- Success isn’t just about money, power, and fame. Personal fulfillment and making an impact count for something, too.
- We collected a series of indicators that you’re going to be more successful than you think. Those include being open to failure and making time every day to learn.
- If even a few of these signs sound familiar to you, you’re making good progress.
We tend to underestimate ourselves. We look at CEOs, or people with billions of dollars in the bank, and see them as way more successful than we are.
But if you’re pursuing your passions, if you’re learning, and if you’re forging solid relationships, you’re probably on track to do great things.
Below, Business Insider has rounded up a series of signs — based on research and expert opinion — that you’re doing better at this thing called life than you’d be inclined to believe.
You’re always looking for a better way to do things
Are you stuck in the past — or hurtling toward the future?
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” John Sculley, a former Apple CEO and president of Pepsi, said throughout his career he’s always asked questions like, “Why is it done this way?” He said success is largely about to the willingness “to solve a problem in a way that’s never been solved before.”
The opposite trait — resistance to change — can stall your career, the same way it stalls big companies’ progress. That’s according to Scott Galloway, a clinical professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the founder of the digital intelligence firm L2, and the author of the new book “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”
In his book, Galloway writes: “Trying to resist this tide of change will drown you. Successful people in the digital age are those who go to work every day, not dreading the net change, but asking: ‘What if we did it this way?'”
You have a vision for the kind of life you want
Granted, that vision may evolve over time. But the point is not to take a job exclusively for the short-term benefits — like compensation.
As Nathaniel Koloc, former ReWork CEO, told The Harvard Business Review, instead of asking yourself, “What job do I want?” you should be asking yourself, “What life do I want?” And how does this gig fit into the broader picture?
Even if you only have a vision for the year ahead, career coach and former Googler Jenny Blake recommends asking yourself questions like, “What does my ideal average day look like?” and “What kinds of people do I want to be connected with or meeting?”
You’re using your ‘signature strengths’
Your signature strengths are simply the skills you’re uniquely good at.
As Eric Barker, author of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” previously told Business Insider, research suggests that “the more often you use those skills, the more you’re happier, you’re respected, you feel good about your job.” What’s more, “if you’re using those skills in your job, you’re going to achieve more.”
You’re open to failure
Galloway says the four major tech titans — Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon — are all open to occasional failure, if it means they’re trying something new. If you want to be successful in your own career, you should be the same way.
As Galloway previously told Business Insider, “If you are not in your own professional life and your professional career kind of wiping out and getting beaned in the face every once in a while, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
You’re willing to take calculated risks
You’d be hard pressed to find a successful person who hasn’t taken some amount of risk in their career.
Take Hearst executive Joanna Coles, for example. As a young newspaper reporter, Coles once burst in on a woman in a bathroom stall in an attempt to land a scoop. Later, she left her job as a foreign correspondent for the Times of London and took a job in magazine journalism — even though she was pregnant and didn’t have a visa that would allow her to say in New York.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the richest man in the world, has spoken often about how he decides which risks to pursue. In one interview, Bezos explained how he decided to found Amazon:
“I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that.
“But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day.”
You’re nice to people — even if they’re not your superiors
On another episode of “Success! How I Did It,” Coles described the importance of maintaining good relationships with your friends and colleagues. She said:
“The thing that I always try and say to young people starting out is your peer group is really the most important influence on your life because you are going to rise and fall together. And I have always got jobs through the loose ties of friendships and someone knowing someone who might know a job. And, you know, a group of you will start out together, and they sort of pull you with them.”
Her number-one life tip? “Don’t be an a–hole.”
You exhibit a ‘beginner’s mind’
That’s a concept from Zen Buddhism, and it describes constantly seeing the world anew, as if you didn’t know anything about it. It’s a big advantage in business.
The late Steve Jobs was a proponent of the beginner’s mind. As Jeff Yang wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2011, Jobs emphasized the need to develop a beginner’s mind in order to eschew the constraints that cause us to come up with old answers to difficult problems.
And Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told The Wall Street Journal: “I kind of try to let go of all the things that have ever happened so far in our industry, which is a lot of stuff, and just go, OK, what’s going to happen right now?”
You make time every day to learn
You should be allotting some of your time to reading or research — something that expands your horizons.
Beth Comstock, former vice chair of General Electric, recommends devoting 10% of every workday to these activities. In an interview with LinkedIn, Comstock shared some career advice:
“The first thing you have to say to people is: Make room for discovery. If I manage myself, I manage a team, I manage a division, there’s a certain amount of your budget, your time, your people that need to be focused on what’s next.
“And it could be 10% — you know for yourself. I think usually 10% is a pretty good way to think about it.
“Think about how you manage your own time. Can I spend 10% of my time a week reading, going to sites like Singularity, TED, talking to people, going to industry events, asking people: What trends are you seeing? What are you nervous about? What are you excited about?”
According to Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and the author of “Insight,” most people don’t know how others really see them. Those who have a more accurate picture of how they’re coming off tend to be more successful.
Eurich recommends finding one or two “loving critics,” or “people who will be honest with us while still having our best interests at heart.” Tap them regularly for insight into how you can perform better at work.
Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith goes so far as to say that what other people think of you matters even more than how you see yourself. In his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Goldsmith writes:
“If we can stop, listen, and think about what others are seeing in us, we have a great opportunity. We can compare the self that we want to be with the self that we are presenting to the rest of the world. We can then begin to make the real changes that are needed to close the gap between our stated values and our actual behavior.”
You show gratitude
Gratitude can benefit your relationships, your health, and your career.
Doug Conant is known for turning around Campbell’s Soup as its CEO. He’s also known for making gratitude a key leadership strategy: Throughout his career at Campbell’s, he sent more than 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes to staffers and clients.
Other famous and successful people have a daily gratitude practice. For example, John Paul DeJoria takes the first five minutes of the day to “be thankful for life.”
Self-compassion doesn’t make you weak or unambitious. Instead, scientists say it can make you more successful.
Research on self-compassion suggests that it has three components: engaging in a positive internal dialogue, understanding that everyone makes mistakes, and being aware of your thoughts and feelings without succumbing to them.
In “The Happiness Track,” Emma Seppala, science director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. recommends one strategy for practicing self-compassion: Treat yourself as you would treat a colleague or friend who has failed.
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