Billionaire Christmas

Hi all. I almost didn’t write today, but I’m glad I did, in part because of top “other read” you’ll find below—by a 52-year-old U.S. Navy SEAL who is now a freshman at Yale University. 

I’d love to interview him at some point, and I’ll go out on a limb and suggest he’ll probably get a book deal out of this experience and this essay. Well worth a click. 

First, something else…

It's almost Christmas. So, just for fun, I dug through the archives and came up with examples of some of the so-called Masters of the Universe that I wind up writing about at Inc., and how they say they’ve spent Christmases past.

There’s nary a ski trip or a Caribbean island on the list. But, if you’ve ever wondered what people like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs do on Christmas, here are a few anecdotes.

For those who celebrate: Merry Christmas Eve! (For everyone else, happy day off!)

Warren Buffett: Working hard

Warren Buffett simply worked through Christmas in 1969. That year, he was hustling to dissolve an investment partnership he'd established prior the start of 1970. 

It's not known whether he took time off for a family dinner or the like, but the result was that he was able to become chairman of Berkshire Hathaway the following year.

John Paul Dejoria: Learning a lesson

John Paul Dejoria has an incredible rags to riches story, and this is about the "rags" part, going all the way back to 1950, when he was just 5 years old. He and his mother would go to downtown Los Angeles to look at Christmas displays, even though they didn't have any money to buy presents.

Dejoria says his mother would give him a dime however, to donate to the woman collecting for the Salvation Army. It was a lesson that no matter how much you might feel sorry for yourself, there’s always someone who needs it more than you.

Steve Jobs: Customer service

Regis McKenna, who had worked as "Apple's original marketing guru," bought five Apple iMacs in 1998 as presents for his grandchildren. Then, one of them broke after a few hours.

He called the dealer where he’d bought them, and was told a replacement would take weeks. So, McKenna emailed Steve Jobs, who replied in five minutes asking for the name of the dealer. Five minutes after that, the dealer called, promising to replace the computer immediately.

"I e-mailed Steve, thanking him," McKenna recalled. "Steve immediately replied with a simple 'Ho, ho, ho.'"

Mark Cuban: Same as you

In 2012, Mark Cuban spent his Christmas Eve on Reddit, answering questions in an AMA session. 

Topics covered: everything for basketball to how a billionaire buys gifts for his kids.

Probably his most relatable answer was to a user who asked him what a billionaire buys for Christmas.

"The same junk that everyone else buys," he replied.

Elon Musk: Breaking down

This was Elon Musk's Christmas in 2008. At the time, all of the $180 million Musk had made from PayPal was tied up in Telsa and SpaceX, and both were clinging to life.

I'll just let him tell the story as he told it to CBS's 60 Minutes:

"I remember waking up the Sunday before Christmas in 2008, and thinking to myself, 'Man, I never thought I was someone who could ever be capable of a nervous breakdown.' I felt this is the closest I've ever come, because it seemed...pretty dark."

Warren Buffett: Posing for selfies

Buffett gets a second mention, just because I like this story. 

Each year, he hosts a group of business school students at Berkshire Hathaway. He’s known for being gracious about posing for photos with students.

In 2010, that included putting on toy reindeer antlers to stand for a selfie with a Boston College MBA student (who wore a pair as well).

She'd been carrying them around for an entire day to have a shot at the photo with Buffett.

Bill Gates: Secret Santa

Every year, Bill Gates participates in something really cool: the Reddit Secret Santa thread. 

I wrote about him a few years ago, when he sent a random Redditor the following gifts:

  • an Xbox One Minecraft edition, 

  • three controllers, 

  • a Nintendo Classic,

  • a pair of slippers, 

  • a blanket, 

  • mittens for the recipient and her dog, 

  • some DVDs, 

  • a cookbook -- 

  • and a donation to in her name.

Every year it goes viral, and this year’s recipient, apparently realizing this was an opportunity to get a ton of views on YouTube, did the whole thing as an unboxing video.

7 other things worth a click

  1. If I had come across this story earlier, it would have been the lead today. It’s an essay by a 52-year-old Navy SEAL who was accepted as a freshman at Yale. (Medium)

  2. Science says we should all work shorter hours during winter. (Wired)

  3. U.S. Navy bans TikTok. (Boing Boing)

  4. The CEO of Boeing is out. (New York Times)

  5. Women’s running is a bigger business than ever before. So why can’t women buy shoes that fit? (The Verge)

  6. SmugMug/Flickr has an unusual strategy for getting paid users. (TechCrunch)

  7. 20 things people predicted would happen by 2020. (USA Today)

Just a reminder that I’m on a casual schedule until after New Year’s Day. I’ll write when I can, but the holidays are crazy sometimes.

Ideas and feedback actively solicited. (You read this far, please subscribe!) Find me anytime on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter or via email at

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