Being a Twitter user, I feel like Elon Musk is in my life a lot these days. Not only do I see plenty of stories about Tesla or his acquisition of Twitter on my feed but since becoming the owner, he’s also personally tweeting more now than he did in the past—which is saying something.
I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion, “Does the richest man on the planet really have nothing better to do with his time than to post memes and troll people on Twitter? If I had all that money, I would get out of the public eye and spend the rest of my life enjoying it with friends and family.”
But I’m not Elon Musk. And that’s not how he thinks. This then spurs another thought in my mind: Is being a billionaire all that it’s cracked up to be?
Of course we all dream of having more money than we do now. Generally, more money is better than less money and makes life easier up to a certain point. But once you get up to the really high amounts of wealth, money can become a burden.
Here’s a list of the 10 richest people in the world right now:
Elon Musk has been divorced three times. Jeff Bezos was recently divorced. Bill Gates is also divorced. The same can be said for Bernard Arnault and Sergey Brin. Warren Buffet split from his wife in a weird arrangement where she left him to take on a new partner. Larry Ellison has been divorced four times.
The 10 richest men in the world have a combined 12 divorces between them.
Apparently, even billions of dollars can’t buy you more stable relationships. In fact, it seems like the opposite is true. More money and success make it harder to have healthy relationships because of the sheer amount of work required to build and maintain millions of dollars.
The ironic thing about accumulating massive amounts of wealth is the type of personality and ambition required to amass a fortune are usually paired with the same traits that prevent someone from relaxing and enjoying it.
Elon Musk has admitted as much on a few different occasions:
“I’d be careful what you wish for. I’m not sure how many people would actually like to be me. They would like to be what they imagine being me, which is not the same thing as actually being me. The amount that I torture myself is next level, frankly.”
Sure, the money sounds amazing, but would you actually want to live his life?
Musk shared in an interview that running multiple companies makes it difficult to have a personal life. He has worked 120 hours a week for years and said he hadn’t taken more than a week off since 2001 when he had malaria.
“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said.
“This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
I understand why there’s so much attention paid to these tech founders and billionaires. They have created more money than any of us would see in hundreds of lifetimes. However, are they really the people we should be admiring and trying to emulate?
Paul Graham put it this way:
“Half the distinguishing qualities of the eminent are actually disadvantages.”
One of my favorite quotes is from Andrew Wilkinson who says:
“Most successful people are just a walking anxiety disorder harnessed for productivity.”
When we admire people who have accomplished amazing things professionally, it’s easy to overlook the negative aspects of their life that are often required to get them to where they are now.
I love this take on being jealous of others by Naval Ravikant:
“One day, I realized with all these people I was jealous of, I couldn’t just choose little aspects of their life. I couldn’t say I want his body, I want her money, I want his personality. You have to be that person. Do you want to actually be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, their self-image? If you’re not willing to do a wholesale, 24/7, 100 percent swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous.”
To end, here’s a real-world example by writer David Brooks years ago:
“Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?
If you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy.”
“Absolutely crazy” seems a bit harsh to me, but the trade-off is definitely something to think about.
Thanks for reading!