There are about 724 billionaires in the U.S., according to Forbes, and more than 2,700 globally. They come from various backgrounds and made their fortunes in various different ways. But when you look at their attitudes and behaviors as a whole, there are some traits many of them have in common.
While few of us will ever become billionaires, it may be helpful to know what some of those common traits are to prepare for our own journey to success and financial independence. Here are three key things that billionaires do that many of us don’t, in the words of the billionaires themselves.
1. They’re frugal
“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving,” Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett once said. This quote encapsulates a mindset that helped Buffett become one of the world’s richest men. You’ve heard the stories — Buffett eats at McDonald’s, lives in the same house he bought in Omaha in 1958 for $31,500, buys used cars, and used a cheap flip phone until a couple of years ago.
But these are habits that allowed him to save more and invest more, which drove his wealth. He’s not alone among frugal billionaires. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who admitted a few years ago to wearing a $10 watch, said his frugal habits were ingrained in him as a young man. “My 20-year-old self is so disgusted with my current self. You know, I was sure I would never fly anything but coach and you know, now I have a plane,” Gates said a couple of years ago, reflecting upon the frugality that made him what he is today.
And Jeff Bezos, founder, former CEO, and executive chair at Amazon, said frugality, for him, was the mother of innovation. “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”
2. They think big
“Life can be so much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again,” said the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.
Jobs lived this, changing the world with his innovations at Apple. Now this doesn’t mean we have to go out and invent the next world-changing technology, but experts say that most billionaires think big and aren’t deterred in their endeavors by perceived constraints, whether that’s their education level or something else. Obviously, a lot of hard work and strategic thinking goes into being successful in any venture, but it all starts with having that positive mindset and thinking big, as Jobs described.
Or, as Henry Ford, founder of automaker Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
3. They’re not afraid to fail
“My dad encouraged us to fail. Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn’t have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. Don’t be afraid to fail,” said Sara Blakely, founder of hosiery and women’s underwear brand Spanx, who, in 2012, became the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire.
This philosophy, ingrained in her at a young age, constantly pushed her out of her comfort zone to take on new challenges and risks. Many people avoid actions or activities for fear of failure, but Blakely said that not being afraid to “fail” allowed her the freedom to constantly try new things until she hit on that billion-dollar idea. It helped her avoid the true failure of not trying.
One thing you have in common with billionaires
These are just a few common traits, but certainly, much more goes into becoming wealthy and successful. But it’s really not about becoming a billionaire — it’s about being successful in however you define success. Many billionaires say they weren’t motivated by money, but rather it was an outgrowth of their passion and purpose.
As for the one thing we all have in common, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, among other ventures, said it best: “One thing is certain in business, you and everyone around you will make mistakes.” But it is from those mistakes, whether it is in business or investing, that you learn, adapt, and create new opportunities for success.
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