The Three Skills You Need to Be Successful (and How to Learn Them)

There are many different opinions out there on what it takes to become financially successful.

Some will say it’s due to luck, inheritance, hard work, cheating, risk-taking, genius, and so on.

According to Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires, success is based upon three essential skills: marketing, sales, and leadership.

Surprisingly, these are not skills that are emphasized in traditional schooling – in fact they’re hardly even touched upon beyond a handful of basic vocabulary words.

Rather, traditional schooling teaches us to fit into the existing system of obeying the rules, getting good grades, going to a good college, finding a steady job, and counting pennies until retirement.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with following this route if you enjoy it and if your degree can actually pay off your student loans/support your lifestyle.

And an advanced education is obviously needed for doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other professions with high liability, but even in these industries, becoming a top producer requires learning essential business skills.

For people who want to grow a business, be self-employed, or be an entrepreneur, then pursuing (another) Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree is not necessarily the optimal route.

After all, how many top entrepreneurs – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Gary Vaynerchuk, Larry Ellison, and other household names – attribute their success to getting a Bachelor’s in Entrepreneurship or even an MBA for that matter?

Answer: zero.

In order to venture into the uncertain realm outside of the traditional 9-5 job, we’ll have to learn those three crucial success skills: marketing, sales, and leadership.

We can learn them through reading, studying others, and most importantly, through experience.

Most people don’t see that they have options beyond what society tells them to do. That’s the biggest problem. They honestly believe that compliance is the shortcut to success.

— Seth Godin

Get your financial footing, then start experimenting.

Ellsberg suggests that we first find and keep a job to gain our financial footing.

Initially, we may have to do something we don’t necessarily want to do in order to cover basic expenses, pay off credit card debt (!), and get some income flowing our way.

This allows us to use our free time to start experimenting with small projects designed around our skills and what we want to do.

We should be sure to design our experiments so that a single failure doesn’t mean total annihilation. In other words, we shouldn’t bet our entire life on a single dream. Instead, we should make small bets repeatedly and persistently (see: the Secret to Not Losing).

Lastly, we should be prepared to fail numerous times but know that each failure brings with it a valuable lesson.

People who have been successful are still as likely to get it wrong as right going forward. They just try more things.

— Mike Faith, owner of

Learn from others who have done what you want to do.

We should also find mentors to expedite our learning process.

It’s not likely that we’ll secure a mentorship with a billionaire – Mark Cuban, Warren Buffett, or Sergey Brin for example, but we can find someone 5-10 years ahead of us and learn from them.

These people aren’t always easy to reach as they’re likely in high demand. The most effective way to gain their attention is usually to help their cause – to contribute to their business and help their vision come to fruition.

A tip that Ellsberg offers is that if we have nothing much to give to them as compensation, then we can give our enthusiasm, gratitude, and willingness to implement their advice. Tell a story of how they inspired us and made a difference in our life and how we’re sharing their advice with others now. We can at least give them a sense of importance and legacy.

One connection with a powerful teacher can change your life forever. Is that worth it?

— Michael Ellsberg

Focus on building your self, not your bank account.

Almost all idols of the business world will say that money was never their primary objective (unless you’re Kevin O’Leary).

Mark Cuban says he never expected to be a billionaire. He didn’t spend 30 minutes twice a day staring at a picture of money on a vision board or emphatically yelling “I believe I am a billionaire!” at his bathroom mirror.

Instead, he found ways to continuously build his skills, feed his mind positive and motivating material, and learn from people who were already successful.

We can start to forge our own paths by reading, going to seminars, joining clubs or coaching programs, conducting lots of small experiments, and by learning the three success skills:

We can recruit influential mentors and partners onto our team by first giving to them and helping them reach their goals without expecting (though we may hope for) anything in return. If we’re of service to others, they may be of service to us as well.

Lastly, you can accelerate your growth, give your life meaning, and find true and lasting happiness simply by following this blog.

What you need to do, young man, is learn fundamental business skills. Because once you do, you can apply those to any industry. But until you learn how to make a business work, it doesn’t matter what industry you go into, you’re still going to fail at it.

— Joe Polish, host of #1 marketing podcast on iTunes (

One comment

  1. When you are of service to others you will attract abundant opportunities to advance and expand your entrepreneurial endeavors.


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