The 4 lessons I learned from energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens over lunch

Boone PickensAP ImagesT. Boone Pickens.

Boone Pickens is an iconic oil tycoon who rose to fame during the 1980’s while pursuing takeovers of several companies.

He is currently the Chairman of BP Capital. More importantly, he is one of the biggest donors to a single college or university, which happens to be my Alma Mater, Oklahoma State University (go pokes).

Boone has been successful in numerous business ventures and at the ripe age of 86, continues to work more than most us do now (he also works out everyday).

And he’s pretty cool. 


I had a chance to have lunch with him in his Dallas, Texas office last December, and I learned more from him about life, money, and business in two hours than any college course I ever took (reason 6,001 why student loans suck).

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. You’re probably wondering what makes me special or important enough to have lunch with Boone. Well it’s nothing. He sure didn’t ask me out to lunch. I happened to see him at an OSU football game and told him that I needed five minutes to pick his brain one day. He was impressed and agreed to lunch.

During our meeting, he brought up the importance of asking and even demanding things you want. He is a big believer in creating opportunities, not waiting for them to appear.

Take risks. Big risks. He took a risk when he left a prestigious oil company with a lucrative salary to start Mesa Petroleum. He took risks while acquiring several companies. He took a risk on natural gas. He took a risk by giving away most of his fortune, and continues to take risks with the money he has left (about one billion more than I have).

It’s important to take risks in every aspect of life. Big things start happening when we become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Do your body right. You might be thinking that Boone and I sat around eating crab while sipping on Cristal. Boone actually didn’t eat, he drank … water. He preaches the importance of taking care your body with exercise and healthy eating. He wants to continue to work as long as he can but he knows that his age is against him. He brought up how he would trade all of his money to age backwards.

Be generous. Pickens expresses in his book, The First Billion is the Hardest, that he was put on this earth to make a lot of money, and give it away. He has donated money to numerous charitable and political causes while continuing his generosity to Oklahoma State University.

After an uber successful 2005, he gave away $US50 million in bonuses to his employees at BP Capital. Most CEO’s in America would have kept that money for themselves. Because of the generosity to his employees, he has an extremely low turnover rate. People tend stay loyal if you show them their value. Build a good team around you, and never forget to give back to causes you believe in with more than just money.

Boone taught me a lot about life, and how to make the best of it. I encourage people of all ages that are reading this to take his pointers to heart, and develop yourself into a better you.

This post originally appeared on Millennial CFO.

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