Rule breakers succeed as entrepreneurs

Smart, rule-breaking teenagers are more likely to become successful entrepreneurs than smart “good kids,” according to new research, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein . . . find that self-employed workers with incorporated businesses were almost three times more likely to engage in illicit and risky activities as youth than were salaried workers. These behaviors include but aren’t limited to shoplifting, marijuana use, playing hooky at school, drug dealing and assault.

In addition, the self-employed with incorporated businesses were more educated, more likely to come from high-earning, two-parent families, were more apt to score higher on learning aptitude tests and exhibit greater self-esteem than other employment types. “Of course, you have to be smart,” says Mr. Levine. “But it’s a unique combination of breaking rules and being smart that helps you become an entrepreneur.”

Risk-takers with high self-esteem also can get in trouble.  Many financial advisers say they “have to keep their entrepreneur clients in check,” according to the Journal.

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  1. The key to success – intelligence plus psychopathy.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Because blindly following rules made by other people makes you psychopathic 🙂

      • Mark Roulo says:


        Because NOT following …

        • That one of those things that schools do wrong – they encourage “rule-followers”, and do their best to hammer down the rule-breakers – both teachers and students.

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            There’s very little room in our industrial education complex for real dissent. The pre-packed politically correct type of dissent is encouraged as a kind of show trial proof of loyalty, but the stuff that actually challenges authority receives the jack-boot treatment. And, that’s why some on both the left and right despise public education.

          • Michael E. Lopez says:

            One SHOULD hammer down rule breakers.

            The problem isn’t hammering rule breakers. The problem is stupid rules.

            (Cf. Mr. Aubrey, below.)

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    The smart kids know which rules to break. The dumb rule-breakers steal from their classmates.
    Many “rules” that are broken, or not, are actually conventional wisdom, not, you know, statutes or regulations.
    Statutes and regulations often look arbitrary and lacking in sense. CW, at first glance, seems more solidly-based on reality. Sometimes. IOW, you can “get away” with breaking a law if you don’t get caught, because the real world isn’t going to punish you with negative results. CW will, if contradicted, contain its own punishment.
    The woman who put together our 50th HS reunion has been good about bios of various folks–obits actually–of those who’ve passed on. Seems the wise-cracking troublemakers–not criminals actually–did pretty well for themselves. Some I would not have guessed.
    I recall, no idea why, our physics teacher talking to our chem teacher about a guy who was kind of a smart ass, emphasis on smart. “I asked him to explain how we know the valve is open. He said, because the valve handle is parallel with the line.” True, but not the answer required when learning the scientific method. He’s done okay. Smart ass.

  3. I think this overcomplicates the issue. I suspect that you could get a similar or better correlation simply by looking at an introversion-extroversion measure.