Every parent wants a good child. One that teachers love. Those parents who spend half their time meeting with teachers to discuss their little darling’s rebellious streak, figure they’ll spend the rest of their life with their offspring in the basement. A new study says that you should rejoice in your obnoxious, teacher challenging child: He’ll earn more money.
A recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychology looked at children over a 40 year period. They found that while IQ and parental income levels were great predictors of career success, "rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority" gave the greatest key for salary success. The study was conducted in Luxembourg, so all the usual caveats apply. I can’t guarantee it transfers to everywhere, but the idea is intriguing and makes sense to me–and not just because I’m the hopeful mother of a child whose first word was “no” and has continued on that path for 12 years.
When we’re silent, obedient sheep, we don’t go very far in our careers. Oh sure, the boss loves people who come in on time, do their work and do every assignment given, but they aren’t the people who rise to the top. Here’s what you can learn from this study and apply to your own life:
Speak up! Nobody will ever know your ideas are better if you never share them. When you see something that needs improving, volunteer to make the changes. While this habit of speaking up drives school teachers up the wall, it’s what brings you success in the world of work.
Negotiate. Everyone just loves the person who says, “yes,” to whatever is offered, but that person isn’t respected. You need to negotiate salaries, job descriptions, and just about everything. While no-negotiation salary offers are becoming a thing, they aren’t everywhere. If you don’t speak up and ask for more, it’s unlikely they’ll offer more.
Let your light shine. You’re not going to be talented in every little thing. You’re just not. It’s that rebellious streak that can cause you to annoy people, but it also can be something that allows you to show your brilliance. If you’re really good at something, be really good at that thing. If you’re the founder of a startup, hire someone to handle things you aren’t good at, and focus on your skills.
You have value, even when you’re at the bottom. I grew up in an environment where my ideas were taken seriously. I held leadership positions in church and school from the age of 12 onward, so when I landed my first professional job, it never occurred to me that I should be quiet in meetings until I had gained “credibility.” Sure, I made a few tactical, political errors and offended a few directors, but I also landed myself in one-on-one meetings with the CEO–in a 30,000 person company. I was hired because I had expertise in an area that the other HR people did not (statistics). If I had been quiet, and let the “experienced” people have all the say, I wouldn’t have contributed anything to the company. You were hired for a reason.
Prepare for failure. Anybody who was rebellious in school knows that there are consequences when you object to whatever the teacher says. Sometimes you get fired for not being quiet and obedient. But, don’t let that stop you. There’s always a plan B.
Being rebellious doesn’t mean being a jerk. You can stand up for what you think is best, present your ideas clearly, and offer feedback on things that you think will fail without being a jerk. Rebellion doesn’t mean you can be rude. It just means you aren’t afraid to stand up for yourself.
So, next time you get a call from your child’s teacher about how your child wrote a short story about bacteria that take over Manhattan rather than completing the essay on mitochondria, smile to yourself and know that someday your child will be able to afford to take you on that dream vacation.
(Thanks to Matt Phillips at Quartz who found this fabulous study.)