Self Made Men….and Women

Our world is replete with men and woman who are more than happy to tell how smart, talented, rich, good looking and famous they are. Just ask them. They have braved the new world, conquered hardship, fought the good fight all on their own. The are to be respected and worshipped or idolized depending on your religious bent. They are Eden, Nirvanna and Superhero all rolled into one. Wow! What a guy or girl!

The Donald was crowing at Doral a few weeks ago that he and he alone had created this wonderful golf course. Who else could get Tiger Woods to let him put his name on a villa? Larry Ellison can buy sail boat racing’s America’s Cup. It was his vision. His money. His superior brainpower designed the vague resemblance to a yacht. How did these guys do it? Truth be told, they and you and I had help.

There is no doubt that advanced stages of egoism carry the tragic DNA that causes one to go blind and have severe memory lapses. Fr. Pat in a homily a few weeks ago called attention to this and it has stuck with yours truly. A skyscraper or Megamansion is not a “Monument to Me”. It is the result of thousands of hours put in by architects to engineers. Skilled steelworkers to common laborers. Yes lawyers and bankers and real estate professionals too.

If you wear a $5,000 suit, someone had to weave the fabric. To go to the very beginning a farmer provided the raw material of wool or silk. Another common man had to sew it, tailor it and even after the fact dry clean it. Your alligator or suede shoes were donated by a friend in the animal kingdom. They were cut and sewn by a craftsman. Socks. Skivvies. you name it. You had no part in the manufacture of your fabulous wardrobe. You were just dumb enough to pay an exorbitant price for it. Get a grip.

Let’s get even more basic. If you were born with a silver spoon, good for you. If you weren’t there was a mom and a dad that worked their butts off at home and in the office to give you a chance. They could have been great or not so but they were there and except in very rare circumstances provided a roof over your head and food on your table. I have spoken before of the “Lucky Sperm Club” and every millionaire or billionaire today is a testament to it.

Now I can hear the chorus now about it takes a village and all the sarcastic comments to go with it. Sorry kids but we are interdependent more than ever. The global economy is here to stay and if you don’t believe me look at the countries of origin in your closet, garage or golf bag. Check out your phone, laptop and TV. I would love to buy only American but then I would probably starve or get bored to death. The world is flat and getting flatter.

Hand in hand with self importance is our ability to put a lot of distance between us and where we came from. I remember growing up on Wall Street with friends with whom I drank beer and ate hamburgers in the early days. Later on as titles were painted on doors I was with one at dinner one evening when he declared an expensive wine, swill. Selective Alzheimer’s I guess.

Bill Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury came to our trading desk as young man for orientation when he first came into the municipal bond business. My dad kept track of his career as he made his way up the chain from Salomon Brothers to DC. Simon put my father on a guest list for his going away party from the Beltway. My dad called his office and asked for Bill to tell him of his regrets. His rather officious secretary told JJ that Mr. Simon was a very busy man. My father replied,”So am I” and slammed the phone down. Within minutes it was the Secretary himself calling back to apologize.

We get lost in our self importance. I think TV personalities, movie stars and high level execs get so used to people kissing their butts and saying yes sir or ma’am that they begin to believe their own press releases. I can’t help but feel they are so locked into their enclaves they lose all touch with everyday people. They forget the where and the how. “You are jealous TTG”, you say. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t begrudge anybody a dime. Just wear it well or as Lou Holtz says,”Look like you have been there before when you score a touchdown.”

Whether you are in Congress, sports, Hollywood or just Main Street America you got there as the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of people, many of whom you have never known. Arrogance is by Webster, an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people. I happen to feel it is the ultimate personification of stupidity and insecurity. But that is just me.

As we get older and older our world becomes smaller and smaller. We want it to reflect our state in life. We want to be comfortable with those we have something in common with. Don’t rock the boat. They like to be with self made people. They say no one else would understand. You got that right.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:
Multi billionaire, Ken Langone’s father was a plumber in Roslyn,NY and his mother a cafeteria worker. Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle, was born on the lower East Side of New York and was given up for adoption to an aunt in Chicago. Donald Trump was born to money in the person of a millionaire father who made his money in real estate. Oprah Winfrey was born impoverished in rural Mississippi.

At Gucci you can buy a leather jogging pant for $3995. Perhaps a Givenchy T shirt for $835. My favorite is a Fendi tote bag for $2550. From Dolce and Gabbana how about a christening coat for $1885? Amen sister or brother.

Roughly 80 percent of millionaires in America are the first generation of their family to be rich. According to a recent survey of the top 1 percent of American earners, slightly less than 14 percent were involved in banking or finance. Roughly a third were entrepreneurs or managers of non financial businesses. Nearly 16 percent were doctors or other medical professionals.Lawyers made up slightly more than 8 percent, and engineers, scientists and computer professionals another 6.6 percent.Sports and entertainment figures composed almost 2 percent. Someone helped somewhere. Just ask Kevin Durant.

 

 

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