A friend of mine who has more money in the world than anyone could want said to me once that when he was down to his last $100 million, he thought he was near broke.
To nearly all of us, that sounds delusional.
Another friend said over drinks recently: "Betty, I have a number."
What did he mean? He explained that throughout his life, he had a number that spelled f-r-e-e-d-o-m. Free to do whatever the heck he wanted - free to walk out of his boss' office whenever he desired, free to give it away to whatever charitable causes he liked, free to surf for the rest of his life wherever his heart took him. Freedom.
And what was that number? "Ten million would just get me over the top. Twenty million would be a defensive number. Fifty million would be offensive (Note: defined as being on the offense, not being offensive)-like, hey, I got more than I need and I'm really going at it." He figured in about five, ten years, he'd be there and I didn't have any doubt he would.
It's not the first time I've heard highly successful people obsess about "a number." Why? Because it works. Thinking about a number is akin to visualizing something into reality. Successful entrepreneurs talk about positive visualization all the time. They put up photos on a whiteboard of things they want to achieve; they visualize the success of a pitch presentation; or some spend 15 minutes a day envisioning how they want their lives and companies to look like. Athletes are famous for doing this too: Michael Jordan used to visualize his last shot before he even stepped on the court.
Now, I'm not saying simply just thinking about a number is going to make you rich. What it does is help you organize all the things that you need to do to get to that goal. A race car driver once said to me: Just focus on the point in the road in front of you and surprisingly, your hands will get you there. I've tried it and it's true-once you find that destination point, your mind and body start moving to get you there.
So how do you get to your "number"? Below are three things I've learned because yes, I too, have a number:
1. Write it down! While this may sound corny, I can't tell you how many very wealthy people I've met carry little pieces of paper or notes they've held onto all their lives that give them motivation. Once a banker took out from his wallet an old shriveled pay stub from his father, who was himself very successful. He knew that once he exceeded his father's earnings, he considered himself "arrived" in his success. Whatever drives you, be it writing down your goals or a number ("$2 million by 2020″) can help you visualize how to get there.
2. Ignore your current situation: People tend to think of their futures bound by their current realities, which means they often visualize something more modest. It's okay, people are generally risk averse. The important thing to remember is that visualization costs you nothing and is private-nobody else will see your imaginings. So feel free to be wild and crazy with your images, so long as they are really what you want. Don't let your current situation hold you back.
3. Spend time thinking about it once a week: One of the hardest things to do in this day and age is to just sit somewhere and think. It's important to find time once a week for about 15-30 minutes just thinking about your number/goals and refocusing your mind. If you don't, those goals inevitably feel more distant-and thus, unreal. Do whatever you like-sit in a cafe, walk around, or meditate in the yoga studio. This quiet time is as important as any meeting and I highly recommend scheduling it in as you would any other appointment.
None of the above will work unless you practice one vitally important thing: patience. It may take years, even decades to get to your number but as a wise friend once told me, sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination.