8 Things Successful People Do

Building up students for success is really what teachers ultimately do. The devil is in the details, obviously, and the details can range from spelling and basic arithmetic to complex problem solving and writing.

The handy infographic below (via) looks at 8 things successful people do and why they work. The graphic is definitely geared towards a more business-focused audience, but when I looked at it, I saw so many different ways that these tips and tricks can be applied in the classroom, at home with your own kids, and even for yourself. Take a look below at the ideas the graphic offers. We’ve summarized it below and added in some classroom applications, but the graphic offers some additional explanations.

8 Great Tips For Success

Don’t Have A Back Up Plan

The Concept: If you don’t have a back up plan, you’ll work much harder to achieve your primary goals. Sometimes you need to learn NOT to rely on a safety net!

In your classroom, if your students know that they’ll always have the chance to get extra credit points for an additional project or paper, why would they work as hard on their primary work? While offering extra credit is often a nice (and admittedly, sometimes almost necessary) gesture, if there is always an extra credit back up plan, it isn’t really ‘extra’, is it?


The Concept: Greatness comes from effort. There are no overnight successes or shortcuts.

This especially holds true in the classroom. There’s no shortcut to understanding a concept and learning to apply it appropriately. You might be able to write down all the formulas you’re supposed to know for an algebra test on your hand, but if you don’t know it and aren’t able to apply it later, that shortcut hasn’t helped you.

Work More

The Concept: Successful folks clock a lot of hours – not necessarily because they have to, but because they want to. If you’re not willing to put in the time to achieve your goals, then they aren’t that important to you.

I think we see this a lot in students – they don’t want to put in the time because the task at hand isn’t what they’re interested in. While students can’t get around some of that (you have to take certain classes without choice, right?), the idea that you should apply yourself to what interests you really stands out. Get students involved and working on things they like. Perhaps a certain type of project would be more interesting, even if the material isn’t really exciting.

Don’t Follow The Herd

The Concept: Avoid the crowds. Conventional wisdom leads to conventional results. Sometimes you need to be a pioneer to achieve success. Don’t follow trends, go where there is less competition.

This one kind of follows the last idea: do what you’re interested in – don’t just do what everyone else is doing. I think that at least half of my high school graduating class applied to Boston College (if not more – it was totally *the* place to go from my school). I applied, too, even though it wasn’t really the type of school I wanted to go to at all. Following the pack isn’t what is going to help you stand out.

Start At The End and Aim High

Start with where you want to end up. Make that your goal, and work backwards to create the steps you need to complete to achieve your goal.

A great problem solving technique that can be applied to many areas of the classroom, working backwards isn’t a new idea, but can definitely provide a fresh look at a situation.

Once You Get To The End, Keep Going

Don’t stop just because you achieve a goal. Use each success as a launching pad for achieving the next success. Successes in one area can help you with successes in other areas, too.

When students succeed in one area, it can help their confidence in other subjects, too. Goal setting is important, but goal adjusting and revising our ongoing goals is just as important.

You’re Going To Have To Sell 

Your ability to sell will contribute to your success. Helping others understand what you’re doing and why will encourage others to work with you and overcome obstacles.

Learning to sell your ideas (and often, yourself) is a great skill to have regardless of what you do. It helps build relationships, forces you to work on your communication skills with a variety of people, and having to explain what you’re working on to someone else often forces you to examine it from a number of different angles, which can help you to understand it better. Having your students present their work to different audiences can tick this box and create a number of different types of projects to work on.

Never Be Too Proud

Be willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake, when you’ve gotten help from others (and from where) and failed at times.

This one is a pretty universal life lesson that we can all use a dose of from time to time.





  1. Sarah

    February 2, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I like how you guys applied this infographic to the classroom. For #1, in the original sense, I had my reservations, because too many people waste time chasing fame and stardom with no fall-back. This is horrible advice. However, in the classroom it makes perfect sense. Thank you for making the distinction.

  2. Kathy Balbo

    February 3, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed article…knew many of these concepts from working in business, but learned how to apply them in healthcare education.

  3. Jane Koltracht

    February 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    A great reminder that many meaningful tips for personal and professional success can be applied to the classroom as well. These are pieces of advice that students and educators can strive for simultaneously.

  4. Kunle Obisesan

    February 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I’m inspired by these. They are great motivations!