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8 Character Traits All Successful People Have in Common



What do you believe are the “secrets” to success? Do your circumstances dictate your destiny? How about your intelligence? The family you were born into? An excellent public education? An expensive college degree? Government-provided social programs? Plenty of capital? Great credit?

Or do the successful have something afforded to all of us, but practiced by few?

Millionaire Richard St. John was sitting on an airplane one day when a teenager in the seat next to him asked, “What leads to success?” Born into a poor family, and struggling in school, she needed desperately to believe that her circumstances didn’t define or limit her destiny. As Richard shares, “She wanted to make something of her life.”

Having barely passed high school himself, and having been a self-described lazy underachiever, St. John had “somehow” gone on to great success. As he pondered the teenager’s question, he wondered what exactly had set him apart from his peers, especially since so many of them had appeared to have all the advantages.

His curiosity piqued by the girl’s sincere question, over the next decade Mr. St. John interviewed 500 successful people and studied thousands more, both famous and unknown, seeking to uncover the “secrets” to success. As he accumulated and organized the data, he noticed the same 8 themes repeated over and over again. The most interesting discovery? Not one of the common traits shared by all who rose to success in their fields can be inherited, purchased, or given to anyone. The government can’t give them to you. Your family can’t give them to you. The bank can’t give them to you. Your boss can’t give them to you. The best education in the world can’t give them to you.

Indeed, each of these character traits, delved into more deeply in¬†Richard St. John’s book “The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to Be Great,”¬†are ultimately the responsibility of the individual. He shared them all in this inspiring 3-minute speech delivered at a TED conference:

I want to flip the question: Since we can’t blame unequal circumstances for a life of mediocrity, what do you think are the character traits that KEEP individuals from success?


About Author

Michelle QuillinMichelle Quillin is content creator and social media manager and consultant for New England Multimedia. An A+ BBB member, we create mobile-ready Wordpress websites responsive to all devices, and produce HD video for broadcast and internet use.View all posts by Michelle Quillin →

  1. Jayme Soulati
    Jayme Soulati11-27-2012

    Wait, I already commented on this in May? OK, so this is a repeat! Good one! Passion is the first, and I so agree — we need to have passion to get out of bed every day and keep at it.

    The desire to slow down is real; we can’t. We need to move on ahead always ==> Oh, I just heard “push.” Indeed — passion and push.
    Jayme Soulati recently posted..Mobile Payment Processing Or Credit Card Swiper?My Profile

    • MIchelle Quillin
      MIchelle Quillin11-27-2012

      Jayme, this is a good one, worth looking at again as we head into 2013! Thanks for commenting!

      My Dad pushed me to be MY best, and to not waste my gifts and talents. Mom wanted me to do whatever made me happy. A great combination!

      Scott’s Dad, after being laid off from the steel mills in Pittsburgh in the 1980′s, told Scott, “Find something you love and you’re good at, and work for yourself. No one will ever fire you or lay you off.” Scott’s never forgotten that.

  2. Jayme Soulati
    Jayme Soulati06-17-2012

    Anger. Hands down. When people hold a grudge and are quick to ire in any situation due to unmanaged anger, there is no success. There is only someone caught forlornly in the past.

    • Michelle Quillin
      Michelle Quillin06-20-2012

      Jayme, it sounds like you know someone like that!

      I agree, too. An embittered heart keeps one living in what once WAS, rather than moving forward and chalking the experience up to lessons learned in the School of Hard Knocks! If we learned to be thankful for those lessons learned, or learned to self-reflect on our own contribution to situations that “went bad,” we’d be better people for it!

      • Ayalew Muluye
        Ayalew Muluye04-17-2013

        my name is Ayalew Muluye.i am living in Ethiopia which is found in East Africa,the pooresest countries in the world.sir i have faced difficulties because i coudnot get phd scholarship in enviromental protection.i hold master of art in geography and enviromental studies.please find scholarship and change my life .i want to solve enviromental problems like land degradation, losses of biodiveresity ,global warming and soil erostion.please help me no one supports me.have pleasant time.

        • Michelle Quillin
          Michelle Quillin04-22-2013

          Ayalew, what part of Ethiopia do you live in? I have friends in Northern Ethiopia who could use your services. Mark MacLachlan is a forester whose project is a “nursery to introduce fruits and vegetables which have not grown in this area before and provide seedlings for the farmers of that region….This past year a crop of apples was harvested for the FIRST time is this area and these folk had never tasted apples before.”

          You can learn more by watching this video:

          Mark MacLachlan and 5Fs agriculture Project, Ethiopia

          Here’s a LinkedIn Group you can join, with 230 members: Ethiopian Forest Forum on LinkedIn

          I hope this helps!

  3. Shakirah Dawud
    Shakirah Dawud05-14-2012

    What KEEPS us from success? Hm. After thinking about this on and off since I saw it, I think it comes down to that old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Success means different things to different people. Some people want to win the lotto; others want to be stay-at-home parents; others want the “artist’s life” (without the debt); others simply want to be improved versions of themselves… No matter what we want, though, if we lack the will, we won’t make it.

    One character trait I can think of that feeds a lack of will is blame-laying. You know, whenever I meet someone and am immediately put off by them, I look at myself first and ask if the reason I’m irritated is because they’re reflecting an unflattering piece of my own character back to me. If it’s true, I own it to myself and try to let the other person off the hook so I can get on with life.

    • Michelle Quillin
      Michelle Quillin05-15-2012

      Shakirah, I just thought of someone who irritates me to no end, and applied your reasoning, and yes — it’s true! That thing about her that drives me crazy? I’m guilty of the same thing.

      Now, do I accept it in her, or change it in myself? That’s what I have to consider.

  4. Adam

    Nice video. I like how he did that in 3 minutes. Perfect for the attention span of a techie heavy conference.

    You’re right, none of those traits can be given to you. You have to find them in yourself. Your picture at the top reminds me of Daniel Goleman’s EQ concept, and how it is purportedly a better indicator of success than IQ.

    Good stuff Michelle!

    • Michelle Quillin
      Michelle Quillin05-09-2012

      Adam, I’ve seen those studies on EQ vs. IQ, and I agree!

      I peeked inside Richard St. John’s book over on Amazon. It looks like one to read. But first I’ve got to finish Mark Schaefer’s “Return on Influence.” Trying to practice focusing on one thing at a time, per St. John’s findings! ;)

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