"It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
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This Business English lesson plan on success has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Success is the ultimate aim of any individual or businesses. But that doesn’t mean that everyone will have the same definition of success. A successful career may be one which is extremely well paid on the one hand, or one which provides enormous personal satisfaction on the other hand. Likewise, a successful business may be one which generates huge profits, or it may be one which solves some kind of social problem. In this Business English lesson plan on success, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what makes businesses and the people in them successful.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

INC | Top 10 Qualities of Highly Successful People

The article lists a number of features that successful people have in common, including drive, passion, and patience. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might add to the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a talk by Richard St. John called “Success is a continuous journey” which identifies eight common traits of successful people.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including indicators of personal success, what would be considered a successful career, and what might be considered failure.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with success and failure such as rags to riches, fall at the first hurdle and a recipe for disaster. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about success. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as what a business must do to be considered a success, what would be considered a business failure, and whether people have enough opportunities to fail and learn from their mistakes.


After the class, students will write a short bio of a successful person. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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