Have you ever wondered if all the sacrifices and hard work needed to become rich are even worth it?
I sat down with a few 80 year old millionaires and asked that exact question… to find out how they got rich and whether or not they have any regrets.
These are the guys I sat down with:
Let’s dive into what they had to say.
Asking 80 Year Old Millionaires If It Was Worth It
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How Did You Make Your Money?
Mattress Mack: I’m in the furniture business. We sell mattresses and American-made furniture. Been at it for 40 years. Still at it.
Bing Gordon: I was a co-founder of Electronic Arts, the video game company.
Bob Metcalfe: The thing I invented, it’s called Ethernet. I invented it at Xerox Research in Palo Alto California.
Alan Weiss: I am the president of a behavioral consulting firm here in Providence. We had virtually no money in the bank, I had two kids in private school, we had bought a big house, I had big plans… And I was fired 15 months later by a guy wearing a cape.
My wife said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I’m going out on my own. I will never be fired by a moron again.” And she said, “Fine, just get serious.”
And around 1990 or so, I had published 3 books and they were on things that I was consulting in. And this year, 2022, the 6th edition of Million Dollar Consulting has been on the shelves for 30 years, constantly… It’s been worth a gazillion dollars.
Carl Meade: I was a NASA astronaut and pilot.
I never thought I’d be an astronaut. I never thought I’d be a pilot. All I wanted to do was get out of school and go to work. That was my goal in life.
I remember my sophomore year, I had started work (I was a programmer) and my dad saw my paystub and I was making more money than him.
Astronauts make around $60,000 – $70,000, to maybe $100,000 – 110,000, but going into the private sector, you can probably double or triple the salary that you originally have.
As your business grew and made money, how did money improve your life?
Mattress Mack: Money didn’t improve my life. I think relationships did.
I think relationships are the currency of life and the better relationships you have with people and with the community, then the better life you’ll lead.
Bob Metcalfe: We bought a big house and a Corvette, the kids are now taken care of, and now our goal is to spend all of our money before we die.
Alan Weiss: Well I say money can’t buy happiness, right? But money can buy things that create happiness. We’ve got an American Express Black card. You can buy a friggin’ Rolls Royce with a Black card.
Don’t kid yourself. We’re in a consumer society and I believe that we should be philanthropic, I believe that we should have safety nets, I believe that every person should have valuable healthcare and education, and so forth…
But I also believe the talent outs.
And since talent outs, you get paid for your talents.
Carle Meade: Oh, it reduces stress a lot. That was a big worry.
And I remember, actually, on my third spaceflight orbiting the Earth one night, looking through the window, taking it easy, and thinking… “Whoa, one more year and I can pay off my college debts.”
Do you have any regrets or would you change anything about your career? And was it wasn’t worth it?
Mattress Mack: I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my kids when they were growing up because I put a lot of my efforts into the business. I was trying to grow it as something for them to hold onto and something that would be good for the community.
But my kids turned out to be great people, so their mother did a great job of raising them.
I have no regrets. Just looking forward to the future.
Alan Weiss: I have no regrets at all. You learn from defeats, you learn from setbacks, and in fact sometimes, the learning is even greater.
I think the one thing that I would do differently is I didn’t collect enough names when I was younger. We didn’t have the technology that we have today — you couldn’t just create a spreadsheet or a Filemaker Pro or something — but I still could have written them down.
Bob Metcalfe: It worked out so well for me, my life is so good, so I’m reluctant to answer any questions about the past and changing it or regretting it because it’s just hard to imagine it working out better.
But a partial answer to that question is, I wish I had learned how to sell earlier.
Bing Gordon: My regret in my 20s is I didn’t create enough historical artifacts.
Write stuff down. Write down your ideas, write down your plans. That becomes data, so write it down.
Carl Meade: I don’t have any regrets.
Money is not the metric that I use for success, and so consequently, I just enjoyed flying so much and contributing to the defense of the country and to NASA and scientific investigations. So it was a good match for me.
What are the proudest moments of your career?
Bob Metcalfe: Going from $0 to $1 million dollars a month as head of sales.
During that time, I had to figure out how to sell. I had to recruit a sales team, and we did it.
Mattress Mack: These kids that work for me. A lot of them are barely out of high school, a lot of them have had criminal records but we’re giving them a chance. We’re trying to help them turn their life around and turn generations around for the next 5 generations.
Alan Weiss: What I’m proud of, is I can look around every day and see this global community of people I coach and bring together, and most of them (who can get out of their own way) are prospering. To me, that’s tremendously valuable because to play a small role in people’s success on a daily basis is hugely rewarding.
What’s the silliest thing you’ve spent money on?
Bing Gordon: I once bought a Jeep Grand Wagoneer and I checked consumer reports. It was ranked 2.5 stars out of 5… and I thought, “It can’t be that bad!”
Within a year, we came out of the house one morning to the driveway, and the car was gone.
We reported to the cops that it had been stolen, and they called back a couple hours later and say, “Good news, we found it!” And I said, “Yeah, even the thieves who have just stolen this thing don’t want it.”
It wasn’t broken down, it wasn’t out of gas, they just got in and went… “We hate this!”
Carl Meade: I bought a 1972 American Motors Hornet one time and that thing only lasted me a couple hundred thousand miles before it got washed out to sea in Houston during a hurricane.
Bob Metcalfe: I almost killed myself with a fast boat. I bought a 50-knot boat, and if you hit a granite ledge at 50 knots, your boat virtually explodes. My current boat cruises at 12 knots, which is plenty.
What do you think it’s been some of the best money you’ve ever spent?
Alan Weiss: The best money I’ve ever spent has been twofold: On my own self-development (which is very important) so I could learn things. And on my family (also very important) so we could enjoy things as a loving group.
Money spent on family is very important because it also conveys certain values to people. My kids had no college loans because I paid for their college education, I felt it was my responsibility. I also paid for my daughter’s wedding, because I felt that was my responsibility.
I’m big on accountability. That seems to be disappearing these days.
Mattress Mack: I have a trade school here that I fund out of my pocket that teaches plumbing, electricity, and construction skills to people for free. And I have a preschool, 6 months to 5 years old. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on to make us relevant in the community.
Bob Metcalfe: Well, our kids went to good schools. That was the best investment.
Bing Gordon: I think maybe the best one is in Sun Valley, we got a house here when our kids were young. So we built a home with deep emotional resonance. I think that deep emotional resonance is pretty important.
If someone is just starting out in their career, what would you tell that person?
Carl Meade: There are a lot of very treacherous people out there. And by that I mean, they are basically people out for themselves. Those are the sorts of people you want to avoid.
Mattress Mack: Get rid of your sense of entitlement. Get rid of it. Life’s hard, get used to it.
I did a sales course for Houston Community College, and one of the kids asked me a question, “When you’re an entrepreneur and things don’t go your way, what do you do?” I said, “You get up in the morning, you put your big girl or big boy britches on, and you go back to work!”
That’s kind of like a prizefighter saying, “I want to be a prizefighter, but I don’t ever want to get hit in the face.” It ain’t gonna happen!
Alan Weiss: Stop calling yourself a coach, a consultant, a facilitator, a trainer, whatever the hell you call yourself.
There are a lot of excellent consultants and coaches and trainers and so forth, who are broke because they can’t market. Nobody wants to hear about your credentials. Nobody wants to hear about your testimonials. Nobody wants to hear about your methodology. What they wanna hear is, what’s in it for me?
And so it’s not what you do, it’s what you create. And that’s the essence of marketing: Creating need. So stop telling me about yourself, and tell me why I’ll be better off after you walk away.
Bing Gordon: My advice to people in their 20s is write stuff down, recruit a mentor, and build a peer network.
What quotes do you live by?
Bing Gordon: That a rising tide rarely lifts all boats. You still have to be good when the tide is rising.
Alan Weiss: You can’t look at the wake of the boat. You have to look through the windshield.
Mattress Mack: If it is to be, it is up to me. That’s called the great American virtue of self-reliance.
Get up, get off your a** and go to work.
I love these guys!! And appreciate them taking the time to sit down and talk with me.
Here are a few epic takeaways:
- Mattress Mack: Relationships are the currency of life, get rid of your sense of entitlement, and prizefighters get hit in the face, so get used to it.
- Alan Weiss: Never be fired by a moron, spend on your self-development and your family, and it’s not what you do, it’s what you create.
- Bing Gordon: Write stuff down, and a rising tide lifts the boats that are ready when the tide is rising.
- Carl Meade: Even astronauts worry about money! And money is not the metric that he uses to define success.
- Bob Metcalfe: Learn how to sell early, spend all your money before you die, and stay away from fast boats!
What was your biggest takeaway? Tell me in the comments.
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