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VALERIE NELSON Contributing Reporter

So you want to be an up-and-comer? While there's no sure-fire formula, certain traits are shared by men and women on the fast track.

Rising stars tend to be characterized by "pure driven obsession, focus, and an attitude of nothing gets in my way," said Debra A. Benton, author of "How to Think Like a CEO" (Warner Books, 1996).

"They have to act confident even when they aren't. A tad of the theatrical is thrown in," said Benton, whose management consulting company is based in Ft. Collins, Colo.

"You have to know how to perform to get the response you want," she said. "Part of leading is setting an example being someone to look up to so others will put their livelihood at stake to follow."

Business psychologist Ralph Daniel, who runs the California Family Business Institute in Westlake Village, believes most young achievers would give the same basic answer when asked to explain their success.

"They would say they were always self-starters, that they took the initiative and relied on their own resources to come up with a new idea," Daniel said.

"A lot of it is affected by upbringing, and as an adult shaping yourself," he added. "We learn by modeling ourselves. If you want to do something innovative, most people will have a model. The really fortunate ones have mentors."

Of course, "success" and "success in Los Angeles" are not necessarily synomous given that this is a city where youth and ambition are almost cliches.

"To succeed in L.A. maybe you have to be a little prettier or handsomer," Benton said. "It's such a visual city."

But it's also a city that has been attracting up-and-comers for decades most notably in the entertainment and aerospace industries, which were initially attracted by L.A.'s sunshine and wide open spaces.

Those pioneering industries helped foster the notion of L.A. as a place for new beginnings a place where a good idea, hard work and persistence could pay off.

"Los Angeles is rich with opportunities for those who have the knowledge and skill," said Robert M. Canady, academic dean of Pepperdine University's George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management. "The formation of networks, alliances (and) partnerships make for a rather limitless opportunity for an individual to succeed here."

The very size of Los Angeles, its place on the Pacific Rim and its tradition as an open town have made it a magnet for up and comers, Canady and others say.

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