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The Final Words Of T. Boone Pickens

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T. Boones Pickens was a wealthy man. 

If you don’t know who he was, let’s just say he was one of the most successful business magnates during your lifetime.  Starting as a “depression-era baby from tiny Holdenville, Oklahoma”, he became a billionaire by entering the petroleum industry after college and founding what would become Mesa Petroleum, which evolved into a powerhouse in the merger & acquisition space.  (If you’re interested, you can read about him on Wikipedia.)

On September 11, 2019, he died.

Today’s post isn’t about Mr. Pickens’ successes (or failures) in his 91 years of life. 

It’s about something more important.  It’s about a message he left for all of us shortly before his death.  It’s about deciding what we want to leave as our legacy. It’s a rare opportunity to look into the mind of a billionaire in his final days. I find it interesting to think about what people focus on at the end of their lives, and today we get some insight.  

The final words of T. Boones Pickens are powerful and started with these words:

If you are reading this, I have passed on from this world…

Today, you’re getting a chance to think about what he said.  It’s a message all of us should hear.

T. Boone Pickens left us all a message shortly before he died. Today, we'll examine what a billionaire said in his final days... Click To Tweet

The Final Words Of T. Boone Pickens

Shortly before his death in September 2019 he wrote this message.  He took precious time in his final weeks of life to write these words, and I encourage you to read them.  I found it a powerful perspective from a man in his last few days on earth, and it led me to write this post.  Below I’ll quote some of Mr. Picken’s comments which resonated with me, along with a few of my thoughts.  It’s a powerful letter, and it’s worth taking some time to think through these final words of T. Boone Pickens:

  • “I took the time to convey some thoughts that reflect back on my rich and full life.”  

and…

  • “I’ve long recognized the power of effective communication.”

If you want to leave a lasting difference in the world, take the time to convey your thoughts.  Mr. Pickens and I seem to prefer the written word.  The written word will last well beyond a human life, and you never know the impact your words may have after you’re gone.  Mr. Pickens is now dead, but his words may impact you today.  It’s a morbid thought, but I hope my words do the same after I’m gone.


  • “One question I was asked time and again: What is it that you will leave behind?”

…and…

  • “… in my later years I began to reflect on the many life lessons I learned along the way…”

These statements bring to mind the Top 5 Regrets People Have on Their Deathbeds.  I wonder if Mr. Pickens had some regrets.  I don’t know much about Mr. Pickens’s personal life, but given that he 5 wives (and divorces) in his lifetime, it makes me wonder if he had a lack of balance between his work and personal life.  Sometimes those who seem so successful in society’s eyes are suffering in the less visible areas of their life.  At the same time, he was a generous man who contributed to many worthy causes with his wealth.  It seems natural to think about what your legacy will be and it’s clear in the final words of T. Boones Pickens that he was thinking about it, as well.

What is it that you will leave behind?  It’s a critical question that all of us should answer.


  • “She (his grandmother) always made a point of making sure I understood that on the road to success, there’s no point in blaming others when you fail.

     Never forget where you come from.”

…and…

  • “Be humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree, the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey.”

Mr. Pickens seems genuinely humble about his success.  I admire that.  I’ve known a lot of narcissists in my 33 years within Corporate America and find it the most offensive personality trait I’ve encountered.   Don’t be that monkey.  Humility is a great attitude to strive for, and it seems he made it a priority.  


the final words of T. Boone Pickens

  • “I also long practiced what my mother preached to me throughout her life — be generous.”

…and…

  • “I liked knowing that I helped a lot of people.”

Mr. Pickens was a true philanthropist, giving away an estimated $700 Million to various charities and one of the billionaires who signed The Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least half his wealth.   His list of donations is impressive, and I’m pleased to know he seemed genuinely interested in making a positive impact on the world via his wealth.

“I liked knowing that I helped a lot of people” is a telling statement.  Many folks find in retirement that true joy comes when you begin using your freedom to benefit others.  Generosity is something we should all strive for and retirement is a time to give back.


  • “Stay fit. You don’t want to get old and feel bad. You’ll also get a lot more accomplished and feel better about yourself if you stay fit. I didn’t make it to 91 by neglecting my health.”

Ah, a man after my own heart.  One of the areas I’m passionate about is the importance of taking care of ourselves as we age.  It’s why I attend a variety of fitness classes 5 days a week.  If there’s one thing you want to do to make your life better in the New Year, start getting serious about your fitness.  Read Younger Next Year if you need some motivation.  Thousands have demonstrated the value of a regular fitness routine.  Join us, you won’t regret it.


  • “Embrace change. Although older people are generally threatened by change, young people loved me because I embraced change rather than running from it. Change creates opportunity.”

I’ve found a willingness to embrace change is a major factor in a successful retirement and I’m glad I included it as the 7th commandment in my 10 Commandments of Retirement.  Retirement is a time of significant change in life and it’s best to approach it with a positive attitude.  It seems sometimes change is harder to accept as we age, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Embrace Change. 

Pursue Opportunity.


  • “Have faith, both in spiritual matters and in humanity, and in yourself. That faith will see you through the dark times we all navigate.”

I suspect everyone faces spiritual questions in their final days.  There’s nothing more important than understanding how you’ll spend your time in eternity.  Focus on your faith throughout your life and make it a priority in your daily life. Don’t put it off until your final days.  Your final day may come sooner than you think.


The closing lines

The last few lines are, indeed, the final words of T. Boones Pickens.  I think it’s best to include them in their entirety:

Over the years, my staff got used to hearing me in a meeting or on the phone asking, “Whaddya got?” That’s probably what my Maker is asking me about now.

Here’s my best answer.

I left an undying love for America, and the hope it presents for all. I left a passion for entrepreneurship, and the promise it sustains. I left the belief that future generations can and will do better than my own.

Thank you. It’s time we all move on.

And now, he’s gone. 

He’s moved on.

I find it a bit surreal to read the final words of T. Boones Pickens.  I suspect it was a bit of a struggle for him to write them, and I wonder what he was thinking as put these words together.  Somehow, it seemed important to share his words with you today.  I encourage you to think about what he had to say.


Conclusion

The final words of T. Boone Pickens are an interesting look into the mind of a dying man.  It’s interesting to think about what we’d write if we knew we were near death.  What is the most important thing you could write to another person in your final days?  It seems a bit of a morbid topic, but it’s important for each of us to think about what really matters to us. 

Retirement is a time to decide what we want to be known for.  What our legacy will be.  What we want to accomplish with our lives.  Take some time to decide what matters to you.

Our lives will all be over someday.

Live yours to the fullest.


Your Turn:  Which of the final words of T. Boone Pickens most resonates with you?  What would you want to say to people in your final days?  It’s an interesting mental exercise, and I look forward to your thoughts in the comments.

34 comments

  1. I remember him most from when he ran for president and had the big wind farm plan. I was hoping his passion for renewable energy would catch but alas, here we are still addicted to oil. He was obviously a great philanthropist and cool to see how he embraced change as an old guy. I hope I can do that!

    1. Don’t recall T Boone running for President – do you have a link to this information ?

    2. Don’t remember Boone ever running for POTUS but he did explore running for Gov of Texas in late ‘80s. He put together an exploratory team to check his potential in a race but later decided not to pursue.

      1. JC, you sound like someone who was pretty close to Pickens’, back in day – I was around at the same time – I think he used Lou Harris – I remember meeting Mr. Harris; he was a little guy – very smart & interesting. As I recall, just as you say: Boone later decided not to pursue.

  2. I agree that faith is the most important followed closely by family, health and friends. It seems that days and weeks fly by so we need to hold close the things that really matter. Smartly planning for the future is the prudent thing to do as well and all these are spokes in the wheel of life and trying to maintain a balance always has me working on one area or another. Thanks for the post Fritz, it makes you stop and think about what we would write near the end.

  3. I have been a T Boone Pickens fan for a long time given his acumen at energy investments. What I find remarkable is that later on in life he re-dedicated himself to promoting causes such as clean energy that seemed to be at odds with his professional background. He seemed very comfortable mixing business with satisfying social needs. What I do find lacking from his parting statement is more about the human side of relationships – his family, closest friends. For me, that would be the most significant portion of my final thoughts.

    1. I agree Eric – the rumor is that T Boone Pickens left nothing to his family – ZERO – his relationships with most all, if he felt they were successful relationships, were based upon money; just money $$.
      Sad.

      1. Yes, I’d heard the same thing – if you look at his “internet presence”, even today, there’s no mention of family, anywhere.
        His funeral, which was live streamed, and I did watch it, was definitely scripted – no family was seen or heard from at all – it was just a few “dignitaries” who spoke of him just as his personal social media speaks of him.
        Makes one wonder “who was he?”

  4. Another quote from T. Boone: In the summer of 2008 he was testifying before a Senate committee giving his views on energy policy. He was asked about the importance of conservation and said, that it was “number one” of all the issues involved. He related an anecdote about his childhood when visiting his grandmother. One time he had left a room without turning off the lights. His grandmother said, “If you do that again, I’m going to give you the electric bill.” Senator Lieberman commented, “I had a grandmother like that.”

    So did I.

    1. Ed, great to see you leaving a comment here…it must have been the “teaser” I gave you about this article during our lunch yesterday! Great story about his Grandmother (and yours), it seems she had a major influence on his life.

  5. Thanks Fritz for the post. Certainly T Boone Pickens has very generous and committed to helping others and promoting and improving the world around him. I believe slightly different than T Boone Pickens concerning his maker. I believe we will not be asked “Whaddya got?” but each of us will be recognized by God as to determine if we truly believed in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. All the other good we have done springs from that belief.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Todd. I find the “Waddya got” thinking a bit sad in his final days, and wonder how the meeting went when he met his Maker on Sept 11th. Nothing more important in life than a relationship with Jesus Christ, and something many people don’t realize until it’s too late. I don’t make it a major topic on this blog, but it’s something I hold near and dear in my personal life. Thanks for the strong comment.

      1. I knew Pickens for 65 years – he never mentioned God or Jesus or Prayer or Faith.
        Pickens’ was God.

  6. We live in Texas and I’ve always enjoyed following the adventures of T Boone Pickens. He will definitely be missed here. In my mind, he was the closest guy left to remind me of the original old Texas wildcatters. They don’t make them like that anymore.

  7. I worked for Boone Pickens in the 80s as a petroleum engineer at Mesa Petroleum. Mesa was well ahead of their time in terms of employee health with a full world class gym on site and monetary incentives to exercise. He was an avid racquetball player and I played him 1-2 times a week. I was in my late 20s while he was approx 60 yrs old. He was a good player and typically gave me a great challenge. As far as business I think he certainly had an ego and was tough but knew how to motivate his staff. As one of the early Corp raiders (ie Phillips Petr) he changed how business was done. He was very successful but I can certainly understand the multiple marriages as he was very high minded. I heard he did soften in his later years and certainly was generous with his fortune. Was definitely sad to hear of his passing in Sept as he was a true pioneer in the oil and gas business.

    1. I may know you – were you living in Amarillo ? How long did you work for Mesa ? Were you aware that Boone was building an awareness campaign at that time ? Did you make the move to Dallas in 1988 ?

      1. Yes I was with Mesa in Amarillo but left in 1991 before they made the move to Dallas. Not sure you’d remember me but I do remember you, Tex Corley, Paul Cain and a few other exec team members of Boone’s.

  8. It is very unfortunate that his ambition outran five marriages. This is clearly demonstrated that the legacy you are leaving behind is perceived differently from the world’s view and those who are closed to you!

    Can we have the cake and it it? A legacy that is consistent in perception regardless of the observer.

    If you have a choice which one do you prefer?

    1. Well, I can say this – he was married AND divorced 6 times – he never left a fight undone – I heard his last wife was fooling around with his blood pressure medication & that’s what led to his strokes, which put him into really bad shape – they saw her on camera. He divorced her when he was 90. Even though he was considered to be “famous” by some, in reality, his life was very sad.

  9. Hi Fritz,
    Loved this post…and have sometimes wondered about my own legacy. Truthfully, these thoughts come more often now that I have retired and passed the 60 year milestone. Tomorrow is not promised.
    Money is necessary for living, but it is not what makes a life. In the midst of raising a family and working like crazy to support them, a house, education, etc. the big picture can get lost in the minutia. As we age, health, family, and friends become more obvious as what brings value to life…and faith helps us integrate them all. My spiritual life has become even more important in these past few years.
    I had not heard of this gentleman, but thank you for the introduction. His end-of-life message had thoughts that definitely resonated with me – and I’m most assuredly NOT a billionaire. This speaks to them as being universal in nature.

    1. Nancy, it is interesting to see how we think more about our legacy as we age. I suspect it’s a normal thing as we realize our days our numbers, and the opportunities we have to make a difference get reduced with every day that passes.

  10. My thoughts about Mr Pickens and about some of the observations made by others:

    I am not totally familiar with Mr Pickens work. My guess is that like most successful entrepreneurs he raised the standard of living of other people. Some do so by creating new products. Some do so by more efficiently employing financial and human capital. I think most billionaires are so wealthy exactly because they are so effective at helping us raise our standards of living. We give them money because they give us better products or because they reduce the cost of those products or because they help us use our financial capital more efficiently. And most of those billionaires just keep on using the money we give them to continue raising our standard of living.

    I would much prefer that a billionaire keep on earning money by raising standards of living. If they start giving away that fortune, I fear they are using that money much less effectively. I admire the Walton heirs who kept their inheritance in WalMart and continued providing the guidance that allowed that company to find new methods and new markets through which to provide value.

    As for my personal legacy, I think I am most proud of my actions and decisions which helped my employers to provide more value to our customers – and thus earn more profits to continue doing so. Much more proud of that than of any charitable acts in my 69 years of life.

    1. John – this site is about FIRE. Retire Early is an ambition not for the average folks. Any ambition in life that is not about procreation will eventually manifest itself as an antagonist to a marriage.

      Having some level of charitable mindset will help with the contention in the FIRE journey. Half of the marriages failed without doing FIRE. FIRE, as said not for average folks, will only make it worse.
      A charity mindset it not just about giving money away, but it can be giving time (or with both time + money).

      For thousands of years now, many enlightened successful human beings collectively created “Charity” as a moral code to act and behavior in the market place – without it, we are nothing more than a sophisticated and evolved animal.

      They did not do it for nothing in return. The fact that as they incorporated the charitable act into their ambition – the compassion toward their immediate family members grows.

      It is the transition from the charity in the world of competition and the compassion with your mate at home that gives way to “life is a journey not a destination”.

      1. I appreciate your comments. Please do not misunderstand mine. I am not making any comment about how someone chooses to behave – about how they treat their family, friends, and colleagues – or about how they give their time. Someone above commented that Mr. Pickens softened and became very generous later in life. I assumed that comment referred to dollars generosity, and it seemed to imply that Pickens could have been more generous earlier in life.

        I still believe that wealthy entrepreneurs help society more when they leave their capital invested in their ventures. Of course, they are free to do whatever they wish. I was only defending what I thought was being criticized: that Mr. Pickens was hard and not generous earlier in life.

  11. Fritz:

    Thanks for the article and your continuing contributions.
    In my former career, I was able to help a lot of people by performing my roles and associated duties with competence and the pursuit of excellence. I did NOT always enjoy it, nor did I believe I was working nearly enough in the capacity of my greatest “Zone of Genius” (Ref. The Big Leap..by Hendricks).

    I retired from that career in order to pursue the work and life that matters most to me in my second half. My new role is that of an ENCOREPRENEUR. I have the freedom to choose the work (some for free and some for fee) and experiences that align with my highest values AND what I consider to be my “Zone of Genius”. I don’t always enjoy every aspect of this new pursuit, but I have an even greater opportunity to live life each day that builds a legacy to impact my family AND others who are aspiring Encorepreneurs so they can do the same.

    What would I want to say to people in my final days?
    “Be Intentional with your time, talent and treasure to positively impact as many people as possible……even if you think it is only helping a few…..”

    1. Mark, no doubt about it, one of the greatest opportunities once we achieve Financial Independence is the abilility to transition our focus to thinks that matter to us. Once money is no longer the focus, it’s a golden opportunity to seek alignment with the things that really matter. That’s been my focus, and yours. It seems perhaps Mr. Pickens chose a different path. Missed opportunity that we can all learn from (tho he may argue that his focus on generosity in his later years was his realigment. I hope he got satisfaction from that, but it seems to me he missed the bigger picture).

  12. I came to the conclusion in my mid 20s that I was never going to be famous. And I was alright with that revelation. And, at 69, I’m still ok with it. I don’t expect to be remembered (except for my immediate family, for as long as they continue to live) by society. And, again, I’m ok with that. I worked hard during my working life and saved up enough money so I could retire 10 years early and the wife and I have enjoyed full-time travel. It was (is) a good life.

    — jcw3rd

    1. JC, being content with who we are is a sign of true maturity. No need to be famous in society, it’s our closest friends and family that really matter. It sounds like you have your priorities in the right place with your family and travel, glad you’re enjoying your retirement. Thanks for stopping by!

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