We seem to want to define success by wealth. So, the wealthier a person is the more successful she/he is. And, if we look at the successful people that we have made famous, this seems to be true – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey. They are all successful in different fields, but they are all very wealthy too.
Success Without Wealth
Can there be success without wealth? Psychologists tell us yes, there can be, because successful people come from all career fields, and they are not necessarily wealthy. Thus, we can have successful teachers, successful accountants, and successful farmers. These people, and those that have accumulated vast fortunes, actually have several traits in common, though their chosen fields of work are far different.
They Have Passion for What They Do
It doesn’t matter so much what they choose to do, when successful people find their niche, the passion never subsides. Donald Trump, for example, has a passion for one thing – to make deals. He has never really wanted to do anything else in his business life. He looks for deals everywhere and absolutely loves the negotiations and the final successful closing. Mother Theresa had a passion for her work too – she could never have imagined herself doing anything else.
They Have Drive and Willpower
Being passionate alone is not enough. If a person does not have the willpower to stick with something, to push through failures, and to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve a goal, then success will always be elusive. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, was already writing her 2nd book while the first one was being rejected by over 200 publishers. She simply would not take no for an answer. In fact, she is one of those successful people who didn’t finish college, a trait she shares with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
They Have Integrity
People who are successful over the long-term have integrity – principles by which they live and which they will not compromise. There are plenty of Bernie Madoff’s in this world – they make millions, but without integrity, the success can be short-lived. Consider all of the professional athletes and TV/movie “greats” who lost their success as a result of compromising their integrity.
They are Self-Reliant
Successful people know that, in the end, they must be responsible for their successes and their failures. They have come to now that relying on others for important decision-making and career growth can be an unreliable and even dangerous course to follow. Knowing that they have the power, the drive, and the ability to fully take charge of their lives is a powerful thing. Richard Nixon, former U.S. President relied on others to make decisions about his re-election campaign strategies, and those people had not integrity. In the end, he was forced to resign.
They are Optimistic
Successful people believe that the future can and will be better. If they didn’t, they would lose their drive to achieve personal and career goals. Ghandi was optimistic about the future, even when imprisoned; so was Nelson Mandela. They continued to work toward their goals even as others voiced pessimism.
They are Good Communicators
Successful people have to convince others of the value of their work and their passions. Without that, they do not get the support, financial or otherwise, that they made need to move to the next level. When he first started out, Warren Buffett had to convince relatives and friends to invest their savings with him – someone who had no track record other than having made some money for himself through investing. Martin Luther King was a profound orator and was able to alter the course of U.S. history as a result of his communication skills.
They Have Self-Confidence
Successful people “carry” themselves differently – their posture, their walk, their voice – all of these things exude self-confidence. Successful people know they are capable of great things, and that positivity causes others to place their trust in them and to support them. Failure is just not a part of their mindset.
Success comes in many flavors. It may be the teacher who has inspired his/her students to achieve great things; it may be the investment tycoon with the “golden touch;” it may be the innovator who develops the next best piece of technology; and it may be the single mom who has lived in poverty for years while pursuing that college degree and who has just received her first job offer. We need to stop defining success by accumulated wealth and start defining it by the characteristics that all of these folks have in common.