The 20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires

This is the wrong question. It’s upside down.

This is a tacky question. This is sort of a rude question.

But this was a question on Quora. Actually, the question was a bit worse. It was “I’m in my 20s – can someone in their 40s tell me what I need to do to become a financial success?”

Maybe don’t look for shortcuts. Too many shortcuts is “death by a thousand cuts.”

Here’s a question: I’m in my 40s, can someone in their 20s tell me how to restore that feeling of lightness, no obligations and the feeling that “Enough” is a Feast?

Answer me that.

Here’s a question: I’m in my 20s, can someone tell me what success is?

Here’s another question: I’m lonely, can someone tell me how a ray of sunlight can remember that by itself it is nothing, but together it’s the Sun?

But OK. Another friend of mine wrote a good post on this topic. But I know him and how he made his millions and although his answer was good, it wasn’t how he made his money.

Money is not everything. It’s a side effect. It’s a byproduct. It’s nuclear waste after all the energy has already powered the Earth.

Focus just on the habits. Only the first half of the question.

Everyone needs different habits. If someone has an arm amputated he needs a new arm. Another person might need a new eye.

Another person needs to listen better.

20 Habits

I’m sorry. I was about to answer. But I need to define habit.

When I was lying in the gutter at 3 in the morning, drunk, and cars swerving around me, I needed first to be pulled to the sidewalk.

That was a habit. I couldn’t just wake up and be sober. I needed to be pulled to the side first. I needed consequences first. I needed one day at a time first. I needed to surrender control of the outcome first.

I needed to improve 1% a day and that never ends. I needed to remember I had two little girls to be a better person for.

And so on. “And so on” is a habit. It’s not a done thing. It’s never done.

20 Habits:

1) Every day, be around people who are kind to you and love you.

This is a difficult habit. So don’t sweat it. Just improve a little bit each day.
A bonsai tree grows every day. But the bonsai master knows where to prune to create a work of art over years.

2) Every day, avoid death.

Which means: avoid things you know are bad for you. Be a little healthier each day. You can’t get rich from a hospital bed. Or a grave.

People think metabolism changes as we get older. This is not really true. What changes is we sit more. So move more.

3) Solve difficult gratitude problems.

This is a practice. When angry, or stressed, find one thing to be grateful for. Where is the practice? Is this really so hard.

The hard part is noticing that you are angry and stressed. It’s the difference between being scared in a movie and saying, “wait, it’s just a movie.”

4) Write down ten ideas a day.

I’ve written this a million times. Watch the movie “Limitless”. Bradley Cooper takes a pill that turns him into a superman of brain power. Writing down 10 ideas a day is that pill. Try it for six months and you will see.

5) Plant seeds.

Many people have ONE GOAL in life. And they aim their lives for that one goal. Good luck with that.

The real key is to plant many seeds. 1% of the seeds planted will turn into 50% of the flowers.

That’s Garden Math.

What are some seeds?

Send a thank you letter. Send an intro letter. Send ideas to people. Exercise. Eat well. Surprise your spouse. Make a website. Come up with an idea. Write an article. Read a book. Think of 100 more seeds.

Every day plant some seeds.

[RELATED: I Made A Mistake (and how you can take advantage of me)]

6) No excuses.

Blaming is draining. Complaining is draining. Explaining is draining.

People say, I don’t have enough time. I get that. For instance, I don’t have enough time to become a professional astronaut.

But even that excuse, which two seconds ago I thought was a truism, is false.

One day Virgin Galactic and SpaceX will send tourists into space for cheap. So one day I’ll be an astronaut.

I have enough time again. No excuses.

7) Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule.

Make a list of the 25 things you want to do in life. Now do the top 5. And NEVER THINK ABOUT THE OTHER 20 EVERY AGAIN.

Else they will take time away from the 5 that are most important to you.

8) Follow up.

I’m really bad a this. Which is why I have to build a habit instead of “do this!”

The other day I had dinner with a bunch of interesting people. I have a perfect idea how to follow up with them.

But I haven’t done it yet. I don’t know why. It’s hard for me to follow up.

So it’s a practice. But I’ll do it. I want to get better at this habit.

Following up might be a “nice to meet you” email. Or maybe it’s buying them a first edition of their favorite book. Or maybe it’s one of the 10,000 things in between that.

9) Stand next to the smartest person in the room.

Harold Ramis did it (Bill Murray). Steve Jobs did it (Steve Wozniak). Craig Silverstein did it. (who? Larry Page.) Kanye West did it (Jay-Z).

I’ve done it repeatedly. (Yoda). I have a motto: “I am the dumbest person in the room.” Then it helps me to find the smartest person in each room.

The smartest person in the room is going to do something. Watch what they do. Something special. Just follow them without asking questions.

10) Do one thing every day you loved as a kid.

I loved to write. So I write every day. I loved being nice to girls. So I’m nice to women every day.
Other people loved sports. I didn’t.

11) Ask questions.

Brian Grazer, the world famous movie produce or Apollo 13, Arrested Development, and about 100 other movies, would have “curiousity conversations.”

He’s simply call up anyone he wanted (the Dalai Lama, Steve Jobs, etc), explain who he was, and asked them questions.

That’s how he met Ron Howard (the smartest person in his room). That’s how they together started Imagine Entertainment. That’s how he’s now got the top show on TV (“Empire”).

12) Make Mistakes.

I was teaching my daughter to serve harder. She had a good consistent serve. She never missed. But it was too soft. Easy to return.

So I said, “hit it so hard you have to grunt.”

She started missing. She was getting depressed. Every shot came in about 6 inches to the left of the box.

But then she adjusted. The shots started to hit in the box. And they were harder.

I asked her, “what was going on in your head?”

She said, “I saw I was hitting too much to the left so I moved it over.”

If she kept hitting her safe easy shot, she never would have improved.

Only mistakes made her improve. ONLY MISTAKES.

13) Sleep.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. I sleep nine hours a night. Then I try to take a nap during the day.

Your brain is most active 2-5 hours after you wake up. Do your productive passion work then.
Stay away from people who claim they only need 3-5 hours a sleep a night. They are evil.

14) Say “NO”

I used to travel a lot for meetings. None of them made money. Not a single one.

I remember one time sitting by the pool at a hotel in LA. That was fun. I drank and swam and drank and swam.

In between, I had meetings that went nowhere. Then I went back to my company.

How was LA.


One week wasted.

15) A little every day

I want to write a novel.

I write a few paragraphs a day. I maybe tweak the outline every day. Guess what. If you write three paragraphs a day you’ll write four novels a year.

Three of them might be bad. Maybe ten of them will be bad. Maybe the first twenty will be bad.

That’s OK. That means in five years you will be a success. Because of “a little every day.”

16) Don’t be in a rush.

I’ve interviewed about 150 successful people so far for my podcast. I don’t mean “financial success”. Again, money is a byproduct.

One thing in common: 10 – 20 years for an overnight success.


Celebrate small successes.

Along the way to overnight success (20 years) you will have many many small successes.

You can only give yourself permission for the next one if you celebrate the small success. It gives reinforcement to all of these habits.

Plus, it’s fun. You know what I mean.

17) Love

I don’t have to teach you what love is. But here’s what I try to do:

a. if it’s someone I don’t know, I pretend like they are going to die tomorrow. So I treat them with the love we treat someone who will not exist anymore.

b. if it’s someone I don’t like, I treat them the way a mother treats her child. I wish for their best, no matter what my personal feelings are.

c. if it’s someone I love but is not making me happy, I sincerely wish them the best for the future.

d. if it’s someone I love, I listen. I help. I surprise.

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Often we pray to things that don’t exist. Often we meditate with invisible goals in mind. Often we believe in science fiction.

But right this second you can feel love, and that’s the only religion.

18) Right now.

Every time I’ve had a problem in the future, it never came true.

Every time I’ve had a regret in the past, the regret kept me glued to the mud.

Right now you are dealt cards. No other hand before or after will help you right now.

So this is the only moment to focus on. Right now is best predictor of Right Life.

I said I had 20 habits. I can’t count that high. So I don’t know if this is true. I give myself permission to not be exact all the time.

Oh! That’s another habit: Give yourself permission to not always be right. Give yourself permission to not always be liked. Give yourself permission to not always be at peace. Give yourself permission to not be a success.

Then you will gradually have whatever you gave yourself permission “to not.”

Will these habits make you a millionaire? Yes. Definitely.

Will these habits make you a success? Yes.

But more important:

These habits will make you the sort of person who has these habits.

No longer will you be a single ray of light. You will be the sun.

Find my updated post here:

20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires [INFOGRAPHIC]

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  • Hey James, I’m also bad with follow-ups. Someone actually told me this.

    Great post, as always. I don’t mind if you say things a million times!

  • James, I wish I had a pithy comment right now, but all I want to say is thank you for your transparency when you write. I never really thought people were holding back in their blog writing until I read your blog. Your honesty is so refreshing. Thank you.

  • Duane

    I like this

  • Berry Schwartz

    James. You’re such a beast

  • Great post James. Loved it! I work hard and long but make sure to get my sleep. Thanks!

  • You’re insanely good.

  • Elizabeth Havlicek

    I love your mind! Thanks for this post, it hit on so many great points!

  • Hana

    You are more Spiritual and Wise than you would admit it James!

    But I’m sure your Claudia told you that ;)

    Thank you..

  • Why is follow up so difficult? I find it hard too…
    Thank you James.

    the list is 19 habits and I included the last one about permission to be not always be right. Yes, I counted. ;)

  • RCW

    Thank you James. :)

  • Captain Mike Rides

    Funny you say that the only religion is love. “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Love is one of the key attributes of God’s nature, and one of the primary ways he requires us to interact with others.

  • Hugh

    Well, I read you for the first time yesterday (because of Lew Rockwell) and I am old,
    read the “Why College Is No Longer the Best Option, Plus 40 Life Enhancing
    Alternatives” and was very depressive. Can’t back to my past. Now I am
    broke and the future perspectives are not good. Would be great if i had
    meet you earlier (sorry I wrote the same msg in other article, my mistake).

  • Annette Perry

    Enjoyed this and other posts. However, my 10 ideas kept being 10 things to do, which seems to fall short of the goal. Interesting, that.

  • Writing down ideas is the shit. The beauty of it = most ideas aren’t worth a hoot (in my experience), so it’s good to get the junk out of your system. After a few days or weeks of self-reflection, I can usually tell which ideas are worth implementing. And even if they aren’t, at least I learned something.

  • ProxybooksDotCom

    Some responses to your post:

    Avoid death – “People think metabolism changes as we get older. This is not really true.“ Oh, but it is true, James. Obviously, you haven’t read my book; specifically, Part V. It’s only three pages, James, but they’ll change your mind.

    Make mistakes – “Only mistakes made her improve. ONLY MISTAKES.” By the time I die, I should be whiz bang.

    Sleep – “Stay away from people who claim they only need 3-5 hours a sleep a night. They are evil.” I can only sleep six hours a night; after that, I’m wide awake. That’s why I don’t dare go to bed before 11 p.m.

    Say no – One of your best suggestions. This gets easier the older you get. I’m boffo at it.

    “I give myself permission to not be exact all the time.” Good. Keeps your credibility quotient high.

    This post was fun to read.

    Question: Why is it necessary to keep refreshing the page when I want to post? It takes forever to submit a comment.

  • Ted Scarborough

    No wonder you don’t seem to like parties. Everyone is trying to stand by you.

    Who cares that you get a few bad comments. I wonder what your ratio of good to bad is? Look at all these. The only thing I don’t like about you is you are too productive. I don’t know how you crank it all out. Makes me feel at least lazy by comparison.

  • Hi James

    Great post. Thanks for writing. Your post reminded me that we underestimate the value of doing a few essential things consistently, and when we do them, amazing things can happen in the long term.

    Your post also reminded me of some posts I wrote not too long ago. You can find them at

    – Goals and Systems
    – Being Proactive
    – Doing What Matters
    – Doing the Work

  • Wow, these are very good. As someone who’s always aspired to writing Great Books but has trouble getting started, overwhelmed by the task, I especially like the suggestion to write a few paragraphs a day. That feels exceedingly do-able. Thanks!

  • I really like this. I think reading can sometimes be used to replace the smartest guy in the room. It’s not like learning straight from the best, but it’s still learning. I really like the format you put this in. Easy to read and quick. Nice write up!

  • Manpreet

    Love it!!!

  • Aaron Schmidt
  • I’m definitely still working on the “not being in a rush” thing. I feel like my life is that Alabama song – I’m in a hurry and don’t know why. Great article!

  • Jameel Paul

    Absolutely love his content! Great information.

    2 things on the list contradict what I do everyday to run my business.

    For me, I need to be in a hurry, be in a rush, to beat competition.

    I also sleep 2-4 hours per night and work all day. Performance for me is 100% better from less sleep than more.

    • Ringo Starr Posters

      get some sleep!

  • Sgt Monica Adams


    Thank you for responding to my email. I apologize to encroach into your privacy in this manner, I got your contact from a directory on the Internet here in Afghanistan. I find it pleasurable to offer you my partnership in business and i pray at this time that, your e-mail contact address is still valid. I know you don’t know me but i meant no harm sending you this note, just that I don’t have anyone out there to talk to, as I lost my parents in a car Accident, when I was 11 year old, I was raise up by my adopted parents, but they died years ago, the relatives of my adopted Parents throw me out of the house saying that I was not their real daughter. I know you can handle this money for me on till I come over to meet with you, we can also build friendship with this transaction. I lived in Lake Jackson, Texas before joining the Force.

    You may be wondering why I choose to trust a delicate matter like this in the care of a stranger, but this is the best I can do in my present situation and I would have trusted this kind of project in the hands of my Husband who was my closest confidant, but I lost him to cancer on 22nd April, 2006 5 months after we got married, and my only brother has ruined his life with hard drugs, hence my decision to work with a neutral person if we can establish some trust between ourselves instead of confiding in my buddies back home so that this little secret can be preserved.

    Let me start by introducing my self. My names is Sgt.Sheena Adams , I am assigned to 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division[3]. I am seeking your assistance to evacuate the sum of $10,500,000.00 (Ten Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) as far as I can be assured that it will be safe in your care until I complete my service here.


    I and some other high ranking Officers made some deal on oil business over there in Afghanistan before my exit to Iraq. The deal worth $132 Million United States Dollars and after we have all share the money I later realize $10.5 Million US DOLLARS which is my personal share of the deal, due to my status as a US Sergeant, I can not be able to move this huge funds to my account in United States to avoid further interrogation or face any kind of probation by the U.S government and I packaged my own share in a briefcase and have sent it to the Red-Cross society, because there is no other way out to keep it with me here, so with the help of a German contact working with the UN here (his office enjoys some immunity) I was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely out of trouble spot. He does not know the real contents of the package, as I have deposited the consignment as a family treasure. Your acceptance to this would encourage me to send further information for us to proceed.

    Furthermore, If my offer is of no appeal to you, delete this message and forget I ever contacted you. Do not destroy my career because you do not approve of my proposal. I believe that such opportunities only come ones way once in a lifetime. I cannot let this chance pass me by. For once I find myself in total control of my destiny. This chance won’t pass me by. I ask that you do not destroy my chance, if you will not work with me let me know and let me move on with my life but do not destroy me. If you give me positive signals, I will give you the relevant details and initiate this process towards a conclusion. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to what the consequences, but I know within me that nothing ventured is nothing gained and that success and riches never come easy or on a platter of gold. Do not betray my confidence.

    If you wish to proceed with this, please get back to me.


    Sgt.Sheena Adams

  • I just watched that movie, that was intense!

    I also think Cooper read one of your books, my favorite line: I was blind, now I see. Epic!

  • Adam Abramowitz

    Great stuff. Good feel for the theme.

  • Charles Odhiamboh

    in one of you articles, you said people should “run” is it a contradistinction from “don’t be in a rush”. not too sure that it was your article but just in case. I find these articles meaningful though.

  • I really feel like I try to do most, if not all of the things on this list. And I think I do a pretty good job. For example I work a tech job that I love but I also write everyday (I’m 35k words into a novel at the moment that I’ve been working on for about four months). I still draw and paint a lot (my favorite thing from my childhood.) I plant so many seeds that I’d honestly have to make about 100 people mad to not have enough money to live off of.

    I’ve actually said NO to growing my business at the moment because its not what I want right now and I’m very patient.

    It has not made me a millionaire. But I’ve never hurt for money either. But I will say that it has made me happy. It’s a great list.

  • Matt Smith

    9) Stand next to the smartest person in the room. — I recently read this quote: “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.


    Love this and especially number 1 about choosing to be around people who are loving and kind to you. I also want to add try to find the smarting and most inspiring mentors and ask them to teach you. Pay it forward and mentor others as you learn and become more seasoned and successful. The last is use conflict and defeats as warrior training and embrace it; this is the Viking way ! Cheray Unman

  • ricmorales22

    This is amazing. Thank you

  • Sophie Belinn

    This is my favorite article, it inspires me every day! I recently planted a seed of my own by starting a blog, and one of my very first posts is about how much I love this article:

  • James you have brightened my day. *Russ skips off down the road to success singing “Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
    And I say it’s all right
    Little darling…”

  • I love the planting seeds habit.

    I do this a lot and find it to be a skill that others should be using in all aspects of work and life. Ideas take time to sink in. When you need a group of people to come together around a complex or counter-intuitive idea, the only way I have found to be useful is in planting “idea” seeds and waiting for others to then take ownership and add their own water to it over time.

    It can take time to see the fruits from these “idea” seeds, but very gratifying when you start to see them grow.

    You planted a seed in me today with this one, so i’m going to write a post about it on my blog.


  • Kegen

    Thank You very much for sharing

  • James Mathison

    I like your comment about money being like nuclear fallout…100% after all the actual “stuff”.

    That might be why introducing a money element to a friendship can put a strain on it. A friendship is a dynamic, never-finished kind of value exchange. Money is a full-stop at the end of a defined exchange of value. It feels wrong to be mad about money with a friend, and it feels less urgent to pay a friend, largely because with a friend the value-exchanging never has a full-stop ending. It doesn’t like the finality of paying for a service…in effect saying, “There, it’s resolved now, this thing we had.”

  • Alexander Kryklia

    You’re fantastics man, thank you, please go head!)

  • Eric

    I find the hardest part to be trusting the process. To NOT focus on the money, and allow it to be a “by-product”. Maybe that’s just my limiting beliefs surfacing.