The 10 Principles of Self-Made Billionaires

UPDATED: March 4, 2021
PUBLISHED: May 30, 2016
The 10 Principles of Self-Made Billionaires

Billionaires have something most of us don’t.

But that’s only because we haven’t learned it yet.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time with billionaires. I’ve studied them extensively, and here’s what I’ve discovered: Billionaires are billionaires because they all follow a set of unique perspectives, or principles, that help them persevere where others find challenges.

I call these 10 principles “The Billionaires’ Success Framework.”

Principle 1: 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.

Related: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals

Principle 2: 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.

Principle 3: Limit What You Tolerate

Billionaires limit what they tolerate—it sounds callous but it’s actually brilliant.

Billionaires don’t cultivate success from their wants; they extract it from the world by limiting what they’ll tolerate.

Billionaires are the 1 percent of people who tolerate what 99 percent of us avoid, and generally avoid what 99 percent of us tolerate. They are constantly optimizing their lives. They are asking themselves on a daily basis, Where’s the operational drag in my life? What can I get rid of today to make tomorrow better?

Billionaires identify and purge without hesitation—that’s why they’re creating the greatest outcomes in the world.

Principle 4: Absolute Reliance on People

Billionaires don’t just occasionally lean on other people; they absolutely rely on them to make it through each day. From personal assistants to the members of the board, billionaires cultivate fantastic professional relationships so they can rely on them when they need it most.

Here’s why: No single individual could create the leverage and momentum necessary to create billions of dollars in value. It’s the billionaire who asks for and offers protection and support, because they know that entrepreneurs accomplish almost nothing alone, and we all move forward faster together.

Principle 5: Absolute Dedication to People

Due, in part, to their reliance on other people, billionaires are also obsessively dedicated to people; this includes customers and investors, but especially employees and their close teams.

This kind of obsession can manifest itself in a variety of ways—some billionaires are obsessed with creating the absolutely perfect product, some are obsessed with spreading success and wealth throughout the world. But it’s all ultimately about people.

  • Bill Gates, feared early in his career for his fierce temper, learned to become a strong and valued mentor for top leaders at Microsoft.
  • Warren Buffett created one of the greatest fortunes and business empires in history, but only after he recognized the need to develop great leaders and keep them close.

And when it comes to the people who create leverage for billionaires, this dedication is absolute and unshakable. The important people in a billionaire’s life—from founding partners to their assistants—are always taken care of and usually asked to stay involved in their lives for a long time.

Related: 8 Traits of Healthy Relationships

Principle 6: Rely on Communications Systems

Everyone knows that for your business to succeed, clear communication is essential. But over the years, I’ve had the chance to meet with many successful entrepreneurs and most of them share a surprising trait: They have trouble communicating. In fact, billionaires, the most successful entrepreneurs, tend to have the greatest difficulty.

But they succeed because they rely exclusively on communications systems, not their own communications skills. All billionaires create ways to accurately track progress, measure results and optimize performance. They understand the importance of being able to gain perspective through context, and they use systematic communication methods that are consistent and reliable.

By doing this, they can fill in the gaps where their own abilities are lacking, and create momentum.

Principle 7: Require Push Communications

I can’t state this clearly enough: Billionaires require push communications.

They don’t wait around for someone to communicate with them. They don’t go around seeking the information they need, researching their answers for hours. Billionaires expect their information to be curated, concise and delivered directly to them without having to ask. This is what they require from their teams.

People who are worth billions didn’t get that way by miring themselves with insignificant or impertinent information—they know exactly what they need to see and when they need to see it. The people who are responsible for creating momentum in a billionaire’s world are required to communicate this information without being asked. They are proactively pushing key information to the top of the to-do pile each and every day so the billionaire knows where to invest his time, energy, etc.

Principle 8: Be Intentional With What You Consume

Consumption in the absence of intention is waste.

Billionaires are incredibly intentional with their consumption of resources, and no resource is more thoughtfully consumed than information. Typically the information they need is relevant to a highly specific issue or decision. If there isn’t a need, billionaires tend to ignore the information.

If information isn’t moving you forward to where you want to be, it’s bogging you down. Billionaires know this, and you should, too.

Principle 9: Make Decisions Based on Data and Narrative

Billionaires don’t gamble—they make their decisions based on a blend of data and narrative. Why? Because they know the value of dual perspectives—one rooted in numbers and the other rooted in people.

If they relied solely on data, then a single mistake—a fudged number, an incorrectly recorded data point—could dramatically skew their ability to make the right decision. If they relied solely on narrative, their reasoning would be subject to swings in popularity or sentiment, and they’d be making decisions without anything objective backing it up.

Only by analyzing the data and having in-depth conversations with the right people can billionaires grasp enough of the picture to make a quality decision.

Principle 10: Be Proactively Transparent

Many people think of transparency as being a willingness to answer questions. But what separates billionaires from most people is their ability to be proactively transparent.

Billionaires proactively communicate with intention to avoid misunderstandings and eliminate any type of drag on their organization. They know that vague goals and an unclear purpose can stop momentum in its tracks, so they don’t wait for people to approach them with questions. They understand the importance of actively showing up and sharing what they need with the people around them.

Proactive transparency is vital because it ensures that teams understand outcomes and remain on the same page. It also increases confidence in leadership by eliminating any hint that something is being held back. A lack of transparency only increases pressure and noise for billionaires, and makes it difficult to create the outcomes they want.

No matter the experience or business size, the self-made billionaire’s framework includes lessons all entrepreneurs can integrate to build high-growth businesses… and build businesses around themselves.

Related: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Photo by GaudiLab/

Alex Charfen

Alex Charfen is the co-founder and CEO of CHARFEN. He has spent his life seeking to understand how to make business grow, which evolved into the question, “How do you help people grow?” Through his research and years as a top consultant to billionaires, the Fortune 500 and Global 100, this question led Alex to discover the long-misunderstood Entrepreneurial Personality Type (EPT). Best-selling author Robin Sharma recently described Alex as “the most progressive entrepreneurial mind on the planet.” A highly sought-after speaker on entrepreneurial awareness, Alex has spoken around the world for tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and top global businesses to help them identify and live in their strengths.