Tom Corley, a certified financial planner, was curious about common traits high net worth people share. Such traits can go from A to Z so Corley zeroed in on developing a survey for his own and other people’s clients who are millionaires.

Participants self-selected for this survey on the condition of complete anonymity and confidentiality. All of these participants were “self made” millionaires; none had inherited their wealth. 59% of the survey participants came from self-described middle class backgrounds; 41% came from self-described poor backgrounds. (This survey cannot be considered hard research because self-descriptions were not standardized and therefore not replicable.)

One interesting commonality that self-made millionaires share is the fact that most were not A students. In fact, only 21% of the participants in Corley’s survey reported being A students. 41% reported that they were B students and 29% reported they were C students.

So, if not at the top of their class, how did these millionaires make it to the top of their respective professions?

Corley’s answer in summarizing the remarks of his survey participants is that

“…’success’ does not come easy. It’s fraught with pitfalls, failures and mistakes. Success requires persistence, mental toughness and emotional toughness…its pursuit pushes you the edge…you must grow thick skin and become accustomed to struggle in order to succeed.”

Bottom line, according to Corley? “Those who struggle academically may be more accustomed to dealing with struggle and making it a daily habit to overcome pitfalls.”

Corley also found that self-made millionaires are exceptionally good at delaying gratification and withstanding temptation. They are able to persevere, keep their heads down and focus on the task/problem at hand, regardless of how many times their efforts to solve the problem takes.

These survey participants admitted having just as much fear as others do when it comes to putting themselves on the line. The common trait self-made millionaires share that overcomes their fear is bravery.

Self-made millionaires see their past (their childhood, their schooling, their good and not-so-good efforts) as training, not their definition. High net worth individuals are constantly and consistently training to do what they believe is important as well as they possibly can.

And, Corley found, millionaires believe that motivation is something one creates for themselves. How? By enjoying small-step moments of success during their never-ending process of training to produce their best work.

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