In my last post, I said that addiction to ambition is a good thing: Find your perfect pitch, a great idea, believe in yourself, and work, work, work. That’s all well and good, but it can’t be that simple, can it? What if you don’t have that brilliant, category-killing idea? Not all of us can be business geniuses. David Rubenstein, who became the richest man in the nation’s capital through his investments in private equity, is widely considered one of the smartest people in Washington. Not so, he told me: “When you get older in life, you realize there are very few geniuses in this world. Most likely, you will never meet one, and Randy, you did not meet one today.” Rubenstein is certainly no dummy, but just as there are brilliant successes who are less than brilliant, there are also plenty of smart, unsuccessful people. Brains is part of the equation, but it’s not the determining factor in becoming an RMIT.
In my last post, I wrote about the dangers of dependency: the narcotic effects of a regular paycheck and the false sense of security that comes from working for a corporation. Many RMITs never allowed themselves to get cornered in a corner office, embarking on an independent career right out of school (or during, or before). The best way to kick the habit, of course, is never to start. I found that those RMITs who did spend time in a gilded cubicle, however, looked at the experience in one of two ways: Some saw a stint in corporate life as an apprenticeship (or sometimes as indentured servitude)—an opportunity to learn everything they could. Others hit bottom, and found they just couldn’t go on putting all of their ideas and energy toward someone else’s vision. Some of these, like Bernard Jacobs, who cofounded Home Depot after he was fired from his job with the Handy Dan hardware chain, were forced to go cold turkey. But all of these recovering salary junkies told me something unexpected. What I’m about to say will sound counterintuitive at best, plain crazy at worst: Addiction is a good thing.
A stable salary can be addictive: like a drug, it feels good, helps you cope with the ups and downs of life, and it is near impossible to give up. But dependence on a salary is a major impediment to becoming the richest person in town. The regular fix of a paycheck from the other guy makes you risk-averse, and the ability to take risks is one of the qualities that defines an RMIT. It certainly defines Jon Huntsman, Salt Lake City’s richest man. His rags-to-riches trajectory is not uncommon among RMITs—in fact, growing up without advantages can be a huge advantage.
It was a beautiful weekend to sit atop the steps of Federal Hall, overlooking Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, while being interviewed by Maria Bartiromo for Wall Street Journal Report.The Richest Man in Town soared to the top finance title on Amazon as a result. Thank you, Maria.