Following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, Ma, who is China’s richest man, plans to dedicate himself to the Jack Ma Foundation. He’ll have $40 billion at his disposal. While that’s less than Gate’s estimated $95.5 billion, Ma will have one-upped Gates in one way: retiring at age 52, six years before Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft at the age of 58, in 2014.
“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” Ma said in an interview with Bloomberg TV this week. “I think someday, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.”
The former English teacher, who twice failed the national university exam, started Alibaba out of his apartment in 1999 as an online marketplace. It took off in 2003 as a freewheeling site for wholesalers and manufacturers to sell directly to customers. Payment service Ali-pay (now Ant Financial) followed, and the company now has interests that span from cloud computing to social media.
“I was not considered a good student but I improved, we keep on learning all the time,” Ma told Bloomberg TV. In an interview with the New York Times (paywall) on Friday, he called his decision “the beginning of an era.”
You see, there are three reasons you must never forget where you’ve come from:
1. It is part of you.
You are your story. Your past may not define you, but it is part of what made you who you are today. Hopefully you like that person. Jack Ma certainly do.
2. It reminds you of where you must never return.
I remember who I was before the past two years of my life. She wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but she was a lot more whiny than the Rachel you’ll meet today. Among other things. She was a selfish girl. She spent more time thinking about herself and what she wanted than others and what they might need. She thought smaller than I do now. And she put God in a box. I miss her innocence, but not a whole lot much else.
3. The fact that you’re still here and kicking means that your past glorifies God.
To quote Eliza Schuyler, “The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.” And while I’m firmly convinced she only said that because she knew it was a miracle no one had shot her husband yet, I also know that it applies even when you don’t have a penchant for making people hate you. (Yes, I have no shame in the “Hamilton” references.) If you’ve let your past change you for the better, then being vulnerable about it serves one main purpose: To tell everyone how faithful God has been to you throughout your life.