Shared Values of Self-Made Millionaires

Human Values

There’s an interesting article posted recently on LinkedIn Pulse. Jeff Haden put this in his post headline, making it almost instantly viral:

“8 of 10 Self-Made Millionaires Were Not ‘A’ Students. Instead, They Share 1 Trait.”

The trait, of course, is their willingness to learn.

While I agree with Jeff Hadden, that is not news. Similar observations were made before.

According to Tom Corley’s study of “Rich Habits”:

“85% of millionaires read two or more books a month that help them grow.”

Indeed, Elon Musk, one of today’s most admirable business leaders is known for having taught himself – literally! – rocket science by reading books. Moreover, according to his brother, Elon used to read two books per day when he was a kid.

And arguably it was Confucius who was the first to document this:

“Men of superior mind, busy themselves first in getting to the root of things; and when they have succeeded in this, the right course is open to them.”

While I agree with Jeff Haden, I do have some news to share: the key to success is not this trait – or any trait for that matter. Traits are habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. They do not determine what you are (or whether you are a good student or not) because traits themselves are determined by your basic values. You can deliberately change your behavior, and thus change your visible traits, but it may take many years before your values change, if ever.

Likewise, you may force yourself to read two books a day and attract a lot of cheers (and sneers) from your colleagues, but that will not make you Elon Musk.

It is surprising that the basic Human Values theory, created by a quiet genius Dr. Shalom Schwartz,  remains largely unknown to the general public and by all means is considered less “sexy” than numerous MBTI, the Big Five, DISC, 16PF, etc., etc. tests – all the way back in history to astrology and phrenology.

If in doubt, read the book by the incredible Annie Murphy Paul “The Cult of Personality”.

Research shows that good students, i.e. those who would normally get better grades, are usually high on Tradition and Conformance values, while outstanding business leaders are high on Self-Direction and Stimulation values. These values happen to be on the opposite sides of the values map. With all values being, well, values, i.e. being positive by definition, that does not mean that someone is a better person; the dominant values, or rather your values’ scale, determine in which fields this person has a better chance for success.

When values profiles of several individuals are compared, their congruence is a good indicator of their teamwork efficiency. Depending on the tasks, different individual values may be more conducive to success, but the overall team success is more probable if the team members’ values are congruent. Proximate locations on the values map is the first indicator – although there’s more about values congruence than could be explained in this short introduction.

One of my classmates was an “A” student, straight A’s, 100.00%, while he never looked like a geek or an antisocial alien. Once, invited to a radio show because of this, he was taken aback by the expected question, but his answer surprised the radio host: “I do not know. I have always had straight A’s.” That is, having straight A’s was a tradition for my friend, the proper way to behave. Granted, he was a bright student, but his values were not fueled by the desire to get to the root of things. I would not call that a trait either. And while still being a very nice guy, he has never made more than an average salary. BTW, money is not a driver for him either.

Stories about academic failures of famous college dropouts are exactly the opposite, and they seem to be a norm: Travis Kalanick, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg …. – self-made millionaires happen to have very different drivers. The really successful entrepreneurs are motivated by the need to develop and find something new and exciting on a daily basis.

My most incredible discovery while researching on this topic: Elon Musk’s values profile makes it obvious why Tesla is NOT and WILL NEVER BE LEAN.

Because people high on Openness to Change will not substitute common sense with a standardized policy – which Lean methodology is in essence. It just does not happen to the stars in this part of the celestial sphere. Most likely, Musk will get to the root of it – read Deming’s seminal texts, rehash the Toyota Production System basic – and eventually break away from the pack even further, surprising the rest of us with a disruptive initiative in employee engagement, which Deming’s original breakthrough was in essence.

The super successful guys are not motivated by the need to be known as a high achiever or a person with power. The power-hungry usually “reside” in the 6 to 9 o’clock area of the map;  can make a career in management – but will hardly rich the level of the extremely self-driven individuals of Steve Job’s caliber, although they are quite capable of becoming a source of inspiration for some leadership scholars, an achievement as well.

Ironically, another research demonstrated that it is the career managers from the 6-to-9 o’clock Self-Enhancement area who are mostly buying the “green cars.” However, the Self-Transcendence values are exactly opposite to their real values, and buying an electric car is nothing but a statement and a correct “career move” for them. And it is a power sign: electric cars are not an affordable option for those who have really dedicated themselves to fight the climate change. At least not until Elon Musk launches an affordable model.

Check my recent crowdsourcing of Elon Musk’s profile:  the guy is an outlier, not just “high” on Stimulation and Self-Direction values (which happens to in the 10 o’clock area of the map that my CLCTVR 2.0 tool generates.
values map

A couple of readers asked me to check if their values profiles were congruent with Elon’s – see their stars on the map. Their expected congruence with Elon is not that high – but should that come as a surprise? Elon is an outlier. Perhaps Steve Jobs’s star would have been close to his while it was alight…

Sounds interesting? Read more about Elon Musk’s “profile crowdsourcing” here.

What other celebrity profile could we “crowdsource” – and perhaps compare to Elon’s? Leave your suggestion in the comments below.

Finally, if you want to assess your team’s potential, contact me here or on LinkedIn.

How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?

(Originally answered on Quora)

Most probably you want to share your surprise that Elon Musk, who reportedly stayed overnight at Tesla site on many occasions, still looks and behaves like a normal sociable person, gives interviews and is altogether in good health and good spirits, right?

This is because he is fortunate enough to have a solution to the ageless dilemma of “work-life” balance.

For most people, this problem exists, and exactly in this form – work vs. life – implying that the negative portion of your existence, called ‘work’, is balanced out by the positive ‘life’. When the balance is in place, then the negative impact that work leaves on your personality and health is cured by the positive emotions you get from what happens after work. Or that is how the unfortunate majority sees it.

 There’s not much of an overlap between the Life and Work, and as this overlap is not considered healthy, we are advised by holistic gurus that we must disconnect, shut off etc. and not mix the two. Hence, there’s not enough room to have both, we either displace one at the expense of the other, or meticulously separate them, having not enough of either as a result. The rest is a multitude of ‘chores’, neutral in their nature; we just take them for granted, neither good nor bad. Continue reading “How can Elon Musk put in 80-100 hours a week and still have a life?”

A Gentleman’s Manual for Becoming a Good Man

Required Reading

“Read before bed every night.”

If you want to read something really special this weekend and perhaps be able to share it with your kids, try “Rules for My Unborn Son” by Walker Lamond.

Published a few years ago, the book has never made it to a bestseller list. This is what happens to the real gems. I would suggest that if “The  Shades of Gray” has never been on your reading list, you will love this book.

As an Appendix, the book has the list of Essential Reading for Boys – which makes another good reason to buy it for your son and write a dedication on the first page. The list will help you to check if you are up to snuff yourself.

Below are 100 quotes from the book widely circulated on the internet. Driven by one of the Rules –

“If you’re going to quote someone, get it right.”

– I have updated the list – corrected the misquotes and added my favorites. You may disagree with some of the Rules, but in any case, the Rules are inspiring and will make you think. Continue reading “A Gentleman’s Manual for Becoming a Good Man”

“Am I Paranoid?” Client Seeking Advice

Who Is Your Boss?

What would be your advice to this client? This story sounds like a job-interview business case – but it is not.

My client Alex (not his real name) is asking me for advice. He thinks that his boss, a senior manager in their company, has lied about his background and experience.

Connecting on LinkedIn, Alex noticed that the boss does not have ANY connections in the companies that are listed as his past employers. His graduation year on LI profile is different from what is stated on the corporate “Management Team” page. His name is not in his school yearbook for either of the graduation years.

He believes that his relations with the boss have changed after Alex had jokingly noticed his boss wiping his fingerprints off the cocktail glass.

Since then, Alex feels continuous pressure and considers looking for a “Plan B.”

Have you had a similar experience? Doubts about your manager’s integrity? What would you do in his case?

Please share your experience. Ask your peers to chip in. 

Brian Fetherstonhaugh: “The Long View”

Required Reading

Over the weekend, I have read a very interesting book – “The Long View” by Brian Fetherstonhaugh.

Brian Fetherstonhaugh is the Chairman & CEO of OgilvyOne, but the book is not about marketing. It is a thoughtful but clear feedback on his personal career experiences, supported by “business cases” from the careers of other successful individuals. Continue reading “Brian Fetherstonhaugh: “The Long View””

Weekend Easy Reading: Inspirational Quote

Challenge quote

I could not find the author of this quote. But it is simple and memorable. And printable.



Leaders’ Digest One-Page Essentials: A Corporate Primer

Corporate Sharks

This is an old classic dating back to late 18th century. The author, Voltaire Cousteau, is allegedly related to both Francois Voltaire and Jacques Cousteau. The text was translated and turned into a dinner talk in late 1970ies by a French scientist working in the US. Perhaps the guy moved from science to management and realized that quite a few “natural laws” are applicable in the corporate world.

It has been abridged to fit on one page, downloadable and printable as a handy one-pager. Continue reading “Leaders’ Digest One-Page Essentials: A Corporate Primer”

What Makes Life Worthwhile? Good People Made Better

What Makes Life Worthwhile

Once in a while you get news that makes your life worthwhile.

Last week a colleague sent me a text with the phone number of a former client: “He wants to speak with you.”

I called the new mobile number right away and learned that Vlad has been promoted to the top position at an oil production (E&P) company. For a professional, this is an incredible achievement!

Continue reading “What Makes Life Worthwhile? Good People Made Better”

Easy Reading: Motivational Quote by John Updike


By “easy reading” I mean really easy, i.e. big letters, just one sentence (above), and no links or other distractions.

American Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike was born on this day 85 years ago. His first novel was published on 1958 and became famous in 1960 with Rabbit, Run. During his career, Updike published 60 books. His principal themes were far from business, but I always find inspiration in his works and quite a few motivational thoughts that are worth quoting.

Good Online Tool

Earlier today, I dozed off at the computer and eventually saw the reflection of my face reflected on the dark screen. That was a revelation. Definitely, I could benefit from an unbiased opinion about my facial expression. After some research, I stumbled across an interesting online tool: PhotoFeeler. All you have to do is upload your profile picture – and get feedback from other internauts who have never seen you before. Takes a few minutes to get set and start digesting interesting insights on yourself and on anyone you may be curious to hear about.

The only unpleasant moment for me was the revelation that it was someone else who came up with this bright product idea… Other than that, it was a positive and a very enriching experience.

Moreover, it is absolutely free if you provide feedback in return. Continue reading “Good Online Tool”