All in all, Badziag draws similar conclusions about billionaires as The Wealth Elite does about those with net worths of at least $11 million. And, despite the fact that Rafael’s findings are far more anecdotal than academic, he did the best job I’ve seen yet of diversifying his interview base. The interviewees clearly represent a variety of cultures and nationalities, upbringings and belief systems, economic & government structures, and industries in which their businesses operate.
Still, it’s hard to call the findings of The Billion Dollar Secret reliable truths when as a reader, there’s no way to verify how representative Badziag’s conclusions are of his entire interview base. We simply have to trust the accuracy of the author's conclusions, which no doubt possess some observer-expectancy bias.
That said, I have to admit my own bias here as well: I don’t super like this guy. Maybe it’s because this book comes across as too self-helpy to be useful, calling itself ‘the road map to follow their path to extreme wealth’ - as if it’s that simple for anyone and everyone to become a billionaire. Maybe it’s because this work should be subtitled '20 Principles Of Billionaire Entrepreneurship' - since the author makes no mention of investment-generated wealth nor of any financial concepts at all. Or maybe it’s just because of the self-proclamation in Rafael's bio insert that he is called, and I quote, ‘the Billionaire Magnet’ - with a capital B and M. All I can wonder is, ‘How many people actually call you that?’ There’s something cringy to me about him building his own brand and validation on the coattails of the billionaires who were willing to meet with him. But, I digress. Let’s get to the content, because it’s pretty good.
For starters, The Billion Dollar Secret makes clear that working as an employee is simply not the path to extreme wealth, but rather, entrepreneurship. It’s not getting paid more for your time that leads to wealth, but using your time to build something worth more. And if this is already sounding familiar, the rest will, too. Badziag’s 20 success principles consist of a few key themes: developing a high self-efficacy, high risk tolerance, high implicit learning ability, and high work ethic, all efficiently aligned towards a compelling vision & passion. Easy enough, right? As the author puts it, “It turns out that what determines extraordinary success is the right combination of internal factors that are all common among self-made billionaires” (p. 36).
Whether or not you actually want that type of success is a question worth asking. A majority of the billionaires interviewed bemoaned one or more of the unique challenges they face, from the extreme loneliness and feelings of being misunderstood, to the weighty responsibility & stress, to the lack of time for family and leisure. Some even express regret. Nonetheless, they offer several key insights for anyone with their sights set on becoming a billionaire:
Money Is A Terrible Motivator
One interesting recommendation Rafael makes in regards to vision and passion is specifically that money not be the driving motivation. People motivated by money end up doing things they hate rather than enjoy, put profits over people, are tempted to cut corners, and upon reaching a certain level of success, they quit. In other words, wanting money will not lead you to becoming a billionaire. Some billionaires even described money as if it were the antithesis of success:
“I think if you want to achieve something in business, the worst thing is a good salary. Because you don’t become rich with that, but also you have the guarantee. Most people give everything away for the safety. Safety meaning: to have a lifetime job. This is a dream of 99.9% of people” (p. 56).
“Motivation is the main difference between the billionaires and the millionaires. If you do it for the money, to live in luxury, you will lose your motivation as soon as you have reached that level, and you stay a millionaire or even lose it all, when your business suffers. But if you are motivated by competition, by winning, when the business game itself excites you, then you will keep on growing your company, and only then do you have a chance to reach billions … Billionaires don’t do it for the money. It’s not the money that drives them, but the fun of the game” (p. 75).
Instead of money, we see competition, purpose, and goodwill driving the psyche of billionaires:
“Billionaires don’t see money as something to spend on themselves. Money is there to invest and create. It is a form of universal energy in business that allows them to make things happen, to turn their visions into reality” (p. 228).
“Money plays an important role in business. But it is a fallacy to think business is about money. Money is just the universal benchmark that you can use to measure performance in business … In business, things are as in every sports discipline: the runner at the Olympics runs for a medal. That medal will hang only on his own chest. From this medal he will have lucrative advertising contracts and appearance fees for participation in meetings later on. But when he stands on a podium and they play him the national anthem of his country, then he is moved, happy that he did something for people, that he fulfilled those people’s craving for emotion and pride” (p. 74).
“I realized that the only way societies could solve the problem of poverty is through creation of jobs with good income and that entrepreneurship was the best instrument for such a solution. You can’t create wealth by sharing poverty. There is no way you can do that miracle” (p. 83).
“The greatest form of philanthropy is to build a business, because one employee is able to help his entire family. So, one employee is able to help five people” (p. 279).
“People forget that without business, and without the profits it creates and the jobs it creates, they wouldn’t be able to live the lifestyles they do. And I think people ought to be prouder of their businesses. I mean, in a lot of countries, athletes and footballers and singers and actors are given far more acclaim than businessmen, and to me, that’s really quite sad” (p. 209).
What High Self-Efficacy Sounds Like
Self-efficacy is one of those perfectly accurate words that no one actually uses in day-to-day life. It basically means our belief in ourselves, how we perceive our ability to accomplish goals and create positive outcomes. But what’s the difference between a normal human, who likes and believes in themselves a healthy amount, versus someone with particularly high self-efficacy? To the normal human, high self-efficacy sounds like bodacious, you-must-be-kidding-me arrogance. So arrogant that you can’t help but scoff or uncomfortably laugh when you hear it. But to those with high self-efficacy, it doesn’t feel that way at all. To them, they are simply making an accurate assessment of the situation. Here is a quote as an example:
“I have to be honest. I didn’t think there were very many good businessmen about. I actually didn’t think there was much competition. And that was the joy of being in business. But whenever things didn’t go too well, I used to look at other businesses and think, ‘Well, we’re better than all those businesses. We have nothing to worry about’” (p. 66).
So this guy, as a young entrepreneur, nonchalantly took comfort in being a better businessman than all of his competitors - according to him - and not only that, so much better that it was like his competition didn’t even exist. Those words would have been ridiculed at the time, written off as foolish pride. But in hindsight, it seems he was right. Badziag describes it like this:
“It’s a fallacy that learning all the rules and then proficiently applying them or complying with them will make you rich. Jumping through hoops established by other people might make you the perfect cog in somebody else’s machine, but it is a sure formula for mediocrity and financial failure. Billionaires choose their own way and stick to their own rules. They do not conform to norms established by others. They don’t follow trends, nor do they follow others. They are the ones who create the trends for others to follow. Self-made billionaires quite naturally are great individualists. Some describe themselves as loners or ‘lonely wolves.’ You may say, ‘Well, it’s lonely at the top.’ But it is their independent thinking and reliance on their own judgment that brought them to the top in the first place. Billionaires’ rebellious spirit and healthy disregard for authority often first materialize during childhood … Billionaires seek to stand on their own feet and not be dependent on the roles assigned to them by society” (p. 188-189).
When considering how one can scale their wealth to extreme heights, the age old mantra, ‘high risk, high reward’ comes to mind. One valuable segment within The Billion Dollar Secret is a list of mindsets Rafael compiled offering advice to the reader on how to cope with the risks wealth creation requires. Emotionally, he encourages us to view life as an adventure, where risk is fun. Practically, he acknowledges that failing is a part of life - it will happen, and that’s okay - so let’s have a worse-case-scenario safety net that we are comfortable with. Strategically, there’s a compounding effect to risk: the more we risk, the more we learn, and the more we learn, the lower our risk. And obviously, the lower our current risk, the greater our capacity is to take new risks. Here are some notable quotes on risk-taking:
“You don’t want to regret playing too small … You may realize you have outgrown your environment. It became smaller than your ambitions and it limits your further development. Walk away to try something bigger!” (p. 53).
“Most people are afraid to fail when they act, so they don’t act, and this way they fail by failing to act … You can’t become a billionaire if you don’t show up when opportunities arise” (p. 129).
“Don’t wait for the right conditions to come before you take action. There is never a right moment to start a business or have a child. But if you don’t do it, nothing will happen. So don’t wait for the right moment. The sooner you do it, the better. Ron Sim has a similar perspective: ‘When I first started the business, friends were always saying, ‘Business? Good times are over. This is not the time for business,’ 35 years ago. Today, people still say the same thing’ … Today, Ron is a billionaire, and his friends still complain about bad times” (p. 133).
“You’ve got to take risk. You’ve got to be prepared to accept risk. If it doesn’t require risk, it’s not an opportunity… There is no success without risk” (p. 142).
If you made it to the end, what quote stood out to you the most? And do you prefer the anecdotal style of The Billion Dollar Secret or the academic approach of The Wealth Elite?
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