Billionaires are people, too

What do Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, cable magnate Ted Turner, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have in common?  First, they're billionaires, and among the world's elite in terms of financial prowess.  More to the point here, though, these three share a common vision of the simple concept that it's up to them to change the world for the better, and all three of them have had a huge impact on the way we live today.  Here's why these three guys are my current "favorite billionaires", and why I find myself liking them more and more in spite of myself. 

Jeff Bezos
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In my teen years, I developed a distinct distaste for the ultra-rich.  Like many people of my generation, I was disillusioned with the establishment, firmly believing capitalism to be utterly unfair as my eyes were opened to the workings of economic injustice and the way "the system" only seemed to work for those in power.  I certainly wasn't unique in this mentality by any stretch- many of my friends came to the same conclusions around the same time, and of course I gravitated toward others with similar belief structures.  This was life for me for a long time, as I wrote protest songs, generally lived a frugal, angry lifestyle, and resented even the upper middle class.

Then one day it kind of hit me:  you can be angry at the system and try to make a change from the outside, as I had always done, or you could make a far, far greater impact by changing the system from within.  This subversion appealed to me a great deal, and I started studying the lives of folks who had chosen to change the world by riding the system, without stepping on so many people on their way to the top.  Although all of the ultra-rich have gotten where they are at the expense of the poor to some degree, all three of these guys have managed to minimize this impact while making a far greater change for the good than the net loss during the climb up the ladder.

Ted "I gave a billion to the UN" Turner

Ted "I gave away a billion" Turner

Elon Musk, the real life Tony Stark?

What's the big deal?

When asked in numerous interviews why Elon Musk has founded the companies he has started over the last 15 years or so, he will always respond that he wanted to affect three of humanity's biggest issues and concerns in a positive way:

  • Sustainable energy
  • The internet
  • Making life multi-planetary 

To that end, Musk founded (which eventually became PayPal), which utterly changed online commerce in the late 90s (who used online banking back then?  not me!).  In the early 2000s, SpaceX was next- a rocket company that has recently taken over duties from NASA, and the marriage between NASA and SpaceX has been mutually beneficial, to say the least.  SpaceX's goal is to colonize Mars at some point in the not-terribly-distant future. Finally, Musk's recent ventures include Solar City and, of course, Tesla.  Tesla especially is bringing sustainable energy to the forefront of popular concern, as just about everyone is talking about the return of the electric car (and the first auto manufacturer IPO since Ford went public in the 1950s!).  

Looking forward

These three guys are all filthy rich, but they're also all self-made, to a degree.  All have insanely high work ethics, and- best of all- all three look forward to the future, and seem to care a great deal more about where we'll be in 20 years than where we are now.  That's really what separates them from many of the other billionaires of the world, and their contributions to the way the world works now certainly reflects that to a high degree.  Do you have other philanthropic or otherwise noteworthy billionaires that you enjoy studying?  Leave me a comment and let's talk about it!