8-Things Highly Successful People Do!

I have had the luxury of working with very successful leaders who have mentored me over the years. These are highly driven people whom I admire and have taught me many valuable lessons.

Let me tell you about a few of these important lessons…

  1. They are fervid on integrity

Integrity is an over-used word, ubiquitous, in the business world and I’m not sure it’s well understood. Integrity is the adherence to moral and ethical principles; it’s about character and honesty. When I think of integrity, to me, it’s rather simple; “it’s doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Integrity comes from within but it’s also a learned behavioral skill. I also believe that there’s something much more to it, almost innate I think -kind of like, you either have it or you don’t.

  1. They commit to their goals

There are always going to be challenges and roadblocks to one’s goals. That’s to be expected, yet what I have witnessed is the sheer tenacity to not give up on their goals no matter what. Their persistence is remarkable, and in the end they achieve their goals. It’s what successful people do.

  1. Hard work is ingrained

I don’t know anyone who is immensely successful yet lazy. Hard work means there’s going to be some sacrifices in your life. Something’s going to give, yet the truth is that the road to success is rewarded through very hard work. I had a salesperson of mine once tell me that “if it were easy, everyone would do it…” Great success isn’t easy and it does not come about without hard work and paying your dues.

  1. They observe everything

We know how important it is to listen to others, but it’s just as important to observe and keen observation at that. Assessing a situation through detailed observation enables them to react much faster and often under difficult circumstances. They see possibilities everywhere and translate that into actionable items. Observation is ultimately a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of our own minds and decisions.

5. They have a vision

Not only do they have a clear vision, they believe wholeheartedly in that vision. They have unshakable confidence in themselves and in their vision and see to it that it becomes reality. More so, they see things that others don’t. They anticipate things that others don’t.

How’s your vision? Do you believe you can achieve your dreams?

Well they do, and they work like heck to achieve them.

  1. They seek out new experiences

Creativity in business and in your personal life and exposing oneself to new experiences is incredibly important. The same experience is going to lead to the same experience, more or less. Curiosity never really killed the cat; it just brought on a new experience that it learned from. The same holds true for intellectual curiosity and an openness to new ideas and a new way of doing things. They constantly learn and they constantly take on new experiences.

  1. They take risks

There is such a thing as foolish, stupid and not fully thought out risk-taking and then there is meaningful risk-taking; the kind of risk-taking with odds slightly in your favor. Risk taking is not a job for the timid, but hedging a bet on a positive outcome is part of successful leadership. All the facts may not be fully understood, but being afraid to make a mistake and not take that risk, might very well set you and your business backwards. Gary Cohn, CEO of Goldman Sachs said he was adamant about making mistakes and that it’s part of any successful leader’s job to make mistakes. It also seemed as if he’d fire those people in his organization that were not making mistakes, hence taking risks.

  1. They follow their true passions

They are intrinsically motivated from an internal desire. They don’t look for external reward or recognition. They get energized by being around other people, listening and learning from them and they drive that energy to everyone else around them. People stand up straight when they are present. They smile. They listen, they observe. It’s the passion and energy they are feeling from them and it’s very contagious.

Habits to incorporate into your life!

I am occasionally asked to speak to students from different universities. I try to convey the lessons I’ve learned over the course of my life, both personally and career wise.

Here are a few of them, in no particular order -rather candidly…

Be proactive – take charge of your life, no one is going to do it for you. There is only one person responsible for your life –that’s YOU.

Life is difficult; once you understand that, you can move on with it…

  • You come from a divorced family? – Too bad.
  • You feel you got a bad break in life? – Tough.
  • You have little money in your wallet? – Go earn it.
  • You feel your boss is hard on you? – Sorry, do your job to the best of your ability.

Life isn’t always fair. You’re going to have some bad breaks. You’ll be at a disadvantage from time to time. You’re going to have unlucky streaks. It’s your tenacity that counts, your perseverance.

“Own” your actions “Be Candid” – Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, talks about being candid all the time. It’s hugely important to be candid with not only other people, but with yourself. That doesn’t mean you say hurtful things to others, but by not being candid, that can be hurtful in the end.

Words really don’t count but your actions do. Tell the truth, always, even white lies aren’t good. By telling the truth you’ll find some people that won’t like to hear what you’re saying, but there is a personal relief knowing you’ve done the right thing in telling the truth.

Do what you say you’re going to do. Follow through and follow up –even on the little things. Never compromise honesty.

Some definitions of my own interpretation;

  • Integrity – is doing the right thing when no one is looking.
  • Respect – is when you demonstrate honor to others.
  • Kindness – going out of your way for someone just because…
  • Lastly, is Character – is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.



Begin with and end in mind – what is the outcome you are seeking? How are you going to get it?

  • Can you visualize the outcome?
  • Do you have a plan? Did you write it down?
  • Where do you want to be in ONE YEAR?
  • Where do you want to be in FIVE YEARS?
  • Where do you want to be in 10-YEARS?

Write it down on a yellow pad and pencil. Spell out details such as “financial goals, retirement goals, personal goals (do you want to go hang gliding?), get married, own a home, have kids? Store that letter in the top draw of your office desk. Read it every 6-months. Are you getting closer to your goals? If not, why not? Make the appropriate adjustments.

Important – develop ONE NEW AND SIGNIFICANT PROFICIENCY a year. Personal growth, continual education and measurable improvement is a must to succeed!

Things that come first;

  • Personal and mental health – without it you are no good to anyone. Take care of yourself.
  • Family
  • Career/Financial

Put First things first – attention to detail…! Stay organized, prioritize and know what’s important and what’s not.

Life is wickedly short. It may not seem that way now, but trust me, it goes by very fast.

Think Win/Win – life is about people, how are you going to make others feel good? How are you going to win your customers faith and loyalty – and keep it? The outcome for you and others (customer, friends, co-workers and family) must be a WIN/WIN –it’s not all about YOURESELF. Remember that.

  • Maintain a positive attitude. Negative attitudes, negative people are NEGATIVE to your own welfare.
  • Be sincere. No one likes a liar, exaggerator, arrogance.
  • EMPATHY! Put yourself in other’s shoes…understand their pain.
  • Be likable
  • Be friendly
  • SMILE!
  • Have fun…!

Important – “you are always on DISPLAY!” When someone first said that to me I thought that was brilliant.

Personal privacy, especially on-line, is a thing of the past. Would you want your boss to see your Facebook writings and pictures? Are you comfortable with that? Clean up your social media and your on-line reputation (Have you searched your own name on Google?)

What is on the web and associated with your name affects everything from your job offers, business opportunities and your credit score.

Your personal actions CAN and DO affect your work-life and career effectiveness. Bad judgment can cost you your reputation and career!

Seek to understand, then be understood – sharpen communication skills, writing skills, listen first, listen very well and then speak…listen some more!…

  • Ask questions when trying to understand someone.
  • Have the courage to make sure people understand YOU. Be crystal clear.
  • Solicit feedback from your co-workers, especially your boss. You’ve got to know not only what you’re doing right, but what you’re doing wrong. Ask for it, demand it. I cannot stress this point enough.
  • Put your cell phone down. There is no need to check every incoming e-mail and text incessantly, especially when you’re having a conversation with people. (I know it’s hard to do..!)

Synergize – create positive energy!

  • Synergy takes into account a WIN/WIN approach and the skill of empathetic communications; it creates a common bond, common goal with people and organizations.
  • VALUE the differences between people – create opportunities, seek to understand.
  • Take criticism and different viewpoints as a “gift” – learn from it, improve from it.

Sharpen the Saw – DAILY!

  • Take care of yourself, your body, exercise, eat right, sleep, limit drinking, mentally re-charge, religious/spirituality, take time for yourself.
  • Do something different today, and every day. Learn a new word daily (download the dictionary.com APP).
  • Try something new, see if you like it and see if it works for you.
  • Commit to write down specific “sharpen the saw” activities every week – a TO DO list…evaluate your own performance at the end of the week.

Every day good habits take awareness and hard work to get it right.

We know we’re not perfect, we know we are going to make mistakes. In fact, don’t be afraid to take some chances, perhaps have many mistakes and outright failures.

Without making mistakes, you’re simply not trying hard enough and stretching your abilities. I believe that.

Just avoid the catastrophic mistake and always understand the lesson learned after a failure. You’ll be ok.

Want to learn more habits to incorporate into your life? Buy my book and learn how to stretch yourself and grow as a leader.

“How am I doing” – Are you the leader you think you are…?

Are leaders fooling themselves?

Some leaders “think” they know how well they are doing, how great the business is being perceived by their employees and how much love and adoration they are getting from their co-workers.

They assume these thoughts because perhaps they don’t want to know the real truth. They’re afraid that their own opinion of things won’t match up to the actual reality and that would in essence, implicate them as a poor leader –so, they think the best of themselves.

However, where does the truth begin and where does it end when we try and evaluate ourselves as leaders?

Have you ever wondered how you are being perceived by your co-workers, managers, suppliers and customers? Do you “think” you know how they feel or are you making a lot of assumptions?

I think there is always some fear of being criticized or not well liked. Perhaps we turn a blind eye in understanding where our faults exist and are evident to others.

Are you afraid to know the truth?

How does one self-critique in terms of overall leadership qualities?

Is it on great financial results? Growth of the business, increased market share and so forth? Certainly these are critical measurements of successful leadership, but also, is it something much deeper and maybe less obvious to the leader?

I think perhaps it is; in fact, I’ve seen leaders make fantastic assumptions about themselves in terms of how they are being perceived by others and how they are treating the people they come in contact with. Being “well-liked” by your co-workers is great (not always completely possible), but being fair, well-respected and treating people with dignity is far better.

Remember the former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, when he used to ask people “how am I doing?” He was, in my opinion a great leader for being humble enough to ask that sort of question about himself. He was also irritable, opinionated, often rude and prone to yelling – qualities that I don’t think are worthy of great leadership.

He was quick with a quip or a putdown, and when he got excited or indignant – which was often – his voice became high-pitched. He dismissed his critics as “wackos,” feuded with Donald Trump (“piggy”) and fellow former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (“nasty man”), lambasted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and once reduced the head of the City Council to tears.

“You punch me, I punch back,” Koch once observed. “I do not believe it’s good for one’s self-respect to be a punching bag.”

Or, as he put it in “Mayor,” his best-selling autobiography: “I’m not the type to get ulcers. I give them.” (1)

I example Mr. Koch because growing up and watching him as Mayor of that great city was a learning experience in many ways. At the same time, his leadership behavior was often displayed what I now see as leadership faults.

Are you the kind of manager that “gives ulcers” to other people?

It turns out that both abusive and vicariously abusive supervision have similar impacts on employees, with both forms leading to more job frustration, a greater likelihood of coworkers abusing one another, and a greater lack of confidence in the company as a whole. “When vicarious abusive supervision is present employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly.” (2)

I observed where a person in a prominent leadership position fielded questions to his employees in a meeting where candid feedback was provided –and it wasn’t good feedback from the employees.

Stunned, this leader to his credit encouraged others to speak up, though I could see him become increasingly enraged. I did feel sorry for him as his face reddened with embarrassment and disbelief. My real feelings of sorry were short-lived however, as I felt for the employees that had to work under him for all those years.

Clearly, he had been doing things which his employees had held back telling him maybe because they feared repercussions or getting fired. I don’t know, but it was one hell of a wakeup call for this leader. He truly had no idea that his employees felt this way about him. He didn’t realize how badly his treatment of his employees affected their well-being and their performance.

Jack Welch calls these kinds of leaders, “jerks.”

Things eventually caught up to him and he was fired.

Take away points…

Get real with yourself

Do you get defensive when someone criticizes your leadership? I know I have in the past, and it’s not a good leadership trait. It becomes all too easy to justify actions; to become terse in your reply, to get super defensive and believe you are 100% correct –this sort of behavior shows how easily you can become unglued.

Instead, get to the heart of the matter as to what’s really being said. Stay calm. Chances are you already know why people are saying the things they are but are you really listening and accepting of the criticism in a constructive manner –and, what are you personally going to change in your behavior?

Use criticism as a means for improving

Simply, take the criticism as a blessing. Get to the heart of the matter as to why people are making the critique and often what you’ll find is that its people who are feeling left out, feeling powerless to initiate change and to think for themselves. They feel constricted to develop solutions and so they express discontent, and the leader is the target.

THINK about the criticism being levied because while it might be upsetting to you and taken as a personal attack, there most likely is some truth in what others are expressing. Listen attentively to the criticism however harsh it may be. That’s the part that takes guts.

There will always be mean and hurtful criticism that is not warranted. Let it go. Take it in stride and get on with what you need to be doing.

Set the example

When I observe leaders receive criticism the most impressive quality to me is their initial silence. Why silence?

It shows me the leader is absorbing the information. It shows me consideration for what is being said and that in itself demonstrates respect to the other person. Allow others to see your sincere demeanor while demonstrating your ability to listen and learn.

That sets the example. That’s leadership.

  1. Ed Koch” – Huffington Post, New York, 2015
  2. “The Dark Side of Leadership” – FORBES Business, February 2013