When someone cautions you to mind your Ps and Qs, they're using an age-old expression to mind your manners, be on your best behavior and watch what you are doing.

The phrase's origin is debatable, but it all boils down to the same thing: Don't mess up.

I was thinking about what those Ps and Qs might be in the business world, and here are several thoughts I'd like to share with you.

Persistence. Much of what makes people successful is persistence. Instead of giving myself reasons why I can't, I give myself reasons why I can. When you study truly successful people, you'll see that they made plenty of mistakes, but when they got knocked down, they kept getting up -- and up -- and up.

Persuasion. Simply said, it doesn't matter who has the best ideas, the most workable plans or the nicest smile. It all comes down to persuasion. Who can get their point across and bring others over to their side?

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Perfection. Practice makes perfect -- not true. You have to add one word. Perfect practice makes perfect. It doesn't matter whether you are practicing a presentation or a golf swing, you want to improve your performance, not repeat practice mistakes.

Patience. Don't forget to practice patience. Concentrate on incremental progress. Overnight sensations and blockbuster victories are usually the result of months or years of quiet effort. Establishing a habit of slow but steady success will build confidence and minimize risk.

Planning. People don't plan to fail; they fail to plan. Work out a general plan for achieving each goal over the long term. For instance, if you want a high-level position in your organization, your plan might include earning one or two intermediate promotions, getting additional training or volunteering for specific important assignments. Each phase in your plan is a goal in itself.

Passion. Passion is at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel in any other profession. If you don't have a deep-down, intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there's no way you'll be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful.

Potential. Far too many people exist in a world of "what is" rather than giving thought or applying their energies to "what can be." Many people fail to succeed because they don't know what they want or they don't want it in the worst way. In other words, they don't want to pay the price.

People. You have to love people to be a good networker. Dale Carnegie probably summed it up best: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Pride. Take pride in your company. Take pride in your employees. Take pride in your products. But check your personal pride at the door.

Quality. Good enough never is. Quality is a mindset. It must be an obsession, part of a company's culture. Quality can never be sacrificed if you want to keep your customers satisfied.

Questions. Ask the right questions to get the best answers. Open-ended questions require a more expansive response than a yes or no, or a simple statement of fact. They create a conversational tone and avoid sounding like an interrogation. Question every angle, motive and outcome.

Quit. Quit complaining. Quit dragging your feet. Quit talking yourself out of what could be a fabulous opportunity because you are afraid to take the risk. Quit being afraid of succeeding.

Quantify. Your goals must be measurable, so it's necessary to have a standard to hold them to. You can't keep track of your progress if you don't know where you want to go.

Mackay's Moral: Ps and Qs spell success.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.