The Wealth Elite is a series of interviews with a group of wealthy individuals to try and determine what makes them tick. Today, we look at a short extract from the book where Dr Rainer Zitelmann poses the question as to whether financial goal setting is a key factor in determining success and wealth.
Wealth as a Goal in Life?
What role does goal-setting play for the very wealthy? Beginning with Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, popular wealth literature is dominated by the notion that writing down quantitatively exact financial goals and setting deadlines for achieving them is the essential prerequisite for becoming rich. Goal-setting theory, originally developed by Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham, and since confirmed in hundreds of empirical studies, also finds that challenging and specifically formulated goals lead to better results than vague options of goals and that individuals who set themselves specific goals are more successful than those who set themselves either vague goals or no goals at all. J. Robert Baum demonstrated that the expectations of goal-setting theory, whereby more challenging and specific goals lead to better performance, have also been empirically proven in entrepreneurship research.*
In contrast, there are, for example, the results of the study published by Franz Walter and Stine Marg, for which 160 entrepreneurs and the board members of major German companies were interviewed.** The tenor of their answers to the question of how they had secured their senior executive positions was often that they had not carefully planned their careers.***
For this reason, one of the questions raised in the interviews conducted for this book was whether these wealth interviewees had set themselves specific goals, in particular, financial goals. If their answers were affirmative, they were asked whether they had written these goals down, how often they had done this, and whether they had used techniques to visualize their goals.
The findings were ambiguous. The hypothesis put forwards bu popular wealth literature that only those who write down specifically formulated financial goals can achieve great wealth was not confirmed. A number of interviewees firmly rejected such methods and stated categorically that goal-setting had never played a role in their lives, and there were others for whom this was never relevant – for more on this, see the second section of this chapter. On the other hand, over 40% of the interviewees strongly asserted that they regularly set themselves goals in various areas of their lives – overwhelming in writing.
- Baum, “Goals and Entrepreneurship”, 463
- Walter and Marg, Spachlose Elite?”, 19
- Hiemann, “Geplant war das alles nicht”, 39-40
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About the book
What makes the super-rich tick? Is there a specific mindset that sets ultra-high net worth individuals apart from the rest of us? Are they meticulous planners – or is their wealth an unintended by-product of their entrepreneurial activities? Is it nature or nurture that sets them on the path to great financial success? This book represents one of the most comprehensive modern-day studies of the super-rich. Based on interviews with members of the financial elite, and rigorous academic analysis, this empirical study investigates the link between personality traits and the creation of enormous wealth. In short, the book provides a fascinating insight into the world of the super-rich. It looks at how they think, behave and make their fortunes.
About the author
Rainer Zitelmann is the author of 19 books. He was previously a senior editor at Die Welt newspaper. Later he became the leading communications consultant for the real estate sector in Germany. The material for this book is based on his second doctorate.
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