8 Defining Traits That Made People Successful Throughout History

When people are described as born leaders, this is not meant to imply that they’ve always been destined to accomplish greatness. It simply means the personality traits which they’ve worked on to strengthen throughout their lives have created the possibility for them to become successful. We tend to think of people like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as if they were destined to become the people they are. Doing so discredits the hard work they put into their creations, and the dedication with which they live every waking moment of their lives. Successful people don’t just slip and fall backwards into a pile of money; they get there by exhibiting the following qualities:

See Also: Top 10 Habits Of Super Successful People

1. They're Competitive

Successful people never back down from a challenge. In fact, the more difficult an obstacle is, the more likely this type of person is to face it head on. When they’re told they can’t do something, their only response is: “Watch me.”


Obviously, to be considered a success, it means they have to be better than most, if not all, of their competitors. However, this doesn’t mean they define their success by how well they perform in comparison with others. Successful people understand the real competition is with themselves. The only person they truly strive to beat is the person they were yesterday. Usain Bolt, for example holds the record for fastest 100m run; in order to do that he had to break his own record. By focusing on being the best they can possibly be, they indirectly end up passing by the competition anyway.

2. They're Driven

Success obtained without effort is no success at all. If an obstacle is overcome with ease, it must not have been that big of a hurdle in the first place. Like I said, successful people tend to seek out the biggest and most difficult challenges in order to prove their worth not only to the world, but also to themselves. This driven nature is what brings out the entrepreneur and innovator in them.

In an interview with Tom Junod for Esquire, Mark Zuckerberg was asked what he would do if Facebook didn’t exist. His answer? "I’d build it.” At this point, most of us have forgotten that, as recently as fifteen years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. We’ve forgotten that it’s not some omnipotent being that just came into existence; Zuckerberg actually created it, and continues to maintain it each and every day.

The most successful people in the world have a vision, and are driven to make it a reality no matter how hard they have to work to do so.

3. They're Passionate

We tend to think of the most successful people in the world as larger than life. But it’s only because they make themselves appear that way whenever they’re being interviewed or are presenting something on a stage. Even famous introverts, like Steve Wozniak, find ways to make their presence felt. But it’s not by boasting or bragging about themselves. In fact, the most “larger than life” people in the world let their accomplishments speak for themselves. They might not truly be outgoing, but when they speak on the topics that they find most interesting, you’ll have a hard time getting them to quiet down.

This passion goes along with their drive to succeed: They know what they want, and they know how the world will benefit, and they’ll stop at nothing until their vision becomes a reality.

4. They're Grateful

Successful people know they’ve had incredible opportunities, and maybe a bit of luck that have helped them get to their current state. You see this all the time when famous or upcoming actors and actresses accept awards, but it’s something all successful people practice. They give all the credit to those who have helped them along the way, from family and friends to mentors and colleagues. Multimillionaire businessman Neil Patel has even dedicated a blog post to those he’s most thankful for-the ones who have helped him become the person he is today.

It’s also important to remember that money does not equal success. Those who are monetarily successful but fail to give credit where credit is due—taking all the glory for themselves—end up living a lonely, isolated life. By failing to share their success with the people who have helped them attain it, they lose the things in life that matter most.

5. They're Giving

Successful people aren’t hoarders. Like I said, they don’t take all the compliments for themselves; they share their accomplishments with their colleagues and supporters. But they also like to give back in other ways. Mark Cuban, who, for all intents and purposes, is a professional moneymaker, has donated millions of dollars to various charities. He understands the value of money is not in the amount he holds, but in what he can do with his money to help the world in a variety of ways. Successful people realize that their worth can only be counted by what they provide for others. Because of this they continue to provide products and services that help the general public, and in turn continue to grow professionally.

6. They're Collected

Many times, what separates a successful person from those who have failed to reach their goals is the way in which they react to adversity and stress. They understand that allowing themselves to become frazzled and frantic when things don’t go their way will only exacerbate the issue. When you panic, you tend to make rash decisions. And you definitely don’t perform at your highest capacity. Successful people know this, and so they take proper action to ensure they stay calm in the most stressful situations.

Successful businessmen, such as Russell Simmons, practice mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, on an almost daily basis. While they may be moving nonstop for most of their day, they usually take time—either at morning or at night—to quietly reflect on the events of their day. They use this time to decompress, to think about their successes and failures, and to prepare themselves for the following day. These deliberate calming sessions help recharge their minds and bodies, and allow them to deal with the stresses of life in a positive manner.

7. They're Real

I know it might be hard to believe, but even the richest and most successful people in the world are still actual people. While some become disillusioned by their wealth, many of the world’s most successful people stay true to their roots, and keep their eyes on the initial goals they set before hitting it big. Celebrities often play a large part in charitable organizations in order to help those who face detrimental conditions that may hold them back in life. By doing so, these people who are rich beyond our wildest dreams still manage to keep a realistic perspective. In fact, it’s when they lose touch with reality that they often falter and end up losing out, whether monetarily or personally. No matter how successful you become in your business, you should remember that overall success is more than just a number in your bank account.

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8. They're Responsible

Responsibility comes in two major ways: doing what’s expected of you, and shouldering the blame when you don’t perform to the best of your ability. Successful people know this, and act accordingly.

The most successful people in the world have never shrugged off a responsibility that was given to them. Rather, they see these obligations as a privilege. A lot of us tend to look at a laundry list of errands and tasks and think “Look at everything I need to do today.” People with a successful mindset will see the same list and say “Look at everything I get to do today!” They see responsibilities as opportunities to grow as a person, and will always seek these chances out rather than shy away from them.

Even the most successful people fail sometimes. However, they don’t see failing as something to be ashamed of. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Successful people see failure as an opportunity to learn something new, and to grow as a professional. If they were to just shrug off their failures and forget they ever even tried, they wouldn’t lean anything from the experience. Not only that, but if they tried to hide their failures, they’d be completely untrustworthy, and others would stop giving them opportunities to succeed in the first place.

See Also: 7 Rules Very Successful People Live By

My father always says, “The cream always rises to the top.” Being successful isn’t about striking it rich once and resting on your laurels for the rest of your life. It’s about creating a positive mindset that you carry with you each and every day throughout your life. You might not be the next Bill Gates, but by keeping success in mind at all times, you’ll live a happy and fulfilling life.