The owner of the company I work for loves to tell stories of all the trouble he got into as a kid – broken bones, car accidents, mischievous pranks. He often says that his experiences made him who he is – which is a successful business owner. It turns out, he may be more right than he knows. New research links troublemaking behavior as a kid with an entrepreneurial spirit as an adult.
The psychologists who came up with this theory examined a Swedish study that followed approximately 1,000 children from one Swedish town over a 40-year period. What they found was that the children who ended up being entrepreneurs as adults were often the ones who got into trouble as kids.
“We analyzed this data regarding the entrepreneurship the participants were showing later on in their professional careers. We wanted to know what kind of social behavior they showed,” Martin Obschonka from the Center for Applied Developmental Science at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Sweden said. What they found was that those entrepreneurs were more likely to show anti-social tendencies in adolescence. They also noted a higher rate of criminal offenses (but mostly misdemeanors)among those who ended up becoming entrepreneurs.
Researchers said the data showed more frequent disregard of parental orders, more frequent cheating at school, more incidents of truancy, and more regular drug consumption and shoplifting, the researchers report. These results were particularly applicable to male participants.
The good news is that, over time, these future business owners seem to have shed their wayward ways.
By the time the participants reached adulthood, the entrepreneurial set was no more likely to exhibit anti-social behaviors than those who went on to other occupations.
The researchers draw the conclusion that the risky behaviors of troublemakers often lead directly to a willingness to take risks in business. In other words, rebellion leads to innovation, and a neighborhood pest could be a visionary in training. So cut that annoying kid next door some slack. After all, he or she may simply be exercising that entrepreneurial spirit.