5 Reasons why billionaires should not become superheroes.
2020-06-24 - Arne Jenssen
It is not uncommon to see somebody urging billionaires to become Batman or some other superhero.
Here are some reasons why they should not try.
1 Doesn’t scale:
Most billionaires got rich by taking advantage of economies of scale.
Economies of Scale refer to the cost advantage that arises as a result of the inverse relationship between per-unit fixed cost and the quantity produced. The greater the quantity of output produced, the lower the per-unit fixed cost.
A feature movie is an example of a scalable product. It can be very expensive to produce and promote. But the cost is spread over a huge audience, where each viewer pays only a fraction of the cost of the movie for a ticket. The bigger the audience, the more profitable it is.
Being a superhero has no economies of scale. A superhero is a one-person-show where time is traded for heroism.
Facing unpredictable vilains is risky.
You don’t become a superhero by wearing a fancy cape. You become a superhero by defeating a super villain or by overcoming a danger.
Billionaires are familiar with taking risks. Most of them have taken big financial and social gambles to get where they are.
However if you take risks in one area, the smart thing to do, according to Nassim Taleb, author of “Antifragile”, is to offset one risk by being exceedingly cautious in other areas. This is called the “barbell strategy”. For investments it can translate to allocating 90% of your assets in safe investments like long-term bonds and 10% of the assets in high risk, but potential high return, stocks like bio-tech. Note with the barbell strategy there is no allocation to medium risk investments.
Startup entrepreneurs often stake their future economy on the success of their company. Startup companies are by definition fragile. To maximize the likelihood of success the entrepreneurs are totally dependent on their own effort. For them it is critical to avoid getting sick, injured, or bogged down with lawsuits. Therefore you seldom see them engage in extreme sports and other risky activities. Instead they eat and exercise well to offset the high economic risk by reducing risks of sickness and other distractions.
3 Loss of focus
Although many billionaires give an impression of a larger-than-life character with a flamboyant lifestyle, most of them have pretty dull lifes that revolve around work, routines and sleep.
The highly charismatic norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen has a rock-star persona, but he usually leaves parties, even his own, before midnight. On regular days he goes to bed at 10pm.
Discipline and routines are a necessity for billionaires. It is a high stakes game to be on top of a company. From every corner there are threats. A small slip-up and it is game-over. A hungry army of people are ready to snap the precarious position at the top. Therefore they require relentless focus all the time. They can’t take the foot of the accelerator.
Fighting villains in the middle of the night is just too much. It would ruin the focus. It is incompatible with being a billionaire. They would have to choose either a superhero or a billionaire.
4 Small upside - Big downside.
Defeating one villain may be good for society, but for the superheroes themselves the upside is limited. The only upside is to feel good.
There are many easier and safer ways to feel good. For instance they could get a better effect by donating to philanthropy or using their resources to develop and produce things that the world needs or something that contributes to cleaning up the mess the world is drowning in.
5 They would probably suck at it
Billionaires should focus on what they are good at. Running a (monopoly) business. Hopefully they are a catalyst in creating value for the rest of us.
Success in one area of life does not transfer automatically to a totally different area.
One might imagine that billionaires have an advantage in becoming a superhero. They have extreme amounts of resources for the best equipment, training, and to get a ridiculously awesome superhero suit. A good setup for a superhero like we know from the fiction stories.
But reality is different. No amount of money can buy the most important aspect of being a superhero. The courage and the heart.
Not good for us
It sounds great with real super-heroes. The world needs hope and heroism.
A billionaire turning into Batman is awesome, but also scary. I think it is a bad idea if a billionaire managed to become a superhero because that would mean even more power getting concentrated on a few individuals.
In the extremely unlikely event that a billionaire develops a super power, we must remember that it is a narrow ledge between a superhero and a supervillain.
So I think we should be grateful for the lack of billionaires with superpowers.
Why don’t you do it yourself?
To the people who suggest that Bezos, Musk or Branson should become a superhero. Why don’t you try yourself?
It is difficult to become a superhero overnight. As with anything worthwhile it requires consistent effort over a long time. Therefore we should start small. Before we can fly and throw power punches, we have to master crawling.
What is the smallest thing you can do to be a hero for your family?
What is the smallest thing you can do for your neighborhood? Could it be to pick up one piece of litter from the sidewalk? What else?
Seth Godin has sobering advice to young actors who dream of being an Academy award winning movie star. Stop depending on luck and opportunities by going to big auditions and waiting tables in restaurants hoping to be discovered. Instead start a street theater with a group of friends. Act as much as you can. Get experience. Fail when it doesn’t matter. Feel the joy of seeing the crowd captivated by the performances. Relish in the artistic freedom. It is not as glamorous as Hollywood, but it is real. This path may, or may not, lead to an academy award, but the journey is in line with the dream of the actor.
In the same way. Stop fantasizing of being a superhero. Instead, start being an every-day hero. Be a hero to your family. If every day you improve your character by doing tiny acts of heroism, you will evolve into a superhero to the people around you.