It's easy to look at the world's wealthiest people and marvel at their accomplishments. They can afford to buy multiple houses and cars and luxuries that most of us can only dream of. In some cases, this wealth might be inherited, but the vast majority of millionaires and billionaires are self-made. These wealth empires don't just appear out of thin air; they are worked for and pushed for over the course of a lifetime.
What's remarkable is that most of these super-successful people have multiple paths in common. These shared experiences helped shape these entrepreneurs' lives, and put them on a path toward ultimate financial success:
1. They Did Something Different. There's a quote floating around out there with unknown attribution: "Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't." This doesn't just apply to entrepreneurship. If you want more wealth than most people have, you have to work harder and do more than most people will. You have to differentiate yourself and separate yourself from the pack. Richard Branson, serial entrepreneur and multi-billionaire, frequently preaches the value of doing something different and standing out from the crowd. He credits his own success in part to this principle.
2. They Took Risks. Making cautious, conservative investments and sticking with the life you're comfortable with will help relieve some stress in your life, but it will also stifle your potential for growth. People who aren't afraid to take calculated risks tend to perform better in the long run. Take Donald Trump, for example (and forget any notion of his attempts at running for president). Public-facing caricature aside, he's a successful and wealthy businessman with a multibillion-dollar net worth. But he only got to that point because he was willing to take substantial risks. Even though some of those risks burned him, such as when his business declared bankruptcy with $3.5 billion in debts, he still powered through.
3. They Kept What Worked. When it comes to empire building, you can't just gobble up everything in your path. You have to look at what you have, keep whatever's working, and let go of whatever isn't. John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest people who have ever lived, employed a similar strategy as he built the Standard Oil Company empire of the late 1800s. Say what you will about his predatory practices and his monopolistic strategies--he acquired new businesses and ventures under the Standard Oil umbrella, weeded out the ones that didn't suit his purposes, and held on to anything that kept his empire moving. He started small, and ended up with a massive fortune this way.
4. They Stayed Frugal. Frugality is a strategy that anyone can employ. Living below your means is a sure-fire way to ensure your expenses never outpace your salary, whether you make minimum wage or skim off the top of a multimillion-dollar portfolio. Take, for example, the extreme frugality of billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Pickens scrutinizes every detail of his basic grocery lists, and pays only cash for his regular expenditures. It's not the picture of billionaire-dom that most people envision, but it's a habit that allowed him to get to that point (and it's what keeps him from losing it all).
5. They Persisted. I'd be remiss here if I didn't mention Steve Jobs, who at the time of his death was worth nearly $11 billion. After a brief rise to the top of Apple, Jobs was fired as the CEO of his own company. That would have crushed most people, but instead, Jobs started a new company, Next. Next wasn't a breakout success either, but Jobs kept pushing and kept innovating despite his numerous setbacks. Eventually, he was welcomed back to Apple, which at the time was greatly struggling, and he helped turn it into the massive tech powerhouse it is today.
6. They Learned From Their Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but only the people who learn from their mistakes prevent those mistakes from being made again. Consider Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest people on the planet. His first company wasn't Microsoft; it was a startup called Traf-O-Data, which ultimately failed because of a flawed plan and an even more flawed execution. Gates took point number five and persisted to start a new company, but he also learned from the mistakes that made Traf-O-Data such an embarrassing failure. He applied those lessons to his new company, Microsoft, and we all know what happened from there.
7. They Set Goals. Goals, in theory, are very simple. All you have to do is create a vision for where you want to be, and work actively to get there. Yet 80 percent of the world's richest people set goals, compared with only 12 percent of those in poverty. Goals make a big difference in your life--they inspire you, encourage you, reward you, and help you plan and execute your actions better. They take fantasies and convert them to a tangible, achievable form.
If you're trying to build your own empire of wealth, these seven paths are a good place to start. But remember point number one--you also have to differentiate yourself, so you can't just follow blindly in another's footsteps. Forge your own path, make your own mistakes, and build your own empire from the ground up.