Investor Paul Graham has always said he likes entrepreneurs who are a little bit naughty. New economic research published in the Wall Street Journal confirms what the Y Combinator founding partner, Hacker News creator and essayist nonpareil has known all along; Troubled teens become more successful entrepreneurs than those who color within the lines .
Economists Ross Levine and Yona Rubenstein shared the results of a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found:
[S]elf-employed workers with incorporated businesses were almost three times more likely to engage in illicit and risky activities as youth than were salaried workers. These behaviors include but aren’t limited to shoplifting, marijuana use, playing hooky at school, drug dealing and assault.
Sound like anyone you know? I won’t name names, but it’s a familiar pattern amongst people in Silicon Valley who have become very successful, or are on their way there.
The study compiled data from U.S. Census Bureau‘s Current Population Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, according to the WSJ.
Their findings back up PG, who wrote:
Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They’re not Goody Two-Shoes type good. Morally, they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties. That’s why I’d use the word naughty rather than evil. They delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter. This quality may be redundant though; it may be implied by imagination.
The whole idea of being a disruptor is that you don’t care about nor respect the status quo. In fact, you despise it.
And as an entrepreneur you’ve got the vision and self-confidence to challenge the accepted wisdom, and the tenacity to make the world recognize their brilliance. And entrepreneurship is, on average, rewarded more highly than salary-seeking. “Individuals who left their salaried jobs to start incorporated businesses work more hours but also earn more per hour than other employment types, and those who start successful incorporated enterprises enjoy substantially larger boosts in earnings relative to their own wages as salaried workers,” the study says.
The best chefs are those who aren’t afraid to break an egg to make an omelette. But sometimes you get it on your face, too. The downside of the risk-taking and impulsiveness, is that entrepreneurs are more prone to lapses in judgement, the study’s authors find. Hard to have one, without the other, right?
Glad to know that my angsty teenage years, which were a hormone-packed blend of youthful indescretion, non-conformity, and general mischief, were actually preparation for a life of startups. This also means that my parents–also entrepreneurs– are saints for putting up with my antics.
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