How do you start a billion-dollar company? Simple. Just make a few phone calls.
Sir Richard Branson was stuck at an airport after his flight was canceled en route to Puerto Rico. In a pinch, he came up with an idea that would spark the creation of Virgin Airlines. He collected money from fellow travelers, called for a chartered plane, boarded the plane with his new customers.
Seeing there was money to be made in the airline business, Branson decided to start his own airline. One problem — he didn’t have a plane! So, what did he do? Simple. He just called up Boeing and asked to buy one their planes…on the condition that he could simply return it if the business flopped. Talk about bold, right?
Branson is one of these lionized entrepreneurs — world traveler, playboy, filthy rich super genius. He’s cited along with other uber-entrepreneurs and “successful” people.
Jobs — ruthlessly dedicated to craft and aesthetics. Winfrey — one recommendation from her can explode your book or business. Musk — builds underground tunnels in his spare time while trying to populate Mars while trying to create brain-computer chips while smoking weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Huffington — mass media extraordinaire turned sleep, health, and wellness advocate.
I ended with Arianna Huffington because her example is telling. She pushed herself to the brink to build one of the most successful media companies of all time.
After she “collapsed from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, broke [her] cheekbone and woke up in a pool of blood”…she realized that maybe she needed to slow down a little bit. She pivoted and now runs a business based health and wellness that suits her physically, mentally, and spiritually.
You have the recent story with Andrew Luck showing that the almighty pursuit of success isn’t everything, even detrimental in certain circumstances.
What’s the point?
Success isn’t everything and you can do too much, but I’m also about 10,000% sure you don’t fall into the category of Arianna Huffington or Andrew Luck in terms of work ethic.
You can push yourself quite a bit before you break. Pushing too much can literally kill you, but…so can pushing too little.
The level of success you want to achieve depends on a few things:
So, on the one hand, articles like “Follow these 15 Steps to be like Elon Musk,” are dumb because they forget to add the most important step — be a genius with an innately sociopathic level of ambition, desire, and work ethic.
On the other hand, though, most people, you, sell themselves way too short, chase the wrong type of success, make horrible sacrifices with bad payoffs, and almost never align their life with what they’re wired to do.
There is no “right” way to chase success that’s all-encompassing, but there are signs. Whether you follow them or not is up to you. But I’ll give you the game, right now, for free. The hustle, though? That’s sold separately.
I used to think that I wanted to be a billionaire who ran a 500 person company or a bunch of different companies under my umbrella company. You get the idea. I did see myself becoming a Steve Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg type. Maybe not to that extent, but I’ve pretty much always thought I was going to be a rich and successful business owner.
I still believe the words in the aforementioned sentence, but to a much lesser extent than I used to think. Jeff Goins shared something similar in a post where he talked to Seth Godin about scaling his business to be more “successful”vs. keeping it at a level that brought him joy:
Seth laid out two options for me:
Scale my business, graduate to CEO, and acquire other businesses to help deal with the churn of my industry, eventually creating an 8- or 9-figure company and selling it.
Keep the business at the same size and focus on profitability instead of growth, saving at least half the money I make every year. Then, with that free time and energy, focus on my craft.
“There will be times,” he said of the second option, “when you will get paid what you’re worth. And there will be times when you won’t.”
“What happens when I’m not paid what I’m worth?” I asked, worried.
“That’s why you put half your money in the bank.”
We concluded the phone call with my telling Seth I would consider both options. But in my mind, the decision had already been made.
I’m following a similar path. There is a level of success where you can…stop. But. Still. Get there first and see for yourself.
As you improve in different areas of your life — career, business, health, relationships, networking, etc — you’ll actually start to see what “flying too close to the Sun,” looks like. But right now?
You have no clue. You have no clue because you’re still stuck in the daydreaming phase. You’re not doing any work toward your purpose. So you think you know what type of life you really want to live, but you don’t. And you’ll never really know until you give it an earnest shot.
So the recipe? Bite off more than you can chew, first. And then chew till your jaws get sore. Then, after some years of work, you can decide if you want to keep eating at the buffet. That was either the best or worst metaphor ever.
Most people either daydream about getting rich and successful or pretend they don’t want wealth and success because they’re hiding. Both dumb.
If you work on your purpose, you’ll begin to tell what type of appetite you have for:
The hard part is settling and staying relatively content once you’ve done the work. But that’s a better problem to deal with than the angst of never trying at all.
Alas, most people never really try. And end up doing this bullshit I’m about to describe.
I have this hobby where I see inanimate objects and create a life-story about the person who owns them. What the hell am I talking about? Let me explain.
I went to a sandwich shop the other day for lunch. I pulled up next to one of those fancy-schmancy BMW’s. Maybe it was a Z3 — two-door convertible. It must have cost at least $80,000. I didn’t actually see the person who owned it, but I created his life profile anyway:
Every old man driving a Corvette is the microcosmic symbol of what’s wrong with our society. The same goes for every middle American person who settled instead of chose. As well as every person who was tricked to believe they’d be nothing more than a “have not.”
You’re pushed to create a mismatch in almost all the important areas I discussed above:
Again, the purpose of this post isn’t to lionize entrepreneurs. But rather to figure out what works for you. Something which, I’m almost positive, could be orders of magnitude better than what you’re doing now, without having to be a pipe-dream.
There are many people who fit the model of the right way to chase success — solopreneur artists who make enough to live, tech workers who make high salaries and invest well, daycare owners who love nurturing others, top-tier waitstaff in major metro cities, and yes, even some billionaire entrepreneurs have the right appetite and aptitude to become billionaire entrepreneurs.
So I just spent a ton of time shitting on the wrong way to chase success. What’s the right one.
It behooves you to understand what you want, to understand your tastes, to understand your appetite, and to ultimately decide what a successful life looks like to you.
But first, let’s get this idea that you’re some martyr who’s immune to the trappings of worldly desire out of the way. People who act like this deeply annoy me. They’re the type who says they “don’t care about money,” but will buy a lotto ticket if the “mega millions” prize gets big enough. There’s a difference between being content with what you have and lying about what you want.
Most people, you, create a success barrier in your mind. It’s not so much that you need to be obsessed with the trappings of success, but rather that you actually have to develop a healthy relationship with what you want and what you do.
You live in the material world, meaning that developing competence — an often spiritual exercise — will lead to often lead to byproducts of money, status, success. If you’re so damn altruistic, make the millions and then give them away — more resources helps more people. Hiding your gifts is a cop-out, period.
Why is this so important?
First, you’ll never have what you deep down don’t feel you deserve and pretending like you don’t want something will pretty much guarantee you won’t get it. But you’ll still, you know, want it and all. Bummer.
Second, denying yourself success works on the surface, but it gnaws at you deep down, which causes you to develop cancerous jealousy toward people who just own it. The type of jealousy which, by the way, only hurts you. Scream at the sky about how unfair it is that certain people are successful. They don’t give a single you know what about your opinion and will continue winning while you do whatever it is you’re doing.
Third, it just pragmatically makes sense to become more materially successful. Not being successful enough can literally kill you — no money for health care/good nutrition, too much stress from the wrong job, nothing for retirement, nothing to help your kids. A whole bunch of nothing.
I suspect that most people, you, want:
Tell me I’m wrong. I’m not.
As far as the “How” goes. I’ve written extensively about the process of finding a purpose for your life:
The important thing to understand is this
When you’re truly aligned — appetite, sacrifice, talent — you get to enjoy your success.
I suspect Richard Branson doesn’t feel guilt or shame for his lifestyle. But maybe I would because, even if I could pull it off, it wouldn’t be aligned. I’m about ninety percent sure I’ll be a millionaire by my mid-30’s. I want to become one. And I’m making it by doing things I love and that other people want. Why should I feel any shame or guilt for that? I don’t.
Society teaches you to be ashamed of success because they don’t want us all to have it. The great magic trick — oligarchs convincing you to give up your dreams and your wealth. Bernie Sanders is a multi-millionaire and owns three homes. I don’t know how this fact doesn’t stop people dead in their tracks mentally — cognitive dissonance for the win?
If you think shoving your dreams down and settling for less than what you’re worth is virtuous, go right the ahead. No skin off my nose, dude. I will check back with you in a decade and see how that worked out for you. If you think climbing that ladder will fulfill you, go right ahead. I will check back with you in a decade and see how that worked out for you.
If, however, you decide that there’s a specific mission for you — mixed with wealth accumulation and altruism, work and play, sacrifices and lines you’re unwilling to cross, purpose and pragmatism, desire and contentment, love and the painful parts of pursuit….
I’ll check back with you in a decade…and reminisce about how well it worked out.