6 Surprising Pieces of Advice from the World’s Most Elusive Billionaires

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Reid’s interview pool includes well-known names like Richard Branson (Virgin) and John Paul Dejoria (Patron/Paul Mitchell). But he says that the best insights came from the individuals who aren’t constantly in the spotlight, and that the most successful people are actually wildly accessible. That’s because, while you’re at the middle stage of working your way up, your ego can creep in and convince you you’re more important than you are. But when you’re either at the very bottom or at the very top, you’re more open-minded, easy-going and fired up.

So lesson number one is, it’s OK to reach out to the big dogs. Doing that isn’t cutting in line. It’s just taking a chance on forming a real relationship that, by the way, the big dogs are just as excited about as you. Everybody else has the right to reach out like you do, too.

But Reid also identified two additional myths you need to abolish from your mind.

1. Being first to market is the key to success.

“Perhaps years back that was a reality. [Yet] in today’s economy, it’s important to allow others ‘to pay the dummy tax’, as David Meltzer says. Before Facebook, [for example], there was Myspace and Friendster. Before Netflix was Blockbuster and Hollywood Videos. The key is to create a better mousetrap. Learn from what others did first, and avoid the landmine they may have walked through.”

2. You should seek passion over opportunity.

This, Reid says, is the biggest whopper told in all time.

“Passion is emotion-based, [whereas] opportunity is simply that. Wayne [Henuset] pointed out that the Shieks in the desert and the Getty family [have] no passion for crude oil, any more than waste management has a passion for dirty diapers and rotten cheese. The aggregate dealers have no passion for rocks and sand, yet built every road and bridge. These same types of people, in turn, used their massive wealth to finance their passion and created the universities, the ballet, arts and sports teams.”

Put another way, if you take good opportunities, you’ll eventually be free to pursue whatever your heart presses on you. And you’ll probably enrich the lives of others in the process, too.

And conversely, Reid summarizes the two biggest pieces of advice young leaders actually should follow.

1. Direct your accountant and CPA instead of giving them control, because they work for you.

“Most people hand over their pay stubs and expenses and wait for their CPA to return the news on where they stand. Billionaires sit down with their team and say, ‘Here’s what I would like to do and see happen. How do we accomplish [those goals] completely legally and with the lowest exposure possible?’ Then they get out of the way. Without this simple dialogue, there would be no way of knowing what the desired outcome was. Now the team is able to go research, dig down and find solutions for the directive.”

2. Do good, but actively turn the good you’d do anyway into a source of revenue.

“Let’s say we meet someone who wants to sell their plane. Then, we run into someone who wants to buy a plane. Out of the goodness of our hearts, generally, we simply introduce them. Billionaires, however, think [differently] and still do the same exact action. They are open conversationalists and say to the person looking to sell, ‘Hey, if I run into someone wanting a plane and close the deal, may I get a 20 percent finder’s fee?’ The seller will instantly agree, as they really want to upgrade their ride. Then, they go to the person wishing to buy their first aircraft and say to them, ‘If I come across a plane you can get into at a fair price, will you give me and the family airline rides to Hawaii once a year?’ Again, [the buyer] will jump at this chance. Then the billionaire makes the introduction. Same action, different outcome.”

At the end of all Reid’s interviews, his most personal lesson from world’s rich is not to be so picky about how things look or are presented to us–we need to be open-minded and see past the initial packaging. As an example, if you pray for $100 and then turn away a truck full of cans worth $100 that shows up at your door, you’ve missed your chance because of your own egotistic bias.

“Sometimes [you] just need to understand [that], when there is a pile of horse poop at your feet, rest assured there is a pony running around you.”

So keep your eyes wide. Learn to think beyond your learned constraints. The truck in your driveway might not be what you expected, but it might be exactly what you need.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.