What is the number one reason why some people succeed in life?

Lets say you were asked to examine every person in history who has ever achieved something significant to the lives of millions. These people would range from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Gates to Martin Luther King, Jr. What would you say is the all-encompassing reason for their success?

What do they have that most people don’t have?

The desire to succeed

There probably is not any useful single factor…

Desire for Power?

Actually, I think we can both agree that the people who start from the bottom and work their way to the top consistently have “something” that the people who stay at the bottom don’t have.

Just as gravity is said to be the main reason why objects fall to the Earth, I’m sure there must be one major factor that consistently moves people from rags to riches.

The desire to succeed is definitely a part of it, but there are plenty of folks out there who share that trait that will never amount to much.

IMO, the biggest reason most successful people are as successful as they are is pure luck. Being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, being lucky that someone else slightly better didn’t come along… that sort of thing.

No, I don’t think I will agree with that, except to the meaningless extent that they have in common the very fact that they rose to the top. I don’t think there’s a single common major causative factor in play for every case, though there may be a variety of useful-to-study commonalities nonetheless. Why do you think there is one?

If I were to ask “What is the single reason why some people attend college whereas others don’t?”, I would likely be told “Well, there isn’t any one globally applicable thing…”. Why should this be different?

The desire not to merely be happy and have a contented life, but to be better than everyone else. Sure, probability comes into play, but that’s why they keep going instead of taking their chips and going home. But this is why Buddhist monks are rarely rich CEOs.

Vox Imperatoris

It ain’t *what *you know, it’s *who *you know.

Number one reason, no joke.


A combination of looks, intelligence, drive, and charm will form a person with strong goals, and the means to achieve them. Looks and charm help people to forge strong personal and professional relationships.

I think looks might be controversial, but I really think it gives people a huge boost of confidence.

Because someone who starts at the level of poverty will usually need some sort of well-defined purpose or a specific burning obsession to focus on in order to reach great heights whereas someone in college doesn’t require any real desire to be there in the first place.

Why would it be the same one for all success stories, though (beyond just “Well, success is better than poverty, so I’d like me some of that”)? That’s where we disagree…

Oh, and this really, really, does not need to be in GQ.

Vox Imperatoris

There is no ONE reason. But there are three items of equal level:

  1. Hard work
  2. Skill
  3. Luck

I think #1, or rather, determination is still the main ingredient. While it’s true that some (maybe even most) people just do not have the ability or the right circumstances, the overwhelming majority of people do not have the desire to push themselves everyday to gain what to them is a meaningless advancement over what they feel they need. The development of this feeling is usually called “settling down”. People who do succeed are usually more concerned with the “He who has the most gold when he dies wins,” rule than pure happiness.

Oh, and you can’t bring the rich and decadent who were born into it into this. They haven’t succeeded; they’ve just avoided total failure.

Vox Imperatoris

Moving this to Great Debates.

samclem General Questions Moderator

Getting right back up after being knocked to the ground.

I think a lot of people who are good looking but don’t believe they are can still be successful because people like being around people who are good looking.


I think I’d almost have to say it’s having the


to succeed that makes people succeed. I have at different points in my life had all kinds of determination or skill or connections or luck or what have you to succeed at some task or project or goal, but my utter lack of confidence has allowed me to give up on many opportunities at the smallest setback. And it seems like that’s what sets me apart from others with the same (or similar) characteristics as me who do seem to succeed at what they try.