It doesn’t matter whether you own a business, want to own a business, or play an important managerial role, there are certain traits and habits that you can adopt that will determine whether or not you can be successful in the long term. In this section, I will cover 75 of the tips that I think are most important.
Principle #1 – Stop Complaining
Whenever it comes to success and business, the best place to start is by committing yourself to not complaining. Of course, it is perfectly fine to raise concerns, to question dubious choices, and to remain thoughtful and analytical at all times.
However, needless and persistent complaining generally accomplishes nothing positive. To the contrary, it drags you down, reflects poorly on you, and can transform otherwise productive co-workers into cynical, whining unproductive co-workers.
In short, focus on solving problems, not complaining that they cannot be solved.
Principle #2 – Strive to Reach Your Full Potential
One of the things that prevents many people from achieving the best possible outcome is complacency. Once they begin to do well at something in business— be it advertising, inspiring employees, or something else—they take a miniature mental vacation.
That is—instead of ratcheting things up further, they let things play out and contribute nothing additional. The usual end result of this is generally not positive.
So, instead of being complacent, push hard to reach your full potential at every turn.
Principle #3 – Limit Your Use of Short-Cuts
Of course, some short cuts are a good thing. If you can find a way to go from point A to point B in half of the time and there is no downside to the new route, then you should of course take it.
But in many instances in business, we do face tradeoffs. For instance, we might be able to cut costs by not giving employees a raise, but as a result, they might become disgruntled and intentionally shirk their duties.
So, in general, limit your use of short cuts. But if you see one that’s good and doesn’t appear to have a downside, then seize it, but do so.
Principle #4 – Be a Continuous Learner
People have different learning styles. Some learn all the time; and find ways to incorporate that learning into their lives as they go. These people are continuous learners.
On the other hand, most of us learn in discrete chunks. For instance, we might find out how to use a new software program, but immediately after doing so, we will cease to learn anything new about it until it is absolutely necessary.
In general, those who learn in discrete chunks often find themselves at a serious disadvantage, as they often neglect to learn many important new things about products, people, and tools they interact with on a daily basis.
So try to be a continuous learner. It may be difficult, but you’ll be happy you made the switch.
Principle #5 – Always Have a Plan – Even if You Don’t Use It
Some people serially-plan their lives. For each minute of the day, they have something scheduled. Like clockwork, their days play out with very few unforeseen events.
Initially, you might think this sounds boring and inspiring, but in business, it is the status quo among those who are most successful. And remember, even if you don’t opt to use your plan, at least you will have the option to do so.
Principle #6 – Don’t Dwell on the Past
It’s impossible to go throughout a career without hitting a number of bumps in the road. No matter how hard you try, no matter how thoughtful you are, you are bound to hit snags in the road.
And when you do hit those snags, your reaction to them will forever influence your capacity for success. You can either learn from them, move on, and continue on your career; or you can harp on them for weeks, months, or even years—allowing them to drag you down at every step of the way.
No matter how bad your failure was, it’s over. All you can do now is work carefully to improve your future prospects.
Principle #7 – Give Up When It’s Wise to Do So – Not When it Is Convenient
Most people give up for reasons of convenience. They hit a nasty snag in their career; and they simply cannot find a way to propel themselves forward immediately, so they just give up.
Instead of backing off, consulting a colleague, and then heading back to the problem with a refreshed and nuanced perspective, they give up before they give the scenario the chance to play out. As a result, they deny themselves the opportunity to fight back and succeed.
Principle #8 – Listen to Those Around You
One common trait among those who are successful is that they listen and understand others. Instead of seeing everyone around them as inferior fools with nothing to contribute, they understand that most good ideas come from other people—not from them. If you want to be successful, too, you should follow this practice carefully in your daily business relations.
Principle #9 – Have Patience
One of the most common traits among those who are successful in business is patience. Those who don’t have patience always find themselves trapped in the plans of those who do have it. So, do yourself a favor, and cultivate patience. Be the trapper—not the trapped.
Principle #10 – Don’t Settle
In some cases, you will find that the deck is stacked against you and your plans; you will simply have to settle with the best you can get. But in most situations, this simply isn’t the case. So don’t find reasons to settle when you don’t have to. Instead, push hard and persistently for the best you can get.
Principle #11 – Create Opportunities—Don’t Wait for Them
Many people who have not achieved success in business are under the impression that opportunities arrive passively. All they have to do is wait for one to show up on the front door; and then grab it. But, in fact, successful business owners and managers know that opportunities are usually created, not stumbled over. So make an effort to create opportunities in your daily work.
Principle #12 – Keep the Big Picture in Mind, But Stay Focused on the Short Term Process
The big picture is important. It tells you where you are and where you’re going. However, in some situations, it can distract you from the task at hand. If you want to attain true success, then you have to know how to stay focused and effective on short-term problems, while also working within the greater framework of the big picture.
Principle #13 – Record Your Progress
Identifying and recording progress is important. It tells you how far you’ve come from where you once where. If you don’t follow it carefully, it’s easy to miss that it has occurred at all.
So, as progress occurs, record it somewhere. Write down exactly what happened, why it qualifies as “progress,” and why you think it happened.
Principle #14 – Record Your Failures
Similar to recording your progress, record your failures, too. No matter how bad a failure was, force yourself to think hard about it. Ask yourself what went wrong. Also consider whether it was something you could influence or whether chance or someone else played an important role in determining the outcome. As painful as this process might be, it will help you to process your failures and to assimilate the lessons you take from them into future business decisions.
Principle #15 – Do Not Allow Hope to Overcome Analysis
Hope is an important emotional driver of actions. It can motivate you to continue on a path, even when you know the road ahead is difficult. However, in some situations, we simply allow hope to take over and ignore the consequences. If you want to be truly successful, then it is wise to practice “cautious optimism,” rather than chasing hope regardless of what your brain tells you.
Principle #16 – Develop Good Habits
Habits are things that stick with you and drive your behavior, even when you aren’t thinking about them. For this reason, it is a good idea to try to develop good ones, such as responding to clients and customers in a timely manner, practicing courtesy, and facing challenges head-on, rather than slinking into the background.
Principle #17 – Identify and Rid Yourself of Bad Habits
No matter who you are and how successful you have been, you’re probably carrying at least a couple of bad habits. Perhaps you procrastinate. Or perhaps you become highly indecisive when the going gets tough. No matter what it is that you suffer from, identify it as a bad habit; and then get to work eliminating it permanently.
Principle #18 – Write Your Ideas—And Others’ Ideas Down
Just because you’re no longer a student doesn’t mean you should stop taking notes. Next time you or someone else says something that is truly insightful or useful, jot it down as a note. In the long run, this will save you time and money, as you won’t have to waste precious time rediscovering your own and others’ insights.
Principle #19 – Set Goals
This simple fact cannot be emphasized enough: one thing that separates the successful from those who have not experienced success is goals. The successful have goals; and these goals give them meaning and direction. If you’re lacking serious, meaningful goals, then you should spend some time to create them and then write them down.
Principle #20 – When It’s Time to Be Serious, Be Serious
One thing that separates the successful from those who have not yet experience success is the ability to become very serious when it is important. Many of us simply cannot do this. Instead, faced with real problem that is potentially unsolvable, we use humor, procrastination, or some other device to shy away from the problem. But if you want to be truly successful, you must learn to get serious when it’s time to be serious.
Principle #21 – Seize the Moment
Another important quality that the successful have is their ability to seize the moment. When they see an opportunity in arm’s length and they know that it’s real, they take it. They don’t debate it for a month until it is too late.
Principle #22 – Don’t Just Learn – Apply
When it comes to business, “learning” isn’t enough. In business, learning is only as valuable as the return it generates. This is why you must get in the habit of learning new things—and then applying them immediately.
Principle #23 – Take Time to Think About Important Decisions
Most people agree that “analysis paralysis” is a bad thing. However, when it comes to making decisions, we often err too far on one side or the other. Sometimes, we take far too long; and, other times, we don’t take long enough.
Instead of deliberating carefully, forming an opinion, and then acting, we often either jump to a conclusion or waste endless days thinking about the subject. In the end, our interests are better served by making the decision fast, but doing so based on sound information.
Principle #24 – Avoid the Grandiose
Creativity is important, but when it is excessive, it can lead to grandiosity. The successful know that being grandiose is not useful. Rather, it is simply a form of day-dreaming that does not translate into practical and reasonable set of steps you can take to improve your situation.
Principle #25 – Think in Terms of Problems and Solutions
Those who are successful in most of their endeavors see the world in terms of problems and solutions. That is, as soon as they hit a bump in the road, they go into problem-solving mode, rather than going into problem-avoidance mode or panicking.
Principle #26 – Delegate Tasks to Others
If you ever want to match the success of some of your heroes, you will need to learn how to delegate tasks to others. Often, the most important trait that makes people successful is that they are willing and able to break down and a large task; and efficiently and intelligently allocate its pieces to employees.
Principle #27 – Correct Your Weaknesses
Another important trait of the successful is their ability to identify and correct weaknesses. For instance, if they recognize that they are particularly weak at decision-making, then they will make an effort to become decisive, rather than wallowing in self-loathing or anger about their problem.
Principle #28 – Don’t Let Emotions Get the Best of You
Emotions can be an important driver of success. They can keep you focused on a goal; and they can give you the willpower to go on, even when things start to look bleak.
Unfortunately, emotions can also play a deeply negative role when it comes to running a business. They can coax you into making irrational, vindictive, and poorly thought-out choices. So, don’t let your emotions get the best of you, but do let them push you on towards success.
Principle #29 – Be Humble and Honest
Two additional traits that many successful individuals share are humility and honesty. In particular, when someone says something that they know is wrong, they point it out. And when they don’t know whether or not they are correct, they allow others to speak or correct them.
Principle #30 – Always Improve Your Business Processes
Along with begin a continuous learner, you should try to be a continuous improver, too. Wherever your business is lacking, make it better. And wherever you see room for improvement, make an improvement.
Principle #31 – Create Networks with Other Business Owners
Another important part of success in business is networking with other managers and business owners. Find out how they run their businesses; and see whether you can learn from them or work with them in some complementary fashion.
Principle #32 – Do Not Allow Your Personal Life to Interfere with Your Business Life
No matter what is going in on your personal life, remember to keep work at work and home life at home. Don’t allow a stressful situation with a friend or a relative spillover into your work and prevent you from being effective.
Principle #33 – Be Fast
One important trait of successful individuals in business is that they know that speed is important. Often, starting earlier and moving faster can make the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. So keep this in mind next time you are lagging far behind your competitors and cannot decide whether or not to push ahead or continue stagnating.
Principle #34 – Differentiate Yourself from Competitors
Whether you are competing for a promotion at work or competing with another business, differentiating yourself from your competitors is usually a good idea. Now, if you’re friends with the competition, then this is a more delicate task.
However, your goal should always be to spell out to either your boss or your customers (whichever case is the relevant one) that you have certain qualities that are desirable. This will often be sufficient, even without saying anything additional about other businesses or your co-workers.
Principle #35 – Leave Your Comfort Zone
When it comes to business, it is easy to settle into your comfort zone and stop taking risks. In some cases, if your comfort zone is a good place to be, your results may be very good. However, if you repeatedly experience poor results, then it may be time to leave your comfort zone, so that you can experience success.
Principle #36 – Be Persistent
In business, few things are more closely related to success than persistence. Persistence will determine whether you push ahead or give up altogether. And persistence will determine whether you eventually break through as a leader in your field; or whether you allow everyone else to walk over you to get to the top.
Principle #37 – Give Things Time to Get Better (or Worse)
In many situations, it is tempting to micromanage the implementation of a project. You may feel the need to monitor what’s going on and make frequent changes. However, it is important to know when enough is enough—and when it might just be best to give things time to play out before making a change.
Principle #38 – Be Realistic with Yourself and Others
One thing the successful know is that being realistic with yourself and others is crucial. In a business environment, if you do not tell others when they may be mistaken, they will continue on the wrong path. And if you do not allow others to correct you, then you will do the same.
Principle #39 – Take Action Immediately
Thoughts and actions are two very different things. And this is something the successful know very well. They know that coming up with a good idea is completely useless if you cannot implement it—or cannot give it to someone who can. So get in the habit of not only thinking of new things, but of taking action swiftly.
Principle #40 – Become Goal-Oriented
Don’t only set goals, but become goal-oriented. That is, in every waking moment, decide how you will channel your energy and actions towards outcomes that favor your chosen set of goals.
Principle #41 – Use Visualization Techniques
Visualization techniques can be very powerful instruments for achieving goals in business. Next time you hit a rough patch of uncertainty, consider spending some time visualization how you will behave in order to get through it. This will not only relax you, but it will also prepare you for the road ahead.
Principle #42 – Work on Your Time Management Skills
If you want to be successful, time management is vital. Not only must you keep track of all of your appointments, meetings, and project deadlines, but you also must manage your time when it comes to accomplishing tasks. If you allocate too much time to a project, that’s time that you cannot use for a different project.
Principle #43 – Organize Your Workspace
Having a clean, organized workspace is a vital part of success. It may sound trivial, but in fact, the cleanliness and the order can go a long way towards improving your mindset and structuring your day.
Principle #44 – Create Schedules and Use a Calendar
Similar to keeping your office space clean and organized, keeping your schedule clean and organized is important, too. It helps to keep your mind clear of unnecessary clutter and worries; and instead focus on moment.
Principle #45 – Take Control of Your Role in the Business
When it comes to business, staying in control means a lot. It means that you not only prevent other businesses from dictating an agenda for you, but it also means that you firmly seize control of your own density. If you want to be successful, then you must be willing to take control.
Principle #46 – Be Analytical About Your Results
In business, analysis is important. If something goes wrong, there are reasons for why it went wrong; and using a careful, well – reasoned approach is the best way to determine what those reasons were. So, instead of invoking magical thinking to avoid the problems altogether, instead focus on the process of analyzing your results.
Principle #47 – Stop Doing Things that Don’t Work
From time to time, you will determine that things don’t work—or at least they don’t work as well as they should. When this happens, you can take one of two paths. The first path ignores the problem and hopes that things get better. And the second puts an end to it by modifying your approach or discontinuing to do the thing that isn’t working. If you want to be successful, you will learn to have the courage to do the latter.
Principle #48 – Find Out Which Forms of Advertising Generate Revenue—And Which Do Not
In business, marketing can do a lot to transform your business. It can expand the audience for your product, persuade the existing audience, or it can provide no benefits at all while incurring massive costs. Those who are successful in business pay attention to their advertising, so they can determine which forms are beneficial and which forms should be discontinued.
Principle #49 – Always Consider the Possibility that You Are Wrong
In most situations, you are probably at least partially wrong (if not completely wrong). This is simply the nature of business. So, instead of brashly declaring your opinion, and then going ahead with or without the blessings of others, open yourself up to the possibility that you have made an error.
Principle #50 – Keep Things Simple
Simplicity is often underrated. In fact, many business owners are prone to believing that if something is simple, then it cannot be true. After all, the world is a complex place, so it cannot be the case that a solution to a problem in business can be simple.
In fact, many of the more successful innovations in business are simple. So, think twice before you taking things up a notch in terms of complexity. Instead, think about using solutions that are simple, elegant, communicable, and likely to work.
Principle #51 – When Failure Arrives, Accept it, Learn from It, and Move On
Often, in business, we encounter many more failures before we encounter a success. However, if we don’t make an effort to determine why we are failing; and how we might turn that failure into a success, it’s possible that we’ll never emerge with the success.
Principle #52 – Inspire Confidence in Those Around You
Rather than tearing down your fellow co-workers, make every attempt possible to build them up. Having a confident staff around you will multiply the returns you reap from your own efforts.
Principle #53 – Do Not Compete with Your Staff; Help Them and Learn How They Can Help You
Being successful means being secure. And being secure means that you don’t feel the need to compete with your co-workers, but instead focus on competing with other businesses.
Principle #54 – Avoid Becoming Discouraged Easily
One important difference between those who are successful and those who are not is that the successful do not get discouraged easily. No matter how poorly things appear to be going, they find a way to stick through things until the end. If you want to become successful, you should try to emulate this behavior.
Principle #55 – Adopt the Habits of Successful Individuals
Do you know someone at work who is very successful at what he does? Observe his behavior and try to copy it. If he approaches problem solving in a particular way, copy that approach and make it your own. If he has a certain routine that he adheres to religiously, then adopt that, too.
Principle #56 – Facilitate Discussion
Another important trait of business leaders who are successful is their ability to facilitate discussion. Not only do they have good ideas themselves, but they find ways to tease good ideas out of otherwise quiet co-workers.
Principle #57 – Ask Stupid Questions if You Really Don’t Know the Answer
People sometimes say that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” But when you need to ask a question and you think that everyone else knows the answer, you might not fully believe that this is true. But when it comes to making decisions that will determine the fate of your business, it is true. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you should ask, find out the answer, and make your decision based on the correct information.
Principle #58 – Learn and Practice the Fundamentals
If you find that your business ideas and practices are not producing good results, then you should do what the successful do and return to the fundamentals. Think hard about what sound business principles would dictate; and attempt to practice that, rather than constantly attempting to innovate.
Principle #59 – Always Ask for Comments (Be They Good or Bad)
Thick skin is a valuable asset in business. It means not only having the ability to listen to and assimilate praise, but also to brush off direct insults and valuable, but critical comments. If you want to be successful in business, you must have thick skin and you must always ask for comments—be they good or bad.
Principle #60 – Avoid Getting Irrationally Defensive
Becoming defensive is a natural response to getting cornered. Instead of opening up to criticism and assimilating suggestions, we start shooting down any comment directed at us, be it useful or not. If you want to be successful in business, you must learn to resist the urge to become defensive.
Principle #61 – Concede Important Points When They Are True
When you’re arguing with a co-worker or an employee, it is vital that you concede important points when they are true. Failing to do so will not only set a bad
precedent, but it will ultimately make you appear worse than if you had humbly accepted your mistake.
Principle #62 – Cultivate a Willingness to Succeed in Those Around You
Business culture is driven by the network in which it is embedded. If you want to cultivate a culture of success and confidence, then you must be sure that you exude confidence and success and inspire it in others.
Principle #63 – Don’t Hang Your Hat on Delusional Visions of Overnight Success
While it can be comforting to dream big about your future, having delusions about your success is purely detrimental. It will cause you to set unreasonable goals and attempt to live up to unrealistic expectations.
Principle #64 – Affirm Yourself and Your Choices
In business, you will have to make many difficult decisions. Instead of constantly second-guessing your decisions, take time to affirm your choices periodically, so that you do become overwhelmed by self-doubt.
Principle #65 – Find Time to Give Yourself a Break
In addition to working hard, the successful know to take breaks, too. Without breaks, we have no way to clear our minds, re-energize, and prepare for the task that faces us.
Principle #66 – Foster Transparency in Everything You Do
In business, transparency is an important virtue. It allows us to fully comprehend what we are doing, what our co-workers are doing, and how all of this fits into the same framework.
Principle #67 – Prepare Yourself Mentally for Bumps in the Road
Bumps in the road are inevitable in business. Next time you hit one, don’t panic. Instead, ride it out, absorb the lessons, and move forward.
Principle #68 – Be Decisive
When it comes to business, few things are more important that decisiveness. But what’s important to understand is that, in business, decisiveness doesn’t simply mean making decisions fast. It means knowing how to make good decisions fast. If you don’t do this know, you should make it a point to get better at it.
Principle #69 – Focus on Efficiency
In business, efficiency is prized. It’s not enough to simply do something well, you must also do it well and fast. Successful people do this; and you should, too.
Principle #70 – Create a Product that People Actually Want to Buy
One thing you don’t hear often from successful people is how they swindled a bunch of people into buying a low-quality product for a high-price. To the contrary, they will usually regale you with stories of how they beat competitors by offering a lower price or a better product.
Principle #71 – Do Not Make Questionable Decisions that Will Prevent You From Sleeping at Night
In business, opportunities abound to make questionable decisions from which you can profit. This might involve lying about your product or tricking your co – workers. In general, successful people know not to go this route, but instead to focus on making money legitimately and in a way that doesn’t harm or trick others.
Principle #72 – Keep Your Customers’ Best Interests at Mind
Following the general theme of the previous tips, keeping your customers’ best interests in mind is vital. It will not only keep you focused on creating products that they’ll appreciate and use, but it will also keep you satisfied with your job.
Principle #73 – Streamline Your Business Processes
No matter how efficient you think your business is managed, there are almost always opportunities for improvement. It’s just a matter of finding these opportunities and exploiting them to streamline how your business functions.
Principle #74 – Do Not Ask too Much of Your Employees
You might be tempted to squeeze every last cent out of your employees, but instead consider what the successful often do: they try to keep costs low, but at the same time, when they need talent, they pay for it. Keep this in mind when hiring and when giving raises.
Principle #75 – Learn to Deal with and Overcome Stress
In business, stress is inevitable. Competition is everywhere; and it isn’t always obvious what you should do in order to win. If you want to be successful, you have to learn how to cope with stress; and how to prevent it from dragging you down.