I want to write today about the one topic that perhaps interests me above all others... billionaires. The reason that this topic interests me above all others is that I find it fascinating how these people got to where they are. Just in general I find it interesting how everyone in life gets to where they are. Although where you are born does influence your life to a great deal in life, in effect it is useless for the individual to complain about their birthplace, because quite simply you can't do anything about that. I will start off by mentioning here that I don't admire most of the billionaires who inherited their fortune. The few that I do are people like Ivanka Trump, who although not a billionaire yet, is out there forging her own path despite the billions that are undoubtedly coming to her. There are also those billionaires who got where they are through being cruel and brutal. The best example of this type of billionaire is perhaps Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who achieved billionaire status in the 1980s. The mega rich who I admire are those that started from (basically) scratch, have led awesome lives, and have done it in a way that has not been overly detrimental to other people's health and wellbeing. Judging upon this criteria, I think the three most awesome billionaires alive today are Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban and Elon Musk. In this write-up I will write about these three guys, and will finish with mentioning a past billionaire who I think is pretty cool, and with a common statement about all these people and why I admire them so much.
The first thing I will say about Warren Buffett is that most people would not regard the life he has led as being interesting. Hopefully all the readers of this blog will know of Buffett as the greatest investor of all time. He was born in 1930, started his first entrepreneurial venture at 13, and at the age of 26 started up his first investment partnership, which was called The Buffett Partnership. In the 1980s, he achieved billionaire status, and in 2008 he spent a brief bit of time as the world's richest person. In recent years though, he has become most famous for committing 85 percent of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is my belief that for the real foundations for Buffet's great fortune were built in the 60s, and 70s. This was a period when Buffett was a very reclusive figure and spent the vast portion of his time cooped up in his home office. There was a great story about his neighbor, Donald Keough, who would eventually become the president of Coca Cola. Donald regarded his neighbor as strange and lazy, since he never seemed to leave his house. Considering Buffett's somewhat everyday way of acquiring wealth (the share market), and his philanthropic plans for giving away his fortune, he is often regarded as the most ethical billionaire. I also think the fact that he holed himself up in his room, and his neighbors regarded as lazy, to be pretty awesome.
I regard Mark Cuban as an awesome billionaire just because he seems to have led a pretty damn cool life. Unlike Buffett, you cannot really classify Cuban in any particular profession. Because although he acquired the vast majority of his wealth in the early Internet Age, he is also the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and has interests in film and reality TV. He was born in 1958 into a typically middle class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began his first entrepreneurial venture at age 12 by selling sets of garbage bags. At University he started giving dance lessons, and started up his own bar, Motley's. After leaving college, he started work selling software, but shortly left and formed a consulting business, Micro-solutions. In 1990 he sold the company for $6 million, taking time off afterwards to travel the world and drink with the locals. I think this is perhaps the most awesome part of his story. In 1995 however, he returned to the world of business by starting AudioNet, which he was eventually able to sell for $5.7 billion to Yahoo in 1999. He went on after this to indulge in other interests. I think the best thing about Cuban is that he never once settled, which was one of Steve Job's greatest pieces of advise for would-be Entrepreneurs. Quite simply I believe that Mark Cuban embodies the qualities of a boss. You can see it on his face at Maverick games, and it is showed by his ability to get things done.
Elon Musk, is in my personal opinion, the single greatest billionaire of all time. Like Cuban, a great thing about Musk is that he never settles. He has created so many great businesses, but he is never afraid to tackle a problem despite having seemingly no time. This was best shown by his write-up proposal for the Hyperloop a couple of years ago. I mean, how did this guy manage to write a 56-page document for a complex transport system, despite running two multi-billion dollar companies (Tesla and Space X), as well as being chairman for another (Solar City)? The guy is quite simply just a legend. Born in 1971, at age 12 he sold his first computer game, and famously moved to Canada from South Africa at age 17. Running through the University system Queen's and Wharton, he then started a PHD at Stanford, but left after two days to pursue his ambitions. Again and again, he moved on from building one company after another. First with Zip 2, then Paypal, then Solar City. Although he didn't initially found Tesla he has had an enormous part in it's success, along with Solar City, which is run by his cousins. One of the odd, but most wickedly awesome things about Elon is his involvement in a couple of movies. Tony Stark in 'Iron Man' was based on him, and the plane used in 'Thankyou for Smoking' was his own, a Dassault Falcon 500. At age 43, I think we can expect many more great things from Elon, and I for one am happy to live in the same time as this man.
Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban and Elon Musk are easily my three favorite billionaires living today. Of those that are dead and gone, my favorite would have to be Howard Hughes. Although he inherited a successful business at age 18, he was similar to Cuban and Musk in that he never settled on one venture or occupation. He was well-known for making movies and having a large range of interests in aviation. Although he became a notorious recluse in later life, he lived an incredibly interesting life. As stated at the beginning of this blog, I don't simply admire this group of billionaires for their wealth, but for the different and really interesting lives they have led. They haven't followed convention and have in affect, created their own paths in life. We do after all, only get one life, and these people have made the most of theirs. The ideas of not following the conventional path and living life to the fullest is similar to some big sporting stars like Michael Jordan and Roger Federer, and it is one of the reasons everyone should admire these people. We should never lead someone else's life. We are on this world to lead our own and we are here to live it to the full.