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Tiffany Matthé

Personality Does Not Define Success

Success2 min read

Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 am. Yoshiro Nakamatsu dives underwater for the best ideas. Marissa Mayer personally approves every hire. These quirky habits of successful people are plastered throughout the internet, often lauded as the golden tickets to success.

This is as true as Oompa-Loompas. Habits and routines affect people differently, and they cannot exist by themselves. You could wake up at 3:45 am and do nothing of your day. You could dive underwater and come up with amazing ideas but never invent anything . You could approve every hire but have a weak business vision.

Similarly, personality does not define success.

Steve Jobs was known to be extremely harsh towards his employees if something wasn't up to his standards. This anecdote does not mean you need to be ruthless to be as successful as him. You could emulate all of his personality traits, but end up nowhere.

Although self-focused and competitive people seem to meet their goals more (at least for men), they are more prone to be less resilient in the workplace and alienate those around them.

On the other hand, some may believe that being nice does not lead to anywhere either. You feel cheap, easy to please, relatable, the exact opposite of the elite successful class. And there is some truth to this. According to a study in the UK, they found that there exists at least a weak "negative linear relationship between wages and agreeableness".

Agreeable people sacrifice their own success for others. They are passive in conflict. However, they also contribute to psychological safety, which is the most important dynamic of Google's five keys to a successful team.

All personality traits have multiple facets that can be advantageous or detrimental to success. The difference between Steve Jobs and a regular grumpy manager is what their personality is built on. Is it built on a skillful person with a passion for their work? Or is it built on a hollow husk with no direction?

A house's external façade can play a big role in attracting buyers, but in the end, the prospective residents will be living inside. If it's ugly or empty, nothing will ever happen. The effectiveness of a personality is not self-contained. It depends on your passions, your skills, context, luck, etc.

You can change your personality to push you towards your goals, but remember that it is not the defining factor of success.

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