Want success? Behave like a rich person

Have you ever looked around and wondered why you're working a lousy job while someone else has a much better job, and therefore, a lot more money? Who hasn't. But still, it makes you wonder: Is it simply luck? Was the other person born into better circumstances, or have an uncle who opened doors?

Of course, those are possible explanations, but behavioral differences also separate the rich from the poor. Take, for instance, dieting. Rich people are more likely to change their diet and exercise more when they need to lose a few pounds, while poor people are more likely to take diet pills, according to a recent study in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, which found that your economic status plays a strong roll in how you tackle a weight problem. The Atlantic described the results as follows:

Compared to adults making $75,000 or more, those making less than $20,000 were 50 percent less likely to exercise, 42 percent less likely to drink a lot of water, and 25 percent less likely to eat less fat and sweets. And adults making between $20,000 and $75,000 were about 50 percent more likely to use over-the-counter diet pills, which aren't proven to work.

Here's the thing: Popping a diet pill is easy -- and ineffective. Exercise, cutting back the calories and drinking water instead of soda is hard -- and effective. Those with good incomes ($75,000 or more) tend to do the hard work to control weight, while those with poor incomes tend to do the easy thing. The problem is the easy thing doesn't work.

And that's something the rich know. Additionally, take the number of hours people work. Researchers Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano found that while the reward for extra hours among salaried employers wasn't a bigger paycheck that week, it led to promotions and other opportunities. Therefore, people (in their study, specifically men) were willing to put in the extra time. Sacrificing time now by working extra unpaid hours resulted in higher salaries down the road.

Diet, exercise and career development go hand in hand. If I go jogging today and skip dessert, I won't get on the scale tomorrow and find that I've lost 15 pounds and now have well-chisled abs. But if I do that every day for a long period of time, it will reduce my weight and increase my muscle tone. Likewise, if I work extra time today and tomorrow and keep on that path, I'm not going to be the senior VP next week, but it's more likely to happen eventually that way than if I walk out the door at 4:59 every night.

Many years ago, I decided to lose weight by taking the hard path. I joined Weight Watchers, dutifully recorded every bite that went in my mouth and only ate my allotted points. As the pounds slowly came off (35 over five months), people started to comment. "You look great! What are you doing?" they'd ask.

"Weight Watchers," I would reply. "Is it easy?" they'd ask, hopefully. "No, I'm starving all the time," I'd say. Inevitably, their faces would fall. They wanted the easy path. It doesn't exist.

Look at your company's leadership. While you may find some slackers, you're far more likely to see people who work hard and for long hours. They're likely doing extra time week after week after week, looking for the long-term rewards, even though there's no immediate bonus for doing that overtime. It's hard, and it takes a lot of time. There's no magic wand.

Sure, you can get a boost with a bit of luck, but you're far more likely to achieve success by working hard rather than by hoping for someone to hand you a great job. And while plenty of hard workers haven't achieved financial success, it's also true that (apart from inheritances) far fewer slackers have.

If you want to improve your career success, slow and steady is the way to go. The payoff won't be today or tomorrow, but will come down the road.

Note: When discussing weight and business success, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up discrimination. While it's generally not illegal in the U.S. to discriminate against someone because of weight, companies shouldn't. Still, you absolutely do lower your chances of being hired or promoted if you're tipping the scales at high levels. Even though businesses should be careful to hire and promote based only on performance, that's simply not the case in many companies.