8 Behavioral Traits You Can Take to the Bank

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I don’t know you from a hole in the wall, but I bet I know something about you: You want to have a better life. Well, I want that for you too. Now that we have that common goal, what do you say we make it happen?

First, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, take your pick. Yes, I know you’ll choose the easy way, but before you do, there are two conditions: first, you’re absolutely committed to the goal we just talked about, and second, you understand that there is no easy way.

No, I’m not joking. If you can’t accept those two conditions, then you’re by definition choosing the hard way, and the hard way means you’re going to keep searching for easy solutions and banging your head against a wall until the clock runs out on you. Trust me when I tell you, that is the hard way. If that’s your choice, I can’t help you. Nobody can.

So, if you accept those two conditions, let me make this as easy on you as possible by explaining the behavioral traits that will lead you to a better life. I guarantee that they’ll help make you as successful over the long haul as you can possibly be. And since they’re behavioral, that means they’re all learnable and achievable.

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Work ethic.

This is hands-down the most important attribute of successful people. It means you care a great deal about your work. Whether you’re running a Fortune 500 company or flipping burgers at McDonald’s, you get the job done and do it right. You meet your commitments. Customers, bosses and coworkers know they can count on you.

Related: Is the Notion of a 'Good Work Ethic' Generationally Biased?


If you’re not driven to accomplish great things, you won’t, simple as that. If you’re not hungry for success, you will not be successful. If you have no thirst for genuine knowledge and understanding, you’re destined to live your life under a cloud of ignorance. And if you’re not chomping at the bit to make it on your own, definitely don’t quit your day job.


The biggest problem most people have these days is too many irons in the fire. You’ll never be successful at anything unless you focus on being the best at just one thing. The notion of having lots of little gigs or businesses is a recipe for financial disaster. Focus on one. Be successful at that. Then we’ll see.

Related: TOMS Founder: 'Focus on Your Passion. Nothing Else Matters.'


Bettering yourself in any way requires discipline. That goes as much for starting and running a business or climbing the corporate ladder as it does for learning new skills and excelling in school. It means consistently sacrificing instant gratification and short-term pleasures to achieve long-term goals. It means doing your work no matter what.


I was just reading Chris Sacca’s advice for getting rich: don’t spend your money. The billionaire early-investor in Twitter and Uber is absolutely right. Successful people rarely live beyond their means, especially before they make it big but oftentimes after, as well. Another tip: buying, using and accumulating stuff takes a lot of time. If you’re spending money, you’re not making money.

Related: Lifestyles of the Rich and Frugal: 7 Thrifty Millionaires and Billionaires


While it’s true that many executives and business leaders are not the most humble people on Earth (Mark Cuban and Larry Ellison, for example), they usually were when it counted. I’m not suggesting that they kowtowed to others or sacrificed their principles on their way up, but that they put the needs of the business and their customers ahead of their own egos. That’s the key.

Related: Want to Succeed? Stop Trying to Be Happy All the Time


Steve Jobs once said "I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.''

Perseverance is half the battle. If you’re not tenacious, you won’t survive the myriad hurdles and pitfalls over the years. I used to think a particular CEO did not have what it takes to make it, but a mutual friend disagreed, saying he has “stick-with-it-ness.” He was right. That CEO is now one of the richest men I’ve ever known.


If you don’t hold yourself accountable for your actions, nobody else is going to do it for you. Granted, bosses may put up with you for a while, but you’ll never advance in your career. If you want to have a better life, you’re going to have to accept responsibility for bigger things and deliver. And when you fail, you need to cop to it, learn from it, and do better next time.

Look, none of this is rocket science, folks. If you want to make something of yourself, that’s how you do it. Just remember, if you think you’re choosing the easy way, you’re actually choosing the hard way … and probably the impossible way.

For more on what it takes to be successful in today's highly competitive business world, get Steve’s new book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur, and check out his blog at stevetobak.com.