After searching for success and not finding it, Brandon Pipkin interviewed 21 millionaires to learn how and why they did what they did.
What he learned is that not much of what they did matches what they experts say you have to do to be successful and make money.
After conducting his research Brandon published “21 Questions for 21 Millionaires: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Success” which tells the success stories of self-made millionaires in their own words.
MO: How did you come up with the idea 21 for 21?
Brandon: I grew up in humble circumstances, the third of four children being raised by a single mom who went to school and worked simultaneously just to support us and also at times worked two jobs. I was excited to be financially, emotionally, relationally, and in all other ways successful when I grew up so my life could be much different.
But instead of being the young millionaire I had dreamed of, I found myself working two jobs just to survive trying to support a young family. Luckily while I was working that job, I met someone who introduced me to a training and self-development organization. I caught fire wanting to learn about success, goal setting, achievement, wealth, leadership, and to discover what was holding me back. I went to seminars, bought tapes, CDs, and books, I was a voracious reader of all I could get my hands on, I asked people for their advice, I mentored with a millionaire and other successful people, and did everything I had heard was necessary to be successful: I set goals, put them where I could see them, told people about those goals so they could hold me accountable, I cut out pictures and put them on my dream board, I went to model homes and imagined myself living there, I planned my work and worked my plan, I set timelines, I dreamed, I hoped, I believed in myself, I spoke success, I envisioned success, I tried to attract success in my life my sending positive thoughts and then letting it go!
None of it worked.
Instead of mountains of money I had mountains of debt. Instead of happiness untold, I had frustration unending. So I kept looking for the secret sauce, the answer to my problems. I thought I found it when I read a quote which in essence says that we all have a unique passion and gift to share with the world and when we do, not only do we bless others, but we bless them and the world in such a unique way that the universe can’t help but reward us financially for doing so.
Wow! What a great thought! I set about interviewing 21 millionaires to learn how they found their passion and turned it into their success so I could share what I learned as a blueprint for others to do the same.
MO: Once you came up with the concept what did your strategy look like for finding millionaires to interview and then convincing them to actually speak to you?
Brandon: Strategy is a funny word. I didn’t really have one and that actually rings true with many of the millionaires’ stories. There wasn’t a real conscious strategy other than, “find millionaires.” Some of them I knew from church and business settings. I also talked to people I knew about the project and they referred me to millionaires or others who could put me in touch with one. I searched for potential interviewees online. And I found others through the normal course of life as I would read something about one of them in a newspaper or magazine.
As far as convincing them to speak with me, I was actually surprised with the willingness of millionaires who didn’t know me to without hesitation accept my invitation to be interviewed for the book. It was almost as simple as, “I’m Brandon Pipkin, I’m writing a book called 21 Questions for 21 Millionaires. I want to know how and why millionaires did what they did and I’d like to know if you’d be interested in letting me pick your brain to learn about your mindset and your heartset.” And they said, “Yes”!
Of course I contacted a lot of millionaires who either didn’t respond to me or politely declined to be interviewed; at least as many as I interviewed said no.
MO: What were the most common themes you saw emerge during the course of your research on success?
Brandon: That the “success experts” are wrong! Dead WRONG! The things I had been taught about success and believed and tried to do to become successful had very little to do with how these 21 people became millionaires. Very few had goals. Very few had a determined will to become a millionaire. Very few dreamt of making lots of money. Hardly any of them followed the classic advice to become successful.
It was much more subtle. As Millionaire 21 Richard Zuschlag put it, “I just worked real hard and the money making kind of came by accident.” It was more or less that these people wanted simple things like to get away from a job they didn’t like, to create something, to build something, to stay in an area the loved, or to be their own boss, so they found a way to make that thing happen. Along the way, they pressed through adversity and in looking back they created something special. There was no real “Ah-hah” moment where they made this monumental decision to do it, or be successful, or become a millionaire. It happened in the natural course of them working hard, taking life as it came, overcoming adversity, and following their intuition.
MO: What was the most surprising lesson or insight you gained while working on 21 for 21?
Brandon: Most surprising is the supreme importance of hard work in making anything work. The millionaires mention having benefited from luck, but luck and talent are almost useless on their own. As Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Also surprising was to find that my original hypothesis regarding the connection between finding your passion and finding your success was as solid as the classic success experts advice – vapid.
MO: Do you think that most people have the potential to become millionaires?
Brandon: The potential, yes, but it’s not everyone’s path in life to become a millionaire. Some people will try and probably do all the “right” things to become a millionaire, but still never make it. It’s just not in the cards.
Others, just like most of the millionaires, will simply set out to create a business that can support them and will find that in 10 years that they’ve become a millionaire without a conscious strategy to become one.
MO: What do you think that the most common misconception about becoming a millionaire is?
Brandon: It’s a dichotomy in that some people think becoming a millionaire is far too out of reach and others think becoming a millionaire is somehow easy. The truth is it’s a lot of work to be successful in anything, and in many cases much more work than you can even imagine. But it is still attainable. These 21 ordinary people’s experiences prove that if you hard work, let life unfold naturally, correct “mistakes” by moving forward, and follow your intuition, great things, even extraordinary things, can happen!
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