13 effective habits of highly successful people

by Jake Smolarek
A man spreading hands during sunset

Did you know that in many countries, 13 is considered a lucky number?

In a rather strange way, it is lucky for me as well. For 13 years of my life, I faced challenges and obstacles which made my life hard. Those 13 years helped me grow in strength and develop myself in ways that made me who I am today. 13 hard years gave me strength, experiences, and confidence to last a lifetime. At the start, I was an immigrant who had just entered the UK with £140 in my bank account. Now, I'm healthy, happy, have a job that fulfils me, and financially independent.

So, I guess 13 really is lucky for some! To pass on the luck and help you succeed, here are 13 habits that can help change your life.

1. Don't over complicate

Life is relatively simple. It's us who make life complicated. We follow our emotions; we listen to what other people say, and we worry about what they will think, we procrastinate. More often than not, taking a step back, looking at the problem with a clear head, and the advice of a few people you actually trust is enough to get things sorted. If you need an extra hand, ask a professional.

Successful people don't overthink and over complicate; they keep it simple and get things done. Avoid people who create drama and sit in judgement and just keep doing what you are doing. If what you're doing isn't working, the answer is simple: change something.

Life and success really are as simple as that. If it works, keep going. If not, change.

2. Ask the right questions

If you only change one habit, make it this one. Start asking more questions. Successful people always ask for things, even if they know the answer is going to be no. If you don't ask, you won't get it. Sometimes, people might surprise you and what you thought was a definite no is actually a yes.

Sometimes you might ask for a favour, for advice, help, or support. Sometimes you'll ask to learn something new. Being afraid to ask questions will hold you back from your full potential.

3. Pay the price

When it comes to success, it often comes with a price. Many things in life are free, but consistent success demands payment. Sometimes, this comes in the form of hard work, long hours, making economies, or giving up free time. I don't know a single successful person who achieved success without paying the price. Sometimes, it's only for a short while.

If you want to join the list of successful people, you have to face the price and accept it. This means typically putting in the work. You can't lose weight without exercising. You can't become a doctor without studying. And you can't have a successful relationship without sacrifice.

The sooner you start accepting this and paying the price, the sooner you'll get rewards.

4. Stay away from negative people

I'm sure you know someone who is completely draining. They may not go out of their way to bring you down, but their attitude is so harmful and toxic that being around them is hard work. You need to create some distance from them. I am not saying that you have to cut them off completely. Instead of seeing them every day, try seeing them once a week. Slowly reduce the time you spend with them and watch as your energy increases and your attitude improves.

You pick up the characteristics of the five people you spend the most time with. If just one of these people is always negative, you'll soon find yourself feeling the same way. Successful people stay successful because they avoid negative energy and make space for people who will positively impact their lives.

Choose the people you hang out with very carefully. Be selective, and know when to cut the BS. If you want to be successful, you need to surround yourself with successful people.

5. Do

In life, you have two options; do or do not. You either do something or don't. As Yoda from Star Wars would say, "there is no try." Successful people do things. If it doesn't go to plan, they do something else. They aren't afraid to make decisions and do it again. Lots of people who are scared to do something convince themselves that trying is better than nothing. Often, this means they start something believing they will fail, which means it's no surprise that they usually do fail.

Successful people don't generally try. They just do. If it goes wrong or doesn't get the desired result, they do something else. Fail forward. The failure becomes a lesson and part of the next action. Do not be afraid to make decisions. Life is all about going from one decision to another one. And the quicker you decide, the more progress you will make, and progress is what makes us happy. The more you do in life, the more you will learn. If you don't know what to do, the first step is not to worry. Do something; keep your momentum until the passion hits you. Then you'll hit the ground running.

6. Learn from your problems

Successful people do not run away from their problems. There is a saying that when the universe wants to send you a gift, it wraps it up in a problem. To get the gift, you have to unwrap it. The bigger the problem you are facing, the bigger the reward at the end.

If you run away from your problems, you'll never get to what's on the other side. Successful people are those who have faced their problems and are now enjoying success. You can't avoid your problems; you need to tackle them. In business, solving problems usually means more money: it's why entrepreneurs are always looking for problems to solve. Find your problem and start solving it instead of running away. You'll find success right around the corner.

7. Be prepared

It might sound obvious, but successful people are those who are better prepared. It's a fact of life that we get jealous. Once you're successful or starting to become successful, it's a sad fact that most people will be jealous and won't like you. The higher you climb, the more they want you to fall. Especially when you make mistakes. You need to be prepared for that. You need to be ready for curveballs, changes, surprises, and negativity because people will love to see you fail.

Being mentally prepared can be challenging, but if you are ready to achieve success, the last thing you want is to grasp it and then lose it because you weren't prepared. You need a healthy mindset. If you can't handle the truth that some people will dislike your success, then you need to prepare yourself.

If you struggle with this, you can prepare yourself by getting support. Surround yourself with people who will help you be prepared, from friends and colleagues to a life coach. There is this African proverb which says: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

8. Fail fast and often

There is nothing wrong with failing. The truth is a success is built on failures. I know I said earlier that you shouldn't try, you should do, and sometimes, the doing goes wrong. When you fail enough, you will succeed. People will call you lucky, but they won't know how many times you failed. Remember, you only have to succeed the last time.

The founder of IBM, Thomas J. Watson, was once asked by a journalist - how to be more successful. He replied: "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate." When you look at successful people, you do not see what they had to do and sacrifice to become successful. We only see the final results. The best NBA player of all-time, Michael Jordan, wasn't the tallest or the biggest player, but he didn't have an obsession with being the best. He said: "I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeeded."

What are you waiting for? Start failing.

9. Stop complaining

This one is tough. Complaining can help you feel so much better in the short term. And you won't wake up tomorrow and suddenly not complain anymore, but you should try to complain less. Successful people don't dwell on their failures long enough to complain. They move onto the next thing and keep their momentum.

If you miss an opportunity, don't complain about it, look for the next one. As Sir Richard Branson said, "Opportunities are like busses; there is always another one coming."

Worrying and complaining are like sitting in the rocking chair, you have something to do, but it is not changing anything.

10. Tell yourself off. Then love yourself

You are your own worst enemy. Do you remember the feeling you got when you got felt inspired to start something new? Whether it was a new business venture, a project, or a diet, there is so much excitement, determination, and motivation at the start. Then, over time, it fades away. It's easy to talk yourself out of doing something. It won't work; it's too hard, too complicated, too long. You have to have the courage to stop yourself from thinking these thoughts. Stand up to the little voice in your head and prevent it from getting carried away. You have to monitor your inner conversation carefully. How you talk to yourself in your head is crucial. You need to tell yourself off, and then you need to love yourself. It doesn't matter if you are not perfect or not there yet. Accept yourself as you are and keep going.

11. Don't make money your success

They always say money can't buy happiness. Truthfully, that's only half true. If you have nothing, a bit of money can go a long way to making you happy. Affording basics and not having to stress and live hand-to-mouth is definitely a source of happiness. But after a certain point, the old statement rings true. Money does not buy happiness. Most successful people have learnt that their success and happiness are not judged by their bank balance. According to scientists, this point is a salary of around £80,000 to £100,000 per year. After this point, money won't be your primary source of happiness. Success, becoming the best, hard work, a job you enjoy, feeling motivated, all these things will matter more than money.

However, for many people, reaching this stage is a dream. Financial independence is possible. You can be one of the people who have more success than money. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself. Reach financial independence and decide if money is the goal or success is. I bet you find them hand in hand.

12. Manage your time

You'll rarely find successful people wasting their time. Your time is limited so wasting time on things that won't drive you to success is time spent stopping you from succeeding. Often people feel overstressed, overworked, and like there aren't enough hours in the day. I promise there are enough hours in the day for you to become successful. After all, there was enough time for other people to become successful.

The key is learning to manage your time successfully. Time management is life management. Stop procrastinating and spending time perfecting menial tasks, which won't help you in the long run. You need to learn to delegate and where you should be spending your time and effort. While you're wasting time on social media, taking a break, or on something inconsequential, someone else is earning their own success. So, take a look at your day and work out where you can win more time to focus on the essential things.

13. Work smarter, not harder

You may not have heard of the Pareto principle, but I guarantee every successful person you look up to has heard of it. The idea is that 80% of your success will come from the final 20% of your effort. Think of a pyramid; the tip of the pyramid is your success. But it won't be a pyramid without a strong base. 80% of the work you do will build you a base, so that final push is when all your hard work pays off.

Successful people know that not every action gets direct results. When they work hard and see nothing in return, they don't give up; they know the success is coming. They pick the important things to focus on to get to that final bug success. You need to apply the same principle—work smarter to reach your last 20%, not harder.

Success comes in many forms. It's truly different for everyone. But when it comes to reaching goals and becoming successful, some things link successful people together. Their mindset, how they think, act, and fail. These are just some of the things I've noticed and practised during my time helping others reach their success. Whatever your goal, whatever your starting point, I can promise that changing your mindset to think like a successful person will help you transform your life and become a successful person. They always say, "fake it until you make it." By following these habits, you're sure to make it.

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