For a certain cohort of acquaintances, the equivalent friend is Elon Musk. I’ve written about Elon before, after he put a Tesla Roadster into orbit on live TV. That impressed The Companion, in his capacity as amateur rocketeer and drone pilot; but I, too, had to admit to a certain admiration for the feat. Not just the technical aspect of it, but the sheer showmanship.
And good on him for what he’s done since founding PayPal – an idea so neat that eBay bought it for $US1.5 billion in 2002, back when a billion and a half dollars was a lot of money – including developing SpaceX and the Tesla car business. But let’s not forget Elon didn’t found Tesla; he took control of it after it ran into financial trouble in 2008. Right time, right place, as so many of these self-made billionaires seem to be. (At the time of writing, however, the definition of “self-made” is undergoing furious revision in the wake of Kylie Jenner’s proclaimed status as a “self-made” billionaire).
But I’ve gone back to my pre-Roadster-in-space opinion of the PayPal founder. Having a neat idea and getting a lot of money for it doesn’t prove anything except he had a neat idea and got a lot of money for it. Significant wealth does not necessarily and automatically equal being smart and I’m reminded of the line in Citizen Kane: “It’s no trick to make an awful lot of money if all you want is to make a lot of money.” Some of the smartest people I know are cheerfully financially challenged; some of the richest people I know are as dumb as a sack full of hammers.