Michael J Smith

Are The Differences Between Successful, Unsuccessful People Black And White?

I recently read an article about a postcard created by Petra Coach chief executive Andy Bailey. The postcard highlights 16 differences between successful people and unsuccessful people.

Some of the key differences, according to the postcard are that:

  1. Successful people read every day while unsuccessful people watch TV every day. Most people say that you don’t get anything out of TV that makes you more successful, while reading often teaches you about new subjects. I think this is an over-simplification. I think it depends more on WHAT you read or watch. If you watch documentaries or shows about stocks/finances, I think that can help you be learn new things which can help you become more successful. If you only read celebrity gossip blogs or trashy romance novels, you’re not really learning anything. So, it’s not watching TV vs. reading. It’s whether or not you’re learning.
  2. Successful people share ideas and information while unsuccessful people hoard them. Again, I think this is an over-simplification. I think whether or not sharing ideas will lead to success depends largely on the environment in which you work. If you work for a company that appreciates transparency and the flow of ideas, you’ll probably find success. If you work for a company where no one shares ideas, and people steal them, then you’re probably better off sharing them only with people you trust. (I’m not saying that this is a good environment to work in; I’m just saying that these types of places exist.) Personally, I like collaboration because it gives fresh perspectives, so I like to bounce my ideas off of people. But, I’m not naive enough to think that collaboration and sharing ideas is always valued or rewarded… unfortunately.
  3. Successful people make plans and set goals while unsuccessful people don’t. This is one of the few differences I completely agree with. If you don’t plan, you spend most of your time reacting to things. Planning and setting goals forces you to think about manageable steps to take to get to your goal. Without a goal or plan, you don’t make progress because you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there.
  4. Successful people take responsibility for their failures while unsuccessful people don’t. I agree with this statement, as well. I believe in being accountable, which also means that I believe that sometimes I make mistakes. I learned a long time ago that it is better to make a mistake, acknowledge it, and learn from it. When you blame others for your failures, it reflects poorly on you, whether or not the other person is actually to blame. In the event that I do get in trouble for someone else’s mistake, I’ll take the blame for not anticipating that the person would make that mistake. Then, I work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Usually that means helping the other person. (See the next difference.)
  5. Successful people want others to succeed while unsuccessful people want others to fail. I want the people around me to succeed because successful people feel motivated and driven. Successful people are reliable, so when I need to collaborate with them, I can expect that they’ll give 100% effort — or at least tell me when they can’t. I also like to work with successful people because it keeps the team dynamic good. When a team is successful, people pull for each other and help each other out. When a team is struggling, that’s where you find backstabbing and an every-man-for-himself mentality. Also, I like the people around me to be successful because I genuinely like them. I want them to be successful because I care about them.

All in all, I think that the postcard makes things a little too black and white. I think the habits or successful people vs. those of unsuccessful depends on the environment in which you work. I have worked places where collaboration and the flow of ideas is rewarded. I’ve also worked in places where people steal ideas and take credit they don’t deserve. In both environments, successful people were the ones who “played” to their environment.

There are places where the people that have the most success are the ones who take all the credit and blame others for their failures. It truly is unfortunate, but it’s also the reality in which we live.  I prefer to have most of the traits that are specified on the “successful” side of the postcard. But, I do realize that in some environments that means I won’t be successful. But, truth be told, I don’t want to be successful in those environments. Instead, I seek out environments that reward those traits because it is there that I know I will have success.


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