Every week for a year I interviewed a successful woman, from scientists to athletes, a rabbi, activists, an astronaut, authors and entrepreneurs. Each woman had a story; each one was different. But perhaps unsurprisingly, there were several traits and characteristics these successful women had in common. It was fascinating to learn from them, and now I get to share those lessons with you.
Here are 15 things the 49 successful women I interviewed had in common:
1. They play to their strengths.
This is not necessarily the same as doing what you love. You can, for example, love doing mosaics, but you might not choose that for your career. Think about what you can do so well that, with time, you can dominate your field. While you should also love it, when choosing your career path, try thinking first about what you’re good at.
2. Successful women have ambition.
They do not dream about being the best in their section or department. Their eyes are set on the best in the state or country, if not the world.
3. They stay positive.
Successful women know how to deal with disappointment in a way that keeps them from getting down and staying down. They know the future will be bright for them.
4. Successful women are organized.
The vast majority of people I interviewed said yes quickly, checked their calendars, booked a date and did the interview. No extra emails. Not many reschedules. Successful women decide what they want to do and then they just do it—simple and organized.
5. They’re constantly learning.
These women do not stay static. They are continually improving themselves, using mentors and coaches to accelerate their improvement.
6. Successful women have a strong support system.
Most of the women I spoke to had a partner or family member who was supportive of what they did. They knew they had somebody to lean on when needed.
7. They know failure and success go together.
Everyone experiences failure—and has the opportunity to learn from that failure—on their way to the top.
8. Successful women remain grateful.
These women gave credit to those who helped them along the way. They were grateful for what they had. They didn’t take their current position for granted.
9. They work hard and persistently.
Nobody got to where they are now without working hard and staying persistent. This might be obvious, but it’s a lot easier to say than do.
10. They don’t sweat the small stuff.
Successful women are good at separating the valuable from the worthless.
11. Successful women choose their battles wisely.
They don’t make a big deal about every little thing. But if there’s a real problem, you can be sure it will be swiftly solved.
12. They do what they believe in.
The belief in the purpose of their work is the fuel behind years of hard work and dedication.
13. Successful women have confidence.
They believe in themselves. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
14. They have a vision for the future.
Successful women see a new and better world in the future and work toward achieving those changes. They are in it for the long haul.
15. They feel successful, but never done.
There’s always more, always better, always further to reach. These women are seemingly tireless, ultimately devoted and constantly curious.
The moral of this story for me, when listening to and learning from these women over the course of a year, is that successful women are just like you and me. They are not born with silver spoons in their mouths. True, they’re intelligent and focused. But they don’t have superpowers; instead, they have determination, vision and purpose.
We can be that! We can do that!
This article was updated May 2023. Photo by imtmphoto/Shutterstock
Edie Berg is the founder of The Strong Women's Club, highlighting the behind-the-scenes stories of successful women with a weekly podcast; she gets into the details of how you can set and reach your goals to achieve success. Edie is also the facilitator of Strong Women’s Mastermind groups and Strong Women’s corporate and group workshops and she produces Strong Women’s Online Summits. She has been the head of rehabilitation departments; owner, chef and instructor at food workshops; and executive administrative manager of a global bank.
Edie believes that it is never too late to do what you love, that you can reach your goals and choose your dreams to live life without regret. She has lived in California, Australia, Canada, Boston, and is currently enjoying life CrossFitting, with her blended family of her four kids and his two kids in Israel.