One way to discern the lessons that billionaires have learned along the way to building their world bestriding, titanic fortunes is to consider what they would do if they had to start all over again from scratch and attempt to rebuild with nothing but the knowledge they now have as billions of dollars worth of the world’s valuable resources have eagerly passed through their hands and increased under their watchful care and profoundly capable management.
This is a question that more than one billionaire has been asked in recent years and in this article on Self Made I’m going to reveal their answers and some insights into how you should think about those answers to make them the most useful to you. Because remember, while these transformed the world around them in legendary ways, they were also completely transformed by the process that made them billionaires. They have strayed so far from the safety of predictable, comfortable, and understandable. They have ventured so far into the abyss and fearlessly pushed forward in the dark, creating their own path as they went.
You cannot simply do what one of them would do if they had to start over and become a billionaire yourself. You will have to use their answers to realize what you will need to do yourself starting from scratch for the first time to get to their level.
Before we take a look at some answers to this question from luminaries like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mark Cuban, let’s turn our attention briefly to the apocryphal story of the Italian billionaire…
1. Buy a nice suit and go to parties…
So there’s this story of an Italian billionaire (which there are more than 40 Italian billionaires living today, so it could be a true story) who was asked if he had to start over what would he do to rebuild his wealth from zero to a > $1 billion again. His answer was simple: He would take whatever job he could find and save up $500 to buy a really nice suit. Then he would go out and find nice parties to crash where there are clearly lots of successful people in attendance. He’s sure he would meet someone at the party who would offer him a high paying job with a lot of responsibilities and get his foot in the door of middle management somewhere or would be able to make some introductions to someone else who would.
That would save him a couple years of climbing through all the initial obstacles to get to that point and he would start in earnest doing great work and moving up the company, learning the industry, and saving up to start his own business. (In the final analysis, pretty much if you want to be a billionaire you’re going to have to start your own business.)
But the real moral of the story is that networking is absolutely key for people who are on the level of billionaires. They are people. They don’t do everything themselves. How on earth could they! Your daily effort cannot scale up to a billion dollar operation. You have to find and work with and get help from and manage other people’s expertise, other people’s efforts, even other people’s money to grow anything to those proportions. You can’t do it without other people.
The Italian billionaire knows he could get hired by hanging with well-connected people in positions of authority because he’s a billionaire. He’s got the savvy and knowledge and people like the ones he’d be networking with can read other people like a book, and they would be able to tell that they want the former billionaire working for them. That billionaire level of cred probably oozes out of this guy’s pores. You’ll have to earn that yourself by doing exceptional work, tackling the problems that no one has tackled, and learning the answers that no one knows. If you are not good with people, start out by reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Then get a good book on understanding body language.