Mike Dillard became a millionaire in his late 20s. He spent the first five years after college trying to become a successful entrepreneur--quite unsuccessfully. One day, a mentor said to him, "There are people all around you doing the same thing you're trying to do and making a lot of money. Why are they succeeding and you aren't?" Some deep introspection and analysis showed Dillard he needed to become the type of person who earned the income level he desired. In his case, the goal was $50,000 per month. That was the number he told himself would let him live life on his terms. Two years later, he had made his first million dollars. How did he make this dramatic shift and become self-made?
In a recent interview, he shared with me seven things that helped him transform himself into a self-made man, earning millions of dollars each year. Here they are:
1. Jack-of-all-trades is a master of none (and doesn't get rich, either)
Dillard struggled in his early 20s to feel confident about what he was doing. He questioned why anyone would listen to a kid just out of college. He realized if he mastered a skill set, people would come to him for advice. As an introvert who preferred putting his head down and getting things done on his computer, he decided becoming a skilled copywriter would be something he could leverage. He estimates he invested more than $5,000 in books and courses, studying profusely over 18 months until he felt so knowledgeable about the subject, he was comfortable giving advice. "There was a time when I would send people who told me they wanted to be an expert like me a picture of my bookshelf with hundreds of books on it," Dillard says. "I would tell them it was only one-third of what I studied to get where I was today, and if they weren't willing to put in that kind of effort to learn, they wouldn't achieve the success they longed to have." Which leads to his next piece of advice ...
2. Pay for education, or get hit with the stupid tax
Dillard says your journey to becoming self-made requires you to pay for education--books, online courses, or even help from consultants. Assuming you can figure it out on your own will only lead to you to mistakes and losses that will far outweigh what investing in the education would have cost you. "You can pay now for education that will help you achieve your goal, or you can pay the stupid tax later," says Dillard. "Either way, you will pay."
3. Understand and accept the true definition of "self-made"
To Dillard, being self-made is about recognizing nobody can do it for you. On his website, Self Made Man, he explains, "Some say there is no such thing as a self-made man. That nothing can be accomplished in life without the help of others. That a man cannot reach his goals without assistance. For me, the definition of self-made is the moment when a person decides to take ownership of his or her life. Yes, they may need help to make their dreams a reality, but they are 100 percent committed to making them happen, no matter what. There is no alternative."
4. The best motivators for becoming self-made are pain and frustration
I asked Dillard if there were any tricks or hacks people could use to motivate themselves to do what it takes to become self-made. His answer was an emphatic no. But he did share this: "Pain and frustration are the best motivators. Given the level of commitment needed to succeed, there must be something that will make you never give up. I hated working for other people. The pain and frustration it gave me motivated me to become self-made. When I interview other self-made people, their stories are often similar. Some form of suffering pushed them to adopt a 'there's no alternative outcome' mindset."
5. Not everyone is meant to be self-made
Dillard says there's a reason companies usually have only one founder. Not everyone is cut out to be a self-made success. It's not easy to stay disciplined enough to achieve big goals. It's far easier to exit off the highway of hard work. He says it's important to be honest with yourself and recognize if now is not the right time in your life to pursue being self-made. "Be willing to admit this isn't what you want right now," he says. "You'll be less stressed and a lot happier. Plenty of people live fulfilling lives who aren't self-made. It's not for everyone." To give people a real sense of whether they have what it takes, Dillard built a simple online quiz that tells you if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur.
6. Build your business on the basis of who you are
In the beginning, Dillard says, he tried to emulate some of the people whose success he admired. However, many of them were extreme extroverts with big personalities who loved the spotlight. Dillard, being an introvert, found solace in working alone. Instead of speaking onstage, he preferred talking in small groups. "I felt like I was swimming against the current with my early business models, because they weren't me," he says. "They didn't play to my strengths and who I am as a person. Once I shifted the business model to suit me, things got a lot better."
7. There are no shortcuts for consistency and time
Dillard taught himself what he calls the "building bricks" method for staying focused on the high-payoff activities needed to achieve your goals. Each night, he would set a goal of three to five things he wanted to accomplish the next day. He would then lay those bricks the following morning. He said he did this every single night and day for five straight years. It conditioned him to work his plan daily, to the point he no longer thinks about it. "I just know to get up and get it done," Dillard says. "I also know if I do, I will get results."
Today, Dillard has set his sights on a new goal. After years of making millions with his online businesses, he wants to build a company that sells a physical product. And not a little business, either. "I want to build a $100 million brand," he says. "I've always worked on my own. Now, I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone to build a company with lots of employees that can have a greater impact on the world." He admits he has a lot to learn. But he also says he's applying every one of the lessons above. After talking to him at length, I'm betting he makes this dream a reality too.