Success seems like an unobtainable goal. When you see someone like Jay-Z standing over a musical empire while you’re rapping in a Baskin Robbins parking lot, it’s easy to blame illuminati. The reality is you’re not on your grind like Hov. They make not walk the same path to success, but highly successful people take the same steps with the same beliefs.

1. They believe in creating their own opportunities

Opportunity never knocks. It never calls, and it never stays the night. If you want a seat at the table, you have to hunt down every opportunity yourself. You’re not entitled to anything.

When I started blogging, I did what everyone else does. I found a place to host it, and I wrote the best blog post I could. Just like every other blog, nobody read it – they had no reason to, and they couldn’t find it within the avalanche of blogs on the Internet even if they wanted to. Instead of waiting around, I started sending pitches to other blogs. I’m a professional blogger not because of the blogs I write, but because of the emails.

2. They believe it’s better to be best rather than first

If you watch the Hollywood version of success, you can easily get duped into thinking you have to be the first to hit the market in order to win. That’s true if you’re a reporter and want credit for breaking a story. Otherwise keep in mind Myspace predates Facebook.

The first person out the gate may get the competitive advantage and land early sales, but when the honeymoon phase is over, people want quality. So long as you focus on creating quality, you’ll always have something to offer.

3. They believe in serving others over themselves

Back in the 1970s when the U.S. started attacking the tobacco industry, Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds responded in two very different ways. R.J. Reynolds executives backed off their product – they didn’t believe in what they were selling. Phillip Morris executives, on the other hand, brazenly lit up in their board rooms and defended the benefits they provide to people.

I realize tobacco companies are a strange way to illustrate the point of serving others, but, regardless of your personal feelings about cigarettes, they exist and people want them. When the public backlash against the industry began, Philip Morris stood by their commitment to provide products to its customers while R.J. Reynolds backed off. Because of this, when you walk into any gas station, convenience store, smoke shop, or Walmart to buy cigarettes, Marlboro and the other Phillip Morris brands are much more prominent than Camels and the other R.J. Reynolds brands.

4. They believe quality is important

A truly successful person isn’t successful because of their position in life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor or a CEO – success is defined by how content you are with where you are. Kevin O’Leary will tell you success means being rich, while Gandhi successfully led a revolution and freed both India and Pakistan while living poor.

The quality of life you live isn’t defined by what you own or how high up the ladder you’ve climbed. It’s defined by your satisfaction with what you have. No matter where you are in your life, strive to create quality experiences for those around you.

5. They believe execution trumps ideas

Everyone has great ideas. There should be a website where people can socialize online – I just invented Facebook. It’d be cool if you could shop online – now I’ve invented Amazon. Lennon and McCartney’s best songs use a handful of basic chords. Those names didn’t rise to prominence because they thought of something no one else did.

They took action and accomplished something no one else did, and most of them continue doing so to this day. Ideas are important, but anyone can come up with ideas. Backing those thoughts with action is how you create success.

6. They believe respect is something you earn

The advice I’ve heard the most in my life – at home, in school, in the military, in corporate America – is that respect is something that’s earned. You’re not entitled to respect. You’re entitled to common courtesy and politeness, but you have to prove yourself worthy of peoples’ respect. It doesn’t come from a title; it comes from your daily actions and attitude. Respect everyone’s time, act ethically, and always follow through. People will respect that.

7. They believe in their place in history

A successful person knows their place and they’re comfortable with it. Whether or not you’ve made a blip in the history books they teach out of in school, you have your own history, a family history, and a history in your community. With time comes memory. People remember your actions in the past, and they judge you in the present based on them. If you understand your place in history, you’ll be prepared for successful results.

8. They believe quitting is the only failure

Last night I had a conversation with a friend of mine. We dated briefly a few years back. Although the timing wasn’t right, we remained friends. She knew me back when I started my whistleblower journey and is aware of some of the obstacles I’ve struggled with over the years. When we talked last night, she shared some words of wisdom. The phrase that’s stuck in my head at the moment is “keep swimming.”

Some people talk about treading water or keeping your head above, but that’s only enough to remain in the same spot. In order to actually reach your goal, you can’t tread water, you have to keep swimming. If I only kept my head above water, I’d be in the same place I was back then. While my struggle against the banks hasn’t gotten any easier, I’ve come so much further since then. I’ve made progress I can only see by looking back and forward, but it gives me the confidence to keep swimming.

9. They believe success is about more than money

Money does have its uses. While it may be the root of all evil, it’s also a resource that can be used to enact good change. If you define your worth by how much money you have, you’ve a ways to go before you’re as valuable as anyone on Forbes’ billionaire list. You’ll also never reach that billionaire list, because it takes a belief in your own value to reach that level. Which brings me to the final point.

10. They believe in themselves

Successful people think they’re successful – it’s what makes them successful. Perspective is everything in life, and the only way to reach success is to move with a successful perspective. You become what you think. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

Featured photo credit: Kaylene Mathews via ksmlifecoaching.com

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