Billionaire Jack Ma: If You’re Still Poor at 35, It’s Your Fault

The rise of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is China’s most important Cinderella story today. From struggling to get a job at KFC to growing a multi-billion dollar online marketplace from his tiny apartment, Ma struggled for over a decade to grow his empire and now shares his brutally honest wisdom to anyone hungry enough to listen.

The following story told by Ma comes from an op-ed article originally published in Chinese and translated by Vulcan Post.

In it, Ma talks about his own struggle against all odds, the four things that absolutely kill ambition and why if you’re still poor at 35, you can really only blame yourself:

“Before I founded Alibaba, I invited 24 friends to my house to discuss the business opportunity. After discussing for a full two hours, they were still confused — I have to say that I may not have put myself across in a clear manner then. The verdict: 23 out of the 24 people in the room told me to drop the idea for a multitude of reasons such as ‘you do not know anything about the internet,’ and more prominently, ‘you do not have the start-up capital for this,’ etc., etc.

“There was only one friend, who was working in a bank then, who told me, ‘If you want to do it, just try it. If things don’t work out the way you expected it to, you can always revert back to what you were doing before.’ I pondered upon this for one night, and by the next morning, I decided I would do it anyway, even if all of the 24 people opposed the idea.”

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“When I first started Alibaba, I was immediately met with strong opposition from family and friends. Looking back, I realised that the biggest driving force for me then was not my confidence in the Internet and the potential it held, but more of this:  ‘No matter what one does, regardless of failure or success, the experience is a form of success in itself.’ You have got to keep trying, and if it doesn’t work, you always can revert back to what you were doing before.

“As with this quote by T. E. Lawrence: ‘All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.’”

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder Jack Ma gestures in front of the New York Stock Exchange before his company's initial public offering (IPO) under the ticker "BABA" in New York

“People lose out in life because of these four reasons:

  1. Being myopic to opportunity
  2. Looking down on opportunities
  3. Lacking understanding
  4. Failing to act quickly enough

“You are poor because you have no ambition.

“Ambition is living a life of great ideals; a magnificent goal in life that must be realised.

“In this world, there are things that are deemed unfathomable, but there is nothing in this world that cannot be done. The depth of one’s ambition determines the potential of one’s future.”

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Ma then lists all the reasons why someone would still be poor at 35 along with a strong dose of the reality of being successful:

“You are poor because you do not have the desire to become successful.

“You are poor because you lack foresight.

“You are poor because you cannot overcome your cowardice.

“You are poor because you lack the courage and determination.

“With ambition you can overcome all inferiority and maximize your potential!

“With ambition you can persevere, continuously learn new things and strive for perfection.

“With ambition you can defy all odds, and create miracles when others dare not.

“No matter how poor your family is, do not doubt your own abilities and lose sight of your ambition.

“When your family deems you worthless, no one will pity you.

“When your parents do not have money to pay the medical bills, no one will pity you.

“When you are beaten by your competitors, no one will pity you.

“When your loved ones abandon you, no one will pity you.

“When you have not accomplished anything by the time you are 35, no one will pity you.

“Go big, or go home. Otherwise, you’re wasting your youth.”

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