68. Chasing Happiness with Robert F Smith (Restore Black Wealth)

black wealth, black billionaires, robert f smith, robert smith, mindset shift

Robert F Smith recently drew headlines for paying off all student loan debt for a graduating Morehouse class in the tune of $40M. This is actually not the first time Robert F Smith has donated his time and wealth to help restore black wealth in America.

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Education can open doors

His parents were doctorates and educators by profession. They believed in the power of a good education and made sure to instill those values into Robert. Education tends to get a bad rep nowadays because of the cost. While the cost of college has increased significantly over the years, a college graduate still makes more than someone with a high school diploma.

“A recent study from Georgetown University found that, on average, college graduates earn $1 million more in earnings over their lifetime. Another recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the median yearly income gap between high school and college graduates is around $17,500.”

Meet the right people while you’re there

With that said, college isn’t right for everyone. There are plenty of factors that play a role into whether you make a return on your college investment. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer – college makes a lot of sense for you. If you want to be a motivational speaker or a marketer, college may not be the best use of your time.

Do not overlook the opportunity you have to meet some amazing people in college. Mark Zuckerberg started the multi-billion dollar company Facebook in a college dorm room. Wouldn’t you have liked the opportunity to have been a part of that? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates also dropped out of college with some classmates to start Apple and Microsoft.

Plenty of opportunities in college

Robert F Smith received his first degree in Chemical Engineering and worked at established companies like Kraft and Goodyear. When he was ready for a change in pace, he pursued his MBA from Cornell University. There is little doubt Robert F Smith chose a program with prestige so he could have access to other success-minded individuals.

It is important that you keep this in mind when you attend college. You have access to the leaders of the next generation, so make sure you are connecting. Do not spend all your time with the “fun” people. They won’t be in school much longer if they keep focusing on fun and you won’t either. Instead, connect with people who have a vision for the future and are looking for other change agents.

What is your exit strategy?

If you decide college is the route for you, what is your plan? Are you going to work in corporate America for the next forty years? There is nothing wrong with that if that is your goal. If you don’t think college is the way to go, then execute on your plan that excludes college. There is the happy middle that Robert F Smith utilized. He went to college and then started working in corporate America. After several years, you will have learned enough to start your own company in that industry.

That is what Robert F Smith did with his MBA in finance from Cornell University. He used the degree to secure a position in the mergers and acquisitions department of Goldman Sachs. As he grew in his position, he was offered the opportunity to move out to Silicon Valley and open a Goldman Sachs office there. As co-head of enterprise systems and storage with Goldman Sachs, he executed or advised on over $50 billion in M&A activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, eBay, and Yahoo.

After working with Goldman Sachs for 6 years, Robert resigned and opened his own investment firm. In 2000, Robert F Smith opened the doors to Vista Equity Partners and has never looked back. He was essentially doing the same work he was doing at Goldman Sachs except now he was keeping more of the money.

Like a very well paid apprenticeship

I often joke about how sales in many ways is finding a large bag of money and returning it to your firm. Then the firm will give you a smaller bag out of your larger bag. Now don’t get me wrong, if you find billions of dollars for a company, you are going to be a millionaire and for many people that is fine. However, if you have aspirations of working for yourself, then you want to gain the experience from a recognized expert.

If not necessary, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Why not spend a few years honing your craft at a company so you can then start your business more efficiently in the future. Think of it like a paid apprenticeship program where you can learn the basics to ensure early success. As Robert demonstrated, you could transform your career from chemical engineer to investment fund business owner through your apprenticeship.

As a result, Vista Equity Partners was awarded the Gold Medal as the top performing Vintage Buyout in the US by Buyout Magazine. Robert F Smith was able to use his experiences in the mergers and acquisitions department to understand what made a company a good investment. This information proved to be invaluable in his ability to grow his investment firm so quickly.

If you’re on the fence about starting a business

You are going to see most of the millionaires and billionaires you come across have their own company. Even if you are not excited about opening a company, there are plenty of benefits and incentives provided to make it worth your wild. Not to mention the impact you could have of providing employment and other philanthropic ventures for the people in your community. Robert F Smith has grown his assets to $50B and has an estimated net worth of $5B. He is known as the wealthiest black man in America and one of Forbes 100 greatest business minds.

The generosity of Robert F Smith

From childhood, Robert F Smith saw his mother write a check to the United Negro College Fund each month. This experience instilled in him the importance of giving and helping those in the black community. These lessons have translated into his adult life where he is a member of the Leadership Circle for the Martin Luther Kind Jr. In 2016, Robert F Smith donated $20 million to the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture and another $20 million to Cornell University to help increase the number of African American engineering students.

Final thoughts

The income you have now is tied to the value you have provided others. In Robert F. Smith’s case, he was paid millions of dollars when he worked at Goldman Sachs because he was generating billions for the firm. It is just that simple. What can you do to provide value in the lives of others? Once you recognize a problem you are uniquely qualified to solve it, you are well on your way to leaving the world better than when you found it.

More articles you may enjoy:

  1. Chasing Happiness by Rising to the Challenge
  2. How Chasing Happiness Will Help You Catch Greatness
  3. Chasing Happiness with Dr. Mae Jemison (Restore Black Wealth)
  4. Chasing Happiness with Dr. Philip Emeagwali (Restore Black Wealth)
  5. Chasing Happiness with Thurgood Marshall (Restore Black Wealth)

Until next time,

Dre “Better Self ,Better Wealth” Griggs


Robert F Smith: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/smith-robert-f-1962/ 
Do college grads earn more than high school grads? https://www.cornerstone.edu/blogs/lifelong-learning-matters/post/do-college-grads-really-earn-more-than-high-school-grads
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