Using PERMA as a Guide to Successful Acquisition Entrepreneurship


The following is adapted from Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game

Perhaps you’ve heard of positive psychology. It’s the brainchild of Martin Seligman, who is currently the Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and Zellerbach Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. When he was voted President of the American Psychological Association in 1998, he essentially invented and promoted the study of positive psychology. He’s authored numerous books on the subject.

Seligman started on the path that led to positive psychology when he noticed that some dogs got up and escaped shocks in laboratory conditions, while others lay still, no matter how often they were shocked. This led initially to an investigation into the conditions that created “learned helplessness,” and later to the reverse inquiry: how can we build our reserves of optimism and resilience?

Seligman’s first effort to teach positive psychology came while he was working with one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, His task was to help them discover the differences in sales people who had tremendous success versus those who quickly burned out. The goal was to find a way to make better hires.

His research discovered that optimism was the common characteristic among successful salespeople within the agency. If you have an interest in buying a company, then building it using your entrepreneurial abilities, you will find optimism an equally necessary component of your success. Optimism is the capacity to continue despite setbacks and to ultimately anticipate a positive outcome.

In one of his more recent books, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Seligman develops his understanding of positive psychology to reveal the five pillars of well-being, identified through the acronym PERMA. These pillars are:

●   Positive emotion

●   Engagement

●   Relationships

●   Meaning

●   Achievement

While PERMA constitutes a list of ingredients, each individual requires a slightly different recipe. Some people need a greater meaning in their lives, while others focus on engaging work or nurturing relationships. Achievement means just that—people driven by achievement in their lives in order to truly flourish as individuals.

Entrepreneurs Need a Lot of Achievement

How does PERMA relate to your success as an acquisition entrepreneur? Chances are, if you’re even considering this path you are driven by a high desire to achieve.

This is true of most entrepreneurs. Psychologist Henry Murray devised a characteristic that he called “the need to achieve,” which refers to an individual’s desire for significant accomplishment: intense, prolonged, and repeated efforts to accomplish something difficult.

Positive psychology in AE

To many highly driven people, achievement is oftentimes more important than financial reward or receiving praise or recognition. Financial reward is viewed as a measure of success, but not an end to itself. Those who are dubbed “high achievers” are those who are motivated almost exclusively by the personal satisfaction that comes with accomplishing hard goals.

It’s clear that achievement is essential for entrepreneurs to live as their fullest and best selves. This achievement is the likely driver for our motivation, our commitment, and our persistence. Being achievement-oriented plays very well with the entrepreneur.

Take another look at the characteristics described by Seligman. While you will doubtless be drawn to all of them, ask yourself how strongly you resonate with the desire to achieve. As an aspiring acquisition entrepreneur, it should come close to the top of the list. Entrepreneurship is hard work, with long hours and a high investment of energy. It’s also very satisfying. If this doesn’t resonate with you, ask yourself why you want to run a business.

PERMA can serve as a guide to what you value and a guide to what you need to pursue. Take some time to understand your personal PERMA priorities before you make the decision to press ahead with acquisition entrepreneurship, and ensure that your chosen path aligns you with your highest values.

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For more advice on how to optimize acquisition entrepreneurship with PERMA you can find Buy Then Build on Amazon.

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Walker Deibel

Walker Deibel is an entrepreneur and advisor. He is the author of Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game and Creator of Acquisition Lab.

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