Furniture maker Red Star Macalline chairman Che Jianxin grew up in a farm family in eastern China. Now one of China’s richest men, he has amassed wisdom that has compiled into an English-language book, Work Is Life, published earlier this year.
Che, 53, ranks No. 64 on this year’s list with an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion, up from $4.25 billion last year. Che began his career as a carpenter in a city east of Nanjing, pursuing a trade over education because he felt it offered a better long-term future. He recalls early in his career being insulted by a building guard because he made affordable furniture. “Thanks to my obsession with work and stubborn persistence, I managed to become a very skilled idiot, and later, a hard-working idiot with a positive attitude,” he writes.
Along the way, Che developed a passion for reading as a way of gaining insights, and claims he has read more than 1,000 books. No surprise, he adheres to the Chinese expression, “Books hold golden houses and things as beautiful as jade.”
Work is Life is a compilation of three of Che’s earlier Chinese-language books, The Philosophy of Growth, The Philosophy of Living and The Philosophy of Life. While many new titles are about Chinese tech entrepreneurs, Che’s advice comes from his experience running an old-school furniture business.
Attitude, according to Che, is a key determinant of success in business and life. “A person with a positive attitude is in it to win it; he or she sees the hopeful, positive and useful side of things,” Che writes. “A person with a strong desire to win will be motivated to think of many different ways to win.”
Successful individuals, Che says, avoid being weighed down by past successes or failures. “We need to constantly push past our own fixed ways of thinking. We need to have the courage to ignore our past and dare to believe in the innovation of the future,” Che says.
Hence, future results depend on planning today. “The person you are today is the result of the hard work you put in yesterday. The person you will be tomorrow is the result of the choices you make today,” he says.
Forward thinking is also important in business, says the billionaire. “What is the essence of managing a company?” he asks. “In the business world, we cannot do business for today, we have to do business for tomorrow. What is tomorrow? Tomorrow is the day that we have planned according to our own vision.”
Failure to plan is a trap in business and life, Che believes. He uses a gardening analogy: the best way to prevent weeds is to have positive goals. “If you want to remove the weeds in a field, you must densely plant [in business and life] with crops—plant life goals to which we are committed.” Otherwise, he says, “weeds will keep growing until it is impossible to get rid of them.”