Three Stories About Billionaires
- Posted by James Altucher
I’m a little nervous about hitting “publish” on this post because it’s definitely going to go viral in the massive very close-knit billionaire community. You know, the many people who post anonymously on Internet message boards.
Claudia and I led a retreat a few weekends ago about yoga and some of the other things I’ve written about this blog: specifically “the daily practice” that I talk so much about. There was a lot of Q&A and I got an opportunity to tell some stories. Here’s a few of them. First, a preview (if you are reading this via RSS, turn on “display images”):
A) Jealousy. I was out for breakfast with a friend of mine who manages some money. About three billion dollars. He’s done very well and written a book about his success. Nice guy.
At the breakfast he told me that the day before he had had breakfast with XY [Insert top billionaire’s name who runs a multi-billion dollar private equity fund]. My friend was describing that breakfast to me, “the entire time he was going on and on about what bastards ‘those Google guys’ are. As in ‘why should those google kids be worth $18 billion each and I’m only worth $2 billion?’
People think a billion dollars will solve their money-envy issues. But having a billion dollars could actually make it WORSE. You never develop the muscle for “I-will-never-have-a-billion dollars”.
When you have a well developed “i-will-never-have-a-billion-dollars” muscle you maybe find other things in life aside from money that will fulfill you – having positive people in your life that you love, being healthy, being kind, not taking things so seriously, giving up control over things you can’t control, and so on.
B) Enough. Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, once was at a party in the Hamptons. A guy came over to him and pointed at a young, 25 year old standing in the party who worked for a big hedge fund. Heller’s “friend” said to him, “see that guy over there? He made more money last year then you will ever make with all of your books combined.”
Joseph Heller said, “Maybe so. But I have one thing that man will never have.”
His friend was skeptical. “Oh yeah, what?”
Heller said, “Enough.”
I think this is beautiful. What is enough? It’s not a number. Look around you this second. Do you really need anything else then the feeling you have this second? If you say “money” or even “sex” or “love” those answers might be true for future seconds. But right this very moment do you really need more money in your pocket? You might be on a train reading my blog. How would you be having sex anyway? Often we get absorbed in the things we want in the future. As if we are unhappy now but there’s some complicated journey that can take us to happiness. The currency of unhappiness will never buy us happiness.
Often to get to happiness, we can skip the journey part and just choose to enjoy this moment. This moment we can have “enough”. Why not? Who can stop us?
C) Blood. A friend of mine was a professional dominatrix (see picture at top). I have more about her and how I met her in an upcoming post (she was girlfriends with my neighbor at the Chelsea Hotel).
She and her girlfriend once gave me a tour of the dungeon that she worked at. In one room was a coffin. She said, “we have one client here that likes to get in the coffin and then get it filled up with cement while he is in there and he’s wearing a mask he can barely breathe out of.” Ok, to each his own. That’s not what this story is about.
But if you are a professional dominatrix and you meet me, trust that I am going to ask you to tell me a story. Here’s one story she told me, “I had a regular client who was a famous movie director. Everyone in the world knows his name.”
“He has a huge Park Avenue apartment he stays at when he’s not in LA. HUGE. I got there with all my equipment, including a knife. All he wants is for me to cut him all over his body until he is bleeding. By the time I was finished, his entire foyer was covered in blood. I was even worried he might die. But, of course, he didn’t. I just saw his latest movie.”
There’s more to this story which I’ll describe in my post specifically about Veronika.
But one thing that this shows me is that a billion dollars doesn’t mean you can buy an expensive apartment. You don’t need a billion for that. And you dont’ even need an expensive apartment. But what a billion dollars does do is allow all of your qualities to be magnified. Bad qualities and hopefully good qualities.
I don’t judge this guy for wanting to be cut. Or the other billionaire for being jealous of Larry Page. Heck, I’m jealous of Larry Page.
But its just clear that not having a lot of money is just an excuse people give when they feel frustrated, or not at the right place they feel they should be in their lives, or stuck somehow (“if only I had a lot of money, I could do this great idea I have”). Giving someone a lot of money will only remove that one excuse they had. Then they will find other excuses for the reasons they are unhappy. (e.g. “I need to almost bleed to death to be happy”).
Veronika tried to explain this guy’s motives to me. “He has to make decisions all day long. That’s all he does is make decisions and have total control over the people in his life. For the short while he is with me, he gets to lose his sense of total control. I take control.”
My guess is there are other ways to give up the feeling that you need to control everything in your life. We want to control but we can’t. Most of the time we resist the thing that life throws our way.
“Why is this happening to me?” is a common question asked since the dawn of time and there is only one answer: “Because!”
If you can find, this second, ten things to be happy for or to be grateful for then you will finally achieve what 99% of the population never achieves, at least for this single moment: Enough.
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