March 3, 2005

Be Nice to Billionaires

Ok, so I spent last week at the Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference. It was really amazing and I wrote a really huge post about it and, honestly, deleted it, because it was the most annoyingly self-aggrandizing thing ever written.

But it's hard to just let this event go by without chronicling it somehow. So I'll say this:

TED is by invitation only, and only 1,000 people get to go each year. I was invited because Mike met one of the organizers at MacWorld and impressed him greatly. I went along as kind of the ugly sister you can't leave home.

The sessions are by scientists and poets and musicians and performers who are all at the top of their game. Let me just give this as an example: David Blaine was there, but he wasn't actually a speaker. He just went so he could perform magic in the halls, for free, for the other attendees.

The attendees are pretty much a cross-section of the smartest, richest, most influential people in America. There, I said it. There's no way now not to hate me for being there, because when you gather that many people together who are that privileged (no matter how well-earned that privilege is), there's something in us that really WANTS to hate them. Grrrr. Stupid rich people! I have to fly coach! With crying babies!

I met four billionaires this week (bringing my life list to 5, squeee!), and let me say this: man, they are really nice guys. Seriously! I'm not just sucking up after the fact: I have no doubt whatsoever that exactly 0 billionaires read this blog.

Now, I know some billionaires are incredibly self-important jerks. But the ones I met this week were pretty much intensely smart people who were also funny and dynamic and interested in a huge variety of things. All of them were self-made men in their 30s, and all of them were made billionaires in the last ten or so years.

The funny thing about meeting these guys wasn't that I was totally awed by, say, their incredible vision for the future of society; it was that I really would like to hang out with them at a bar and shoot the shit. They're just cool people. They have really interesting thoughts and stories and they articulate them well, but they also cuss and drink and leer at girls and act silly. (One of them actually did close down a tiny bar in Monterey with us Friday night.)

It made me think a lot, because Hollywood has presented us with an image of rich people that's pretty stuffy and uniform and bland (c.f. Fresh Prince of Bel Air). But here's my thought: if someone just suddenly gave you a jet, what would you do? Whenever you needed to fly someplace, you'd probably take your jet, because, hey, you own a jet, why not, right?

But you'd still be you. There'd be all these people who hated you for having a jet, but you know you'd still be you inside. You're just you-who-happened-to-be-given-a-jet.

That's the thing about these guys. They get all this attention, but really, they're just smart guys who suddenly were given jets. They're as surprised about it as we are.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Tim Omernick said...

100% of those millionaires and billionaires will tell you they were in the right place at the right time, doing what they loved until the money came.

So they made it; who cares? Their shit still stinks.

There are less successful. but equally interesting people in your own town who believe just as passionately in what they do. For example: the piano guy at Pike Place Market.

Sure, be nice to billionaires. But be nice to them because of the things they've done, not because they have money. You say they're just regular people, so treat them as such. They're not royalty.

March 03, 2005 9:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting point on the stinky shit Tim.

When I think rich people have it all, I like to think of them taking a crap and wiping their own arse. Sometimes I like to think of the Queen of England 'laying some cable' or 'dropping the cosby kids off at the pool'.

In any case wiping our arses is the one truely 'crappy' job we all have to do. Unless you use a bidet. I've never seen a bidet, but I have seen Liz II and I don't think she would use one. Not sure why, I've got nothing to back that up with.

I suppose those people with medical difficulties and poo bag things plummed into their stomachs are exempt from shitting and wiping. They're probably quite envious of us being able to sit down and drop a log. It does raise the question of what they could think of when they believe a rich person has it all......

March 03, 2005 8:55 PM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Truly, this conversation has taken a turn for the erudite.

March 04, 2005 3:37 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so here goes a joke about wiping ...

the bishop was coming to this remote village for a ceremony, and everyone was busy preparing everything for the bishop to have every possible comfort (imagine a remote village about 100 years ago in the hills of a region of the world which shall remain anonymous).

At one point, one villager said: what about toilet amenities? And another replied: surely, the bishop does not clean himself after he poops... he's a holy man!

And so they thought and thought, and finally built some sort of elevated toilet seat, so that a couple of guys would sit underneath and patiently wait in case the bishop had to go poop, they'd be ready to wipe him from below, and he wouldn't have to bother with that.

And the bishop came, the ceremony and all the blessings went perfectly well, until the bishop had to use the toilet. The villagers proudly told him they had one built especially for him. The bishop sat down, did what he had to do, and suddenly felt his butt wiped from below! He quickly looked down inside the toilet, to check what was going on there, and at that same moments the two zealous villagers attending below gave him another sweep with that piece of cloth...

May 17, 2005 12:02 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you Tim! Be nice to EVERYONE! You must have been raised by an insightful, intelligent mother!

June 13, 2005 11:50 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually rich people own $5000 toilets with targeted bidet action. So they don't necessarily have to wipe their own, or at least not with as much vigor.

Seriously, I read a profile on a $5000 toilet - Will Smith the actor owns one -- he claimed it always magically hit just the right spot.

June 25, 2005 10:43 AM

 
Anonymous T. motorola said...

thanks, Wil, very nice post!

October 29, 2005 4:17 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a billionaire, I just wanted to chime in, and, for what it's worth, throw my two cents into the ring on this insipid little epigram. Say, also, I have to take Will Dipshitley to task for his naive, comments and his shallow, wide-eyed remarks i.e. Billionaires are ok cause I drank beer with them...at a bar. Is that so? Why in gods name would billionaires NOT be okay in the first place. I mean why would you think that because some dipshit made some money that he couldn't hang at a bar and get drunk. In my opinion the real jerks are the ones who have had just a taste of real success and walk around like the only thing that matters in this life is their ticket to impending superstardom...driving silly cars and talking about the future of computing, etc. What a boner!

January 22, 2006 10:47 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a billionaire, I just wanted to chime in, and, for what it's worth, throw my two cents into the ring on this insipid little epigram. Say, also, I have to take Will Dipshitley to task for his naive, comments and his shallow, wide-eyed remarks i.e. Billionaires are ok cause I drank beer with them...at a bar. Is that so? Why in gods name would billionaires NOT be okay in the first place. I mean why would you think that because some dipshit made some money that he couldn't hang at a bar and get drunk. In my opinion the real jerks are the ones who have had just a taste of real success and walk around like the only thing that matters in this life is their ticket to impending superstardom...driving silly cars and talking about the future of computing, etc. What a boner!

January 22, 2006 10:47 AM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

"Billionaire": For a million dollars I'll teach you how not to post twice in a row.

January 22, 2006 3:21 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool. I would actually like that very much!

--Billions McMillions

January 22, 2006 9:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool. I would actually like that very much!

--Billions McMillions

January 22, 2006 9:28 PM

 

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