I was walking with my kids by the river and they asked me what was the happiest moment of my life and I said, “right here, walking with my two lovebirds right by the river”. It was all green and lush and no people were around and there was just us the river, and mountains protecting us from whatever evil existed on the other side. It was also gray and I hate sunny weather and there was a very slight drizzle that was refreshing.
I said, “when I’m eventually dead you’ll remember moments like this.”
And one of them, I forget which because sometimes they are both the same in my head even though they are very different said, “daddy, you’re never going to die.”
But if you think about it, its pretty annoying to be alive. I’m not saying this in a suicide way. Its very hard to force death and mostly leads to paralysis, retardation, and various forms of shame and pity that are not worth living through.
But to be alive requires a lot of work. Just the basics: I’m sick of thinking about money, for instance. Some people say they don’t think about it but I never really believe that. Whether your’re rich or poor you think about it all the time. You have your miserable job. Which if you didn’t have you wouldn’t be able to support yourself, and eat and provide shelter for your family.
Either that or you’re a billionaire and that’s even worse. Billionaires are riddled with the worst diseases known to mankind. It’s almost impossible to cure these diseases once you get them. I feel really bad for the billionaires. They are so type A and so driven that once they achieve their goal it transmutes into a variety of diseases that they will ultimately die from if they don’t seek a cure.
Jealousy. One guy told me he had breakfast with Steve Schwartzman from Blackstone who is worth a solid $3 billion or so. “All Steve kept saying throughout breakfast,” my friend told me, “is ‘how the F* is Larry Page worth $15 billion and I’m only worth $3 billion’.” So you see, money is a disease that spreads throughout your head. You get it a little, and then you need more. And it never, or rarely ends. Jealousy for money is a horrible disease.
Libido. Money also leads to a stark increase in libido. Billionaires leave their wives. Poor people do also. In either extreme, the pain is too much. Lack of money leads to fights. Too much money leads to increase in libido and 80 years olds sleep with 18 year olds. That pain is enormous.
Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors and I’m not judging. But the billionaire looks up at the ceiling at night, his eighty year old high school love snoring right next to him, the woman who will care for him when he gets sick, but he can’t help it: he feels his testosterone slipping away with the seeping shadow of age and knows that there is one potential cure: screwing 18 year olds.
It’s a horrible disease. Look at the smile in the photo below. It looks like Soros is mentally ill. And the body language of the girls makes me afraid. I’m afraid that maybe all men end up that way some day. Maybe I’ll catch his disease when I’m 80. I hope not.
Paranoia . Great money also leads to great paranoia. I went to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in 2003. There were about 4 or 5 billionaires at least in the audience along with another 20,000 people including me to listen to two old billionaires speak on a stage. I got there at 5 in the morning so I could get a good seat. Krispy Kreme served free donuts outside in the dark. They had to fatten us up for the killing inside.
When the doors opened a few hours later every one ran in. the floors had just been waxed so everyone was slipping and falling. I ended up not getting a good seat because I just walked in. No way was I going to run in that deathtrap.
During the meeting, one of the two ancient billionaires on stage, Charlie Munger, went on and on about how you’re going to have to bury your gold and all your valuables underground to prevent the US government from taking them. Finally, the other billionaire on the stage said, “Ok Charlie, that’s enough.”
Because Charlie Munger had the disease: once you have billions all you think about is the ways you can lose it. He pictured police coming to his house and taking all of his gold. This is a man who once slept in his car in his 40s because he was so poor, divorced, down and out. Just giving that man a meal would’ve been enough. Now he can’t sleep at night because he’s worried the government is going to steal all his money. Eight years later and it still hasn’t happened. I think he’s close to 90 years old now.
Death. Billionaires are more afraid of death than anyone else. If I died today it wouldn’t matter to me at all. I’d be dead. But billionaires have given up a lot of life to make those billions. And it’s common sense they can’t take it with them. They know death levels the playing field for all of us. I know one billionaire who has poured tens of millions into cryogenics research. I can tell you from experience that those scientists he is giving money to are laughing all the way to the bank.
I wish having a billion dollars could allow you to remove your intestines, kidneys, and rectum and replace them with solar panels. That whole business of eating, digesting, and shitting is perhaps the most disgusting thing about being alive and probably the source of most death. Can’t billionaires fix that problem? Can’t we put our heads in fully functional, feeling, screwable robots that can do everything but don’t have to digest, excrete, feel hunger pangs the first thing when we wake up?
(when I make my first billion I will get frozen like these guys. then life will be good forever).
I have one friend who is a billionaire several times over . He once pointed to his kidney. “This kidney was so riddled with cancer it couldn’t process anything I was drinking. I went to the best hospital, had the best room, they gave me a brand new kidney and the other one was so bad they just flushed it down the toilet. Nobody else gets that treatment. I got it because I paid for it.”
Fear of God. I once wrote an article in the Financial Times about Dan Loeb’s portfolio. He runs a huge hedge fund. He wrote to me later that morning: “my name is Daniel, not Dan.” Then he defriended me on Facebook.
He has a rabbi come to him every day to give him a private Q&A on the Torah. Its never too late to reserve your seat in heaven. If you’re the type of person who can make a billion dollars it means you’re used to worrying about things. You can only get a billion dollars if you worry about all the things that other human beings don’t worry about: customers, clients, demographics, the law (behind every great fortune lies a great crime, so says the saying).
So now that you have your billion you need to worry about the last thing that’s left: what happens after you’ve left this shell of a body. When you can’t take it with you and you’re all alone in the darkness. And the cute little thing who soothes you at night is no longer there and you’re all by yourself with whatever god you believe in.
Maintenance. Billionaires have the maintenance disease. Look at Stevie Cohen’s house:
I like Cohen. I’ve interacted with him a few times and I don’t have a bad thing to say about him. But it’s hard work to maintain a house like that. Do you think he’s mopping the floors? You need your own private army to keep that house clean, to keep the ice on the ice skating rink, to keep the chlorine in the pool, to clean out the pee in the pool anytime one of his six kids has a party. I’d like to think if I had a billion dollars I wouldn’t change a thing about my life.
“Daddy, we don’t want you to die.” There’s nothing I want more than to see my own funeral. To see my two girls crying hysterically, knowing they would never have a chance to walk with me again by the river. My heart is a violin and it pangs so sweetly when I see them cry. Nothing creates more bittersweet music inside of me. But if I ever die I know they’ll eventually forget me and move on, and have families, and careers, and find things, many things, to be happy about and I’ll just be a faded photo on their refrigerator. And one day not so long after that, they’ll be dust as well. And so will their children.
We finished walking by the river and went to the just-opened MooMoo Creamery. I had a vanilla milkshake.