Jack Ma: The richest man in China on how to be happy and successful in business

The Alibaba owner said that realising money can 'give you headaches' and being optimistic are important to be happy and successful

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The Independent Online

Jack Ma, is the richest person in China. He founded the e-commerce giant Alibaba and is worth $25 billion. Yet when he spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Tuesday, he gave some tips on being happy that belied his wealth. Here's what he said. 

1. Be happy with what you've got. Ma was happy making $20 a month and, far from celebrating his new billions, he has found it can give you "a lot of headaches".

He added: "The best day I had was when I graduated. I got £20 a month as my pay. That was fantastic...When you have one million dollars, you’re a lucky person.

"When you have 10 million dollars, you’ve got trouble, a lot of headaches. When you have more than one billion dollars... that’s a responsibility you have— it’s the trust of people on you, because people believe you can spend money better than the others."

2. Content is king. Ma argued you can make it in China without "a powerful uncle" as long as you have a great product people want to spend money on.

He said: "People say, well Jack, if you're successful in China, you must have some strong, secret government support, and this and that...We don't have a rich father, we don't have a powerful uncle— We only have the customers who support us."

3. You have to stay true to who you are and be optimistic because "today is going to be a tough day, tomorrow will be tougher, the day after tomorrow is beautiful, most people die tomorrow."

Once again, Ma cited Forrest Gump as his personal hero and insisted that he "would have not survived 15 years doing Internet in China" had he not been optimistic about the potential of Alibaba and e-commerce.


4. Invest in making others happy and the environment. The 50-year old conceded pollution is a serious problem in China- and it must be solved.

"The polluted water, the airs, unsafe food… 10 years later, millions and millions of people in China will have health problems. So we should invest money on that."

5. Stay hungry and follow your dreams. A self-made billionaire, Ma taught himself English, was rejected by several universities and became a teacher before he struck gold in 1999- the year he founded Alibaba in his tiny apartment in Hangzhou

"I always believe we have to think about what we should do in ten years. We [have] success today because we had a dream 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago we believed the Internet could house small business."

DISCLAIMER: Of course, this is easy to say when you have $25 billion in the bank.  Ma might be being rather optimistic when he talks of Chinese politics and the need for green credentials . It is no secret corruption is a problem in China.

The Alibaba owner has struck a populistic tone in his recent public appearances, praising Chinese entrepreneurs, but the sentencing of top officials such as Bo Xilai and the investigation into Zhou Yongkang, once head of China National Petroleum, show there's a lot of work left to do.

Additionally China remains the world’s biggest fossil-fuel emissions producer and a recent report by World Health Organization argued the country's air pollution poses a serious health threat and is hurting productivity. Let's hope Ma acts on his words.