3 Soft Skills That Top Earners Possess


Ryan Ong



Top earners don’t actually have much in common. They might be generous Warren Buffet types, or ass hat Donald Trump types (pull their hair, you’ll figure it out). But somewhere under the eccentricity and fawning media coverage, their metaphorical “engines” are similar. In this article, I examine three non-specific skills that seem to attract money. If you can’t fully embrace them, learn to fake them:


1. Learn to Fake Extroversion

Extroverts are the ever smiling “people persons”, who tend to become motivational speakers or carnival clowns (same thing).

People who are gregarious, outgoing, and able to open their mouths have an easier time making money. Take a look around your office, and you’ll see it’s obvious: Bosses tend to promote the most social employees. The ones who organize birthday parties and dominate conversations.

But here’s the thing: Most extroverts also learn slower, have poor concentration, and are reckless. How are they making more money, and why should you want to join them?


Mounted boar's head with party cap
The MoneySmart office is full of party animals


I spoke to a corporate trainer, who only wants to be known as Pradip. He’s worked with CEOs and successful investors alike. Pradip claims that:

Yes, it’s true extroverts find it easier to make money. Extroverts find it easier to get things their way in general; they look like leaders, they know how to get their point across.

But it’s a mistake to think being an extrovert alone makes you wealthy. In fact, most top earners are not even extroverts, but are thinkers who have taught themselves to act extroverted. 

Bill Gates is very much an introvert. But look how he acts in the media spotlight, how he conducts business. He hides his shyness so well. People can train themselves to pick up extroverted traits, so they look confident and likeable.

…when you speak to clients or bosses, breathe from the centre. Prepare beforehand so you speak fast. Shake hands firmly, walk with large strides. And no matter how tiring it is, remember it’s temporary. It’s just for a few hours, then it’s over, you can go home.

Practice it. Learn to put on a game face when you need to.”


2. Know How To Borrow


Cafeteria lunch line
Hey Tracy, could I borrow $2.50 for a sandwich? And while we’re at it, maybe an extra $15,000 to put in that new condo?


“Neither a borrower nor lender be”. Yeah, that strategy panned out; back when information technology meant a really fast horse.

Today’s successful traders and investors work on the margins all the time. The difference between them and some goon who maxes out 11 credit cards is simple: They know how to borrow.

They know to check and compare interest rates before borrowing. They make sure they’re earning more from the loan than the original worth of the loan. And they’re not afraid to occasionally end up chewing grass and pretending it’s steak; that’s how they learn.

Property Investor Charlie Sng says:

If you’re not born rich, you better learn how to handle loans. You better learn about leverage. Because if you don’t have the knowledge and guts to borrow, you have no place at the table.

Of course you must learn things like how to work out repayments, how to do accounts. But you better grow a thick skin and get used to pain. There will be times when a loan will kill you financially; you just learn to bear it.”

Mr. Sng suggests that, the next time you are about to ask a banker or broker about loan amounts, try to work it out yourself. When you meet them, have them check your calculations and spot your errors.


3. Delay Gratification


Meditating man
Meditate your way to your Yoga Instructor’s wealth.


You may have heard of the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.

In 1972, psychologists rounded up a bunch of children, aged four to six. Said children were shown a marshmallow on a plate. They were told that, if they could wait 15 minutes before eating the marshmallow, they’d get two marshmallows instead.

A minority ate the marshmallow right way. Some attempted to wait the 15 minutes, and a third of them succeeded.

10 years later, the shrinks checked on their former lab rats. The same children who waited the 15 minutes were more successful; probably because they could delay their need for gratification.

The next time you want to make an impulse buy, think of the children! Identify when you’re in the “impulse zone”. It’s usually when you keep thinking or imagining buying something, for no reason other than wanting it. Once that happens, you can either:

(1) Distract yourself with a book or TV

(2) Set a future date and resolve to buy it then


“Swallow the key; Great Singapore Sale starts tomorrow.”


Delaying gratification gets easier with practice. In time, this skill will extend to cover your use of credit cards and loans. Stock traders, in particular, need copious amounts of patience. Commodities trader Richard Bei says:

Learn to be sceptical. Learn to deny your knee-jerk reactions. The most difficult lesson is knowing when to do nothing; sometimes you just need to keep quiet and wait.

I have experienced many times when I made bad investments; just because my fingers are itchy. I cannot stand to just watch while the market is peaking, I want jump in because I’m scared I’ll miss it. But the right thing to do was to wait, for the time when the market dropped again.”

Image Credits:
baslow, NJ Tech TeacherAdelphi Lab Center, allensima, stevendepolo

Got any soft skills that have made you money? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.