Please. Please, stop.
Stop believing that billionaires are better people than you, by sheer virtue of the fact that they’re rich.
Stop believing that billionaires are role models, are aspirational figures, are the people we should be looking up to at all times.
Stop believing that billionaires’ schedules, fitness regimes, beliefs about the future, spending habits, spirituality or morning routines are the key to happiness.
Stop believing that the 10 things they have in common are traits that you could, should, or must have.
Stop believing that being a billionaire is the ultimate goal in business, entrepreneurship or life.
Stop believing that billionaires are geniuses, visionaries, prophets, gurus, or somehow pre-ascended members of a super hero team.
Just, you know…stop.
Because billionaires aren’t perfect people.
They’re often people who have achieved a lot. They’re people who have worked hard, on good ideas. They’re people who have turned failure into success. They’re people who have made their dreams a reality.
I accept all of that. I’m down with it all. But none of it makes them people who can do no wrong, and none of it makes them people who are above judgement, above reproach or above the rest of us.
And yet, we hold them up that way, all the time. All the f*cking time.
Remember Elizabeth Holmes? CEO of Theranos? Remember how we all fawned over her and took her words as gospel, the same way we do with every other billionaire?
How does that article sound, now that the company and the CEO is in disgrace, there’s doubt that the machines ever even worked, and it’s all come crashing down?
Let’s look at some other billionaires. Ever heard of the Koch brothers? Oil billionaires. Here’s some info on them.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
Or what about Peter Thiel. The billionaire who so, so many entrepreneurs and founders idolise and look up to. Well, that visionary genius has recently destroyed a publication, for right or wrong, because he didn’t agree with what they published.
And billionaires haven’t achieved anything on their own.
Believe me. Elon Musk didn’t take a spanner and a blow torch and build the SpaceX rocket in his garage. He hired brilliant engineers who did that. He also didn’t invent the Tesla single handedly. Again, brilliant engineers.
And while we’re on that subject, Steve Jobs didn’t sit down with a piece of paper and design the f*cking iPhone either.
Billionaires are people who have great ideas, sure. But they don’t execute those ideas alone, and they don’t do it in a goddamn vacuum. What they achieve, they achieve through managing and guiding and collaborating with other brilliant people.
But none of this means that billionaires are bad people, either.
They’re not. Because being good or bad isn’t a trait that can be ascribed to having a certain amount of money. Being rich doesn’t make you a genius, being successful at building one company doesn’t mean everything else you do is going to be successful, and none of that makes you a perfect human.
And I think believing billionaires are the pinnacle of achievement is just an incredibly unhealthy thing for founders, for entrepreneurs, and for anyone else.
If you’re basing what you do on chasing that standard, you’re embracing a pretty f*cking shit yard stick for personal and professional achievement.
Do I respect Elon Musk? F*ck yes. But because he built something cool and is trying to change the world. Not because he’s a billionaire.
Do I respect Bill Gates? F*ck yes. But because he built something cool and is trying to change the world. Not because he’s a billionaire.
Here are the keys to this post.
- Stop reading lists and listening to podcasts about the top characteristics of billionaires and stop basing your dreams and milestones on ‘em.
- Remember that business isn’t really about geniuses and visionaries and perfect people, it’s about hard work and a lot of effort.
- Focus on collaborating with people, not on being better than them, or about being a super human.
- Don’t waste your time idolizing people for being rich. Spend your time learning from successful businesses and what makes successful business tick.
Jon Westenberg has appeared and published in Business Insider, , TIME and dozens of other publications, talking about startup entrepreneurship, writing and innovation. Jon has helped hundreds of businesses worldwide grow their audience and take control of their future. Jon is an investor, an entrepreneur and a dreamer. He is on Instagram @jonwestenberg.