8 Habits Elon Musk, Sara Blakely, and 10 Other Billionaires Have in Common

Valuable insights for success you can apply to turn your life around.

8 Habits Elon Musk, Sara Blakely, and 10 Other Billionaires Have in Common
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Valuable insights for success you can apply to turn your life around.

What does it take to be a billionaire?

Of course, ambition, proper planning, and a considerable stroke of luck. But more than that, there are some meta-skills that could help you on your journey.

Author, entrepreneur and investor, James Altucher, interviewed several billionaires (including Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk’s biographer) for his podcast to know what mindset and habits high achievers had in common. Putting all his findings together in his book Think Like A Billionaire, Altucher has concluded that it all comes down to eight meta-skills.

Image: Goodreads

No, these are not habits because habits are repetitive tasks that you do every single day — like brushing your teeth or sleeping on the left side of the bed.

These are meta-skills because you need to make conscious efforts to get better at them each time you practice them. The astonishing fact is that if you work enough to get just 1% better at the chosen skill, by the end of one year, you will get 37 times better than what you started with.

That’s the power of compounding.

And that’s why I was inspired to start practicing these meta-skills myself.

If so many billionaires swear by them, there must be something special, right?

1. Treat Everyone with Dignity

It doesn’t matter if you think someone is “stupid” or if they mistreated you. Always treat every single person you meet with dignity.

You cannot know what war they must be fighting. You have no idea about the hurdles they have overcome to be where they are today.

Be it your partner, your co-workers, employees, or the person who serves you coffee each morning — treat them with the respect you would want them to show you.

The dignity you treat people with shows who you are. The respect they give you only shows who they are.

This might not help you make money, but it will make you a better person. And in the long run, love from the people around you will manifest in unforeseeable ways.

“Dignity compounds. The more you do it, the more you will see later the powerful effect it will have on every area of your life: romance, wealth, friendship, freedom.”

2. Respect is Better than Attention

Sure, a sudden spike in views, likes, shares or comments might serve as validation to your ego.

But that should not be your prime focus. Your prime focus should be to create as much value and serve as many people as possible.

Attention never lasts long. But if you help at least one person every day, you are building your legacy.

Deliver so much value, that everyone on your network starts respecting you. Even if that means you have to give away a lot of your services for free, that does not matter.

“Attention adds up to nothing. Respect from the right people adds up to everything.”

3. Invest in Yourself. But Diversify

The most common advice millennials receive today is “Invest in yourself”. But how does one do that?

Altucher suggests that investing in yourself is pointless if you don’t know how to diversify.

Don’t focus on honing only one skill. Combine all the talents you have and invest in developing multiple talents. If you are a writer, learn marketing and public speaking. Learn about visual arts to make your write-ups more appealing.

An example the author gives here is of Scott Adams, creator of the cartoon “Dilbert”.

“Build a talent stack. For instance, I’m pretty good at drawing but not the greatest. I’m pretty funny but not the funniest. And I’m pretty good at business but not the best.”
— Scott Adams

What working on one talent did not achieve, combining everything he knew allowed Adams to create Dilbert, which is among the most popular cartoons in the world.

The takeaway here is to invest in developing multiple talents. Look for creative solutions to overcome your problems. Try and combine as many skills as possible to create your final product or service.

4. Read

Every book you read teaches you skills you might have never learned on your own. When you compound that knowledge over months and years, it becomes invaluable, combined with your own insights.

When you read non-fiction, it is as if you have read and internalized all of another person’s life lessons in a few hours.

If you enjoy fiction more, that is perfectly fine too. Every book you read makes you a better writer. Learning to communicate is one of the most valuable skills you will need in your life.

“Reading is like a super power. And when you can relate books to each other (combining what you learn from “Old Man and the Sea” with the latest book on “Bitcoin”, for example) then it’s as if you’ve read an exponential number of books.”

5. Learn How to Learn

If you believe you already know everything there is to know, you have already lost. Learning how to learn is your shield against failing in life.

Here’s what Altucher suggests:

Find your PLUS

Find someone who knows more than you. This can be a mentor, a coach, a book, or even a YouTube video. Start from scratch and learn the basics of the skill you are trying to master.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter how insignificant they might sound. Curiosity is the bridge between mediocrity and greatness.

This is how you will understand what is it that you have been doing wrong.

Find your MINUS

Find people to teach the skill you’ve been practicing. If you can’t explain what you have learned, then you probably haven’t learned anything at all.

This is how you will understand the progress you have made.

Find your EQUAL

It is vital to find a peer group to challenge and help you. These people should be ones with a comparable level of skill or experience as you, and as a group, you can grow together.

This will show you where you stand among the competition and also help build powerful connections for the future.

“Some people practise a skill every day and never learn everything (like I did for decades). But learning how to learn has taught me how to get better when the time is right. When I’m really passionate about something.”

6. Connection Stops Anxiety

“Connection is the key to building your network. And your network is your legacy and your key to freedom.”

This can mean a connection with friends, co-workers, loved ones, community, or the world in general.

This might not always help. But you’ll become a good friend, a good partner, a good colleague, and a business partner.

Every time you connect with someone, you will feel less anxiety.

Learn to give credit to others wherever it’s due and, in return, you will receive everything else.

7. Process vs Outcome

If you want to be a billionaire, you can argue the outcome is the most important. But the process is where you will understand where your true powers lie.

No matter how talented you are, there will be times you fail to achieve what you set out on.

Here is what Altucher suggests how you can make the process more important than the outcome and treat every failure as a stepping stone to success:

  • Study after you lose.
  • Examine why you failed.
  • Outline the lessons learned and execute them.

When you start focussing on the process rather than the outcome, you stop feeling crushed after a failure. You open yourself and your heart to the lessons the universe is trying to teach you.

“Outcome is the echo of the past. The process is where your brain being used. Use it or lose it.”

8. Learn When to Say No. Learn When to Say Yes

Altucher makes it simple: when torn between deciding whether or not to do something if you feel anything less than “Wow! That sounds amazing! Hell yeah!”, then say “No.”

When you learn to say no to most things, you are freeing up space in your life for those fantastic opportunities that are going to make you say, “HELL YEAH!”

Every proposal you receive, every meeting you are invited to, every phone call from a prospective client — if your intuition is not saying “HELL YEAH!” you should probably say “no.”

Life is too busy to start a project your heart really isn’t invested. Saying yes to less is the way to fill your life with the things you are genuinely excited about.

“If it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a no.”
— Derek Sivers

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself wondering, “These meta-skills sound pretty simple. Will they really make me a billionaire?”

If you ask Mr. Altucher, I am sure he will say, “Yes. Definitely.”

The most honest answer I can come up with is: I don’t know. But, I am willing to try.

I am not sure if these meta-skills will make me successful. But I am certain they will help me grow and make me stand out from the crowd.

And anything that promises to make you shine brighter than the rest is worth investing time and energy in, isn’t it?

More by Anangsha Alammyan on Books Are Our Superpower:

A Powerful Lesson on Feminism, Addiction, and Love
Daisy Jones & The Six is a book you need to read
Sometimes “Less” Is More
Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer-winning satire touches the right nerves
5 Most Inspirational Books to Read if You Loved The Alchemist
Novels that leave a mark

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