Say you want to become a millionaire. Or a multimillionaire.
Or hey, even a billionaire. (Why not?)
The goal is clear...but the path can be anything but.
But not to Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot (No. 1,100 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 and a company that recently went public). Dharmesh sees a clear, if slow and difficult, path to becoming a millionaire--or to reaching whatever level of financial success you aspire to.
Money of course isn't everything. Not by a long shot. Where your definition of success is concerned, money may rank far down the list. Everyone's definition of "success" is different.
Here's my definition: Success is making the people that believed in you look brilliant.
For me, money doesn't matter all that much, but I'll confess it did at one time (probably because I didn't have very much).
So let's say money is on your list. And let's say, like millions of other people, that you'd like to be a millionaire. What kinds of things should you do to increase your chances of joining the millionaire's club?
Here are the steps I'd suggest. They're neither fast nor easy. But they're more likely to work than the quick and easy path.
1. Stop obsessing about money
While it sounds counterintuitive, maintaining a laser-like focus on how much you make distracts you from doing the things that truly contribute to building and growing wealth.
So shift your perspective. See money not as the primary goal but as a byproduct of doing the right things.
2. Start tracking how many people you help, even if in a very small way
The most successful people I know--both financially and in other ways--are shockingly helpful. They're incredibly good at understanding other people and helping them achieve their goals. They know their success is ultimately based on the success of the people around them.
So they work hard to make other people successful: their employees, their customers, their vendors and suppliers...because they know, if they can do that, then their own success will surely follow.
And they will have built a business--or a career--they can be truly proud of.
3. Stop thinking about making a million dollars and start thinking about serving a million people
When you only have a few customers and your goal is to make a lot of money, you're incented to find ways to wring every last dollar out of those customers.
But when you find a way to serve a million people, many other benefits follow. The effect of word of mouth is greatly magnified. The feedback you receive is exponentially greater--and so are your opportunities to improve your products and services. You get to hire more employees and benefit from their experience, their skills, and their overall awesomeness.
And in time, your business becomes something you never dreamed of--because your customers and your employees have taken you to places you couldn't even imagine.
Serve a million people--and serve them incredibly well--and the money will follow.
4. See making money as a way to make more things
Generally speaking, there are two types of people.
One makes things because they want to make money; the more things they make, the more money they make. What they make doesn't really matter that much to them--they'll make anything as long as it pays.
The other wants to make money because it allows them to make more things. They want to improve their product. They want to extend their line. They want to create another book, another song, another movie. They love what they make and they see making money as a way to do even more of what they love. They dream of building a company that makes the best things possible...and making money is the way to fuel that dream and build that company they love.
While it is certainly possible to find that one product that everyone wants and grow rich by selling that product, most successful businesses evolve and grow and, as they make money, reinvest that money in a relentless pursuit of excellence.
"We don't make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies."--Walt Disney
5. Do one thing better
Pick one thing you're already better at than most people. Just. One. Thing. Become maniacally focused at doing that one thing. Work. Train. Learn. Practice. Evaluate. Refine. Be ruthlessly self-critical, not in a masochistic way but to ensure you continue to work to improve every aspect of that one thing.
Financially successful people do at least one thing better than just about everyone around them. (Of course it helps if you pick something to be great at that the world also values--and will pay for.)
Excellence is its own reward, but excellence also commands higher pay--and greater respect, greater feelings of self-worth, greater fulfillment, a greater sense of achievement...all of which make you rich in non-monetary terms.
6. Make a list of the world's 10 best people at that one thing
How did you pick those 10? How did you determine who was the best? How did you measure their success?
Use those criteria to track your own progress towards becoming the best.
If you're an author, it could be Amazon rankings. If you're a musician, it could be iTunes downloads. If you're a programmer, it could be the number of people that use your software. If you're a leader, it could be the number of people you train and develop who move on to bigger and better things. If you're an online retailer, it could be purchases per visitor, or on-time shipping, or conversion rate....
Don't just admire successful people. Take a close look at what makes them successful. Then use those criteria to help create your own measures of success. And then...
7. Consistently track your progress
We tend to become what we measure, so track your progress at least once a week against your key measures.
Maybe you'll measure how many people you've helped. Maybe you'll measure how many customers you've served. Maybe you'll evaluate the key steps on your journey to becoming the world's best at one thing.
Maybe it's a combination of those things, and more.
8. Build routines that ensure progress
Never forget that achieving a goal is based on creating routines. Say you want to write a 200-page book. That's your goal. Your system to achieve that goal could be to write four pages a day; that's your routine. Wishing and hoping won't get you to a finished manuscript, but sticking faithfully to your routine ensures you reach your goal.
Or say you want to land 100 new customers through inbound marketing. That's your goal; your routine is to create new content, new videos, new podcasts, new white papers, etc., on whatever schedule you set. Stick to that routine and meet your deadlines, and if your content is great, you will land those new customers.
Wishing and hoping won't get you there--sticking faithfully to your routine will.
Set goals, create routines that support those goals, and then ruthlessly track your progress. Fix what doesn't work. Improve and repeat what does work. Refine and revise and adapt and work hard every day to be better than you were yesterday.
Soon you'll be good. Then you'll be great. And one day you'll be world-class.
And then, probably without even noticing, you'll also be a millionaire. You know, if you like that sort of thing.