Barack Obama’s Top 10 Rules For Success

Barack Hussein Obama IIBarack Hussein Obama II was born in 1961 in Hawaii. His father was from Kenya and his mother was from Kansas, USA. When his parents divorced, he stayed with his mother who got married to an Indonesian. Barack spent four years in Indonesia before returning to Hawaii where he attended preparatory school. When he was 18, he moved to California. In 1981, he entered Columbia University in New York, where he graduated after 2 years with a BA degree, a major in political science. He then entered Harvard Law in 1988 and graduated in 1991 magna cum laude.

Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America, winning in 2009, and getting re-elected in 2013. Before that, he was a community organizer, a teacher of constitutional law, and a civil rights attorney. He was a Senator in the state of Illinois for several terms before running for the presidency. He won the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2009, and is considered in the top 50 most influential people in the USA.

The 10 Rules For Success

Barack Obama inspired many people during and even after his presidency. His speeches and his books are considered full of wisdom and words to live by. As part of Evan Carmichael’s Top 10 series, here is a summary of the 10 rules for success as given by Obama in this YouTube video.

1. Move The Ball Forward

Barack Obama stated that there was a wide range of problems the US government was facing when he came into office. It ranged from existing laws for the country, wars in the Middle East, equal rights, economic problems, and a lot more. He directed his staff to advance and improve the situation of each area each and every time they possibly can. He admitted that not every effort was a success, but he believed that they moved the ball or improved the situation as compared to previously every time. He also added that even though there is improvement, it always feels that they were coming up short, because standards are always higher.

2. Have Hope

Obama achieved many firsts in his professional life. Before he was President of the country, he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He described hope as imagining, then fighting for and working for something that is impossible before. He gave examples of how Kennedy imagined for Americans to reach the moon, and for Martin Luther King to dream of equal rights. He stated that if people really would want to make a mark in history, it should be pushed forward by the spirit of hopefulness.

3. Don’t Get Complacent

Barack Obama, in a speech, stated that no one, regardless of profession, can afford to get complacent. And this is true especially in what he calls the hyper-competitive age. People should be doing more than just the bare minimum, whether they be tenured professors, or parents raising children. If they do get complacent, they will miss out being great educators. In the same way, being great parents mean providing the love, support and sacrifices to raise and educate their children and give them opportunities, not just paying the bills.

4. Stay Focused

He stated that he firmly believes that things, whether the economy or the process of running government, get better if everyone stays focused on the right direction. Obama stated that despite directed and continuous efforts, not every problem gets solved immediately. To tackle things correctly means to treat each problem as an ongoing project. And it will be a project of every stakeholder. Over time, he believes that things will get better. However, people should not get complacent and lazy.

5. You Can’t Do It Alone

Barack Obama believed that it is difficult to succeed in any endeavor unless there is a good team providing the needed support. He stated that he got to where he was because of the support he received early on his life from his mother and grandparents. And in the same fashion that people invested in him, he and others of his generation should also invest on the next generation.

6. Commit To Something Bigger

When giving a commencement speech in Arizona State University in 2009, Obama explained the disadvantages of taking the me-first approach. He stated that it led politicians, Wall Street investors and other people to ruin by focusing on short-term gains. In contrast, leaders, businesses and institutions that have stood the test of time focused on something bigger, like their community, their country, or their customers.

7. Stop Making Excuses

Barack Obama stated that in his youth, he attributed his failings for a world that wants to keep a black man down. However, it was only an excuse for not doing the right things. He believed that people should stop making excuses. He stated that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, people cannot expect to be given any favors they do not deserve. People who have less in life have managed to succeed. The previous generation had a more difficult time, and still they overcame their challenges. So, there is just no excuse to do the right things and do it better.

8. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

President Obama stated that the stress and rigors of governing a nation can be really tough sometimes. However, he was able to survive it by sometimes having a good laugh with his team. He emphasized that people with great responsibilities such as he should not take themselves too seriously. He did state that people should take the job seriously, take the responsibility seriously. Nevertheless, one should also be able to laugh at one’s self first and foremost in order to manage the whole thing.

9. Stick To Your Plan

He urged people to have a plan, to have a strategy, and to stick to that plan. Barack Obama reminded his audience that when people have a strategy, they need to persevere because no strategy bears immediate fruits. He explained that great leaders have visions that span decades, even generations. People may not immediately see results. However, even by correcting mistakes gradually just enough, the next generation may have a different and brighter future. A generation with a better future would mean a country and a people with a better future.

Flower 10. Follow Your Passion

Obama gave examples about famous people who at one time were seen as nobody, dismissed, ignored or ridiculed. However, because these people, such as Thomas Payne, Julia Child or Colonel Sanders, did not give up on their passion, they were able to accomplish great things. So, people should not only follow their passion, they should have that commitment to follow their passion regardless of where it would lead them. And they should be ready to work hard every step of the way.


Barack Obama was a respected leader and an exceptional orator. He inspires people of different classes, races, and beliefs. He believes that sustained actions can mean something, especially if people apply it to their passions. And together with commitment and hope, even time can work with and for us to help fulfill our own dreams of success.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.