Let’s talk a little about successful people. What exactly makes someone successful, anyway?

Since this is a financial blog, we’ve got to start with making CASH MONEY, BABY. Successful people are richer than the rest of us. They’ve got passive income coming out the wazoo. RRSPs, TFSAs, and other accounts are maxed out, and there’s still cash left over. They’ve got stacks and stacks of Robert Bordens, just waiting to be UNLEASHED at the club.

Okay, maybe not that last one. Those hundos are precious. Nobody at the club is getting their hands on any.

Maybe for you, success is about more than just money. Perhaps something like a prestigious job is more up your alley, or maybe you’re one of those people who think true success is being surrounded by people who love and care about you.

Just kidding. Nobody thinks that.

Anyhoo, let’s take a closer look at what separates successful people from the rest of the unwashed masses. Here are four things they do that y’all should be doing too.

Optimism bias

I wrote about this a little while ago. I still think it’s the biggest thing between successful people and those who struggle.

We all know someone who not only sees the world as a glass half empty place, but is also convinced the glass is filled with toilet water. Whenever they’re presented with an opportunity, all they focus on all the negatives. “Sure, that might work, BUT…”

15 minutes later you’re so convinced the world is ending all you want to do is climb into a hole and wait for the sweet release of death.

Avoid these people with all your strength. Their negative energy will affect you, and will affect you greatly. It is the equivalent of an anchor of crap.

I’m not saying you need to walk around thinking everything is the best thing ever, because that’s going too far. When making any investment or starting a new business venture, you need to look at every angle with a healthy amount of skepticism. Especially an investment that’s sold to you.

Here’s the way I view the world. Most opportunities are squarely in the ‘meh’ category. They’ll make you some money, but probably not as much as you think. Among these opportunities are some real gems, investments that are really worth pursuing. You can’t figure out the difference without some due diligence.

See the difference between that attitude and your friend who’s convinced everything is going to zero? Successful people think the world is full of opportunities. They’ve just gotta find them. Unsuccessful people talk themselves out of everything before doing the work.

Oh, and you might be tempted to go into business with your negative friend. Do not do this. It won’t end well. Fortunately, he’ll talk himself out of it long before you get anywhere with it. Trust me; I know from experience.

Read and then read some more

Successful people read. Unsuccessful people don’t. It’s that simple.

I know the world is more complex than that. And I’m probably biased because I read anywhere from 20-30 books a year, plus an assload of the best content the interwebz has to offer. But the fact is successful people read more than the rest of the population.

Related: my favorite personal finance books.

What you read makes a difference, of course. The average CEO isn’t spending a lot of time reading trashy romance novels. They’re reading books on business, investing, philosophy, and other interesting topics. They’re reading biographies of interesting people.

Charles Koch, who is the CEO of Koch Industries and is worth more than $44 billion, is a great example of this. Here’s a picture of his bathroom.


Can you guys believe it? His own urinal!

“Hey Charles. Can I borrow a book?”


“On second thought, I’ll just get it from the library.”

Get up early

A while ago, there was an article published that said (paraphrasing) that the most successful people woke up at 4:30 in the morning. They were getting work done while the rest of us were still dreaming about naked Taylor Swift our wives.

I’m not sure I buy the 4:30 in the morning part, but I am convinced successful people are awake sooner than the rest of the world.

I used to be a real night owl, going to bed at midnight, 1:00 am, or even later. I wouldn’t wake up until 10:00 am, minimum. By the time I was¬†fully conscious in the morning, some of my peers had already completed half a day of work.

I’d then work until 5 or 6 pm, and wrap it up for the day like the rest of the world. I didn’t get ahead much during that period, for obvious reasons.

These days I’m up at six on weekdays and seven on the weekends and I’m working by 7:30 at the latest every weekday. I can get almost two hours of work done before regular business hours begin and I start getting interrupted.

Work more

I’m amazed at the number of people who think you’ll excel working the same number of hours as everyone else. Successful people have figured out that the more time you spend honing your craft or looking for opportunities, the better you’ll get at both.

Here’s what I do. I work 7:30 to 4:30, taking a few breaks during the day. I normally eat lunch at my desk, but I might wander around and talk to a friend or have someone visit me. From 4:30 to 5:30 I might go to the gym or talk to my wife or do some other things to relax. That leaves me with an hour until dinner I can use to get a little more work done. After supper is then relaxing time, which usually includes reading a book.

At least one day on the weekend is dedicated to work too. In total, I work at least 50 hours a week, even more if I count pleasure reading.

I’m the first to admit I work a great deal. I like it. It barely feels like work. My advice to anyone would be to find a job that feels the same.

Final thoughts

The problem with adopting a successful people mindset is there’s no immediate payoff. Most humans will give up something if they don’t see¬†instant results. I’m lucky; it’s not much of a sacrifice for me to work more, get up early, read a ton, or to view the world as an optimistic place.

Ultimately, if you can learn to embrace these things and keep it up for years (okay, decades), you’ll find they really start paying off. Right when you’re not trying anymore. Life’s funny that way.

Tell everyone, yo!