Self-made billionaire Thomas Tull on becoming rich, and how Warren Buffett changed his thinking

Thomas Tull, the self-made billionaire, and multimillionaire say that he is genuinely one of the luckiest people he has ever met.

Tull, 51, is perhaps best known for his founder and former CEO at Legendary Entertainment. He produced several blockbuster movies including, “Jurassic World,” the Hangover, and “The Dark Knight.” The company was sold to him in 2016 for $3.5 Billion. Tull is also the founder and minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many people don’t know that Tull started running a laundromat and auto repair shop in Endwell, New York. He then made his fortune by buying and selling numerous tax and accounting offices in the late ’90s.

Tull said that he had always wanted to be an entrepreneur because he wanted his ideas to work.

Tull told CNBC Make It that it was a powerful feeling to see an idea come to life and feel the power of your thoughts.

Forbes estimates that Tull now has a value of $2.9 billion.

This is Tull talking to CNBC Make It, about how Warren Buffett changed Tull’s thinking, and much more.

His childhood: “One mom raised me.”

Two younger sisters are my parents. I shoveled snow, mowed lawns, and did other jobs during my teens.

Growing up, my friends were very diverse because I was an athlete. However, I excelled in school and loved science. I also loved to play the guitar. All these people had different interests. Intellectual curiosity is how I wired.

I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone but myself when I became an entrepreneur.

If I did, it would likely be a wrong decision for me. 

I didn’t want to sit and complain or dream of things. I wanted to do them.

In the early 1990s, my first business was an auto repair shop. To this day, I cannot even change the oil in a vehicle’s engine. However, I grew up in an economically challenging area, so people repaired cars instead of buying new ones.

The repair center was closing. Most of the equipment in the repair center was going to be repossessed. I told the equipment owners, “Hey, you’re going to have to take it and make a profit selling it for pennies per dollar. Let me know if you have any other ideas.

Everyone is fascinated by my coin-operated laundry machine.

These were the businesses I owned in my 20s. This is how it all started.

How to become rich: It’s a continuous learning experience

I didn’t have any money experience. I tried to imitate what I saw in people who had money and had their act together. It’s still a learning experience for me, at the very least.

The freedom money offers struck me. 

Warren Buffett’s shift in thinking: “What’s the dumbest thing you could do?’

I talked about something we did at Tulco, and I mentioned that we are trying to be more thoughtful about it.

He interrupted me. He stated, “Charlie [Munger] always takes the opposite view. We think to ourselves, “What is the dumbest thing you could do?”

He smiled at me and said, “No, I’m not serious.” We try to imagine what would be the dumbest thing that could put us in danger. Is this too difficult?

That was something I thought about deeply. This is what I believe is essential for innovation. Now, I can hear [Buffett’s] advice in every situation and think, “OK, what dumb thing could you do here?”

Advice for the next generation: Learn how to “take in” other people’s views

To begin with, get to know yourself. It’s essential to take the time to discover what you are good at, what your goals are, and what makes you happy.

Second, be informed and engaged. The U.S. government relies on informed citizens. You must be educated if you want to vote or choose your leaders. These problems are not simple and can’t be solved with a bumper sticker.

I enjoy reading about different topics, listening to podcasts, and being exposed to new ideas. I also like to read arguments and articles I don’t like. I will not listen to you because I believe that this is a skill and not just a statement. It is essential to accept the points of view of others, even if they are not yours.

Your emotional quotient should be as high as possible. Learn how to communicate and work with others. Also, ask yourself who you are and what skills you have. Reassess your current position.

Find out which niche you are best suited for. This can make it essential and indispensable.

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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