What Successful People Do Differently

Knowing what successful people are doing differently gives you an insight into where your “gaps” are.

For me it all started back in 2009 when Tony Robbins told me to “model” successful people.

The idea was:

Ever since then, I pay close attention to what the top 1% do differently.

Without sounding like a dick, I’ve been around a bunch of people doing big things:

  • 10+ dinners with a Forbes list billionaire owner of the worlds largest biscuit brand
  • Interviewing and having multiple dinners with the CEO of a company who’ve been on the Global Fortune 500 list for 24 years
  • The Chairman of a $1bn a year group with separate 31 companies in his group

Go here if you’re interested in more on that and my story.

(I sounded like a dick still, didn’t I?)

I’m not “successful” yet, so when I meet someone who’s “winning“, I ask questions.

I try to figure out “how they made it”. 

Honestly, their stories differ.

But I’ve noticed one unique quality successful people all had BEFORE hitting the big time.

I’m not certain, but I suspect it could be the difference between a great life and an average one.

In this post I’ll reveal exactly what successful people do, so you can figure out where your actions and thinking is costing you bigger results.

How To Predict If You’ll “Make It”

Successful people do one thing you might not: they interpret failure uniquely.

They view failure as specific and not global.

Let me explain…

The global mindset sees a lesson.

An opportunity rather than a setback.

You could write this off as “positive thinking bullshit” – but it’s deeper than that.

How you think at the moment of failure reveals a fundamental truth about you. 

It shows how you see the world and your place in it.

Here’s why that’s important…

Who you believe you are, is who you become.

Who you believe you are, is who you become. Click To Tweet

A Note on Giving Up

If you judge yourself and want to give up, I hear you.

I’m still there more often than I’d care to admit.

Thankfully, my self-doubt appears far less than it once did.

Mostly, because I’ve trained my mind to choose a more positive interpretation of my failures.

I realised there are 8 specific thoughts that kick in automatically when I fail.

They support me to be mentally resilient, bounce back faster and create more success.

They’ve made a huge difference in my life and I want to share them with you.

How Successful People Think: 8 Mindset Shifts

#1 – Progress Not Perfection

This quote comes from a scene in The Equalizer (one of my favourite movies).

Denzel is training Ralphy, the pudgy, down-on-his-luck store worker who wants to make security guard.

As Ralphy gets tired pulling the tyre and gives up, Denzel yells at him “Progress not perfection!”


Whenever something I do fails (daily), this mantra keeps my head up.

I remind myself I’ve discovered another way it doesn’t work and the solution (and success) is now closer.

That shift motivates me to bounce back the same day, rather than sulk for a few weeks.

I’ve noticed successful people understand that progress is all that matters, no matter how small.

They’re strategic about progress, accepting that the only thing they control is whether or not they show up.

#2 – Breakdown to Breakthrough


Before every breakthrough is a breakdown.

Get the picture?

I tell myself the breakdown means the breakthrough is close.  

That shifts my attention away from what went wrong.

Instead I focus on…

“What I can do today to get back on track?”

#3 – Trust The Process

Our “instant gratification“ culture has screwed us up.

We see the rewards of success, but not the process to achieve it.

We see the lifestyle enjoyed by successful people, but not their sacrifices.

Most “overnight success” is 10+ years in the making.

For example…

I’ve written 200+ articles, started over 25 businesses and worked with more than 100 clients.  

Most of the work was…

It sucks, but its part of the journey.

Success is a process, not an event.  

If you’re not successful yet, it just means you’re still in the process stage.

Hold the vision, keep the faith, do the work. Trust you’re where you need to be.

Failure will teach you the lessons success can not.

#4 – Are You At 10,000 Hours?

Along with the “Overnight success that’s 10 years in the making” is the 10,000 hour rule.

The rule says…“10,000 hours of deliberate practice is required to be world class at anything.”

Whilst critics have called bullshit, there’s still truth in it.

You have to work hard.  For a really fucking long time.

10,000 hours works out to 20 hours a week for 10 years. 

Do a rough calculation of how many hours you’ve put in so far.

Are you up to the same numbers as the successful people you admire?

If you’re a long way from 10,000 hours – keep going.


If the thought of that much work doesn’t seem worth it, maybe you’re on the wrong road.

Do something you love.  Even if you make no money doing it.

Writers write everyday because they love the craft.

Successful people in any field put in the work.


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#5 – The Fried Chicken & Lightbulb Rule

Yes, that’s a real headline.

And you read it, so it worked. 🙂


The 10,000 hour rule is about putting in the time to practise.

Practise is vital, but playing the game is more important.

If you want to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo, you’ve got to put in 10,000+ hours of training.

But it’s useless if you never step onto the pitch and play a real game.

Shit, I’m like Ronaldo in training.

Actually that’s a lie, but you get the point. 🙂

There’s training and there’s playing the game:

What You Do
Writer Writing Publishing the Blog Post
Entrepreneur Creating a Product Selling the Product
YouTuber Making a Video Publishing the Video

If your writing remains in your journal, you’re not playing the game.

If your music stays on your hard drive, you’re not playing the game.

The game is where your work meets the world.

play the game

If you’ve failed ask yourself:

Have I put 10,000 hours into this yet?

If not, you still have work to do.

Just like the 10,000 hour rule, you also need to accumulate “real-world game time”.

That’s where you figure out your weak points.

Consider this…

Colonel Sanders – The Don of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) launched the chain at 65 years old.

He’d retired and received a social security check for just $105.

Broke and with time against him, he developed his recipe (training).


Once perfected, he drove across the country to different restaurants.

He cooked for the owners and if they liked it, they’d sell his chicken.

It took him 1009 meetings before a single restaurant owner agreed.

The Colonel played the game 1,009 times before getting a single yes!

Have you?

Are you playing the game enough to deserve the success you’re seeking?

Every successful person I’ve ever met are playing the game.

#6 – The Past vs. The Present

When I fail at something, I tell myself this:

“My past doesn’t govern my future.”

That phrase does 3 things:

You create your future by how you use the present.

What you do today is a single piece in the mosaic of your life.

So getting back in the game quickly is vital.

It forces you to realign your present to the future you’re trying to create.

I’ve noticed successful people are focused on the present, and how it creates their future.

#7 – Courage Over Comfort

Another favourite motto of mine (even though I forget where I first heard it).

This one is about embracing discomfort.

When I fail, I remind myself it’s because I’m growing.

Growth is painful.

It stretches you to go further than you’ve gone before.

What’s painful today, becomes normal for the future you.

The weakling who once struggled to squat 50kg, now warms up with the same weight.

When I’m too comfortable, I search for new experiments to try.

Embracing discomfort becomes something to pursue, rather than avoid.

Successful people embody this trait.

#8 – This is Your Test

Have you seen the Bradley Cooper movie “Limitless”?

It’s about Eddie, a failing writer who discovers a drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain. He goes from zero to a $2 million in his stock market account in a week.

That gets him noticed by a Billionaire played by Robert De Niro.


Eddie gets a shot at working for De Niro, but on the day of his meeting he runs out of the drug.

After returning to his usual, average self, he panics and decides to call in sick.

De Niro’s right hand man answers and tells Eddie…

“Don’t you get it, this is your test.” 

Later in the movie, De Niro himself echoes the same point

“You know, Eddie, when you‘re playing at this level and you‘re hit by a car, you don’t even die.”

The Message is Clear

Dispair defines you.

That’s your test.

It’s the time you’re tested to see how badly you want it.

Most people give up.

You have to truly care about the thing you’re doing to push through it.

That’s why it’s crucial to be working on something important to you. Something bigger than just money.

If you’re certain your mission is important to you, knowing you’re being tested is a game changer.

It gives you that grit you need to break through to the next level.

To keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Success isn’t about the achievements or money, but who you become along the way.

The Wrap Up

Look, I’d be lying to you if I told you it’ll be easy.

Creating anything great takes everything you’ve got.

Yet it’s worth it.

But only if it’s something you genuinely care about. Be sure the prize you’re fighting for is worth winning.

As Tim from The Office said…

Its better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to be on, than at the top of one you don’t. Click To Tweet

The secret to success for the “winners” is about how they think.

I hope these 8 strategies make a difference for you.


Failure is unavoidable on the road to success.

So fail more and fail faster!

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