how to succeed

10 Character Traits Of Elite Achievers

If you have ever worked really hard toward reaching a goal only to get average results, you know how horrible it feels. And to rub salt in the wound, there are usually a few elite achievers who seemingly work no harder than you who absolutely crush that same goal. It’s frustrating, confusing, and a blow to your ego. I get it.

And you know what? You’re right – those elite achievers probably aren’t working any harder than you. The difference is that elite achievers have figured out the right things to work hard at. Bear with me here.

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in over-planning, procrastination, and self-doubt. These things are time and energy suckers. You can literally waste days, weeks, and months on these types of unproductive behaviors – and not realize it until it’s too late.

While the average spend time and effort on unproductive tasks, elite achievers spend their time on tasks that move them toward their goals.

There’s good news, though. Elite achievers don’t have a secret weapon or some sort of productivity pill. They’ve just developed certain character traits that make it easier to crush their goals.

That means you could be just one or two small adjustments away from joining the ranks of the elite achievers.

Join The Ranks

After decades in sales management, I have observed that all elite achievers share certain character traits. Adopt these ten traits of elite achievers. Put them to work – and watch your goals become much more attainable.

1. Spend Your Time on Implementation

Busy work isn’t always effective work. Don’t confuse the two. Average people spend their time and energy coming up with, rehashing, and discussing ideas. Elite achievers are motivated to spend their time on implementation of ideas. They know that while ideas are the seeds of results, in and of themselves, they are just ideas until they’re acted upon. A brilliant idea unexecuted is worthless. Results come from action.

2. Have Several Back-Up Plans.

Waiting for the perfect plan or tool is insanity. “Perfect” never shows up. Successful people always have a back-up plan…or two…or three. The elite achievers are ready for the unexpected and can roll with the punches when the unexpected occurs.

3. Create Opportunities

As the rest of the world waits, hopes, and wishes for opportunity – elite achievers know that real opportunity is created. Elite achievers reach out to others, spread the word, and step up to the plate. They create opportunity by letting the world know who they are, what they do, and how they can help. And when they create an opportunity, they fully take advantage of it.

4. Dislike, But Tolerate Failure.

While the masses tend to sit back and stew over their plan because there is a chance they could fail and look stupid, elite achievers forge ahead. They know that while failure certainly sucks, it’s not fatal. And each time they fail, they get a little smarter. Elite achievers understand that the small risk of temporarily looking stupid is outweighed by the possibility of real, permanent success.

5. Become “Strong Like Bull”

Elite achievers are tough. We all want people to like us – but guess what? No matter what you do, no matter how wonderful you are – someone is going to dislike you. Elite achievers understand this. Recently I had someone badmouth my writing because I began a post with the word “so.” Guess how much sleep I lost over that one? (none) The elite achievers know they will occasionally fail, that people are going to dislike them sometimes, and that it will hurt a little. By constantly striving for improvement and expecting a little pain along the way, they know that it hurts much less.

6. Find Out For Yourself – Don’t Listen To The Herd

The mediocre crowd has a tendency to believe conventional assumptions about: Themselves, their industry, their product, and their potential. Elite achievers take the time to find out for themselves. They do research, they think outside the box, they consult trusted advisors. Elite achievers couldn’t care less what the nay-sayers think, because they’ve done the legwork.

7. Give Selflessly

This one may come as a surprise, but truly elite achievers are actually pretty selfless people. They leave “greedy” and “selfish” for the bottom feeders. The elite give their time and knowledge generously because it’s the right thing to do…and because it demonstrates integrity, sincerity, and credibility. Winners give.

8. Develop Ego Strength

The elite don’t second guess their decisions. When they have a good plan, they do their research so they can have full confidence in going after their goals full-tilt. They ignore the less evolved who tell them that they can’t do it. Elite achievers ignore negative people and remain confident in their plan.

9. Form A Brain Trust With Other Elite Achievers

Elite achievers know that regardless of how smart and hard-working they are, they can’t possibly catch every little detail. This is why they seek the company of other achievers. They regularly consult their brain trust, ask for their input, and take their advice. They find people whose opinions they can trust and stay in contact regularly to hash through their successes, failures, and obstacles.

10. Keep Going Until You Get There.

The average person throws in the towel when they run into obstacles – and that’s a shame. Elite achievers know that obstacles just indicate a closer proximity to success. If they fail, elite achievers just tweak their plan and go after their goal again and again until they reach it. There is only one direction: Forward.

Spend some time with this list. I’ll bet you can identify one or more areas that might be slowing you down and affecting your productivity. Begin replacing some of those bad, time-wasting habits with their more productive counterparts and start becoming an elite achiever.


What about you?

Which of those time wasters are you most guilty of?

Which of the 10 characteristics of elite achievers are you best at?

Share your thoughts, tips, and stories in the comments!


Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) writes about business strategy, market creation, and integrity selling on his blog Reboot Authentic. His eBook, How To Alienate All The Right People, is a real-world guide to breaking away from the herd and doing something special.

38 Responses to 10 Character Traits Of Elite Achievers

  1. Excellent article Gary! It goes to show that success is a mindset . . . not a goal.

    Those who achieve great things do so because of their attitude and self-belief. It doesn’t go the other way around. Success is something you are. It’s something you live. 

    You do not become successful when you have everything you want. You get everything you want because you are success minded.

    It always comes down to mindset. Change how you view the world — how you view yourself — and the world will change for you.


  2. Gary Korisko says:

    Hi, Trevor. I’d agree that the mental part of success is definitely a huge part of it. Thanks much for the comment.

  3. Lee Tyler says:

    Great article, Gary. It is apropo that you would be writing on elite achievers as you certainly are one!  There is a saying that the world doesn’t award perfectionist it rewards finishers. (Kristen Lamb) which I think fits right in with a number of your points. The Elite Achievers are not afraid of failure but recognize the opportunity to learn from it and move on. They plow ahead. 
    I love the idea of ‘brain trusts’. And yes, there will always be the critics but they are projecting something in themselves; it has nothing to do with you. They are to be ignored, just as you did.
    Bookmarking this for future motivational boosts!
    Once again, you have given us great content to help us move ahead and achieve. Thank you!

  4. Gary Korisko says:

    That’s a great quote, Lee… and it sure is true, isn’t it? I’m happy to hear you found the post valuable. Thank you for the compliments and for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Adam X says:

    Very idealistic, but you fail to remind that the first thing about Elite achievers is strategy. Most people know the right thing to do but are too hampered by over commitments. That ranges from job to personal life responsibilities that they directly or indirectly sign up for.

  6. Nancy Terhune says:

    Fantastic post, Gary!  Every bit of it is of awesome value.

    One of the things that resonates with me is having back-up plans.  I believe that elite achievers have multiple ones going into something, so they can turn on a dime if necessary versus waiting for an unsatisfactory outcome or deadly turn.  Best is identifying the points – as many as foreseeable – at which things can turn, and having back-ups to re-steer the track.  I call them “plug-and-play options.”

    Hope to read a lot more from you!

    Nancy T

  7. Gary_RA says:

    I like plug-and-play, Nancy! Multiple options do help when the unexpected happens. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Gary_RA says:

    I think having a strategy is important, Adam… But I don’t think it’s what makes someone elite.

    For instance… Every sports team has a strategy and yet only a few makes the playoffs and only one can be champion. So strategy is the price of admission so to speak. The elite find ways to make strategies work for them.

    Great point & thaw for the comment.

  9. Gary_RA says:

    I like plug-and-play, Nancy! Multiple options do help when the unexpected happens. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Jim Bessey says:

    You started and ended with my two weak spots. 

    I tend to spend too much time trying to learn “everything” and then worry too much when something unexpected seems to get in the way of moving forward.

    It’s amazing what you can achieve when you simply forge ahead, dodging the torpedoes with resilient self-reliance. Even better when you have a few trusted advisers you can count on for great feedback.

    My favorite from your list is #4: “Dislike, but tolerate failure”. That’s a smart and realistic attitude. 

    Thanks for this superb list, Gary.

  11. Gary Korisko says:

    Hi Jim!

    Sounds like you and I have similar weaknesses. My natural tendency is to want to have everything “perfect” before moving. However, years ago I learned that, like the post says, perfect never comes. 

    And you’re also spot on about the value of a brain trust. I have a growing group of people who I can absolutely depend on for support – or kicking my butt when need be. Everyone needs to pursue such relationships.

    I’m glad you found the post useful. Thanks, Jim!

  12. Jorge Blanco says:

    Wonderful article. Just about sums up everything you need in order to get to your desired finish line.

  13. Adam X says:

    Of course, having strategy doesn’t necessarily make someone automatically elite but an elite achiever is an elite strategist.

    I’ve seen too many people throughout the years, great at their skills, dig themselves into holes that hampered their very own assets.

    It’s just that your list needed a point on strategy and I’m coming from the humility side of it. Where an Elite achiever needs to know his/her *temporary limitations and make choices accordingly to meet deadlines and constraints. 

    *I use the word “temporary” because part of being Elite is to constantly work on your weaknesses.

  14. Gary Korisko says:

    I hear you, Adam.

    Good points again. In fact, it very well may be a great topic for another post just about strategies.

    Thanks for your insights.

  15. Gary Korisko says:

    Thank you very much Jorge! For the compliment and for contributing to the conversation. 

  16. Sam Matla says:

    I think that planning is a really important thing which a lot of people disregard. They think that because planning takes up some time, it’s better to just get started instead. Big mistake, you said it perfectly in your article – working smarter and not harder. 


  17. Gary Korisko says:

    I think you’re right, Sam. Planning is important. But just like the #1 and #2 in the post says, it’s easy to get stuck in the planning phase. Once you have a good plan and come contingency plans, you need to move on it!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for joining in the chat!

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  19. Amit Amin says:

    Now that I’ve read over your list, I’m wondering where my list, if I wrote one myself, would have come from. Because there would have been considerable overlap. I haven’t been around long enough to absorb all of those lessons myself. I can only assume it’s from the books I’ve read and mentors I’ve worked with.

    In which case I can’t help but thinking I’ve been lucky to get the best of both (books and mentors, that is). 

  20. Gary Korisko says:

    Good point, Amit.

    I think mine comes somewhat from what I’ve read or heard along the way. 

    I’d say even more has come from life lessons (a more poetic way of saying ‘screwing up and learning from it’)

    Thanks for the comment.

  21. Baggio Wong says:

    Hey Gary, thanks so much for the excellent post! 

    While I think that Trait #8 – Developing ego strength is probably the most important (sufficient preparation and covering your bases takes away the guesswork), my favorite trait of all has to be Trait #7 – Give Selflessly.

    I think it’s admirable to give away generously – it takes strength, but more importantly, a decision to CHOOSE altruism over selfish hoarding when you’re in a position to actually give away. 


  22. Gary Korisko says:

    Thank you, Baggio.

    I agree that giving pays big dividends – provided you don’t let yourself be taken advantage of! Thanks for the comment. Very nice to meet you!

  23. Serah says:

    the worse thing is negativity. I’m governed by negative thoughts and low self esteem.

  24. Gary Korisko says:

    You’re right Serah. Negativity can pull you down and set you back. But you know what? You say you’re governed by negative thoughts and yet you’re making an effort to come here to Pick The Brain and better yourself.

    That sounds like a very positive step in the right direction to me :)   Good for you – and thank you for commenting.

  25. Antonio Estaniqui says:

    Thank you for that write up. Some people are naturals at this while others encounter more resistance during the process. Unknowingly, people already have habits that are underlined in preceding paragraphs. Whether instinctively or learned, it is reassuring to feel that doing the right thing can be a very positve driving force.

  26. Gary Korisko says:

    Great point, Antonio. I think we *do* all have those qualities. The hard part is to have the discipline to call on those qualities when they’re needed. It’s something we all struggle with, but by focusing on them and through practice – we can get better and more productive.

  27. Steve Furniss says:

    Really enjoyed this article. lots of good things to take out of it. I would also like to make a case for ‘being single-minded’. This can come across as being selfish however I do believe that elite-performers know that their time is limited and so will focus on what they consider important. This can mean that the ‘regular’ tasks in life get ignored, put-off or delegated. That is the price of not living a regular life! 

  28. Real Tannaz says:

    wow!! this article rocks! you either 😀 cheers!
    I must also say, I entirely agree with Trevor, success is a mindset as you were trying to say in this masterpiece.
    this was amazing and I’ll definitely apply it in my life :) thank you a million. I’ve always learned great things from your awesome site.

    keep it up!

  29. Gary Korisko says:

    Thanks for commenting, Steve.

    If by “single-minded” you mean the ability to create intense focus, I’d agree. I find elite achievers have less “distractions” in their lives in many cases.

  30. Seems I find you everywhere tehse days, first on Think Traffic and now here :) Great post, and I like the way you covered that subject. I read countless number of posts about “the 10 secrets of highly successfull entrepreneurs” and yet yours is pretty good – basically cause it’s actionable and makes total sense! Thanks

  31. Gary Korisko says:

    Ha! Yes, Nicholas… I’ve been busy!

    Good to see you here, too…and thank you for the comment!

  32. Gary Korisko says:

    Thanks very much for the comment. I’m glad you found the post useful!

  33. Ivan Chan says:


    I totally agree with your last point: “Keep Going Until You Get There.”

    Sometimes, the only thing that separates the winners from the losers is that the winners stick with it far longer than anyone else. Winners simply want it bad enough to keep going. Losers SAY they want it, but often give up at the first sign of trouble.

    In the end, all the knowledge, resources, and tools in the world can’t help someone achieve what they want if they aren’t willing to work for it.

  34. Gary Korisko says:

    Thanks for the comment Ivan. Sometimes a little fortitude (and maybe stubbornness too) goes a long way!

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