Listen to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, or former secretary of labor Robert Reich, and you’ll hear them attacking billionaire businesspeople, while their Twitter followers cheer. The takeaway is that such businesspeople are contemptible, if not worse.
But I hold the opposite view.
When I think of billionaires who earned their fortunes through creative work and exceptional ability, I’m filled with admiration. Just as we appreciate world-class athletes for their accomplishments, so I appreciate the GOATs of the business world for their extraordinary achievements.'Just as we appreciate world-class athletes for their accomplishments, so I appreciate the GOATs of the business world for their extraordinary achievements.' Click To Tweet
Common to such billionaires and elite athletes is that they do their job at a superlative level. They are the best in the world at doing what they do, and only an infinitesimal number of people ever reach their level of performance. LeBron James, Tom Brady and Lionel Messi are some of the greatest in history. We know a bit about how they reach sporting excellence — dedication to continual improvement, perseverance, extraordinary skills — and so, they are a source of inspiration for millions of people. Likewise, I look at Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos with equal admiration for the virtues they’ve embodied to reach excellence in the world of business.
When I watched the documentary The Last Dance, I was in awe of Michael Jordan’s rise to the pinnacle of professional basketball and how he built his career from the ground up. I had a similar reaction when I read about Jobs’ story. He rose to the top of the business world by co-founding Apple in his garage with Steve Wozniak, with very little money. Today, Apple is worth over $2 trillion. Jobs managed to create an exceptional company that continues to thrive long after his death.
The iPhone has brought enormous value to my life. It has allowed me to instantly connect with family and friends all over the world, have immediate access to any information I want, work and play with a device that fits in my pocket, among other advantages. The iPhone pioneered an entire new category of mobile phones and revolutionized the way we use them by changing the way we collect, create and transmit information. It’s hard to overstate the impact that Jobs’ creation has had in the world — as it’s hard to exaggerate the immense influence that Jordan has had in basketball and on the millions of people he inspired throughout his career.
Building a company like Apple took extraordinary intelligence, independent vision, creativity and business acumen from Jobs. Hiring the right people to perform technical work to build Apple’s technology required an extraordinary mind. When I read about Jobs’ process, or when I watch his presentations, I can’t help but feel admiration for his ambition, his perseverance and commitment to bringing his vision to life. To me, watching a mind work at that level is even more fascinating and awe-inspiring than watching Messi score a goal at minute 107 in the World Cup final.
Another demonized businessman is Jeff Bezos, who built Amazon from the ground up with an initial investment of $10,000 of his own money. Amazon is now worth over one trillion dollars. Without Bezos’ unique vision, aptitude for logistics and independent thought, he could have never transformed an online used bookstore into the biggest online retailer in history with over one million employees — just like Tom Brady couldn’t have won the most Super Bowls in history without his superlative understanding of the game of football and his outstanding work ethic.
Bezos’ innovations have made my life so much better: for the most part, I no longer have the need to go out to several different stores to buy whatever items I may need: if it exists, Amazon will ship it to me in one or two days — and I have my groceries delivered weekly at my doorstep with Amazon’s grocery delivery service. Bezos has saved me an extraordinary amount of time with his company — time that has been freed to work, play, or spend it with loved ones.'No one debates whether James, Brady or Messi deserve our respect for their work; why don’t productive geniuses get the same treatment? There is certainly a lot to admire in what these billionaire businessmen have achieved in their careers and… Click To Tweet
There’s something deeply valuable in watching humans perform at their best — whether they are the GOATs of sports or titans of industry. When I see an elite athlete perform, I am inspired to go a little harder at the gym, to eat a little better, to take better care of my body. I will never be a professional athlete, but with the right work and inspiration I can be the healthiest I can be and perform at my best. When I see an elite businessperson at work and see and use their creations, I am inspired to work a little harder, to be a little bit more productive, to be more ambitious. I may never be a billionaire, but with the right inspiration I can be the best and most productive version of myself.
James, Brady and Messi continually push the limits of what can be done at their sports. James is the all-time leading scorer in the NBA, Brady has won the most Super Bowls, and Messi holds several records himself. Like them, Bezos, Jobs, and other entrepreneurs push technological advancement forward and produce new life-furthering values on so vast a scale that it’s awe-inspiring. When they are taken for granted, or worse, attacked ruthlessly by Robert Reich and his ilk, I can’t help but think it is a real injustice: they deserve respect and recognition for the work they do. No one debates whether James, Brady or Messi deserve our respect for their work; why don’t productive geniuses get the same treatment? There is certainly a lot to admire in what these billionaire businessmen have achieved in their careers and the virtues they’ve embodied to do so.
This article was originally published by the Southern California News Group.