Thoughts Of Success: Rethink Culture And Being Rich Shouldn't Change Who You Are

Jack Ma
Founder and CEO of Alibaba Group

Chinese internet entrepreneur and former English teacher Jack Ma, could be seen as one of the most successful man in mainland China, and also one of the richest. With Alibaba, the man that never taught himself internet or computer, has become an example for the ordinary regulars that anyone can achieve success with innovations.

"I want to talk with everyone about innovation. We often say that America and Europe are more innovative than us, that China's innovation is not good and that the education [jiaoyu] system is to blame. Actually, I think China's jiao is fine. The problem is with the yu. In terms of jiao, China's students test better than anyone in the world, but yu is about fostering culture and emotional IQ.

Ma sets himself as an example. He graduated Hangzhou Normal University to bet his cultural education. He didn't go to Tsinghua or Peking University because if he did, he would become a researcher.

"Kids who know how to have fun, are able to have fun, and want to have fun generally have bright futures. We jiao our kids, but we've lost the yu part."

"[Innovations] will only come regularly if we rethink our culture, our yu, our having fun, and our sports. Many painters learn by having fun, many athletes learn by having fun, many works [of art and literature] are the products of having fun. So, our entrepreneurs need to learn how to have fun, too."

In his later speech, Ma said he told his son that "you don't need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren't too bad. Only this kind of person has enough free time to learn other skills. I think, if China's economy wants to develop, it needs a lot of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and individually-run companies, and that requires a lot of entrepreneurs with values and drive."

Jack Ma

Success With Drawbacks

Jack Ma, with Alibaba, is one of the richest man in China. Alibaba is China's largest B2B site and a favorite among American and European companies that are buying from Chinese suppliers. Ma also owns the Taobao online auction site that has become bigger than eBay in China.

Despite the U.S. government publicly shamed Alibaba and Taobao as a hugely successful hybrid of Amazon and eBay that enable the sales of counterfeit merchandise, Ma is certain that what he did was an innovation. After thousands of small merchants protested outside Alibaba's headquarter is Hangzhou, "I was so lonely at that time," said Ma that understands the problem was because he was just trying to fight piracy. "Nobody wanted to believe Jack Ma."

When he was speaking at CNBC in 2014 from his company's headquarter, Ma said that he wasn't happy. He found out that being his country's richest man "a great pain."

"I try to make myself happy no, because I know that if I'm not happy my colleagues are not happy, and my shareholders are not happy, and my customers are not happy."

The problem came since Alibaba's historic IPO. And as the result has made him one of the richest, it all added to his stresses. Ma said that becoming China's richest man has provided its own set of headaches.

"People say, 'Well Jack, rich people is good.' Yeah it is good, but not the richest man in China. It's a great pain because when you're (the) richest person in the world, everybody (is) surrounding you for money," he explained. "Today when I walk on the street, people look at you in a different - I want people to see this is entrepreneur, this is a guy who is having fun of himself, and I want to be myself."

Most people, including Ma himself, can find it difficult to believe that his humble beginning would eventually made him successful. Ma started as a city tour that gave his service for free. He had neither money nor connections. Despite he isn't academically inclined, Ma passed the college entrance exams after his third attempt. Upon graduation, he started applying to as many jobs as he could, but turned down by almost all of them. His secret for success was: no money, no technology and no plan.

But years later, in May 2015, Jack Ma has an estimated net worth of $24.8 billion.

In a book called Jack Ma's Internal Speeches: Trust in Tomorrow, Ma said that: "Recently, I feel like my fame has gotten bigger; people are afraid to look me in the eye and everyone thinks Jack Ma and Alibaba are so great. After getting a little success, we may sometimes forget who we are, because when we were young we were just regular people. When we were just starting up, I constantly reminded myself of who I was, and where I came from. When Alibaba listed on November 6 [2014], everyone thought Alibaba is really very great, how could we get such a high market value? But for me, November 6th was the same as the 5th, I don't think I changed at all."

"I never thought the money I have belongs to me. It belongs to the society."