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In this article, I’m going to discuss some of what I’ve learned about the habits of successful people. My family of origin taught me self-reliance, but I had to learn success elsewhere. A Google search will turn up a great many lists, but this list courtesy of Investor’s Business Daily is my favorite. The bullet points are theirs, the commentaries are mine. Please enjoy!
1) How you think is everything. Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of negative environments.
There’s a saying: as within, so without, and I’ve found this to be true in my life. The company I keep is extremely important to me, so I ask myself: is the person I’m with supportive, helping me discover ways to navigate my challenges?
Or are they constantly telling me to do the opposite and why things cannot be done? If the latter, then I tune out and let them go. I always try to keep a positive mind and think in terms of success. As Investor’s Business Daily has pointed out, successful people watch how they think.
2) Decide upon your true dreams and goals. Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
Do you remember the list-making exercise I discussed in my article on keeping a positive mind? I found that worked well here. Successful people make lists.
3) Take action. Goals are nothing without action. Don’t be afraid to get started. Just do it.
The aforementioned list included action items, which I checked off as completed. And yes, just get going! There are always reasons not to do something. I refuse to allow those reasons to paralyze me into inaction and, therefore, failure.
4) Never stop learning. Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills.
I’ve found life to be an exercise in skills acquisition. In fact, my old mycology professor would be laughing his guts out seeing my home mushroom cultivation operation! I wasn’t a huge fan of eating mushrooms back then. I’ve changed my mind, however, finding that some of them are actually pretty good! Even my misery at having to take chemistry twice in order to pass wasn’t wasted.
Not only have I made money indexing kid’s books on chemistry, but I’m also able to understand the warning to not re-sterilize my agar media lest I hydrolyze the agar, thus rendering it useless. I’ve taken many classes to improve my skills in freelance indexing, including running the business end. I’ve taken classes to improve my gardening skills, and now I teach others to grow their own food.
I’m considering learning ham radio and looking pretty hard at Aden’s books to help. One never knows where a new skill will lead, but acquiring that skill may be what’s feeding you one day! So always keep learning.
5) Be persistent and work hard. Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.
I’ve found that nothing comes overnight. It took me three years before my freelance indexing business would even support me, let alone pay for the house I now own outright. A few extra bucks in the bank doesn’t bother me much, either! Between book indexing and teaching others to grow their own food, including mushrooms, I’m doing OK. But it took time and lots of effort.
6) Learn to analyze details. Get all the facts and all the input. Learn from your mistakes.
Oh my, have I made a few mistakes! Whether it was accepting a job I never should have accepted (and losing the client), forgetting to clean the pump in my tabletop hydroponics unit, or planting tomatoes next to kohlrabis, I’ve made a few doozies.
And I’ve learned from every one of them! Don’t let your mistakes stop you. Let your mistakes TEACH you. Then you’ll be unstoppable! Also, remember: the deal of the century comes by about once per week. Read the details carefully before diving in on the sales pitch. You’ll be glad you did!
7) Focus your time and money. Don’t let other people or things distract you.
A common misconception of the self-employed, especially the work-at-home crowd, is that we can work anytime we want. Therefore we have time for hours-long phone calls from old friends, an impromptu lunch with a neighbor, or watching the kids for a while. This is untrue.
I have to be in my office during work hours (which hopefully coincide with my client’s work hours) in case they send offers of future work, or should I need to contact them. I found I had to set firm boundaries and focus my time in order to get the job done. Nothing gets the job done like applying my butt to my chair and working! The same thing applies to my money. Does the business need something more than I need that cool new game? Have I contributed to my retirement funds before eating out? These things matter and will make a huge difference in the long run.
8) Don’t be afraid to innovate, be different. Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
I can’t tell you how many times I was told to forget about this strange, foreign thing called book indexing and just go get a job! This weird thing would never support me, they said. Well, twenty-one years later, my little innovation has given me a decent life and positioned me well to endure uncertain times. Some of the naysayers have been laid off, or worse. Follow your heart and your passion.
9) Deal and communicate with people effectively. No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.
I admit I’m still working on this one, but I do work at it. We’re all in this together, and understanding is better than fighting and making bad feelings all around. I’ve never forgotten the immortal words of Duke Leto Atreides, paraphrased: the Universe runs on self-interest, not altruism.
Since I make money by solving my client’s problems, I ask them if there’s anything I can help with. I support them when the author comes back with concerns and revisions. And just because the author makes comments I could’ve lived without reading doesn’t mean I’m obligated to respond in kind.
10) Be honest and dependable; take responsibility. Otherwise, numbers 1-9 won’t matter.
I cannot overstate the importance of this one. When an author has concerns about my work or has revisions, I make them. While I might quote chapter and verse from the style guide to support my original decisions, ultimately, I defer to the author’s wishes. My client appreciates the support and the manner in which I give it and sends me more work as a result. They know I’m honest, and they can depend on me, and this makes all of the difference.
This is what successful people do.
Do you have a favorite list of rules for success? Are there other things you’ve noticed about successful people? Do you have experiences where these rules helped you? Tell us in the comments below!
About Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010.