The scientific psychology of the most successful people in the world
Author: Daniel J Bockman
We have either seen it done or have done it ourselves, created something that no one saw coming or made someone say, “I wish I would have thought of that.” That high level of genius that makes someone take a huge risk and comes out on the other end successful, can really create a lot of mystery for the average person.
The main idea
Are these people special or really at a higher level that the rest of the population? Or is it something more scientific that you are either born with or conditioned to do over timer with exposure? I have been reading and studying about the scientific side of success for a long while now and I am coming to more and more of a conclusion that luck and good fortune are only but a tiny fraction of the equation. In fact, luck seems to be a fluid concept that can be controlled but that topic is for another article.
At the end of 2019, eleven hundred new millionaires reportedly were made here in the US every day according to the US labor Bureau and Statistics. That is a striking statistic! What’s even more impressive is that the US makes up only 5% of the world’s population but is responsible for 35% of the world’s economic output according to Dr. John D. Gartner’s research in his book The Hypomanic Edge. No other nation in the world can claim that statistic. With voluminous amounts of research and information these days, it’s really hard to accept that this many people from one country can be just lucky. There has to be a better explanation.
The problem most people have with the incredibly successful is they do not understand them and how they work, think, and view life. They apply their own average and mediocre experiences and values on something they are not familiar with. Like saying, “If I was rich I would do…” while never have been rich before themselves. We also apply science to everything these days. We are now just supposed to accept science and worship it like a God without questioning it. Questioning scientist will now get you in the ostraca.
But the one thing we never apply science to is superior levels of material success. Success is one of those things we as a society just accept as apparitions of luck and good fortune like the Gods of success just decided to shine their magical light on the lucky few. I think we are better than this and everything can be explained.
People get incredibly energized once they have been understood by others. There are two kinds of understanding. 1) The understanding when you learn something new and have a real “aha” moment of a new concept you have never heard before, and 2) when someone else explains something that you are already feeling and gives you that mirrored effect of understanding. You might respond, “Yes! I feel the same way.” It might even be an understanding that you have been suppressing for a long time and once you hear someone else say it, you think, “Oh, so it’s not just me.”
In the early 2000s, Dr. Gartner commissioned a pilot study to find out what made the most successful people in the world tick. He reached out to 10 very successful entrepreneurs and asked a series of questions from a psychological perspective of his experience of years of being a clinical psychologist (you know “sciencey stuff”) Here are the questions he asked and just for fun, think about how you would answer each of these questions and see if you think you have the right science stuff to be a successful entrepreneur.
1. Are you easily excited and filled with energy?
2. Are you flooded with ideas?
3. Are you driven, restless, and unable to keep still?
4. Do you channel your energy into the achievement of wildly grand ambitions?
5. Do you often work proficiently on little sleep?
6. Do you feel brilliant, special, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world?
7. Are you euphoric when you have an idea?
8. Do you become irritated by minor obstacles?
9. Are you known for being a risk taker?
10. Do you tend to overspend in your business and in your personal life?
11. Do you contrast sex and material success together as a conquest?
12. Do you act impulsively with poor judgement in ways that can have painful consequences?
13. Are you fast talking, witty, or gregarious?
14. Does your high-levels of confidence make you charismatic and persuasive?
15. Are you prone to making enemies and do not mind having a few enemies?
16. Do you feel you are persecuted by those who do not accept your vision and mission?
17. Would you choose work over spending time with friends or family?
18. Do you feel it’s your divine right to be successful like a king, or… a God?
19. Are you comfortable with grandiosity?
20. Do you feel you high-levels of self-confidence inspires others to follow you?
How do you feel about these kinds of questions? Do you find them insulting or did you say, “Oh shit! So it’s not just me!” If you found them insulting or offensive, let me tell you that the 10 multi millionaires that also took this survey found them to be amazing! The loved the questions and in fact, most of them called Dr. Gartner and begged him to talk with them and explore more of why they are the way they are! They all agreed that the overall description of the person who answered “yes” to all of the questions would accurately explain them.
How are most people going to relate to someone that says, “Wow, those questions are right on target with how I feel?” Think about this, maybe this is why they are very rich and most people are not!
Most of these guys have been suppressing these psychological feelings they have about themselves so to not look the like a bunch of assholes. They also did not know their answers would categorize them as a personality trait for the successful. Then, here comes a psychologist with a series of questions that they were finally able to resonate with. That, “Oh hell yeah, that’s me!” moment. I would venture to say they got very excited knowing that someone is finally finding a way to understand them.
You might be wondering if after taking the survey if these men want to change. Do they want to be more empathetic, and less antisocial. Well, here’s the answer, No. They do not want to change! Simply put, they like being who they are and they don’t care about your personal brand of values. This might be one of the strongest distinctions we can draw from this. They like who they are and they like that someone is finally understanding them.
Being understood is the only sense of security these guys know. And even then, they don’t need it, they just like to be understood. I think this is one of the most important parts of this pilot study. The fact that they like being understood – but they don’t need to be!
Success behavior is still very misunderstood. That’s why most people and even experts shrug off superior levels of material success as being lucky and a chance of fortune. It seems to be especially misunderstood the more advanced our society gets and the more successful people are becoming. It’s like we see what is going on, lots of successful people in one geographical location, but we still attribute it to coincidence or luck. I do not think that is responsible research work.
When you really look closely at the behavior of successful people you will see one really interesting aspect. Once they feel like their business is not getting any better or going any further as a result of other people not being able to keep up with them, they want to move on to something new. Most people look at this impulse to quit and move on as a spoiled brat that can’t finish what he started, but I am going to tell you it’s something much deeper and very scientific. The reason I can relate to this so greatly is because I feel this much myself! I love it that I can outwork my competitors but I hate it when the people I need can’t keep up with me.
This can be a real psychological dilemma for a founder. You love the work but you are frustrated that your employees, contactors, vendors, or suppliers can’t, or won’t, work the long hours you are willing to put in to it. You feel like you need to find something else that won’t top-out. Many of my business friends know this about me because I have sent them long emails about finding a new business where employees will be just as fucked up as I am about the work!
But like most manic-success people like me, you eventually come back to a more lucid state and pick back up on your work and try to inspire your people to work harder.
Think about question 17. “You would rather work than spend time with friends or family.” This is a very American thing. No other country has people like this. Understand, the desire to achieve like this it’s not about the material gain. It is almost always about the adventure and the excitement of creating something new and big as an independent businessman. I’ll put it into words any one can understand: How are you going to compete with or even understand someone that is doing it for the adventure over doing it for the money? Most Americans work for money and security. But successful entrepreneurs do it for the adventure, exploration, and exhilaration of achieving something very difficult.
This goes back to the genetics of our founding fathers. Freedom and choice as opposed to security and safety.
America was founded on the idea of freedoms and the pursuit of happiness even with the threat of death constantly hanging over them. 56 men signed the declaration of independence 1776 but back then, they were actually signing a death warrant. Benjamin Franklin laughed as he was finishing signing the declaration of Independence and said, “Gentlemen, if we lose, we will all be hanged by King George!”
I have to believe that some of that genetic bravado of our founding fathers is still running through our modern day bloodlines. Entrepreneurs risking their entire livelihoods just for a chance at being free and working in a business that they are in full control of. The adventure and the quest to be tested under immense pressure and stress is far more exciting that the fruits and the rewards of the work. This can explain why so much success is concentrated in the US. An American is four times more likely to be a business founder than a Frenchman. Likely because freedom and independence has been a tradition for the last 245 years here in the US.
The United States on the world’s stage is relativity young. Other European and east Asian countries are far older by several hundred years yet, the US has surpassed all of them in economic output and activity in a very short period of time- and with far less people doing it! Geography, the American spirit, and having the long linage bloodlines for freedom and independence seems to be the real secret to success.
The US does something else very interesting. Immigrants to the US are much more likely to start a new company. Coming to America give most immigrants the inspiration to create something amazing because of our freedoms to do so.
It’s all very scientific indeed. The money and success is just a byproduct of what they really want. Everyone thinks entrepreneurs do it for the money and the fame but actually they do it for the love of the game. Just maybe they are not as crazy as you might think, maybe they are just doing what their instincts are telling them to do.
Trust yourself, choose your instincts over influence, and answer the psychological question above again. See if you can start to relate to these things in the questions. As I said before, you are either born with it or, you can be conditioned to it by exposure.