Six Traits of Extraordinary Achievers

In my work with entrepreneurs, athletes, business leaders and other highly successful people, I’ve noticed that extraordinary achievers often share common characteristics and traits. While the following list isn’t exhaustive, it highlights some of the key attributes of those who are among the very best at what they do. This is a list worth striving for in your own personal and professional development. Assess yourself to determine where growth opportunities exist.

1. They are masters of self.

The woman or man who becomes excellent and sustains that excellence throughout his or her life is first and foremost a master of self. She knows that nobody else can do for her what only she can do for herself. The motivated person takes responsibility for decisions, actions and motivation.

Beyond taking responsibility, the best become failure-proof. That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes or miss their goals from time to time. It does mean that they don’t allow setbacks to prevent them from trying again. They often use their setbacks to leap ahead. They learn from their mistakes and adjust their efforts accordingly. They are paragons of perseverance.

2. They are curious about many things.

Extraordinary achievers aren’t just “learned.” The best have learned how to learn. They understand the principles and techniques that enable them to learn whatever is important for their improvement and advancement. They live the motto of the late Cavett Robert who said school is never out for the professional.

More often than not the best learn the most important lessons after their formal education has ended. Some of the great achievers never had much formal education. All, however, have enrolled in the university of practical experience. This enables them to learn much more from the same experiences that others have but ignore. The best continue to perpetually expand their knowledge base and skill set.

3. They add value to what they do.

Highly successful people either create new value or they add value to the important work they do. They compete successfully by offering better ideas, products and/or services than their competitors. They do more than talk about “value-added”–they deliver on it.

The best are artists at taking ordinary job responsibilities, products and services and making them extraordinary. They are real-world alchemists who practice the art and science of value creation.

4. They build relationships rather than simply interacting.

The best use synergy with others to advantage. They understand that all results are created by and through interactions with others. As a result, they have become students of psychology. They understand that strong relationships create loyalty and are the basis of partnerships and teamwork. The best network to develop distribution channels for their talents and work well in partnerships with customers and teams of colleagues.

 They are also highly influential. They don’t just tell; they sell. Believing that your product, service or idea is so good that it doesn’t need to be sold is the height of arrogance.

They know that their ideas are competing for attention in the marketplace of ideas. They enlist the support and involvement of others through their passionate ability to persuade.

5. They create opportunities and embrace the change.

Resistance to change is the norm. Few initiate change for themselves or their organizations. But the best know the futility of resisting the inevitable and use change to their advantage. But they are not mastered by change. Instead, they are change masters. They make the most of changes that are necessary, and they pursue the changes that are profitable.

 Achievers don’t waste energy trying to put more time in their lives. They know this is impossible. Instead, they demonstrate that you can put more life in your time.

6. They are “Go-Givers.”

Money is important to many of the best, but more often than not, it is a means of keeping score. The best are those who leave a legacy and live by the service ethic. In the process, they find their material rewards are matched or exceeded by the meaning they create in the process. (My friends Bob Burg and John David Mann wrote a great little book entitled, The Go Giver.)

The best fulfill a passion for significance. They outlive themselves not by the results they’ve achieved, but by the way they’ve affected and touched others.

Whether formal leaders, entrepreneurs or employees, they have a profound impact on others because of the example they set. They inspire through their own efforts.


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