What is true is that people who have inherited these genetic variance that predispose them for addiction, they’re also more novelty seeking and they’re more compulsive and more risk-taking.  And interestingly, of course, those traits are not all bad. 

Those are traits that can serve you extraordinarily well in the world; in the world of business or sports or entertainment.  And so when we turn on the news and we see all the tragedies of celebrity addicts and you might think, oh well, celebrities really get addicted at the same rate of other people, it’s just that we hear about them because they’re celebrities.  And when some no name person dies of a heroin overdose, we never hear about it.  

Well, I don’t’ think that’s entirely true.  Because I think the genetic variance that make you more likely to be an addict are the same ones that kind of bring you to the top of your profession and make you a celebrity.  So a lot of addicts aren’t just losers on the street that can’t get their lives together in any other way, particularly if you look, for example, at gambling addicts. 

Gambling addicts are often people who are the go-to people in their jobs.  They are the ones that get things done; they are extraordinarily effective in the workplace.  And the same traits that make them effective in the workplace, that novelty-seeking, risk-taking and compulsion, the same thing that makes you a great entrepreneur, can also make you an addict.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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