Success

From Bill Gates to Warren Buffett: 5 lessons from billionaires in 2019

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There are only about 2,604 billionaires in the world — or 0.0002% of planet's population — and more than 67% of those billionaires are self-made. Throughout 2019 some of those self-made billionaires shared lessons on life and how they found success. Here are five that stood out.

Warren Buffett: Invest in yourself

Buffett, aka the Yoda of investing, says the very best investment you can make has nothing to do with money.

"By far the best investment you can make is in yourself," Buffett told Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer in April.

The best way to do that, Buffett suggests, is by first learning to communicate better "both in writing and in person," as it will increase your value by at least 50%.

"If you can't communicate to somebody, it's like winking at a girl in the dark. Nothing happens," Buffett told Serwer. "You have to be able to get forth your ideas."

His second tip is to start taking care of your body and your mind when you are still young.

"You get exactly one mind and one body in this world, and you can't start taking care of it when you're 50. By that time, you'll rust it out, if you haven't done anything. So it's just hugely important. And if you invest in yourself, nobody can take it away from you," Buffett said. (It's an interesting perspective, considering Buffett eats McDonald's every morning, drinks mostly Coke products and eats ice cream.)

Buffett, who has a net worth of more than $89 billion, added that he believes "true success" is determined when a person hits their mid-60s and 70s.

"Well, I've said many times that if you get to be 65 or 70 and later and the people that you want to have love you actually do love you, you're a success," Buffett told Serwer.

Jeff Bezos: Change your mind

Bezos started building the company that became Amazon by selling books out of his Seattle garage in 1994. Today, he is worth more than $111 billion.

Along the way, Bezos said he has learned that it is crucial to be open and willing to change your mind.

"What I have found is that people who are right change their mind even without getting new data," Bezos said at Amazon's re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on June 6. "They have the same data set that they had at the beginning, but they wake up and they reanalyze things all the time and they come to a new conclusion and then they change their mind."

In fact, Bezos said people who typically win in life have worked hard to recognize what beliefs or biases they hold and "actively try to look for evidence that disconfirms" them.

Bezos says by having this mindset, it will allow you and your business to be more creative, flexible and ultimately more successful.

Bill Gates: Surround yourself with the right people

A lot could go to one's head when they have tens of billions in the bank. But Gates, 64, who is currently the world's richest person with a net worth of $113 billion, says he's found ways to keep his ego in check since becoming a billionaire at the age of 31.

Gates stays humble by doing normal things like washing the dishes after dinner each night and driving his kids to school in the morning, he said at The New York Times DealBook event on Nov. 6. He also surrounds himself with people who keep his ego in check, including his wife, Melinda, and his best friend, fellow billionaire Warren Buffett.

"If I come back and I look like I'm all puffed up, they cut me down to size a little bit," Gates said.

Gates' three children also help to keep him grounded — and cool.

"I've got to check Instagram because my youngest daughter likes to communicate there [and] I have to check WhatsApp because another child likes to communicate through that," he said at the DealBook event. If he doesn't comply with his kids' requests, he says, they accuse him of "not paying attention" to their lives.

Jack Ma: Anybody can be successful if you try hard

Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma is convinced anybody can be successful just like him. After college, Ma, who grew up in Hangzhou, China, was rejected from 30 jobs before becoming an English teacher. Then in 1995, after he was introduced to the internet, he came up with the idea to start Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba with no skills or money, he said. Today, Ma is worth $46 billion.

"I think everybody can be successful if you really try hard," Ma said at the Viva Tech conference in Paris in May.


"I started Alibaba group in 1999 in my apartment. The founders said that if Jack Ma and his team can be successful, so can 80% of the people in the world. Because we had almost nothing, but we believed in the future," Ma said.

Ma went on to describe what he believes are the three keys to success, which are to think differently, never give up and use the skills that you have currently.

"If everybody agrees, then there is no opportunity," Ma said in Paris. To be successful, Ma said, its essential to think about things that no one is thinking about yet.

Secondly, Ma, who was also rejected by Harvard (he applied 10 times), says that you can't let rejection stop you.

"Of course, you are not happy when people say 'no.' Have a good sleep, wake up, try it again," Ma said in Paris.

Lastly, use what skills you have. Ma said when he started Alibaba, he knew nothing about technology, marketing or anything about the "legal stuff" involved with starting an e-commerce company, but he was good at customer service.

"I only know about people," he said.

"When you spend time on the people you serve, when they're happy — you win!" Ma said in Paris.

Oprah Winfrey: Don't wait for your big break

In May, when billionaire Oprah Winfrey spoke to the graduating class of Colorado College, she gave students a sober reminder that success doesn't happen overnight.

"I'm here to tell you that your life isn't some big break, like everybody tells you that is," Winfrey told the crowd.

Instead, she said it's about taking "one big life-transforming step at a time."

"The truth is you cannot fix everything. What you can do here and now is make a decision — because life is about decisions — and the decision that you can make is to use your life in service," she said.

"The truth is, success is a process — you can ask anybody who's been successful," Winfrey added.

And part of that process, she says, includes setbacks and failures.

"You realize that to some extent, [success] is just beyond your control," Winfrey said. "'Success' in terms of achieving objectives, in terms of manifesting a mission, in terms of manifesting a vision, that's all good, especially if what you do can create good in the world. But to the extent that you start to define yourself through traditional measures of success, to the extent that that's your source of self-esteem — you're destined to be unhappy because you cannot control it."

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