I know plenty of people with money, lots of money. Me, I’ve got just enough to not work full-time, which makes me happy. I know far fewer people with power, lots of power. For those with power, their lives seem quite fascinating.
Given we tend to want more of what is less common, is it safe to say that power is a more desirable asset than money? I’ve never thought so, although I’m someone who likes to stay in the shadows. I don’t even have the power to require angry commenters to at least share where they are coming from. Ah, but I do have the power to press the DELETE button, which I sometimes do with an ascending evil laugh!
Recently, something happened that made me appreciate power over money. This event will also make you realize that behind all the glam and glitter, billionaires are just like you and me.
“ONLY VVIP’S PLEASE”
Dreamforce, the largest tech conference in the world, just finished up in San Francisco. Every year, some 125,000+ people line the streets to attend Marc Benioff’s conference. Marc is worth about $4 billion and is the founder of Salesforce (Ticker: CRM), a customer relationship management software company valued at over $45 billion. He is a fantastic supporter to many charitable causes in the Bay Area, most notably UCSF’s Children’s Hospital.
Luminaries, such as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and movie stars such as Jessica Alba all participate in sharing their wisdom. Further, after a day of presentations and seminars, there are countless corporate parties to attend with endless yummy hors d’oeuvres and exotic cocktails.
The grand finale is a concert at one of the piers. This year, Dreamforce hosted The Foo Fighters and The Killers (one of my favorite bands) at Pier 70. It was a zoo! Anyone who paid $1,000+ per ticket to the main conference was invited.
In addition to general admittance, there was a special section zoned off with three layers of security checking badges. This was the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Benefits area, reserved exclusively for donors who paid an additional $5,000 to $1 million in support of Marc’s cause.
I really had no idea what I was walking myself into. Pier 70 was a maze of trails where event coordinators ushered people to various lines. My date and I walked through every security checkpoint, including the Benefits Area, where we bumped into none other than Marc himself, chatting it up with a couple ladies who seemed enthralled with everything he said.
I said, “hello,” thanked him for throwing such a great event, and moved on to get some drinks before The Killers went on at the East Stage. After The Killers finished, I headed back through the private Benefits Area, and deep into the hive to Platform 4, Lower Deck where, unbeknownst to me, the big hitters roamed.
I asked the third security checkpoint guard what was the level of this pass and she said, “This is the VVIP pass. It doesn’t get much closer and better than this!” While people were getting rejected by security for getting any closer to Center Stage, here we were moseying on through. This is when I started thinking to myself, Ahh, so this is what power feels like!
THE REJECTION NO MAN WANTS TO EXPERIENCE
Men like to impress women. Why else do some guys drive sports cars to work when the fastest they can go is 40 mph for five seconds due to all the traffic? Why else do men consistently try to highlight their income or fluff up their power at work when speaking with women? Men are pretty funny people. We have this innate desire to impress and conquer.
At one of the corporate parties before the big concert, I briefly spoke with a woman who told me about a man she had met earlier at the conference. She said, “This really geeky guy with a wife and kid at home asked if I wanted to see the Dreamboat later.” The Dreamboat is a luxury cruise liner shipped in especially for the conference to provide rooms for conference attendees.
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, checking out a cruise ship may be somewhat interesting. But as a veteran cruiser, I suggested the guy was basically inviting her to see his room, and then who knows what after. After all, she was an attractive woman and the boat was his hotel.
She was a little incredulous at first but finally agreed that it was probably not the wisest of moves going back to his boat at 10 pm. Two marriages potentially saved by the Financial Samurai! Hooray!
Back To Platform 4, Lower Deck
My date and I were drinking our Cuba Libres while singing along to My Hero, when in walks the Co-founder and CEO of Uber and his girlfriend. They were smiling, laughing, and having a great time just like us!
All was good until they wanted to go to the upper-level platform where we had just come down from. The usher looked at them, shook her head, pointed at their badges, and said they weren’t allowed up. It was a humbling moment where at some point, I’m sure he was thinking to himself, Do you know who I am? This is so embarrassing to get rejected with my girl here. I better text Benioff to let me up!
But alas, the billionaire CEO and his girlfriend were denied. They had no power to get past one determined usher. Only a lowly minimum-wage earning Uber driver and his beautiful date had the ability to move between platforms. At least Travis got to hang with us on the lower deck.
I once again felt that intoxicating feeling of power that seldom rushes through my veins. I can totally understand why politicians, CEOs, singers, and actors can get addicted to power and end up doing incredible nonsensical things. The adoration feels great. I understand why people love to tell everybody how much they make, even though it’s a sure sign of insecurity. Being able to walk through security when other people can’t is amazing. Stealth Wealth be damned!
A LOT OF SIMILARITIES
If you have some unhealthy desire to be rich and famous, for your own health, I suggest taking it down a notch. The uber rich are just like you and me. They’ve got their insecurities, their frustrations, their hopes, and their failures. After a while, the big house, the fancy car, and all the other material things money can buy gets old. Even the incessant adoration slowly loses its allure. All anyone wants is to spend time with a best friend away from the madding crowd.
The one thing the 0.1% (not the 1%) do have is the ability to experience more than the average person. But how can they fully enjoy their riches, when they’re busy handling the responsibilities that come with so much wealth? The irony is that students, recent college graduates, and the poor have much more free time to smell the roses.
I say enjoy the life you have and don’t worry about how much further some people are “getting ahead.” You don’t have to get invited to the Oscars to enjoy the show. Just switch on the TV. You don’t need a private villa in Hawaii to enjoy the water. Most beaches are accessible and open to the public. Billionaires and the rest of us are more alike than you might think!
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