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5 success qualities

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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.

4. Intelligence is more than IQ. Intelligence is another one of the top personal qualities identified by the study. Intelligence seems to be a key requirement for success in any field. However, when they looked at this quality, the researchers found that intelligence was not necessarily measured in terms of test scores. Many of the most notable men and women alive today did poorly in school. They got low grades or no grades, and many of them did not completed university or even high school. Their intelligence was not reflected in their grades.

5. Become results-oriented. The last personal quality identified by the study was that of being results-oriented. This means accepting the task of achieving the results for which you are responsible. All highly respected men and women are recognized as being the kind of people who can get the job done, whatever it may be. They are invariably decisive, results-oriented people. They have a bias for action and a sense of urgency about their jobs. They have trained themselves to be extremely capable of doing whatever is required. Consequently, bigger and better jobs and responsibilities seem to flow to them. The world tends to step aside and make way for the person who knows what he or she is doing and knows where he or she is going.

To achieve the success you desire, get in tune with your best personal qualities. Identify the most important steps you can take toward your goals and then take those steps with a results-oriented focus. Nurture the qualities that lead to success, and success will find you.

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Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, which specializes in business training, and the author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement. For more information, go to


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