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.