Dinner with a Billionaire
There aren't too many Saturdays you run into a billionaire, exchange contact information, converse over the phone the next day, schedule a dinner to pick his/her brain, have dinner, and build a relationship. I had this rare privilege about a week ago when I ran into a billionaire while trying to find a parking spot at a busy mall.
He drove a red Ferrari which was obviously the nicest car on that strip in the parking lot, I was driving my white Mercedes and I asked him if I could take his parking spot as he was getting ready to leave. He had noticed I had a Nigerian outfit on and asked if I was Nigerian? I gladly said yes, to which he said, “Okay” in a delighted tone, “I too am Nigerian, I will wait for you.” Side note, driving a white mercedes and being of the same origin made me more of a friend than a liability, think about it.
I found a parking spot moments after and decided to park there so we could converse better when I got back to him. I got back to him and introduced myself, exchanged pleasantries and talked for about 20 minutes before he left. The short conversation revolved around what he did (medical practitioner with a strong research background) and what I did, how we got to America, and what we've done thus far living in a foreign land. We exchanged contacts and I promised to reach out to him in the next couple of days. At this point, I knew he was wealthy, however I didn’t know to what extent. I proceeded to google him soon after he left, when I found he had five doctorate degrees, worked primarily in a different country from America, and what his net worth was 12 years ago. This gentleman was worth half a $1 billion in 2004 at the age of 44, now 56, is well over the $1 billion mark.
So the next day I gave him a call and I was pleasantly surprised when he answered the phone saying “hello Mr. Lana,” letting me know that he had already saved my contact information in anticipation of a phone call from me. I was truly honored and proceeded to tell him how grateful I was to have met him the day before. I told him I would love to pick his brain sometime soon and we scheduled a meeting, coffee/dinner for 3 days later.
At dinner, we discussed everything from politics in Nigeria and America, to shopping, to Rolex watches (which we both wore- again, familiarity), to vacations in Dubai, conferences in Singapore & Chicago on healthcare, healthcare management and clinical medicine, purpose in life and pursuit, hardwork and diligence, wealth management and philosophy, amongst other things. He gladly shared with him his take on life, the importance of hard work at an early stage in life and then smart work soon after your hard work yields a platform for growth. He talked about sleeping only a few hours at night (hard work), even at 56 and studying through the night to improve his knowledge. He talked about working in a third world country and investing accordingly because the labor is cheaper than in America (smart work). He talked about humility (exemplified in my inability to tell his worth when we initially met) and a hunger for more (as observed in his quest for knowledge with 5 doctorate degrees). He shared much more with me and gave advice on how to build wealth. His emphasis was on solving a problem and trying not to think of the money initially. He strongly discouraged being an employee and pushed for entrepreneurship. I asked him how it felt making his first million, he said he couldn’t recall making his first $10 million; he was too focused on working hard, solving problems through research and practicing medicine. Again, he said to focus on solving a problem, the money will follow.
If there’s one take home from that dinner, it's that building wealth is not about the money, it’s about solving a problem. Identify a need, fill in the gap, and people will pay you for doing the work. I pray God will help us all find that need, and I pray the work needed to provide the solution will be worthwhile with favor and grace from all stakeholders.