These 3 lessons can help you build real wealth, writes The Motley Fool

Bill Gates did it. Warren Buffett was phenomenal at it. George Soros, Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman (ASX: HVN) and Graham Turner of Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) have done it too.

All these famous people are celebrated business leaders. All had pioneering visions for their industries. And all of them are filthy rich.

Sure, they were also brilliant and passionate about their businesses, but that doesn’t mean the average Joe and Jane can’t learn a thing or two about how these corporate titans built unrivalled fortunes.

Not all the wisdom within these success stories applies in our daily lives. But there are three important lessons we can start with today, in hopes of following them toward our own satisfying fortunes.

1. Start young

With few exceptions, the world’s wealthiest people got a very early start in their careers. Warren Buffett was buying shares at age 11 and Bill Gates founded Microsoft at age 20. It’s rare to find rich people who started late in life.

When paving your own path to riches, remember that the difference in returns between younger and older savers is mind-boggling.

Suppose two people start saving $3,000 a year for retirement — one at age 20, the other at 40. Earning a hypothetical 8% annually, the 20-year-old will have amassed a more than comfortable $2 million by age 70. The one who started at 40, alas, will have less than $400,000.

2. Define your goals

The world’s wealthiest people knew exactly what they wanted. Gates started Microsoft with the goal of putting a personal computer on every desk and in every home. Buffett, meanwhile, told his first investors his exact aim: to beat the Dow by 10% per year.

Even if your goals are out of this world, defining them right from the start will give you a sturdy launch pad. If your goal is to become a millionaire, say it, write it down, and think about it every day. Your chances for achieving that goal will go through the roof.

3. Never stop believing in what you’re doing

US billionaire Andrew Carnegie, whose steel company became part of what’s now US Steel, once gave a young lawyer named Napoleon Hill a pressing task: to find out what sets successful people apart from the masses. Hill laid out his conclusion in the classic book, Think and Grow Rich.

While he purposely didn’t spell out the exact answers — he wanted to spur greater thought and concentration from his readers — one theme does stand out. No matter what, successful people almost never give up.

What can we learn from this? Well, even some of the better Australian companies, such as CSL (ASX: CSL), Wesfarmers (ASX: WES), Metcash (ASX: MTS), Platinum Asset Management (ASX: PTM), JB Hi-Fi (ASX: JBH), TPG Telecom (ASX: TPM), Wotif.com (ASX: WTF), Charter Hall (ASX: CHC), Reject Shop (ASX: TRS), Tox Free Solutions (ASX: TOX) and Redflex Holdings (ASX: RDF) have seen their shares fall over the past 12 months.

But giving up and dumping their shares now, even though you still believe in the future of the company, won’t get you very far.

Bill Gates, here I come

Following these three steps may not land you in the BRW Rich List, but a few pointers from some of the world’s most successful individuals can help you start off on the right foot.

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Employees and contractors of The Motley Fool may have an interest in the shares mentioned above. These interests can change at any time. The Motley Fool has a clear and concise disclosure policy.

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