FIVE things successful people do that you’re probably not doing

FIVE things successful people do that you’re probably not doing

Richard Branson. Bill Gates. Warren Buffett. Oprah Winfrey. Beyonce.

These are just some of the names of the world’s most successful businessmen and women.

They didn’t get there on blind luck.

Their success is down to daily, actionable steps.

If you want to become successful in any field and get the most out of your life, try copying what the world’s most successful people do.

Here is a list of five things successful people do that you probably currently are not doing doing.

(And if you are, kudos to you, you are on your way!)

1. Read.

The American businessman, investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffett reads for five or six hours a day. When you decide become a learner, you become an earner. Becoming a sponge for new information is a key to being successful. Suppose you want to become a journalist – read ALL the books you can find about journalism. If it’s investing you want to master, read every book about money you can find.

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “ all I know is that I know nothing,” reminding us that if one of the founders of Western culture says he knows nothing, the rest of us have a great deal to learn.

2. Manage your expectations.

Don’t try and hit a homerun on your first try. First base is great! Good enough is perfect. Getting your first piece picked up, or seeing your first sale come in is an amazing feeling. If you expect to make a million dollars in your first week, you will most likely be sorely disappointed. Set realistic goals that are scalable. If you want to become a journalist, don’t plan to be published in Esquire in two weeks; set a goal like getting published by a large market publication in the next 3 months, or making $5,000 this month.

3. Commit to your goals and hold yourself accountable.

Making a list of goals is a great start. However the difference between people that succeed and people that fail, is that people who succeed hold themselves accountable. This could be something as simple as setting a date of completion on a project, and asking a business partner to check in with them to make sure they reached their goals. Or it could be making a bet with a friend, like I encourage people to do. My friend Maneesh and I created a program that does just that called Get it Done in 30. Do you want to be the best? Decide that you are going to be the best. Display ingenuity on your way, and work backwards.

4. Focus on completion, not activity

Most people think things like “it’s the thought that counts” apply to success. Well really, that’s not true. Generating activity in the process of achieving your goal is great, but if you only generate activity in that direction, and never actually get there, it would be the same as if you are trying to get ahold of someone so you call them 100 times, but you never talk to them. “But I tried calling them,” you say! You can’t equate activity with completion. Get to the finish line, don’t stop midway.

5. Plan your days carefully

Success can be defined as many things, but as a basic rule, a successful person has found fulfillment in their career, their family life, or their higher purpose. Most successful people spend their weekends similarly. Allotting time for family, friends, everyday errands AND creative activities with productivity are all important parts of the day. They also manage to get in 10,000 hours in their field of expertise, as mentioned by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, a great recommended read. They put in LOTS of time, and then they put in LOTS more time.

Now I want to hear from YOU.

Let me ask you two questions:

1. What do you think of this list?

2. What are you going to do NOW to become more successful?

Leave a comment in the comments section below. I read every comment and will respond.


  • Maneesh Sethi

    Awesome post!

    • James Swanwick

      Thanks Maneesh!

  • Dewey

    Great list! I like number 4, focusing on results and not a quantity/duration. Number 5 is my weakness right now. I need to plan my day so it is an aspect of balance. Each day I need to do something physical, productive, creative, relaxing and social.

    • James Swanwick

      Thanks, Dewey. Yes, it’s important you set yourself a “non-negotiable” list each day. For me, it’s exercise. I’ve just added, “Listen to 20 minutes of the Warren Buffett biography, The Snowball, on my iPod every day.” They’re both non-negotiable so I HAVE to complete both. Try it out.

  • Trevor Boyson

    My recommendation for people getting into reading is not to try reading some super hefty book in just a day or two. It’s something that you have to train your attention span into. When I finished a year of school I went into summer not able read to read for more than 15 minutes at a time. I had to build into it. So don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t click right away! Pick some fiction, it doesn’t have to be long or deep, and just read a chapter a day to start. You’ll start wanting to read more before you know it.

    • James Swanwick

      Trevor, it’s true you have to train your attention span into. But a friend and mentor of mine, Tai Lopez, reads a book a day. He learns a lot from that skill. Check out Also, me personally, I like to steer away from fiction and concentrate more on biographies. I feel I can learn more about people and the world that way. It’s just my personal preference. But even 15minutes at a time of fiction, like you said, will rewire the brain to function at its best. And yes, you’ll start wanting to read more.

  • Waihiga K.Muturi

    Good reminder on setting priorities.

    “What am I going to do?”: Re-affirm what I’ve done so far with some relevant push from your notes 🙂

    Thank You.

  • Jason Claproth

    #4 is very powerful. The act of getting things completed vs. being busy. The time to get something done is now.

  • Jessie

    I think this list is fantastic – and a great kick in the butt.

    What am I going to do now? I downloaded some podcasts, including some of the Alpha Male Club sessions to listen to instead of music when I am walking. I am limiting screen time in order to read more. I am going to start doing “writing pages” in the morning (The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron). I am going to try and finish the mentor program and set up a few sit-downs with some friends I haven’t seen in ages who have made big changes recently. I am also starting a food log and trying to power down earlier to get some more sleep.

    I am really enjoying these posts. Thanks!

  • Sheila Mikulin

    James, I just recently subscribed to your blog after hearing your podcast with Ben Greenfield (very good, btw). I have liked your posts. Just one note: Gladwell has been debunked in every single one of his sloppy science (this is being kind) books. You might want to read some of them online…

    • James Swanwick

      Thanks, Sheila. I’ll definitely take a look at that Gladwell thing. Thanks!

  • Laetitia Orsetti

    Thank you so much, James!
    Am really impressed on how completely focus and right you are on every topic!!
    Your positive energy and diligence is really empowering me right now!! I really
    hope to achieve a successful business – now if I can just follow all of your excellent

  • James Swanwick

    Thanks, Laetitia! I suggest you get into my mentor Tai Lopez’s 67 Steps to help you achieve a successful business. You can sign up here: “How I Went From Broke To Buying A Lamborghini” – 67 Steps:

  • PermanentGuest

    Most people think things like “it’s the thought that counts” apply to success. Well really, that’s not true.

    I think having action-based goals is valuable, especially to remove the fear of failure and to encourage action. One should have their destination in mind, yet the breakdown occurs when they attempt to get there in one day. Thus, if one would like to be published, they can set a goal of writing every day, submitting a piece every week, etc.

    Great list. #1 is definitely the most important.