This article originally appeared on Quora: What is the most effective yet efficient way to get rich?
There’s a story of an Italian Billionaire when asked if he had to start over from scratch what he’d do (I searched Google 50 times to find the original without luck). He replied that he’d take any job to make $500, buy a nice suit, then go to parties where he’d meet successful people. The implication being that he meet someone who’d offer him a job, share an opportunity, etc.
I’m almost 40 and of the five career type jobs I’ve had in my life (I run my own business now), four came through networking. Only 1 came out of applying to a job listing.
But networking isn’t something you just go out and do. It’s immensely more effective if you have simple people skills. And when I say simple, I mean spend a couple hours reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Read that and try it out at a party and you’ll be blown away by how effective it is and how after meeting and talking with a few people and asking them about themselves, how they’ll want to help you, without you asking them.
When I asked my old boss (who was the most remarkable sales person I’ve met), what he did to improve his sales skills, he told me that right out of college without any skills or pedigree degree, he took a job as a limo driver. He was reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and thought it would be worth trying out. He would ask his customers one simple question when they got in the limo, “So tell me about what you do.” That simple question resulted in a huge increase in tips he received. Notice he didn’t ask his customers, “What do you do?” There’s a subtle difference. If you ask the latter, many people will just tell you in a few words what they do. If you ask the former, it’s an invitation for them to tell you their story. Few people will turn that down.
At one point early in my career, I was doing research in the medical field and realized I wasn’t interested in it or where it would lead. I wanted to make more money and get into the business side of things (this was right after the tech crash in the San Francisco area), so I spent nearly 9 months relentlessly applying to jobs, writing cover letters, researching companies. With no success. I was doing it all wrong.
One night, my roommate asked if I wanted to go to a party. Sure, no problem. We went. I didn’t know a single person there. At one point, everyone did shots. I wandered back to the kitchen to get a beer. There was one other guy in the kitchen and I introduced myself. We talked for a while, I asked him what he did and he said he worked in biotech. I mentioned I was looking to get into the field, and he said his company was actually hiring. My resume got sent to the hiring manager, and I was interviewing within a couple weeks. You can guess what my next job was.
There are a million paths to getting rich. And there are countless people who’ve gotten rich who are jerks, tyrants, manipulative, conniving, and all around assholes. When you’re working in different industries, you’ll start to feel that all the successful people are this way. But in reality, these are only the people who leave the most lasting impression, not because they’re the only people who succeed.
But it’s unlikely there’s anyone successful out there who wouldn’t emphasize the value of people skills in succeeding.
So back to the question of how to get rich quickly:
The high level:
- Learn relentlessly. Read books and books on success, people skills and anything that might have some inkling of a strand of wisdom about success and wealth. Especially read the biographies of successful people. In his autobiography, Mark Cuban talks about how he would buy and read any book on business that he thought might help. The $15 he’d spend was a fraction of the worth of the wisdom he picked up. Drew Houston of Dropbox talks about how he would spend every weekend reading books on business, sales, marketing, all day long. Every weekend.
- Become a people person. This is a learn-able skill or set of skills. No one is born a great salesperson. There may be people (like athletes) with better inborn abilities (outgoing, etc). But the best learn, read, study, and practice. Relentlessly. A lot of times, those with the best given talent don’t end up being the top in the field because at the start, it came easy to them. The ones that have to work at it, work relentlessly and don’t ever get complacent. And then one morning, they wake up and the effortlessness at sales or marketing or leadership that they never thought they would achieve, they now embody.
- Work hard. As an employer, one of the things that stands out the most with employees is a good work ethic. It’s worth its weight in gold. Drop your expectations and ego, and put your nose to the grind and good things will happen.
- Take risks. Not dumb, fickle risks and not gambles. But smart, calculated risks where you have a good chance at succeeding. You won’t always succeed, but you will learn a huge amount in the process and you will garner an enormous amount of respect from people in doing so.
The nitty gritty:
- Get a job in a high growth industry. This is where the quick money and the opportunities are. There’s a saying how everything rises with the tide. When you’re in a fast growth industry (or company), the tide is rising.
- Work for the best and most recognizable company you can work for. This gives you instant credibility. Starting as an intern at a recognizable company will get you opportunities right away.
- Become an expert. Pick an area within your industry and learn it inside and out. Start writing answers on the topic in Quora, start a blog on the topic, network with other experts. You’ll find pretty quickly that this type of knowledge and expertise will lead to a huge array of options.
- Create multiple income streams. Start writing, consulting, tutoring, fixing things, just get busy with a second source of revenue. This will get you hungry for more and you’ll double your learning. You’ll see that a job, tutoring on the side, can lead to starting your own tutoring company on the side. Your marketing consulting job can lead to writing Amazon books on marketing.
- Be too busy to spend money. Feel like you spend too much money? Feel like you don’t save enough or at all? Get busy working on everything, your job, learning, networking, consulting, projects, side jobs, overtime at work and you’ll find out you won’t spend a fraction of the amount of money than before.
- Finally, start a company. Name a billionaire who didn’t start a company. Yes, there are a few. But they ended up running the company they joined (Sheryl Sandberg, Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt). Starting a company may seem completely out of reach and unfathomable, but when you’ve done all the preceding steps, it will be the most logical next one. Successful companies don’t start out with 50 employees and a $10M in revenue, they start out small, tiny and scrappy. They start out in their dorm rooms or their parents’ garages or spare bedrooms. The founders beg, borrow and steal to get what they need. Michael Dell started his company by hacking together computers in his dorm room and selling them. Walmart started as a single variety store in Newport, Arkansas. Ever hear of Newport, Arkansas? Yeah, me neither. Richard Branson started out selling records by mail, one at a time. Don’t look at the most successful people and companies and see where they ended up or you’ll be overwhelmed. Look where they started and you’ll see how it’s achievable.