Successful People Have 8 Contradictory Personality Traits

3 min read
Mar 24, 2017

successful people

Researchers have tried for years to nail down what makes people successful. 

Is it a growth mindset or natural social skills? Maybe, as part of the story. But Dr. Travis Bradberry, writing for Huffington Post, believes that it’s actually something a little bizarre.

Bradberry says that, instead of a successful person having this or that type of personality, they are likely to combine opposite traits. He suggests that built-in paradoxes allow these people to blow right past the obstacles that slow others down.

Here are descriptions of eight groups of successful people he’s found who have paradoxical personalities:


01. They’re polite, yet completely unafraid to rock the boat

The fact that these kinds of people are always looking to improve things doesn’t mean that they’re argumentative. Bradberry calls them “graciously disruptive.” They fit in well, but they’re unconcerned with standard operating procedure if they genuinely see a better way to do things. They make their case forcefully and logically  without attacking other people. Think of this person as the courteous revolutionary.

successful people



02. They’re deeply passionate, yet rational and objective about their work

These people are emotionally invested in their work and care deeply about it. At the same time, they know the only way to succeed is by remaining rational, methodical, and smart about achieving their objectives. Their passion forces them to be clear-eyed and analytical in service of their long-term goals, even if it means correcting their own mistakes. The heartfelt strategist.


03. They’re convergent and divergent thinkers

If you haven’t seen the films, “convergent” thinking is smart problem-solving, looking at a situation and finding the best solution, often from within a single field of study. “Divergent” thinking, on the other hand, is more expansive, out-of-the-box thinking that doesn’t depend on one type of knowledge. The divergent thinker’s broader view of the possibilities makes them the imaginer of things that could be. The competent dreamer. 


04. They’re both energetic and calm

These people are cool and collected but with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy when it’s needed. Their chill manner allows them to work with a surprisingly intense laser focus. And the likely reason they have so much energy to burn is that their mellow nature prevents them from wasting it where it’s not needed. The unflappable dynamo.

successful peopleSOURCE: GIPHY


05. They like to work and play

When you love what you do, like these people, there’s really not much of a line between challenge and reward. Their work is both. Solving tough problems is a form of recreation for them and the source of satisfaction when an answer is found. They can’t be knocked off their game by work — it is their game. The happy warrior.


06. They’re ambiverts

Successful people may be both introverts and extroverts. They’re totally comfortable slipping into whatever role is called for at any given moment. Perfectly happy to be in the audience enjoying a presentation, they’re equally at home onstage giving one. The outgoing introvert.


07. They’re naïve and smart

Whether it’s due to a strong imagination or a deliberately cultivated childlikeness, these people tend to overlook the obvious and see past it to unseen what-ifs. It’s a form of creativity that can lead to the most groundbreaking innovations. The simple genius.


08. They’re both humble and proud

It takes a healthy ego to succeed. But a smart person understands the debt owed to others along the way. When it’s time to give a show, this person looks large and in charge. But at the same time, they exhibit an honest understanding that they can’t, and didn’t, do it alone. This adds depth and humanity, and can even produce a charismatic air. The servant king/queen.

While Bradberry focuses on the most successful people, it’s obvious these personalities would be great for any manager, of a department or an entire company. It’s a thought-provoking mix of smarts, heart, enthusiasm, and humanity. No wonder it so often leads to success.



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