Breaking the rules might not sound like a clever thing to do, but it’s something that the highest earners have in common.
People who break the rules, are stubborn, and misbehaved as children tend to earn higher incomes, according to the results of a recently released study that spanned 40 years and tracked 745 people.
The study looked at the income and education levels of 745 people from Luxembourg schools in the 1960s. The children completed questionnaires about their behavior (self-reporting) and their teachers filed corresponding reports on the children’s individual traits and behaviors.
Who are the rule breakers?
The children that were identified as having a “low level of rule orientation” commonly displayed traits like talking back to parents and/or teachers, being stubborn, and simply disobeying the rules.
At the start of the study, the researchers hypothesized that children’s future earning potential and success could be determined not just by a child’s family background and intelligence level, but also by their own personality traits. Turns out, they were right.
Why rule breakers have higher incomes
The children who had a tendency to defy parents and authority figures stayed in school longer and became more likely to pursue a higher education. Rule-breakers also tended to earn higher incomes than their peers.
But why? Doesn’t following the rules ensure a smooth path to success? Not necessarily. While rule-followers were also high earners, there’s something about rule breakers that seems to equate with future success.
“One explanation was that such individuals value competition more than their peers,” the authors of the study reasoned. “We might assume that students who scored high on this scale might earn a higher income because they are more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures such as when negotiating salaries or raises. For instance, individuals who scored low on Agreeableness were also shown to earn more money.”
“We also cannot rule out that individuals who are likely or willing to break rules get higher pay for unethical reasons,” the authors stated.
Another explanation could be that individuals with the rule-breaking traits tend to create the life they want for themselves, rather than allowing others to dictate what they should do.
To us, it sounds like the rule-breakers are well suited to become entrepreneurs one day. What do you think? Were you a defiant rule-breaker as a kid?