The Core Habits of Successful People

I read with interest a while ago about some core habits that successful people display on a daily basis, in amongst their actual activities or line of work. While it attracted a fair bit of criticism (see below), I still think it is worth discussing.


In this blog, I have teased out what I think are the top 10 from the list of 20, mainly because they are the habits of my mentors, namely the people I think are already successful in their fields. Note: I appreciate that success is different to every individual!

On a personal level, following the example of the leaders in my life, I dug in about a year ago and started following these habits and my life has taken on a complete overhaul (for the better of course!).


The Study

Tom Corley, of the Rich Habits Institute website, surveyed 233 wealthy individuals and 128 poor people and this is what he found.

1. Maintaining a to-do list:

  • 81% wealthy vs 19% poor
  • To this end, I use Trello boards and I apply the Eat That Frog principles to prioritise my tasks.

2. Listen to audio books/educational podcasts during one’s commute to work:

  • 63% wealthy vs 5% poor
  • I have too many to mention, but mainly business audio and success stories, podcasts like Tim Ferriss, Audible books and the odd sports podcast for variety. I completely avoid the news, on radio, TV, online and newspaper.

3. Read 30+ minutes per day for education or career reasons:

  • 88% wealthy vs 2% poor
  • I now read 2 books a month, simultaneously (one in the morning, one at night) whereas it used to be 5 or 6 a year! I also haven’t touched a sports biography in a while, as they are generally slagging-off sessions.

4. Wake up 3 hours before work starts:

  • 44% wealthy vs 3% poor
  • Alarm now goes off between 6.15 and 6.30am and I’m at my desk by 7.45am latest having already had breakfast, done some stretches, done some chores, cleaned up the dishes, read for 15 mins and checked social media as a reward. Gone are the days of rolling out of bed at 8am for a 9am start, and spending wasteful hours on Facebook!

5. Exercise aerobically 4 days per week:

  • 76% wealthy vs 23% poor
  • I joined Crossfit and attend hour-long classes 1 to 3 times a week depending on my travel schedule. I have also done a few bike rides and we like to walk the dog. I also try walk 10,000 steps a day.

6. Eating junk food: 

  • 70% wealthy eat less than 300 calories of junk food per day, while 97% of poor people eat more than 300
  • If biltong counts as junk food, I’m a sinner.

7. Watching TV (1 hour or less per day): 

  • 67% wealthy vs 23% poor
  • I may as well throw mine away. My guilty pleasure though if I want to reward myself while working at night is to have some sport on, but it’s not a regular occurrence and generally reserved for weekends. I rarely watch movies, and watch the odd documentary, if anything.

8. Belief in lifelong educational self-improvement:

  • 86% wealthy vs 5% poor
  • Steve Jobs sums up this one perfectly: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

9. Write down their goals:

  • 67% wealthy vs 17% poor
  • I have some big, hairy, audacious goals this year and they are stuck up with pictures on my wall and I look at them daily. I also have affirmations that I read every day in my pre-work routine. It sounds a bit silly, but for years I wrote my goals and kept them hidden and didn’t look at them daily. Suffice to say I very rarely achieved them.

10. Network five hours or more each month:

  • 79% wealthy vs 16% poor
  • And I have learnt to network properly, using a variety of techniques from professionals (another topic for another day!). I’m a firm believer that networking your way to a job or in business is far more fruitful and productive. Besides, you meet some really interesting people that you can learn something from if you put yourself out there!



While nothing on this list is rocket science, it is indeed very telling, even if the sample size is too small to appease the statisticians and sceptics.

Furthermore, nothing in the study or in this blog mentions anything about automatically guaranteed success if you follow these habits. Shovelling pooh up a hill (literally) 4 days a week might constitute exercise, but it is by no means a good use of your time and energy. And you’ll probably just ruin your clothes.

I challenge you to look at this list and be honest with yourself whether you adhere religiously to any or all of those mentioned. Ask yourself which ones are important to you, and if not, would giving them a try be too difficult? What if you really could be led down a path of success and/or enlightenment?

If the successful really are performing these actions every day, then maybe it’s worth a shot? I mean, you’ve got nothing to lose, except your unfulfilled ambitions.


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