It's normal for entrepreneurs to look up to billionaires, especially those who came from humble backgrounds. After all, who doesn't aspire to be a media superstar while metaphorically doing a daily Scrooge McDuck swan dive?
That being said, billionaires are not fountains of infinite wisdom and sometimes they say really stupid things, especially when trying to justify their wealth by insisting that anyone could do the same, if they merely worked just as hard.
The absolute worst example of this sort of self-aggrandizing remark comes from Mike Bloomberg, who may end up becoming the first (real) billionaire to become President of the United States:
"Make sure you're the first one in there every day and the last one to leave. Don't ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom. You keep working."
I don't doubt that Bloomberg worked, and works, long hours. Maybe he didn't eat lunch or take bathroom breaks. Nevertheless, there's no causal connection between working long hours and making a lot of money. Plenty of poor people work long hours, after all.
More important, several scientific studies have shown that working beyond about 50 hours a week results in a decrease in productivity. On average, people who work 60 hours a week get less accomplished than those who work 50 hours a week.
Beyond the basic stupidity of the "work long hour and you'll get rich" premise, Bloomberg's specific advice is particularly stupid because when everyone follows it, a competition develops to see who can get in earliest and leave latest.
The result is organizational burnout with a consequent death of creativity. This is exactly what's happened in Japan where the average "salaryman" puts in 13 hours a day, 6 days a week. Needless to say, few salarymen are billionaires or likely to become one.
To matters worse, those long hours haven't paid off. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Japan ranks 20th in productivity, much lower than the United States (in 5th place) and and just a little above Slovenia.
As for skipping lunch, according to the National Institutes of Health and Columbia University, regularly missing a meal leads to binge-eating, energy dips, lower concentration, fatigue, dizziness, diabetes, anemia, bone-loss, impaired thyroid function, decreased immunity, and bad teeth. (Note: Bloomberg's teeth. Yikes!)
As for skipping bathroom breaks, that's a really, really bad idea, according to the CDC:
"When people get too few bathroom breaks, they may be at risk for urinary tract infections and incontinence, as well as other bladder, bowel, and kidney problems. Limited bathroom access may make it difficult for people with certain chronic diseases to take medications that may result in the need to use the bathroom more often. Research shows that holding a full bladder makes people hurry through their work and pay less attention -- meaning that workers distracted by a full bladder may be more likely to injure themselves or others."
So there you have it. In the 13 years I've been writing this blog, I've read literally hundreds of "how to get rich" articles and books. Some were smart, some were dopey, but I never, ever ran across anything containing such a concentrated dose of pure stupidity.