Updated on 05.12.07

How Personal Productivity and Personal Development Are Connected To Personal Finance

Trent Hamm

Recently, I’ve been reading the book The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley. It’s a pseudo-sequel to the mega-popular personal finance book The Millionaire Next Door (which I reviewed a while back) and it focuses on psychological and personal aspects of people with a net worth of one million dollars or more. As I was reading The Millionaire Mind, one specific piece stuck out at me. I was going to include it in an eventual review of the book itself (which is forthcoming), but I felt it was compelling enough to discuss it on its own.

The second chapter of the book describes in detail a survey conducted by Stanley in which he asked 733 millionaires what factors were highly important in their success. Stanley generated a list of thirty factors that cover the gamut of traits, from high intelligence to investing skill and touching on pretty much everything else you can think of, and had the millionaires indicate which ones were “very important” in determining their success. From that, Stanley produced a ranked list of these factors, with the most popular trait at the top and the least popular at the bottom.

Here are the top ten traits from that survey, straight out of The Millionaire Mind:

Being honest with all people
Being well-disciplined
Getting along with people
Having a supportive spouse
Working harder than most people
Loving my career/business
Having strong leadership qualities
Having a very competitive spirit/personality
Being very well organized
Having an ability to sell my ideas/products

If we eliminate the factors that are either intensely personal (a supportive spouse, passion for a specific business), we are left with eight factors:

Being well-disciplined
Getting along with people
Working harder than most people
Loving my career/business
Having strong leadership qualities
Having a very competitive spirit/personality
Being very well organized
Having an ability to sell my ideas/products

These eight factors are all addressed within the areas of personal productivity and personal development. In fact, it’s a trivial task to find numerous books that will help you develop each of these eight areas. In other words, rather than valuing investment advice or intelligence or any number of things, people who have built a strong financial base point to personal development and a productive lifestyle as keys.

For me, the connection between the area of personal finance and that of personal development and productivity has always been intuitive, but I had never seen it laid out in such a clear fashion. If you follow the results of this study, the best way to become a millionaire isn’t to dive into investment materials, it’s to dive into materials on how to develop yourself and become more productive.

On The Simple Dollar, I review a productivity or development book each week and I regularly brush on those topics in other posts. I’m quite aware that some readers enjoy this material and others aren’t quite such a big fan of it, and I don’t plan on really changing the volume that I write on productivity or development. However, it is fascinating to see a study that demonstrates that people with financial success see the connection between the two areas, and thus reaffirms to me that personal development and productivity have some role on a personal finance site.

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  1. miguel says:

    Interesting — I started reading this book a few days ago and still had that section fresh in my head. Good take on it, Trent.

  2. Peter says:

    I find it interesting that you eliminated the number one trait — “Being honest with all people” — to arrive at your list of eight. I would have thought that would be the most important element of personal development. I was quite pleased to see that it was ranked number one by the original 733 millionaires surveyed.

  3. Tammy says:

    I haven’t read this book yet – I’ve seen it and thought of picking it up. These are exactly the sort of things that roll around in my own mind… what parts of me help me reach my goals and which aspects of my personality keep me stuck. I will get my own copy and get working on this myself. I’m a firm believer that we act according to how we think.

    P.S. You’ve been tagged on my own blog.

  4. Sally says:

    Peter – I’m guessing that was a mistake and that the trait he meant eliminate instead of honesty was,

    Loving my career/business

    based on his commentary.

  5. Ursula says:

    For your 8-item list, I think you meant to leave IN “being honest with all people” and leave OUT “loving my career/business”


  6. Gal Josefsberg says:

    If you look at a lot of books about managing personal and professional relationships, they basically sum down to “be nice and treat other people well.” It’s critical advice that we often forget. Just be nice to people, ask their opinions, include them in conversations and you’ll quickly find yourself making friends that will last a life time.

  7. Roger Fisher says:

    I believe if you go further into the study, you’ll will find that these people are typically religious as well. Without going too deep into religion, someone who is disciplined by going to church/synagog regularly will accumulate the traits listed.

  8. Diomede says:

    Discipline, communication skills, social skills, passion.

    Of course these are key factor for financial success. If you own the points above you’ll be succesful in every moment of your life.

    These are trasversal abilities, nowadays I think they are decisive. Technical competencies are the minimum, to differentiate yourself and succeed you need more.

    It is all about Emotional Intelligence, so called by the famous psycologist D. Goleman.

  9. Judith says:

    How about it Trent? You DID leave out “honesty” as a mistake? Didn’t you?

  10. Gal Josefsberg says:

    That’s partially right, but also partially wrong. If you look at many of the people on these surveys, you’ll see that most of them had a strong framework for their lives. However, religion is just one way to get this framework. Family, friends, social networks, professional organizations, personal belief systems and so on can all contribute to this, just like religions can.

  11. plonkee says:

    I don’t particularly thing that most of these traits are related to religion and/or personal belief system, for example being competitive or having the ability to sell.

    I think if most of the millionaires surveyed are religious, thats probably more influenced by the high proportion of middle-class Americans in general who are religious than anything else.

  12. anon says:

    There is a fundamental problem with this sort of work: survivor bias.

    You have a distinct sample of the population, for which you identify traits pertaining to financial success.

    The question is then: how many people with those same traits failed to succeed?

    If there are few, you found the success criteria. If there are many, your traits have no distinctive value pertaining to financial success.

    As far as I know, the book fails to address this point.

    Guess which one of the two options is more probable?

    This type of mistake happens often. See for example the review of the business bestseller “Good to Great” by businesspundit.com for the same type of analysis.

  13. joseph mithamo says:

    am a new fun of the simple dollar en i tell you its bcoming such a life changing experience to me.Ihave been wondering ,what if you had listened to discouragements from pple;this information could not have reached us.congrats en keep on keeping on,…write,write,write…

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