Lessons in the Billions
Today there are over 1,826 billionaires in the world. Combined, they wield some $7 trillion dollars. That’s a bit less than half of the U.S. national debt: a bit mind boggling to think about. But what allowed this fraction of a percentage of the world population to attain all that wealth? What lessons can we learn from them to better our own financial situation?
I’ve compiled a list below of lessons, mottos and practices that have had a profound effect on the accumulation of wealth for these individuals.
1) Invest in Yourself
It’s no joke that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Running all those businesses and being the face of philanthropic efforts can really take a toll on one’s sanity. It’s important to take time out of your busy schedule and enjoy some time for yourself, time that you can do most anything in. For the super wealthy, this might involve taking some R&R on your own private island (i.e. Sir Richard Branson) or renting out a $5million/week super yacht in the Mediterranean (i.e. Bill Gates). Most of us don’t have that kind of power to play but we can still have time to ourselves to unwind and recharge. I’m a fan of the work-hard, play-hard mentality. The harder you work (and succeed), the harder you can play.
2) Never Stop Learning
The Berkshire Hathaway’s 2014 Letter to Shareholders outlines the responsibilities and expected behavior of the Chairman of the company. One of the more striking ones was:
“His first priority would be reservation of much time for quiet reading and thinking, particularly that which might advance his determined learning, no matter how old he became,” (Berkshire Hathaway, 2014). This speaks a lot for how these billionaires embrace the entrepreneurial mindset. They always remain curious about the world around them, and through continuous learning they are able to extrapolate solutions and ideas to current world situations. So I encourage all my peers that claim that they don’t read in their free time to reconsider their decision.
3) Embrace Risk
No doubt being able to take a risk is a quality of a mover and shaker, but calculated risk is what separates the pros from the armatures. Adopting cutting edge technology and developing it can be incredibly risky if the technology never takes off. But it’s that initial risk of failing that most can’t seem to get over. Embracing risk and welcoming opportunity with open arms will always pay out, if not monetarily, educationally. If you accept the fact that you’re probably going to fall a few times when trying to learn how to ride a bike and keep getting back up each time, you’ll be on your own in no time.
4) Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Some billionaires such as Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, began their careers operating simple businesses but doing so successfully. Over time, these businesses grew to profitability and were ultimately either sold off or used as tools to leverage other investments to grow the portfolio. Many people have achieved wealth through using tried and true methods.
5) Reinvent the Wheel
Contrary to the last point, sometimes taking risks can pay off rather handsomely. Many cite the phrase “No Risk, No Reward.” I’d argue that every business venture is a risk; some are just less risky than others. Reinventing and challenging the currently accepted norm can lead to industry revolutions with you hanging ten on the big wave, reaping the bull shark’s share of the market. Such was the case with Uber, the transportation company that has brought taxi companies to their knees. Travis Kalanick, Ryan Graves, and Garrett Camp were the big players on this endeavor started in 2010.
6) Never Eat Alone
There’s a lot to consider when considering this phrase. Yes, sometimes it’s good to enjoy some alone time, but networking is becoming increasingly necessary to bridge industry gaps and facilitate business. Think of what you conceive to be a business trip: does it not include dinner with your clients? Food is an essential part to any culture, meant to be shared and enjoyed by the many, rather than the few. In many cultures, sitting down for a meal is a prerequisite for business. Even outside the business setting, eating with others facilitates critical thinking through discussion which, in turn, can allow you to enter a new way of thinking into solving a problem or seeing an opportunity.
7) Surround Yourself with Better People
Many of the world’s greatest captains of industry, including the illustrious billionaires club, surround themselves with individuals smarter than them. Often times, those in the surrounding circle have a specific competency that the person in the center of the circle lacks but recognizes as important to proceed in their fields. For example, Tiger Woods employed quite a few publicists and public relations specialists to assist him in dealing with his scandal a few years back. Woods knew he didn’t possess the skills or skill level necessary to face the situation himself, so he employed those that did have those skills to allow him to achieve a modicum of normality from the situation.