How to be a Billionaire (My Thoughts, Not Advice)
Many people have often asked me what I wanted to be in life, and whenever I replied that I want to be a billionaire, their reaction was as if it was not an answer to the question they were asking. So I stopped replying with that answer to this question.
I’m not a billionaire yet. I don’t know if I will ever be one. But more importantly, I always wanted to. I know a lot of people have also wanted to. The number of people who have succeeded compared to who have wanted to, is like the results of a lottery draw. It makes me wonder, if motivational quotes like “You can be whatever you want” are even true at all.
But in my life, I have somewhat researched the secrets to be a billionaire. Quite frankly, there are none. Although I have spotted similarities, as in patterns in the life of people who had become billionaires. And there is a way to develop these patterns in anyone’s life. Because they are nothing more than the consequences that follow because of the acts made by most of the billionaires. And there is also a way to categorize their acts. Accordingly, I have done. But do remember that I am nowhere near to being a billionaire at the moment, so you have all the rights to disregard or skip anything I write below if you believe that people should always lead by their examples.
The three Golden rules of being a billionaire:
1) Finding the problem:
As with the most popular and the richest people in the world, they had found a problem to fix. And once you find the problem, often, the solution is rather clear and simple. For instance, Elon Musk found a way to solve oil consumption by cars and stop environment pollution both at once by founding Tesla. He also found a way to make space travel easier and cost-effective with SpaceX. But even before that, Musk, at the initial stages of his life, he co-founded the former organization of PayPal; and PayPal gave people a way to do seamless online transactions securely and easily. I can give more examples of other billionaires who had gone the same path; Zuckerberg founding Facebook that connected the world through the internet, Gates founding an operating system for computers, and Zeff founding Amazon which shaped online marketing and E-commerce. One could say that the idea was always as straightforward as just finding the problem, because I can bet that there are tons of companies that are putting more effort and doing more coding than Facebook and Amazon needed to get done at their initial stages, but the results are quite the opposite since there isn’t a problem that those companies are solving.
One can ask, how to do that? How to find the problem? We don’t see any problems around us and the world now is more advanced than ever. Well, you see, if you think like that, then you lack vision. You need to improve your vision, because you find problems with vision. Vision in a sense that, before the Wright brothers founded airplanes, they believed that people can go from one place to another much faster, if they had the ability to fly. Since they can’t, the Wright brothers found an alternative way to fly or travel through the air. The example may seem like an exception, but it isn’t. Just like two hundred years ago when airplanes were just a dream that most didn’t believe would ever be possible, less than twenty years ago, no one thought that people could stay this much connected from one corner to another corner of the world. Zuckerberg noticed the problem that most people overlooked. The answer to a very common question that people often ask lies here; what is the difference between a billionaire and a normal person? Vision. A normal person lacks the vision to find a problem to work on. A common misconception among young people is that everything there is to invent has already been invented. It’s just not true, and theoretically it will never be. Because that is how the world economy works in a deeper sense, you just can’t produce enough shoes for the whole world suddenly and say, “Hey, I fixed the problem of shoes, now people don’t need any more shoes.” Shoes are already invented, but better shoes than which are already available, aren’t yet made. Because shoes get torn, and people will always need new shoes which look better and are more comfortable than the previous ones. The shoes are a metaphor for problems that will always persist. There will always be problems. And there are problems even within those problems. Whenever there is a problem, there is automatically a demand for the solution. And the goal should be to come up with a better solution. If you have the vision, and you still can’t find a problem, maybe you are going the wrong way. Let’s say, to find the problem, you don’t look for the problem, instead you look for the solutions.
Let’s bring more sense to this.
Cunningham’s Law states “The best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.”
This is actually the best method to get the right answer for a bug you are having a hard time solving in a programming project or a problem you are facing in your daily life. So you look in Stack Overflow or Quora for answers and you don’t find one. You also post a question and apparently no one is answering. So what do you do? You post the wrong answer to a similar question, and someone will somehow have the urge and the guts, and the time to correct you and say, “Hey buddy, you’re doing it wrong, do it this way, it’s better and more efficient. Thank me later.” The whole process sounds funny and don’t get me wrong, because it actually is. A lot of intelligent people have the tendency to correct other people. Alright, coming back to the point again, what happens when you look for the solutions that persist to the common problems that have already been solved? You find a problem in that solution. Going back to the shoes again, we know that the problem to walk without getting your feet dusty is to wear shoes. Let’s assume people still use wooden shoes. It hurts to wear wooden shoes, so someone came up with a company that made leather shoes. But, after using their leather shoes, you see that the shoes look awful. And it could be made more stylish. So you start a company that makes leather shoes, but are more stylish; then pretty soon people will start buying your shoes.
In case of finding the problem, it is crucial to keep in mind the number of people affected by the problem. An important quote that can be related to this from Elon Musk, was that,
“I think having something that makes a big difference, but affects a sort of small-to-moderate number of people is great. As is something that makes even a small difference but effects a vast number of people.
2) Following your passion:
Always have the courage to follow your passion, even if it came at a cost. The precondition to be great at something is to love that thing. Any and every person has some generic and genetic aspects of favor. As for example, everyone likes songs, but not everyone wants to be a singer. To investigate deeper, it is actually that everyone likes to listen to songs, but not everyone would want to create songs by singing it themselves. But why? Could be one of many reasons, such as, I can’t play musical instruments and it is too hard for me to learn, or I don’t like the career as a singer, or something such as I don’t like my own voice. The last one turns out to be more common (maybe not surprisingly) than the first two; ironic but hilarious. Anyway, so the act of loving something does not have to be purely genetic. As in the sense of a person doesn’t have to like something from after he or she was born. People’s taste change and people tend to like and dislike a lot of different things as they grow up. Some people like the corporate world, some people like sports, some people like e-sports, some people like web development and it’s hectic if the actual job of those people get mixed-up. Imagine a guy in an office juggling a mouse. Well except the funny part, the mix-up does happen around us constantly.
This answers a question that is not that often asked, but is relative. Why the ratio of people who dream big compared to the actual number of people who get to live the dream is so low? Context. Remember that not everyone dreams the same. I might dream to be a great soccer player one day. But my life’s context doesn’t match with that, because I don’t get to play soccer every day. But more importantly the question is, do I dream about being great at what I get to do every day? Passion comes from dreaming. Wanting to do better at something is the consequence of loving that thing. Sometimes if you want to do what you love, you have to sacrifice things. If you don’t want to sacrifice and do what you love, there are two conditions. Either what you love must be relative to what you have to sacrifice or, you have to hustle and utilize your time better. Saying from an international perspective, I can still be a great soccer player while I continue my studies by joining clubs in my college. And if it was something more complex, that there was no way but to sacrifice one thing, the risk-potential factor comes into count. What are the risks and what are the potentials? Much like a pros and cons list actually. But this can be done in graphs comparing X with time, Y with the potential for both cases. And the graph that produces a steeper curve with the convincing amount of time should be chosen. True potential cannot be determined by anyone other than oneself. If you believe you can be great at something, you can. But there are known stats. For instance, let’s compare higher education or studies, and making burgers. You love making and eating burgers, and you want to open a burger restaurant. But let’s say you have to sacrifice one. If you truly believe that you can, in fact, one day make better burgers than McDonalds, then you should have a compelling graph for making burgers at your risk-potential factor. And the potential for studies is also to be determined by yourself only. Do you like what you study? If you do, how much effort are you willing to put in your studies and what can you become by studying what you study? I don’t know the results, but making quality burgers and earning the name for your restaurant, may take a lot of time. On the other hand, the time of landing a good job after completing studies shouldn’t be that much. But how much higher that job can take you depends. So, the burgers-graph will have a steeper curve if you allocate more time to it. And the studies-graph will have a steeper graph in the initial stages, but may not go higher up with time comparatively. As you can see, I only calculated the potential with time but not the risks. So it isn’t a risk-potential factor logically. But the risks are actually not that easily predictable. One of the main takeaways from the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill was that, no one is ever defeated until he thinks and accepts the defeat. Now to explain the point, SpaceX and Tesla were about to run out of funds, after three consecutive fails of SpaceX rockets at launch. This cost Elon Musk a lot of money and there was a risk that if another rocket failed at the fourth launch, SpaceX and Tesla would both be shut down. He had the choice of not initializing the fourth launch of SpaceX and saving Tesla by utilizing the money at Tesla. Or, he could split the money and both companies could die if the launch failed. Now from many perspectives, that was it for SpaceX. But he took the risk. And the next launch was actually successful. If he didn’t take the risk, he wouldn’t be where he is now. So in our risk-potential factor, we don’t calculate the risks, because firstly, potential substitutes the risks and is actually the opposite of the risks. If you think about it, a risk-time graph would be the ordinate-inverse or reciprocal of a potential-time graph. The more the risks, the less the potential, the more the potential the less the risks.
One of Mark Zuckerberg’s popular quotes can be mentioned here,
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
Let’s come back to the rule again. The whole point of it is a suggestion that you should do what you like doing, and what you think you are good at. It’s not always going to be easy, and not often you’ll see instant results. To clarify how this rule connects with the previous one, you can assume that you found a great problem. But the problem is something you really don’t have much idea about or you just don’t like. So you move on to another problem. Moreover, it is easier to determine if you’d like to contribute to something or not if you know exactly how much it collides with your passion. So you can say that this rule can be swapped with the first rule if you are not willing to reconsider your passion for a problem that you think can be fixed.
Again, one’s passion can change with time too. Therefore, it is better to dip your legs in different waters before diving into one, to see if the water is cold or warm enough for you or not. Finding your passion can be hard. One way to get there is to think about your dreams and asking the question, what the most efficient ways are to reach the dream, and selecting yourself. Not losing hope after some failures is key. When you follow your passion, you’ll see that your passion can take your abilities in places where going otherwise seemed impossible. Likewise your passion will keep you striving when you’d rather procrastinate. A quote from Steve Jobs which should be relative to this whole idea is that,
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
3) Creating something
Scrolling through my Facebook feed, one day I saw a picture posted in the group Billionaire Thinking that mentioned a pretty important point. It was written in the picture that Bitcoin is the world’s biggest bank with no actual cash, Uber is the world’s largest Taxi company but owns no vehicles, Facebook is the world’s most popular media owner with none of their own content. This made me realize that you don’t always need what you think you might need, for the solution to something.
Creating something is a way to introduce a profit factor into your idea. If you can solve a problem by making a product, people would deliberately pay you for that product. It’s a lot like the fact of supply on demand. As seen in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the best idea to sell something is by creating a demand for it. The example used was with a pen. If you want to sell a pen, you have to make someone write something, and then if he doesn’t have a pen, he will have to buy yours. The idea is simple. Also here, if you’re following from rule 1, you don’t necessarily need to create a demand for your product, but should remind people of the use of your product. Because the product itself was created from an idea that it would solve a problem.
Another thing to keep in mind when making something is your audience. Just like how many people were affected by the problem, the number of people who can actually use your product can be one of the most important facts. Availability is also to be taken into account. If you are selling gold where everyone just buys platinum or, where no one can afford gold; you’re at the wrong place. Right amount of availability of your product at the right place can be the game-changing component. Hence, the subject of alternatives is too, significant. Think of it like this, if you create a mobile phone on a productive level that people can use to only call other people, and cannot use the internet on it, or the other things that all the other mobile phone companies have to offer, you are just reinventing the wheel. Knowing how your product is different in a better way, when there is a competitive market for the product, and using that difference as an advantage for publicity and advertisement is a strategy that never disappoints. Audience, availability and alternatives are the three aces to target, when taking your product to a commercial level of use.
A critical fact that most startup companies should know about is the Golden Circle. Simon Oliver Sinek, in a TED conference in 2010, shared the idea of it. The basic logic of the golden circle is to always start with Why. Most companies that don’t reach a certain level are making the mistake of starting with What. The Golden Circle consists of three nested circles, the center being Why, the circle at the middle of the center and the last one being How; and the last circle being What. While explaining the circle, Simon Sinek highlighted that the circle proves;
“People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.”
Thus, starting from the center of the circle is arguably the best concept in case of getting more attention than the other companies.
Something that is addictive in a sense that people enjoy using it, is guaranteed to go further on the long run of mass consumer use. In the case of updates, upgrades or any sort of modification, customer feedback is really important. Alex Willink, the General Manager of Voodoo, which is an Android game organization, reported that statistically it is more beneficial to concentrate on what people think is better for your product, rather than sticking to what you or the company thinks would be better.
After working on these rules for a substantial amount of time, if you still don’t see yourself to be where you wanted to be, you can either restart from this rule, or even from the beginning. But if it so happens that you have to do that, then rest assured knowing that you will still have the experience and the knowledge you gathered from your previous attempt, and that could put you way forward in creating great circumstances for your next attempt.