We live in a society increasingly obsessed with material success. We are
Exhorted to “Get on!” “Get ahead!” “Get a step on the ladder!” “Make it to the top!”
If you don’t prosper, it’s easy to feel like a flop, that you’ve wasted your life and
Failed your family.
But is such success open to all? Do we all have the potential to be
Millionaires, and can success be taught? What can we learn from those who do make
It to the top?
Becoming a millionaire is a surprisingly haphazard affair. At school we are
Told that if we work hard and pass exams we will do well. But a recent study by
Professor Cary Cooper, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and
Technology, refutes this advice. When we studied the lives of successful
Entrepreneurs, he found that nearly 60 per cent left school early either because they
Were thrown out or were “bored”. Other studies suggest there is little correlation
Between how well children do at school and the salary and job satisfaction they
Achieve as adults.
The most certain route to riches is to start out wealthy. Over half the people in
The most recent Sunday Times survey of the richest 200 people in the country
Inherited money. Twenty-five per cent of those who head large corporations were
Born into affluent families.
If you are not born wealthy, you may be able to capitalise on another
Advantage: good looks. “Good looks make early life easier. Teachers and other
Children will expect you to be kinder, cleverer and to do better than plainer peers,”
Explains Dr Raymond Bull of Portsmouth University, expert on the effects of facial
Being tall is also an advantage. Other qualities being equal, employers are
More likely to select taller and more attractive people. However, unless you want
Work with children, it can be a handicap having too pretty a baby face. You are
Likely to be regarded as kind, but not very efficient. You may fare better by taking to
Crime – juries are far more likely to acquit you.
In a new book, Business Elites, Professor Cooper compares a number of
Successful entrepreneurs with people Cooper calls entrepreneurs. He defines
Intrapreneurs as those who rise through the ranks to the top of large corporations.
Cooper found major differences between the two groups. “Intrapreneurs
Tended to be the kinds everyone thought would do well. Over half went to university,
They are good organisers and get on well with people.”
But the entrepreneurs often had early reputations as trouble-makers. “They
Probably left school early, had several business disasters and are awkward
Personalities. They are also intuitive and very determined.”
The most dramatic difference between entrepreneurs and corporation highfliers
Was that only five per cent of Cooper’s entrepreneurs had both parents present
Throughout childhood, compared with 91 per cent of the intrapreneurs. In some cases
The parent had died, in others they had been absent for long periods. “Coping with
Disaster early in life appears to give people vital resilience later on,” suggests
Nearly half of Cooper’s entrepreneurs also felt that they had been the victims
Of discrimination early on – some were Jewish, some were immigrants, some were
Just physically small.
But even if you are born poor and ugly to parents who refuse to absent
Themselves from you, there’s still plenty you can do to influence your chance of
Success. A range of courses and self-help manuals are available to help you forge
Your way to the top.