When it comes to risk taking, you would do well to start with a gander at the world of casino games and one of the bright lights of Las Vegas itself, Howard Hughes. Hughes clip clopped into that dusty town in 1966 as one of the richest young men in the world having inherited a large fortune from his father who invented and patented an oil well drill bit that could penetrate hard rock. For the next couple of years Hughes threw his money into modernizing the Las Vegas Strip and, by the time he was finished, his Nevada holdings were worth an estimated $300 million. His vast Vegas Empire included clubs, an airline, ranches, mining claims and almost every vacant lot on the Las Vegas Strip. But how did this rich boy risk it all and become know as an eccentric ‘Daddy of Disruption’?
Ace of the skies
Yeah, so you dropped out of college and spent some of your Dad’s money…so what? Well, there’s taking the risk of going faster than any other human on earth for one! Along with Richard Palmer, Hughes designed what was to become the fastest landplane in the world. On September 13, 1935, Hughes took his H-1 racer plane to a new world speed record of 567 kilometers (352 miles) per hour at Santa Ana, California. He also went on to break the transcontinental U.S. speed record in the H-l on January 19, 1937 by flying from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds and then famously circumnavigated the globe in 1938 setting a new record with a time of 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes.
Maverick of the silver screen
Howard attended Rice University in the 1920s, but took his first real risk by dropping out to follow his passion for movie making. As a film producer, Hughes made a name for himself by rolling the dice on big-budget and controversial films such as Hell’s Angels, The Racket and Scarface. Not without its perks, Hughes quickly developed a reputation as a playboy and went out on a limb to date the beauties of the day such as Ginger Rogers, Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn. Most outrageously, for The Outlaw, Hughes sought out and hired Jane Russell specifically to be a sex symbol. Combining engineering and art, Hughes designed a seamless underwire brassiere with no visible support lines to lift Russell’s 38-D breasts – a breakthrough in bra science!
The gamble that changed the world
Hughes’ biggest gamble changed the world. In 1939, when the airline business was in its infancy, Trans World Airlines (TWA) was in deep financial trouble. Against the advice of his financial advisors. Hughes quietly bought up TWA stock until he had 78% stock and control of the company. Hughes felt that all the technological pieces were falling into place to change the airline business forever. For the first time, people would be able to fly regularly and safely all around the world. What it would take was one person to put together the right kind of airplane. Hughes was the man the job. He picked the Lockheed Corporation as his technical partner and they produced the Lockheed Constellation, the world’s first viable airliner. Hughes flight-tested the prototype himself, landing so often he wore out a set of brakes and tires. With its streamlined, porpoise-like fuselage and distinctive triple-finned tail, the Constellation was also the best-looking airliner anybody had seen – a triumph of form following function and a vindication of Hughes’ genius vision.