One day I asked a friend of mine whether he was ready to become a billionaire. The answer was a resounding yes. What a stupid question. Who would say no, anyway? Would you?
The devil, as always, is in the details. I had to repeat the question but with a heavy stress on the word ready. It turns out people often desire something they do not fully comprehend. I am not a billionaire, but before becoming one, I would like to know, as much as possible, what it is like. Below is my current understanding of a billionaire's life. Ready to dive in?
Easy Come, Easy Go
Have you ever heard stories of professional athletes getting broke as soon as their careers end? Or lucky lottery winners going back to square one just a few years after the jackpot? What do they have in common?
If you are a professional boxer, boxing is all you do. You do not have much time to devote to other activities. That is why you lack knowledge on the basics of money management. (They do not teach that in school.)
What about lottery winners? As someone who seeks to win a lottery, you live in a world where getting rich is based on pure luck. Outside of your (most likely boring) day job that requires minimal effort on your part, your skillset is quite limited. Scratching lottery tickets allows you to keep the dream of riches alive. Which is what you do until your highly improbable lucky strike!
Without the basic understanding of money management (either through education or experience), your seven-figure win dwindles faster than the excitement for a brand-new iPhone. Spending sprees and disregard for savings are the norm. That is one way to misinterpret "living in the moment!"
When a large amount of money suddenly appears in your bank account, you become overwhelmed with new possibilities. What you have always imagined as must-have is now within reach. "It's time to show them what I'm worth!" And so it begins—endless expenses for material possessions with high status-signaling value. So many things to buy out there, but you are finally catching up!
Obviously, with such a negative cash flow, your checking account drains like a bucket with holes. The extravagant lifestyle of your dreams cannot possibly last long.
The lesson? Knowing how to stay rich is more important than how to get there.
The Outside World
Imagine that you have finally reached that desired status of a billionaire.
At this point, you may go to great lengths to conceal the fact that you are incredibly wealthy, but in many cases, it turns out to be quite tricky. Even if you do not seek media attention, just the simple fact that you are an oligarch can create a veil of mystery around you, which is in itself a promotional force. Indeed, with great wealth comes great attention. Whose, you may ask?
Starting with family and friends and ending with high-school mates and acquaintances that you have not seen in ages, you will find yourself in the spotlight.
"I'm so proud of you, son! I wish I had a nice house like yours!" your mom would say. "My car's broken and I'm still paying my loan on it!" your sister might complain. "My store is doing fine, but if we had that freezer, we would offer better variety and grow faster!" your classmate could mention. Do not get me wrong: some family relationships and friendships are so strong that they rarely change over something so insignificant as money. But a lot of them do. Unsurprisingly, money does that to people. Do you have enough patience to deal with them on a daily basis?
The Bad Guys
Another distinct group of people who will put a bull's eye on your back is criminals. Basic thieves, hackers, extortionists, kidnappers, and (God forbid) murderers.
Like socialists, these characters believe that other people's property can become theirs without the need for voluntary acts on behalf of the proprietor. Somewhere in a basement, a group of conspirators may be planning to rob your apartment. Or a gang of kidnappers may be devising a plan to snatch your relative and demand ransom. On a higher level, organized crime bosses may feel like you are a potential partner in their business ventures (they can make you an offer you cannot refuse). I have no intention to scare you off, but we live in a world where violence is, unfortunately, taken for granted. Would you feel comfortable knowing you are always a target?
Speaking of entities employing violence or threatening the use thereof, the State has an enormous radar, and you are on it.
With such a massive net worth, you surely realize that the taxman watches you carefully. Because even if you are a law-abiding citizen and pay your taxes diligently, the ruling caste, the demagogues, the populists may convince the majority that there is a lot more to redistribute from your coffers. As a matter of fact, you should not exist at all!
Not to mention three-letter agencies taking an interest in you due to your extensive social circles, possession of corporate secrets, or unfaithfulness in marriage, which, as we know, is often weaponized.
Are you turned off yet? The worst may be over, but what follows is no less important, in my opinion. Read on!
The World Within
Up to now, I have described conditions that you should expect in the outer, physical world. What about the inner world? I would argue that your mental state is the most crucial part of being a billionaire.
As a billionaire, you will have a lot on your plate. A constant stream of business arrangements, incoming media requests, interactions with the government, family obligations. Things can get out of hand quickly, and if you fail to work on your emotional state, it will be tough. Losing your temper or becoming overly excited is not something you can afford to do. People take advantage of others' weaknesses, and emotions are the most prominent cues!
Besides emotional readiness, a fast-paced lifestyle requires a high level of organization. In other words, you need to develop discipline in various areas.
Life is unpredictable. That is why I do not advocate for strict military-style schedules. If anything, they may create additional stress. Discipline, however, requires that you stick to specific pre-determined patterns no matter what. Waking up at 6 AM, exercising every day, writing from 8 AM to 10 AM, daily journaling are all examples of activities that you could make unacceptable to skip. Discipline also includes work on habits: removing bad ones and adding new, beneficial routines. What unites all these undertakings is investment of time, energy, and effort. (For methodology, I recommend GTD and time blocks.)
You may change your cars or even houses frequently being a billionaire, but there is one vehicle that you are stuck with for good—your body. With sporadic eating schedules, little time to work out, and general stress, your physical condition may deteriorate more rapidly.
Your body is the temple of your soul. Treat it accordingly.
No billions in the world will make you truly happy if you keep taking but fail to give back. The more money and power you have, the more responsibility will land on your shoulders. This weight is heavy to carry: make sure to be in great form.
Starting with your immediate surroundings, like family and friends, you will need to expand your altruism quite quickly. Your employees, the neighborhood you live in, the extended social circles you love being a part of, a social cause, or even a whole country—all these can benefit from your help one way or another. Like becoming a parent, once you turn into a benefactor, you cannot escape responsibility.
The best part is—you will enjoy it!
Are You Really Ready?
As you can see, what I consider ready is multi-faceted. My opinion? Being a billionaire is not about money. The term surely comes from a monetary valuation of someone's worth, but I like to think of it as something a lot more challenging to achieve — a level of personal development, a degree of enlightenment.
I have met unhappy rich men who escape their misery through the use of drugs, expensive toys, rotating girlfriends, and other short-lived material pleasures. The lack of meaning in these people's lives altered my perception about getting rich.
By deeply studying myself and observing other people's life situations, I have concluded that real wealth is a lot more than just money. If you want to become a billionaire, you will need to develop character, acquire new skills, leave old habits behind, revamp relationships, give back, and never stop learning.
Nature has its way of appreciating one's genuine effort. You will get there when you are truly ready. But first, an unimaginable amount of work to do.
If your goal is not to become a monetary billionaire, I genuinely believe that the areas of growth I described above will help you become a metaphorical one.
What will you work on today?