Ditch the Plan B? Go ahead, so long as you’re rich | Arwa Mahdawi

A recent study says that if you really want to achieve your dreams, dont worry about a safety net. Fine advice for those for whom failure wouldnt spell disaster

To Plan B or not to Plan B, that is the question. Science finally has the answer and, apparently, its No, absolutely not. If you want to be successful then you should ditch your backup plan says a recent study. Simply considering a Plan B acts as an emotional safety net that decreases your drive when it comes to achieving your real goal.

Honestly, I have never related to a paper in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes so much. Throughout my life Ive put off pursuing Grand Plans by busying myself with putting robust Plan Bs in place, just in case. If only I could throw caution to the wind, Ive told myself, maybe Id be the first female secretary-general of the United Nations, a bestselling author and a world-class hacker by now.

But, you know what? Maybe I wouldnt be. Probably, in fact, Id just be broke. Heres the thing about studies like these: they end up as headlines telling you to Ditch the Backup Plan which then turn into epigrams on Instagram (aka the modern career guidance office). Think: Follow your passion!; Fail Again, Fail better!; Find what you love and let it kill you!

But finding what you love and throwing yourself into it without a backup plan really could kill you. Sever Your Safety Net may look nice in cursive with a background of clouds but it ought to have a Do Not Try This at Home disclaimer on it too. It ignores the fact that much success does, in fact, stem from the presence of a financial safety net. When you delve into who actually does decide to go gung-ho for their Plan A you often find that their bravery isnt so much a case of a cool head and a brave heart as it is a case of having money. A 1998 study, What Makes an Entrepreneur? found that personality traits werent a predictor of entrepreneurship, access to capital was. [E]ntrepreneurship is more about cash than dash, University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald, an author of the study, told Quartz last year. Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.

A 2013 study by Berkeley economists reinforces these findings. Entrepreneurs, the study shows, are more likely to be white, male, highly educated, and from come from higher-income families. If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit, noted Ross Levine, one of the economists.

The same study also showed that entrepreneurs were more likely to have greater self-esteem, and engaged in more disruptive, illicit activities as teenagers, such as taking drugs or skipping school. Its funny for how some people breaking the law is a disruptive activity that sets them up for startup CEO-ship and for others its a quick way to getting locked up and never employed again. An appetite for risk doesnt come so much from genetics, it seems, as it does from confidence: knowing you can get rich and youre not going to die trying.

Blind luck also plays an under-acknowledged role in success. Recognising that your achievements come down to being in the right place at the right time or being from the right family isnt as enticing as imagining you forged your way to the top through passion and perseverance. Which is why most rich people rationalize their success as a matter of hard work and risk-taking over luck. (Exhibit A: Donald Trump.) This is particularly true in America, where individualism striving is held in high esteem. Figures from Pew Research Center show that 73% of Americans think hard work is the most important driver of success; only 18% think having a wealthy family is.

All of this is not to say that if you dont have a financial safety net you should simply give up on your dreams right now. Far from it. But taking a risk isnt the same thing as being reckless. That distinction tends to get muddied by the romantic notion of the Extraordinary Individual. After all, doesnt Follow your passion sound a whole lot nicer than If at first you dont succeed try again with more of your parents money?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/27/entrepreneur-safety-nets-plan-b-economic-inequality