Thursday, 12 June 2008

What Does It Take to Become a Billionaire?


How can I become a billionaire? This question is on many people's minds as they enviously gape at the riches of the famous billionaires. Is one always born a billionaire, or is it the place you are born in or is it the astrological sign that makes a billionaire? If luck and timing are the decisive factors, then they cannot be replicated. What if there are skills to becoming a billionaire?

Is there a detectable pattern in how people become billionaires, which can be learnt and replicated by others? 

  • Does investigating the lives of the richest billionaires give clues to their success?
  • Do billionaires have special skills or characteristics, which others lack?
Is attending Ivy League universities like Harvard or Yale the secret or has being school dropouts taught them better?

The top 3 in the Forbes list of billionaires, Warren Buffet, Carlos Sim Helú and Bill Gates got much boost from wealthy parents and attended Ivy League universities, though Gates dropped out. No.7 on the list Ingvar Kamprad started by peddling matches on a bicycle. 



As we go down the elite list, there are:
  • sons of cabdrivers
  • one who could only afford a dress made of potato sacks
  • an orphan with a whisky bottle a day habit
  • many school dropouts and 
  • someone even having lived on welfare.

Qualities Needed to Become a Billionaire

Billionaires almost always have a burning drive to become rich, acquire more and more. Some do get a headstart by inheriting tens or even hundreds of millions but without a desire to accumulate more, they couldn't stay millionaires. 

Two skills are vital if one is to succeed in becoming a billionaire:
  1. Never be afraid of failure: Almost all the billionaires have experienced failed ventures. But contrary to many others, they learn their lessons and move on to fresh starts to apply the lessons learnt.
  2. New way of looking at things: Billionaires have succeeded because they have looked at things in new ways, seen hidden opportunities and capitalised on them.


The drive to become successful must be very strong. It is not always true that all billionaires are greedy as one article even suggests that you need to have bottomless greed if you need to become a billionaire. If you want to conduct detailed research on the world's billionaires, your best starting point is the Forbes billionaire main site.

Common traits noticeable among billionaire life stories:
  1. Self-management is the most difficult part of management skills needed to become a billionaire.
  2. Billionaires have all had a burning desire to be successful. 
  3. They saw themselves as successful in their mind's eye and did not give up in spite of all difficulties. In fact, this ability to first visualize success and maintain this vision seems to be a key component for success in all fields. 

  4. All took major risks in thinking out of the box and acting consistently. 

  5. Billionaires understood early on the value of networking and engaging other gifted people. 

Common Traits Among American Billionaires

In addition to these, there are some common things about billionaires, especially American billionaires.
  • Men - a significant number of them are men. Very few are women.
  • College drop-out - According to a Forbes study 14% of the entrepreneur billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg either never started or never completed college education.
  • Make their wealth in finance - This contravenes the earlier trait, a majority of billionaires in finance got their MBAs from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Columbia or Wharton School of Business.
  • Born in autumn.
  • Had major failures early in their careers, bounced back to success.
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If you want to learn what it takes to become a billionaire like those in the Forbes list, read more in this article.


Historical Billionaires

Some of the richest billionaires historically inherited their wealth. Some lost their wealth dramatically, while others even managed to grow them.


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The Russian Czar, Nicolai II inherited his wealth, valued at around US US$881 million or US$290 billion in today's money lost everything including his and his family's life in the Russian revolution in 1918.

Jacob Fugger (1459-1525), the German Banker, became the chief financier of the emperor Charles V after acquiring the monopoly in the silk and copper trade in Europe. His wealth passed onto the wealthy and influential Fugger family.


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Heshen (1746-1799) a fabulously wealthy person in the Qing dynasty in China. As a favourite of the Qianlong emperor, his wealth was equal to the imperial revenue of the entire Qing government for 15 years. He was forced to hang himself from a silk rope.


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Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII or the Nizam of Hyderabad was on the Time magazine cover on February 22, 1937 as the wealthiest man on earth. His wealth at US$33 billion in today's money was 2% of the US economy then with a daily revenue of US$1 billion. He died in 1967, still the richest man in south Asia.






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