This Basic Trait Sets Billionaires Apart From The Rest Of Us

Joe mansueto morningstar 2Michael L Abramson / Getty ImagesJoe Mansueto, the founder and CEO of Morningstar, Inc.

The following is an excerpt from “The Self-Made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value” by John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen.

Understanding the relationship between time and creativity gave us insight into a tendency that we observed firsthand in the billionaires we met.

That habit could be best described as being present.

It was one of the first things we noticed about Joe Mansueto, for example.

When we walked into Morningstar’s office on the day of our meeting, he was sitting at a table in a conference room with his hands crossed over each other, waiting for us. “Yes,” he said, “I am ready for you.”

We expected that our time with him would be interrupted by other obligations, questions, or commitments, but that wasn’t the case, neither with him, nor with Glen Taylor, Chip Wilson, Jeff Lurie, Steve Case, T. Boone Pickens, or the Spanos children.

When we were with Mansueto, it seemed as if our interview was the only commitment he had. His phone didn’t ring. No one entered the room in the middle of the conversation to give him a message. He was completely present.

This trait is almost universal among the billionaires we interviewed. They were focused, attentive, and entirely present as we spoke. Steve Case even thanked us for taking the time to talk with him about the research we were doing and the ideas we wanted to explore.

We call attention to this trait because it is so different from our daily interactions with the executives we work with — our colleagues, our clients, even ourselves. We all seem to be doing three things at once in addition to having a conversation with someone.

Not so with the billionaires. They appear far less busy than most executives, and we suspect that isn’t an accident of seniority. They intentionally guard their time, doing away with extras, distractions, and nonessential activities so that they are able to support their most vital work.

By guarding their time preciously billionaires are able to constantly cultivate and grow their innate curiosity. It gives them the time to read or converse widely on the subjects that let them make remote connections.

We cannot say that such strict time management causes success, but the evidence is strong in support of the idea that disciplined — even ritualistic — practices open up the mental space to observe long-term trends and develop a compelling and real vision around them.

Reprinted from “The Self-Made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value” by John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen with permission of Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 2015.

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