I’ve been sitting on an answer to this question for a long time. It’s one of the most asked questions in recent history. When you google “habits of successful people,” you get 3.6 million results, and it feels like they’re 3.6 million different ones.
I mean look at this:
7 habits here, 9 there, throw these 10 on top, here’s another 50, can’t forget those 12 and oh, here’s another 18, just to be safe.
Infographics don’t help either:
Isn’t part of handling problems well not to meddle too much in other peoples’? How can I accept responsibility for their problems if I want them to succeed? Aren’t the right people those that I don’t have to forgive all the time?
This doesn’t make any sense! I’m sure you can see my struggle with coming up with a good answer to this question. The more I think about it…
…the more controversial ones come to mind.
Not caring about opinions.
Sam Walton was robbing around the floor of a retail store on a business trip in Brazil to measure the width between the aisles and see if those guys knew something he didn’t. He was thrown in jail and had to be bailed out. Seth Godin stopped reading his Amazon reviews.
Caring a lot about opinions.
Amanda Palmer stood in a square dressed as a bride every day for months, smiling at everyone who walked by. Google asks every one of their users for feedback, all the time. Wordpress releases new features daily, and if one breaks, they wait to see if people complain before fixing them.
Noah Kagan has reverse engineered every one of his 7-figure businesses. $1mm in revenue, $300 per sale, 3,333 units. He even put it on a dashboard for everyone to see. Jack Ma focused on getting one billion customers for Alibaba.
Setting no goals.
Richard Branson’s first visit to Necker Island was a complete ruse to impress his future wife. He had no intent to buy it (at first) and was thrown off the island. When his return flight was cancelled, he started Virgin Atlantic. James Altucher sets themes instead of goals. HP’s first product was an indicator for bowling alleys, American Express originally transported mail and the founders of Sony founded first, then brainstormed ideas.
Reading a lot.
Bill Gates has said libraries had a big impact on him, even as a kid, and in early Microsoft years he’d take reading retreats. Elon Musk read two books per day as a kid. Warren Buffett spends 4–6 hours reading each day.
Reading nothing at all.
Gary Vaynerchuk claims to have written more books than he’s read (4). We only know of one book Steve Jobs claimed had influenced him: The Innovator’s Dilemma. Kanye doesn’t read, even though his main job is writing clever lines.
Jack Dorsey, Martha Stewart, Mozart, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Voltaire, all routinely only got 4–6 hours of sleep. That means they had more time to do stuff. An extra hour or two of work each day go a long way.
Kim Kardashian is the embodiment of networking success. Heck, we’ve even got a word for people who are known only for their networking skills: “socialite.” Knowing the right person at the right time is invaluable.
Picasso has created about 50,000 pieces of artwork in his life. John Grisham has written a page a day for about 20 years. Nick D’Aloisio built apps at home for a couple years. One was bought by Yahoo! for $30 million. They just sat down and did their work.
J.K. Rowling was turned down by over 10 publishers before Harry Potter was accepted. Andrea Bocelli played the piano at bars until he was 33 years old. J. R. R. Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings when he was 63 years old.
James Altucher started over 20 businesses. 18 failed and he shut them down again. Edison threw 1000s of experiments into the trash. Marylin Monroe quit being a pin-up to be a model and quit being a model to be an actress.
How can this be? These are all polar opposites, yet they all work. Why is that? There is one simple reason.
There is no such thing as the one set of habits of successful people.
If anything, successful people gravitate towards the extreme ends of these spectrums — or even pull from both sides, depending on the situation.
In the end, there’s only one thing successful people share:
They know who they are.
They know how they work, why they work, what makes them tick, how they perform best and what they can do long enough to win. And that will be entirely different for every single successful person you know.