Power Players

5 powerful traits that separate successful millionaires like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg from everyone else

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
DSK | AFP | Getty Images

The path to great achievement and leadership is not an easy one. You need a ridiculous amount of focus, drive and the ability to inspire others.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to success, there are a few traits worth adopting from some of the world's most accomplished leaders, from Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos to Susan Wojcicki.

Here are the top five:

1. They aren't fazed by failure

Things won't always turn out the way you expected them to. Most startups fail — 90 percent of them, research finds. Many of your ideas might not work. People may give up on you. But successful people don't let any of those things get in their way. Instead, they learn from their failures.

When Bezos launched Amazon in 1994, he only gave himself a 30 percent chance of success. "That's actually a very liberating expectation, expecting to fail," he told Time magazine in 1999, when they crowned him as Person of the Year.

Indeed, the Amazon founder has had his fair share of failures, from the Fire smartphone to Amazon Wallet, but he never stopped taking chances in the pursuit of success.

"If you're going to take bold bets, they're going to be experiments," he said on stage at Business Insider's Ignition Conference in 2014. "And if they're experiments, you don't know ahead of time if they're going to work. Experiments are by their very nature prone to failure. But a few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn't work."

2. They shoot for the moon

Tesla co-founder Elon Musk took this one literally when he said his mission was to take tourists to the moon. One of the most admirable traits about Musk is always sets the most ambitious goals, from building underground tunnels to beat traffic congestion to connecting our brains to computers.

Setting (and attempting to achieve) highly ambitious goals can take a lot out of you. But many studies have found that this can make you happier in the long run. In one experiment, researchers observed two groups of people: One who set sky-high goals, and one who set more conservative goals.

The first group reported feeling more fulfilled after having achieved their goals. The reason? When you set conservative goals, as opposed to more ambitious ones, the satisfaction you get from achieving them is much lower.

Oprah Winfrey is also a master when it comes to going big. She started off as a television reporter, then expanded her media empire by including movies, podcasts and websites. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" still remains the highest-rated daytime talk show in American history. By age 32, she had already reached millionaire status.

How Sweetgreen became the Starbucks of salads with a valuation over $1 billion
How Sweetgreen became the Starbucks of salads with a valuation over $1 billion

3. They lead from personal experience

In 2017, a Google software engineer published a 10-page memo against the tech giant's diversity initiatives. The document went viral, prompting a quick response from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

But the most daring and bold response came from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Rather than speaking out in a corporate and sterile tone (which was expected, given that Google owns YouTube), she spoke about her personal experience and addressed the pain and empathy she felt for others who had read memo.

"I've had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I've been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I've had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues," she wrote in an article for Fortune.

Wojcicki's response focused on how to empower the next generation of young women. Her viewpoint not only showcased her vision for the future, but also captured the hearts of many. The most successful leaders know when to lead from an objective strategy, and when to lead with empathy and humanity.

4. They know the greatest ideas come at the most unexpected times

Studies about the brain and internal thought processes (i.e., daydreaming, imagining) have revealed that our "aha" moments often appear at the most unexpected times. "Information comes in consciously, but the problem is processed unconsciously, with the resulting solution leaping out when the mind least expects it," writes Claudia Kalb, a best-selling author and journalist who reports on human behavior.

In a Reddit AMA session, Musk said that he thinks up the most brilliant ideas he's when taking a shower. CEOs and executives from some of the most successful companies in the world — including LinkedIn, Facebook and Googlehold meetings on foot (i.e., standing, walking) because they believe that's when people are most focused, creative and productive.

...our 'aha' moments often appear at the most unexpected times.

Like all successful leaders, it helps to allow things to flow in and out of your brain naturally, instead of getting too attached to when and where they come from. If there are certain activities, locations or times where you find yourself most relaxed, be willing to have an open mind and let your creativity ignite on its own.

5. They think outside the box and beyond the status quo

Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake recently told CNBC using artificial intelligence (A.I.) to create in-app algorithms helped boost the company's earnings. The algorithms lifted Stitch Fix's net revenue per client by six percent year-over-year.

When you're at the top of the mountain, there isn't a status quo to reference or a path to follow; you're the one blazing the trail. It's a distinct leadership trait at the C-suite level, but you don't need to spend years climbing the ladder to acquire the same foresight.

Instead, reap the benefits now by mapping out five, 10 or even 20 unconventional solutions to your current business quandary. You'll have a greater chance of successfully solving your problems by doing so. When your entrepreneurial muscles does this type of heavy lifting on a regular basis, you'll soon be able to master "thinking outside the box" more nimbly, which will put you at the front of the pack.

David Neagle is the founder of Life Is Now, Inc., a leadership coaching company. David's coaching has expanded to more than 30 countries, and his work has been featured in Forbes, CBS, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., and Entrepreneur. He's also the best-selling author of "The Millions Within." Follow him on Twitter @davidneagle.

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