Millionaires and Billionaires – smart people, right? 


Millionaires and Billionaires - smart people, right? 

Millionaires and Billionaires – Santa Claus didn’t go to college…


The list below illustrates over 30 of these millionaires and billionaires.  But it isn’t a collection of college educated CEOs or executives.

It’s a somewhat infamous collection of college dropouts, high school dropouts or in some cases, grade school dropouts.  You know the type – dummies.


Get ready – more sales career advice from the sales Hired Gun.


These millionaire and billionaire “dummies” didn’t play by the Rule Book because they never got one or because they eschewed the opportunity to study it. 

Instead, they innovated, they created, they fulfilled unfulfilled needs, they built themselves into powerhouse businesses with huge financial upsides.  They became millionaires and billionaires.


Ten top millionaire and billionaire “dummies”


Oprah Winfrey is the richest African American woman of the 21st century with a net worth of over three Billion dollars.  Oprah grew up in such extreme poverty in Mississippi, she was teased at school for wearing potato sack dresses.

J.K. Rowling was about as low as a person can get financially, living on welfare as a single mom. Her net worth from writing her Harry Potter books reached $1 Billion before she donated substantial sums to charitable causes.

Steve Jobs family could not afford to keep paying for his college education, so he dropped out and wrangled Coke bottles for their redemption value.  After he co-founded Apple Computers, he became worth over $8 Billion.

Steve Wozniak didn’t finish college and co-founded Apple.  Net worth $100 million.

(HG Note: )  Did you know there were three original founders of Apple Computers on April 1, 1976?  Ron Wayne was a 42 year old engineer at the time, brought on by Jobs and Wozniak as “adult supervision”.  He wrote the original articles of incorporation and designed the original Apple logo, then sold his 10% stake in Apple back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800 12 days later. He didn’t like his exposure to risk.

That 10% is worth over $100 Billion dollars today.  Jobs and Wozniak tried several times to imburse Wayne from their success.  He declined.  He had a long history of honoring his deals and his debts, and he honored this deal, too.

Michael Dell started Dell Computers out of his college dorm room at UT Austin before he dropped out of college.  Net worth $23 Billion.

Bill Gates is worth an estimated $92 Billion today but started out spending his free time creating computer programs on his school’s lackluster excuse for a computer while posting a 1,590 SAT score.  He dropped out of college.

Paul Allen posted SAT scores of 1600 in high school but dropped out of Washington State University to become a Honeywell programmer.  He convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard to found Microsoft.  Net worth at the time he passed away in 2018, ~ $20 Billion.

Sean John Combs (aka: P Diddy) did not finish college but became a global icon as an entertainer, producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur.  Net worth $820 million.

Rachael Ray did not go to college and became a Food Network cooking show star and food industry entrepreneur.   Net worth $80 million.

Anne Beiler dropped out of high school before co-founding Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  Net worth $1.5 Billion.


More millionaire and billionaire “dummies”


Wolfgang Puck quit school at the age of 14 before owning numerous restaurants, bistros and retail foods.  Net worth $100 million.

Sir Richard Branson dropped out of high school at age 16 before he founded Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Mobile.  Net worth $5 Billion.

James Cameron dropped out of Fullerton College after one year, worked several jobs including driving a truck while he went to the USC library on his own time to study anything available about filmmaking.  After pursuing his autonomous education in the USC film library, in 1984 he made Terminator, followed by Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator Two: Judgment Day, True Lies and Titanic.   Net worth $700 million.

Ashley Qualls founded in her basement at age 14 and became a millionaire by age 17.  Net worth $18 million.

Shawn Fanning dropped out of college at 19, then co-founded Napster.  Net worth $7.5 million.

Pete Cashmore founded at the age of 19.  Net worth $20 million.

John Mackey dropped out of college six times before he founded Whole Foods.  Net worth $75 million.

Kirk Kerkorian dropped out of school in the eighth grade and went on to own Mandalay Bay and Mirage Resorts, plus MGM movie studios.   Net worth $4 Billion.

Mary Kay Ash never went to college and founded Mary Kay, Inc. Her net worth when she passed away in 2001 was about $1 Billion.  You know all those pink Cadillacs you see on the road?  She started it in 1969.

Walt Disney was a farm boy who drew cartoon pictures of his neighbor’s horses.  In Hollywood he worked his way up by drawing cartoons and walked out of Universal Pictures after getting handed a pay cut.  Needing income, he created Mickey Mouse.  His net worth was over $5 Billion when he passed away in 1966 (over $39 Billion today).  Today, the Walt Disney Company is worth an estimated $130 Billion.


Even more millionaire and billionaire “dummies”


John Paul DeJoria – Before he got behind Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Tequila he grew up in a foster home and hung out with local street gangs.  He created his hair products while he lived in his car and sold them door to door.  Net worth $3 Billion.

Vidal Sassoon was an impoverished orphan.  He dropped out of high school at age 14, later became the founder of Vidal Sassoon products.  Net worth $150 million.

Andrew Carnegie was an elementary school dropout who became one of America’s first Billionaires.  And true to the doctrine of “You’ve got to give, give, give….” he donated 90% of his massive wealth to charities.

John D. Rockefeller’s first childhood business enterprise was selling candy, before becoming the original American Titan who founded Standard Oil.  In 1913 his wealth was equivalent to $392 Billion in today’s dollars, nearly 2% of the wealth of the entire U.S. economy at the time.

Billy Joe (Red) McCombs dropped out of law school to sell cars.  He built a huge Auto-group of dealerships, co-founded Clear Channel Communications, and owned the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets, and the Minnesota Vikings.  Net worth $1.6 Billion.

Bob Proctor dropped out of high school, studied Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale, became an author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker and made several inspirational movies.  Net worth, $20 million.

Carl Lindner dropped out of high school at age 14 before he founded United Dairy Farmers.  Net worth $2.3 Billion at the time he passed away in 2011.

Dave Thomas dropped out of high school at 15 before founding Wendy’s.  When he passed away in 2002 his net worth was $100 million.

David Geffen dropped out of college his sophomore year before founding Geffen Records and co-founding Dreamworks.  Net worth $6.5 Billion.

Jay Van Andel never went to college, but co-founded Amway with Richard DeVos. His net worth when he passed away in 2004 was $2.3 Billion.

Simon Cowell dropped out of high school, then became a TV producer and music judge on American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent.  Net worth $550 million.


So what?


If those millionaires and billionaires can do it, you can do it, and I sincerely hope you do.  Look at their consistent track records:  born into severe poverty, dropped out of elementary school, dropped out of high school, didn’t finish college – common themes with these wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Please understand, I don’t at all mean to imply that coming from an indigent background or dropping out of school is a prerequisite for success!  Without question, the odds of a successful career are greater with one, than without one.

(HG note:  If you play the odds…)

But a frequent developmental phase beyond a successful sales career is entrepreneurialsm.  Consequently, most successful entrepreneurs have a background in sales.  (My next book, HIRED GUN III explores this exact phenomenon in much greater depth.)

The bigger your knowledge base and the more established your learning processes, the more successful skills you bring to the sales table with you when you arrive.  But that alone doesn’t assure your success.


Nobody wins just because they show up


That’s like assuring that Mr. Universe can hit a 90 mph major league slider into the stands.  The physical tools are certainly there for him to do it.  But does he have the hand to eye coordination, the prowess at the plate, the dexterity of the hands?

Can Mr. Universe coordinate those highly developed muscles into a synchronous effort to place a 2 1/2″ wood bat on a 3″ round ball that’s diving down and away at 90 mph?  Probably not.  But if so, he probably earns about $20 Million per year.

The examples I cite above prove that even if you don’t have an MBA or a BS or a GED or high school degree – you can do it.

And judging by those multiple examples, you can do it quite well.  You’ve just read through a pretty impressive list of people who made it happen with very little formal education going for them.  There are a lot more who can be added to that list, and it’s possible you can be one of them.


Millionaires and Billionaires versus MBAs


Maybe you’ve already completed a formal education of high school or higher.  If that’s the case, you have a lot of advantages of education over those who haven’t.

So the only things holding you back may well be the things you learned in school.

For example, a lot of business people place a high value on obtaining an MBA.  I know a number of successful business owners with little formal education who have myriad MBAs – working for them. 

People with more formal education often consider too many alternatives to a decision before taking any action.  Frequently, they weigh out a plethora of alternatives to the point of creating an argumentum ad absurdum.

People with less formal mental training aren’t governed by procedural mental handcuffs.  They often see a situation, make a decision and move on.  It’s paralysis by analysis versus delivering results.


A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.
                                                    General George S. Patton


What is your gold mine?


Think for a moment:  what have you invented, thought of, improvised and made for yourself because it doesn’t exist after you searched and couldn’t find it anywhere?

In my current business, I followed the path of, “Find a need and fill it.”

I sought help understanding my perplexing career paradox.  Why was I repeatedly FIRED after achieving status as #1 top revenue producer, usually among hundreds of sales reps?


No brag just fact.


I searched multiple book stores for anything that might go into the subject – by anybody.  Nothing.  Magazines, nothing.  Speakers, nothing.  Business TV.  Nothing.  Business talk radio.  Nothing.

It just didn’t make sense to me.  Then I figured out I was looking for a book that didn’t exist.  So I wrote the original, HIRED GUN – You’re #1 and Somebody Hates It.  And loved every minute of my work ever since.


Success does not beget happiness; happiness begets success.

                                                                     Law of the Hired Gun


It’s a mistake to think, “Once I get successful, I’ll be happy!  Only a few more years of hard work (and a lot more money) – and I’ll be happy!”

Wrong on that, Harvey.

Oprah Winfrey openly discusses how she went through this.  She says it’s a sure way to achieve disappointment when you actually get there and learn, “I’m not happy.  I thought I would be, but I’m not.”

We need to be happy in who we are and what we do while we pursue success.  When this is the case, we’re already successful.  When we’re happy and passionate about doing the things that hit our goals, we blow past them.  Success in work happiness leads to success in work.

But we’re successful first in pursuing our passion, not after we’ve merely achieved another goal.


So what is the answer?


‘Nuff Said


“If you are really thankful, what do you do?  You share.”
W. Clement Stone


Please SHARE with your friends and colleagues


NEXT WEEK’s Gonzo Selling!

T.H.E. Master Closing Technique


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Coming Soon:  HIRED GUN III


Robert Danger Workman writes from his consistent track record of top-tier success in both outside and inside sales at different companies, in different industries, as a sales rep, sales manager, EVP, entrepreneur and owner of several companies.  Four decades of in-the-field, face-to-face selling and leading winning sales organizations provides the background and experience prevalent in his HIRED GUN brand such as the best-selling and award winning book, HIRED GUN – You’re #1 and Somebody Hates it, and the new, HIRED GUN II – The Essential Guide for Top Salespeople.



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