If there’s any book I’ve searched for tirelessly and gone above and beyond to find, it would be this epic piece “The First Billion is The Hardest.” A Ghostwriting client of mine had told me how he wanted his book modeled after this, so I was curious to know the writing style. On reading it, I’m glad I went through all the stress. Unlike many, I didn’t know about T. Boone Pickens before reading this, so I suppose my being blown away wouldn’t be much of a surprise to many.
“The First Billion Is The Hardest: Reflections On A Life Of Comebacks And America’s Energy Future” is an autobiography of the Oil Magnate/ Hedge Fund Owner/ Billionaire T. Boone Pickens as well as his projections into the future of America’s Energy future. From one hostile takeover to another, to working with both backstabbers and great business associates alike, and from making a hell of a lot of money and also losing so much of it; this story is the perfect story of an unrelenting business boss. All of this magic was distilled within 266 pages. Here’s a brief rundown of it.
Boone had grown up having a simple childhood with parents and guardians who taught him much of the principles he used throughout his life.
“Remember, a fool and his money are soon parted,” his mother had said when he told her he was going to spend 50 cents on a haircut, a movie, and a bag of popcorn.
He first worked for Phillips, one of the twenty largest corporations in America at the time and it didn’t take long before he realised that he wasn’t cut out for the job. Soon he started his own oil company Petroleum Exploration Inc. (PEI), which he later changed to Mesa Petroleum. He led Mesa’s first major acquisition, which was a takeover of the Hugoton Production Company (a company 30 times the size of his.) Not only did Mesa grow really fast, Boone himself became popular for his hostile takeovers. He wasn’t afraid to be seen as the bad guy and he plunged himself into the biggest takeovers ever seen, even when the world hadn’t gotten around the business of hostile takeovers.
As you would expect, not only did his name spread fast and did he make and lose money periodically, he developed a lot of enemies as well. So when he got beat at his own game and he had to step down from his company, it was no major hard feelings…kinda. After years in the game and a few business deals that sought to kick him out of the game, he has to leave. Worse off, he also gets in the middle of a nasty divorce. However, while you would expect a 69 year old billionaire who just lost his business and his wife to retire and enjoy what was left of his life, life was merely starting for T. Boone Pickens. He soon created another empire with just a few employees and with time, the millions start rolling in.
He took the biggest risks as usual, based on the best analysis he could get at any point in time, and he staked his money on it. Beyond his streaks in business, he grew younger as he went ahead to marry again, and even start a foundation. He gave to various causes, but none were as much as the amounts he gave to the athletic team of OSU.
“Pickens’ gift remains the largest donation to a university’s athletic program in collegiate history. His total contributions to OSU come to over $1 billion. Over $265 million, or 66%, of his donations have been towards athletics.”
One thing is for sure, if you lived like you are not afraid of death, there is so much you could do regardless of anything at all.
This book was filled with many quotes, known as “Booneisms” and most of them were as hilarious as they were true.
“The higher a monkey climbs a tree, the more people can see his ass.”
“You’re pissing in my ear and telling me it’s raining outside.”
“I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.”
The first billion is the hardest is intriguing, full of daring moves, and bathed in so much knowledge particularly for those in related fields. Towards the end of the book, he blesses us with information on different sources of energy. This, however, got a little too monotonous. It was filled with projections on the state of world oil, price dynamics of the oil producing countries, the differences in various alternative energy sources like coal, Ethanol, and Natural Gas. It honestly felt like a Bloomberg analysis at some point (I bet a lot of people slept through this part). One trilling thing I noted was his concept of Peak Oil. This book was engaging, informative, and a wonderful story altogether.
I rate it a 4.1 out of 5. You can give it your own rating below.
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About the Author
Thomas Boone Pickens Jr. (born May 22, 1928), known as T. Boone Pickens, is an American business magnate and financier. Pickens chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management. He was a well-known takeover operator and corporate raider during the 1980s. As of November 2016, Pickens has a net worth of $500 million.