Sandbox Brand Marketing | by Rod Anderson

Childhood Adversity Complex

There is a pattern I see with many of the great entrepreneurs in our world when uncovering the stories from their youth. It would seem that many of the people who achieve high levels of success as entrepreneurs, as well as people who desire to make significant impact in the world, are driven at a very deep level by the adversity they faced as children. The adversity falls into several areas:

  • an alcoholic parent
  • extreme poverty
  • serious health issues in the family
  • death of a family member
  • sexual or physical abuse

There have been several books, articles and plenty of research to support this observation. It would also seem that the more extreme the adversity one lived through can also be an indicator of how extreme the impact is that he/she wants to have in the world.

Key Traits

Some key traits that can develop as a result of childhood adversity and can help create better entrepreneurs fall into 4 areas:

  1. Perspective – people who have faced significant hardship during their lives have a unique perspective when it comes to problems that people creating a business or significant impact are going to face. The perspective of what you have been through, how you were able to get through it, and how that adversity compares with missing a product launch time or a revenue target allows you to move forward in an efficient and effective way.
  2. Persistence – when you have worked through significant adversity as a child you learn that what you are dealing with is not going to go away or be fixed quickly or easily. You learn early on that it will take an ongoing effort to survive and move forward.
  3. Self Reliance – some of this extreme drive and self-reliance may come from having to work through extreme events as children, primarily on their own. People that face significant events as children can sometimes go in one of two directions. One direction is that the events terminally bruise their being and negatively impact their ability to function throughout their lives. Others build an inner strength and drive to make a difference, stand out, and be different. Many times this ability comes with a large financial upside.
  4. Greater Risk Tolerance – there is a link between high level entrepreneurs and world changers and the level of risk they will entertain compared to most people. This seems to be connected to pathways in the brain being altered due to neglect or abuse as a child.

It will be interesting to see if this story of current and past entrepreneurs may also hold true for the future world changers. Note this quote from Elon Musk who indicated:

“I had a terrible upbringing, I had a lot of adversity growing up. One thing I worry about with my kids is they don’t face enough adversity.”

He clearly believes that some of his drive and success are linked to the adversity he faced growing up.

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