. The more qualities you have in common, the higher your chances for being wildly successful.

“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.”

- Tryon Edwards

We all start out in life as being quite ordinary and many remain that way. The few who have become extraordinary have these qualities (no specific order):

1. Definite Aim, Vision and Purpose - Successful people constantly seek clarity in their lives. They know what they want and they follow their own dream. Vague desires and beliefs lead to vague outcomes. It is this sense of direction that gives them the staying power to stick to their goals and achieve their dreams.

2. Expertise and Excellence - No matter what they pursue, they become the best in their field. There is no job too small and successful people strive for excellence. They pursue mastery and understand that money is a by-product of the value they offer.

3. Focused - People who experience success know how to concentrate. They realize that they cannot do everything and they focus on the activities that will give them the highest return on the goals they want to achieve. They don’t believe in the hype of multi-tasking and they know that the fastest way to finish your to-do’s is doing them one at a time.

4. Positive Attitude and Perseverance - Extraordinary people have realistic optimism. Realistic because they take action and optimistic because no matter what the result may be, they believe their success is inevitable. They believe that like a child learning to walk, they need to take action first and then modify the action according to the feedback that they get. This positive attitude allows them to persevere and be resilient when things don’t go their way.

5. Flexible - One misconception that ordinary people have about persevering is staying the course no matter what. This is true only if the reason for pursuing your goal is still valid. Most successful people became successful doing something different from what they initially intended to do (i.e. Steve Jobs started with computers, went into the animation and really made his comeback with the iPod). This is normal because the world is always changing and they know a lot more now than when they started. Successful people know that if their reasons for doing what they are doing changes, there is no point to continue.

6. Masters of Time - Successful people are successful because they get a lot done. The only way to do that is by making the most out of the allotted 24 hours we all get. Extraordinary people value their time and see the direct connection between how they spend their time and their well-being. They are usually always on time and “train” those that deal with them to respect their schedule by implementing strict start and end times for meetings.

7. Strong Communicators - People who can communicate effectively excel in life. Strong communicators understand that just because people speak English (or the dominant language in your country), it does not mean they understand each other. What makes them effective is that they are clear about and sensitive to the outcome they want to get from their communication and are flexible in their method of communication to achieve their outcome. They are experts at building rapport and separate what is being said from the meaning they put into what is being said.

8. Brave - We’ve all heard the phrase “No risk. No reward.” but how many of us really take the risk necessary to get the reward we want? Not many but for those who do, they are the ones who make it and become successful. Successful people have the courage to begin AND the courage to continue. They are willing to not only bet but go “all in” on themselves. They are not afraid to burn bridges if it means moving forward.

9. Givers - Successful people are generous givers. They know and are convinced of the “secret” that the more you give, the more you receive as long as you are genuine about your gifts. They operate on the principle embodied by Zig Ziglar’s quote, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” If you haven’t tapped into this secret, you should get started right away. Money isn’t the only thing you can give. You can give time, expertise, space, etc. Look for ways to open doors for people.

10. High Self-Esteem - Extraordinary people believe they deserve their success and know that they can do anything they set their mind to. They understand that a mistake is something that they do and not who they are. They also monitor the warning signs of low self-esteem to ensure they always keep a positive self-image of themselves. They realize that self-esteem is a state of mind and choosing to have high self-esteem is much more useful than choosing to have low self-esteem.

11. Action Oriented - We all know of people who have potential or talk a big game but accomplishes nothing. Those who spend all their time thinking about doing something will never succeed. Successful people are doers and not talkers. They don’t wait for conditions to be perfect before they take action. They just go for it, observe the feedback and then modify their next action accordingly. Those who don’t achieve much with their lives tend to use “would”, “should” and “could” a lot. Those who do get what they want are too busy achieving their next goal to explain themselves. If you suffer from procrastination, I encourage you to check out some practical ways to stop procrastinating.

12. Confident - This is what helps successful people take action. Like the chicken and the egg, confidence helps you achieve your goals which in turn makes you more confident. A great way to be confident is remembering your past successes and overcoming your fear of failure. Signs of confidence include empowering others, not taking criticism personally, and understanding that the first time you do something is always the hardest and all subsequent times WILL get easier. Success is the combination of confidence with competence.

13. Readers - Most if not all successful people like to read. If you believe that success leaves clues and that you can be successful by thinking and acting like a success person, then reading should be a part of your daily life. I’ve come to realize that with access to more books than I can read in several lifetimes, it is important to read the books that will make the most difference to you. Usually these are the books that will help you become a true expert in your field of your passion or challenge the limiting beliefs you have about yourself.

So what should you read? Check out book recommendations from people who are doing what you want to do. Extraordinary people are life long learners who view mastery as an asymptote that they keep getting closer to but can never reach.

14. Trusts Intuition - People who succeed in life trust their “gut”. They may not be able to explain rationally why or how they made their decision but they knew it was the right thing to do. Successful people learn to harness the power of their subconscious by sending it “orders” from the conscious mind. This involves mentally visualizing the outcome beforehand and then being present to take in the data and information that will become the ingredients for your subconscious to deliver the “orders” that was sent. Learning how to meditate is also a great way to develop and get in touch with your intuition.

15. Curious and Embraces Possibility - Two people are running a race and they come up to an immense wall blocking their path. One person sees the wall and starts getting down on himself for wasting his time and decides to quit the race before he wastes even more time. The other person immediately thinks about what the possibilities are for getting over the wall. Will he/she climb it, break through it, dig under it, etc? No matter which option he/she chooses, he/she immediately acts on their decision and collects feedback. Successful people adopt an attitude of curiosity and they truly feel that they can always learn something from someone else. They incorporate the great qualities of others while make a point to avoid the bad qualities.

16. Self Acceptance - Polonius had it exactly right when he said “To thine own self be true“. People who are successful don’t pretend to be something they are not. This allows them to express their creativity freely and to not worry about hiding who they really are. The best way to accept yourself is to genuinely appreciate and accept others. If you tend to judge other people, you’re probably not very accepting of yourself either. The worse type of rejection is self-rejection.

17. Big Dreams - I have yet to read a biography of a successful person who didn’t have grand dreams for what they would accomplish. Sir Richard Branson, Walt Disney and Sam Walton all had big dreams and for the most part achieved more than they originally imagined. This is one of the reasons they became successful. They are not afraid to dream big and then go for it. If you want to know whether someone will be successful, ask them about their dreams. If they sound plausible, then they are not dreaming big enough.

18. Well Rounded and Balanced - Truly successful people strive to be successful in all aspects of their lives. They live healthy lives, become financially independent, nurture meaningful relationships, develop personal mastery and accomplish their professional goals. They know that sacrificing one key area to achieve another will not help them maximize their true potential. It is hard to be your best and to contribute when you have to worry about how you are going to pay the rent.

19. Excellent Network - Successful people understand the importance of relationships and how it is one of the most important factors in achieving your goals. They also realize that the best way to build a great network is to give help to others first with no expectation of reward. Those who constantly take without giving usually do very poorly on building a solid network.

20. Enthusiastic - A sure sign of someone extraordinary is the enthusiasm they have about their passion and their life. They wake up in the morning excited about their day because they know it is going to bring them one step closer to achieving their dream. Successful people tend to be leaders because others are attracted to their enthusiasm and become followers hoping to experience the same excitement and energy.

21. Admits Mistakes - There are two things you can do to guarantee that you will NOT be successful in the future: Blaming Others and Making Excuses. When you do these two things, you give up both your responsibility and power. When something goes wrong and you blame other people or make excuses, you are clearly stating that you have no power in this situation and things are happening to you and not because of you. Great people admit when they are wrong so they can focus on the solution and not waste energy finding a scape goat. Check out what Albert Einstein can teach us about setbacks.

22. Mindset of Abundance - Successful people don’t view happiness or success as a finite resource where achieving happiness and success for yourself means denying someone else happiness and success. They believe that there is enough to go around and it is more about creating value and not competition. This is the quality that allows them to be happy for other people’s successes. This mindset also encourages empowerment of others. If you think $10,000 is a lot to spend on a hotel room, check out this article by Steve Pavlina.

23. Good Character - Heroes are people who triumph. Think of all the heroes you know (in movies, books and real life). Don’t they all act with honesty and integrity? Aren’t they usually generous with others and frugal with themselves? Doesn’t everyone look up to them? Being a hero that triumphs in life is no different.

24. Great Company - As I experience and observe more and more of life, I’ve come to realize that you really can learn a lot about someone by the company that they keep. Test this by looking at people you know and the people they hang out with. You can go as far as to test the idea that a person’s salary is usually the average of the five people they hang out with the most.

This happens because people with similar beliefs tend to get along and stick together. If a group averages $65,000/year and someone in the group believes that they can make $65,000/hour, the other people in the group will think that is ridiculous. Yet in the group where everyone makes $65,000/hour, the person making $65,000/year will probably second guess his/her own beliefs concerning earning ability.

What does that mean for you?

Surround yourself with people living the life you want to live and adopt their beliefs and habits.

25. Listener - Everyone wants to be a great speaker but how many people strive to be excellent listeners. People who listen succeed in life because they are able to hear and understand the needs of other people and to focus their energy on meeting those needs. The fastest way to be a good conversationalist is to listen well and ask questions.

26. Self Control - Successful people rarely lose control. They don’t go into panics or blind rages. They have learned to control their emotions and to consciously (or subconsciously) put themselves in a resourceful state. They understand that they can’t change other people or what’s happening to them but they can change how they react to it and how they feel about it. Another sign of self control is doing what you’re suppose to do despite how you feel about it.

27. Prepared - Extraordinary people are always prepared. They not only have a plan B but also a Plan C, D, E and F. They mentally rehearse and visualize the possibilities vividly so that when the actual situation occurs, their brains will “remember” what to do.

28. Choice - People who are successful are in control. They know they ALWAYS have a choice. They don’t feel victimized by their genetics, history and/or circumstances and they truly believe that the past does not determine the future. They write the script to their lives.

29. Self Reliant - Successful people rely on themselves. They don’t need permission to do what they want and they don’t give other people permission to slow them down by relying on them. They believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their dreams whether anyone helps them or not. What’s interesting is that it is exactly this type of attitude that attracts others to want to help you. Samuel Smiles writes about this exact topic in his book, Self-Help.

30. Energy Conscious – Those who become great understand that successfully managing their energy is just as important if not more so than managing their time (Quality #6). One of the most important principles in energy management is knowing that rest is as important as action. Successful people are aware that low energy produces poor results and this violates their need for excellence (Quality #2). One of the best ways to manage your energy is to sleep your way to success.

So where do you stand?

I hope you have either reconfirmed many of your own qualities or have created action plans to develop the qualities you are lacking. Focus on cultivating one or two qualities at a time. Once your beliefs and actions are aligned with those of a successful person, you’ll be amazed by how successful you become.

Bookmark and review this list often to measure yourself against it. Use it as a checklist knowing that the more qualities that you have, the higher your likelihood of being wildly successful in whatever you pursue.

Which one of these building blocks of success do you want to develop? Are there any qualities of success that I left off that should be included in this list?

If you found this list helpful, share it with others who can benefit from it.

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Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. If you would like help applying the concepts in this article to your life, contact Robert for a free consultation by clicking here. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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45 Responses to 30 Qualities that Make Ordinary People Extraordinary

  1. farouk says:

    wow, that was very informative
    all the points are great and can help a person succeed in his life
    great article

  2. [...] 30 Qualities that Make Ordinary People Extraordinary – Robert Chen var addthis_product = 'wpp-264'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true,"data_track_addressbar":false};if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}An excellent summary of what being successful really entails, from Robert Chen at the Embrace Possibility Blog. [...]

  3. [...] Once you’ve broken down your goal into daily milestones, review your plan to make sure you can sustain it by considering possible obstacles. Once you’ve factored in ways to handle unexpected difficulties, you are ready to finalize the plan. The plan does not have to be perfect at this time and it will most likely change as you execute the plan. The important thing is to remember to be flexible, one of the 30 Qualities that Make Ordinary People Extraordinary. [...]

  4. Farah says:

    These are GREAT! You can pick and choose how you want to be extraordinary every day! do all, some or just one!!

  5. [...] and the skill of figuring out what your audience wants.We end the interview with a discussion about the keys to success. Mr. Zinsser attributes his success to:Optimism – the kind where you feel confident you can get a [...]

  6. [...] never look at why people are bad communicators in the first place. If you want to be an extraordinary communicator, you must understand why we’re so prone to miscommunicate:Seeing is [...]

  7. WARRIOR says:

    gr8..gr8 work…now i got d BEST MOTIVATOR .u r so simple n superb .Now i m sure i will realize my dream….so many thanks to u…U r helping lots of ppl.MAY GOD BLESS U ALL D SUCCESS…

  8. Student says:

    I am a mother, in my late twenties, with four children. One of my child went through liver transplantation. So I have to put an extra eye on her. I could not continue my education after high school. Now I want to find a road to higher education and build up my career. I am a citizen of a third world country where there is no scope for mature students. I don’t have enough money to get degrees from countries like USA, UK or Canada where there are numerous options for mature students. Pls advice me on few things:

    What steps should I take at this moment?

    I am interested in Science and Medicine. Is it possible to build up career in these fields? If I focus on business, which subjects should be on the top of my priority list? Please suggest any other subject which you think might be good for me at this stage.

    Is it possible if to get financial support for my education and my child’s treatment from organizations like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Can they arrange for my education in the US?

    I have been told to try for Canadian immigration, but now it has become very hard to get one.

    If the Almighty wants, it will be very helpful if you suggest me about how I can accomplish my goals.

    Thank you.
    Student.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Student,

      The first thing I suggest is to clarify what you want. What is the reason for getting higher education? Why do you want a degree?

      I know there are many websites out there that offer free high quality courses:
      http://www.coursera.org,
      http://www.udemy.com,
      http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

      As for your child’s treatment, I really don’t know much about getting financial support but I’m sure if you contact different foundations they will be able to guide you.

      I hope this helps and good luck to you.

      • buithisang says:

        hi Robert Chen,
        I am a student, you can help me some idea by this Essay.

        some think that the qualities of truly successful people cannot be learnt at university of any academic institutions,
        to what extent do you agree/ disagree with this idea?

        thank you so much
        student.

        • Robert Chen says:

          Hi Student,

          Most universities don’t teach the skills needed for success. It can be taught but like all skills, it needs to be practiced. Also, many academic institutions stop at theory. That is why most people feel that you can’t learn success qualities in universities.

  9. This is pretty good, but I do not agree that a group that makes $65,000 an hour would ridicule a person making less. Good leaders are willing to help others. Small minds are the ones who try to hold others down.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Gerri,

      You’re absolutely right that good leaders (and great people in general) are the ones who lift people up and serve others along with the other qualities on this list. At the same time, it is also possible for small-minded people to make $65,000/hour although highly unlikely. Perhaps ridicule may not be the best of words to use. Thank you for bringing it to my attention and for your comment.

  10. saatvika says:

    it’s really interesting and makes everyone to think of it to achieve success in their life…

  11. Google says:

    Google…

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a number of unrelated data, nevertheless seriously worth taking a appear, whoa did 1 understand about Mid East has got more problerms as well [...]…

  12. jo says:

    Hello my friend.

    I would just like to thank you for the time it must have taken to compile your list,

    I’m sure everyone is strongly looking forward to your future posts.

    Keep up the out standing work.

  13. Rashid says:

    Very fascinating guiding list, thanks a lot

  14. Sir really this is a best and most informative topic especially for Pakistani students . Thanks stay blessed :)

  15. Vibhuti says:

    it was great to read this article….thank u for making me understand myself and my goals a little more…

  16. Dinesh says:

    these all points are really helpful for all those who wana get some ideas about success

  17. Holy shit. This is awesome. You know what I love most about this? I can totally do this. Heck, I AM doing this. Really. You are describing me. Sure I have two little kids and I work part-time, but when my baby wakes in the middle of the night, I’m reading good books or brilliant blogs. When I’m walking to the playground, I’m thinking about writing and jotting ideas on my phone. Not trying to brag of anything. :) But if I can do all this stuff, then definitely anybody can. Love this. http://indresult.com

  18. Tazneen Sultana says:

    Excellent! Your list is really helpful and praiseworthy.

  19. Mou says:

    I have a big dream. But I become afraid when I think about my present situation and my society.I am a 20 years old Bangladeshi girl. My dream can have a clash with my social status .I want not only to fulfill my dream but also to have a happy life with the people whom I love.Can you tell me how can I overcome this fear and have a balanced life without sacrificing my personal happiness?

    • Robert Chen says:

      Mou,

      It is easy to think of life as “either-or” that always forces you to choose. I encourage you to think about your dream and what is it about the dream that you really want. Sometimes you can have a different manifestation of your desire that doesn’t force you to sacrifice. There are many paths – choose the one that allows you to have both.

  20. A great list there Robert!

  21. genesisb11 says:

    This article motivated me to do more! I’m going to share it with my students

  22. pooja says:

    great chen bro !!!!!

  23. Kien Ngo says:

    Thanks Robert Chen for listing 30 qualities of highly successful people. I really appreciate your contribution. I also summarize these qualities easy to remember. I use the letters in sentence “THE WAY TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL PERSON” to list these qualities.
    1. Definite Aim, Vision and Purpose. (Target is so clearly)
    3. Focused (Highlight the important thing in your life)
    2. Expertise and Excellence (Expertise in your field)

    18. Well Rounded and Balanced (Well Rounded and Balance)
    11. Action Oriented (Action is more important than talking)
    12. Confident (You-can-do attitude)

    6. Masters of Time (Timed management expert)
    4. Positive Attitude and Perseverance (Option a positive attitude)

    8. Brave (Brave is necessary to get reward)
    7. Strong Communicators (Express well to other people)
    23. Good Character (Character’s heroes is worth learning)
    9. Givers (Open door for people)
    14. Trusts Intuition (Mediate to touch intuition)
    20. Enthusiastic (Enthusiastic is a sign of extraordinary)

    10. High Self-Esteem (Self-Esteem ensures a good mind)
    15. Curious and Embraces Possibility (Uninterrupted curious)
    24. Great Company (Company will reflect yourself)
    28. Choice (Choice is your right)
    30. Energy Conscious (Energy management is very important)
    16. Self Acceptance (Self Acceptance)
    26. Self Control (Self-control won’t lead to panics)
    5. Flexible (Flexible to adapt changing situation)
    17. Big Dream (Unlimited dream will make you different)
    25. Listener (Listen well and ask question)

    13. Readers (Plough knowledge field)
    21. Admits Mistakes (Escapes mistakes without blaming)
    27. Prepared (Ready for doing)
    29. Self Reliant (Self Reliant)
    22. Mindset of Abundance (Open-minded empower other)
    19. Excellent Network (Network connection)

    • Robert Chen says:

      Kien,

      Thank you for coming up with this great acronym for the 30 qualities and for sharing it with everyone. I’m glad you found this article helpful and I know others will find your comment helpful as well.

  24. Great list. I will add from my executive coaching experience with high flying leaders: INITIATIVE – their primary mode of function is to initiate and create action-they are creative and a source for movement. Also, RELATIONSHIPS ACUMEN – they are experts at understanding, connecting, and moving people through a change and growth process. They have relational resonance.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Thanks Anne for adding these two important attributes. Taking action is key to bringing ideas into reality and “relational resonance” brings together the people who will help you execute your plan.

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