How to Think Like a Billionaire

In his thoroughly entertaining book The Prime Movers, Edwin A. Locke gives this example of the way entrepreneurs think:

An average person observes evergreens growing along the roadside and thinks that they look pretty, especially when partly covered with snow. At this point, his thinking stops. An entrepreneur observes the same trees and thinks, “These trees would look good in people’s living rooms at Christmas. I wonder what people would pay for them?

And he would continue to ask such questions as:

  • How hard is it to grow evergreens?
  • What investment is required?
  • How big should they be before being cut?
  • How difficult would it be to cut and transport them?
  • How much would it cost?
  • How long would they keep before losing their needles?
  • Where would they be sold?
  • What would the competition be like?
  • Could I make other, related products – e.g., wreaths?
  • Can I make money in such a seasonal business?
  • How much?
  • How can I get started?

This kind of active, directed thinking is one of the things that separate entrepreneurs from the rest of humanity. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs in history – all of them mega-billionaires by today’s standards – seemed to have dynamic, pragmatic minds.

Locke gives plenty of examples, including these:

Thomas Edison: He was a “virtual thinking machine. Almost until the day he died, his mind poured forth a torrent of ideas, and he might track as many as 60 experiments at a time in his laboratory.”

Steve Jobs: He bombarded people with his ideas – his investors, his board of directors, his customers, his subordinates, and his CEO John Scully.

Henry Ford: “He threw himself into every detail, insisting on getting small things absolutely right…. But he never lost sight of the ultimate, overall objection. He had a vision of what his new car (the Model T) should look like. From all the improvisation, hard thought, and hard work came a machine that was at once the simplest and the most sophisticated automobile built to date anywhere in the world.”

You may be thinking, “Hey, I’m no Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.” Well, neither am I. And I could rattle off a dozen multi-millionaire entrepreneurs I know who don’t have that kind of brain capacity either.

Raw intelligence is not the issue. If it were, Einstein would have been wealthy. What matters in the world of commerce is how you think.

Some people, whether because of their upbringing or their DNA, have a natural billionaire mind. But just about anyone who is smart and ambitious can learn to think like a billionaire.

You can transform your mind completely and permanently in a matter of a few short months by making small changes, one at a time. It will take some effort, though. As Joshua Reynolds once said, “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

Begin by vowing to talk to every successful person you know or meet. Tell them how much you admire what they have accomplished and ask them how they do what they do.

You may be amazed at how open they will be to such inquiries. Nine times out of 10, they’ll be eager to tell you just about everything they know.

Unfortunately, many of the twentieth century’s greatest entrepreneurs have been disparaged by historians and the media. As Locke points out in The Prime Movers, if you mention the names Andrew Carnegie or John Rockefeller or Cornelius Vanderbilt to most people, they think “greedy robber barons who took advantage of their circumstances.” They know nothing about their accomplishments. What they know, for the most part, is based on persistent myths that prevent them from learning from these men and prospering.

Locke says:

“It is often claimed that the Prime Movers have been viewed with suspicion at best and with distaste or repugnance at worst…. The most basic motive [of those who envy them] is… hatred of the good for being good… it is hatred of the Prime Movers because they are intelligent, successful, and competent, because they are better at what they do than others are.

“The ultimate goal of the haters of the good is not to bring others up to the level of the most able (which is impossible) but to bring down the able to the level of the less able – to obliterate their achievement, to destroy their reward, to make them unable to function above the level of mediocrity, to punish them, and, above all, to make them feel unearned guilt for their own virtues.”

When you become super-successful, you’ll have to learn how to handle the people who are going to resent you for achieving what they themselves have been unable to do. But first, you have to get yourself into that enviable position. And you do that by practicing the thinking of the great entrepreneurs who thought like billionaires and so amassed billions.

I’ll be writing more on this subject in the future. But for right now, here are eight characteristics of the billionaire mind that you can emulate:

1. A “normal” person is concerned with protecting his ego. When dealing with a problem he doesn’t really understand, he pretends he understands the contributing factors and doesn’t try to find out what anyone else thinks. A person with a billionaire mind asks questions incessantly. He has no ego when it comes to learning. He knows that knowledge is power.

2. A “normal” person has a consumer mentality. He looks at a hot new product and thinks about how he would like to own one. A person with a billionaire mind has an entrepreneurial mentality. He looks at it and thinks, “How can I produce this or something similar in my own industry?”

3. A “normal” person is wish-focused. He daydreams about making gobs of money. A person with a billionaire mind is reality-based. He is always analyzing his own success and the success of others and wondering how he could learn from it.

4. A “normal” person, when confronted with a challenging idea, thinks of all the reasons why it might not work. A person with a billionaire mind sees the potential in it and disregards the problems until he has a clear vision of how it might succeed.

5. A “normal” person resists change. A person with a billionaire mind embraces it.

6. A “normal” person accepts the status quo. A person with a billionaire mind is always looking to make things – even good things – better.

7. A “normal” person reacts. A person with a billionaire mind is proactive.

8. A “normal” person looks at a successful business owner and thinks, “That guy’s lucky.” Or “That guy’s a shyster.” A person with a billionaire mind thinks, “What’s his secret?” And, “How can I do that?”

Start by being humble and asking questions. Do this until it becomes a habit. Then take on another characteristic of the billionaire mind – like looking at a successful new product and thinking, “How can I do something like that?”

Go through the list, mastering one characteristic at a time, and within three months you will be able to create new businesses almost automatically. You will become a natural leader. Money will flow to you like water coming down a hill. And then you’ll be ready to deal with all the “normal” people who are jealous of your incredible success.

What’s the first change in your thinking that you’re going to make?

[Ed Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]
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  • Absolutely brilliant. A real blueprint on how to think like a champion. Thanks!

    • ttcert

      Happy to help, Mark Ford is a great mentor!

  • Thank you for such a thought filling article. I’m going to start with #5 – A “normal” person resists change. A person with a billionaire mind embraces it.

    OK Change, let’s work together and make something spectacular!

    • ttcert

      Great work Dawna!

  • Aggie K.

    How to get started is always the first thing on my mind. The rest comes as required.

  • Pamela Darby Murray

    Thank you for your interesting and informative essay. I will be giving it a lot of thought, because I am now starting a new career. One thing though – I don’t think the reasons you give for some of those individuals’ being criticized are necessarily the only reasons.

  • ttcert

    You can do it, Aggie!

  • Robert

    #1 is big for me. Pushing my ego aside and asking questions is something I really need to work on. I do pretend that I understand things when I really don’t and I should be asking questions UNTIL I understand. Going to work…

    • ttcert

      Thank you Robert!

  • Alkanphel

    Please do more articles on Thinking like a Billionaire. Thanks

    • ttcert

      Will do, appreciate the feedback!

  • Harley Subido

    What an article!

    • ttcert

      Thank you Harley!

  • Paul

    Great suggestions! I guess it worth to read the Locke’s book. Are these 8 steps were taken from that book?
    Thanks

  • Michelle Ellison

    #7 is the first one I need to work on.

  • nazim golaurb

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It’s exactly what I like reading to start my day positively. I sincerely appreciate your efforts.

    • Mark is happy to help!

  • This one rang true to me this morning:
    3. A “normal” person is wish-focused. He daydreams about making gobs of money. A person with a billionaire mind is reality-based. He is always analyzing his own success and the success of others and wondering how he could learn from it.

    Around this time of year, our retail business is going to start making money. It’s easy for me to think in terms of “gobs of money,” but that isn’t actionable. I need to come up with specific strategies and estimate the yields from each.

    Thanks for this article.

  • Virginia Reeves

    4, 5, and 6 are intertwined. I agree that reacting is a downfall. Far better to respond with clarity, even if you have to take some time to do so. Strong ‘words of wisdom’ to implement. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nice!