We'd all love to know if there's a secret formula to success. People have attributed success to all kinds of factors, from logical ones like academic performance to illogical ones like whether or not someone is "crazy" compared to the normal population. We all have personal beliefs regarding what leads to success and what doesn't, and most of us realize that hard work and dedication are usually the primary determining factors. But what if there was a solid predictor for a person's ultimate success, and one that most of us have little control over? Some recent studies suggest this could be the case.

Myers-Briggs Type and Financial Success

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an extremely popular personality test designed in the early 1900s to help analyze the psychological profile of individuals, as well as how they tend to make decisions. Split into 16 different types, the test measures a binary result along four different continuums--extroversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuiting, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving. Further segmented, these 16 personality types have been grouped into four major categories as optimists, patriarchs, pragmatists, and originators.

An interesting survey by Career Assessment Site recently analyzed each of these personalities in terms of their average household incomes. According to the study, pragmatists tended to, on average, earn the greatest household income with ENTJ types ("The Director," Extroverted, Intuiting, Thinking, and Judging) earning by far the most. Pragmatists also tended to have higher educational levels, which could account for their supposed domination in terms of eventual average income.

Extroverts, too, tended to earn more than introverts, though this was not always the case--INTJ types ("The Intellectual," Introverted, Intuiting, Thinking, and Judging), also belonging to the "pragmatists" group earned an average of $70k a year, close to the $83k high set by ENTJ types. Similarly, extroverts belonging to the "originators" group of personalities tended to earn less than most of the other personality types listed.

The Problem With Myers-Briggs

While the survey data itself seems reliable, there's a major problem with the Myers-Briggs personality evaluation system--in fact, there are multiple problems. Any individual could take the test twice, merely weeks apart, and get different results--sometimes radically different results. Because each continuum in the evaluative scale is long, with gradients of gray, it's impossible to categorize everyone in black and white terms for any individual trait. Also, the test can't possibly predict an individual's behavior--for example, if a person thinks more than feels, he may still react emotionally in some situations more than others.

Perhaps most notably, the Myers-Briggs test doesn't fully capture everything there is to know about personality. For example, it doesn't measure a person's ability to handle pressure or stressful situations, which is key in determining a person's eventual success. It also ignores diligence, personal values, and other factors critical to a person's overall personality. It therefore seems impossible to predict a future outcome for a given personality type--in fact, it's nearly impossible to categorize anyone properly to begin with.

The Problem With Financial Statistics

It's also worth noting that these financial statistics don't necessitate an actual level of success. The survey measured success in terms of average household income, which brings a few complications to the table. First, household income often has multiple contributing sources, distorting the information immediately. Second, the average figure means top earners could be inaccurately skewing the data--just a handful of seven-figure earners could skew a majority of low earners at the bottom.

And of course, average household income is not a real measure of success. The top earners in the study might be miserable at their jobs, wishing they would have taken a different path in life. The bottom earners might be leading their own companies, struggling to make a profit but still happier than they'd ever been before. The cost of living also varies widely from city to city, meaning a relatively high household income in one state could amount to a relatively low household income in another state. It's clich, but money really doesn't lead to success or happiness, and this survey only measures money.

General Personality Traits That Lead to Success

Still, from experience, common sense, anecdotal evidence, and general trends from the past several decades, we can discern that certain personality traits do tend to lead people to success more than others. For example, naturally diligent people tend to work harder and achieve more than naturally lethargic people. Extroverted people meet more connections and find more opportunities than introverted people (though this isn't always the case). Logical decisions tend to pan out better than emotional decisions, so logical thinkers tend to perform better in the long run than emotional thinkers. The keys to success, as they've always been, have been education, hard work, dedication, meeting the right people, and a dash of creativity.

How to Take Action

It's not entirely possible to change your personality--at least not by force. Over the years, all of us experience shifts in our personalities, whether we like it or not, but you shouldn't pin your hopes for success on what your personality is or could morph into in the future. Instead, you should focus on actions you can take. For example, you don't have to be an extrovert to network with other professionals in your area. You don't have to be a naturally logical person to seek logical solutions to your problems.

Look for ways to incorporate positive traits and helpful habits and behaviors into your daily life. Regardless of what personality type dictates your feelings and instincts, it's entirely within your power to shape your life however you want.

Published on: Oct 13, 2015