In a recent interesting book “The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America” author John D. Gartner, an assistant professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins, argues that America’s success is because American entrepreneurs are largely hypomanic.
“Hypomania is a mild form of mania, often found in the relatives of manic depressives. Hypomanics are brimming with infectious energy, irrational confidence and really big ideas. They think, talk, move and make decisions quickly. Anyone who slows them down with questions “just doesn’t get it.” Hypomanics are not crazy, but “normal” is not the first word that comes to mind when describing them. Hypomanics live on the edge, between normal and abnormal.”
So why are Americans hypomanic? “Energy, drive, cockeyed optimism, entrepreneurial and religious zeal, Yankee ingenuity, messianism and arrogance – the traits have long been attributed to an “American character.” If a scientist wanted to design a giant Petri dish with all the right nutrients to make hypomanic genius flourish, he would be hard-pressed to imagine a better natural experiment than America. A “nation of immigrants” represents a highly skewered and unusual “self-selected” population. Do men and women who risk everything to leap into a new world differ temperamentally from those who stay home? It would be surprising if they didn’t.”
How do you identify a hypomanic? Gartner lists these traits: “He is filled with energy; flooded with ideas; driven, restless and unable to keep still; channels his energy into the achievement of wildly grand ambitions; often works on little sleep; feels brilliant, special, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world; can be euphoric; becomes easily irritated by minor obstacles; is a risk taker; overspends in both his business and personal life; acts our sexually; sometimes acts impulsively, with poor judgment, in ways that have painful consequences; is fast-talking; witty and gregarious; charismatic and persuasive; prone to making enemies and feels he is persecuted by those who do not accept his vision and mission.” Sounds like an entrepreneur to me