I narrated a few stories of self-made millionaires recently. Just to clear the air, there was and there still is a global outcry on Kylie Jenner being labelled the youngest self-made billionaire at 21. It sparked a worldwide discussion on what being self-made means. Many, including myself, maintain that being self-made denotes coming from a place of poverty with limited or no support to become rich. One of the most short & concise definitions that I’ve come across is, becoming rich un-aided (no freebies). The journeys of self-made millionaires are characterized by a lot of life lessons that we can learn from. Stories can differ but there are recurrent learning points that anyone can emulate from their stories.

Every Good Thing Takes Time

‘All overnight success takes about 10 years’ as Jeff Bezos said. In the vast majority of cases, it took years for most of them to become millionaires. This sets into perspective the need for one to be very patient. Patience is an attribute that is so hard to nurture particularly in light of the hurdles one must deal with as time unfolds. For instance, Meg Whitman (CEO of eBay) hit the million-dollar mark at the age of 40. So never think it will always take a short time to make it; some make it early on but most have to navigate through time for years before making it. Be patient and never lose heart. The secret behind things taking time is that it’s meant to mould one’s character & personality to properly handle success once it makes its entrance.

Obstacles Are Inevitable

Self-made millionaires endure some of the most harrowing circumstances in life. Most of them were rejected from academic institutions, were turned down when they looked for employment, some even got their initial business proposals downplayed. Poverty is mostly the biggest hurdle most self-made millionaires have to deal with. For instance, J.K. Rowling battled abuse, depression, rejection and poverty well into her 30s. Despite all this, they still go on to succeed and create wealth – they remain unfazed! If we take it from an enlightened perspective, obstacles are pedestals meant to propel you forward. Don’t cower under their imposing pressure, overcome them – make the best out of the seemingly bad.

Think Long-Term

If you are looking to become a millionaire you can’t expect get-rich-quick microwave approaches. Becoming rich generally takes time because you must traverse a whole series of successive processes. So if it’s going to take time, it means what you do from hence to yonder is important – ultimately making it or not lies herein. Thus, you must look beyond, as far as your eyes can see, use that to inform your plan, put in on paper and voraciously see it through every day. Simply put, you must have a vision (see the end from the beginning). The vision informs the plan (strategy), the plan influences conduct & decisions, which subsequently aid monitoring and evaluation. All this enhances one’s focus and objectivity and inspires them to be tenacious knowing they are en-route to an idyllic destination.

Have Mental Convictions

In the Holy Bible Proverbs 23 verse 7 says, ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he’. This is a fundamental aspect in conditioning oneself to become successful. If your mind can’t perceive it, believe it and be confident it’ll happen then whatever you do won’t make a difference. I’ll give an example of Mark Erwin (head of Erwin Capital Inc.). At the age of 18, he purposed in his mind that he was going to become a millionaire by age 40. This he settled in his mind with total disregard for the fact that he wasn’t educated, had a criminal record & had no head-start or any aid whatsoever. He went on to hit the million-dollar mark 2 years earlier than his initial target of 40. As the late Henry Ford once put it, ‘whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right’.

Financial & Time Management

It is said that on average, at least 90% of self-made millionaires channelled towards savings anything from 20% upwards of their current incomes before they got wealthy. So, we see here that saving is an integral part of the journey to becoming a millionaire. The follow-up principle to savings is subsequently making investments from them. Time is a finite resource of which we all have 24 hours in a day. What sets people apart is how one uses and manages their time – that sifts people into different groupings. Self-made millionaires generally adhered to scheduled tasks, one at a time, completing them, doing assessments afterwards & made that a daily affair.


It’s postulated that at least half of all self-made millionaires engage in some form of risk-taking in one way or another. Take for instance, Don Wong Chang who invested all of his savings (US$11 000) that he had accumulated in over 3 years into starting his clothing business – that was enormous risk-taking. A close look at self-made millionaires will unearth a common risk that they usually take i.e. relocating or migrating to countries other than their own and establishing businesses there. Munyaradzi Gwatidzo made significant strides in establishing himself when he went to do his initial phone repair business in Zambia. It is even reported that self-made millionaires who employ a lot of risk-taking tend to be earn more than those who rarely do. Remember it’s not just about taking careless risks – it’s about taking calculated risks.

Being rich or becoming a millionaire or billionaire isn’t the reserve for a certain exclusive set of people. Anyone can become that despite the background, the circumstances or the odds. There are universal principles which when adhered to can turn anyone into a wealthy person. Stories of self-made people prove that you are the person responsible for your own success or failure. Blaming, complaining & scapegoating are cheap excuses – transcend that level.