Signs You’re Successful


In a previous post, I referred to coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success as a way to redefine success and failure so as to include only factors entirely within your control. In this way, you can feel successful, regardless of particular wins or losses, provided that you make whole-hearted efforts to do your best.

That idea resonates with me, and I’ve come up with some additional traits – missing from John Wooden’s Pyramid – that you can also pursue and acquire without regard to external factors in order to feel successful in your work and your life.

Here they are:

An Open Mind

The world is a vast and complicated place, and an open mind is essential to discovering what’s in it and appreciating the good parts. An open mind allows you to learn and to gather new experiences. It’s the key to expanding your awareness, your range of opportunities, and your repertoire of responses to what’s going on around you.


Most of us experience a great deal of pressure to do and say what others want from us. But a problem arises when these pressures conflict with who we feel ourselves to be and what we feel ourselves to want.

Except in small ways that grease our social interactions with people in our meaningful relationships, doing and saying what we really want – in spite of outside pressures – tends to work out better for us, and usually for all concerned.


There’s plenty that goes on in the world that’s totally unfair, but people nevertheless seem to be born with an innate preference for fairness. The concept itself is fairly complicated, in different contexts meaning such different things as equality (of opportunity or distribution), getting what you deserve (whether good or bad), or having access to certain basics we all need.

Despite the complications, you can strive to practice and support as much fairness as you can, even if sometimes you can’t make life perfectly fair for those around you.   


In part because the world is not fair, and in part just because it makes the world a little better, helpfulness is a valuable trait you can and should pursue even in the worst of circumstances.

Of course, not everyone needs or wants your help. What’s more, some people – for whatever reasons – feel that offering them help is actually a kind of insult, a way of pointing out their lack of self-sufficiency. But whether or not someone is willing to accept your help, offering it is a worthwhile way of behaving.

High Standards

I used to have a friend who called his wife “Slapdash Harry.” She had no interest in quality work or long-term solutions to problems. She just wanted to do something, anything – immediately – to fix whatever was bothering her at the moment.

But inevitably, she had to come back to a previous issue and do something else to fix it, again, and again, and again. Meanwhile, her everyday life was a constantly disappointing and frustrating experience of all the inadequate solutions she had previously put in place all around her.

Quality counts. And high-quality counts more. If you don’t already know this, you may eventually learn it.

Listening to Others

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

So said Epictetus, a Greek philosopher born two thousand years ago who used reason and observation to understand the world. His basic idea was right: Listening to others is a valuable activity that promotes many benefits, including: learning, compassion, insight and understanding.

However much you already listen, you can probably benefit by listening more.


Passion is among the most important and uplifting of human emotions. It powers determination and triggers extraordinary efforts. It’s the basis of many wonderful actions and accomplishments. Some say that passion fuels some of the greatest human achievements ever recorded.

You can’t fake passion, or even cultivate it. But you can be receptive to it. And you can actively search for the ideas, causes, activities, and goals that will ignite your passion. A life full of passion is very often a life well lived.


If you never make your own choices, you’re inadvertently putting a cap on your level of productivity, satisfaction, and success. This is because each of us is on his or her own journey, mostly a unique one. As a result, you can’t get where you’re supposed to go by following others.

The obvious implication is that you must utilize your own inner compass to find and stay on your own path. As Oscar Wilde famously quipped: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

The point of all this discussion is simple: each of these attributes is totally and completely under your personal control. By working to display these traits to the best of your ability, you automatically contribute to your own feelings of satisfaction and success, regardless of how well or poorly any external factors are currently lining up in your favor.  

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