12 Characteristics of People Who Are the Best at What They Do

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 5, 2016

What does it mean to be the best? What are the characteristics common to successful people, achievers, doers—the ones who find ways to become the very best at everything they do?

Would you pass the “Best” test?

Here are 12 questions to find out if you’ve got what it takes to rise to the top:

1. Are you an optimist?

You can’t get to the top if you don’t think there is a top, or if you think you can’t make it. Optimists always believe things can improve or be done better. This pushes them to be their best.

2. Do you have a vision?

Visionaries can see ahead of the pack. Their eyes aren’t locked on the here and now. They see the bright future and what things will look like when they reach their destiny. While working hard for today, they live for the future. They “begin with the end in mind.”

3. Do you relentlessly pursue excellence?

The status quo is not for the best. They want to experience the best and be the best. That means giving their best. They go the extra mile so that in everything they do, in everything they say and think, they are striving for excellence.

4. Do you have a lifelong habit of personal growth?

They don’t want to stay at the level they are at. They want to grow in their work, their intellect, their spirituality and their relationships— in every area of their life. And they discipline themselves to put themselves in situations where they grow. Personal growth doesn’t “just happen.” People must choose to grow.

5. Do you welcome competition?

Like the lead runners in the race with someone on their heels, the best know that the competition is right behind them. They love it because they know the competition keeps them from becoming lazy or complacent. The competition pushes them to go faster and achieve more—to remain the best by forging ahead.

6. Do you strive to be a leader?

Someone has to lead—it may as well be the best. People who become leaders get there because they want to. They want make a difference. And they want to be equipped with the skills necessary to lead others to a better place.

7. Do you leave a legacy?

Leaders aren’t in it just for themselves, though they will surely reap the rewards of being the best. They build things that last beyond themselves, things that can be enjoyed by others as well. They leave a mark for future leaders to see and use.

8. Do you know how to prioritize and execute your goals?

Just like weight loss boils down to eating right and exercising, personal management boils down to prioritizing and executing. First prioritize your activities—the important stuff goes on the top. Then execute—do them. The best have habits and discipline that get them to the top, by doing the best things and doing them first.

9. Do you focus on building relationships?

Success does not come alone. Everyone who achieves greatness does it with the help of countless others. How do the best get others to help them? They treat them with respect. They embrace them. People become the best because they help other people, and people like them.

10. Do you make excuses?

When they fail, they admit it and move on. They get back up and do it right next time. They let their actions speak louder than their words. They stand tall and do it better next time. No excuses, just results.

11. Do you strive for “good” or “best?”

Yes, they could say, “This is good.” But that would mean they have settled for less than the best. Many people think that good is good. Good is not good. Good is the enemy because it keeps us from the best. What will it be: good or best? The best choose the best.

12. Do you dare to dream?

While others live the mundane and settle into a life they never bargained for, a rut, the best dream of a better life. And then they take the necessary risks to achieve their dreams. They live by Teddy Roosevelt’s quote: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

So, do you have what it takes to be the best?

Are you goals too tough or not tough enough? Take this quiz to find out.