Some billionaires think radically different from the rest of the pack.
I want to share with you the top lessons I’ve learned from 5 billionaires after reading their books, watching their interviews, and more.
1. Richard Branson
I want to start with the radical ones first.
This is the top things Branson taught me that was radically different from my standard thought process:
- Have fun. Everything Branson does is great fun to him. He says if you don’t enjoy it, stop doing it. It’s a radically different way of thinking as most people don’t think that’s possible. They think work has to be painful and you have to sacrifice. However, I do think it takes some work to design a life of 100% fun. For instance, I might like partying it up in big cities but that doesn’t pay the bills. I’m still working on manufacturing elements of my life to make a living from them and have fun, but it really does change your perspective. He’s opened my eyes to the ability to cut out areas I don’t find fun. I saw a mini-documentary on him and he is always laughing and having a great time. There are wealthy people who aren’t enjoying themselves and I think that’s more important than money.
- Have adventures. Richard is not afraid to do crazy, daunting things. He’s able and willing to think big. He’ll do crazy things most people haven’t thought possible like start an airlines. That’s what’s got him to where he is.
- Do things differently. In a more awesome way. Branson usually flips the switch on new industries he enters by making them non-boring. He adds a premium layer and really goes above and beyond for his customers. Everyone loves having fun and enjoying themselves and he realizes that. People will pay for the better experience.
- Listen. Surprisingly, I learned a simple but important skill. He highlights listening to his success in numerous areas: managing people, understanding problems, understanding customer needs, and more.
- Humble accessibility. Some billionaires keep a distance with customers. Some give off arrogance. Branson is not like this at all. He spends still a ton of time talking directly and listening to customers, employees, and normal people. It helps him learn a lot about how he can improve his business. He’s too busy to talk to everyone but he makes time to still have that personal touch. He is also very humble in how he learns. When he first was learning bookkeeping, he would ask for a particular teaching to be repeated 2 or 3 times until he got it.
- Delegate. Branson had to learn to get help early on because of his dyslexia. He has said that a great part of his success is due to his talented assistants that help him out with a ton of tasks. It allows him to leverage what he does. Richard only steps in when it’s a huge business decision. This is how he does it all.
- Write things down. There’s a huge magic to a pen and paper. A study of college students showed that those who wrote down their goals after college succeeded on their goals at a much higher rate than those who just had them in their head. Branson writes down everything. He has escaped a lot of legal battles and proven many people wrong by simply recording exact details during a meeting or phone calls. These would be things such as date and time for a deadline.
Recommended reading: The Virgin Way by Richard Branson – Out of all his books, this one is the best. It’s the most up to date, so you get the wisest version of Branson. You also get more comprehensive advice on business, going into detail about managing others, listening, and business success. Also, he talks a lot about more modern business elements like social media.
2. Elon Musk
I learned similar but different things from Mr. Musk
He has his own flair that is sometimes like Richard Branson, but in his own way completely.
While Branson bought his own island, Musk had zero interest in tropical locations and plowed the millions he made into a new tech venture. What he loves is pushing new frontiers in business.
Here are the top things I learned:
- Think big. Then think 10x bigger. This guy literally thinks of the most massive game-changing stuff and believes it’s possible. That’s what makes him unique. Most people don’t think of things like nuking the poles of Mars. Many few even developed the capabilities or take action to execute on something like that.
- Consider the absurd. It may be possible. Take action on it. Like the last point, Musk is different in that he considers absurd possibilities and actually takes action on it. He wanted to have a private business that launched rockets into space. So he read rocket science books to learn how. He wanted to use solar power to stop pollution on the global level and give energy to 3rd world countries. He did it when no one else stepped forth.
- If you enjoy something, keep doing it and never give up. This guy literally enjoyed something so much that no amount of failure could discourage him. When being asked if he would give up after his 3th rocket launch failure, he said he would NEVER unless he died or was severely handicapped somehow. The last of his money was put into the next attempt, which succeeded.
- Eliminate assumptions or beliefs that aren’t definitively absolute fact. Musk uses this bottom-up scientific approach to revolutionize business and innovate. It allowed him to create a more efficient battery. It allowed him to identify assumptions on how the world works which are not true. He asserts this strategy can be used in many areas of life.
- Take bigger risks while you’re younger. Even someone like Musk has admitted in a commencement speech that it’s easier to fail when you don’t have a wife and kids to be responsible for.
- If you help enough people, the money will come. In an exclusive interview with Bill Gates, Musk mentions how people focus too much on the money. Like many billionaires, he said that if you focus on helping enough people, the money will come if you. As an editor’s note, I would add that it has to be in a form people will pay for.. so a non-profit organization doesn’t do as well as helping people with cheap, renewable, eco-friendly energy: tons of people will pay for that.
Quick Passion Test: Many people say they have a passion.. but do they really? Some people say they LOVE Youtube and yet they haven’t posted a Youtube video in 7 months. If you love it so much, how come you haven’t done it in so long? Look at the video above: Musk says that if you really love something, you will be thinking about it all the time. Eminem says that he thinks of rhymes so much it drives him crazy on a daily basis.
Recommended readings: The Magic of Thinking Big, this book is also recommended by other billionaires. It will help you get into the mind of thinking larger.
3. Sam Walton
Here’s the biggest things I learned from Sam Walton:
- Go out of your way to really provide the best service and products for your customers. All the billionaires listed do this in their own way. Branson does this by creating the best company culture, hiring awesome employees, taking care of employees, and thus creating a premium service for their customers. Musk does this by creating the absolute best product for their customers (just look at the high-end electric cars Tesla puts out), and so do Bill and Warren. Walton does this in his own way by just making the store, service, and products the best possible at the best prices.
- Always be humble enough to learn something from every individual. Sam was a man who saw something that he could learn from every store he visited while his coworkers saw the worst-performing competitor in the industry. Even the smallest thing he learned from a store that wasn’t doing well he added to his own store.
- Treat your employees well. This is something that Richard Branson stresses as well a ton. Enough said. It’s incredibly important.
Recommended reading: Made in America by Sam Walton, Employees Come First
4. Warren Buffett
I’ve learned more things from Warren Buffett than anyone else.
As the money manager Mohnish Pabrai says, “The most amazing things about Buffett have nothing to do with money.”
I learned many life lessons from the man.
Here are the best things:
- Your career should be your passion. Mr. Buffett told a Harvard student to pursue his passion when the student told him he had a 20-year plan after college to rack up experience and internships to add onto his resume even though he didn’t enjoy any of the work. Mr. Buffett said that was like saving up sex for old age. You have to enjoy your life. As I said with Mr. Branson, this is much easier said than done.. or is it? Maybe it’s a limiting belief of mine holding me back. I will continue lifestyle designing my career and life. Will you do the same?
- Have a sense of humor, enjoy life. Warren Buffett is incredibly funny. He cracks jokes every few sentences. It’s a reminder to not take life too seriously and enjoy life. Richard Branson embodies this principle as well. This is something I need to work on because I’m definitely on the stern and serious side. I really think I could have had more fun in life if I wasn’t so serious for most of it.
- Only invest in your circle of competence. Don’t spend thousands of dollars in the stock market if that’s not your expertise. You’re just going to lose it. Same goes for anything else.
- Be an essentialist with your time. Warren Buffett is very good at valuing his time and managing it. He has stripped out all the inessential to only do what he enjoys the most and is the best in the world at. Everything else he delegates or removes.
Recommended reading: Essentialism – great short read on better time management.
5. Bill Gates
I’ve learned a lot from Mr. Gates, the best stuff usually is when he interacts or is interviewed with Warren Buffett.
I find it a very interesting friendship they have. And I think that’s why they are such good friends too.
They started off not liking eachother at all being in completely different spaces: Mr. Buffett was averse to anything tech and Mr. Gates thought Warren was nothing more than a disgusting stock day trader.
But then they realized their incredible business knowledge and became great friends.
Also, the interesting dynamic of them constantly jumping between #1 and #2 richest person in the world over the decades is also interesting. Bill Gates said in an interview that he sent Warren Buffett a magic-8 ball when he dropped to #8 once.
Here are some of the big things I learned from Mr. Gates:
- Read. A Lot. Bill is a voracious reader and it has shown to help him succeed a lot in life. He reads faster than me and enjoys it more. That can’t be helped. But you should still read. Make sure you read the right stuff that can help you along though.
- Focus. This is big for Warren Buffett too. When they were both quizzed by Bill’s father on their #1 secret to success, both people thought about it for a while and said focus. Both people are incredible at focusing at a single task for hours on end.
- You can have an even greater impact and do even greater work after retirement. Many people lay down after retirement. There’s hundreds of billionaires who have not taken such a stand on the issue, but Bill, being one of the richest, has voluntarily decided to spend 50+ hours a week flying around the globe to help the world through his non-profit foundation. He, along with Warren Buffett, has convinced numerous billionaires, including Richard Branson, to donate large percentages of their money to charity before they die, an admirable cause.
Recommended reading: Business @ The Speed of Thought by Bill Gates – This book was not the best I’ve read, nor did it mention much about his focus. It was written years ago but a lot of the predictions he had came true and a lot of what he said about managing people and digital management is still useful. Still worth looking at.
Bonus Billionaire: Steve Ballmer
I learned this from Ballmer during his commencement speech:
- Have enthusiasm for what you do. By nature, he is incredibly loud and full of energy. But even more reserved people should learn the power of enthusiasm. Napoleon Hill says in his books that it is one of the keys to success. There’s a lot of psychology and social skills going on here. Enthusiasm is a positive, infectious state that spreads through body language. People are drawn to it.
- People of every age can be on a journey to find their passion. And that’s ok. A lot of young people feel lost or anxious or frantically frustrated because they haven’t found their passion and time is running out. Steve Ballmer gave his commencement speech and shared how he was now searching for his next passion as well after retiring from Microsoft. We have hobbies and interests we have not discovered yet and age is not a limiting factor. Conan O’Brien has said something similar in his commencement speech: what you want to do in your 20’s may change when you are in your 30’s and in unexpected ways.
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