Thursday, March 28, 2013

To Be A Billionaire

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is." - Oscar Wilde

"The lack of money is the root of all evil." - Mark Twain

"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy." - Spike Mulligan

While traveling recently I picked up a copy of Forbes magazine because of its promise to illuminate the life, times, and secrets of those richest of the rich, the wealthiest of the wealthy, the happiest of the happy, the world's billionaires.

Yes, yes, I know--money can't make me happy.  I sure do wish it would hang around long enough to try once, though.  In the long term, indeed, I don't expect to be happy without love, without joy, without all that other happy-schmappy stuff.  But just once, I'd love to dive into a bathtub full of jasmine-scented gold coins that I own--I betcha that would bring a B.O.S. (big ole' smile), however temporary, to my face.  To be served a beautiful sushi dinner in the formal dining area of my mega-yacht as we set off for exotic ports--probably another B.O.S. right there. 

Anyway, concerns of the relative level of happiness that wealth can bring aside, being a billionaire is still a mark of success for most folks.  Granted, the Walton kids may or may not fit into the "you're a B-word so you're a success" group, but most of the people on the Forbes list made it for themselves. 

That, of course, leads me to the Big Question (at least, to my Big Question): what does it take to get there?

The path varies a lot, of course.  Some are there because they started making jeans and branched out into other fashion arenas.  Others make cosmetics.  Some buy and sell real estate.  One guy strapped a camera to his wrist and realized he had a cool product.  Another guy, and, um, others too, created a web site where we could all sit around and post pictures of cats for each other to see and play games like Farmville, Castleville, Yoville, WastingTimeville, KillingMyCareerville, and so on.

It varies, then.

One thing that doesn't seem to vary too much, though: it takes a while.  "Overnight success" still really isn't overnight.  Nor is it particularly young.  Out of 1,426 billionaires in the world, only 23 are under 40 years old--that's just over one percent.  Granted, some of the list members have been billionaires for a long time, but reading the stories it's pretty clear that most of those who are self-made didn't make it before their 40th birthday either.

One of the cover billionaires makes the point perfectly about the importance of time.  He joined the company he now owns at the age of 20.  He became a partner in a newly-named company three years later.  This is the first year he's been a billionaire--at 57.  That's 37 years of efforts that have paid off.

Another cover story is the guy who founded GoPro, a camera that can be strapped to your wrist (or just about anything else, apparently).  His "overnight success" only took nine years, and followed a pretty awesomely spectacular failure that sent him home to live with his parents.

The lesson of the magazine issue, then, seems to be that it takes time and perseverance to get to that bathtub full of gold coins.  I'm'a workin' on it, though.


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