Black History Month: Advice from 2022’s Black Billionaires

Forbes’ 2022 list of billionaires includes several Black celebrities and titans of media, sports, and business. While their successes loom large, these influential personalities have had several opportunities to share valuable words of wisdom on reaching their full potential and goals. Granted, their path to success wasn’t always easy, but despite the hurdles, they managed to break barriers. 

Aliko Dangote (estimated worth 18.7 billion)

Considered Africa’s richest businessman, Dangote founded Dangote Cement Inc, the continent’s largest cement company. The Nigerian business tycoon had a knack for entrepreneurship from a young age. After graduating from college, Dangote borrowed 3,000 dollars from his uncle to start a small agricultural commodities trading business. His venture quickly became successful, and he managed to pay the loan within three months of starting the business. 

“Endeavour to work as hard as possible to attain a new aim with each day that comes by. Don’t go to bed until you have achieved something productive.”

Productivity and hard work go hand in hand. Dangote lives by his words; hard work is the key to success. Hard work and determination can make one valuable to an employer. If you are an entrepreneur, it can make you sell your products and services effectively. After all, hard work reinforces personal development.  

Robert Smith (estimated worth 8 billion)

American businessman Robert Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Business Administration. In 2000 he founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm with an estimated worth of $ 96 billion. When he was a child, his mother took him to the March in Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“The most important thing you can do as a young person is to become an expert. There is no substitute for becoming the best at your craft.” 

Growing up in the era of segregation didn’t stop Smith from pursuing his goals. While still in high school, he repeatedly called the offices of Bell Labs to enquire about a summer internship. Despite being turned away several times, he finally got an offer when another student didn’t attend. The lesson from his quote is that excellence is the antidote to racism. Smith knew that well; when he got a chance to prove himself, he could deliver based on his merits and persistence. 

Mike Adenuga (estimated worth 6.2 billion)

Adenuga is Nigeria’s second richest man, and his oil and telecom companies are among the largest in Africa. Adenuga had remarkable determination. He worked as a taxi driver to pay for his university education. He made his first million in 1979 at 26, selling lace and distributing soft drinks. In 1990 he received a drilling license, and his company struck oil in Nigeria’s Ondo State, becoming the first to do so commercially.

“If you’re persistent, you’ll make it. If you’re consistent, you’ll keep it. And if you’re grateful, you’ll attract more of it.” 

Adenuga leads by example; persistence and perseverance differentiate winners from losers. A persistent person doesn’t believe in failure. Success in life depends on never giving up and having a grateful attitude. Gratitude makes one thankful and appreciative, which leads to contentment and satisfaction, essential ingredients for success.  

David Steward (estimated worth 5.8 billion) 

David Steward overcame segregation in the United States, becoming the founder of a large telecommunications company. Despite facing poverty and racial discrimination at a young age, he became an influential businessman. Having worked as a salesman like his father and production manager and accountant, he is the owner of the 14.5 billion company with a growing list of clients like Citi, Verizon, and the US federal government.

“I’m cashing in on the excitement of making a difference in the world.”

The motto from Steward’s quote is whether rich or poor; everyone has the ability and skills to make a difference. Drive, passion, and excellence in what you do may inspire others to follow your example and impact someone’s life.

Oprah Winfrey (estimated worth: $2.7 billion) 

Raised by her grandmother in Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey believed she would achieve remarkable feats in life. Despite poverty and tremendous obstacles, she handled her challenges resiliently, becoming one of the world’s most powerful media moguls.

“I don’t believe in luck. For me, luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity. There is no luck without you being prepared to meet that opportunity.” 

The objective of Winfrey’s quote is that our thoughts are powerful forces that can either help us achieve success or keep us trapped in our current circumstances. Winfrey didn’t allow her struggles to define her or limit her potential. On the contrary, she worked hard to achieve her goals, becoming one of the world’s most successful talk show hosts.

Michael Jordan (estimated worth: $1.6 billion) 

Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan was a four-time gold medallist, winning two Olympic gold medals. He was twice named the USA Basketball Male athlete of the year, becoming the face of the NBA.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

This quote by Michael Jordan emphasizes the power of resilience. In saying this, Jordan imparts valuable advice to businessmen and entrepreneurs. Failure is expected, yet one can only achieve milestones and stay on top of their game by continually improving. The motto emphasizes that winning isn’t the most important factor — growth is. 

Michael Lee-Chin (estimated worth $ 1.5 billion)

Born in Jamaica, Michael Lee-Chin left for Canada in 1970 to study. He wrote a letter to the prime minister of Jamaica seeking financial support to continue his Civil Engineering studies at McMaster University. His plea and grades were so convincing the prime minister was confident that he had a promising future. Today Lee-Chin is a successful businessman and CEO of Portland Holdings, a privately held investment company in Ontario. 

“From an early age, my mother told me that there were so many of us that if I was to get anything in life, I would have to get it myself. So, I did.”

The lesson from Lee-Chin’s quote is not to depend on others. Besides giving a strong sense of self-reliance, independence makes businessmen and entrepreneurs creators, not users. This fosters a well-balanced work ethic to avoid debt allowing you to control your life. Even though he came from humble beginnings, Lee-Chin didn’t let that deter him from making his own decisions.

David Messiha | Staff Writer



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