It's almost Christmas. If you've ever wondered what people like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk do on the holiday, here's your answer.
We've gone through the archives and found 12 examples of how they spent their Christmases: the touching stories, the crazy ones, the ones that explain how they became successful -- and a few that are just kind of fun. Enjoy, and happy holidays.
Warren Buffett: Working through Christmas
The year was 1969. Warren Buffett bought gifts for "all the women in his life" (more on that in another story, below) as he described.
Then he worked straight through Christmas Day, in order 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 move did work out for him: He became chairman of Berkshire Hathaway the following year.
Steve Jobs: Handling customer service
One of Jobs's former early employees told this story about something Jobs did many years later. In 1998, Regis McKenna, described as "Apple's original marketing guru," bought five Apple iMacs as presents for his grandchildren. Only problem: the disk drive in one of them (remember disk drives?) broke after a few hours.
McKenna called the dealer where he'd bought the machines (pre-Apple Store, I guess), only to be told that a replacement would take several weeks. So, McKenna emailed Jobs. Within five minutes, Jobs called back, asking for the name of the dealer. Within five minutes after that the dealer called, now profusely apologetic and promising to replace the computer immediately.
"I e-mailed Steve, thanking him and assuring him that he had made my granddaughter's Christmas a happy one," McKenna recalled. "Steve immediately replied with a simple 'Ho, ho, ho.'"
John Paul Dejoria: Learning and Enduring
John Paul Dejoria is an incredible rags to riches story, and created more than 90 hair products that were sold in 90,000 hair salons (with annual sales of $600 million). But this story is about the "rags" part of his life, 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 often tells the story of how his mother gave him a dime, and then told him to give it to the woman who was collecting donations for the Salvation Army.
"They need it more than we do," he recalled his mother saying. "Always try and share. I know it's a lot for us, but it means even more for them."
Mark Cuban: Answering lots of questions
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.
Among his answers:
- "The same junk that everyone else buys." (What a billionaire buys for Christmas.)
- "Everyone has ideas, most don't do the work required to get the job done. The 2nd thing you need to know is that sales are the most important aspect of a small business. No sales, no company." (on the two keys to succeeding in entrepreneurship)
- "That's the stupid, macho element of all professional sports. It's a lot easier to just pin a label on someone than to actually do the work to determine the impact of a player." (on why most athletes are not considered great unless and until they win a championship).
Steve Jobs: Wearing something totally inappropriate
In 1978, Jobs reportedly attended an office Christmas party dressed as Jesus Christ. It was a different time 40 years ago, maybe that went over well.
Elon Musk: Nearly having a nervous breakdown
This was Elon Musk's Christmas in 2008. 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."
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. At the time Musk said 2008 seemed like "the worst year of my life;" a decade later, he may have outpaced that grim distinction with 2018.
Warren Buffett: Posing for selfies
Buffett gets a few mentions on this list, to be forewarned. Each year, he hosts a large group of business school students at Berkshire Hathaway, and he's gracious about posing for photos with as many students as want to.
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.
Elon Musk: Getting wasted in Haiti (but it's nice)
I think this was 2011, putting it all in context. We know Musk was in Haiti because he jokingly bragged during a Bloomberg interview that he "went to Haiti last Christmas and visited some pretty dangerous parts. I got wasted, too, on some drink they call the Zombie."
The Bloomberg writer confirmed the context afterward in a separate interview: "Musk showed up with 450 toys and 35 MacBook Airs for an orphanage. He taught the kids how to fire rockets into the sky during a barbecue, and then set off into the country to visit a village. Did Musk bring all of those presents on his private jet?"
"Yes, but we don't mention that," the person who confirmed the story said.
Warren Buffett: Sending a 'Breaking Bad' Christmas card
You kind of just have to see this one. It was right after the finale of Breaking Bad, in 2013. Actually, the Christmas card seems to have been deleted, but it used this photo.
Meanwhile, we can briefly tell the "all the women" story, which is that while Buffett was married to Susan Thompson in 1952, and remained married until her death, he also had a very public relationship with another woman named Astrid Menks.
He ultimately married Menks after Thompson's death. The trio were 100 percent open about the situation, and for years Buffett reportedly sent Christmas cards featuring himself with both women.
Bill Gates: Being absurdly generous
Technically this Bill Gates story could go anywhere from 2013 onward, since he's participated in the Reddit Secret Santa since that year. But 2016 was perhaps his high water mark so far.
That year he sent a Redditor an Xbox One Minecraft edition, three controllers, a Nintendo classic, slippers, a blanket, mittens for the recpient nad her dog, some DVDs, a cookbook -- and also made a donation to Code.org in her name.
Elon Musk: Handling customer service on Twitter
One more Musk story to end this with, which my colleague Chris Matyszczyk reported last year.
In 2017, Musk was on Twitter at 8:45 a.m. on December 26, thanking Tesla customers for being customers -- but then responding in real time to complaints and suggestions.
- Response to a request for a Tesla pickup truck: "I promise that we will make a pickup truck right after Model Y. Have had the core design/engineering elements in my mind for almost 5 years. Am dying to build it."
- Response to complaints about the browser in a Tesla Model S: "Yeah, it's terrible. Had to upgrade old Linux OS and a bunch of drivers first. Major browser upgrades coming to all cars in a few months. Note, will be slower at first until code is optimized."
- Response to a series of six suggestions including things like rain sensors and "disco mode" where lights would flash to music beat: "Was gonna say we'll do all but the last, but that last one sounds like good, cheesy fun :)"