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For our bestselling book, Success Built to Last, we conduced a World Success Survey with Wharton in which Mark Thompson interviewed high achievers—from the Richard Branson to Steve Jobs, from Presidents to Nobel laureates. The survey was conducted by Bonita Thompson, Howard Moskowitz, Mark Thompson, and Jerry Porras in 110 nations using the Wharton database of high achievers.

Among the top line results were further confirmation that successful people don't rely on the approval of others to pursue their goals, causes, or callings. Successful people take the initiative despite social pressures rather than because of them. They are more committed to doing what they love than being loved by others. They don't wallow or obsess on a single defeat or rely on finding scapegoats or blame when things go wrong. Instead, successful people place higher priority on being effective in getting the outcomes they seek.

We found that every high achiever had three definitions of success that help them produce long term (over 20 years) of impact in their profession: Purpose Passion and Performance (below). Even though all three dimensions are necessary for long term success, every individual tends to identify more strongly with one of these three over the other two dimensions. All groups said that the traditional dictionary definition of success—notably the significant achievement of fame, wealth, and power—no longer describes what success means to them. Although popularity and affluence, for example, are nice outcomes, people prefer to define success as the ability to "make a difference," "create lasting impact," and being "engaged in a life of personal fulfillment," according to the study. What is special about enduringly successful people is that they won't settle for less than this!

The three P's are:

  • Purpose / Meaning: Driven primarily to Make a Difference, Be Meaningful Segment (44% of sample had propensity to this dimension).
  • Passion / ThoughtStyle: Dedicated Passions Segment (29% of sample).
  • Performance / ActionStyle: Love to Win... Be Accomplished and Love Work Segment (27% of sample).

It's worth mentioning that there were no significant differences in these attitudes based on demographics. They were consistent regard- less of age, gender, or geographic location. Download the .pdf below.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out*—A Look at the Research Behind "Success Built to Last" (download .pdf)

American ExpressMark Thompson and Bonita Buell-Thompson are hosts for a webshow series sponsored by the Leader to Leader (formerly Peter Drucker) Institute and American Express. The 2-minute on-location interviews provide fun and insightful tips for leaders on how to better manage their lives and work.

See 100 engaging micro-interviews on Your Insight on Facebook.

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