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– Christina Grieves, Senior Managing Editor
What follows is only for some readers: those who want to become really, really rich. Billionaire rich.
Be forewarned. If you are in that category, you may be disappointed by what I’m about to say. But read it with an open mind. Because it is the only possible way to increase your wealth in any serious way.
I’ve had the following conversation more times than I would care to remember:
Aspiring Billionaire: I need you to help me.
Me: What can I do?
Aspiring Billionaire: I want to grow rich!
Me: Okay. Have you read any of my books?
Aspiring Billionaire: Yes, but they’re about becoming a millionaire. I want to become a billionaire!
Me: You do? That’s too bad.
Aspiring Billionaire: Why do you say that?
Me: For one thing, it’s a very silly goal.
Aspiring Billionaire: Anything the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!
Me: I can conceive being an NBA player, but I know I can’t achieve it.
Aspiring Billionaire: That’s because you don’t believe it!
Me: You are such a dork. And would you stop ending your sentences with exclamation points?
Aspiring Billionaire: You are making fun of me.
The truth is that even if I took these guys seriously, I couldn’t help them. You see, I don’t know how to make billions. I’m not sure anyone does.
Every year, we read stories about clever young people who create online businesses that they sell for a billion dollars or more. There aren’t many such stories, but they are so dramatic that they seem to be ubiquitous.
When I was starting out, my wealthy role models were people like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Jean Paul Getty. These guys became very wealthy by working long and hard for decades, building huge companies that dominated their markets.
I consider myself fortunate to have had those people – not the Mark Cubans of today – as role models. Why? Because the chances of becoming a billionaire the new way are about the same as the chances of becoming a professional sports star. One in a million.
The truth is this: It takes a lot of effort to become rich. And it takes time.
It took me about four years of concentrated effort to become a millionaire… and another several years to acquire a net worth 10 times that.
But even then, I didn’t know how to make millions. I just knew how to make more money one decimal point at a time.
I worked my way through college by starting and running small service businesses. And almost all of them billed in increments of hundreds or thousands of dollars. As a result, I could only conceive of and believe in finding ways to add to my income a few thousand dollars at a time.
With, for example, my business constructing aboveground pools, I could (and did) develop an automated procedure for building such pools that any unskilled laborer could follow. This could (and did) allow me to increase the number of construction crews working for me. And it amounted to thousands of extra dollars in profits… not millions.
1983 was the year I decided to get rich. Having graduated from college and returned from a stint in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was working as an employee of a publishing company. As an employee, I could imagine getting big raises.
But since my base salary was only $35,000, I couldn’t imagine how I could increase that sum by more than about 10% per year. Ten percent was $3,500. In other words, I still just knew how to increase my income by thousands of dollars at a time.
Then, after my big decision to become rich, I knew I would have to do something to increase my income by more than $1,000 at a time. I realized that I would have to change the way I worked for money. So I learned to write advertising copy, and I became my boss’s most valuable employee. Several months later, he gave me a more than 100% raise.
I had learned to increase my income by $10,000 increments. What was the next step? Check back in next week to find out…