Success Personality

Success Personality

Is there a "success personality"-some winning combination of traits that leads almost inevitably to achievement? If so, exactly what is that secret success formula and can anyone cultivate it?

We recently focused in depth on success, probing the attitudes and traits of 1500 prominent people selected at random from Who's Who in America. The main criterion for inclusion in Who's Who is not wealth or social position, but current achievement in a given field. Our research pinpoints a number of traits that recur regularly among top achievers. Here are five of the most important:

Common Sense

This is this most prevalent quality possessed by our respondents. Seventy-nine percent award themselves a top score in this category. And 61 percent say that common sense was very important in contributing to their success.

To most, common sense means the ability to render sound, practical judgments on everyday affairs. To do this, one has to sweep aside extraneous ideas and get right to the core of what matters. A Texas oil and gas magnate puts it this way:" The key ability for success is simplifying. In conducting meetings and dealing with industry regulators, reducing a complex problem to the simplest terms is highly important,"

Is common sense a trait a person is born with, or can you do something to increase it? The oil man's answer is that common sense can definitely be developed. He attributes his to learning how to debate in school. Another way to increase your store of common sense is to observe it in others, learning from their and your own-mistake.

Knowing One's Field

After common sense, specialized knowledge in one's field is the second most common trait possessed by the respondents, with three-fourths giving themselves an A in this category.

Geologist Philip Oxley, former president of Tenneco Oil Exploration and Production Co. and now chairman of Tenneco Europe, attributes his success to having worked in the oil fields, by "sitting on wells and bird-dogging seismic crews, " he learned the tricks of the trade firsthand. "People, who are going to be good managers need to have a practical understanding of the crafts in their business," he says. Today his expertise earns him a six-figure salary.

On-the-job experience convinced people the importance of specialized knowledge. He says that "understanding why my equipment performs the way it does" is part of his success formula. A noteworthy point: he obtained his specialized knowledge through self-education and not through formal schooling.


Top achievers rely primarily on their own resources and abilities. Seventy-seven percent give themselves an A rating for this trait. Self-reliance is not how you feel or how good you are; rather, it's whether you have the gumption to take definitive action to get things moving in your life. In includes plain old willpower and the ability to get goals.

Two-thirds of the respondents say they've had clear goals for their lives and careers. And half of those we interviewed give themselves an A in willpower. Among other capabilities, willpower encompasses the ability to be a self-starter and to persevere after a project has begun.

General Intelligence

This is essential for outstanding achievement because it involves your natural ability to comprehend difficult concepts quickly and to analyze them clearly and incisively. At least that's the way our respondents see it-43 percent said it was a very important ingredient of their success, and another 52 present said it was fairly important.

Ability to Get Things Done

Nearly three-fourths of our high achievers rank themselves "very efficient" in accomplish tasks, and they agree that at least three important qualities have helped them to do so: organizational ability, good work habits and diligence.

A physics professor summarizes his success formula this way: "Sheer hard, tenacious work, with the ability to pace oneself." He admits working up to 100 hours a week.

Besides the five success personality listed here, there are other success personality too, and, of course, luck. But common sense, knowing your field, self-reliance, intelligence and the ability to get things done stand out. If you cultivate these traits, chances are you'll succeed. And you might even find yourself listed in Who's Who someday.

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