Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, is called a superman by the people in Hong Kong. He has accumulated a huge fortune, with a net worth of about $28.8 billion, and has donated over a billion dollars so far as a philanthropist.
After 60 years of success as an entrepreneur, his viewpoint on wealth is this: Real wealth is in your heart. And he has surely won the hearts of many in Hong Kong.
“Rich and noble are not the same, and they do not necessarily go together. I may have offended a few people to say that some people are rich, but not noble. Being rich and noble means being a member of society; you use your money to enrich the society and more people can be cared for. Nobility comes from your behavior.”
In 1956, six years after Li Ka-shing established his first business, he became a multi-millionaire. Coming from nothing, he now had plenty of money to experience the fashion that wealth could bring.
He wore suits from master tailors, a Patek Philippe watch, drove a brand-name car, and owned a yacht—he started to live the lifestyle of high-end society. Li bought a new home, over 2100 square feet on the Lyttelton hillside, for his mother to come and live with him.
Li says that the night he moved into his new home, he was restless. He still remembers that sleepless night even today, decades later.
He was not even 30 years old, and yet he had enough money to last him for the rest of his life. Even though he was among the millionaires, he was very confused.
He pondered for a long time: “Why am I so rich, in good health, but not very happy? I don’t drink, gamble, or go skirt chasing. I can make more money, but that is all I can do in living a life.”
During his searching, he discovered that the happiness money brings cannot last.
“With money, human beings cannot necessarily accomplish everything. However, without money, many things cannot be accomplished. One day, when there is an opportunity, I’ll make a contribution to society and poor people. That’s what I can do in my lifetime.”
After that, he gained a different perspective towards wealth. Living a simple lifestyle, he enlightened: “Real wealth is in one’s heart.”
Wealth is both very seductive and charming. In today’s money-worshiping society, many people use money to measure a person’s achievement. “Although I do not entirely agree with that, the reality is that many ideas in this world require money to materialize,” said Li. “Without money, many things cannot be done. So, I am lucky.”
U.S. Fortune magazine published the article Billionaires’ Club. In the article, it said: “Observing billionaires spending their money, we learn a lesson in living: Some live a very colorful life, some quite extravagant, night after night.” The evaluation of Li Ka-shing was different. “He is the symbol of frugality. As a billionaire, Li Ka-shing still lives in a two-story house purchased 20 years ago.”
Li Ka-shing once told his son: “My apple tastes different to yours. It tastes much better. That is because when I was a little boy, I passed by fruit stands, and I had no money to buy any fruit.”
Thus, Li emphasizes frugality. He thinks that no amount of wealth is reliable. Li still lives in the same house he bought before his marriage, which is neither impressive externally, nor luxurious internally, and it does not even have an ocean view.
In Li’s office hang three of his hand-picked paintings. One is an original by Zhang Daqian entitled Li Bai’s Poem. It depicts a dense green forest, mist, and fresh, bright daylight, and is inscribed with Li Bai’s poem Q&A in the Mountains: “When someone asked why I came to Qibi Mountain, I smiled and said nothing. Peach blossoms float down the stream; it is a realm different to the mortal world.”
Li said that the painting depicts broadmindedness.
Li Ka-shing once said: “When you have accumulated your wealth to a certain amount in which you no longer worry about your basic needs, it becomes worthless to hold the fortune in your hands. If you cannot be generous and kind, your wealth is rather meaningless.”
Talking about his philosophy on life, he lamented: “The value of a person’s life… is calculated by their contribution to society. Some people live to be 100 and yet perish like vegetation. However, a street sweeper who works diligently every day doing good for humanity, his life turns out to be very meaningful.”