What Do the World’s Richest People Have In Common?

Like most broke university students, Steve Siebold wanted to get rich. But unlike most college kids, he did something about it.

“In 1984 I was a sophomore in college,” he recalls. “And I was sitting in class listening to business professors telling me the odds of succeeding in business were so slim that it would take years to get there.”

But Siebold wasn’t interested in waiting years.

So he tracked down a millionaire—and requested an interview. That millionaire, in turn, introduced him to another millionaire and so on. Since then, Siebold has interviewed more than 1,200 millionaires and even billionaires. “It’s really a 30-year study at this point,” he says.

Given all of the, ahem, rich knowledge that Siebold has collected over those three decades, he decided to share his insider findings in a book, “How Rich People Think.” His biggest takeaway? “[Becoming a millionaire] isn’t about money,” he says. “It’s about psychology.”

Intrigued to learn more about how the mind can possibly pave the way to millionaire-hood, we sat down with Siebold to pick his brain.

LearnVest: Do you truly believe that anyone can get rich?

Steve Siebold: Well, there are obviously exceptions—say, if you’re psychologically handicapped or have other serious setbacks—but, for the most part, the average person in America can get rich. After being around wealthy people for so many years, I’ve learned that they’re no smarter than the rest of us. They’re just ordinary people with extraordinary focus and drive who are looking for gaps or what’s missing in the marketplace—for what can be filled.

But aren’t some people just naturally born with that entrepreneurial spirit? Can it really be taught?

Sure, some people seem to be predisposed to being entrepreneurs. One guy I interviewed built a $90 million company from scratch, and he seemed to just have that inner drive, which can be an advantage. But all you really need is the desire.

Take a single mother who can’t pay her bills or get a job—she has a strong need. And if you have a strong enough desire, you can develop the skills necessary to become an entrepreneur. That’s the way most Americans become rich.

In your book, you say that middle-class people focus on saving, while rich people focus on earning. But it’s ingrained in us from birth to save. Isn’t that something everyone should do?

Absolutely. Saving is so important. My point is that the average person last year made $38,000 in income. If I’m making $38,000, and I’m saving 10%, that’s only $3,800 a year. I’m going to be 300 years old before I can retire. What the wealthy do is focus on earning more. If you can make $200,000 a year, then you’re saving $20,000—a big improvement.

True, but that’s a big jump. How can the average person earn significantly more?

That’s where the entrepreneurial mindset comes in. You look for small business opportunities. Niche markets. You don’t have to open a McDonalds, but maybe you start with a small lawn-mowing or pool-cleaning business or selling things on eBay—technology has opened up so many opportunities. Remember that it’s not about the money, but your way of thinking. Rich people look for problems to solve, and then cultivate the skills, passion and talent to solve them.Your book has 90-plus tips. What are the top-three things you’d tell someone to do today to start getting rich?

For starters, be around the rich. Some people may think it’s extreme, but before I was wealthy, I moved into a neighborhood I couldn’t afford. I wanted to be around rich people—not to make deals with them, but to learn their mindset. I don’t recommend doing the same thing, but you can go to places where rich people congregate, such as charity auctions, seminars, country clubs. Listen to how they talk about money and opportunity. Compare their mindset to yours—and then consider adjustments.

Number two: Get away from people who tell you that your [business idea] can’t be done because you don’t have enough education, money, talent. Listening to those people—and believing them—can quickly derail your plans.

Lastly, discover what your talents are and how you can use them. I was a professional tennis player, and when I started teaching, I wasn’t making very much money. The millionaires I was around at the time told me to start thinking about the talents that I had, which is part of thinking like an entrepreneur. The one thing I really focused on with athletes was the mental toughness side of sports and cultivating that focus. The millionaires said that’s a skill that most people don’t have—and find a place where they’re missing that.

So long story short, over a period of six or seven years, I started training the skill of mental toughness to salespeople in large corporations … and that’s how I made my own millions. The heart of it is that everybody has certain talents—they just don’t recognize what they’re worth.

What’s the number-one mistake people who want to be rich—but aren’t—make?

They listen to the average person, with no money, tell them about money. You wouldn’t take fitness and health advice from someone who’s not fit, so why would you take money advice from someone who’s not rich? It doesn’t make sense.