I recently realized that “What would you do if you won the lottery?” is the grown-up, entrepreneur version of the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. The realization came to me as I was interviewing Spanx founder and the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire Sara Blakely on stage. Because she had more money than she could possibly spend and she still gets up and goes to work at Spanx every day, inventing things like her recently launched Arm Tights.
Most of us would list things in response to the question: cars, bigger homes. Maybe some experiences like luxury travel. And buying all these things for friends and family. But if your list stops there, you might wind up with some serious regret.
At least that’s what multi-billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates seems to think. In a recent Tweet storm aimed at college grads, he said, “When I left school, I knew little about the world’s worst inequities. Took me decades to learn. You know more than I did when I was your age. You can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.”
The more you give the more you have
When people think money, they usually think about themselves. They have bills to pay and mouths to feed. They want to make their loved ones feel happy and proud. So the number one question is, “What’s in it for me? What do I get from this?” This mindset is perfectly natural. After all, it’s hard to save the world on an empty stomach. Businesses don’t exactly run on pixie dust and unicorns.
But not a single billion dollar company started around the question “What’s in it for me?”. Because in order to pull in abundance on a massive scale, you need to ask yourself a better question.
No amount of advertising or marketing will help you scale a company that’s built around the wrong promise. So here’s a better question: How can I use what I know for the greatest common good?” It is the foundation of conscious capitalism. It’s a question that leads to the creation of quality products and services that make people’s lives better.
Fill the whitespace
On a recent episode of Shark Tank where she was a guest shark, Blakely shares, “When I look for entrepreneurs, I look for someone who fills the white space. Someone who solves a problem and comes up with a better solution and can explain to me why they’re the best option.” Her recipe for attracting both customers and investors is to answer these three questions: What’s the problem? Why this is the solution? Why you are the best option?
It’s a simple formula. Add Gates’s suggestion for incorporating the greatest common good and you’ve got a blueprint for a revolution. And if you think about it, all billion dollar businesses are based around starting a revolution – starting by rewriting what people believe is possible around a particular pain point.
Exponential growth starts with you
Setting out to create an exponential company is terrifying – as is setting out to change the world. You don’t need to be like Gandhi or Mother Teresa to make a difference. But in order to overcome your fear and inertia, you do have to grow both your vision and your tolerance for discomfort.
Which is why investing in yourself and your own growth in what Zig Ziglar calls the 7 buckets of your life – health, relationships, family, spirituallity, financial, business/career and mind – is crucial. And it can be as inexpensive as reading (and acting on) self help books, doing burpees on your living room floor and getting mentorship. And you can go from there, expanding your horizons with seminars, hiring a coach or taking a course.
If there’s anything we can learn from Bill Gates’ biggest regret, money alone doesn’t define your success. It cannot change you. It can only make you more of who you choose to be. The more of yourself you discover, the greater your capacity for service.