As Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler point out in their book Bold, this is the first time in history that you have access to everything you need to take on any challenge. As long as you are passionate and committed, you have access to the technology, minds and capital to literally change the world.
But as they would probably tell you, resources, passion and commitment isn’t enough. You need the right mindset. Actually, you need 8 of them and who better to learn these 8 mindsets from than from 4 of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time – Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos.
Each of these entrepreneurs are self-made billionaires who started with nothing but an idea and a dream to change the world. With the right mindset, you can do it to.
Bonus Mindset: To become a billionaire, focus on helping a billion people.
Usually you get the bonuses at the end, but this bonus is so important that we’ve put it first. This one comes from Peter himself and he tells us that if we are going to make our own dent in the universe, that we need to think about creating a business that will impact the lives of a billion people.
This immediately eliminates thinking small from the equation, which is a prerequisite to becoming a billionaire. Do you know how many billionaires think small? Exactly zero.
1. Understanding the balance of risk taking and risk mitigation
Richard Branson has a reputation for being a business renegade. From the outside it would seem to most people that he takes on a ton of risk. After all, who gets into the airline business – a business where almost everybody loses an enormous amount of money – when they know absolutely nothing about airlines?
Richard Branson, that’s who.
But what most people don’t understand about him is that one of the phrases keeps near and dear to his heart is “protect the downside.”
When starting his airline, Branson bought one plane, and then negotiated the right to give the plane back in twelve months if things weren’t working out like he wanted them to.
So while they are taking bold bets and creating businesses that could potentially change the world, they are also actively trying to eliminate any and all risk that could “sink their battleship.”
2. Rapid iteration and ceaseless experimentation
Jeff Bezos has created one of the most successful business brands of all time by blending a ruthless focus on the customer experience, while at the same time rapidly iterating and experimenting with that experience.
As Bezos said in his 2014 shareholder letter,
“Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional. . . . We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small) and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success.”
One famous experiment that ended in success for Amazon was A/B testing their website experience, allowing users to check-out as guests instead of creating an account.
This one experiment alone generated an extra $300 million per year in revenue for the company.
Even the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet are constantly looking for ways to improve their businesses so that they can have a larger impact.
3. You need to have passion and purpose
Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, gave a talk at the founding conference of Singularity University, the school that Diamandis’ created with futurist Ray Kurzweil to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.
In front of 150 people attending the conference, he said this:
“I have a very simple metric I use: Are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? The answer for 99.99999 percent of people is no. I think we need to be training people on how to change the world.”
If you are working on something that you believe has the power to change the world, you can’t help have the passion and purpose you need in order to get it done.
4. You need to think for the long-term
Jeff Bezos did an interview session at one of their annual conferences, where he outlined his contrarian thinking about the long-term.
“What’s going to change in the next ten years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next ten years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two—because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”
This is a great insight, because it allows you to build a business that serves the needs of the marketplace today, while still allowing you the time and ability to innovate over time.
For instance, Bezos says that he knows that his customers want low prices, and that this is going to be true 10 years from now. And that they are going to want their packages delivered faster. So, Amazon focusses all of their innovation capacity on delivering on those things.
A great example is Amazon’s work on developing delivery drones that can get your order to you in less than 30 minutes.
That’s big thinking.
5. Always be thinking about the customer.
Like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson is also passionate about creating an incredible experience for his customers.
As they point out in the book, if Branson thinks that a particular service might benefit his customers, he tries it. For instance, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to offer free seat-back TVs for each passenger, a cocktail lounge, a glass-bottomed plane and is certainly the first airline to offer stand-up comedians on select flights.
To Branson, creating a customer-centric experience is about getting every little detail right.
When you do this, he explains, customers will go out of their way to stay loyal to your brand. This is one of – if not the only – reason that Branson has been able to launch and invest in over 500 businesses that leverage the Virgin brand.
6. Using probabilistic thinking
Elon Musk has created 4 different companies with valuations north of $1 billion – Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City. You know you’ve made it when they model a super-hero after you (IronMan).
Usually, when entrepreneurs are weighing a decision, they think about their likelihood of success, and if they are good entrepreneurs, they will try and protect the downside.
Musk adds an important nuance to this line of thinking – the importance of the objective. He says:
“Even if the probability for success is fairly low, if the objective is really important, it’s still worth doing. Conversely, if the objective is less important, then the probability needs to be much greater. How I decide which projects to take on depends on probability multiplied by the importance of the objective.”
SpaceX and Tesla is living proof of this thinking. When he started them, he thought they both had less than 50% chance in succeeding (in fact, they were both very close to bankruptcy at the same time), he felt that they were businesses that needed to be created.
So he went ahead and built them, in spite of the risk.
7. Being rationally optimistic
Larry Page wants more people to think about changing the world, but he also practices something the authors call “rational optimism.”
It means that you need to take a sober view of the facts, while still retaining your optimism about doing the impossible.
Page gives the example of when they set out to do simultaneous translation between languages, and to do it better than human translators could. The machine-learning experts they asked for advice on it laughed at them and said it was impossible.
But they forged on anyways, understanding that the technology we have available to us today was at a point where it would be possible – incredibly hard, but possible – to get it done.
Today, Google now translates between 64 different languages and in some cases do a better job than the average human translator and they provide that service, 100% free to the world.
8. Rely on first principles
One of the things that all great entrepreneurs have the ability to do is think in first principles.
Elon Musk gave an interview to Kevin Rose, and explained how first principles work when thinking about how to manufacture batteries – something critical to both Tesla and Solar City.
They thought about the materials that batteries were made out of – carbon, nickel, aluminium, some polymers and a steel can. By by-passing the battery manufacturers and buying the materials on a metals exchange, they realised that they could get the battery cost to levels well below anybody thought they could get them.
So whatever problem you are working on, question all of the assumptions built into it, and work the solution all the way through from beginning to end. You’ll find insights there that almost everybody else would miss – but probably not Elon Musk, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson.
So there you have it – 8 different ways to think based on the mindsets of 4 of the most successful entrepreneurs the world has ever seen.
Now, get your mind right and get to work.
Onwards and upwards!
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