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Have you ever wondered what separates the roughly 1,800 billionaires in the world from the 15 million millionaires?

Okay, yes, it’s a comma or two in the back account but what’s the mindset that made Mark Zuckerberg different than the guy in the big house down the street? What’s the alchemy that creates Richard Branson and how does it differ from your average YouTube star?

Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty easy to become a millionaire on paper. Just have a matching 401(k) with your employer, a salary of about $56k a year and put aside 10% of said salary a year and, with some smart investments, you’re a millionaire by the time you’re 67 and of retirement age. Now go buy that boat!

Suffice it to say, becoming a billionaire is a different animal entirely. Of course, I don’t have all of the answers as I’m not (yet) a billionaire myself.

If I were, I probably wouldn’t spend my precious time writing these articles!

Joking aside, I’ve identified a few of the traits that I find separates the billionaires from the millionaires… and all of us “regular” people too for that matter!

  1. A Single-minded Drive to Attain a Goal

It’d be the understatement of the century to say that these millionaires have a single-mindedness that drove them to their success. Though it was a fictional take on his life, we saw it with Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He was willing to sacrifice almost anything to get Facebook to launch and buoy it until it became what it is today.

Likewise, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk’s ultimate goal is human settlement on Mars before, what he refers to as, the unavoidable “extinction event.” The creation of electric vehicles, solar roofing and private space launches are all in the service of a single-minded goal of extraterrestrial colonization.

  1. Creating Rather than Existing

Musk’s goal of red planet colonization is a perfect example of creating rather than existing.

What I mean by this is that billionaires don’t just enter an existing system and seek to moderately improve it or keep it running at the same pace. Instead, billionaires seek to create something totally new and different instead of just existing within the confines of a prevailing system.

Let’s look at three of the top five billionaires in the world right now:

  1. Bill Gates – created Microsoft. I don’t need to tell you exactly how Microsoft changed the world by being a revolutionary hardware and software developer.
  2. Jeff Bezos – founded Amazon and completely altered the way we shop forever.
  3. Mark Zuckerberg – founded Facebook and transformed the way we interact both online and off.

Get the picture?

Billionaires make radical, world-shattering changes to society while millionaires are content to work and collect their (very ample) paychecks. If you’ve got designs on being a billionaire, find what’s still missing in this world and stop at nothing to create it.

  1. Being Okay with Being Disliked

Yes, there are a lot of folks on Forbes’ Lists who are, shall we say, ruthless, cutthroat, exploitative and just all-around not-great people. I don’t think you have to be evil to be a billionaire (although it doesn’t seem to hurt) but you do have to be okay with people not fawning over you 24/7.

Though Zuckerberg’s portrayal as a pitiless czar of his new digital creation has been disputed, billionaires seem to be comfortable not being universally loved. The latest Game of Thrones might have said it best: “the lion does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep.”

But it’s less about being bad and more about not being concerned with being likable or social. With the single-minded goal and the drive to achieve it, friends, family and even collaborators may fall by the wayside. Billionaires-in-the-making probably don’t attend many parties because they’re too busy creating and achieving.

Of course, once you are a billionaire it seems to be all champagne, parties, and yachts. Not without a healthy dose of criticism mixed in, obviously. Millionaires, on the other hand, may have more time for fulfilling family lives, great friendships and the ability to socialize with their paltry millions of dollars.


All right, let’s recap. To have any shot at becoming a millionaire you’ve got to:

  1. Have an overall goal
  2. Strive for that goal with a single-mindedness bordering on lunacy
  3. Be cool with letting relationships fall by the wayside

Sound good? Okay, get going then!

In all seriousness, there probably isn’t any magical alchemy that separates billionaires from millionaires. Sure, some are self-made, but still others came from wealth and managed to multiply it, and some just got lucky by being in the right place at the right time and put their money on the right number.

The best advice for someone trying to get into the 1% is likely this: start early.