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What do highly successful people have in common? It’s not their logos, gadgets, systems, scripts or tweets. While all of these are helpful, reaching the pinnacle of your profession doesn’t come from outside. It springs from within.

After twenty years of working with organizations around the world, I can tell you with conviction: great performers start their success on the inside. They don’t reach their goals because they suddenly discover a secret formula, technology or trainer. I know as many top performers who use a pen as use Twitter. Some have elaborate systems, technologies, assistants and budgets; just as many achieve with more mundane materials. Certainly, the right tools, systems and skills can help. But one thing I’ve learned over and over: Even when you give someone the best technology, training and techniques, you don’t necessarily make them successful.

Because success starts on the inside.

Many years ago, I learned (and taught) a method of selling called Integrity Selling; It’s a brilliant but simple system that focuses on our belief systems first. Before it teaches sales techniques, it asks salespeople to take a look at their core values. To improve their performance selling, they had to improve their  inner strengths first. But the same holds true for any person, in any endeavor. Which is why highly successful people often have the same things in common, on the inside, wherever we go. They include:

  • Goal Clarity. Great achievers know why they work hard, not just how to do it. They have clear, measurable and written goals for every aspect of their lives: personal, physical, spiritual and professional. They go beyond a business plan. They work on their entire selves, every day. Through their work, they achieve various rewards, financial goals, personal improvement and contributions to their family and lives. Their professional success is just one element of a much bigger momentum in their lives.
  • Drive. High performers are driven. We hear this all the time, but often wonder why are some of us are more driven than others. It’s simple: Having clear goals releases your inner drive. When you see the goals, which you deeply desire and believe you deserve, your energy will be inexhaustible to achieve them. The reverse is true: Without goals in mind, you can show up late, work half-heartedly, procrastinate, avoid unpleasant activities, and generally not give your all. At work, at home, in society.
  • Emotional Intelligence. Most people value intelligence, like “IQ” scores. We go to school to try to “improve” our intelligence for years. But equally important to success is our emotional intelligence, our ability to manage how emotions affect performance. Successful people are aware of their feelings’ impact upon their performance. They learn to channel their  to accomplish important activities (especially the blood, sweat and tears kinds). They also learn to manage their emotions so they don’t interfere with achieving the best outcomes. High performing people understand the “bridge/breaker” role of their emotions to close the knowing-doing gap between where they are today, and where they want to go.
  • Social Savvy. Successful people aren’t necessarily outgoing or gregarious. They don’t talk others into the deal, or their way of thinking. Many are great.  Some are reserved, even shy (think: George Washington). But all have learned to adjust their personal behavior to different people and situations.  It doesn’t mean they are faking it; but it does mean they adjust their communications and interpersonal behavior styles to best reach each individual they meet. They lead others by learning to interact with them in a way that permits a mutual exchange of value. Not a victory of one personality over another.
  • Curiosity.  Top performers are curious. They are interested in trends, new ways of creating value, interesting ideas and emerging technologies. They are willing to listen – not necessarily adopt – and explore opportunities. In fact, high achieving people learn to be more curious over time. Being curious helps them adapt to change, try different techniques, and most importantly, keep their minds open habitually. A healthy sense of curiosity protects them from accepting defeats and drives them to seek pathways around obstacles.
There have been a great variety of successful people in history, each with their own style, personality, vision and contribution. Some have changed the lives of millions, others have left their impact on a personal few. But no matter what the scale of their achievements, we see these five traits repeatedly in their journeys. Wherever they started financially, socially, technologically or intellectually, it was the degree to which developed these traits that mattered the most. Each of us can choose to develop them, too, in our lives, wherever we are, whatever we hope to achieve.


They are free. It’s up to us. Success is always so close: Because it’s always within.