We call people weird because they do things differently than we would. Seth Godin wears those brightly colored but mismatched socks. Steve Jobs’ work uniform was a black turtleneck and jeans. Look around and you can see the obvious differences in a lot of successful people.
What most business owners don’t see when they look at successful people are the habits they’ve developed. Leonard DaVinci slept two hours at a time in four-hour intervals. Charles Dickens would only write and sleep facing north. Some of their weirdness was superstition, but a lot of it wasn’t. Here are six weird habits of successful people.
1. They think backward. Successful people start at the finish. Most of us have been taught to take one step, then the next, and the next until we arrive at our destination or goal. But successful people, like rocket scientists, actually clearly define the outcome they want first, and then reverse engineer the steps they need to take to get there.
2. They like to repeat themselves, a lot. They repeat themselves a lot. If you’re pre-vinyl and never heard a broken record, think “repeat” or “loop.” Successful people don’t stop when they have a success. When they succeed, they try to figure out ways to repeat that success.
3. They cut corners. Once successful people figure out how to repeat success, then they figure out how to get the same result faster, easier and cheaper. There’s a fine line between cutting corners and cutting quality, though. Make sure you recognize the difference.
4. They are quitters. You know the saying “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Not so much. In fact, that’s wrong. Winners quit a lot. They have a keen eye for what is not working and not supporting the finish line (check rule one again for that). Once they identify the thing sucking energy, money and resources from their business, they cut it out fast.
5. They say “no” way more than they say “yes.” You’d think the best way to success is to get involved with a lot of great opportunities. You’d think wrong. Successful people know the greatest opportunity is the one that is selected, catered to and protected from other great opportunities. They constantly say “no” to anything and everything that is not in support of the one great opportunity they’re focused on. If your goal is to grow giant pumpkins, growing giant melons as well will distract you.
6. They don’t look the part. I learned a great lesson playing Texas Hold ‘Em. The person with the weak hand acts the strongest (hoping others will fold so he gets the money). The person with the strongest hand acts the weakest (hoping others stay in the game and keep filling up the pot so he gets the money). This is true in life too. That flashy, “look at me” guy is inevitably the one struggling. Successful people don’t look for others' approval for their success and therefore don’t need to show it off. I’m not saying successful people are meek. I'm just saying they have inner confidence and rarely feel a need to show off the glitz and dazzle.
Learning to look at what people do more than what they say they’re doing is the best way I know of to spot the true habits of successful people. If they’re telling you that you have to work 100 hours a week, but they’re going home at 6 p.m. every night and taking weekends off, chances are they know something you don’t. Figure it out and start building your own list of habits. Those successful habits will ultimately become the system that makes you famous.
Mike Michalowicz is the co-founder of Provendus Group, a business growth consulting group that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to grow again (and fast). Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and the business cult classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.