How Millionaires Succeed: Part 1

Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing what the millionaires I interviewed did to create success. These millionaires are not necessarily gifted with extraordinary qualities, nor was there a concerted effort involved to acquire or develop those qualities. It is only in looking back on their lives that it becomes clear what worked to get them where they are. I hope you enjoy learning from their experiences.

Note. The bolded text is my questions and their answers follow in regular text.

Millionaire 1 Lee Carlson

What has made you successful over the years?

Being a landowner and a farmer who knew all of the other farmers here. Being acquainted with land, zoning, taxes, and the owners. I thought I had an upper hand. It turned out very well.

Then I decided I didn’t want to list farms, I didn’t want to sell for other people. I started doing the opposite; I bought land, invested in land. That’s where we’re at now. We buy land and represent ourselves.

How long did it take before you really felt like you were successful?

It didn’t take long because I was comparing it with wheat farming and dairying. It felt successful relatively quickly.

In farming there’d be years I wouldn’t make anything. One of the early sales in real estate I made $7,000 and I thought, “Wow, that’s wonderful. How could I not like this?”

Millionaire 2 Jeffrey Luftig

Your foundation to be able to experience that success in business was your education and your 12 years in higher education?

Yes, mostly the education.

The Ph.D.?

All of it.

When I was going through my undergraduate degree in Buffalo, in order to get a degree in industrial education there were eight subject areas: woods, metals, ceramics, textiles, electronics, graphic communications, power and transportation, and plastics.

I had to take a class in every one of those areas. A class was a class plus a lab. I met for each one of those subjects two hours a day, five days a week, and then I had to take advanced in five of them.

I never walked into a factory where I didn’t know about the equipment that they were using; that served me extremely well. The research that I was doing, and teaching engineers to do, in applied statistics and advanced research came right out of my Ph.D. work.

Understanding the equipment, the materials, and the technology from my undergraduate degree, combined with the statistics and applied research that I got when I trained as an applied researcher in my Ph.D., plus the education expertise that I picked up in developing teaching materials from my master’s degree all came together in a very serendipitous way. I could not have planned it. But that’s the way it came out.

However, a lot of people probably have that kind of background so the question is in the application of it. I executed the opportunities that came along that allowed me to leverage those three things. Edison once said that in life everyone is presented with the same number of opportunities; most people don’t take advantage of them because opportunity usually shows up in overalls looking like work.

Millionaire 3 Matt Given

Did you ever say, “Making a lot of money is my goal” or “Before I die I want to make X amount of money”?

No. I never had a number on the wall that said if I get there I’ve made it or anything like that.

It was just more doing stuff that I found interesting and following the next step in what I felt was my business maturity process. “OK, I started a little goofy company in Steamboat, now maybe the next thing is I need to move to a big city and do it there,” or “I’ve been doing my own thing, maybe I need to work with these other guys now and learn some stuff from them that would be a bigger hit.”

Then it was, “OK, I helped grow this national company and helped start a payroll division, let’s see if I can do that on my own, on a smaller scale.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been one to follow the axiom of put your goal on the wall and look at it every day and you’ll achieve it. I never said, “I want to make this much money,” or “I want to do this” or “I want to do that.”

I think it’s more about looking for the next challenge in the maturity road, I guess.

How do people, before they get to that point of being financially set, do things that they really enjoy and create financial success doing it?

I have no idea.

Part of the irony is that you only get perspective when you can look back and can say, “Maybe that’s why that worked.”

Millionaire 4 Jeffrey Hill


What’s the difference between you and others like you who have plenty of money, who have accumulated a lot of worldly wealth, and those that just struggle?

I can speak to it in the entrepreneurial context. I think there are certain “what counts” factors. Motivation and drive are absolutely fundamental. And knowing what you don’t know and seeking out help from people to fill in your voids.

I also think vision is critical. I don’t mean vision in a big lofty context. I’m talking about vision as it relates to your ability to see how you can fit into something.

Would you say that passion equals success?

No. I think passion is important though.

The most important thing to success is you’ve got to have a good idea, or you’ve got to work for a company that has a good idea. Then you have to be able to execute in that environment.

If it’s your business, you’ve got to figure out an executional plan for your business. If it’s somebody else’s business, you’ve got to figure out how to execute in that space.

So having a good idea and being able to execute are the first two things.

If you’ve got passion on top of that and good people skills, then you have a lot of the basics.

Did you know you were going to be successful?


I believed I was going to be successful because I’m the eternal optimist. If you don’t believe it’s not going to happen, so you better believe. The other thing is if you don’t believe, then no one else will. In all my start up ideas, I believe and I try to get a contagious belief instilled into others.

In my next post I'll share more from other millionaires. To learn more in the meantime, check out my previous post on How Do You Define Success: A Millionaire's Perspective.

How millionaires succeed