If you’re going to set goals, you might as well set some big ones! Let’s talk about the big “B,” a goal of making more than $1 billion in your lifetime.
More than a few people have asked me to write this post. It’s been my distinct pleasure to meet some billionaires over the years. It’s a topic I’ve also studied in detail via fantastic historical biographies of those who’ve achieved a billion dollars in Net Worth.
So here are Ten Minute MBA’s observations about what it takes to make a billion dollars. We’ll ignore winning the genetic lottery and being born to billionaire parents.
Every billionaire expected to be there at some point
Here’s a provocative claim: every billionaire knew they’d be worth ten figures some day. Some billionaires have admitted as much in interviews. Others are more humble and demurred.
But there’s a definite pattern that exists. When John D. Rockefeller was a boy, he told everyone that he would be the richest man in the world. He’d grow up to become the world’s first billionaire.
Warren Buffett, known to be quite humble, did the same thing. The HBO documentary on Buffett makes it quite clear: when young, Buffett said he was going to be the richest man in the world.
Billionaires in the making have incredible confidence in themselves or take steps to develop confidence. Buffett himself has credited a Dale Carnegie public speaking course as more critical to his success than his Columbia MBA.
The takeaway is this: You need to be one of the most confident people in the world to be one of the richest people in the world.
Only then will you expect to be worth a billion dollars.
Note the nuance: there’s a difference between want and expect
The key word here is expect. There’s a very large difference between wanting to be a billionaire and expecting to be a billionaire.
For example, every single person alive wants to be a billionaire.
Some would blow the money on golden castles and others would give it away to deserving charities. Regardless of how they spend it, everyone wants to be a billionaire.
As we all know, however, very few people will become one. With 2,100 billionaires and 7.5 billion people wanting to be one, you have a 0.000028% chance of getting there.
Expecting to get there though is an entirely different story. If you expect to be a billionaire, it means you’ll put in the work to get there. It means you will work around the clock for decades and fail miserably. But you’ll keep working. It’s why Buffett could say as a boy that he’d make it. He knew he was going to work until it happened.
I shared this picture on Ten Minute MBA’s Twitter a few weeks ago. While on vacation in Miami, I was running at 4 am on the beach. I passed Faena House, a famous condo building due to it’s celebrity owners and ~$20 million dollar condos.
At 4 am, the light in the penthouse was on. I guarantee a billionaire lives in that unit. He or she has already made their money and reached success. But they’re still up and working at 4 am.
That’s expecting to be a billionaire.
You don’t need to know how to make your money
So you expect to be a billionaire. Hello 4 am mornings!
There’s just one problem: how are you going to make money?
Answer: you don’t need to know how you’re going to make money.
Earlier, this post discussed how John D. Rockefeller used to tell people as a boy that he would be the richest man in the world. As a boy, he had no clue his money would come from oil.
In fact, the fantastic biography of Rockefeller tells an interesting story. Rockefeller made most of his money from oil, but he thought oil was a terrible business when he first heard about it!
Warren Buffett didn’t know where his money would come from either. He tried many different businesses, but he couldn’t predict Coke would be the one that made his money.
Brian Chesky knew he was going to start a company while he was in college. He just didn’t know what it was going to be. Almost by accident, he learned that people would pay to stay in other people’s houses. Today, he runs Airbnb.
So how do you discover where you will make your money?
Said another way: what do I work on if I have no clue where my billion dollars will come from?
The answer is simple: learning.
There’s a reason why Warren Buffett reads for 8 hours a day. Mark Cuban does the same. Every billionaire I know goes out of their way to ask people questions in order to learn more. Historical figures like Alexander the Great and Napoleon did the same.
If you were to do the same and focus exclusively on learning, you would inevitably find a business opportunity. Maybe that opportunity is blockchain, self-driving cars, asteroid mining, or something entirely different.
As long as you solely devote yourself to learning, you’ll know where the opportunity is.
Expect sacrifices and decide how much you really want it
The final piece here is the most important. How badly do you really want it?
If you study billionaires, you might notice a rather sad trend. Most don’t have friends for 15+ years as they build their business. They tend not to have spouses or kids for those 15+ years as well. In other words, there might be no one in their life who loves them.
4am is work time. But if you’re getting up at 4am and don’t have friends, it also means you’re not going out on the weekends. It means you’re not staying up late catching up on your favorite shows.
You’ll be laughed at, repeatedly. Some will be high school friends who think you’re a fuck up. Some might be former co-workers who can’t believe you threw away your career. Others could be potential customers who rip up your business card in front of you (happened to Sara Blakely!)
Earlier, we mentioned that everyone wants to be a billionaire. Obviously, almost all of us don’t. This is the key reason why
How badly do you want to be one? How much are you willing to give up to make it happen?
In other words, are you willing to trade 15+ horrible years to become a billionaire?