I subscribe to Chamath Palihapitiya’s Substack What I Read This Week, it’s a weekly dose of a dozen or so interesting links, often related, that he recommends. This week’s newsletter featured a paper published in the British Journal of Psychology titled The rich are different: Unravelling the perceived and self-reported personality profiles of high-net-worth individuals.
I’m fascinated with personal development as my personality used to be abhorrent. Over the decades I’ve become someone I actually like, as well as a high-net-worth individual, so I was curious to see if there was a scientific correlation between who I have become internally and what I have achieved externally.
The study was conducted with two main groups of people, all from Germany: the general population and high-net-worth individuals (people with over €1million in assets). The general population group had 22,981 people, while the high-net-worth group had 130 people.
The researchers analysed surveys conducted by the German government on their citizens to come to their conclusions.
Differences in High-Net-Worth People
The paper infers that there are differences between the personalities of high-net-worth individuals and the general population. Here are the key differences:
- Emotional Stability: High-net-worth individuals scored significantly higher on emotional stability, which means they are less likely to be neurotic or easily upset.
- Extraversion: Wealthy individuals are more outgoing and sociable compared to the general population.
- Openness: High-net-worth individuals are more open to new experiences.
- Disagreeableness: Interestingly, the wealthy scored lower on agreeableness, which means they tend to be more competitive and challenging rather than cooperative.
- Conscientiousness: Wealthy individuals are more conscientious, meaning they are organized, responsible, and hardworking.
- Narcissism: The study found that high-net-worth individuals scored higher on both narcissistic admiration and rivalry. This means they are more likely to admire themselves and compete with others for admiration.
- Locus of Control: High-net-worth individuals have a more internal locus of control. This means they believe they have control over the events in their lives, rather than attributing events to external factors or luck.
The paper does note that these differences are not absolute and there can be considerable variation within both high-net-worth individuals and the general population. Also, these differences are not solely due to wealth. Factors like gender, age, and education also play a role in shaping personality.
Developing the Personality of a High-Net-Worth Individual
Based on the findings of the paper, here are ten steps that could potentially help you develop personality traits similar to those found in high-net-worth individuals:
- Develop Emotional Stability: High-net-worth individuals tend to be more emotionally stable. This means they are less likely to experience negative emotions. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help improve emotional stability.
- Cultivate Extraversion: High-net-worth individuals are often more outgoing and assertive. You can work on this by pushing yourself to take part in social activities, speaking up more often, and building your confidence.
- Embrace Openness: Being open to new experiences, ideas, and creative thinking is another trait common among high-net-worth individuals. Try to step out of your comfort zone regularly, learn new things, and embrace change.
- Work on Disagreeableness: This doesn’t mean becoming unkind or rude, but rather being less concerned with pleasing others and more willing to assert your own needs and interests. This can involve setting boundaries, learning to say no, and standing up for yourself when necessary.
- Boost Conscientiousness: High-net-worth individuals are often more organised, reliable, and disciplined. You can work on this by setting goals, creating routines, and developing good work habits.
- Cultivate Healthy Narcissism: While narcissism is generally seen as negative, a certain level of self-confidence and ambition can be beneficial. This involves believing in your abilities, striving for success, and not being afraid to stand out or take the lead.
- Develop an Internal Locus of Control: This means believing that you have control over your life and outcomes, rather than attributing events to external circumstances. You can cultivate this by taking responsibility for your actions, making active choices, and believing in your ability to influence outcomes.
- Embrace Entrepreneurship: Many high-net-worth individuals have gained their wealth through entrepreneurship. If you have a business idea, consider pursuing it. Even if you don’t want to start a business, cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset—being innovative, taking calculated risks, and learning from failures—can be beneficial.
- Seek Continuous Learning: High-net-worth individuals often have higher levels of education. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting more degrees, but rather committing to lifelong learning and self-improvement.
- Understand and Adapt to Cultural Contexts: The paper suggests that the relationship between personality and wealth may vary by cultural context. Understanding the cultural norms and expectations in your environment can help you adapt your behaviour and strategies accordingly.
These suggestions are based on general trends observed in the paper and your individual results may vary. It’s also important to note that while these traits are associated with high-net-worth individuals, they do not guarantee financial success. Finally, it’s crucial to maintain balance and authenticity, adopting these traits should not come at the expense of your well-being or personal values.
My Approach To Personal Development
I think I started to develop my personality around the age of 25 when I first started therapy, I didn’t really consider what I was doing as personal development, I just thought of it as getting help when needed on things I was having trouble with, I didn’t have a mindful plan of action or approach but looking back in hindsight there was definitely a pattern that helped me become the person I am today.
- Therapy: I’ve been in continuous therapy now since roughly 2005, when I was 25, I’ve had different types over the years from counselling, to cognitive-behavioural therapy to more recently working with a Jungian Analyst. This has helped me develop a deep sense of emotional stability whilst learning different tools and techniques to help me get through life as well as being a journey of personal discovery, I’ve learned a lot about what intrinsically drives me than I would have expected.
- Acting Lessons: I took acting classes with Rachel Blackman from The Matrix Revolutions and other Hollywood films, which helped me become more expressive, more confident and more extraverted. They also helped me understand body language, to better represent how I was feeling or wanted to feel.
- Improve Comedy: I spent a few years doing Improv Comedy courses with The Maydays, initially doing an Improv Skills for Business workshop that lead me to consistently rehearsing and doing stage performances. Like the acting this helped me become more expressive, confident and extraverted but more than that it helped me take risks in a safe environment and realise that it’s ok to make mistakes (in front of a live audience). Having to go out on stage and literally make things up to make people laugh was incredibly challenging but forced me to cultivate extraversion and embrace openness.
- Sala Classes: Going to Salsa classes was a game changer. As someone with social anxiety that didn’t like clubbing, it was an opportunity to interact with loads of different people, in a night club setting, during the early evening, completely sober and learn how to dance. This helped with confidence, cultivating extroversion and to embrace openness.
- Fire Shows: My most favourite thing ever was joining Poi Passion, learning circus skills and eventually becoming a professional fire performer, performing with other circus companies, festivals and private weddings and birthday parties. This helped me cultivate extroversion, embrace openness, embrace entrepreneurship and develop an internal locus of control.
- Social Coaching: With all the socialising I was doing I became a social coaching instructor for PUA Brighton, teaching guys social skills and how to talk to women in day time and evening environments. This helped me cultivate extroversion, embrace openness, embrace entrepreneurship and develop an internal locus of control.
- Working Out: Maintaining a schedule of going to the gym, training in martial arts like Muay Thai and BJJ helped boost my conscientiousness, build and maintain routines and was a continuous learning environment. It also helped me feel more confident and better about myself cultivating some healthy narcissism.
- Taking Pride In My Appearance: When I first moved to Brighton I was clinically obese and the clothes I wore on a day to day basis probably cost under £3 in total, I looked how I felt about myself. By learning about nutrition and working out I lost a lot of weight. By studying fashion and how clothes could co-ordinate I started to take pride in my appearance which help me feel better externally as well as internally. Clothes don’t need to be expensive, they just need to fit well and co-ordinate. Developing my own sense of style helped cultivate some more healthy narcissism and portray myself to people in a way that was congruent with my internal state.
- Owning My Own Businesses: Building, operating and living from my own business endeavours forced me to embrace entrepreneurship, develop an internal locus of control and seek continuous learning. I am now completely responsible for myself and my actions with no excuses. I have learned that there is no such thing as maintenance, we are either growing or dying and only I am responsible for my future.
- Antinomianism: Leaving the UK has let me remove all outside influences so that I can discover who I am inside with out letting the environment shape me. This has led to all 10 of the personality traits of the high net worth individual, including letting me work on disagreeableness. As everyone in my life is new it is really easy to set healthy boundaries and not do things I do not want to do, such as drugs or alcohol. I am constantly saying no all the time to things that will sway me from my path and this is helping create an unwavering core strength that I was lacking before.
I didn’t mindfully plan these actions, but I did see gaps in myself that all these little things helped. Since the pandemic I have been out of habit with a lot of these things but now have a greater awareness of things in my life that I feel are lacking and can be improved.
Chicken and the Egg
Reading this paper and looking at these personality traits, I have to ask the question, which came first, the personality trait or the wealth? But looking at myself and the last 15 years of my life I think the answer for me is they both developed alongside each other, once I made the decision to work on myself, but at different rates at different times.