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18 secrets for success from billionaires

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and John Paul DeJoria are all self-made billionaires. Here are 18 inspiring lesso...

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and John Paul DeJoria are all self-made billionaires.

Here are 18 inspiring lessons you can learn from their journeys to the top.

1. Richard Branson: Dream big

"Dreaming is one of humanity's greatest gifts; it champions aspiration, spurs innovation, leads to change, and propels the world forward," says Branson, in a blog post published earlier this year. "In a world without dreams there would be no art, no adventure, no moon landing, no female CEOs, and no civil rights. "What a half-lived and tragic existence we would have."

"The benefits of dreaming far outweigh the perceived risks, because the value of dreaming isn't just measured by the outcome, but the inspiration that comes from journey of achieving the dream."

2. Save your money

Entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is worth $3.3 billion. He built his wealth from the ground up, and now he doesn’t hesitate to dispense advice to those who hope to replicate his success.

One of Cuban’s tips for getting rich? Don’t blow your cash on stupid stuff. Here’s one of the tips he shared in a blog post entitled “How to Get Rich”:

“Save your money. Save as much money as you possibly can. Every penny you can. Instead of coffee, drink water. Instead of going to McDonald’s, eat mac and cheese. Cut up your credit cards. If you use a credit card, you don’t want to be rich. The first step to getting rich, requires discipline. If you really want to be rich, you need to find the discipline, can you?”

3. Bill Gates: Give back

"My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here, never stopped pressing me to do more for others," Gates told the Harvard graduating class. "A few days before my wedding, she hosted a bridal event at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to Melinda. My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message, and at the close of the letter she said, 'From those to whom much is given, much is expected.'"

Gates listened to his mother. He is one of the founding members of The Giving Pledge, through which wealthy individuals commit to donating more than half of their fortunes. He is also the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to lift children out of extreme poverty.

4. Start small

Consider an oak tree. It started as a seed. Then it turned into a small plant. Next, it grew into a mighty oak.

Everything that’s big started as something small, including ideas. An idea is a thought until it’s developed into a business.

Forget about the get rich quick mindset. That doesn’t work. To be successful, you start small and work your way up to where you want to go.

Let’s look at Michael Bloomberg as an example. He was the son of a bookkeeper. He went to Harvard University and got a Master of Business Administrative Degree. Next, he worked for Wall Street, climbed the ladder and became a partner. Finally, he went on to start his own business that changed the way security data was stored. He’s now one of the richest men in the world.

5. Don't put all your eggs in one basket

"Self-made millionaires do not rely on one singular source of income," Corley says. "They develop multiple streams."

So how many sources of income do they have?

"Sixty-five percent had at least three streams of income that they created prior to making their first million dollars," Corley says, such as a side-business or income generating investments like REITs or real estate.

"Diversifying sources of income allows you to weather the economic downturns that inevitably occur," he writes.

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6. Richard Branson: Be yourself

Branson has four young grandchildren, three toddlers and one newborn, he says in a blog post. "I've been thinking a lot about the meaning of life and about the things that I want to teach them so that they live the best life possible," Branson says.

The Virgin founder and chairman says he keeps coming back to a quote from the children's book "Happy Birthday to You!" by Dr. Seuss: "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is You-er than You!"

Branson suffers from dyslexia. He has had to learn to embrace his uniqueness, rather than allow it to be an impediment. "Yourself is always the best version of you — and being yourself is among the best advice I have ever received," says Branson.

7. John Paul DeJoria: Launch a business in an industry driven by repeat customers

The co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Tequila is a billionaire now, but early on in his life, he was homeless and collecting cans for money.

His best advice for entrepreneurs is to build a business in an industry that doesn't require lots of persuading buyers. Instead, he seeks out products or services that will become part of a customer's routine.

"You don't want to be in the selling business," DeJoria says. Instead, you want to be in the reorder business, where "your product or service is so good, people want to reorder it or reuse it."

8. Steve Jobs: Focus is everything

"He had a focus that was unlike any other," says Tim Cook, as explanation for why Steve Jobs was the person who influenced him most. What allowed the legendary CEO of Apple to focus so intently was his ability to prioritize, says Cook: "His thinking was so pure. He wasn't trying to maximize his wealth, or anything else."

9. Bill Gates: Seek out simple solutions

"The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity. To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps," the co-founder of Microsoft said in his 2007 Harvard commencement address.

"Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our caring," Gates said. "If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or individual asks, 'How can I help?,' then we can get action and we can make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares, and that makes it hard for their caring to matter."

10. Follow your passion

Jim Koch, the founder of the Boston Beer Co., believes following his passion helped make him rich.

Most billionaires agree that passion is important if you’re trying to achieve great success. Some would say it’s the most important thing — that you should concentrate on your passion and then let success follow from that, rather than focusing on the money first. Jim Koch, who founded the Boston Beer Co., said that’s what helped transform him into a billionaire.

Long before craft beer was a national craze, Koch (the son of a brewer) decided to dedicate himself to brewing quality beer, which was then hard to find in America. His quirky passion paid off handsomely, but getting rich wasn’t the point, as he explained in an interview with Business Insider:

“The most common thing I remind people of is to only pursue something you love, because a small business is going to be very demanding of your time, your energy — it just eats your life. And if you’re doing something you love, then you will accept and even enjoy that. If you’re just doing it to get rich, you’re gonna lose heart. I tell everyone, getting rich is life’s biggest booby trap. It comes down to what would you rather be, happy or rich? I say do what’s gonna make you happy.”

11. Networking Is Not Working.

Many new entrepreneurs spend more time at networking events than on their businesses. Millionaire entrepreneurs are selective about relationship building. You won't find them at networking events. They're busy building their companies, not their business card collections.

The people you really need to be networking with are most likely not at your typical networking event. Always strive to network above your level. Just as you improve your tennis game by competing with better players, so too will you become better at your enterprise by interacting with people who are already successful.

If you do spend valuable time at a networking event, make sure plenty of prospects or powerful resources will be there. Don't confuse networking with socializing, and don't give credence to anyone just because they show up at a networking event. Though ideas can come from anywhere, you do need to be selective about whose advice you decide to follow. Always assess the validity of the advice offered, and don't take advice from people who mean well but are not qualified to give it.

12. Mark Zuckerberg: Apologize quickly when you mess up

After emotionally sensitive user content was removed by the Facebook content regulation algorithm earlier this year, Zuckerberg apologized publicly.

"We've seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down," says Zuckerberg on his Facebook account. "This has been painful for me, because I often agree with those criticizing us that we're making mistakes."

13. Simplicity of Purpose

Billionaires are billionaires because when they went about building an empire, they were hyper-focused on a specific objective. All their effort and energy was dedicated to pursuing that clearly defined purpose. For example:

Henry Ford wanted to democratize the automobile—to make it available to everyone.
Bill Gates wanted to put a PC inside every home in America.
Steve Jobs wanted to put the power of a computer inside a phone (and make it painfully easy to use).
When we look at the whole of these goals, they seem massive, imposing, and yet they can all be stated in a single, easy-to-understand sentence.

14. Oprah Winfrey: Have Radical Focus

“I have learned that your full-on attention for any activity you choose to experience comes with a level of intensity and truth,” she says. “It’s about living a present life, moment to moment—not worrying about what’s going to happen at 3 o’clock and what’s going to happen at 7 o’clock.” In other words: radical focus. “That whole thing about multitasking? That’s a joke for me. When I try to do that, I don’t do anything well.”

Oprah thinks a lot like Zuckerberg on the secret to success. She acknowledged that her network struggled initially because of a lack of focus on her part, and since narrowing her attention she’s again flourished. If you’re multitasking and juggling a bunch of different projects, try focusing on the one thing you believe in. It could make all the difference.

15. Steve Jobs: Obsess over the details

Jobs had a reputation for being ruthless, but Kara Swisher, the executive editor of Recode, says that was a result of his obsession with perfection.

"People used to say he was heartless," says Swisher, talking to Tim Ferriss, author of "Tools of Titans" and "The 4-Hour Workweek," on his podcast, "The Tim Ferriss Show." She sees it differently: "I think he had too much heart. You know what I mean? He cared too much. He had so much heart that he just couldn't stand it when things weren't right."

16. Simplicity of Plan

Billionaires are not known for having highly detailed, highly elaborate plans.

Herb Kelleher, founder of the legendary low-cost people-mover Southwest Airlines, didn’t use complicated numbers or ingenious technical secrets to turn the airline industry on its head. His plan for Southwest followed three tenets:

Get the wheels up and get the wheels down.
Have fun.
Embrace being the “low-cost” airline.
These painfully simple tenets are the foundation of the most profitable airline in the history of the aviation industry. Keeping things simple helps all employees—not just key leaders—focus on the activities that will be most impactful to the success of the company.

17. Everything Is Marketing.

The success of a company is based more on the marketing of the product than on the product itself. Everything is marketing, from the way you say "Good morning" to the contacts you make on an airplane to your company name and brand, your wardrobe and vocabulary.

18. Mark Zuckerberg: Be willing to make big bets

When Facebook launched the News Feed feature in 2006, protesters demanded that the social networking site return to its earlier state. Zuckerberg is proud of his team for not caving to popular opinion.

"One of the things I'm most proud of about Facebook is that we believe things can always be better, and we're willing to make big bets if we think it will help our community over the long term," writes the CEO. "News Feed has been one of the big bets we've made in the past 10 years that has shaped our community and the whole internet the most."

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