The Only Difference between People Who Are Successful and People Who Aren’t

Thanks for being here! I’m excited to share perspectives that could empower and motivate you on your life’s journey. 


Our concept of success varies widely, influenced by our education, reading, culture, age, gender, and goals. Numerous articles outline the traits of successful individuals, with some characteristics commonly agreed upon while others differ. As a consequence, searching for definite, optimal traits of successful people can lead to extensive lists and an overwhelming experience.

For example, Walden University cites passion, optimism, persistence, creativity, self-discipline, a desire to improve, and a commitment to learning as the essential qualities of successful people. 

UWorld, a corporation that teaches Certified Public Accountants how to pass their exams, lists ten traits of successful people: ambition, patience, persistence, integrity, compassion, optimism, communication, confidence, humility, and creativity. 

In an article dated November 6, 2020, Forbes Coaches Council presented 15 Traits of Successful People That All Business Leaders Should Cultivate. Perseverance, Emotional Intelligence, Adaptability, Discipline, and Curiosity are among them. 

You and I could spend considerable time researching the traits or attributes that successful people need to possess. We’d probably devise a list that puts success out of reach for most of us. For example, we can look at the life of someone like Oprah Winfrey, who is known for her self-discipline, desire to improve, and commitment to learning. We can also ask ourselves, “What’s Oprah’s ‘secret sauce’?” What has really made her successful?

Think of someone you consider successful in what they’ve done. What characteristics of success do they embody? Make a list of these traits. Do these qualities seem out of reach for you? Well, if they do, keep reading and you might discover something straightforward that occurs for successful people.

The Basic Truth About Success

As many of you know, I’ve worked with people for over 50 years, first as a licensed clinical psychologist and then as a Master Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation. Along this journey, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing numerous success stories. These are not just stories of people with extraordinary talents or resources but of individuals who, like you and me, had dreams and aspirations. This is what I discovered about successful people:

The only difference between people who are successful and people who aren’t is that people who are successful are successful, and people who aren’t aren’t! 

People who are successful are no more intelligent, creative, or visionary than those who aren’t successful. They are not luckier. They haven’t been born under a unique astrological sign. Most of the time, they don’t have any special education or training.

What is their “secret sauce,” you might ask. It is this: they take action!

Successful people don’t keep their ideas, goals, and dreams locked up until “someday” or “one day ” when they “have the time.”  They realize this one truth that guides everyone’s life: the only energy  we have in common with everyone else alive is the energy of “time.” Each day, when we awaken, we have the same amount of time in our life’s “Bank Account” to be withdrawn and used however we choose. It’s in our hands to make the most of it.

Successful people have an ancillary trait: they have said “Yes” to their ideas, dreams, or visions. In other words, even as you’re reading this, you know, deep in your heart, that there’s an idea or goal that’s been hanging around, just waiting for you to recognize it—just hanging out there until you say “Yes” to it. I mean, that’s why you’re reading this article right now, isn’t it? 

So, take a moment to reflect on your own experiences. What are the ideas or goals that you’ve been putting off? Are you willing to say “Yes” to one of them now? Have you had enough of putting  it off until that imaginary “later?”

Now, ask yourself the following question: what idea, dream, or vision am I willing to say “Yes” to? What calls out to me for attention? Write it down! Right now! Don’t put it off until “later.” There is really no such thing as “later.” There is only the present. 

Next, read the following quote to yourself slowly with the intention of seeing something that calls out to you:

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have believed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

W.H. Murray
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

This quote is a powerful reminder that when we commit to our goals and take action, we open a doorway to Possibilities and a sense of Purpose and Promise. Call it the “Three P’s!” In many respects, it’s equivalent to permitting yourself to focus on innovative or creative ways to accomplish what you’d love to accomplish regarding that goal or dream. 

How do we commit to something? By being willing to say “yes” to it.

For example, look at what you wrote before you read that W.H. Murray quote. Remember? Now, on a 3×5 card, write the following:

“I am willing to say ‘yes’ to the following (idea, dream, or vision): “

I hope you’ve read some of my other articles where I talk more about Being Willing. In short:

  • You can be willing to do something you don’t know how to do.
  • You can be willing to do something you’re afraid to do.
  • You can be willing to do something you think you’ll fail to do.

Being Willing puts you above the fray of your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, states of mind, and points of view. It comes from deep within you, this declaration of “I am willing.”  

Next, promise one small, sweet step you will do, one small, sweet action you’ll take within the next 48 hours, that reflects your commitment to taking action! Then, promise another action you’ll take and then another action. Bit by bit, step by step, you are demonstrating what it is to Be Successful! Try it out for the next thirty days! Leave your comments on my LinkedIn page. I’d love to hear from you.

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