Want to be one of the richest people in America? If you want to crack the top 400, you'll need to be worth at least $2 billion.

And unless you won the gene pool lottery or married well you'll need to start your own business.

Why? Unless you manage to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, when you're an employee you can only make so much money. Your upside is always capped: For the vast majority of employees, annual raises come in the 3 to 4 percent per year variety.

And when you're an employee, your downside is always unlimited: No matter how secure your job may seem, you are always at risk of being laid off or fired.

Working for someone else means accepting limited upside and unlimited downside. Unless you somehow manage to be the employee version of a unicorn, you will never, ever become incredibly wealthy.

You can do well, but you won't get rich... and if getting rich is your goal, you will never achieve it.

The just-released list of the wealthiest people in America is proof. How many people on the list are employees? Good luck finding one.

Twenty-two people made the list for the first time. 14 of them are self-made billionaires. (Four of the remaining 8 newcomers inherited their money from Mars, Inc. Larry David has Seinfeld money; they have have M & M's money.) 

Surprisingly, many of the fourteen aren't tech entrepreneurs. Reed Hastings made his money from Netflix. Rocco Commisso founded Mediacom, a cable TV and broadband operator. Ben Ashkenazy made his money in real estate and David Zalik made his in financial services. (Both of the are college drop-outs.) Rishi Shah founded Outcome Health.

They're all entrepreneurs. They all built incredibly successful businesses.

And they all built businesses capable of scaling. That's the second brutal truth of getting rich. 

You can't open a corner coffee shop and hope to become incredibly wealthy; you'll need to scale that business, like branching out and owning a number of different locations. You can't just open a small bicycle shop in your hometown; you'll need to open a number of locations, or build bikes for the mainstream, or open an online store that becomes a major player in the industry....

The only way to become incredibly wealthy is to start your own business -- one capable of scaling to a significant size.

That is, of course, if you want to get rich. The only definition of success that matters is your definition of success. There's nothing wrong with opening a corner coffee shop and making a living serving a community of local patrons. If that makes you happy, that's awesome.

There's nothing wrong with opening a bike shop in your hometown and making a living serving a community of local riders. If that makes you happy, that's awesome.

But if you want to become incredibly wealthy, however you choose to define "wealthy," you must start a business capable of scaling. Otherwise, your upside will always be capped.

Unless you're an actor, or musician, or athlete -- in which case you're still an entrepreneur, because you're in the business of you -- starting a successful business is the only realistic way to become incredibly wealthy.

So if that is your goal, you'll need to start your own business. And there's no better day to do it than today.

Published on: Oct 18, 2017