Non-obvious traits of winners:
Common Trait: Expert Advice Filters

You're going to get a lot of advice—most of it well-intentioned.

But it's dangerous to use someone else's map of reality to navigate yours.

Winners have learned how to filter and selectively implement advice—take the signal, skip the noise.
Common Trait: Focus on Questions, Not Answers

Top performers consistently ask great questions.

It allows them to aggregate insights more effectively.

Their "insight yield" is incredibly high.

Smart people want to have the best answers—geniuses want to ask the best questions.
Common Trait: Compartmentalization

Compartmentalization is a superpower.

The highest achievers have all developed an uncanny ability to compartmentalize.

They turn off outside stressors and focus exclusively on the task at hand.

If you learn to do this, the world is yours.
Common Trait: Differentiate Luck & Skill

Humans are storytelling creatures.

But our stories are flawed. We are notoriously bad at differentiating between skill and luck.

Stories of success tend to downplay the role of luck; stories of failure tend to overplay the role of luck.
Average performers think like this:

• Good outcome? I'm a genius.
• Bad outcome? I'm unlucky.

Top performers have an understanding of @mjmauboussin's luck-skill continuum.

They identify where an activity or outcome exists on it and adjust future actions accordingly.
Common Trait: Self-Awareness

The most successful people are hyper self-aware.

They identify their unique edge relative to the world.

They play games that favor that edge—they exploit it, over and over again.

They don't focus on their weaknesses—they press their strengths.
Common Trait: Reduce the Amplitude

Imagine your emotional state as a wave—with ups and downs above and below a baseline.

The amplitude of the wave is the measure of the peak swings vs. the baseline.

Winners find a way to reduce the amplitude.

Never too high, never too low.
Common Trait: Strategy & Influence

It's (relatively) easy to develop the strategy.

It's much more difficult to develop the strategy AND influence people to execute against it effectively.

Strategy & Influence—when you can do both, you can accomplish literally anything.
Common Trait: Paranoia

Highly-successful people share a surprising fear that all of the success is suddenly going to disappear.

For example: Sequoia’s Mike Moritz once told Charlie Rose that paranoia was what had allowed Sequoia to become the most successful VC firm in history.
"Failure comes from the failure to imagine failure." - @wolfejosh

The best have developed an uncanny ability to imagine failure.

It creates two dynamics:
• Positive—drive for continued growth
• Negative—enough is never enough

Finding balance between the two is the hard part.
Common Trait: Act Despite Likelihood of Failure

In 2009, Elon Musk had a lunch with Charlie Munger.

Munger told the table all the reasons Tesla would fail.

Musk listened, accepted the reasons as correct, but said that it was still worth trying given the impact if it worked.
Two lessons to draw here:

(1) Rather than reacting negatively to counterpoints, Musk embraced them. Amateurs get angered, professionals seek to understand.

(2) Musk took action despite a low gross probability of success because he believed the bet had a positive expected value.
Common Trait: Antifragile

In Greek mythology, the Hydra is a creature that has multiple heads. When 1 is cut off, 2 grow back in its place.

Life is chaotic.

The best aren't broken by the chaos—they build structure such that they will benefit from it.

They are pro-entropic.
Relatedly, Charles Darwin is often paraphrased as saying:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change."

The only constant is change.

If you can be responsive and adaptive to it, you'll win.
Common Trait: Smile Through Chaos

I had a teammate who would grin wildly when we were in the depths of a painful workout.

It was simultaneously inspiring and terrifying.

If you can smile through chaos:
• Everyone wants to stand with you
• No one wants to stand against you
Common Trait: Positive Sum

Want to get ahead in life? Start genuinely rooting for others to succeed.

The most successful people have realized:

When one of us wins, we all win—winning spreads.

If you adopt that mentality, you’ll become a magnet for the highest quality people.
Common Trait: Work in Sprints

Parkinson's Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

When you establish fixed hours to your work, you find unproductive ways to fill it.

Top performers typically work like lions instead—sprint, rest, repeat.
A few notable ideas for this:

Identify the times of day when your natural creative energy is high and low. Schedule sprints during the high energy windows.

Create 60 and 90-day sprints to execute against bigger strategic projects.

Active rest can be a great creative unlock.
Common Trait: Impatient Long-Term Thinkers

Life is a long game.

Those with low time preference play it more effectively—they delay gratification to allow compounding to work its magic.

Long-term thinking plus short-term impatience for action is the recipe for success.
Common Trait: Polymathic Tendencies

A polymath is a person with ranging, multi-disciplinary knowledge.

As @DavidEpstein finds in Range, many top performers succeed because of the range of pursuits that preceded their main endeavor.

The breadth enables deep, creative insight.
Common Trait: Simple is Beautiful

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple." — Einstein

Complexity is often used to mask a lack of deep understanding.

Top performers convey the complex in simple, digestible ways.

They find beauty in simplicity.
Common Trait: Enjoy Being Wrong

The most successful people understand that finding the truth is much more important than being right.

They enjoy being wrong.

They embrace new info that forces them to change their viewpoint—these are software updates that improve upon the old.
I've been fortunate to encounter a lot of winners—those are some of the non-obvious common traits I’ve observed.

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