10,000 > 1,000,000

When I was ten, I bought my mom a model red BMW.

“When I am rich and famous,” I told her, “this is what I am going to buy you.”

She smiled, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “Mercedes are nicer.”

The other day, I read a post by DHH about how his life has changed since he became a millionaire. Saving you a click: It hasn’t. Well, except the extremely expensive cars and hobbies. There might be a house in there too. Oh, and the travel. But, otherwise, not at all. His point?

“Once you’ve taken care of the basics, there’s very little in this world for which your life is worth deferring. You’ve likely already found or at least seen the very best things (whether you know it or not). Make them count.”

Mind you, this was below a photo of his yellow Lamborghini. Or maybe it was a Ferrari.

My sister and I were talking about all kinds of things at Thanksgiving, among them, wealth, and how as a teacher, she sees how impactful poverty is on education.

“Have you ever noticed that the only people that say money doesn’t matter are rich?”

I’ve been part of the startup scene for nearly 30 years. In all that time, the concept of money has shifted and changed. Where in the late ’90’s it was the dominate driving force for entrepreneurship, the conversation has morphed into “I only want to be rich so I can change the world.”

“What drives you?”

“I want to change the world!”

“Explain to me how your app is going to change the world?”

“People will be happier, and I will be richer, which will make me happier. Boom! World changed!”

I have been no different. Since the age of nine, I have been pretty good at making money. Unfortunately, I have been more skilled at spending it. I have had millions, and I have owed millions. I have had to never worry about the prices on the menu, and I have had to find $1.57 so I could buy a snickers and a Big Gulp for dinner.

As I have gotten older, I have begun to realize a singular truth:

The creation of value trumps the creation of wealth.

Now, each day when I get up, I focus on making a single decision that will add value. Why? My goal in life is now to create 10,000 millionaires. 10,000 millionaires that understand the difference between value and wealth.

One of my heroes is Bill Walsh. The amazing thing about Bill Walsh was not the three Super Bowls he won with the 49'ers, but that 30+ NFL head coaches could trace their lineage back to Walsh. His legacy was not in the currency of personal wins, but in the collective effect he had on the sport he loved so completely.

Imagine if the goal of founders was not to generate personal wealth, but empower each other to create lasting value that extends far beyond our bank accounts?

One of the hardest things for me to internalize as a founder was that as (often) the largest shareholder in a company, all your employees are basically working to make you rich. Don’t believe me?

Microsoft has created three billionaires and as many as 12,000 millionaires. Bill Gates is currently worth $79 billion. Lets assume that the three billionaires are Paul Allen ($17B), Steve Ballmer ($23B) and Charles Simonyi ($2B). The top three billionaires are worth just less than half of Bill Gates. Combined. Employees make a founder rich.

As long as a founder’s focus is on wealth, value will suffer. Decisions have to be made to optimize wealth. Stock distributions and salaries are just part of it. Larger decisions — when to be acquired, when to raise money, how much money to raise, and most importantly, from whom — are equally effective.

This focus on wealth has gotten so prevalent, that the “B Corp” was created. A non-binding (barely legal) recognized designation (currently 31 states recognize some form of a Benefit Corporation), they exist to be a public declaration by the founders that they are focused on value over profit.

How sad is it that we need to have a participation badge in “adding value” rather than just creating value?

My goal of 10,000 millionaires is somewhat hypocritical. If I am worried about value over wealth, then why apply a dollar amount? Because the one thing we need to create value is time, and as much as it sucks that it is true, money provides more time, and how we chose to spend that time, be it racing LeMans or supporting artists, matters. The ability to be free with time comes only with wealth.

And $1,000,000 is a big number, but achievable, even if collected over time. Is it a life changing amount? Of course it is! It’s a million fucking dollars. Does it let you stop working? No. But, the ability to become debt free gives you time, and time is the first ingredient in value.

Will I benefit from helping people achieve the goal of acquiring a million dollars? Sometimes. I have made money both as an advisor and an investor. Is that hypocritical? Probably. I got nothing that says otherwise.

Not sure where this should end, which makes this a pretty bad post. So, I will end it with this. What if you don’t have a million dollars, can you add value? Of course.

To create value, you don’t have to volunteer, or donate money to causes. You don’t have to be politically active or even be overly vocal. But you have to do one thing:

Every day, decide to leave the world a better place than it was when you woke up. And then do it.

It’s now 5pm on Saturday. I went to donuts this morning, slept this afternoon, and an hour ago, I made a friend, who was frowning, smile.

Sometimes, it’s funny that in trying to create value, you actually receive it.

For free.