Take a few minutes and make a list of the most successful people you can think of. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill & Melinda Gates, Steve Jobs, Hilary Clinton, Beyoncé. The list can go on and on. Now, take a moment and list all the successful people you know in your life. Your parents, your friends, your siblings, your extended family, or even yourself. What are all the things these people have in common (besides living in the United States or having the same type of hairdo)? What are some emerging traits you notice? What are some characteristics they share?
We know the definition of what makes a person successful can vary. Your neighbor who has realized if he mows his lawn regularly, the weeds no longer begin to grapple him on his way to work can be defined as successful. Your ability to land a job at one of the Big 4 can also be defined as successful. Well, we know those two are a bit of an unparalleled comparison, but you get the point.
For our purposes, we’ll define success as reaching major goals and accomplishments that positively affect an individual’s life (or others’ lives) and improve it for the better. Here’s a list of common traits and characteristics successful people share and how it helped get them from point A to point Victory!
We’re sure you saw this one coming. After all, who can achieve goals if they don’t have any? We feel like ambition means a variety of things: having a drive to figure out the answers to your curiosities, setting out to continuously improve yourself, taking the impossible as a challenge, and most importantly being passionate and believing in your ability to overcome adversity despite the roadblocks present. Ambition is arguably the foundational trait of successful people because it’s the source of why they wake up every day and do what they do. To be ambitious is to never be satisfied with mediocrity.
Success doesn’t come overnight unless, of course, you just won the lottery. Patience is the key to how slow and steady wins the race. While instant gratification most definitely reflects our society’s wants and needs today, one thing remains: no one has ever gotten where they are by continuously cutting corners and taking shortcuts. What you put in is what you will get out, and your original game plan won’t always get you the results you want in the time you imagined. But that’s okay! Leave room for error. Patience allows you to learn from your failures, pick yourself up, try again, and approach problems from different angles until you solve them. Only then can you move onto the next step. Patience isn’t only a virtue, it’s a necessity.
Remember that scene in The Pursuit of Happyness when Will Smith tells his son that he’ll never become a basketball player, and then states: “Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me.” Yeah, that was one of our favorite moments. And it relates to this trait because the only thing that can stop you from doing the impossible is you. There will be people in the world who will doubt your abilities or deny you access to something you need; that’s fine. Your self-reliance has taught you that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you hold no one else accountable for your trials and tribulations but yourself.
Treat people right in everything you do, and we guarantee you’ll be recognized for it while simultaneously earning public trust and respect. Having integrity is crucial to maintaining self-respect. Always take the high road, be the bigger person, pick your battles, and don’t burn bridges. No matter how tempting it may be. You never know how your behavior today will affect you tomorrow, so tread cautiously, politely, and ethically across your relationships with others and your courses of action. If you’re sincere and passionate about your ambitions, integrity will automatically shine through.
For the sake of going over old adages, let’s just say that your ability to connect with others comes from you being able to walk a few blocks in someone else’s Chuck Taylors. Empathy is a powerful thing when it comes to building profitable relationships and we’re not talking about just the monetary kind. Successful people are able to relate to others, form long-lasting friendships, and leave long-lasting impressions that make them extremely likable and memorable. And, let’s face it, likability is an important factor to network and garner support from people who can help you before, during, and after you’ve reached your goals.
It’s good to take a look at the pros and cons of a situation, but when you’re only focused on the cons, you’re more likely to bring yourself down than instill motivation. Being optimistic is an extremely important quality because it tints everything you do. Everyone has their good and bad days, but what really counts is always finding the silver lining in the bad ones and finding a good sense of humor to balance out the negativity. Optimism dictates your attitude as well as your approachability, allowing you to focus on the promises of tomorrow rather than dwelling on the mistakes of today.
Yup. Moving on to point number 8.
Just kidding. But what if we just left you with just that? Sure, you’d be able to figure out the significance of good communication playing a role in success, but effective communication doesn’t leave your point up to chance or assumptions. Good communication conveys your point concisely, effectively, and efficiently. It also sets you up for fantastic follow-through. Whether you’re at a job interview, asking for a letter of recommendation, trying to develop a partnership, or simply explaining your goals to someone, talk it out until it’s no longer ambiguous and keep communication channels constantly open. Your ideas will come to fruition, and you’ll get results when you express yourself well and often.
If you don’t believe in yourself, it makes it hard for others to. Confidence doesn’t always have to come packaged in a blue power suit. It can present itself in many ways in numerous occasions, such as good posture and etiquette at a luncheon meeting or good intonation and volume for a speech. In any case, confidence is the sturdiness of your gut giving you strength, telling you that you’ve got this in the bag. It doesn’t make you arrogant or overbearing; rather, it makes you take risks because you know you’ll end up perfectly alright. And, when life throws you through a loop, you dust yourself off and throw it right back.
You know that one person in your family who would rather give up their left kidney than admit they’re wrong? Yes, you know exactly who we’re talking about. Don’t be that person. Stubbornness will get you nowhere. You’re not always going to succeed the first time, and you most certainly aren’t always going to call the correct shots. But the difference between a temporary fix to your problems and a permanent one is humbleness and humility. Admit when you’re wrong, take responsibility, and succumb to the fact that we’re all human.
On the flip side, don’t flaunt and brag about all of your successes. Aside from this being a major turnoff (for first dates, family gatherings, and catch-up-with-your-friends dinners), keep in mind that pride comes before the fall. While you should definitely be proud of your accomplishments, they should be something you achieved for yourself and your loved ones rather than world domination! The secret to continued success after you’re already successful still leads back to likability. Be humble, appreciate what you have, give thanks to those who have helped you along the way, and your legacy will speak for itself.
Walt Disney had a great idea when it came to Disneyland, but without his imagineers to bring that idea to life, the happiest place on earth would have been just that: an idea. Successful people aren’t only extremely imaginative and see the potential of something others would just pass by; they’re also great at finding a way to make that idea a reality. Creativity in providing a solution to a problem or fulfilling a service for the general public is how entrepreneurs are born and successful people are made.
So, whether you’re thinking about taking the CPA Exam or are just one test away from completion, remember this pretty awesome quote from Vidal Sassoon:
"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."