Bill Gates did it. Warren Buffett was phenomenal at it. Sam Walton showed that a rural farm boy could do it. John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Jay Gould were pioneers at it.
All these famous people were celebrated business leaders. All had pioneering visions for their industries. And all of them were (or are) filthy, filthy rich. Sure, they were also brilliant and passionate about their businesses, but that doesn't mean the average Joe and Jane can't learn a thing or two about how these corporate titans built unrivaled fortunes.
Not all the wisdom within these success stories applies in our daily lives. But there are three important lessons we can start with today, in hopes of following them toward our own satisfying fortunes.
1. Start young.
With few exceptions, the world's wealthiest people got a very early start in their careers. Warren Buffett was buying stocks at age 11, and John Rockefeller got a taste of business as an accountant when he was a teenager. It's rare to find rich people who started late in life.
When paving your own path to riches, remember that the difference in returns between younger and older savers is mind-boggling. Suppose two people start saving $3,000 a year for retirement -- one at age 20, the other at 40. Earning a hypothetical 8% annually, the 20-year-old will have amassed a comfortable $2 million by age 70. The one who started at 40, alas, will have less than $400,000. Ramen noodles, anyone?
2. Define your goals.
The world's wealthiest people knew exactly what they wanted. Gates started Microsoft
Even if your goals are out of this world, defining them right from the start will give you a sturdy launch pad. If your goal is to become a millionaire, say it, write it down, and think about it every day. Your chances for achieving that goal will go through the roof.
3. Never stop believing in what you're doing.
Carnegie, whose steel company became part of what's now U.S. Steel
What can we learn from this? Well, some of the best-loved stocks in our Motley Fool CAPS investor community, such as Johnson & Johnson
Bill Gates, here I come
Following these three steps may not land you in the Forbes 500, but a few pointers from some of the world's most successful individuals can help you start off on the right foot.
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This article, written by Morgan Housel, was originally published on Jan. 18, 2008. It has been updated by Dan Caplinger, who doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. France Telecom and Johnson & Johnson are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Johnson & Johnson and a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy is giving the world's richest people a run for their money.