What does it mean to be successful in life?

Some people regard success as making a lot of money, being good at something, achieving a goal, leaving a legacy or being famous. Everybody has their own version of what it means to be successful.

Ultimately success is the ability to reach your goals and achieve your own purposes, thereby feeling important and worthy.

The secret of success is not one single thing. The “secret of success,” if there is one, is that success is brought about by a combination of smart habits, a tenacious spirit, and a whole lot of luck. Making a few conscious changes to your behavior and attitude could prove to be quite rewarding.

4 Secrets of Insanely Successful People

Here are four not-so-secret secrets of insanely successful people:

1. They have a vision

Successful people have the capacity to translate vision into reality. This means that success starts with answering a fundamental question, What do I really want?

Whether you call the answer to that question your mission statement, core values, brand identity or just your goals doesn’t really matter. You need to have a clear idea of what you want to do—professionally and personally—and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures.

Two of the most statistically significant factors that set the richest people apart from everyone else is that 81% of them maintain a to-do list and 80% focus on accomplishing a specific goal.

2. They are honest

Successful people tell the truth.This sounds so obvious that you might think it doesn’t even need to be said. But in a climate where the pressure to look good, perform well, eke out profits and win by any means necessary is constantly increasing, honesty is becoming a scarce commodity.

And yet, honesty pays.

A study, conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, found companies that “rated highly in the area of open communication” and encouraged honest feedback among their staff delivered a 10-year total shareholder return that was 270% more than other companies.

Taking responsibility for our mistakes and admitting when we’re wrong isn’t just relationally smart—it’s financially savvy.

3. They show gratitude

Without gratitude, you aren’t being mindful or totally thankful of the good things in life—and your perspective is probably skewed to the negative as a result. You might even have less motivation to go after more good things, if you aren’t grateful of the ones you already have.

We tend to think of gratitude as a spontaneous emotion, something that just happens to us in moments of triumph or success. In reality, though, gratitude is something we develop and just like all the other not-so-secret secrets on this list, it is something we choose, something we make a wide-eyed, premeditated, self-determined decision to experience.

How? By actively looking for reasons to be grateful and second, by simply saying, “thank you.”

When we look for reasons to be grateful—when we make that our intentional focus—we find them. On top of that, when we call attention to those reasons, we cultivate gratitude not only within ourselves but within our relationships and organizations.

4. They are adaptive

Success isn’t about avoiding failure. It’s about learning from failure.

Take Thomas Edison's famous quote about inventing the light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What differentiates the success stories from the failures is that the successful entrepreneurs had the foresight, the ability and the tools to discover which parts of their plans were working brilliantly and which were misguided, and adapt their strategies accordingly.

All this means is that instead of hiding from failure, insanely successful people anticipate and integrate failure into their lives in ways that transform it from an end into a means.

Here is what the self made billionaires have to say:

Richard Branson - Dream big

"Dreaming is one of humanity's greatest gifts; it champions aspiration, spurs innovation, leads to change, and propels the world forward," says Branson. "In a world without dreams there would be no art, no adventure, no moon landing, no female CEOs, and no civil rights. What a half-lived and tragic existence we would have."

"The benefits of dreaming far outweigh the perceived risks, because the value of dreaming isn't just measured by the outcome, but the inspiration that comes from the journey of achieving the dream."

Mark Zuckerberg - High risk, high reward

"One of the things I'm most proud of about Facebook is that we believe things can always be better, and we're willing to make big bets if we think it will help our community over the long term," writes the CEO. "News Feed has been one of the big bets we've made in the past 10 years that has shaped our community and the whole internet the most."

Richard Branson - Love the Journey

When Branson wrote about the closing of the Virgin American brand, he celebrated the process of building the airline: "This was the ride and love of a lifetime. I feel very lucky to have been on it with all of you."

Mark Zuckerberg: Apologize quickly when you mess up

After emotionally sensitive user content was removed by the Facebook content regulation algorithm, Zuckerberg apologized publicly.

"We've seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down," says Zuckerberg on his Facebook account. "This has been painful for me, because I often agree with those criticizing us that we're making mistakes."

Bill Gates: Seek out simple solutions

"The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity. To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps."

"Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring," Gates said. "If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual asks, 'How can I help?,' then we can get action and we can make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares, and that makes it hard for their caring to matter."

John Paul DeJoria: Launch a business in an industry driven by repeat customers

The co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Tequila is a billionaire now, but early on in his life, he was homeless and collecting cans for money.

His best advice for entrepreneurs is to build a business in an industry that doesn't require lots of persuading buyers. Instead, he seeks out products or services that will become part of a customer's routine.

"You don't want to be in the selling business," DeJoria says. Instead, you want to be in the reorder business, where "your product or service is so good, people want to reorder it or reuse it."

Richard Branson: Be yourself

Branson has four young grandchildren, three toddlers and one newborn, he says in a blog post. "I've been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and about the things that I want to teach them so that they live the best life possible," Branson says.

The Virgin founder and chairman says he keeps coming back to a quote from the children's book "Happy Birthday to You!" by Dr. Seuss: "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is You-er than You!"

Branson suffers from dyslexia. He has had to learn to embrace his uniqueness, rather than allow it to be an impediment. "Yourself is always the best version of you — and being yourself is among the best advice I have ever received," says Branson.

Bill Gates: Give back

"From those to whom much is given, much is expected.'"

Gates listened to his mother. He is one of the founding members of The Giving Pledge, through which wealthy individuals commit to donating more than half of their fortunes. He is also the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to lift children out of extreme poverty

Anthony Robbins

"You need to need success more than a drowning man needs air. When you need something this badly, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen." 

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