Billionaire Problems*

I remember seeing this article in Facebook not too long ago about Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba.

In that article, Jack Ma, who now has an estimated net worth of $35 billion, was quoted as saying, “I was happier when I was still an English teacher earning $16 a month, because now as the CEO of my company, life is so complicated and I have so many problems.”

I read that I felt very sorry for Jack Ma. If he were here right now, I’d love to tell him, “Mr. Ma, I can help you. I have $16 in my bank account. If you’ll give me your $35 billion, you can have my $16, and we’ll both be happy.”

Yes, I want to be a billionaire, and a dollar billionaire at that. In this brief essay, I want to share with you my reasons for wanting to have a net worth of over a billion dollars. But first, you may be asking yourselves, “A billion? Isn’t that too unrealistic?” Well, I say, not really. There are many examples of people who’ve become billionaires within just a decade or two. I can think of at least three names: Jose Soberano III, who is the founder of Cebu Landmasters; Bunny Pages, who is the founder of Pages Holdings; and Edgar Sia II, who is the founder of Mang Inasal and Double Dragon Properties. So it’s certainly achievable. It may sound improbable, but it’s not impossible.

So here are my reasons for wanting to be a billionaire:

  1. Because it’s cool.

These are some of the people who I look up to as the coolest persons on the planet: Paul Graham, Jessica Livingston, and Sam Altman, of the Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Y Combinator; Brian Chesky of Airbnb; Elon Musk of Tesla, SpaceX, and OpenAI; Casey Neistat of Beme; Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia; and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Some of them are billionaires while the rest are on their way to becoming billionaires:

But I want to focus on just three individuals in particular: Casey Neistat, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Casey Neistat is a filmmaker, vlogger, and entrepreneur. He’s the founder of Beme, a tech company he started in 2015 that developed an app of the same name. Unfortunately, the app flopped shortly after its launch. The company was later acquired by CNN (in late 2016). Their focus now is the creation of content for their YouTube channels. I got addicted to his vlogs when I discovered him last year. I watched them almost daily.

Gary Vaynerchuk is also a vlogger, author, and entrepreneur. All of his books landed on the New York Times bestsellers list. He is the founder of VaynerMedia which does digital marketing for several major companies in the US.

What I admire most about Casey and Gary is that they are both extreme hustlers. Their work ethic is excellent. Gary, for example, works 14 hours every single day. So does Casey. I also love the latter’s being well-spoken. I don’t like Gary’s tendency to occasionally cuss, but I appreciate his sincerity and frankness in the way he speaks. I also admire his attitude towards life and work.

With Mark, I admire his simplicity, modesty, and intelligence.

These are very cool guys. They make being a billionaire extremely attractive for me.

  1. Because it will bring out the best in me.

You can’t really become a billionaire without building a successful startup or company. And starting a startup involves a very difficult process. For example, if you’re starting a tech company, you will need to create a product people want. Then, you will need to do market research. Then, you will need to build an awesome team. Then, you will need to iterate and develop your product. Then, you will need to grow your users. Then, you will need to approach venture capitalists and/or angel investors to fund your startup. Then you will need to design a business model canvas. Then, you will need to hire people — software engineers, designers, managers, executives, and so on. So it’s a very laborious process and it will require you to give your all – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. And you won’t really be able to survive and thrive without practicing the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

So the process of becoming a billionaire is character-forming. You won’t really succeed without becoming virtuous. I’ll only become a billionaire if I’ll give my very best to achieve my goals.

  1. Because I want to bless my family and save the world.

My vision for my family is this: I want to give them the best things in life. I want to provide them with books, libraries, beautiful homes, the ability to travel to different cities around the world, the best education in the best universities, funds for starting their own startups, and so on. I want them to live their lives to the fullest.

I also want to save the world, or if that sounds too ambitious and unrealistic, then to just do my part in solving at least some of the world’s, or in particular, our country’s problems. Some of the world’s best companies are attempts at solving many of the world’s biggest problems like pollution, poverty, traffic, and so on. For example, Elon Musk’s Tesla offers environment-friendly cars. His The Boring Company will attempt to solve heavy traffic in California. Brian Chesky’s Airbnb offers alternatives to expensive hotels and resorts, while at the same time helping home owners earn from their properties. And so on.

By being successful in my startup, I will be able to employ lots of people, and thereby participate in nation-building by helping in the alleviation of poverty.

So, 10 years from now, I want to be like Jack Ma. I want to have my own billionaire problems. I want to sit, for example, in my office in Silicon Valley, place my feet on my desk, and say, “I’m happier when I was still in Cebu earning X amount of pesos every month.” Or take a dip in a pool at a five-star hotel in the South of France and say, “My life is so complicated. I have a meeting with venture capitalists on Monday, startup founders on Tuesday, a talk in Amsterdam on Wednesday, a conference in Italy on Thursday, and the launching of an office in Germany on Friday.” Or emote in our apartment in New York and say, “I’m so busy! I have a meeting with shareholders at 8, with the CFO and COO at 10, and with the CTO at 3.”

Those would be awesome problems to have.

*This originally was a speech I delivered at our Toastmasters Club here in Cebu.


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