In the mid-1980s, Gallup conducted one of the most extensive surveys ever conducted into the personal attributes that lead people toward success. They selected 1,500 men and women whose names had appeared in the American Who’s Who, a register of noteworthy individuals. Among them were Nobel Prize winners, university presidents, heads of Fortune 500 corporations, inventors, entrepreneurs and even a high-school football coach.
After many months of research, Gallup was able to isolate the personal qualities most important for success. Here are the top five:
1. Common sense. The first and most important of the personal qualities needed for success is common sense. Common sense was defined by survey participants as the “ability to cut to the core of a matter, to recognize and deal with the essential elements of a problem or a situation, rather than getting sidetracked by smaller issues or symptoms.” Another definition of common sense was “the ability to learn from experience and then to apply those lessons to subsequent experiences.” Common sense was seen as the basis of all the other personal qualities that enable a person to become increasingly more effective over time.
2. Be good at what you do. The second personal quality needed for success is expertise. Most successful people are very good at what they do, and they know they are very good. They have learned and practiced and reflected and gotten better and better until they are recognized by their peers as being among the very best in their fields. This quality of being the best is an absolute prerequisite for achieving success.
3. Self-reliance. Another one of the personal qualities identified in the study was that of self-reliance. Men and women who are respected by others tend to look primarily to themselves for the answers to their questions and for the solutions to their problems. They do not blame others or make excuses when things go wrong. They regard themselves as the primary creative forces in their own lives. They volunteer for tough assignments, and they are willing to take charge when something needs to be done.