The 5 psychological traits of successful startup founders

From The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done by Michael Dearing:

Personal Exceptionalism. Definition: A macro sense that you are in the top of your cohort, your work is snowflake-special, or that you are destined to have experiences well outside the bounds of “normal”; not to be confused with arrogance or high self-esteem. Benefit: Resilience, stamina, charisma. Deadly risk: Assuming macro-exceptionalism means micro exceptionalism; brittleness.

Dichotemous Thinking. Definition: Being extremely judgmental of people, experiences, things; highly opinionated at the extremes; sees black and white, little grey. Benefit: Achieves excellence frequently. Deadly risk: Perfectionism.

Correct Overgeneralization. Definition: Making universal judgments from limited observations and being right a lot of the time. Benefit: Saves time. Deadly risk: Addiction to instinct and indifference to data.

Blank Canvas Thinking. Definition: Sees own life as a blank canvas, not a paint-by-numbers. Benefit: No sense of coloring outside the lines, creates surprises. Deadly risk: “Ars gratis artis”, failure to launch, failure to scale.

Schumpeterianism. Definition: Sees creative destruction as natural, necessary, and as their vocation. Benefit: Fearlessness, tolerance for destruction and pain. Deadly risk: Heartless ambition, alienation.

Note: Does any VC firm select for these founder characteristics?

3 thoughts on “The 5 psychological traits of successful startup founders

  1. I read this over a few times and thought about it all day. I see the benefits of some of these traits to breaking new ground, yet I find it really hard to get behind embracing “distortions”.

    More comfortable saying “you must have faith that you can come up with a dramatically better way of doing things. You cannot assume everyone else has already figured out the best way.”

  2. Pingback: Relentless questioning | A Founder's Notebook

  3. Pingback: How to listen without judging — a guide for managers | A Founder's Notebook

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