7 Most Important Factors to Become Wealthy

Some believe that becoming wealthy is a matter of luck. I disagree. The issue isn’t whether luck presents you with a good opportunity or not, but rather:

Do you truly recognize the opportunity unfolding before you? Or do you not value it? As Swiss writer Max Frisch once said, «Chance shows me what I look at.»

And if you realize your stroke of luck, will you seize it? Will you act? Or are you one to say, «Perhaps now isn’t the right time. Maybe someday it’s worth considering…»

The likelihood of someone being lucky or unlucky throughout their life is very small. Over many years and decades, luck and misfortune should balance each other out in most cases.

Setting Big Goals

Jack Ma failed the university entrance exam, wasn’t particularly good at math, and knew little about technology. But from the outset, he thought big and set himself very ambitious goals. Shortly after founding Alibaba, he told a journalist, «We don’t want to be number one in China. We want to be number one in the world.» He was so confident in his future success that in February 1999, he even videotaped one of Alibaba’s early meetings to ensure that this key moment was documented and marked the beginning of his success.

The Skill of Selling

Two-thirds of those surveyed in my book «The Wealth Elite» stated that their success is largely due to their ability to sell. For them, selling is not just marketing products or services. They define sales much more broadly. For them, selling is an opportunity to persuade other people, whether it’s obtaining approval from a government official, convincing the perfect candidate to accept a job, winning over employees’ favor, or persuading a banker to take on solid financial commitments. «Everything is sales,» explained one of my ultra-wealthy interviewees.

Nonconformism: Finding Pleasure in Swimming Against the Current

Investor Jim Rogers studied history and philosophy at Yale and Oxford Universities before joining Wall Street in 1968. During tough times for the US stock market, he managed to lay the foundation of his wealth and success.

Rogers met George Soros at a major investment bank. Together, they founded the Quantum Fund. They shattered the conventions of investment banking by buying stocks, commodities, currencies, and bonds worldwide. They were also among the first to employ innovative strategies such as short selling.

Unlike most other investors, Rogers bought stocks of companies that were in trouble. For instance, in the mid-1970s, he invested heavily in the aerospace company Lockheed. Rogers once recounted a story of a lavish dinner with bankers and investors. One of the guests heard about Rogers buying Lockheed shares. At that time, Lockheed was plagued almost daily by a series of scandals and negative press. The stock price plummeted.

«Who would invest in such a company?» one of the guests asked loudly enough for everyone at the dinner to hear. Rogers felt humiliated—after all, he was the target of their jokes. But he had done his homework well and was right in his positive analysis of the company. The stock price soared, and his fund made a huge profit. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index rose by only 47 percent, while the Quantum Fund, managed by Rogers and Soros, gained an incredible 4200 percent.

Ability to Handle Setbacks

Most ultra-wealthy individuals have faced serious setbacks and crises. What is remarkable is their attitude when things go wrong. They don’t blame external forces or other people; they look for fault within themselves.

They don’t complain about being victims of circumstances or the intrigues of their adversaries; they take personal responsibility for their mistakes. They also don’t justify negative market changes. If the market is declining, they blame themselves for misjudging the market. Often, this is what sets successful people apart from unsuccessful ones.


In early July 1991, Bill Gates Sr. invited several guests to dinner, including his son, Bill Gates Jr., the founder of Microsoft, and investor Warren Buffett. They were two of the most successful people in the world, leading the Forbes list of billionaires for many years. The host asked his guests, «What factor do you believe was most important in achieving what you have achieved in life?»

Buffett immediately replied, «Focus.» Bill Gates Jr. agreed.

Warren Buffett focused on one goal for decades. According to his biographer Alice Schroeder, even as a child, he dreamed of becoming rich. One of his favorite books was «One Thousand Ways to Make $1000.» When he was 11, Buffett declared he would be a millionaire by age 35. At 16, he had already accumulated $5000. Today, that would be about $60,000—not bad for a 16-year-old. He missed his prediction by only five years. He earned his first million by the age of 30.

Ability to Gain Others’ Trust

John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest individuals in history, is proof of how important trust is in business. For young Rockefeller, the key to future success was realizing that «the old men all trusted me right away.» Throughout his incredible career, his biggest problem was always «getting enough capital to carry on all the business I wanted to handle, with the amount of money I had.»

His ability to gain the trust of banks and investors was one of his most valuable assets, and Rockefeller knew it well.

So, how do you best make others trust you? By acting and, more importantly, thinking in ways that inspire trust. Warren Buffett applies the following test to every decision and action: would you be comfortable if your wife, family, friends, and neighbors read about it in the local newspaper the next day?

Persistence and Willingness to Experiment

Many books emphasize the importance of persistence, and it’s true. But merely sticking to a plan is not a guarantee of success. It must be combined with another crucial characteristic: a willingness to experiment. Experimentation is more important than a precise business plan.

Michael Bloomberg, ranked No. 9 on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people with assets of $55 billion, vividly describes the early days of his company. One of his key conclusions is that rigid planning can do more harm than good: «You will inevitably run into problems different from those you expected. Sometimes you’ll need to zig when the drawing says zag. You don’t need a detailed, inflexible plan that hinders your ability to respond instantly.»

If you want to understand the success of many startups in Silicon Valley, you need to understand the concept of «pivoting.» This involves a readiness to radically change your business model at any moment. The goal is not to stick to the original concept and prove how good it is. The goal is to secure a strong position in the market. If that means abandoning the plan and steering the company in a completely new and different direction, then it’s time to pivot.

Author, historian, and sociologist, internationally renowned writer Rainer Zitelmann.

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