What Most Successful People Have In Common

Whether it's financial, emotional, or athletic success, it all comes down to this key characteristic.

When you look at the lives of successful people, whether it be financially successful, emotionally successful, an Olympic-level athlete, or any other level of 'success' that is important to that person, you will often find that their story is littered with hardship, seemingly-impossible situations, and a whole lot of curveballs. And that's all before their eventual success. 

The ability to keep pushing forward and stay on purpose is the common theme that is found in so many success stories, and in my view it beats out pretty much everything else: including talent. Because talent, while important, cannot stand by itself. Even the most talented writer will be rejected at some point, no matter how talented they may be. 

The Power of Preserverence

The examples are plentiful... and I can also attest to the power of preserverence in my own life. As I have shared before in my videos, after I was lately diagnosed with Lyme Disease and dealing with extreme joint pain and vertigo that left me unable to get out of bed most days, one half of my face became paralyzed.

My neurologist told me that the nerve damage behind the facial paralysis could be permanent; when I would smile, only one side of my mouth would go upwards. One eye was always more open than the other, and one eyebrow was virtually impossible to animate, to the point where people would stare at me puzzlingly. It didn't help that I was also in a mostly-constant state of vertigo, nausea, and joint pain that left me feeling 'disconnected' from the world around me.

The idea of ever sharing my truth on video seemingly disappeared. 

I worked on training my facial muscles, with the help of a specialist doctor, hoping that it would make a difference; hoping that the paralysis wasn't permanent, as my neurologist suggested it could be. It was with much gratitude that I began to slowly regain movement to my face -- years later, and now there is only a bit of sluggishness on one side that stops my smile and raised eyebrows from fully contracting (so when people say I look funny I really don't have much of an excuse now!). 

Afterwards, you might think that the success story comes in. That after I regained control of my face, everyone supported me in my journey and I went on to be happy, healthy, and propserous. But there were far more challenges after the Lyme, including periods in which my friends and family were certain that I would be a failure for refusing corporate office job opportunities in order to pursue my own way -- all of which were really just grand lessons that would ultimately help forge me into the person I am today

There were many times where I could have given up, and decided that I just couldn't see the light beyond the storm clouds. And there will continue to be periods in which I see storm clouds on the horizon once again, but what it always comes down to is preserverence to make it through to the sunshine.

Stephen King Worked As Janitor, Told Writing Wasn't Good Enough

Stephen King giving a speech
(Photo by: Stephanie Lawton / Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, even Stephen King faced repeated rejection while living in a trailer with his wife Tabby, working two jobs as a janitor and industrial laundry worker. He was on the brink of giving up on the idea of his writing career, and it took his wife's intervention to stop him from doing so. Here's a powerful excerpt from a Mental Floss piece that puts it into perspective:

"It was 1973, and Stephen King’s pockets were empty. He lived in a doublewide trailer and drove a rust-bucket Buick held together with baling wire and duct tape. King’s wife, Tabby, worked second-shift at Dunkin’ Donuts while he taught English at Hampden Academy, a private high school in eastern Maine. To scrape by, King worked summers at an industrial laundry and moonlighted as a janitor and gas pump attendant. With a toddler and a newborn to feed, money—and time to write fiction—were hard to come by."

One of the most iconic writers of the modern era worked two minimum wage jobs and lived in a trailer with his newborn child and his wife, thinking that his writing wasn't good enough. The reason I want to bring this point home for you, is because it's very easy to see business tycoons and cultural icons and say 'I would rather be living their life' or think that they have always had it easy their whole lives.

It's an easy way for our brains to dismiss our own abilities to have the same things. We say... they must have had it easier than I do, or maybe they are just more talented than I am. And of course there are certainly some who were born into the fame and wealth (which really isn't as much of a blessing as it is a curse when it comes to self-awareness and happiness), but on average the most powerful success stories are full of 'rock bottoms'. 

Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling Was Nearly Homeless

(Photo by: White House / WikiMedia Commons)

Though she has a current net worth of around $1 billion, and is the creator of a $15 billion franchise, for years she was living on welfare as a single mother following a very painful divorce. Nearly homeless, she faced what seemed like impossible odds; launching a multi-billion dollar book franchise didn't seem to be in the cards. 

Here's what she said in a speech to the 2008 Harvard University class:

 "An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless ... By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew," 

Countless 'Success Stories' Were Created Through Perserverence

J.K. Rowling and Stephen King certainly aren't the only ones who can attribute their perserverence through the hard times to their eventual success:

  • Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation & Guardians of The Galaxy used to live out of a van in Hawaii.
  • Iconic director James Cameron lived in his car, and went on to sell the rights to blockbuster film 'The Terminator' for $1. 
  • Jim Carrey lived out of his VW camper van, and a tent that was sitting on his sister's front lawn. 
  • Dr. Phil lived in a car with his father. 
  • The 'Queen of Jazz' Ella Fitzgerald was homeless
  • Daniel Craig, who played James Bond, found himself sleeping on London park benches.
  • And the list goes on. 

Let these stories remind you in trying times that the ability to perservere will carry you forward.


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