- Last Updated: Mar 13, 2023
- 26 min. read
WebFX TeamDigital Marketing Agency
- The WebFX team is made up of more than 450 subject matter experts in digital marketing, SEO, web design and web development, social media, and more. Together, they’ve helped WebFX’s clients earn more than $3 billion in revenue from the web — and that’s just in the past five years. @webfx
There’s a constant debate about what makes someone successful or unsuccessful in the workplace.
Some people say success starts with how you dress. Others say it’s your attitude. And every once in awhile, you might hear someone say that success is all about luck.
In a sense, they’re all right.
And with so many successful corporations, executives, self-starters, artists, and freelancers in the world, you’re bound to find some ideas where everyone agrees. That’s what we wanted to know when we started making this infographic. We researched what some of the most accomplished people considered to be major parts of their success.
Of course, not everyone said the same things. But many of them expressed similar ideas or practiced similar behavioral patterns. These are 30 of the most popular ideas and patterns that successful people say helped make them who they are today.
And, just for good measure, we included 30 traits and habits that are warning signs of unsuccessful behavior too.
You can often draw a firm line between your professional and personal lives, and your personality will come out in both.
Perhaps the biggest part of your personality is your overall disposition. If you view the majority of your life positively, there’s a good chance you’ll look at your work life positively too. Similarly, if you tend to be negative about your personal life, there’s a good chance you’ll be negative about your work as well.
You probably know (and work with) both kinds of people. The key component of a positive person is their ability to hear a problem, consider it, and pragmatically fix it. The key component of a negative person is their ability to hear a problem, complain about it, and possibly make it worse.
That’s why positive personalities are such great assets to teams in the workplace. They’re willing to learn, adapt, and overcome challenges that will inevitably come their way.
The second most important personality trait to consider is responsibility. Responsibility is a sign of maturity in a worker and a person in general. Most often, it’s shown by people standing up and admitting that they made a mistake.
The reason responsibility is so important is that it keeps people honest. If someone’s willing to say that they failed, they’ll probably try to learn from their failure. After all, who wants to be embarrassed by making the same mistake twice?
But people who pass blame can cause problems. They’re the people who make excuses for failure, instead of accepting that the failure happened. People who pass blame can become known for “throwing someone under the bus” when push comes to shove, which also complicates their working relationships with others.
Basically, people who accept responsibility make life easier on those around them, and they’re able to learn more so they can succeed.
If someone compliments their friends a lot, they’ll probably compliment their coworkers too. This is a great personality trait to have to build up other members of a working team, especially when someone’s just taken responsibility for a mistake. Complimentary people forge strong, supportive bonds with those around them, both on professional and personal levels.
The other extreme is an insulting personality, meaning someone who may downplay others’ accomplishments, kick a team member when they’re down, or otherwise disrupt a positive work environment.
Gratitude is a big part of positivity and happiness in general. In the workplace, gratitude is a surprisingly simple concept. It’s the idea that instead of someone having to do something, they get to do it.
That tiny change in wording can make any assignment more engaging, and it’s especially important to individual motivation.
5. Giving the benefit of the doubt
“Innocent until proven guilty” isn’t just the foundation of the American legal system — it’s also an important concept in the workplace. Successful people consider complaints or accusations against others in their lives, but they don’t make a judgment call until all the cards are out on the table. On the flip side, unsuccessful people tend to assume fault in those around them.
That means they don’t hear (or want to hear) the other side of a story — they just want the accused gone. But everybody makes mistakes, including successful people. When that happens, it’s easier on everyone to offer the benefit of the doubt until evidence says otherwise.
6. Set goals
Goals are important in personal and professional lives because they give people concrete benchmarks to work towards. At work, someone may want to finish a major marketing presentation for the CEO before the end of the fiscal year. In their personal lives, maybe they want to shed five pounds before summer.
Regardless, setting goals allows someone to visualize what they want and take the necessary steps to achieve it. It’s not just working for work’s sake — they have direction, determination, and an end in sight.
7. Maintaining a routine
It may sound boring, but one of the best ways to achieve goals and continue personal growth is to practice consistency. That means establishing a daily or common routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is a great way to start that routine, and many successful people swear by that idea alone.
It’s so important that we’ll discuss it more in-depth later. Routines can also include going to the gym, working on personal projects, and setting time aside for socializing.
8. Eating healthy
Eating healthy isn’t just good for your body — it’s good for you as a person. Ensuring that your body receives the proper nutrition every day can be a challenge (especially for those of us who don’t like cooking), but it can also increase your energy levels, improve concentration, and help you live longer. Overall, eating healthy just primes you to be more successful in life.
Perseverance is a hard-and-fast requirement for success. When you’re shooting for the stars and fighting to achieve goals, you’re going to fail at some point. It’s inevitable in everyone’s life, and you can only choose how to react to it.
Successful people decide to learn something from their failure, adjust, and continue with their ambition. That’s not to say they do the same thing over and over again — that wouldn’t make much sense — but they try to find new ways to succeed. Unsuccessful people may fail once and call it quits.
After all, failure stings, especially when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Sometimes, it just takes one failure to discourage someone from trying again.
The greatest part about positive people is that they create new things. That’s not to say negative people can’t be creative — in fact, some of the best works of art and literature have stemmed from places of extreme negativity. But more often than not, negativity is used to tear down or destroy, whether it’s targeting ideas, accomplishments, or a company’s new product.
Positivity fuels creativity through passion, and that creative passion pushes people to new heights of success.
11. Following passions
Passion is key to success. If you’re not passionate about what you’re trying, why try it in the first place? Money, for one.
But money isn’t the perfect motivator. If it were, fewer people would hate their jobs. But in America alone, 70% of workers hate what they do.
Clearly, they’re not passionate about their work, which is incredible considering it’s what most people do for 8 hours each day — or roughly half the time they’re awake. But when people are passionate about what they do, they go the extra mile, they fight to succeed, and they don’t let up. Passion is the engine that drives success.
And without it, it’s hard to get very far.
Forgiveness isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s essential for people who want to succeed. That’s because, as we established earlier, people make mistakes. Successful people give others second chances, and sometimes even third or fourth.
But unsuccessful people get stymied in a swamp of grudges and frustration, even if it’s the first time someone has done something wrong. That’s not to say successful people don’t fire people or make enemies. In fact, the more successful you get, the more likely it is that you’ll have to make some difficult decisions.
Some of them may be forgiveness. Some of them may be punishment. But the important part to remember is that whatever someone does, you shouldn’t hold it against them or make it personal.
After all, they’re only human.
Everyone knows that happy people smile. But did you know smiling can literally make you happy? Smiling alone can impact your positivity and success.
Bosses like to see happy employees, employees like to see friendly bosses, and pretty much everyone appreciates a warm smile at some point throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you can’t frown when things go wrong, but successful people move past opposition, enjoy themselves, and appreciate what they do.
Now that we’ve nailed down the successful parts of someone’s personality, let’s continue our list with work-specific habits and behavior.
14. Shaking hands
In the western world, a firm handshake is the best way to start off any social or business interaction. Handshakes date back thousands of years — they’re even depicted on ancient Greek pottery. It’s thought that they originated as a way of showing someone you’re meeting for the first time that you’re not holding a weapon (at least in your dominant hand), so you could trust each other.
Today, handshakes aren’t literal life-and-death scenarios, but they’re still key to business and interpersonal relationships. It’s the way most of the western world formally say hello, goodbye, and congratulations — all in the same gesture. With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many professionals place a huge emphasis on a good, firm handshake.
15. Discussing ideas
Innovation is key to a successful company, especially if that company wants to keep its audience and stay relevant in the future. The best way to continually innovate is to listen to the ideas of your superiors, peers, and subordinates with equal concern. Not every idea you hear is going to be a winner — that’s expected.
But if you don’t want your company to fall to the wayside of your industry and lose customers, you’ll have to listen to what those around you are saying sometimes. People who don’t listen to the ideas of others are setting up their companies to fail in the long haul since they’re not thinking ahead. Every industry changes at some point, and you may have found an idea that works now, but it probably won’t in 10 years.
In other words, it’s important to listen to the ideas of those around you because they could save your company or even turn you into an industry superpower.
Learning is critical to succeeding long-term both personally and professionally. And just because you’re not in school anymore doesn’t mean you can stop learning, either. There’s a whole world of information out there, and the chances are high that something new is happening in your industry every day.
Whether you reading popular industry blogs or check out your favorite magazine online, learn something valuable each day to make sure you’re continually growing as a person and a professional. Those who stop learning immediately stagnate in terms of their knowledge and expertise. As a result, they’ll soon regress and become less relevant as time goes on.
The best way to make sure you don’t stagnate or regress is to keep learning.
17. Respecting opinions
Along the same lines of discussing ideas and learning, successful people also respect opinions from others. Those opinions don’t necessarily have to be new ideas or concepts — they can just be thoughts on the current state of your marketing strategy or how you could move in a positive new direction. Granted, it’s much easier to respect different opinions when people show that they respect yours first.
But even if someone doesn’t phrase their opinions in the best way, you can still seek that kernel of truth that spawned their thought process in the first place. The opposite of respecting opinions is directly attacking them, which means the moment you hear a dissenting opinion, you immediately scrap the idea. This kind of behavior is ultra-aggressive, and it can catch a lot of people off-guard if it happens quickly.
It can also easily turn into personal attacks, which always make situations worse. To avoid that kind of social or professional catastrophe, keep in mind that people form their opinions based on the evidence that they see around them. Even if they’re not worded well, their thoughts probably have some form of merit.
18. Creating to-do lists
To-do lists are simple, straightforward additions to your life that can create a world of difference in your overall success. To-do lists force you to write your thoughts into actionable or quantifiable terms. That makes it easier for you to lay out what you want to accomplish in a day and — as the day progresses — actually accomplish them.
Even if you make mental to-do lists instead of writing items down, you’re still ahead of the game compared to not planning at all. When you neglect to schedule, your day is essentially always open. That’s not bad from a standpoint of personal freedom, but it is bad from a standpoint of productivity.
Basically, if you want to get something done in a day, schedule it out so you can actually get it done. Otherwise, you risk forgetting about it or postponing it until the next day. In terms of productivity, it’s best to just bite the bullet, do what you need to do, and enjoy the fact that you got one more thing done.
19. Networking with others
Networking may not immediately sound important since it doesn’t directly produce results. But it’s actually essential to a growing career, especially if you’re looking to reach executive or C-level positions in your lifetime. Networking allows you to get face time with others in your office and outside it.
It can include attending office events, setting up a lunch meeting with a client, or even going out to happy hour with your peers. Regardless, networking flexes your social muscle and forges strong relationships with those around you. Even if you don’t click on a personal level with someone, you can still make sure they remember your name.
If you don’t network, you don’t meet the people around you, and that shuts you off from potential opportunities. Whether those opportunities are simply making a positive first impression, meeting your boss’s boss, or hearing that there’s an opening for your dream job, it all comes from networking. Plus, you can do this in as little as five hours per week.
So instead of watching two Lord of the Rings movies right after work, you could form valuable, positive connections with the people around you.
20. Working after work
Maybe it’s because of their work ethic or the way their brains are wired, but successful people don’t stop working when the clock hits 5:00. That doesn’t necessarily mean they work late — although they might do that, too. Instead, it means they have hobbies or interests that occupy their time outside of the workplace. Successful people have passions that they indulge on a regular basis.
It can be something as simple as writing a journal entry or as complex as building an addition to their house on their own. Regardless, they find a way to constructively spend most of their time. On the flip side, you have people who stop working as soon as they can.
Again, that doesn’t mean they don’t stay late or work an honest eight hours each day — it means that they don’t find constructive outlets for themselves. Instead, they may just look for entertainment, which is another factor we’ll cover later.
21. Working past retirement
Whether they found their dream job or just like having an established routine each day, successful people don’t consider retirement as frequently as others. Instead, they keep working, creating, and innovating. Just like how they indulge their passions after a workday, they also keep moving forward because they “get to” work.
On the other hand, you have people who can’t wait to retire. They’re eager to get out of their jobs and the workplace for one reason or another, and they eagerly look forward to the day where they don’t “have to” work. The difference between “get to” and “have to” is important.
It shows that the most successful people have found a job that suits them, and they’re grateful to work at it every day. The “have to” difference represents people who reluctantly or begrudgingly go into work. And when you consider that’s been their daily routine for years on end, it’s no wonder they can’t wait to retire!
Personal behavior is a huge indicator of whether someone has the attitude to become successful. That’s because so much of success rides on someone’s personal outlook, schedule, routine, and level of discipline. In fact, many existing CEOs credit personal habits and routines for their immense success.
These are a few common trends among all of them.
22. Waking up before work
When a CEO or other high-level member of a business starts their day, they get going while most people are still in bed. They may only get up an hour or two before everyone else, but starting their day before work allows them to center themselves and gather their thoughts before they head into work. But that kind of early-bird mentality doesn’t work for everyone, and the extra effort of starting the day early just doesn’t seem worthwhile all the time.
That’s why so many people get up just in time for work, which means their brains don’t really “switch on” until a few hours after they’ve started working. Waking up like that isn’t necessarily bad on its own — it still gets people to work on time — but it means people don’t get the time they need to wake up before they start working. And speaking of waking up early…
23. Eating breakfast
The old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is true for a lot of people, including ultra-successful ones. Breakfast is a time to gradually power on as you wake up, meaning you don’t have to jumpstart yourself every morning just to make the commute. Instead, you can calmly ease yourself into the day with good food, a little reading, and maybe a few emails.
The opposite is skipping breakfast. Skipping your first meal of the day doesn’t mean you’re automatically set up to fail, but it does make everything just a little bit harder. That includes your problem-solving abilities, cognitive processes, and even your weight.
In other words, breakfast really is important — more than most people may realize.
Exercise isn’t just a way to keep your body healthy — it’s also a great way to train your mind, establish a routine, and generally feel better about yourself. That’s probably why so many ultra-successful people exercise at least four times per week, or every other day. That trains the body enough to develop improvement with enough days off in the meantime to repair itself.
The opposite of exercise is, of course, not exercising. We could talk about the dangers of not exercising as they relate to health, but you’ve probably heard them all before. Instead, think about how they relate to your personal and professional lives.
Exercising puts you in a better mood, gives you more energy, and makes you feel more confident — and those are all major contributing factors to a positive work life. So if you’re looking to take your professional life to the next level, the best way might be to simply exercise.
25. Taking a break
When it comes to working day-to-day, successful people find time to take a break. That could be a lunch break, coffee break, or maybe just a lap around the office, but they find some time throughout the day to take their mind off of work and relax a little. But you also have people who prefer to work straight through lunch, which generally doesn’t give their bodies enough time to relax, de-stress, and recharge after a hard morning of work.
So if you’re someone who prefers to be in go-go-go mode when you’re at work, you may benefit from taking some time for yourself.
As we mentioned earlier, learning is a major part of establishing and continuing your success as a professional. And one of the best ways to learn is to read. Although reading doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your industry, it’s still a positive, engaging task that can help you relax while also stimulating your brain.
By not reading, you risk falling behind in your industry (as we mentioned before) and you lose a valuable moment to escape work, stress, and the demands of the real world. Even if you’re reading Moby Dick for the 50th time in your life, you can still engage your brain and positively impact your life with just half an hour of reading each day.
27. Sparingly watching entertainment
Entertainment is a great way to unwind after a stressful day at the office, but there are limits to how much entertainment you should enjoy in a given day. For the ultra-successful, that limit is one hour. These types of people find time to watch their favorite TV shows or movies, but they don’t let it become an entire evening.
Instead, they concentrate on productive endeavors — some of which we mentioned earlier — that continue to help them grow and positively impact their lives. The opposite of this is watching multiple hours of entertainment each day, which risks turning you into a “couch potato” instead of an active, progressive person. Again, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in pure entertainment every once in a while, but it doesn’t necessarily require your whole attention.
Turning on the television or shuffling through a playlist on Spotify makes great background noise to any other activities you’re doing, and it also lets you catch up on your favorite kind of entertainment. And when you do something like that, you can both entertain yourself and be productive at the same time.
One of the biggest differentiators of the ultra-successful is their stance on volunteering. Pretty much everyone you meet will agree that volunteering for nonprofits or charities is a positive use of your personal time. But how many people do you know who actually do that?
The answer may be at the top of your company’s chain of command. CEOs and other successful individuals may choose to volunteer for any number of reasons, but the results are always positive. Volunteering lets leaders give back to their communities, publicize their companies, meet with their workers on an equal level, and learn leadership skills that they might not have picked up in the workplace. Plus, it’s a great way to stay active and productive during non-work hours.
Non-volunteers don’t get any of the above benefits, and they could wind up looking bad compared to others who do volunteer. And since leadership positions are often ultra-competitive, appearances count when you want to succeed at high levels. In other words, volunteering may not pay financially — but it definitely pays professionally.
29. Encouraging others to volunteer
Along with volunteering, successful individuals often encourage others to volunteer. This is actually a leadership quality that’s essential to department heads and CEOs — rallying others around a cause with you at the helm. Surrounding yourself with a positive, willing workforce of like-minded people is a great way to get to know others and leave a lasting impression on them.
It also lets you make the most of your volunteering opportunities. After all, you’re not just there yourself — you brought your whole team with you!
The final trait that helps set successful people apart is their sleep schedule. Like we mentioned before, establishing a routine is important to success. And a huge part of that routine is your personal sleep schedule.
Some people may require more, and some may require less. The key is entering your restful REM cycle and getting the kind of sleep that makes you feel refreshed when you wake up. Granted, not everyone needs the same amount of sleep.
But getting too little sleep can actually create the same mental impairments as binge drinking. And when’s the last time you heard of someone climbing the corporate ladder when they were constantly drunk?
Are you leading your marketing team to success?
Every person at a company is valuable, and the higher you rise within a company, the more important it is that you take the necessary action to improve yourself and your department.
The WebFX team is made up of more than 450 subject matter experts in digital marketing, SEO, web design and web development, social media, and more. Together, they’ve helped WebFX’s clients earn more than $3 billion in revenue from the web — and that’s just in the past five years.@webfx
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