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How to become a millionaire

The very best way to make a million dollars is not to need it. 

I’ve met too many unhappy millionaires to know that becoming a millionaire won’t make you happy. 

But that doesn’t make it an unworthy goal. 

Michael Neill once said to me, “I know that becoming a millionaire won’t make me happy. I just want to become one so I can find out for myself!”

True wealth is when you can make money, make a difference, and enjoy life. 

The secret, of course, is to put enjoying life first. Then to make a difference. Then the money will follow. And – if it doesn’t – at least you have a great life and you’ve made a real difference…  

True wealth begins by taking care of your happiness and your health. True wealth is understanding yourself. 

True wealth is prioritizing friendships and relationships over work. Nobody on their deathbed ever said, “I wish I spent more time in the office…”

True wealth is having the courage to live the life you want, rather than meeting other people’s expectations. 

Being rich is making a lot of money. 
Living rich is having a lot of freedom. 
Truly rich is knowing the difference.  

With his trademark wit, Steve Martin said, “If you want to be a millionaire, the first thing you’ve got to do is make a million dollars.” 

That’s true but it’s not the only thing. 

Let’s begin with how NOT to make a million dollars…

How NOT to make a million dollars 

  1. Invest everything you have in the next “sure thing” all your friends or the media are constantly talking about. 
  2. Read every article you can find with the title, “The fastest way to become a millionaire…”
  3. Cut out lattes, to save your way to a million dollars. 
  4. Watch the mainstream news and believe the financial “experts.” The Financial Times published an article that revealed half of US mutual fund portfolio managers do not invest a cent of their own money in their funds. 

Philip Tetlock explains “experts are not rewarded for being right, they are rewarded for being experts. They are right less often than simple rules or random picks, and the more prominent the expert, the less accurate.”

  1. Be driven by jealousy or comparison. Envy steals your joy and takes away your real drive. 
  2. Obsessively track the money in your bank account, instead of tracking the value you create for others.  

A million dollars is best created from the inside out… 

  1. Freedom is the ultimate form of wealth. Before you make a million dollars, define what freedom means for you. Eg. Freedom to say no. Freedom not to have to say yes. Freedom to choose who you spend time with. Freedom to choose how you spend your time. Freedom to wake up every morning and ask, “What would I love to do today?”

A million dollars but no freedom is no wealth at all. 

  1. If you want to make a million dollars, put your attention on creating millions of dollars of value for others. 
  2. If you want to make a million dollars, help others to become successful. Really successful. 
  3. If you want to make a million dollars, think that decision through – all the way down. Why do you want to make a million dollars? What difference will you make in the world? What are you willing to struggle for? What are you not willing to do? 
  4. If you want to make a million dollars, decide how you will spend it before you’ve got it. Want to travel more? See how you can travel more now, without the money… Want to drive a Porsche? Take one for a test drive now, without the money to buy it… It may impress you less than you think… Make an itemized list of everything you’d buy with an extra million dollars. Most times I ask a client to do this, the number is far less than a million. 
  5. Mindset matters. You must build a long-term mindset – to control your relationship with fear, greed and overspending. You have to learn who to trust, how to trust, and how gullible you are. You have to learn how you think. You have to learn about cognitive biases and pay particular attention to the sunk cost fallacy, loss aversion, second-order effects and herd mentality. 
  6. Your mindset matters more than your financial skills but also learn the hard skills. Basic accounting, cash flow management, and the Profit First approach. Track your numbers. Understand the tax system. Obsess over lead indicators, not lag indicators. 
  7. Don’t just learn how to make a million dollars. Learn how to keep a million dollars. The most common thing people do when they make more is to spend more. Nothing wrong with that – in theory. But overspending leads many people with a lot of money to go into serious debt. So plan to save significant money, as you make it. Don’t wait until you have a lot of money to start saving it, as that will be too late. Save consistently for the predictable chain of problems, mistakes, pandemics and recessions that will “surprise” most people. 
  8. Decide what you are willing to struggle for. Eg. making a difference for others, growing a business, saving for retirement, learning to invest… And then put in the time and effort. When anything looks easy, someone has obsessed and sweated and struggled behind the scenes, usually for years, often for decades. Be in it for the long haul. 
  9. Give, save and invest more each year than the year before.
  10. Make a list of the people, places and habits that are draining you of energy. Every single one of them is holding you back from what you want. One at a time remove them from your life. Be more ruthless with this than you can imagine. 
  11. Focus on profit ahead of revenue. Focus on saving ahead of spending.  
  12. Invest in yourself and invest in your business. 
  13. You can never have enough of what you don’t really need. Another client, another dollar, another award won’t really feed you. What are the feelings you’d have if you had a million dollars? Focus on increasing them, right now. And set upper limits for the amount of money you need or the number of hours you are willing to work – then, when you are done, you’re done. 
  14. Having money will make you less happy than you think. But making it can be a blast. Learn to play money as a game. Fall in love with selling. Fall in love with your clients. But most importantly, fall in love with yourself. If you don’t like who you are without money, you won’t like yourself any more with money. 

Becoming a millionaire won’t boost your self-esteem or your confidence. It won’t make you feel happy or help your relationship. It won’t even make you more charitable, if you’re not already wired that way. You must work on those things, first.

If you want to be a happy millionaire, begin by seeking out happy millionaires. Join – or create – a community of happy, healthy and wealthy people who live the life you want.

Love. Rich 


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