SelectOne Blog

10 Things Successful People Do


One of the great things about being in the Executive Search business is that we have the unique vantage point of working with many highly successful people. This applies to both customers and candidates spanning across different industries, skill-sets, and backgrounds that have interacted with us through the years.

We’ve identified common approaches taken, overwhelmingly, by the most successful people we interact with.

1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Doing things, the way they’ve always been done, and then just doing more of those things is rarely a recipe for a good outcome.  

Challenging the status quo, thinking critically about the world and how to solve problems in new ways leads to efficiency.

2. Take Calculated Risks

A wise man once told me that you can’t steal second base with your foot planted on first.  So very true.  

Clearly taking a lead from the bag with your eyes closed wouldn’t be wise.  So quantify and mitigate risks when possible, but don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. Be willing to go for it.

3. Understand the Value of a Network

Some of the most successful people I’ve met through the years have tremendous networking talent.   

Many of those I’d qualify in this camp aren’t going to 10 networking events a month; rather, they understand when they meet someone of high value and do a great job making a first impression and finding ways to add value to the other person.

4. Seek Balance

It’s difficult to truly do anything well without balance. Balance changes over time and is different for everyone to achieve.

But finding balance between professional, personal, family, fitness, leisure, and passions leads to fulfillment, which contributes to a more optimistic outlook.

5. Define Success

This can be many different things – having a vision for a business, setting career goals, personal aspirations – but it is such an important part of achieving success.

Of course, what one defines as success will be highly subjective.  

This doesn’t require hyper-specificity – keep it simple and make sure the daily actions you take make sense within the context of what you define to be a successful outcome.

6. Enjoy the Journey

Achieving any goal will provide only fleeting satisfaction if the journey can’t be enjoyed.

And, chances are, if the journey isn’t enjoyable, whatever things that need to be done along the way won’t be done with the passion and energy needed to get to the finish line.

7. Embrace Failure

People who’ve failed have tried. They got the bat off their shoulders.  

A colleague of mine told me once that if I made 10 decisions and tried to get 90% right, and he made 100 decisions in the same period and got 70% right, at the end I’d end up with 9 good decisions, and he’s end up with 70.  

As long as failures aren’t final (and most aren’t) embrace them as part of the path to success.

8. Have an Open Mind

Children are born with an innate desire to explore their world with an open mind. Watch a kid use their imagination while they play – truly anything is possible!

As adults, we tend to lose some (ok, maybe a lot) of this imagination and creativity over time.  We come to meetings expecting an outcome, or attempt to resolve conflicts thinking we know what the other party thinks.  

Open up to a world of possibilities by shedding preconceptions.

9. Read

This one is easy. In the age of information at our fingertips, reading an actual book seems so old fashioned!  But it’s liberating.  

Nurture your passion, be it personal or professional, with the knowledge obtained from a good book.  Many successful people explore others' successes, failures, ideas, processes, and more by reading one book or more per month.

10. Celebrate Success

When good things happen, successful people embrace the good vibes and share them with everyone who helped along the way.  

Celebrating success is especially important for teams.  High functioning teams tend to work hard, play hard, and what’s all that hard work for anyway if you can’t celebrate a win?!


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