Do Troubled Teenagers Make Successful Entrepreneurs?

Is "entrepreneur" just a euphemism for erstwhile troublemaker? A new study exploring the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs suggests that people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg might share checkered pasts as well as hefty salaries.

The University of California, Berkeley study, which focused on debunking the myth that entrepreneurship doesn't pay off for most, found that entrepreneurs actually earn about 50 percent more than their salaried counterparts working in the same industry with the same level of education.

And the researchers, Ross Levine of Berkeley's Haas Economic Analysis and Policy Group and Yona Rubinstein of the London School of Economics, found that entrepreneurs are identifiable not only by their earning potential, but also by certain character traits that appear throughout their youth.

The study showed that many people who succeed in novel ventures have high IQs, come from stable families with parents who earn higher than average incomes, and have exceptional confidence and self-esteem. However, people who become entrepreneurs also have some more surprising traits in common.

"Our data revealed that many successful entrepreneurs exhibited aggressive behavior and got in trouble as teenagers," Levine said. "This is the person who wasn't afraid to break the rules, take things by force or even be involved in minor drugs."

The study found that young people who possessed these trouble-making qualities went on to become high-earning salaried workers. And when opening their own businesses, they made 70 percent more money than they ever had as employees.

"What we find is that a particular constellation of traits turns out to be a strong predictor of who is going to become an entrepreneur later in life and whether that person is going to be a high-earner when he or she launches a business," Levine said.

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