Time magazine called billionaire T. Boone Pickens a real-life J.R. Ewing. Both are Texas oil barons, and they're quite wealthy, thanks to plenty of business savvy and an energetic affinity for taking risks. But it's unlikely the fictional J.R. would've written a book like The First Billion is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America's Energy Future. In this memoir-cum-business-book, Pickens is just as up-front about his battle with depression as he is about his various corporate takeovers in an interesting mix of personal revelations and professional excitement. Every chapter includes "Booneisms" like "Don't rush the monkey and you'll see a better show" and "In a deal between friends, there's no place for a wolverine." Pickens also debunks myths about the oil industry and details his impact on corporate practices: "Through our takeover attempts, my team and I introduced the concept that reigns supreme today - shareholder value." After 40 years at the helm of Mesa Petroleum, he started up BP Capital, a commodities and equities firm, during his seventh decade. Today, at 80, he's one of the world's highest - paid hedge fund managers. Pickens' no-nonsense, you-can-do-it-too approach works, whether he's extolling the benefits of physical fitness, offering an energy plan for America or reminding readers that "Action leads to more action. One deal leads to another deal."

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