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Not All the Rich Are Whiners, Willie

William K. Vanderbilt Sr. is a forgettable man, best remembered for whining that "inherited wealth is a real handicap to happiness."

Piffle, Willie. You simply have no imagination. Your own son proves it.
Willie Vanderbilt II is a young man fascinated with automobiles. He's often seen covered in grease with an entire engine spread out around him. In 1904, young Willie outruns Henry Ford to set a new world speed record, ninety-two miles per hour. Later in the year, Willie II holds the first Vanderbilt Cup Auto Race and single-handedly changes the course of American auto making.

Before the Vanderbilt Cup, American cars are merely motorized buggies moving not much faster than a horse can trot. By offering a first prize of nearly one million dollars (by today's standards), Willie II inspires more than three thousand entrepreneurs to leap to the task of manufacturing stronger, better, faster cars. The race is discontinued after its seventh year, because the crowds of more than 400,000 spectators can no longer be safely controlled.

Immediately following his final Vanderbilt Cup Auto Race, Willie II begins building himself a home. The house is only a cottage at first, obviously designed for solitude rather than glittering parties. Eagle's Nest is noted primarily for its excellent wharf and boathouse. Willie II's heart, mind, and energy have now turned to sea journeys and to marine life in all its strange and wonderful forms. Each day is to be a new adventure in the waters of the deep. Before his death in 1942, Willie II discovers sixty-eight species of ocean life previously unknown to science.

I am convinced that Willie II would have been happy regardless of his financial circumstances. I am equally convinced that his forgettable father would have been a whiner had he been born destitute, middle class, modestly wealthy, or Martian.
What about you? Will you follow the example of Willie the Forgettable and blame your unhappiness on your circumstances? Or will you wake up each morning like Willie the Adventurer and shout, "Oh, good morning! What a beautiful day!"

"It is my desire and purpose that . . . Eagle's Nest become a public park and museum and as such be devoted in perpetuity to the use, education, and enjoyment of the public." - William K. Vanderbilt II, Last Will and Testament, August 19, 1942

~ Roy H. Williams

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Invisible Heroes is a collection of more than 100 biographical stories written by Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads. You can read a few of these stories in the archives of this web page, but most of them are inaccessible because they're soon to be published in a book.

We create our heroes from our hopes and dreams. And then they create us in their own image.Heroes raise the bar we jump and hold high the standards we live by. They're the embodiment of all we're striving to be.

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