Remaining humble and grounded might be just as challenging as obtaining riches and success. In life, most of us seek out wealth and power, but if we can remain humble and wise along the journey, then that is the true reflection of successful life. There are many success stories, but few who have chosen to be humble and show the world that status symbols are not the real definition of their achievement. Here are 10 self-made billionaires who remain grounded and humble with their feet planted firmly on the ground:
Warren Buffett––The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s net worth may be $46 billion dollars, but he still lives in his 50-year old home he paid $31,500 for in Omaha, Nebraska. Known as one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and possibly the most successful investor of the 20th century, he has managed to stay grounded and humble. He has made giving an art form and recently donated a great portion of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be used for philanthropic purposes.
Tony Hsieh––CEO of Zappos. Hsiesh cares more about people than he does money. After selling a company to Microsoft for a reported $265 million, he didn’t set his sights on retirement, but rather he turned his focus on investing $350 million of his own worth into his online business to vitalize a tech hub in Las Vegas.
Karl Albrecht––Worth $25 billion, the founder of Aldi, a discount supermarket chain in Europe came from a working class family where his frugal upbringing provided him and his brother Theo, co-founder of Aldi, the foundation for living a modest lifestyle regardless of success and riches. At the age of 93, Albrecht attributes his humble beginnings to working at their mother’s corner grocery store after World War II, transforming it into a large retail chain with low prices and no frills.
Alexander Lebedev––This former street fighter turned Russian businessman is worth $1.1 billion. He is notorious for being frugal, but ever since September 2011, he has been in the spotlight for punching a fellow guest, billionaire property developer Sergei Polonsky on a Russian television program. Since the incident he has been been charged with hooliganism.
David Cheriton––With a wealth of $1.3 billion, this Stanford professor capitalized on his early investments in Google, but that doesn’t mean he is driving around in high-class style…he prefers his 2012 Honda Odyssey and favors comfort over luxury. He told the Edmonton Journal in a 2006 interview. “These people who build houses with 13 bathrooms and so on, there’s something wrong with them.”
Instead of hanging his hat in an obscene mansion, he’d rather have his name on the side of a building, contributing to the education of others. On November 18, 2005, the University of Waterloo announced that Cheriton had donated $25 million to support graduate studies and research in its School of Computer Science. In recognition of his contribution, the school was renamed the “David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science.”
Chuck Feeney––This Irish-American businessman and philanthropist made his fortune as a co-founder, with Robert Warren Miller, of the Duty Free Shoppers Group. Born in New Jersey during the Great Depression, Feeney came from a modest background of blue-collar Irish-American parents. When he sold DSF Group, he set aside $26 million to give to 2,400 long-term staff. Having given away most of his wealth, he is only worth about $2 million. Feeney has said, “I had one idea that never changed in my mind—that you should use your wealth to help people. I try to live a normal life, the way I grew up.”
Amancio Ortega––The founder of Zara is doing quite well with a net worth of $57.5 billion. In early 2013, Forbes ranked him as the third richest person in the world. The youngest of four children, Ortega was born in Busdongo de Arbás, León, Spain. His father was a railway worker and Ortega didn’t shy away from helping out his family financially. In his early teens, Ortega found a job as a shop hand for a local shirt maker called Gala, which still sits on the same corner in downtown A Coruña. This experience would lead him down the road to riches, founding Confecciones Goa, which crafted quilted bathrobes in 1972. Ortega gets around in his Global Express BD-700, a private jet designed by Bombardier that carries a price tag of $45 million, but considering his humble apartment in Spain and modest Audi A8, why not splurge when traveling?
Azim Premji––The fourth wealthiest Indian, Azim Premji is a business tycoon and philanthropist worth $17.2 billion. The chairman of Wipro Limited, founded Azim Premji Foundation in 2001, a non-profit organization whose vision is to significantly contribute to achieving quality universal education that facilitates a just, equitable, humane, and sustainable society. In December 2010, he pledged to donate $2 billion for improving school education in India. How does he have the ability to give so much? He keeps a tight rein on employees at the Wipro headquarters by demanding that staff conserve essentials such as toilet paper and electricity.
Tim Cook––Following Steve Job’s resignation from the position of CEO in August 2011, Tim Cook became the face of Apple. Cook has an estimated net worth of $400 million. Living modestly in Palo Alto, Ca. he bought his 2,400 square foot condo for $1.9 million in 2010. In the book, Inside Apple, he was quoted as saying, “I like to be reminded of where I came from, and putting myself in modest surroundings helps me do that. Money is not a motivator for me.” Son of a shipyard worker father and homemaker mother, he stays true to his philosophy of living grounded and humble regardless of his success and wealth.
Ingvar Kamprad––The founder of IKEA, as of March 2007, Ingvar Kamprad was the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine. He has an estimated net worth of $33 billion. According to an interview with TSR, the French-language Swiss TV broadcaster, Kamprad drives a 1993 Volvo 240, flies only economy class, and encourages IKEA employees always to write on both sides of a piece of paper. He reportedly recycles tea bags and is known to pocket the salt and pepper packets at restaurants.” He was quoted in his view of social philosophy: “It is not only for cost reasons that we avoid the luxury hotels. We don’t need flashy cars, impressive titles, uniforms or other status symbols. We rely on our strength and our will!”
The question remains, how are the wealthy viewed by average society? If the self-made billionaires of our time have the ability to use their wealth for the good of others, people tend not to begrudge the rich if they can see diligence and generosity in their story. The moral of the story is that money can win you friends, but greed will only buy you enemies.
Matthew Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Adam. Matthew is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewtoren