By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

I almost laughed when a new client we’ll call Jack walked into my office, sat down, and asked me what the secret to success was. I stifled my laugh when I realized he was serious, staring at me in earnest, genuinely hoping I had the answer.

Here’s the truth: there’s no one single secret to success, and there’s no set path that guarantees success over failure. However, there are key traits that successful people have in common that without a doubt contribute to their ability to succeed when others seem to flounder. Here are 5 of them:

  1. They’re willing to take risks. Are you willing to bet the farm that you can achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself? If not, then you’re likely holding back on something. Success comes when you’re willing jump and truly go all-in. If you’re holding back on something, you’ll likely never reach your full potential.
  2. They’re willing to work. Innate qualities like intelligence and talent play a factor in achieving success, but studies show that grit, hard work, and determination are just as important. And another study proves that dedicating enough quality, focused time to really any task or skill is ultimately what makes one an expert in something, more so than any other factor. So if you’re willing to put in the effort and stay the course, you can succeed. Period. The sad reality is that too few people are able to reach that level and remain committed, which is what sets apart those who can.
  3. They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong. Success is never guaranteed, but experiencing setbacks along the way is basically a given. What differentiates those who ultimately fail from those who succeed is the ability to humbly admit where you went wrong, learn from your mistakes, and move on. Make the proper adjustments instead of dwelling on the setback and beating yourself up.
  4. They’re willing to adapt. Getting too set in your ways and failing to see the bigger picture can be detrimental to success. Planning is important, but realize that few plans go off without a hitch, and the ability to roll with the punches is critical.
  5. They know how to delegate, without micromanaging. Learning what to let go of and what to outsource is key, as it enables people who achieve success to focus only on the most important tasks that really can only be performed by them. Trying to shoulder everything is risky and is a surefire path to burnout.

I saw the disappointment in Jack’s face when I told him that I didn’t know the secret to success. But as we worked closely together, we identified a number of ways Jack was holding himself back, and within just a few months, Jack had launched his own new company. He’s thriving as his own boss and turning revenue he never thought possible from working for himself.

So in some ways, I guess Jack did go on to figure out the secret to success.


  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.