You're reading


Ever dreamed of becoming a millionaire, or better, a billionaire? Those who have succeeded have done so through a combination of intelligence, resources and hard work.

But plenty of ordinary people have these qualities and that still doesn’t guarantee them the jackpot. What is it in their DNA, then, that makes them stand out from the rest of us, and how do billionaires approach the world compared with millionaires?

We turned to question-and-answer-site Quora to find out what kind of mentality differentiates billionaires from millionaires, and from the rest of us. Here’s what respondents gleaned.

There’s smart and smarter

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Alex Moore knows a few billionaires, many millionaires and even more ordinary folks. He sees a difference.

“Millionaires tend to be really good at understanding systems of value creation (aka successful start-ups) and placing themselves into those systems effectively,” he wrote. “They are smart enough to understand the culture being put into place and they take on the values of that culture and expand those values. They go out and recruit their smart friends and add to the cult. Over-laced on this mind set is the idea that the world is a semi-set place. It's changing, but they view basically their role as something where they can take part in it all.”

By comparison, billionaires view the world as “tangibly fungible,” he continued.

Often founders of companies, these billionaires, “see the world and want to move the puzzle pieces entirely around,” he wrote. “They look for the faults in the ecosystem and identify massive holes and what could be added to take (advantage of) that value.”

Billionaires are big-minded, according to Steven Tu, who takes it one step further. “Billionaires understand the power of leverage, the power of teamwork,” Tu wrote. “Millionaires and ordinary people don't know the power of leverage or they don’t know how to assemble and lead a team.”

The odd ball out

With this brainpower, however, comes awkwardness. Billionaires are outcasts from society, according to Carlos Torres. “Billionaires would seem to have more in common with a homeless man on the street than a millionaire in the sense that they are completely unconventional and independent thinkers,” he wrote, adding that billionaires main focus is pursuing a passion. “They really don't care about the money.”

That social awkwardness trickles into their personal lives. “The billionaires I know don't look forward to the weekend,” wrote Moore. “They don't drink. They work from 05:00 to midnight everyday including weekends. They don't socialise with friends, they mix friends and work.”

Comparatively, noted Torres, “a millionaire might have more sense about herself or himself and scale back to preserve wealth and ‘quit while they are ahead’.”

A three-legged stool

Wendy Chen believes three main focuses dictate who becomes a billionaire and who stays three zeros behind. “The billionaires and ultra-high net worth [individuals] I know have mastered all three, particularly the third,” she wrote, whereas “the young millionaires I know seem to spend a lot of time working on 1 and 2.”

She defines these focuses as:

1. Inner/self: a keen sense of where you want to go, and self-discipline to get there

2. Others: empathy and the ability to inspire others

3. Outer: awareness of where the greater world is going, and what can be done to shape it

That third focus is key, according to Chen, who wrote that billionaires adapt the world to their vision: “They seem fearless. Perfectly willing to move mountains, change cultures, lobby regulation to achieve their vision.”

To share your thoughts with BBC Capital, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.

Around the bbc