What makes Donald Trump tick?

With most of the world, particularly the left-wing media reeling in the shock of Donald Trump’s victory, the majority of commentators are trying to make predictions about what will happen during a Trump Presidency and what makes him tick.


I have only read one article “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All” in The New Yorker (25 July 2016) that to me actually got inside Trump’s head.  In the article, Tony Schwartz, was the Ghost Writer for The Art of the Deal describes how he came to write the book.  He first attempted to have a series of interviews but because Trump’s very poor attention span (2-3 minutes) failed miserably.  According to Schwartz Trump has no attention span.  For example Schwartz believes Trump has never read a book.  Schwartz was about to chuck in the project but then suggested to Trump that he would just shadow him during all his meetings and phone calls and not ask questions.  This he did for 18 months and this gave him a unique insight into Trump’s personality.


I must lay my cards on the table.  I use the 7MTF/Humm Wadsworth profiling technology which defines people in terms of their temperament.  The model says that our temperament is determined by our position on seven spectra and where each spectrum is associated with a specific mental illness: mania, depression, autism, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive, neuroticism and the anti-social disorder.  We all have these seven spectra in our temperament and for most of us the strength of most of these components is average (within plus or minus 1 standard deviation or 67% of the population.)   However a person’s temperament will be dominated by those components in the upper sixth.  For example about 15% of the population are the upper sixth of the anti-social personality disorder.  We call these people Hustlers.


Hustlers are driven by the desire for material success. This means enjoying money and the things that money will buy. The Hustler is quick, opportunistic, shrewd, entrepreneurial, and charming. This person has a ‘nose’ for a deal and they’ll quickly work out if you can help them do the deal or not. They’re also short-term – they want results now, or very soon. Promising a Hustler a significant financial reward next year will probably not interest them. They are very loyal to their own families and team. But mostly they’re loyal to themselves and they will work hard to make sure they get what they believe they’re entitled to.


Over time practitioners of the Humm have developed a series of heuristics that help identify the dominant components in a person’s temperament.  For example Hustlers talk a lot about money and name drop.  Their favourite colours are red and gold.  Their offices are glitzy and they drive flash cars.  They are often divorced.  Donald Trump to me is the quintessential Hustler.


One of the great mistakes people make about Trump is that they think he is into power.  He is not.  He is in it for the money.  Schwartz now admits he had wrongly painted Trump as a “deal” artisan in the book.  This is completely false.  Instead Schwartz says one of Trump’s most deep and basic needs is to prove I am richer than you.  He has an insatiable hunger for money, praise and celebrity and just loves the attention


Lying is second nature to Trump.  He has a complete lack of conscience about it.  However what is different about Hustlers from the rest of us is that they sincerely believe their own lies.  Schwartz invented a term “truthful hyperbole” to describe the phenomenon.  Trumpnow sincerely believes he wrote The Art of the Deal while the publisher publicly states his contribution was not even a post card.


Hustlers divide the world into winners and losers.  Trump has only two positions when he meets someone.  “Either you’re a scummy loser or you’re the greatest.”  However this view can change.  He is a transactional man – it was all about what you could do for him.  People are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world.


In case you find the above characteristics worrying comfort yourself with the thought that  many political leaders have a high degree of the Hustler component.  Bob Hawke, Bill Clinton, Paul Keating, Bill Shorten and MalcolmTurnbull are some that come to mind.  Politics requires our politicians to demonstrate flexibility and be good actors and Hustlers are very good at that.


I would criticise Schwartz one point.  He said in the article that if was asked to write a new book on Trump he would call it The Sociopath.  Trump is not a sociopath; he is a classic corporate psychopath.  His father was a successful property developer, whose estate was worth over $500 million and who helped his son financially and politically.  He co-signed loan agreements and lent money.I have blogged about the difference between the two and Trump is positioned at the extreme end of the Anti-Social Personality Disorder because of genetics not upbringing.


Finally knowing that Trump is a Hustler what predictions may we make?


He has already started to ‘break’ campaign promises and this will continue throughout his Presidency.  He will fervently argue black is black on Monday and equally passionately that black is white on Tuesday.  International leaders are going to find it very hard dealing with Trump.


As a man who has declared himself a bankrupt four times it is easy to imagine him running up the US debt to fund infrastructure and then asking the US bond holders to accept 30 cents in the dollar.  The bond markets are going to be very volatile.


With regard to Climate Change he is already making plans to walk away from the Paris Climate Change Agreement that Obama signed.  There is interesting question here.  Presidents are not allowed to sign treaties without the consent of two-thirds of the Senate.  Obama, who would have not got support from the Republican Senate, signed the agreement saying it was not a treaty even though it is a “long term” commitment.  The decision as to whether the Paris Climate Change Accord is an agreement or treaty will have to be decided by the Supreme Court.  This body is almost certainly going to become more conservative and will probably declare Obama’s signing to be illegal.  As the USA is the world’s second largest CO2 emitter at 5.3 million kilotons you have to wonder why Australia (at 0.4 millionkilotonnes) just signed the Paris accord.


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Chris Golis - Author


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