Mountain Climbing Millionaires

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

Not yet thirty, Billie is a self made millionaire. He doesn’t drink, smoke or dance, and he gives lavishly to local and state government. Everyone wants Billie’s opinion. Even the President of the United States solicits Billie’s advice. Billie is on top of the world. He made it to the peak of the mountain. It doesn’t get any better than this.

In accepting his award from the US Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of America’s Outstanding Young Men, Billie says, “I owe my success to clean living.” When the awards ceremony is over, Billie chuckles to a friend, “They’ll never catch up with me. These people are stupid.”

With a firm handshake and a winning smile, Billie has romanced wealthy private investors and secured massive government funding for more than 33,000 rural fertilizer storage tanks. He then purchases a few hundred tanks and scatters them around west Texas. Tens of millions of dollars go into Billie’s pocket.

When a friend asks Billie where he got the inspiration for his scheme, Billie explains how Texas ranchers have long borrowed heavily from the bank, putting up their cattle for collateral, then driven the bankers around on vast tracts of land to get a general count of the livestock. “Those bankers never realize they’re counting the same cattle over and over again from different vantage points on the ranch,” says Billie. “It’ll be the same way with my storage tanks. I’ll starve them to death looking for equipment.”

When he was young, Billie Sol Estes had a plan for getting rich quick and it worked. He made it to the top of the mountain. Now in his seventies, Billie has spent most of his adult life in prison because was a brilliant schemer who believed, “Time is the enemy. Hard work is for others. Cleverness is the key to success.” Billie refused to believe the mountain climbers who said, “Time is your ally. Hard work is inevitable. Persistence is the key to success. The best way to climb a mountain is to take one small step after the other.”

Which of these ideologies best describes your beliefs? Do you consider time to be your enemy or your friend? Is hard work a thing to be escaped or embraced? Do you depend more on your cleverness or your persistence? It seems to me the American public is equally divided on these issues. Having considered the matter at length, I’m convinced that at least half of us are schemers at heart.

Don’t get me wrong. Scheming doesn’t always involve illegal activities. It’s more about a belief system that says, “Time is the enemy. Hard work is for others. Cleverness is the key to success.” Schemers believe they can build real estate empires “with nothing down,” and that multilevel marketing is the fast track to the good life. Schemers aren’t necessarily bad people. I’d say at least half of my closest friends are schemers and I very much enjoy their companionship.

I just don’t let them carry my wallet.

Roy H. Williams

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