I've used this quote before, but it bears repeating. "If your only goal is to become rich," John D. Rockefeller, America's first billionaire, said, "You'll never achieve it."
That's because wealth is a by-product, not a direct result.
Even for billionaires.
Take Richard Branson. While Branson may have hoped to get rich... he focused on building companies that were different: Delivering a better product and a better experience. For example, when we talked about Virgin Galactic, he said his goal is to "Bring a sexiness to the space industry."
For him, wealth is the result of building unique brands -- not the goal.
Or Roger Penske. While Penske may have hoped to get rich... he focused on operational excellence and customer satisfaction. Today his companies generate over $26 billion in annual revenue, but as he said when we talked about what he tries hardest to do better, he said, "I always look at myself in the mirror and ask if we are doing everything we can to drive customer satisfaction. How are we connecting with our customers? Are we adapting to their changing demands?"
For Penske, wealth is the result of a relentless pursuit of operational excellence and customer satisfaction -- not the goal.
In short, wealth results not from a laser-like focus on money but from the relentless pursuit of excellence: Building exceptional knowledge, exceptional skill, exceptional talent... wealth results from doing something incredibly well, and then doing it over and over and over again.
Making money your main goal can distract you from doing the all things that actually result in building and growing wealth.
So what should you do?
1. Change your perspective.
See getting rich not as the primary goal, but as the by-product of excellence.
2. Decide what you will do better than anyone else.
The easiest place to start?
- Something you already do reasonably well, and
- Something other people value, and will therefore pay for.
What you choose to do better than anyone else is up to you; there are endless possibilities. But the next step is non-negotiable...
3. Relentlessly focus on improving your skill in your chosen pursuit.
Goals are great, but goals are achieved through process.
Say you want to become the next Malcolm Gladwell. Wait; not just the next Gladwell -- better than Gladwell. That's a great goal... but it's also just goal. To achieve that goal, you need a process to create content, or videos, or podcasts, or long-form articles. And you'll need a process to help you share your ideas with a broad audience (although if you do great work, people will gladly help you share that work.)
And here's the key: You will do all that on not just a set schedule but an aggressively set schedule. You'll stick to that process. You'll meet your deadlines. And over time, your skill and talent will grow. You'll get better. And better.
Until someday you aren't the next Gladwell -- you're the first you.
But wishing and hoping won't get you there. Sticking faithfully to your process will.
Set a goal. Create a process that supports your goal. Then ruthlessly track your progress. Fix what doesn't work. Improve and repeat what does. 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 better than anyone around you.
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.
And, as a by-product, in monetary terms, too.