Unusual Jobs Held By U.S. Presidents Demonstrate Success Traits

Posted By Terri Williams on November 3, 2016 at 10:15 am
Unusual Jobs Held By U.S. Presidents Demonstrate Success Traits

Most U.S. presidents are or were college grads – although Abraham Lincoln and George Washington weren’t. While the path to the presidency often includes a stop at a top-tier school, followed by a respectable stint at the congressional or gubernatorial level, some commanders-in-chief have veered off the path for some unusual careers.

For example, according to a recent analysis by CareerCast:

  • Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.
  • Herbert Hoover was a geologist.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson was a teacher.
  • Barack Obama was a community organizer.
  • Ronald Reagan was an actor.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was a rancher and frontier sheriff.
  • Harry Truman was a retail manager.

While these aren’t typically the types of jobs associated with U.S. presidents, they serve as a reminder that major accomplishments may be the result of certain “success traits” shared by high achievers.

GoodCall spoke with several sources to get a variety of opinions on the most important success traits.

Not just presidents show determination

Karen Russo, president of K. Russo Consulting, a Sanford Rose Associates member, believes that the most successful people have the strength of mind to remain focused and they refuse to dwell on their failures. “Being determined is to see failures as setbacks, not the end,” Russo says. “When you are determined you do not listen to the naysayers, you keep an open mind but shut down those who say that it can’t be done.”

Sometimes, part of being determined may involve making changes. “You may need to try another approach, rebrand the idea, or tweak a process, but you stay the course, stay determined, and don’t give up,” Russo says. “Forgive yourself for your mistake, and be patient about the timing of things to come together.” Russo tells GoodCall that she was determined to be successful and live in a different country. She now lives in Mexico and conducts business there and in the U.S.

Perseverance as a success trait

“As a 38-year-old man who was diagnosed as legally blind at 23, I was told I’d never compose again, never conduct again, never lead a group, never be able to write for orchestra, and certainly, never earn a Master’s degree,” Colin O’Donohoe tells GoodCall.

“George Washington could’ve given up after his umpteenth military loss in the Revolution, Lincoln could’ve given up before hiring Grant, the space program could’ve given up after Kennedy died – but none of them did,” O’Donohoe says. “They all persevered and they all won. They were able to block out the outside noise and listen to their inner core and win.”

In his own life, O’Donohoe earned three scholarships to Carnegie Mellon University and graduated with a Master’s degree. “Also, I just returned from being the only American to compose/conduct and perform with the prestigious Atlas Ensemble for this year.”

But that’s not the end of World Maestro O’Donohoe’s accomplishments. “I’ve gone on to a successful TV career where I’m now in my 6th year of composing music for various networks and shows, and I wrote a screenplay being produced by Hollywood actors as well.”

O’Donohoe concludes that perseverance is the key to his success. “When life knocked me down, I got back up.”

The importance of passion

Greg Chambers, president of Chambers Pivot Industries, believes passion is an essential success trait. His company helps clients create sales and marketing strategies that fit their particular culture. “What determines success? Enthusiasm. Not the ‘excitement’ version of enthusiasm but rather the ‘keen interest’ version, Chambers tells GoodCall. “Alternately called passion, in my anecdotal experience in the world, it’s what links successful people across multiple industries, disciplines, and relationships.”

Chambers is such a firm believer in passion that he tells his clients, “If you’re not enthusiastic about it, stop.”

According to Paul DiModica, CEO of the Value Forward Group and an executive team business success coach, persistence and passion are the two most important success factors. He tells GoodCall, “These two drivers surpass education, funding availability, and IQ.” DiModica adds, “It’s not who you know or what you have now; it’s what you want and whether you are prepared to pay the price to get where you need to go.”

9 secrets to success

Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks and CEO of MSCO, believes that success requires the willingness to take radical steps. He provided GoodCall with nine steps that can lead to success:

  • Wash your brain of consensus building.
  • Reject everything that is conventional wisdom.
  • Never accept “No” for an answer.
  • Leaders need: serial skepticism, cartoon imagination, monster ambition.
  • Liberate yourself from the shackles of what others think; then you will be free to soar as a manager/leader.
  • Develop a killer app. A differentiator. Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick.” Ronald Reagan’s skill as “the Great Communicator.” It is why they made their mark as presidents.
  • People spiral downward due to: complacency, deception, fear of a bad day, failure to act. Attack these obstacles.
  • If you realize you are not a good leader – declare war on yourself.
  • Get out of the office. Take a hike. Think about raising the bar on your performance.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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