During my 20 years as a financial professional and business owner in Toronto, I’ve gotten to know some very successful people and not so successful people. Here are my observations about the former and the latter within the framework of the Big Five Personality Traits, namely (1) Agreeableness; (2) Conscientiousness; (3) Extraversion; (4) Neuroticism; and (5) Openness to Experience.
“Nice guys finish last” – in my experience, this saying is very true. The “difficult person” is usually going to come out ahead financially because he can negotiate more aggressively in his own best interest, be it a real estate deal, salary negotiation or business deal. He won’t be overly concerned about how others perceive him. On the other hand, the “nice guy” is more concerned about being liked by the other party in order to avoid conflict.
The successful people that I know “mean what they say and say what they mean“. That is, if a conscientious person says she’s going to do something for you, you can take her word to the bank – you can trust and rely on her to follow through. She’s often highly organized. On the other hand, the not so successful people I’ve known don’t always follow through on what they said they’d do. Not so much because of dishonesty on their part. Rather, it’s because they’re often scatterbrained and disorganized.
In my experience, this doesn’t appear to have much of an significant impact on financial success. I’ve known successful introverts (e.g., tech employees and entrepreneurs) and successful extroverts (e.g., salespeople).
Many of the successful people that I’ve known would be considered “cold-blooded” – they seem to be impervious to stress and anxiety while dealing with high-stress situations (like a demanding job, business negotiation or salary negotiation).
I hate using this as an example (because it will piss some people off), but look at someone like Trump and the controversies he’s been through: they would have destroyed the career of a “conventional” politician, but he’s survived because he just brushes it off; there’s a reason why he’s a billionaire.
On the other hand, the not so successful people I’ve come across seem to freak out in high stress situations and are easily provoked by them.
Openness to Experience:
In my experience, this doesn’t appear to have much of an significant impact on financial success. However, it does appear to have an impact on the avenue to achieving it. People who are open tend to be more entrepreneurial whereas those who are less open tend to stick with more conventional professions (e.g., law, medicine) or are just content with being employees.