Work Traits


A self starter and proactive personality is especially helpful for starting new projects and businesses, initiating tasks and conversations, and turning ideas into action.
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What is a self-starter?

Self-starter means you’re known for being a having initiative and a proactive personality. You don’t wait for detailed plans or permission to pursue your big goals—you act.

Your go-getter attitude means you like to get things done, but you become frustrated when you need to wait on other people. You know that’s time you could be spending taking action, and that stalled progress means your attention and energy wanes.

On a team, you prefer to have the freedom and flexibility to start projects, rather than waiting on a consensus or information from others. You want to make progress now and figure it out as you go along.

We call it: Initiation

Your level of energy for taking action, getting things going, and thinking on your feet.

If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.

Drew Houston

Leaders who are self-starters

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

It’s tough to find someone who possesses higher initiation than an inventor. Thomas Edison is regarded as one of the greatest inventors of all time, having pioneered everything from film to the incandescent lightbulb.

Inventing is all about innovation, which means Edison couldn’t rely on past examples or instructions. He had to get started on developing his ideas without a clear action plan. Who knows what society would look like today, had he not had such a pioneering spirit!

Even more impressive? He was entirely self-taught, having attended traditional school for only three months.

Marie Curie

You don’t win two Nobel Peace Prizes by waiting for the 'perfect' moment to get started. Marie Curie, who discovered radioactivity and championed x-rays, was known for tirelessly pursuing her ideas and ambitions.

She had a huge appetite for learning, and wasn’t daunted by complex subjects or unfamiliar territory. Instead, she looked at them as an opportunity to broaden her own horizons and try something new.

Her high degree of initiation led to numerous advancements and left a lasting legacy in the world of science.

Marie Curie
Illustration of an author known for a certain trait

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was notorious for being difficult to work with. He was known as being impulsive, impatient, and a bit obsessive.

But, a lot of that is explained by the fact that he had a clear vision, was eager to get started without a fully developed plan, and became frustrated when people didn’t share his same sense of urgency.

The good news is that his high initiation paid off in the form of a wildly successful company that is credited with spearheading the digital revolution.

The benefits of being a self-starter

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You understand that no amount of planning is a replacement for making forward progress. You are usually considered a leader or pioneer.

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Failure isn’t the end of the road—it’s the name of the game when you’re putting yourself out there. You view it as an opportunity to learn.

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Your self-starter and proactive personality brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to your team, inspiring them to tackle new challenges.

The blind spots of being a self-starter

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Waiting on other team members to carefully evaluate or reflect on decisions can be a point of frustration, because you feel like it’s slowing you down.

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You might be viewed as hasty, because you don’t need to have a fully fleshed out plan to move forward. You’re comfortable operating with limited info.

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Because you have a propensity for action, it can seem as if you’re always starting things without actually finishing them (unless you keep this in check).

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How to be a self-starter

1. Start small.

Overhauling your approach to work will feel like too much at first. Instead, take one small step in the right direction.

Maybe that means volunteering for a task you’d normally pass on or starting with a rough outline of a project before you have every last detail sorted out. Even small changes can help you become a self-starter and proactive personality.

2. Get comfortable with uncertainty.

You won’t always have all of the answers before you get started—and that’s okay.

Rather than waiting for every last piece of information you think you might need, identify only the nuts and bolts that you need to understand. Once you have those? That’s your cue to get going.

3. Take on new challenges.

Raise your hand to learn that new piece of software, take on a task that’s outside of your wheelhouse, or strike up a conversation with someone new.

Those are opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and gain more confidence in your ability to initiate.

4. Focus on the journey.

Oftentimes it’s the fear of failure that can keep you from putting one foot in front of the other. But, great results don’t come from perfect processes—they come from action.

Be willing to fail fast and make some mistakes. You won’t delay your progress, and you’ll learn a lot along the way.

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