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The Success Matrix — The Well-Kept Secret of Successful People

As a business coach, my job is to help entrepreneurs succeed. This means I study success like a second education. I’m fascinated by human psychology and the little ways we can make huge shifts in ourselves to experience transformation and attain an entirely new level of achievement. I study productivity, leadership, and influence.

People seek success in many areas of their lives and the self-help market has never been stronger. There are coaches, programs, books, and free content covering everything from sales leadership to weight loss to debt reduction.

Why does the self-help industry only keep growing?

Are the methods or coaches bad? With all the free advice available online, you’ll think everyone would have found a solution to their problem and be successful by now.

The real answer is because of the way 99% of people play the success game.

I call it the Success Matrix. I see three distinct zones:

  • The top level is Success
  • The middle level is the Hustle zone
  • The lowest level is Failure

Most people operate on a horizontal scale. They stay in the “hustle zone” for their entire adult lives, with only a lucky few making it to the success zone. A few unlucky ones fall into the failure zone. I’m particularly interested in identifying what differentiates a hustler (one who fails) from a climber (one who wins).


Hustlers Fail for 6 Reasons:  

The hustlers have some clear problems holding them back: 

1/ Lack of Focus

Hopping from thing to thing, looking for “the secret” to hacking their way to the top. This is sometimes known as the shiny object syndrome. They are not operating from a place of focus and commitment but as a dreamer, a narcissist, or other character flaws. I like to say that hustlers operate horizontally, going from theme to theme, looking to strike gold yet never looking upwards.

2/ Wrong Help, No Help, and Non-Supportive People Around Them

Hustlers don’t seek out or aren’t willing to pay for support from the right people who are qualified to help them. Instead, they DIY it or place their trust in unqualified or mediocre people. In their personal lives as well, they connect and build lives with the wrong people.

3/ Small-Minded and Short-Term Thinkers

Operating on short-term, small-minded thinking, never seeing the big picture, hustlers are “busy bee” workers. Flaky and unstable, they have no business plan or don’t follow theirs, they don’t plan out their goals well, and they have no mission statement. They are too exhausted to see ahead and too busy chasing their tails. Hustlers are a bit like ants, following a specific trail, never daring to break away from the other ants.

4/ Dependant on Others for their Success

Hustlers always depend on and like to blame other people, financially or emotionally, or both, for their success or failure. They place too much emphasis and importance on their specific bosses, clients, spouses, or what other people will think. They don’t even realize how much this behavior actually has the opposite effect: it hurts their success. Often, hustlers have blinders on. When I have calls with hustlers, they often say sentences like “my boss told me…” or “I read that..”. They are followers, not leaders.

5/ Classic Workaholics

They are always busy, working long hours, yet achieving very little. They have no mastery over their own time. They frankly make terrible life partners and even worse parents. Most hustlers are also underpaid because they don’t value their time. “Work donkeys”, I call them. Yes, it is harsh but the truth often is. They are probably also addicted to their phone and devices.

6/ Untreated Mindset Issues

Hustlers struggle with all kinds of untreated and unresolved character flaws and past trauma, ranging from jealousy, insecurities, scarcity mindset, or limiting beliefs to ego to toxic positivity.

The 6 Winning Characteristics of Climbers:

There are a smart few who play the success game vertically to win. The climbers understand the success game:


1/ Focus on One Thing

They direct all of their energy on and commit to achieving one thing that will have the biggest impact. They don’t let themselves get caught up in drama, chase shiny new objects, nor become distracted by doing too many things at once. “Eye on the prize” and “All-in” are their mottos. Books to Read: The One Thing by Gary Keller and Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I like to say they aim vertically towards the top and say ‘no’ to everything right or left.

2/ Build Strong Success Teams

They get help from qualified and vetted people, like mentors or coaches, and fill their lives, both on a personal and professional level, with a success team, comprised of people who inspire and uplift them. Book to Read: Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

3/ Clear Big-Picture Vision

Vertical climbers always stay high-level. Like a chess player who knows the power of the queen pawn, they are always several moves ahead and work backwards to design a strategy to get them to the top. That is why I coined them “vertical climbers”. Book to Read: The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

4/ Independent and Responsible for Their Own Success

They only rely on themselves for their own success and avoid relationships, both privately and professionally, with people who drag them down.

5/ Masters of Time Management and Productivity

Smart workers, they are masters of time, success habits, productivity, and efficiency. They practice minimalism.

6/ Strong Success Mindset

They are invested in ongoing and long-term personal and professional growth. They possess mental toughness, grit, and resilience. They work constantly on themselves and their mindset, particularly self-confidence, acceptance of their imperfection, having a clear mission statement, and healing the past.


Anyone can achieve success. Just focus on building the six characteristics of a climber. Read everything you can about these topics. Seek out vetted experts to help you. Stay focused and disciplined. Persist. You’ve got this! I’ll be rooting for you!

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