12 Differences Between Successful and Unsuccessful People (May 2023)

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Have you ever read a scripture that just ignited a mental firestorm. . . stirring your spirit and energizing your fingers on a laptop keyboard?

Here’s the scripture that fired me up today.

Proverbs 12:24 in the New Living Translation says:

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.”

As I read that scripture I began thinking about the differences between successful and unsuccessful people.

Brian Tracy, a noted author and success teacher, said:

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, 'What's in it for me?'”

Being successful is not necessarily the result of your education, experience, family background or luck. . .but neither is being unsuccessful the result of those same things.

Here are twelve differences between successful and unsuccessful people.

1.      Successful people make plans. . .unsuccessful people make excuses.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 in the Message Bible says:

“Don't you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? "If you don't work, you don't eat." And now we're getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don't slack off in doing your duty.”

If you spend your life looking for an excuse. . .you’ll never find the time to find the answer to your problem.

If you’re good at making excuses. . .you’ll never be good at anything else.

Proverbs 1:25 in the New International Version says:

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

I’ve written extensively on both plans and excuses in the past.   Visit our website www.debtfreearmy.org and do a search for both topics.

People with excuses will never be remembered for what they did . . . or even what they could have done.

2.      Successful people live disciplined lives. . .unsuccessful people do what feels good at the moment.

Leading a disciplined financial life is saying no to impulse buying. . .and yes to becoming debt free.

A disciplined financial life is saying no today so you can have a better tomorrow.

If you remember Proverbs 12:24 says . . . if we don’t work hard. . .we won’t be a leader but will, in fact, become a slave.

Proverbs 22:7 in the Contemporary English Version says:

“The poor are ruled by the rich, and those who borrow are slaves of moneylenders.”

Financial discipline today will keep you from being a slave to someone else tomorrow.

Let me say it another way: if you lead an undisciplined financial life instead of spending your retirement years visiting your grandchildren, family and friends. . .you’ll be greeting your family and friends as they walk through the doors of McDonalds or Wal-Mart.

Make the tough decisions now. . .so you don’t have to live a life without choices later.

3.      Successful people associate with people who have dreams and goals . . . unsuccessful people associate with wishers.  They wish they had a better life but never do anything about it.

You are blessed or cursed by the people you associate with.  Let me say that same sentence but in a different manner.

You will either be successful or unsuccessful by the people you associate with.

Make a list of your seven closest friends and associates.

Now ask yourself these four questions.

What does this person add to my life?

What's the greatest negative influence this person has on my life?

What's the last positive idea, scripture or thought this person shared with me?

Does this person motivate me to be all I can be in Him?

It only makes sense to associate with people who can encourage, exhort, edify and build you up as you pursue your dreams of success.  Surround yourself with people who also have a dream, a goal and a vision of what they want their lives to be.

In addition, it should go without saying that this works both ways.  Friends treat friends the way they want to be treated.

1 Corinthians 15:33 in the New Living Translation says:

“Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.”

4.      Successful people are never thrown by obstacles to their success. . . unsuccessful people whine about how unfair things are.

What or who’s the greatest obstacle or limitation you face in achieving your goals?  LOOK IN A MIRROR for your answer . . . because it’s you.

When you look in that mirror, you need to be looking with the eye of the Spirit.  Don’t look with the natural eye at your physical appearance or what you’re wearing.  Forget what people have said or even more importantly, what you have thought about your own inabilities and failures in the past.

When you look in that mirror, you need to realize that you’re not alone.  You’ve got the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working on your team.

Deuteronomy 28:8 in the Contemporary English Version says:

“The LORD your God is giving you the land, and he will make sure you are successful in everything you do. Your harvests will be so large that your storehouses will be full.”

I could give you a number of reason why whining is a bad idea. . .but all I need to give you is one.  God doesn’t like it.

Numbers 11:10 in the Message Bible says:

“Moses heard the whining, all those families whining in front of their tents. God's anger blazed up. Moses saw that things were in a bad way.”

5.      Successful people manage their time and their lives. . .unsuccessful people wonder what happened to their time.

You decide. . .not somebody else. . .not the passing of time on a clock. . .you decide what you will do with the every minute of every day God has given to you.  Don’t be discouraged by others.  There is a way around every hindrance.

Nehemiah 6:9 in the New Living Translation says:

“They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.”

God wants us to take charge of our divine destiny with a firm determination to make our days count.

Psalm 90:12 in the Contemporary English Version says: 

“Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.”

Here’s a revelation . . . the title of the Rolling Stones song, “Time Is On My Side” can be a reality in your life. . .if you make the right choices. 

Your Heavenly Father wants you to maximize your time. . .using every second of every day for His greater glory.  It’s time to be about His business.

6.      Successful people are willing to make tough decisions. . .unsuccessful people always look for the easy way out.

If you were to ask the average person if they were a coward…they would rather emphatically respond with a vigorous “NO.”  However, that response is being offered in good times, the real question of character and intestinal fortitude is determined when times are tough.

Jeremiah 46:20 in the Message Bible says:

"Too bad, Egypt, a beautiful sleek heifer attacked by a horsefly from the north! All her hired soldiers are stationed to defend her— like well-fed calves they are. But when their lives are on the line, they'll run off, cowards everyone. When the going gets tough, they'll take the easy way out.”

What appears to be the easy way out of adverse circumstances most often turns into a slippery slope of failure and disillusionment.

If you want to become debt free and have more than enough. . .there will be times when you have to make tough decisions.  You may have to say “no” to your children or to something you had wanted to buy for yourself.

God highly respects those who can make tough decisions. . .who will stand and fight for what’s right on the way to a better way of life.

7.      Successful people realize success is a journey not a destination. . . unsuccessful people become road kill on the financial highway of life.

Arthur Ashe, one of the renowned tennis greats, said:

“Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome. Not everyone can be Number 1.”

When you focus on success as a journey instead of a destination . . .you have the potential to experience some sort of success. . .every day.  You don’t have to wait until you arrive to experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of successes.

Your ultimate and lasting success is based on what you learn, overcome and endure on your trip from where you are to where God wants you to be. . .and make no mistake about it, He wants you to be successful.

As you begin your journey. . .the first thing you should do is to seek Godly wisdom in every decision you make

Judges 18:5 says:

“Then they said, `Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.’”

And by the way, if you’re not moving forward on the highway to success then you’re standing still. . .and watch out. . .you might to be hit by a car. 

8.      Successful people are focused on their future. . .unsuccessful people are focused on what they’re doing today and this weekend.

The enemy’s number one tactic in delaying and/or destroying your future success is to break your focus. . .or cause you to focus on things that are inconsequential to your future success.

Sadly, some people’s idea of long-range planning is whether to eat at Denny’s, Ihop or Cracker Barrel this weekend.

Luke 9:41 in the Message Bible says:

“Jesus said, "What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?”

I think it’s fairly obvious that God wants us focused on our future success and not just stuff.

Philippians 3:15-16 in the Message Bible says:

“So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.”

Focus can be simply defined as ‘whatever has your attention.’  If focus is important to God, then it should be important to us.

9.      Successful people are closers and finishers. . .unsuccessful people rarely complete a goal or a project.

Have you ever started a project, assignment or job with a sudden burst of enthusiasm only to be slowed down by the first obstacle and stopped short of your goal by continual obstacles?

Congratulations, you’re normal.  But you don’t have to stay average.  Those who rise above the crowd are the ones who go the extra mile while others are relaxing in front of the TV.

The strength of a person’s character and drive to success is determined by whether or not they can finish what they started.

Employees who complete the task are more highly valued than those who, though they make a valiant effort, nevertheless, fail to complete the project.

The One by whom our every effort, thought and action should be measured. . .was a finisher.

John 4:34 in the New Living Translation says:

“Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.”

Not only was Jesus a finisher but he made us that way as well.

Philippians 1:6 in the New Living Translation says:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

On Judgment Day, we want to be able to say the words found in 2 Timothy 4:7 in the Amplified Bible which says:

“I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith.”

10.    Successful people understand that success is about more than money. . . unsuccessful people think success is only what they see on television.

If you were to ask most people what success means to them. . .they would cite the acquisition of expensive and exquisite things.  The kind of things you’d see on the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

The kind of things that make others go “oooh ahhh” such as:  an expensive new house, a new luxury car, designer clothes, valuable jewelry and the kind of vacations that only a few enjoy but millions of others dream about.

But what does the Bible say about success?  In fact, the word is only found once in the King James Version of the Bible in Joshua 1:8 which says:

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

Two things we should notice in this passage.

First, we’re responsible for our own prosperity and success.  The word thou and thy are mentioned six times in this verse.  In contemporary translations, the words are you and your.  Regardless of the translation, the message is the same. . .whether or not, you’re successful and prosperous is a result of the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Second, the word success is the Hebrew word sakal (H7919) and it means:

“to be prudent, to have insight, give attention to, wisely understand, act wisely and prosper.”

Success is not what you have but rather who you become.

11.    Successful people are willing to overlook C.R.A.P. (condemnation, rejection, anxiety and prejudice). . .unsuccessful people let obstacles or people stand in the way of pursuing their dreams.

Jealously causes people to do some crazy thingsMost people want you to succeed in life. . .as long as it’s not more successful than they are.

Too many believers have allowed others to plant things in their subconscious response mechanism that makes them condemn, reject, accuse and be prejudiced against people who have succeeded where they have failed.

God does not take kindly to those who do. Proverbs 17:5 in the New Living Translation says:

“Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished.”

My purpose in this teaching is not how to explain the nature of or how to handle the C.R.A.P. but to point out what should be our proper response to the success of others.

A successful person is always blessed and motivated by the successful testimony of others knowing it won’t be long before they’ll be joining them.

Romans 12:15 in the Amplified Bible says:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others' joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others' grief].”

When we get as excited about somebody else’s success as we are our own. . .we can watch out because success is about to overtake us.

As previously stated in this teaching, Jesus is our standard of behavior and excellence.

John 13:15 in the New Living Translation says:

“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”

12.    Successful people pay attention to details. . .unsuccessful people are bored by the ordinary.

Someone once said, “The devil is in the details.”  Frankly, they didn’t take time to explain it but I interpret it as meaning that one neglected detail can spoil the whole project. .A similar saying is “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”  Regardless, the point is to not ignore any part of what makes up your life.

If the devil can break your focus on what’s necessary for success. . .then he has disrupted and delayed, if not, destroyed your destiny.

If you’ve ever wondered how God feels about attention to details being fundamental to your success. . . I suggest you read 2 Corinthians 6:1-3 in the Message Bible very carefully.  It says:

“Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help.

“Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. . .”

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is found in the attention that’s given to the details.

There is actually one other main difference between unsuccessful and successful people. . .and that’s YOU.

You’re the one who will determine whether or not your life is successful.  It’s you.  Nobody else but you.

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