Torah musings: Ten Habits of Self-Made Millionaires: Torah in Disguise


Ten Habits of Self-Made Millionaires: Torah in Disguise

Sarah Pachter

Author Thomas C. Corley spent five years studying the habits of 177 self-made millionaires. Coining them “rich habits,” he subsequently described practices he believes will determine how successful a person will become. Corley argues that by seeing a person’s habits, one can predict with great accuracy his or her likelihood of financial success.

Based on his studies, Corley claims that habits can dictate not only one’s level of wealth, but one’s levels of happiness, satisfaction in relationships, and overall health. The good news is that habits can be changed and formed at any age in life. As I began reading through the habits, I could not help but see them in the millionaires that I personally know. And not only this, but on a deeper level, I realized that every single habit was a suggestion or halachic obligation described in Torah-based literature! It turns out the Torah is a blueprint for how to live our best, most successful lives.

Here are ten of the “rich habits” – habits which correlate with our Torah – that we can start implementing today:

  1. Millionaires wake up early: 50% of the millionaires in Corley’s study woke up three hours before their workday began. This enabled them to regain control over the unexpected during work hours. For example, the sick child who needed to come home, the fire they had to put out at work, or the project deadline that went awry. Rather than succumbing to a lack of control, they began work earlier in order to tackle the top three things they wanted to make sure to achieve that day. One millionaire that I interviewed personally said he was in his office at 7:00 am when the stock market opened on the East Coast at 10:00 am, while his colleagues would rush in a few minutes after ten, and always with an excuse. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch begins that every morning we should awaken as a lion with energy to start the day: “Mitgaver ke ari.” We wake up with gratitude, saying “Modeh Ani.” Most of us, when we wake, don’t think about our days as being an adventure, but if we do, instead of hitting the snooze button, we might just awaken ready to go out and tackle the day.
  2. Millionaires read consistently: The rich look to educate rather than to entertain themselves. They read at least 30 minutes a day. The books they read are meant to offer self-improvement in any area, rather than amuse themselves. This is a tenet of Judaism – we are the people of the book. The Torah is the manual to improving ourselves and our lives. The Torah demands that we set aside time each day to study its contents and to use it to improve ourselves. This process is called kovea itim. Science used to think that the brain stopped growing at age 25, but we now know this isn’t true. The brain is flexible, malleable, and new pathways can be created at any age. The more we read for knowledge, the more new pathways are created. This enables us to think more creatively.
  3. Millionaires are positive: Having a positive outlook on life is key to becoming rich, according to Corley. Thinking positively has the power to draw abundance towards oneself. Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill is adamant about this concept. When we think about our goals and dreams in a positive light, we achieve them at a much higher rate. This includes making sure that we surround ourselves with people who exude positive energy. If we track our thoughts, we might be surprised at how many negative ideas cross our minds and dictate how we feel. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught, “Mitzvah gedolah lehiyot b’simchah tamid – It is a big commandment to be happy.” When cold-calling prospective clients, the millionaire that I interviewed said he would  always think about something that made him happy before picking up the phone, so that the person on the other end of the line could feel his smile and in return, have an enjoyable interaction. This small act of thinking positively, he said, always helped him seal the deal.
  4. Millionaires don’t make money in order to spend money: The rich don’t have the goal of making money so that they can purchase more things. They have goals of amassing certain amounts for the sake of making money to save. The self-made millionaires generally even lived below their means. “Aizeh hu ashir? Hasameach bechelko,” it says in Pirkei Avot. “Who is rich? The one who is happy with their lot.” Rather than looking at those who have more than us, we need to look at those who have less. When we think about other countries, especially where some people don’t even have access to clean water, it gives us a sense of perspective as to just how much we truly have.
  5. Millionaires dedicate 15-30 minutes of thinking and or meditating a day: Prayer, anyone? See in your mind’s eye what it is you want to happen. Visualize that speech you want to make, or a prospective conversation to close the deal. Imagine the amount you want in your savings account, or the feeling of pride in sending your child off to college.
  6. Millionaires exercise: Almost 80 % of the rich exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Apparently, exercise is not only great for one’s body, but it actually can make a person smarter. Exercising grows brain cells and produces glucose. Glucose is brain fuel.  The more fuel you give to your brain, the smarter you become. Although the Torah does not prescribe any rules regarding exercise specifically, it does view taking care of one’s body as a priority. Even before one can begin to consider spiritual pursuits, the physical body must be cared for. This includes proper nutrition, rest, and exercise, of course. Caring for one’s body is considered a mitzvah of utmost importance.
  7. Millionaires practice good etiquette: Can you say, “good middos?” Although middos is different than etiquette, the two often overlap. It is important throughout life to exude good manners, as our professional and personal relationships often dictate the kind of reputation we develop throughout our lives and careers.
  8. Millionaires seek feedback to improve: “Aseh lecha rav – make a mentor for yourself.” Humility is a quality seen in many self-made millionaires. Although confidence is key, humility provides the space and willingness to improve oneself even more, without being afraid, or having too much pride to do so. It is the humble individual who succeeds, not only personally, but also professionally.
  9. Millionaires help others succeed, and are generous: Not only do millionaires seek out mentors to help them improve and grow in areas where they could be better, but almost every millionaire I know has taken an interest in helping a “student” or “mentee” to become financially independent and successful. They are grateful for their own guiding angels, and decide to pay it forward. Not only do they give of their time to help others succeed, they also give generously of their wealth. Tzedakah is a mitzvah in the Torah, not just a nice deed. The highest form of charity in Judaism is helping another become self-sufficient in his livelihood.
  10. Millionaires don’t follow the herd: One of the most famous quotes in Pirkei Avot says, “In a place where there is no man of substance, strive to be the man.” In a place that is lacking leaders, take responsibility for what needs to be done.

Not everyone in this world will become a millionaire, and not everyone believes that being a millionaire is definitive of success. But I believe that there is truth to finding great habits that work to build success – in whatever arena “success” means for you.