10 Rules for Success:  Barack Obama

By | July 12, 2020

[July 12, 2020]  Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, has some sage advice for young people.  Today, I’m introducing his 10 rules for success.  Evan Carmichael compiled these from a series of speech’s Obama has given over the past few years.1  Readers of this leadership blog will see the commonality of these rules with my regular themes.

I had a few readers suggest President Obama as one of a series of senior leaders that might be useful to study.  I know that politics these days can be divisive. Indeed this is unfortunate.  But there is plenty to learn from those who have been successful in what they do.  While personal character matters a great deal, we still cannot ignore success.

Here are 10 Rules for Success that Obama suggests may help folks:

  1. Move the Ball Forward
  2. Have hope
  3. Don’t get complacent
  4. Stay Focused
  5. You Can’t do it Alone
  6. Commit to Something Bigger
  7. Stop Making Excuses
  8. Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously
  9. Stick to Your Plan
  10. Follow Your Passion

Some will say that “#7 Stop Making Excuses” is something Obama failed personally to do while he was in the White House.  Critics suggest that he went on an “apology tour” for transgressions of the U.S.; they didn’t appreciate it.  This problem doesn’t take away from the “rule” itself.  In a Morehouse College commencement speech, Obama elaborates more and does an excellent job of explaining this idea.2,3   I recommend you watch the video.

On the whole, however, these 10 rules of success are a good start.  One thing left out, and Obama speaks to the issue elsewhere, is that a person’s character is the linchpin for good works and life success.  Tell the truth, take on responsibility, and take care of your family, yourself, and your community.  These are the things that allow us to achieve great things.


  1. Barack Obama’s Top 10 Rules for Success (YouTube video, 13:01 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3xZ_wpn_Sk&t=697s
  2. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/19/remarks-president-morehouse-college-commencement-ceremony
  3. https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-10-make-no-excuses/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “10 Rules for Success:  Barack Obama

  1. Benjamin Alguire

    Virtually all of the things you claim happens to be supprisingly appropriate and it makes me wonder the reason why I had not looked at this with this light before. This particular piece truly did switch the light on for me as far as this specific subject goes. Nevertheless at this time there is actually just one issue I am not necessarily too cozy with so while I try to reconcile that with the core idea of the point, let me see just what the rest of your readers have to say.Very well done.

  2. Yusaf from Texas

    I think that #2, “Have Hope” should read as “Have a Positive Attitude.” Much better. Certainly we don’t want leaders who give up and I think that is only part of the issue. A good attitude (one without a chip on our shoulder and daring others to knock it off) is the best way to be successful. I know too many folks who got did great things by being humble and working hard. Hope was not a plan they had.

    1. Jonnie the Bart

      True. Well said Yusaf. Too many young people today have a chip on their shoulder. They are just looking for someone to disagree with them so they can go to an authority figure to burn that person. They are cowards and unable to directly disagree. I know too many 20 year olds this way.

      1. KenFBrown

        Young, college education individuals are ENCOURAGED to be weak. They are taught that the way to getting what you want (not the def of success) is to use someone in power to do their bidding. That way, they can stand back and watch others take a stand.

  3. Len Jakosky

    “5. You Can’t do it Alone”
    My favorite. Now, how do we, as leaders, leverage others to accomplish the mission? That is the real question here.

  4. Randy Goodman

    I like your mini-series on “10 Rules for Success”. May I suggest you do this on several military leaders that were not just successful but also were men (or women) of character.

    1. Eric Coda

      Good idea Randy. I would like to see this series extended too.

  5. Tracey Brockman

    Another excellent article. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield. I’ll be adding this list to my other lists of success rules. ?

    1. Kenny Foster

      Yes, we can never have too much advice on success and from those who are successful. Maybe one day, we can have a summary of this. Perhaps Gen. Satterfield will help us out. Can you give us a summary? Anyone? Thanks.

  6. Fred Weber

    I like the list. While there are many “Rules for Success” these are, overall, right on track. Yes, never make excuses is a good one. We all violate it sometimes. I think what it means is to bring a solution to the table, not just whining.

  7. Tom Bushmaster

    To tell the truth, I enjoyed Morgan Freedman’s 10 Rules for Success better.

    1. the ace

      Me too. It’s not because I’m no fan of Obama; he did a lot of damage to our country and to minorities by giving them excuses for their failures. Gen. Satterfield is right to point out that some of us don’t like the fact that he was continuously making excuses for not getting things done. Same for Hillary Clinton.

      1. Stacey Borden

        I could write volumes on Clinton and how she violated probably every one of B. Obama’s “rules.” I’m not so sure I believe all came from Obama but I do like the list overall. Hillary Clinton is an example of a leader you do not want to be in charge, ever ever ever! Did I say that enough.

      2. Georgie B.

        Good points well made. Politicians are not the folks I want to be getting my advice from.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      Same here. Morgan Freedman had no special advantages, while Pres Obama (yes, he was a hard worker) was given more than most of us. Privileged because of his race. Oh, now I suppose I’m racist for pointing out the truth.


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