I’ve found that becoming wealthy is not a fluke. I spent five years studying the habits of 233 millionaires — 177 that were self-made — in order to find out how they spent their time from the moment they woke up in the morning, to the moment they put their head on the pillow.
Based on my research, which I share in my book, “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: Strategies that Transformed 177 Average People into Self-Made Millionaires,” I identify seven principles they all shared that helped them build wealth.
The best part is that anyone can implement these in their life and start working towards a goal of becoming a self-made millionaire.
1. Self-made millionaires are constantly learning.
The millionaires in my study made a concerted effort to learn something new every day, whether it was reading for pleasure or developing a marketable skill. For example:
- 61% of the skill-based self-made millionaires practiced their skill, a minimum of two hours a day.
- 22% wrote technical research articles in online/hard copy trade publications, related to their particular field.
- 49% of the self-made millionaires devoted time, every day, to learning new words in order to improve their vocabulary and ability to effectively communicate.
- 81% of self-made millionaires sought feedback from others, in order to learn and improve.
- 71% of the self-made millionaires read self-help books and 68% read biographies of other successful people, in order to learn how to be successful in life.
2. Self-made millionaires develop good habits
Some of the unusual daily habits the millionaires in my study adopted included the following:
- Control Emotions – 81% of the millionaires in my Rich Habits Poor Habits study stated that they made a habit of never losing their temper. Even more important, they said that when they found themselves under great stress, they intentionally forced themselves to remain calm under pressure. Many of the millionaires in my study were decision-makers within their organization.They made a habit of never making an emotional decision are always bad decisions.because they knew that emotional decisions were always the wrong decision. Negative emotions shut down your prefrontal cortex, the logical part of the brain, which causes you to make poor decisions. Also,you can destroy, in an instant, years of work in growing valuable, long-term relationships with influencers, in a moment of uncontrolled rage. Successful people like to do business with individuals who are on an even keel and in control of their emotions. They avoid individuals who they perceive to be emotionally up and down simply because they have not made a habit of controlling their emotions.
- 5:1 Listening Rule – Self-made millionaires forged the daily habit of listening for five minutes and talking for one minute. This not only helps build strong relationships, but it is critical to learning more about other people and acquiring more knowledge.
- Never Gamble – 94% of the millionaires in my study made a habit of never gambling.
- Good Goals vs. Bad Goals – I learned from interviewing millionaires that this is such a thing as a bad goal. Saving for two years to buy a luxury car is a bad goal, because it is a depreciating asset. Saving for two years to buy a rental property is a good goal, because it is an appreciating asset that produces cash flow. Millionaires set good goals and avoid bad goals.
- Daily Aerobic Exercise – One of the self-made millionaires in my study was 67 year old when I interviewed him. He was worth approximately $17 million. I asked him why he was still working and not retired and enjoying his life. He said that he had been exercising every day since age 35 because he believed the last five years of his career would be his highest earning years. He was right. He eventually retired at age 73 and in the last five years of his career, he made more in those five years than he had made in all of the previous 35 years combined. One of the millionaire women in my study was obese. She decided to walk 1 mile a day, every day. After one month, she increased this to 2 miles, then 3 and then began jogging. That one aerobic exercise habit helped her to stop smoking and she also began eating healthy, nutritious food. When I interviewed this woman, she weighed 135 pounds and continued to run every day. She even ran three marathons.
- Listen to Audiobooks – 63% of the millionaires in my study said they made a daily habit of listening to audiobooks while commuting to work. The books were typically related to their industry, some dream they were pursuing, learning a new skill or learning about something they knew nothing about.
3. Self-made millionaires are intentional
In my study, I found that the majority, 86%, of the self-made millionaires worked an average of 50 hours or more a week.
But the important thing to remember is that the quality of the work is more important than the quantity. The millionaires I interviewed characterized their work as focused and intentional. They did this by doing something I call Dream-Setting – writing a script about their ideal, perfect life, ten years into the future. This Dream-Setting script helped them gain clarity on the direction of their life and the goals they pursued. When you have a clear vision of the destination, the how becomes unimportant. You eventually figure out how to reach your destination – your ideal, perfect life. Another discovery I made in my study was that millionaires, became millionaires, because they intentionally focused on their strengths and figured out a way to outsource their weaknesses. If they did not possess a particular skill or were weak in that skill, they outsourced it in order to become more efficient in what they did for their career.
4. Self-made millionaires build great teams.
Many of the self-made millionaires in my study revealed that their ability to create strong teams with people who shared their vision, were instrumental in helping them go the distance with them to pursue their dreams.
They were not particularly great leaders, at least in the beginning, but they all did have in common a very strong belief in the importance of the dreams and goals they were pursuing. Their passion was contagious and infected other people who came within their orbit and eventually joined their team.
Another common trait among the millionaires who built teams, specifically the Big Company Climbers and the Dreamer-Entrepreneurs, was that they had the ability to see the invisible. They had a unique ability to visualize solutions, opportunities and alternate routes towards success, that seemed invisible to everyone else.In turns out, this talent was actually a habit that took them many years to forge. One of the criteria for seeing the invisible, was maintaining a positive, optimistic outlook on life. When you have a positive mental outlook, you open up your mind. The famous Broaden and Build Study validated this unique neurological power of the brain. Positivity broadens and opens up the mind to solutions to problems that are otherwise invisible to everyone else.
5. Self-made millionaires are passionate dreamers
Many of the millionaires I studied were highly ambitious when it came to achieving their goals goals, even if it seemed unlikely that they could achieve their goals. A real-time example of this is Elon Musk. People ridiculed Musk when he said he told them he was going to settle Mars. People aren’t laughing any more.
One of the millionaires in my study said that he was going to make millions investing in wine. Most of his family and friends simply laughed at him. Over the course of fifteen years he became an expert in the wine industry. In 2001, he liquidated a small fraction of his wine collection and was able to buy an expensive home on the beach in Florida thanks to his crazy wine idea. No one’s laughing at him any more.
Ultimately, they loved what they did, and they felt that any sacrifices they made were worth it. What is the dream you would like to pursue?
6. Self-made millionaires prioritize their health
But while much of their time was focused on work, the millionaires in my study talked often about the importance of putting their mental and physical well-being first. What good is wealth, if you aren’t healthy enough to enjoy it?
Eighty-six percent of the millionaires in my Rich Habits Poor Habits study worked in excess of fifty hours per week, week in and week out, for many years before they became wealthy. Success takes time and eating nutritious food combined with daily aerobic exercise boosts your energy, which translates into more productivity. Plus, good health increases your life expectancy, which means you can extend your career, giving you more time to accumulate wealth.
Even something as simple as a healthy diet and 20 minutes of exercise a day can help improve your health and life expectancy.
7. Self-made millionaires make their own luck
While hard work is a huge reason why the self-made millionaires in my study were able to strike it rich, all of them said they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are without some luck. But luck in this context isn’t happenstance, but determination. Persistence creates opportunities. Those who refuse to quit, eventually get lucky. Luck eventually visits those who simply refuse to quit on their dreams and goals.
One of the millionaires in my study changed careers in their mid-forties. As I mentioned above, they decided to become a wine expert. It took them fifteen years and a lot of hard work, but eventually this individual was able to realize his dream and accumulated approximately $4 million in wealth.
Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of “Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life”, Effort-Less Wealth and “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.”