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“Bob Burg opens the floodgates to Fort Knox.”

~ Dottie Walters, Author, Speak & Grow Rich

The Common Denominator of Billionaires

August 27th, 2013 by Bob Burg

Amar BoseThere’s a popular saying that if you do what you love, the money will follow.

Well, yes…and no. It’s not quite that simple. Aside from doing what you love (your passion) you must also find a way to communicate sufficient value to the marketplace. Otherwise you’ll be passionately broke.

Still, while passion alone is not enough, it’s even more difficult to make a lot of money without that passion.

Yes, there are certainly those jobs where one can earn a high income without passion. However, a sense of emptiness will soon set in. It’s also difficult to keep up the pace necessary to bring in the money without having that driving passion.

In John David Mann’s and my book, The Go-Giver, the main mentor, Pindar, tells his new protege, Joe:

“All the great fortunes in the world have been created by men and women who had a greater passion for what they were giving — their product, service or idea — than for what they were getting.”

I was reminded of that while reading a recent issue of the magazine, The Week. They related the story of the recently deceased billionaire, Amar Bose. Yes, the founder of Bose Corporation. While still in high school — in order to help his family make ends meet — young Bose worked repairing radios.

According to the magazine’s account:

Amar Bose was finishing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 when he treated himself to a new hi-fi system at Radio Shack. But when he tried out his new purchase, he was appalled by the awful acoustics. The inability of modern speakers to replicate live sounds, he said, became “a problem that began to obsess me.” That obsession would eventually make him a household name, a billionaire, and a legend in the world of high-fidelity acoustics.

It wasn’t money, but an obsession (a passion) that drove him. But, wasn’t the money great? I’m sure it was. But, here’s what he was quoted as saying that was not only profound…but so typical of those who’ve amassed great fortunes:

“I never went into business to make money but so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

Whether serving the world, expressing your creativity, or fulfilling your sense of adventure, passion before profits typically equals more in profits.

Your thoughts?


If you live in the greater New York City area, I’ll be speaking on Go-Givers Really Do Sell More in Queens, NY. The following day will be in Bolton, MA presenting Endless Referrals: The Go-Giver Way.

In October, I’ll be in seven different cities so check out this link and, if I’m in your area, I hope you can attend.

36 Responses to “The Common Denominator of Billionaires”
  1. So true, Bob. We need to be about solving something much bigger than our empty wallets. When we actually CREATE value, we’ll gain value…

  2. The Shef said at 8:10 am on

    Passion for what you do turns will power into why power. It is the fuel that keeps you going when the novelty of your new pursuit wears off.

    Another common trait of billionaires is that they listen far more than they talk. Because they surround themselves with experts who are better at certain skills than they are, they realize that little is learned while talking!

  3. max said at 8:14 am on

    This post completes me.
    As a kid, my passion was teaching sports and it died soon enough when I realized there was no money in the school system for me. So I went into the business world after the money, until the lack of passion woke me up and took me to explore it. Now I found a message to bring to the world I’m passionate about, I see the money in it, and this combination drives me to get better in finding new ways to serve more people. I became a go giver.

  4. Mike Benton said at 8:17 am on

    Good Morning Bob,
    Love to read stories of successful people and what their thoughts are on why and how they became successful. There is a saying that I have used a million times ” Choose a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life “. I have found in the past that the ( PASSION ) is often tested or even abandon when your finances are strained while following your dream. It often leads us to make decision based off of needs and not wants. This can result in leaving our goals and dreams behind for the overwhelming need of survival.
    The Bose story reminds me of the SPANX story that I recently read and how the founder overcame amazing odds to follow her passion. Both stories inspire me to do more today than what I did yesterday. Thanks for the blog and look forward to seeing you in October. Mike

  5. Yes is that PASSION that drives on forward to continue to do what we LOVE and we also must find the business side and we if don’t have that skill sent finding someone else to help with that otherwise like You said You will be passionately broke.

  6. Doug Crowe said at 8:19 am on

    Great article. I often struggle with the desire for wealth (copy success) and my personal passion for doing something that hasn’t been done before (creative disruption). Most mentors tell us to “copy success” so we use blueprints, formulas, coaching and mentors who teach us what THEY did.

    Many entrepreneurs are passionate about their business, but few have a business model to scale it to 8, 9 or 10 figures, probably because they don’t have a mentor or “going public” system to do that.

    In addition to passion and vision, billionaires like Bose, Jobs, Gates and others had disruptive technology and a team to make it a household name.

    Disrupting an industry isn’t a tried and true business model, but it’s intoxicating.

  7. Jack R. Davis said at 8:41 am on

    This is definitely true. We all need marketing abilities. I have been passionately broke. Learning to market my skills now. The biggest challenge is keeping my passion. What does a person do when their passion is damaged, or God forbid, is lost? That’s a real challenge that I see few coaches answering.

  8. Linda Ryan said at 8:52 am on

    This has me excited~ I’m gonna be a billionaire!!! My “passion” sometimes gets me in a bit of trouble, as I feel I am more passionate about others’ goals than they are, at times. I have been accused of beating that dead horse, but when I feel strongly about what I or others can do, the horse still has a heartbeat. Great inspiration, Bob. Thank you!

  9. Bob Burg said at 9:48 am on

    Steve: Thank you. VERY well said!

    Max: I LOVE it. Way to go! Yes, there is practically always a way to turn your personal passion into value for others, with the result being financial profit and huge enjoyment in what you are doing. YES!

    Mike: Thank you. And, with the odds you overcame, your story is an amazing one {See Mike’s story here http://www.burg.com/2011/09/focus-only-on-what-you-can-influence/} that can inspire anyone who takes it to heart. I appreciate your wisdom and kind words!

    Carly: Thank you. Great point. Indeed, just goes to show it isn’t an “either/or” but an “and.”

    Linda: Thank you, Linda. Make sure that other horse does indeed have a heartbeat. 🙂

  10. Bob,

    You said that passion alone will not make one wealthy. That one also needs to communicate sufficient value into the market place. Perhaps you can write a piece, or direct us to resources, that tell us how to communicate sufficient value into the market place.

  11. Bob Burg said at 10:36 am on

    Randi: Thank you for your note, and welcome to our blog community. You might want to go through the archives in my blog, as a large number of articles either point to that specifically or provide many specific examples of how people are doing that. And, of course, there are many other books and teachings on this topic. The key for you is understanding how value is measured by those who are your prospects, customers and clients. Value is ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder. Once you understand *their* wants, needs and desires, you can then match that with the benefits of your service (providing there is indeed a match. If you have chosen your market correctly, then there often will be). As one of my mentors, the late Harry Browne used to say, “profit is a reward for satisfying the desire of someone else.” One quick hint: aside from the intrinsic value of one’s product or service, value is often communicated via excellence, consistency, attention, empathy and appreciation. My coauthor, John David Mann and I call these the Five Elements of Value. Best wishes for great success, Randi!

  12. Bob Burg said at 9:57 am on

    Shef, Doug and Jack: Sorry, I saw posts out of sequence.

    Shef: Thank you for joining the conversation. Great points!

    Doug: Terrific points and very thought-provoking. Thank you!

    Jack: Thank you for joining the discussion. Two big challenges you’ve identified are marketing and keeping the passion burning (this one, I’m assuming, due to setbacks but I don’t have enough information to know for sure). We happen to have several coaches already in this thread so please feel free to be more specific, if you’d like. I’m sure you’ll receive some very valuable responses. The first question I’d ask (for clarification) is, “why is your passion damaged or lost?” I don’t want to assume that I know the answer to it.

  13. Lori Sica said at 9:57 am on

    these are EXACTLY my thoughts. I love when folks say “you have such passion” and to use that passion to make a career or a life is the direction I always headed. Sounds like The Go Giver is the next stop on my journey. I look forward to reading and will be sure to share. Great share on Amar Bose. Thanks Bob

  14. Bob Burg said at 10:02 am on

    Lori: Thank you. What a kind comment! Please know how much I appreciate that. And, I hope you enjoy “The Go-Giver” and find it to be of value!

  15. Amy Wells said at 10:51 am on

    For me, “communicate sufficient value to the market place,” was key to my profit margin. Before I learned/believed what value I had to offer, I had a hard time receiving. Passion is a definite must, as is a business sense, of which I had none in the beginning. 🙂

  16. Amy Wells said at 10:52 am on

    I wasn’t very clear there, I meant I had passion and no business sense. 🙂

  17. Bob Burg said at 12:20 pm on

    Amy: And you do a GREAT job of communicating your exceptional value!! About the best I’ve ever seen!

  18. Doug Wagner said at 12:45 pm on

    I definitely know people who are passionately broke. Some are so because what they love does not have enough value for others in the way they deliver it and some are just passionate about spending like they are already billionaires.

    The key is balancing passion, value and impact or reach. And definitely knowing when the horse will never run. 🙂

  19. Joel Ungar said at 12:54 pm on

    Love that last quote from Mr. Bose. Have to remember it.

  20. Bob Burg said at 1:07 pm on

    Doug: All great points. I especially enjoyed what you said about how what they love does not have enough value for others *in the way they deliver it.* Absolutely. It must be delivered in such a way that the potential end user/beholder sees value in it. Great lessons all the way around. Thank you!

  21. Bob Burg said at 1:08 pm on

    Joel: I know, wasn’t that cool? Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  22. Bill Ellis said at 3:18 pm on

    Amar Bose sounds like an earlier Steve Jobs….and no doubt there have been earlier versions of Mr. Bose. Passion alone will likely never translate into huge financial rewards. I used to say that one’s ‘sweet spot’ was where their passions and competencies intersected…and that may be true. I have recently added a third component – relevance. By adding this consideration the ‘sweet spot’ becomes the ‘success spot’. Our greatest value comes from the combination of our competencies (skills) and our passions (drivers) result in something with relevance.

  23. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 3:32 pm on

    AWESOME aticle Bob! – And really AWESOME comments too – Lots to learn from 🙂

  24. Bob Burg said at 3:49 pm on

    Bill: Yes, indeed; Edison, Rockefeller, and many others. It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? Always something much bigger than just themselves, and improved the quality of life for the masses. And, yes, the three parts of your “success spot” are right on.

  25. Bob Burg said at 3:50 pm on

    Lene: Thank you. And, indeed, the comments add so much value to the original post. As Dondi Scumaci always tells me, we have the greatest commenters!! 🙂

  26. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 3:59 pm on

    VERY true Bob 🙂

  27. Jack R. Davis said at 8:34 pm on


    Thank you for your kind words. I will try to be short in my description of my struggle with keeping my passion.

    I worked in IT at a fortune 50 corporation for 10.5 years. I really enjoyed my job. I loved helping people and creating solutions. Some of those solutions were created with code. In 2009, I was forced out of that job. The economic downturn forced the company to lay some people off. Then eventually release them. I was one of those people. This happened less than a month after I turned 50.

    I was on course to finish my degree at a nearby university when all of this went down. I kept attending college online until I could no longer pay the bills on it. So my education is unfinished.

    In 2011, I got certified as a John Maxwell coach to train and coach others in leadership principles. I do have a wealth of knowledge behind me on this, I have been listening and implementing success, leadership, and personal improvement principles for over 20 years.

    The loss of the job hit me hard and I fell backwards so far that it was like starting over.

    So, to pay the bills now, I need an income. I have no unemployment, that ran out long ago. I just recently got passed over for a job that I’m certain I would be excellent at. Didn’t even get an interview!

    So I am now 54, with an unfinished degree… and it appears that no one wants to hire me.

    I need focus and passion. These are the things that will fuel me to get on my business and work it every day. That is the long and short of it.

    So yes, you are right. Setbacks. Pretty severe setbacks at that. (I haven’t told the whole story to keep it short in respect for the time of others.)

  28. Doug Wagner said at 8:45 pm on


    Sorry to hear that. 50 is definitely not too old.

    I would skim back up to Bill Ellis’s comment on the overlap of passion, talent and need. The right coach can help you through that process.

    If you are not feeling passion about anything than you might be suffering from depression or something like it and that is a whole different thing.

    Hope you can get the passion and focus back.

  29. Jack R. Davis said at 12:08 am on


    Thanks for your input. It’s definitely not depression. My friends will all attest to the fact that I am not depressed, but rather more upset at working so hard for a goal to have it pulled out from under me.

    I have moments of great passion, it just hasn’t leveled off to an everyday motivation yet. I am far more motivated today than I was 4 years ago. Here’s how things typically go, just for example’s sake:

    Day 1: Passionate and motivated. I get working on the business, get mired down in details. Get little to nothing done.
    Day 2: Still motivated. Going to get back to the business today. I don’t. I get distracted or busy with something.
    Day 3: May repeat day two, or I go into being upset about getting essentially nothing done the previous days. Then my emotions take over and I just don’t feel like doing anything because “nothing will get done anyway.”

    It’s a mind battle for focus and passion. At times, someone will say something that will remind me of a failure. That will cause a downward spiral. They had no idea what they said, they meant no harm, it’s just my own mind at work.

    Believe me, I have talked to my pastor and other ministers about this. I just want to be back to my normal self again. What has worked best for me is to have a success coach CD playing everyday. That has not become a solid habit for me.

    Anyway, I’ve taken too much of your time. I just wanted to help you understand this a bit better. One thing for sure, I am going to learn how to help others gain their passion back… or maybe even develop a new passion…

  30. Doug Wagner said at 1:24 am on

    Jack, thanks for sharing the details and hope you get it figured out.

    Just keep it moving in the right direction. Even small steps are better than none. Pick the step, turn off the distractions and work on it for a set piece of time (30-60 minutes). Don’t go over or under the allocated time. Then take a bit of time off task to reflect if you are bogging down in details, etc. and then do another work session on same or different step.


  31. Bob Burg said at 8:37 pm on

    Doug: Thank you for your excellent advice to Jack!!

  32. So true Bob! I have found that when I let my ego lead and put profits over passion (what will I get before what will I give), I have always regretted it. Thanx for the reminder!

  33. Bob Burg said at 9:37 am on

    Jennifer: Thank you. I’ve experienced the same whenever I’ve put profits over providing value. Goes to show that the priorities are so foundational. Thank you for sharing with us!

  34. Misty Young said at 10:47 pm on

    I’ve loved The Go-Giver since I first heard about it several years ago, it’s a go-to book on my desk and required reading for leaders in my companies.

    What I love about this story is how you’ve correlated obsession and passion! I hear so many folks say, “Well, I don’t know what my passion is!”

    Two thoughts come to mind: Set goals while you’re finding out and, think of the things you obsess over that might be of added value to others!

    This is a great way to find passion and be of service! Amar Bose was obviously not the only person in the world who sought better sound quality! What a great story, thank you Bob!

    Misty Young

  35. Bob Burg said at 6:34 am on

    Misty: Thank you for your kind comment about the book. I appreciate that greatly! And, thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights via your two-part suggestion. That’s awesome!
    {Note: Misty is co-owner of the hugely-popular, award-winning and multi-location, Squeeze In Restaurants (featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay) and author of the recently-released “From Rags to Restaurants” http://amzn.to/15aPCp6}

  36. […] internationally best selling book, The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann, is one of my all time favorite business books. “A Little Story About A […]

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