Remove all unconscious, negative, and scarcity-based programming. 

Downing says the middle class has been “programmed” with belief systems that weren’t designed to help us attain wealth and that, indeed, barely work at all anymore. But because everyone around us is buying into the formula, we assume it’s the “right” way. We all have an inner “sheep” that is afraid to go against the herd, that fears it will be punished if it goes against cultural norms. And that’s a shame, because while we’re staring at the hindquarters of the sheep in front of us, we’re ignoring a huge world filled with riches for the taking.

“Today and every day, consciously evaluate and reconsider what works for you as you strive toward a life of wealth and abundance,” instructs Downing. “First, think critically about risk and reward, and determine how to effectively balance the two. This involves looking closely at your emotions, your willingness to take action, and your desire to move forward when an opportunity to build wealth arises.

“Often, you’ll find that fear, not a rational reason, is holding you back,” he adds. “Through this process of evaluation, you’ll gradually reprogram your beliefs about the fear of investing, the availability of money, and the lack-mentality that is so common in our society. And as you begin to experience greater rewards, you’ll confirm the beliefs and actions that create wealth.”

Assume 100 percent responsibility for the results in your life. 

It’s easy to blame disappointments and failures on everything other than ourselves. For instance: “I could be a lot wealthier if the economy hadn’t tanked.” Or, “How was I supposed to know that there would be a storm and I’d have to clean out my savings to replace my roof?” While it’s true that you can’t always foresee or control what happens in your life, you can choose how you respond to those circumstances.

“I get it—life has a way of kicking in the door and derailing your plans,” admits Downing. “There are bills to pay, problems to solve, and circumstances that need attention. You need to deal with these issues, but you cannot allow them to stop you. Every day, you must make time to move toward the life of your dreams, no matter how small that step is. If you aren’t taking steps to change your reality, you forfeit the right to complain about it.”

Invest in a financial education program. 

For decades, American schools have taught (and are still teaching) students that they’ll need to give the best years of their lives to employers so that they can retire on 40 percent of their working salary. (That’s assuming they can get a good job at all in today’s economy, of course.) It stands to reason that if you want more out of life, you’ll need to seek some non-traditional education that will help you cultivate the skills that will enable you to generate multiple streams of income.

What those skills are specifically, of course, depends on the field you want to play on. Most likely they’ll have to do with acquiring credit, using debt wisely, seeking (and persuading) investors, and marketing your products or services to buyers. Downing’s main point is that you shouldn’t be afraid to pay for the expertise you need.

“Building wealth takes work, dedication, commitment, and an increased level of knowledge,” confirms Downing. “Unless you win the lottery, there is no such thing as getting rich quickly, without any effort, and without spending any money. This doesn’t mean getting your MBA. It does mean investing in a real-world education from others who have succeeded in doing what you want to do.”

Remain coachable. 

The annals of history are filled with the tragic downfalls of leaders who got “too big for their britches,” refused to consider the advice and expertise of others, and ran their organizations and empires into the ground. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are go-against-the-grain types. It’s easy for them to assume they know best and disregard good advice from those who’ve been there. Don’t fall into this trap. Not only should you carefully consider advice, you should actively seek it out.

“The greatest athletes in the world have coaches, and the president of the United States has advisors,” points out Downing. “Why would you or I be any different? Other people have done what you want to do and know things you probably haven’t even considered. If you seek those individuals out and actively learn from them, you’ll minimize mistakes while growing your business as effectively as possible.

“Keep in mind, though, that a true mentor won’t just tell you what you want to hear—he or she will tell you what you need to hear,” he adds. “Sometimes it’ll be uncomfortable, and you’ll be tempted to disregard the advice. Don’t. Leave your pride at the door and always remain open to learning new ways to approach business problems.”

Stop doing minimum wage activities. 

Our culture puts hard work on a pedestal. From sayings like “If you want the job done right, do it yourself” to the belief that the longer you stay at the office, the better employee you are, it’s clear that Americans think that spilling one’s blood, sweat, and tears is a noble calling. Not so, counters Downing. If you don’t separate yourself from the mundane and the nitty-gritty, you might just micromanage your business away from success.

“You must stop telling yourself to work harder, and learn to work smarter,” he says. “It’s crucial to understand that the work of an entrepreneur is the work of the mind: thinking, planning, creating, leading, and providing oversight. If you want to reach the highest level possible, you have to leave tasks that can be accomplished by others to those with the knowledge and skills to do them.”