The Habits of Successful People

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it “

Generally attributed to Thomas Jefferson, among others.

As you can imagine, after more than 40 years in the finance industry, I’ve run into my fair share of the successful, the nearly successful, the could have been contenders and the downright unlucky. I’m fascinated by the roads people take and the reasons why. Interestingly, the successful and unsuccessful have habits and attributes that I think predispose them to predictable outcomes. In all of this, and despite the quote I have opened with, there is a degree of luck, or maybe fate, in all things.

For the purposes of these reflections I’m going to restrict my observations to success in business. That is, your own business, not running someone else’s. Success in life is a way more complicated subject and one I am far from qualified to comment upon.

You can download the information detailed on this page (The Habits of Successful People) as a printable PDF for future reference. Click here to access the PDF document.

Let’s start with education. In my experience having a degree does not predispose the holder to any head start in terms of business success. Of course, if you want to be a lawyer you’ve got no choice but having that degree is no guarantee of success. It’s just a stepping stone in the right direction. I think the more important educational contribution is study undertaken while working in a role for which that study relates. I am a great believer in the immediate practical application of learned skills and knowledge. Many successful business people will speak of leaving school early with no formal qualifications but returning to study as their business interests and opportunities began to emerge.

I’ve rarely met a successful business person who hated what they did. It takes a very special, some might say odd, person to thrive in a business they dislike. It’s a cliche to be sure but discovering something you are passionate about is half the battle. Passion brings focus and motivation without which you are more likely to fail. In my mind most of the great innovations in business have come from people who loved what they did and were genuinely excited to get out of bed each day. If you don’t feel this way maybe your in the wrong gig.

Here’s another cliche. If you want something done, ask a busy person. I would add organised to that quote. Successful people are mostly better organised than others and get more done. They don’t procrastinate, get distracted or lose momentum dealing with side issues. They have great time management skills and are outcome driven. Want to take a first step. Clear all that crap off your desk and file it systematically. Use a calendar based to do list and only deal with one thing at a time. Don’t be distracted by incoming emails. Tackle the tasks you dread first and use the end of the day to reflect and plan. Successful people become the masters of their day rather than the phone calls, texts and emails driving the agenda.

In our interconnected 24 hour world all this takes discipline and I’m the first to admit I’m nowhere near getting there yet. I used to think I procrastinated but now I’m not so sure.

Successful people steal! It’s a fact. They see a great idea or strategy and they adopt it as their own. They are never so blind as to think they are the only one with a good idea and they invest time and energy in keeping a very close watch on their market and their competitors. They take just as much interest in ideas that fail. Better your competitor spends the time and money to prove an idea doesn’t work.

My last point relates to planning. One of my favourite business quotes is that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Successful people have a plan. More importantly, the plan is not rigid. It’s designed to cope with surprises and forks in the road but it’s a reasonable map of the intended journey.

My last cliche for this month………

If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.

Mike Phipps F Fin
Director | Phippsfin Pty Ltd
ACN 139 124 673