Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

To be 87 and a billionaire is some people's very definition of a life successfully lived.

Just think of all the amusements energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens must have had along the way.

There has to be a secret to it, doesn't there?

Something more than blind luck or a nose for money. Some little trick that will help you rise above your peers so high that you can't even hear their jeers.

A millennial Business Insider reporter caught up with T. Boone -- not over a T-bone, I understand -- and asked him: "T. Boone, come on man, spill it. How did you get to where you are today? Whom did you fool? What visualization techniques did you employ? Did you do yoga? Bikram, maybe? Vipassana meditation? Tell us, how does one become so ridiculously rich as you are, because all of us millennials want to become ridiculously rich, preferably without trying too hard?"

This was in my imagination, of course. I'm sure the actual question was phrased far more elegantly than that.

T. Boone, thankfully, had an answer that would have moved Yoda to tears.

He said: "The work ethic is the backbone of success as far as I'm concerned."

I pause for your contemplation. I pause also for the contemplation of some millennials who, senior business figures tell me, believe a work ethic is fundamentally unethical.

Pickens, though, insists that it doesn't matter what form of success you want to pursue. Your work ethic thing should be your religion.

He said: "If you want to be a lawyer, geologist, or a nurse, work ethic comes first. Everything else falls into place."

This is where T. Boone leaves me in the intellectual boonies. The mere notion that "everything else falls into place" is a touch P.T. Boonum.

It would be marvelous if life was so generous that all you had to do was knuckle down and you would never be knuckledusted.

Sadly, that isn't the case. Pickens must have had a little good fortune along the way. He was, after all, a speculator. Things must have fallen right for him, just occasionally, when they could have destroyed his speculations on a whim.

He grew up in very hard times. He says he always saved money. And surely the discipline that lies behind a work ethic helped him countless times reach for savings where some might have had nothing.

However, now that computers are the core of many of our competencies, one can be fooled into believing that they will do much of the work. What some humans might tell themselves is that all they have to contribute isn't work, but their own sheer mental genius.

This may not be the finest of ideas.

Still, a work ethic shouldn't be confused with workaholism. Perhaps the gap is small for some. But a work ethic is a discipline, like a marriage, a commitment to a sports team or shaving every eighth day. Workaholism is a fear-based addiction.

What fun is it to be insanely wealthy if all you do is pound your mind and body into making more money for the sake of making more money?

Is there anything worse than a dull, tired, workaholic billionaire?