3 Qualities of Successful People

Written by Damyn Tassie

When I was a bartender in downtown Toronto, I had the good fortune to be surrounded by many successful people on any given day. It was not a fancy bar by any means but it’s location right in the heart of the trendy King St West made it a great watering hole for all types of people. Being from a small town of under 1000 people in Alberta I had a very stereotypical view of what a successful person would look like, the way they dressed, how they acted and all the media narratives of how they became successful. What I found however were many different people from many different walks of life that all found a way to find their success. It made me want to dig deeper. Now even though people found many different means to become successful, through business, construction, academia, etc. I was amazed by the fact that the way they approached their vocation was extremely similar. I have broken it down into three main categories.

1. They take accountability

I like to call this ‘Taking the Blame’. They understood that it didn’t really matter whose fault it was, what mattered was getting the end result. Truly successful people don’t have the time or the energy to play the blame game. Or complain. Or justify. If someone on their team did something wrong, THEY didn’t train them properly. If there was a miscommunication, THEY need to make sure to convey what they want more clearly. If a client wasn’t happy with their work, THEY made sure that it was fixed to what they needed. No matter what happened or how much control they had in the situation it was on them. Now when I first started playing with this idea it was very easy for me to think “people on my team should take responsibility for their own actions” and “If I do that then I won’t have enough time to take care of everything”. Which is completely true. However, that is not what is important. What is important is the mindset. If I take the blame for everything then I won’t spend any time or energy figuring out who’s fault it is and I can put that towards finding a solution. Which is really all that matters. Successful people are problem solvers. Simple as that.

2. They have clear and purposeful goals

What makes a goal clear and purposeful? To make sure a goal is Clear I like to use the acronym **SMART **goals:

Specific- Set real numbers with real deadlines. Avoid goals like “I want to make more money”. How much more? $1 an hour more? $200k plus more? And by when? Tomorrow? Next year? If we can’t see our goals, we will never hit them. It’s like saying I want to go north without having a compass. You may do everything correctly but if it isn’t in the right direction it is very unlikely that you will not get to where you intend to go.

Measurable– Make sure your goal is trackable. “Social influence” is not a measurable goal. “Help more people” is not a measurable goal. “Be Better” is not measurable. How do you know how close you are if you can’t track your progress? This is where motivation dies. Not because we haven’t gotten to the destination but because we have no idea how much longer we have to go. People are OK with bad news but HATE surprises.

Attainable– Work towards a goal that is challenging but possible. The easiest way to not be successful is by making goals that are impossible to hit. Mostly because we are all human and we need small wins to keep up our confidence and continue to push forward. On the way to success the vast majority of people haven’t failed, they’ve quit.

Relevant– It actually pushes you closer to hitting your goals. Spending a week designing the perfect business card will not develop the app you are meaning to create. Playing 2k will not make you a better basketball player. We all have the same 24hrs a day and how we use that time will determine every aspect of our life. When we truly know what we want we need to take the relevant steps to get there.

Time-bound – State when you will get it done. It doesn’t have to be right, or even close, but creating a deadline adds a sense of urgency. Don’t be afraid to put pressure on yourself, that is where things get done. A goal is just a dream with a timeline, and too many people’s dreams die in the land of “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Every goal I create I take it through these 5 things. If it doesn’t line up it doesn’t mean I need to completely scrap it. Usually it just isn’t fully formed yet and I need to go deeper into what I actually want and exactly what that looks like.

3. They have long-term vision, and short-term focus

Have you ever looked at one of your goals and felt like it was such an insurmountable undertaking that you just quit? Have you ever been so deep in the grind that you have forgotten what it is for and burnt out? This is why both of these things are important to have. If we want to truly be successful it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. And while we are doing this work, we need to know what it is all for.

To do this I like to break down my big goal into the smallest increments possible, usually into daily tasks. For a simple example, if I am selling a product where I have a net gain of $500 per sale and I want to make $100,000 this year. That means I have to sell 200 of these products. Now if I want to have my weekends off and take some vacation, I would have 250 working days in the year. That means I would have to sell an average of 4 products a week or 1 product every 4/5 business days. Now what are the DAILY actions I would have to take to sell 4 products a week? Obviously depends on the product and industry but let’s say I would have to present to 5 Qualified customers every day. Now how many qualified customers would I have to speak to so that an average of 5 would listen to a presentation? Let’s say 10. Then how many people would you have to contact to get an average of 10 qualified customers. I think you get the point.

This obviously takes some time and work to get it right but when we are able to break down our long-term vision into daily tasks that we can focus on this is where the magic happens. We start gaining momentum, our confidence rises, and we start to see progress towards our big vision. In time this creates a positive feedback loop where we gain even more momentum until our vision all of a sudden doesn’t feel so big and we can start creating even bigger goals.

Regardless of your experience and background, success doesn’t depend on luck or coincidences. By taking accountability, setting S.M.A.R.T goals and having a long term vision with short term focus - you can start to see progress towards your personal success.


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    Want to peek into our daily work? Our coaches recount real world situations shared as learning opportunities to build soft skills. We share frameworks, podcasts and thinking tools for sr software developers.