6 Lessons from a Dead Billionaire | William Randolph Hearst

July 29, 2022

6 Lessons from a Dead Billionaire | William Randolph Hearst

I recently got to tour Hearst Castle, which was built by William Randolph Hearst. There are some amazing stories there. He got his money from his dad who got it from a silver mine, and a few other things. But there are lessons to be learned here.

As I went through touring this amazing home (If you have a chance, go to this home!), also known as the Hearst Ranch. Check it out, it’s in California.

There are six lessons that I want to break down for you because we could always be learning, so I dug deeper and I thought, “Well, what can we learn here?”

Here they are:

Lesson #1

The Hearst Ranch. It took from 1919 to 1947 to build, and by that time it wasn’t even finished still. So, the first lesson is all about money. Check your spending.

Are you overspending? It’s not just all about how much money you’re making. It’s also about how much money is going out, and where it’s going.

Do yourself a favor and look to diversify in the things that you own that can bring in value, because at some point in the 30s, during the Depression,—by the way, the Depression was horrible. You think we’re bad now? It was WAY worse then—Hearst was overspending. He was spending so much money that his authority over what he should or shouldn’t be spending was removed from him and given to someone else.

So, if it wasn’t for that, he might’ve just spent all the money he had, which he didn’t, thank goodness. Now, his descendants have a ton of money still.

The lesson here is: Always be looking to save. It’s not just about how much money you make. It’s about investing. It’s about diversifying. And it is about actually saving as well.

As you dig in deeper, if you want, into his life, you’ll find that that was probably the biggest lesson you can learn.

Lesson #2

This lesson is a good part of Hearst. He, like everyone else, had great and bad qualities. One of the great qualities that he had is he attracted great people.

He attracted athletes, amazing actors, journalists, writers, and world leaders. He attracted some of the best and most amazing people, and he would bring them over to the ranch, they would talk, and they would get to know each other.

The cool thing was that you notice that the quote saying “Birds of a feather flock together” was apparent here.

The people that were around him also helped him with his vision in establishing the great things that he wanted to do.

That’s the second lesson, that he was approachable. His demeanor was great, and people wanted to be with him and around him.

What about you? Are you approachable? How is your demeanor? Are you attracting people or pushing them away?

Look for that.

Lesson #3

Hearst was famous for his media empire and look, although his dad had given him this newspaper, Hearst, the son, grew this media company by picking up different newspapers and picking up writers like Mark Twain and Jack London.

What he started doing was creating a conglomerate of all these different pieces of media and saying “Hey, let’s all come together and report the news.”

And it was very innovative at the time. I mean, people compare him to Murdoch now, right? Like him or not, or like Hearst or not, the idea is very innovative.

Lesson #4

This goes hand-in-hand with Lesson #3. Although he did a great job growing it, and he was very innovative at first, he got a little comfortable. Yes, we can all get guilty of that, right?

So, the lesson is: Don’t get too comfortable after you’ve been innovative or after you’ve grown your business, or after you’ve done something amazing.

It’s always a great idea to check your ego because chances are you can be doing a little bit better. And some of these failures we can learn from too. So, don’t get too comfortable. Hearst got too comfortable. During the 30s he was losing money. He could have been doing different things as other media companies started coming out.

His audience started looking at him like, “Hey, is this guy kind of crazy in what he’s reporting? Why is he doing this?” Look to see if your message, whatever that is, is one that’s continually growing, or one that’s stale and stuck.

Don’t get too comfortable. Always look to see what you can be doing better.

Lesson #5

This one has to do with family. As you get to read a little bit more of Hearst you really understand that he was a man of the people in the sense that whatever got him the attention he wanted, he would do more of. And unfortunately, that didn’t translate to him being more present for his family, and he had five children.

He could have spent more time with his spouse and his children, but instead, he decided to have affairs and spend time with his friends, or people that he deemed to be just more worthy of his time.

And you could see that after he passed away, there were some challenges that his children and children’s children had, to the point that there’s a lack of unity, even in the media company that they have.

He could have done a much better job, and I’m sure we all can, but that’s a lesson to learn.

Focus on your family. If you’ve got one, kids, or a spouse, those should be important, after taking care of yourself. So, the hierarchy is: Self, Family, and then Business.

Lesson #6

This is probably my favorite, only because it almost contradicts lesson #5.

Although he didn’t spend time with his kids and his wife, enough time to create valuable relationships there, he also did a great job in standing out and saying “Hey, you know what, I don’t care about what other people think about what I do. I don’t care what the media is saying about me. I don’t necessarily care what you say.”

And it showed in him, building Hearst Castle.

One of the many things that stood out is he hired Julia Morgan at the time, 1919. That’s a time that typically, for a massive project like this, a woman would not be hired as an architect/designer to build something of this epic proportion. I mean, I don’t think that women had a right to vote yet at that time. I think it was just about to happen.

So for him to step out and say “Hey, I’m picking a woman to build this out. And I don’t care what you say.”

I think that just shows that he was always pushing boundaries in that sense.

Lesson #6 is, and I talked about this last week when I brought up Warren Buffett’s Outer Scorecard, Inner Scorecard, it’s the same thing: Who are you trying to please here?

Are you trying to please the people out there? Or do you have this vision that’s set, and regardless of what people say about you or to you, you are focused?

I’m not saying that you are focused to the point that you’re blinded and can’t see where growth opportunities are. I’m talking about being so focused that you know that the things that you’re doing have a purpose and they meet your mission.

And I love that about Hearst. Like him or not, as crazy as some people say he was, in some cases, he may have been, I don’t know, it’s really cool to see that he was setting trends in this way. By saying “Hey, you know what, I don’t care. I’m going to keep on doing this because I know it’s the good thing to do.”

Now, he also did care about what some other people thought. You know the movie, Citizen Kane? He did his best to shut that one down and have it not shown in different theatres. He called all his friends and said, “Hey guys, this is about me. So, let’s shut this down.” That kind of worked, and then obviously it became a super famous movie. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it.

Look, I enjoyed Hearst Castle. I’m going back again. There are so many different tours there. If you’re ever out here in California, go check that out. I can see why he decided to build something so amazing there. It had such beautiful scenery.

Anyway, these are the six lessons I learned from the life of William Randolph Hearst. Hope you learned something too. Have a great day, and thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.