Stop Hero Worshipping Billionaires.

Please. Please, stop.

Stop believing that billionaires are better people than you, by sheer virtue of the fact that they’re rich.

Stop believing that billionaires are role models, are aspirational figures, are the people we should be looking up to at all times.

Stop believing that billionaires’ schedules, fitness regimes, beliefs about the future, spending habits, spirituality, or morning routines are the key to happiness.

Stop believing that the 10 things they have in common are traits that you could, should, or must-have.

Stop believing that being a billionaire is the ultimate goal in business, entrepreneurship, or life.

Stop believing that billionaires are geniuses, visionaries, prophets, gurus, or somehow pre-ascended members of a superhero team.

Because billionaires aren’t perfect people.

They may be people who have achieved a lot. They may be people who have worked hard, on good ideas. They may be people who have turned failure into success. They may be people who have made their dreams a reality.

I accept all of that. I’m down with it all. But none of it makes them people who can do no wrong, and none of it makes them people who are above judgment, above reproach, or above the rest of us.

And yet, we hold them up that way, all the time. All the f*cking time.

Remember what damage the billionaire set has done. Remember how many people have so little. Remember how far that divide has grown. Remember the state of the world and remember that billionaires have brought it about.

Remember every crook and every criminal in a power suit. Remember that billionaires don’t give a fuck about your startup or your tech or what you want to build no matter how much you defend them on Twitter.

Remember Elizabeth Holmes? CEO of Theranos? Remember how we all fawned over her and took her words as gospel, the same way we do with every other billionaire?

How do those articles sound, now that the company and the CEO is in disgrace, the machines never even worked, and it’s all come crashing down?

Let’s look at some other billionaires. Ever heard of the Koch brothers? Oil billionaires. Here’s some info on them.

Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.

Or what about Peter Thiel. The billionaire who so, so many entrepreneurs and founders idolize and look up to. Well, that visionary genius has recently destroyed a publication, for right or wrong, because he didn’t agree with what they published.

Or Elon Musk, randomly accusing a cave diver of being a pedophile when the world briefly didn’t revolve around him.

If all of that makes me sound like a damn socialist, I’ll take it. But I’m not anti-tech, or anti startups. I’m in a team of founders and builders who care about what we’re making, and my goal isn’t to achieve an amount of money that is frankly obscene.

And my goal here is to point out how fucked it is that we think billionaires are shining examples of humanity.

I mean honestly. They haven’t achieved anything on their own. Yet we let their stories eclipse the people who contributed to their success.

Believe me. Elon Musk didn’t take a spanner and a blow torch and build the SpaceX rocket in his garage. He hired brilliant engineers who did that. He also didn’t invent the Tesla single-handedly. Again, brilliant engineers. In fact, he didn’t even found Tesla the company.

And while we’re on that subject, Steve Jobs didn’t sit down with a piece of paper and design the f*cking iPhone either.

Billionaires are people who have great ideas, sure. But they don’t execute those ideas alone, and they don’t do it in a goddamn vacuum. What they achieve, they achieve through managing and guiding, and collaborating with other brilliant people.

Being rich doesn’t make you a genius, being successful at building one company doesn’t mean everything else you do is going to be successful, and none of that makes you a perfect human.

And I think believing billionaires are the pinnacle of achievement is just an incredibly unhealthy thing for founders, for entrepreneurs, and for anyone else.

If you’re basing what you do on chasing that standard, you’re embracing a pretty f*cking shit yardstick for personal and professional achievement.

Do I respect Elon Musk? Sometimes. But because he built something cool. Not because he’s a billionaire.

Do I respect Bill Gates? Sometimes. But because he built something cool. Not because he’s a billionaire.

Do I respect any human for accumulating wealth?


Here are the keys to this post.

  • Stop reading lists and listening to podcasts about the top characteristics of billionaires and stop basing your dreams and milestones on ‘em.
  • Remember that business isn’t really about geniuses and visionaries and perfect people, it’s about hard work and a lot of effort.
  • Focus on collaborating with people, not on being better than them, or about being a superhuman.
  • Don’t waste your time idolizing people for being rich. Spend your time learning from successful businesses and what makes a successful business tick.




Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, Inc, SF Chronicle, TNW. Founder ✨

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Joan Westenberg

Joan Westenberg

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, Inc, SF Chronicle, TNW. Founder

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