A lot of people think that high achievers, those who become wildly successful, just had that special “something”.
But this is never the case. There’s no magic ingredient that makes someone naturally better than another. That is, not unless you consider hard work magic.
Sure, some of us are carved seemingly at birth with natural talents that make us more ideally suited for certain roles, whether to be an entrepreneur, an artist, or other. However, you can always distill down the elements that most largely contributed to their success and develop them yourself (and we always have our own unique set of talents within this pool).
So, the question is then, what are some of those skills and abilities?
Most achievers I know are people who have made a strong and deep dedication to pursuing a particular goal. That dedication took a tremendous amount of effort.
– Donald Johanson
There are a ton of useful skills I’ve seen high achievers of different crafts and professions make use of, but certain skills and abilities stand out more than others. These are five such qualities, all which you can develop within yourself:
1. Relentless dedication to high standards
High achievers tend to hold themselves to a much higher standard than the average person. This is rooted in a fundamental belief in themselves and driven by a grand vision and sincere passion for what they’re doing.
It’s common for high achievers to have a very competitive nature and this helps drive this dedication to a higher standard. However, a competitive nature isn’t the critical aspect of this – holding yourself to a high standard is.
Ultimately, while comparing ourselves to others can help push us to greater heights, it’s also fragile because it depends on the people around you. To realize your true potential you need to get good at pushing yourself to get better whether someone is there to push or incite you or not.
You’ll see this theme repeated, but high achievers are self-starters; they’re self-motivated to improve at their craft because the source of their desire to get better comes from a personal desire to do so, not a fear of losing or from caring what others will think of you.
Side note: Be careful not to cross over from being hard on yourself to beating yourself up. There’s a fine line between the two states, but they lead to different results altogether. An effective way to tell the difference is to practice mindfulness meditation. It will help you identify your negative self-talk over time.
2. A developed perspective & understanding of the basic components of their craft
High achievers develop a very keen sense of perspective that almost makes them seem like seers at least as it pertains to and connects with their own craft.
This skill in particular is often attributed to a natural sense of vision and foresight. However, of all the skills on this list, it’s the one which most thoroughly must be developed through sheer hard work.
Just like people and businesses seem to explode overnight — when in reality they had been working for many years before they got their break — this is a skill which takes many years to develop but doesn’t show its usefulness until it’s been developed to a relative sharpness. But it’s always developed and never comes about naturally.
To develop this quality, you need to devote the lion’s share of your time to learning everything about your craft and understanding it at a granular level. Distill what you do down to its essence and seek to understand it better than anyone else. It will take years, but to become a high achiever at anything you need to be willing to devote your life to a cause (as we’ll talk about later).
3. Personal accountability
When I say accountability, the thought of people and teams reporting to one another probably cropped up in your mind. However, while group accountability may be a part of what they do, high achievers are personally accountable to themselves whether or not they’re accountable to someone else.
High achievers aren’t just self-starters, they’re accountable to themselves consistently. Without this personal accountability, their efforts would only ever be so effective because they wouldn’t be able to effectively gauge if what they’re doing is moving them forward, keeping them in place, or holding them back.
Implement a system for gauging your progress in your craft down to a weekly or daily level. Gauge your improvement on every scale that is important or relevant to your craft and seek to make progress consistently.
Listening is a quality that almost all high achievers share because it’s critical to many great professions and crafts. Most people are constantly thinking about themselves and what they want and this shows when they interact with others.
But most high achievers communicate in a very different way: they talk less and listen more intentionally. Why? Communicating with anyone connected with your craft, especially if you sell a product or service, offers the opportunity to gain valuable information that can help you improve what you do.
This includes more than just listening to individuals or groups in conversation, though. This also includes the ability to listen figuratively to the professional and economic space their craft encompasses. It’s about listening to events, identifying patterns, and learning the motion of people on a larger scale.
Developing this goes hand in hand with developing a sense of perspective, but it’s a bit different. It’s less about understanding how things work and more about learning what people are thinking, feeling, and how that influences their behavior and impacts the surroundings.
5. Long-term vision (and the patience to follow it through)
Lastly, possibly the most easily identifiable quality or skill in high achievers is the ability to think big, long-term, and the patience to follow this vision through to the end — no matter what it takes. That first part (the big, long-term vision) is pretty easy to understand and has been written on to death. But that last part is less prominent. And that last part is what’s really important.
Want to know whether you’re truly serious about what you’re doing or not? Think about this for a second:
In Think and Grow Rich, Edwin C. Barnes was determined to get into a partnership with Thomas Edison. Nothing was going to stop him, so much so that he didn’t care if it took him his entire life to make it happen. Think about that.
Having said that, I have a question for you: Think about your dream or major goal for a second. Your long-term vision. If it took you the next fifty years to make it happen, would you stick with it? If not, the likelihood is your desire isn’t strong enough.
You see, the reality is, while most of us think we’re truly dedicated to our mission… most of us would answer no. If you’re not, it’s okay, it likely just means you haven’t found something to be truly excited about. You need to follow your passion, not something that sounds like fun or makes sense logically based on economic factors or your skillset.
To realign your efforts with what you truly have a passion for and develop a long-term vision you’ll be willing to commit your life to, just ask the age-old question: if money weren’t an issue, what would you do? This can be hard to do because our bullshit meter starts going off saying, “but it is an issue…”, so tell yourself you’re just imagining what if and that you’re under no obligation to do anything with the information; you’ll then be more likely to answer the question honestly.
High achievers might, at first, seem like they’re born that way. But they spent years working on their craft to perfection and had the patience and long-term vision to make it happen.
You have the ability to develop all the key qualities that make high achievers successful, so find something that makes you excited to get out of bed each morning and devote yourself to mastering your craft and developing the skills and qualities critical to making that happen.