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The 3 Basic Characteristics Every Successful Individual Has

hungry bearded man eating cheeseburger

Hungry. Honeable. Honorable.

Seems simple enough, right?

Wrong.  Most people struggle with each of these every day.  Even the most successful people in the world struggle with these because life happens. 

So what does “Hungry, Honeable, Honorable,” mean?  It means something different to everyone in their own life. It describes characteristics I look for when building relationships of any sort.  Let me explain a little further what I mean by breaking each of these apart into their own definition.


When someone is hungry, they are driven.  They are determined to do something.  Whether it’s create change in the world, learn a discipline, build a network, move up in their job, build a skill, they all want to be the best.  There is an innate need for them to work so hard on something that it hurts some of us to watch.  This driving factor is what makes someone so invaluable to a cause that they would climb a mountain just to see it happen. 

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the simple definition of “hungry” is:

  1. Suffering because of lacking food
  2. Having an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach because you need food
  3. Feeling a strong desire or need for something or to do something

Each of these characterizes the simplest form of what I am searching for when looking at people to add to my team.  Here are a couple things I dig deeper into when getting to know someone.

  • What did they have to fight through to get to where they are?
  • If someone is satisfied with where they are in life (or completely happy), what keeps them from falling down to mediocrity?
  • What is one thing in their life that they currently have a strong feeling of anxiety around?

Each of these are conversation starters help me to dig into someone’s psyche. Topics like this help me to understand context of anything that may come up.   



For those of you saying that Honeable is not a word, you may be correct according to Webster. An alternative word to this is coachable.  Miriam-Webster’s definition of a coach has two definitions for the noun of the word.

  1. A large usually closed four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage having doors in the sides and an elevated seat in front for the driver.
  2. A private tutor or one who instructs or trains <an acting coach>; especially: one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy <a football coach>

It also goes further into the actions of definition 2 is to “coach” someone.  What this means to me is that someone who is coachable is willing to be coached.  They are open to guidance, mentorship or learning from someone else, regardless of their position, status, or personal views.  Many times I come across hungry individuals who are trying so hard to get to where they want to go.  They struggle because their pride gets in the way.  They do not want help.  They do not want to give up some sense of ego that might make them LOOK weak or foolish. 

In fact, I look at it the complete opposite way.  In the world we live in, it is hard to get anywhere fast without the help of others.  Yet, there are so many people who go it alone because they FEEL that they do not need advice, guidance or help.  They have all the gifts they need to succeed.  This is not to say that this path is not workable, but it is definitely a harder way to go about achieving your dreams.

Here are a couple questions that I use to start the conversation to  uncover how coachable someone is.

  • Who is your mentor? How do your conversations typically go? What was the last thing you implemented from their advice that has helped you get to where you want to go?
  • If they do not have an outright mentor, I ask them who they look up to. I ask if they are easily accessible to sit down with over coffee or just pick up the phone and call them.
  • What was the last book you read? What was the last piece of media you fully digested?
  • The Assignment Challenge is by far my favorite way to gauge coachability.  More often than not, I am speaking with someone because of a challenge they are facing.   Long story short, I share with them some advice and resources to go and look at before we meet again.  The next time I see them, no matter where it is, I ask how it is going.  If they have taken steps to adjust or fix the challenge that we discussed, I’ll take that as a positive.  Even if they decided not to take my advice, people tend to explain why they chose an alternate solution. 

For those that just want to share challenges, I will listen. If they ask for advice, but are unwilling to take action, then I cannot help them. They are stuck in victim thinking.

This is SOOOO important for me and the organizations that I work with.  We strive to install a culture of transformational leadership in every organization we work with. If there is general reluctance to head coaching, we cannot help.  There is no point in creating standard processes, knowledge management or long term plans to scale the concept.  This will cause an organization to plateau at some point. There are many stages of development that it could take decades to achieve even the simplest of goals.


This could be the most important of the three H’s discussed. It is the truth of someone’s character and is by far the hardest to determine when speaking to anyone. Stephen Covey once said, “Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” 

So how do I determine whether someone is a good person? Well, that’s difficult.  For everyone it is different, but for me it starts simply.  I listen.  I listen and I listen some more.  And by listening, it does not just mean during conversations with that person. It means getting to know their circle of contacts.  Understanding where they come from and speaking to those people, too.  I trust my gut a lot and I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt, even if I have heard some horror stories.  I do this because I hope that most people learn from their mistakes and grow over time, but it’s not always true. 

That being said, here are a few ways that I test someone’s honor.

  • Tell me about how you reacted when you were unable to overcome X challenge.  How did you feel? What was the internal dialogue and struggle?
  • I will ask them about their service? Why did they decide on a specific service project or philanthropy? What did they learn from it? How have they applied that learning and how has it influenced their direction in life?
  • I will ask about their family, friends, long standing relationships.  I’ll ask about the last relationship that ended and why?  One way to understand someone’s honor is to look for patterns in their relationships.  Often, red flags arise if there seems to be a pattern of shifting peer groups after a time.  Sometimes there is a clear pattern in shifting business associates or friend groups, regularly.  

Honor is a difficult thing to determine in a single discussion. One quote I remind myself of in these instances helps. 

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt hit it on the head with this when describing how to build trust and honor.  I will test their empathy to see if they have interest in me. If they do, they are moving in the right direction.  More often than not, I run into people wrapped up in their own issues, they forget the world does not revolve around them.  In fact, everyone deals with challenges and sometimes the best way to work through your own challenges is to know that you are not alone. Listening to someone sitting across from you can add significant clarity to one’s life.


For more information on this, stay tuned for further posts and information.

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1579 S 38th St, Unit 4
Milwaukee, WI 53215

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