18 Traits of Successful (and Not So Successful) People

August 28th, 2014 by Nick Notas 13 Comments

White Collar Success


You may think that successful people have a mystical quality about them. Or that they’re in on some secret that you don’t know about.

You see them lead abundant lives filled with friendships, romantic prospects, and even wealth. They’re confident. They’re “lucky” and good things always seem to happen to them.

In my years of coaching, I’ve seen all types of people succeed — tall, short, black, white, weird, foreign, rich, and poor. They achieved goals such as dating more, building self-esteem, getting fit, and excelling in business.

These individuals weren’t born with special abilities that “unsuccessful” people don’t have. To think that way is an insult to everything they’ve worked for.

They earned their success by forming habits that fostered healthy mindsets and personal fulfillment. And I’m here to help you do the same.

To accomplish that, you’ll have to recognize which of your behaviors are productive and which are holding you back.

  1. Successful people see other people’s success as motivation, inspiration, and something to learn from.

    Unsuccessful people blame, resent, or criticize the success of others because they are intimidated or insecure.

  2. Successful people try to connect with compatible people to create positive and healthy relationships. They walk away from those who aren’t a good fit for them.

    Unsuccessful people are desperate to connect with anyone – regardless of compatibility, fair treatment, and negative effects of the relationship.

  1. Successful people don’t take rejection personally. They acknowledge that the other person isn’t interested but plenty of people will be. They do not let rejection prevent them from taking future action.

    Unsuccessful people take rejection as a reflection of their self-worth. They believe that they will always be rejected and are deterred from trying again.

  2. Successful people see their failures as a way to learn how to do better next time. They may be disappointed in their approach or current results, but don’t hate themselves for it.

    Unsuccessful people see any failure as a loss. They feel overwhelming shame and hopelessness. They believe they will never be able to recover from it.

  3. Successful people seize countless opportunities because they live through an abundance mentality. They follow up on leads – whether that’s for new jobs, new women, or networking connections.

    Unsuccessful people don’t capitalize on their opportunities and may even sabotage them out of fear. Don’t follow up on numbers, set-up dates, or connect with people for business.

  4. Successful people improve themselves through a combination of reading and real-world implementation. They value experience as a primary factor in their personal growth.

    Unsuccessful people try to improve themselves through attaining knowledge but little to no practical application. They overthink, overanalyze, and prevent their own ability to grow.

  5. Successful people are genuinely curious about others rather than expecting an immediate benefit from them. They may know what kind of connection they desire (friendly, romantic, business) with the other person but actively listen and care in the moment.

    Unsuccessful people are so focused on the end result they can’t listen or genuinely connect with others. They’re too obsessed with how they’re being perceived in the moment or “winning”. 

  1. Successful people give themselves permission to attempt new or unfamiliar endeavors. They’re willing to challenge the status quo or push the boundaries.  They believe in the statement “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

    Unsuccessful people always wait for permission or “signals” from others before taking action.

  2. Successful people provide value and support to others when they can. They are willing collaborators and understand that reciprocity builds empires.

    Unsuccessful people provide little to no value to others. Do not want to collaborate or share. They always try to figure out what they can get from people. When they do help or benefit others, it’s always conditional with strings attached.

  3. Successful people don’t let people walk all over them. They know their boundaries and will enforce them when they’re crossed. They are polite but assertive when they’re being disrespected.

    Unsuccessful people allow themselves to be used or abused. They’re afraid to speak up in order to avoid conflict or being rejected. They become resentful when they’re mistreated even though they let it happen.

  4. Successful people improve themselves for themselves. They feel an immense satisfaction in their own self-development and taking care of their needs.

    Unsuccessful people only improve themselves for external reasons. They do it to try and get a girlfriend back, prove someone wrong, or to receive validation.

  5. Successful people have dreams but set consistent, attainable goals rather than abstract fantasies. They have a daily schedule where they focus on small improvements that they can take pride in. They see success in their continued efforts, and stay motivated by their small achievements.

    Unsuccessful people have dreams but set arbitrary goals without holding themselves accountable. They sporadically work towards large goals, which only frustrates them when they’re not obtained. They see success only in the results, and lose motivation when things don’t work out immediately.

  6. Successful people focus on utilizing and refining their strengths. They accept their limitations as normal and understand that no one is perfect.

    Unsuccessful people obsess over their weaknesses that they can’t change. They feel like a failure because of them and can’t move past them.

  7. Successful people ask for help when they need it. They know that people actually respect you more when you request their assistance and insight as long as you don’t abuse it.

    Unsuccessful people view asking for help as weakness because of their own insecurity. Would rather struggle and try to accomplish everything on their own. Some go to the other extreme and use and abuse people constantly, leading to broken relationships.

  8. Successful people know who they are but are open-minded to change. They will adapt to new ideas, values, and methods. They see adaptation as an asset.

    Unsuccessful people are unwilling to change out of fear. They can’t accept that there are better or more efficient alternatives. They believe if they need to change, there must be something wrong with them.

  9. Successful people know that while they help others, they know when to say “no”. They may refuse because they don’t have the time nor resources to offer their support.

    Unsuccessful people will say yes even when it’s not convenient for them. They suffer because they always help others even when they need to help themselves first. They end up frustrated because they’re never fulfilled.

  10. Successful people learn from the past but don’t dwell on it. They don’t beat themselves up about what they could have done. They focus on the lessons they’ve learned and how they can apply them to achieve future success.

    Unsuccessful people see their past as a permanent burden on their lives. They allow it to dictate who they are currently and who they can be in the future. They are unable to see the beneficial lessons they can gain from coming to terms with their past.

  11. Successful people always pursue multiple options. They don’t rely on only one avenue and hope it works out. They diversify and improve their odds.

    Unsuccessful people get tunnel vision and “put all their eggs in one basket”. They focus on a single opportunity, romantic interest, or method until it doesn’t work out.

Do you notice something about all the points above? None of them are genetic qualities. They’re all actions you can take and mindsets you can adopt.

You want the real formula to success?

Know what you want -> Pursue those wants relentlessly -> Deliver value to others -> Learn and adjust your approach from failures/successes -> Repeat until you get what you want

It’s been the same formula for thousands of years and it isn’t changing any time soon.

  1. Bryant on August 28, 2014

    Luck is a factor in success just not how a lot of people think. You got to strategically place yourself in positions where success is more likely to happen. By the way have you read the book Smart or Lucky by Gregg Hurwitz?

    • Nick Notas on August 28, 2014

      I definitely believe in making your own luck. Woody Allen said it best, “80% of success is just showing up.” I haven’t read the book but I’m checking it out now — seems very cool. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Tim on August 28, 2014

    Bryant – can you post a link to the book? I can’t find a book by that name by that author. Thanks.

  3. Tom on August 28, 2014

    Very good post – important stuff, the attitude and outlook a person has will create their reality.

    • Nick Notas on August 28, 2014

      Thanks Tom. The world is water. It’s waiting to get out of your way if you just push forward.

  4. Kurdistan on August 28, 2014

    Successful people concentrate more on gain and are practical and unsuccessful people overwhelm themselves contemplating on substance and are dreamy. Who is happy is a question of a different outline.

    • Nick Notas on August 28, 2014

      Taking practical action and not allowing yourself to stir mentally is huge.

      • Kurdistan on August 28, 2014

        Yes, it is indeed massive!

  5. Tim on August 28, 2014

    Good article! I will say I have a few of these I need to work on and I’ve been aware of them, but it’s good to see the Lal portion of my mind validated. I’ve been thinking lately that some of the more abstract ideas one can mull over are great, but without a practical application such ideas are greatly limited in value. One must focus their energy outward as well as inward. The culmination of the value of the one’s life can surely only be measured in the effect of one’s existence in the world around them.

    • Tim on August 28, 2014

      In the 2nd sentence it should say “rational portion of mind”. Not sure why it autocorrected to that.

  6. Dating Advice For Bachelors on September 1, 2014

    Nick, Very informative article on success and I agree and resonate with all of your 18 points!

    What you stated in point #6 i agree strongly with. Reading personal development books and putting them into action is very vital to success. Books Ive read such as Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco, and The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson has truly helped improved my life in all aspects. I really recommend these books to everyone.

    What are some of your favorite books that you would like to share?

    Cool Mike

  7. Egypt on September 10, 2014

    You also shouldn’t condemn, criticize, or complain.


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