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How to spot a self-starter

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in Leaders & Managers

Business blogger Steven Berglas has been pondering whether self-starters can be made, or whether they’re born that way.

At a minimum, he’s identified a few questions you can ask to ferret out true enterprising natures. Don’t take their answers literally—any version of self-starting behavior will do.

1. As a kid, did you run a lemonade stand? Or did you master the art of bartering—starting out with two toys or treasures and ending the day with 10? Did you yearn to make a buck while everybody else was busy spending theirs?

Sam Zell, the real estate tycoon, calls himself a “professional opportunist.” As a kid, Zell went downtown to buy Playboy magazines for 50 cents apiece and sold them to his friends in the ’burbs for a few bucks a pop.

2. Do you often take busman’s holidays? That means doing work purely for pleasure (or maybe through some inner drive) while you’re supposedly not working.

It’s not exactly the same as being a workaholic, and it doesn’t really apply if you’re being driven by forces other than fun or satisfaction. The point is that it’s your choice to work instead of play.

3. Are you itching for a fight? Every self-starter Berglas knows has some type of deep-seated aggression, the kind that drives him or her to excel. He points to Wilma Rudolph, the Olympic gold medalist in track who was born with crippling disorders that she fought to overcome. We thought of pop star Michael Jackson. He idolized the dancer Fred Astaire, who when they met told Jackson he believed that they both danced out of anger.

If one or more people say “yes” to one or more of these three questions, hire them and put them in creative and entrepreneurial roles.

— Adapted from “Unleash Your Inner Self-Starter,” Steven Berglas,

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