How a ‘Dysfunctional’ Family Could Make You a Great Entrepreneur
By Melody Wilding, LMSW, World of Psychology
6 Feb 2017

[W]hat gives some smart, ambitious trailblazers the edge above others?

Lean Startup pioneer and Stanford professor Steve Blank has a theory that it lies in their psychological makeup. After decades in Silicon Valley watching companies come and go, he observed that great startup CEOs seemed to have similar personality traits, including passion, tenacity and a remarkable comfort operating in chaos.

Blank and his venture capital colleagues noted another peculiar pattern–that a disproportionate number of founders came from dysfunctional families. In his ideas on “dysfunctional family theory” first articulated in 2009, Blank posits that many (not all) entrepreneurs come from a less than white-picket-fence, Brady-Bunch-esque upbringing.

In his “admittedly very unscientific survey”, Blank found that up to one-half of people working doggedly to build their companies self-identified as coming from household environments marked conflict, fighting, harsh discipline, little to no expression of love and substance abuse.

Blank reasons that, of children raised in a dysfunctional family, some emerge from childhood with a keen ability to focus and take action despite discord. They develop skills to cope with uncertainty and learn how to thrive even in the face of instability. Their brains are wired for resilience.
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