We’ve all imagined what it would be like to live our best lives, but what that really means is different to everyone. For some living their best life means living in a beachside mansion and never having to work another day. For others living their best life involves making their passion their career and finding a way to be financially secure while pursuing their dreams. Living your best life might also mean dedicating your life to others or finding spiritual enlightenment. The ‘best life’ is a highly subjective thing.
In all versions of ‘living your best life,’ money plays a huge role. Unfortunately, living your dreams is often quite expensive, especially if your dreams involve lavish homes, world travel, and epic parties. Because of the money factor, when looking for examples of best lives lived, we often look to celebrities, business moguls, and tech geniuses. And it’s true, these people definitely are living some of the best lives out there.
The people on this list have lived some of the most interesting, fun, and successful lives ever. They’ve made gobs of money, spent it on pursuing their passions, and amassing material comforts. They’ve lived the lives we’ve all dreamed about.
But, most of the people on this list have also made a point of doing something amazing with their success. They have used their fortunes to help others and fund research that will help humanity survive. They have dedicated themselves to innovation and education. They’ve tried to make the world a better place.
Check out these famous people who’ve truly nailed living their best lives.
15 JK Rowling
The famous author of the “Harry Potter” books is a testament to pursuing your dreams no matter what. In the early 90s Rowling got divorced and moved with her daughter to Edinburgh to live with her sister. Rowling struggled as a single mother working various jobs while writing “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The book was actually rejected multiple times before she sold it for a mere $4,000.
Since the publication of her first book, Rowling has become internationally famous, publishing multiple books within the “Harry Potter” universe and overseeing the making of the “Harry Potter” movies, which are some of the highest grossing films of all time. She has also published multiple non Harry Potter books.
Rowling is famous for interacting kindly and often with her fans. She launched the interactive site “Pottermore” which allows fans to immerse themselves in the Harry Potter universe (I was sorted into Ravenclaw) and interact with her directly. She also frequently tweets with fans.
In 2015 she dropped off the list of world billionaires because she had given so much of her money to charity. If living the best life ever means constantly doing what you love and being a kind and good person, Rowling is definitely living one of the best lives there is.
14 Richard Branson
If living your best life includes being a multi billionaire who travels, adventures, and goes to space, then Richard Branson is your example. In 1970, Branson started Virgin, a mail order record company. Virgin went on to become a retail location, Virgin Records, and Branson’s amazing life took off. Virgin Records signed bands like “The Sex Pistols” and “Rolling Stones” and became one of the most successful record labels in history.
1984 Branson started Virgin Airlines, which has become one of the most successful commercial airlines. Virgin became an empire and Branson become the only man to have eight billion dollar companies in eight different industries. His is some of the most widely varied success out there.
In his private life, Branson embodies “carpe diem.” His is known for his wild adventures like sailing the Atlantic, kitesurfing, and hot air ballooning. As his company, Virgin Galaxy, shoots for the stars, literally, Branson plans to be the first person to take a commercial vehicle to space.
Branson is also well known for his charity work, especially in the fields of environmental cleanup and entrepreneurship. Branson is a dedicated mentor to young entrepreneurs looking to change the world.
13 Hugh Hefner
Believe it or not, Hefner was born to strictly religious parents in Chicago, Illinois. He was incredibly intelligent, with a reported IQ in the genius range, but never performed well in school. His first writing job was copywriting for Esquire in the early 1950’s.
In 1953, he launched “Playboy.” By 1960 Hefner’s personal life embodied the controversial magazine he published and the sexual revolution that was to come. He became the public personality of the magazine, throwing massive parties in private clubs with the most beautiful and famous people.
In the 1970’s Hefner built the infamous Playboy Mansion and cemented his image as one of the most interesting men in the world. He lived, and still lives, in the mansion, surrounded by models who are featured in his magazine.
Hefner’s interesting life has, of course, been followed by controversy and scandal. He’s been accused of being an extremely exploitative misogynist and promoting harmful treatment of sex workers, and many other awful things. But even if his life has come with a price, Hefner is certainly the embodiment of living your best life, depending on what you want your best life to be.
12 Tyra Banks
The “Queen of Smize” is a prime example of fighting to live your best life. When Tyra was young she was bullied for being lanky and awkward, but she realized young that she was something special. She decided to pursue modeling as a teenager and was rejected by multiple agencies before being signed at 17. Banks promptly moved to Paris to model full time.
She was an immediate sensation and in the years since she has become one of the most successful and recognizable models in history. Tyra was the first African American woman to be on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” and the “Victoria’s Secret” catalog. But Tyra is much more than just pretty. She’s also fiercely intelligent, wildly independent, and a gifted businesswoman. After a brief stint in acting, Tyra found her passion in 2003 when she launched and starred in the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.” She spent years teaching and mentoring aspiring models on and off the show.
She retired from modeling and eventually stepped away from “ANTM” to launch “The Tyra Banks Show.” She used the show as a platform to talk about issues important to women, including the pressures of the media, body image, and beauty as a social construct.
Tyra is a true example of living your dreams and using your platform to uplift other women.
11 Steve Irwin
The world lost an amazing man far too early when Steve Irwin died in 2006. Steve Irwin, who grew up and lived most of his life in Australia, always had a passion for wildlife. He was especially in love with reptiles. As a child, Irwin would constantly convince his mother to pull over so he could save reptiles that were in the road.
He spent much of his life saving crocodiles from poachers who sought to use their skin for the fashion industry. Irwin lived on a wildlife preserve in Australia and maintained this sanctuary as his life’s work. In the mid 90’s the show “Crocodile Hunter” began airing and Irwin became an internationally known TV personality. The show highlighted his work with animals including incredible stunts performed with dangerous animals.
Irwin spent the money from the show on wildlife preservation efforts and maintaining his wildlife preserve home. Irwin made his passion his life’s work and he spent every day of his short life doing what he loved.
10 Pema Chodron
For an example of a best life lived that doesn’t include Hollywood, money, and debauchery there’s the incomparable Pema Chodron. Her early life was a conventional one: she went to a prestigious boarding school and college, then taught elementary school.
Her life took a sharp turn in her mid-thirties when she met Buddhist nun and teacher, Lama Chime Rinpoche. Chodron studied Buddhism under Rinpoche for many years and eventually became a Buddhist nun. She went on to become a full member of the monastic order of Chinese Buddhism and run an abbey in Novia Scotia.
Chodron is one of the most respected Buddhist monks and teachers of the modern age. Her books have been wildly successful. Many people have found peace and comfort in her wise words and transcendent teachings and she if oft quoted.
Chodron is an example of how spirituality is often the path to living your best life. Her spirituality is the center of her life and she has helped millions of people find their way to spirituality and improve their lives. She embodies service to others.
9 Elon Musk
By the time Elon Musk was 32, he had built and sold two major Internet companies, one of which was PayPal. He was already a tech billionaire and an unmitigated success, but he wasn’t looking to stop there. Musk isn’t just a tech genius or a brilliant entrepreneur, he’s a true innovator.
Musk used the money from the sale of his tech companies to start SpaceX, a company focused on completely changing way we get to and explore space, and Tesla Motors, a car company that would revolutionize the auto industry. When he founded these companies, everyone was taking bets on how fast they’d fail. Both companies were extremely risky prospects, and initially Musk did fail spectacularly. But this didn’t deter him.
After a rough start, both companies became extremely successful, with the Tesla S being one of the highest rated cars on the market, and SpaceX being contracted by NASA to replace the Space Shuttle.
Musk is an inventor, a dreamer, and a risk taker, and he has poured all of this in to his business endeavors, making his life one of seeing dreams come true.
8 Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay is most well known as kick butt Detective Olivia Benson on “Law and Order: SVU.” Olivia Benson has been apprehending child molesters, rapists, and abusers for almost 18 years, and she’s the only member of the original cast left on the show. The show is the center of her life. She even met her husband when he was on set for his recurring role.
Harigtay is just as amazing offscreen as she is onscreen. Almost as soon as she started appearing as Detective Benson, Harigtay began receiving letters from survivors of abuse. She was so overwhelmed by their experiences that she started the foundation Joyful Heart, whose primary mission is to assist survivors of abuse, particularly women who have survived intimate partner violence and sexual assault. She does work for the foundation personally, meets survivors, and raises money to support the foundation.
Hargitay has also made headlines in recent years for becoming part of Taylor Swift’s famous “Squad.” TSwift has frequently spoken publicly about how much she loves Olivia Benson, even naming her cat after the fictional Detective. TSwift approached Hargitay at the Met Gala a few years ago and they started a casual friendship. When TSwift was making the video for “Bad Blood,” she asked Hargitay to appear and she happily agreed.
Being famous, helping women, and being a part of TSwift’s squad: does it get any better?
7 Sergey Brin
Sergey Brin is the story of the tech startup genius that has become so familiar over the past decade and a half. Long before Zuckerberg coded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were coding Google in their Stanford dorm room. Google launched in 1997 and Brin became a tech billionaire.
But he hasn’t lived a charmed life. Brin was born in the former Soviet Union where anti-Semitism kept his father from achieving his dreams of being an astrophysicist. His formative years were spent in oppression, until his family was able to move to the United States. His background as an immigrant has made him a passionate and vocal opponent of Trump’s immigration policies.
When Google restructured in 2015 and launched its new parent company Alphabet, Brin was named the President of Alphabet. Brin now spends most of his professional time innovating the coolest projects, like self-driving cars and virtual reality glasses, at GoogleX, Alphabet’s experimental branch.
Large amounts of Brin’s fortune have been donated to Parkinson’s research as members of his family have been impacted by the disease.
Brin is also a fitness junkie and spends his personal time doing the coolest fitness activities he can think of. He’s often seen rollerblading around the office and he is an avid runner and adventurer. Brin and Page are both Burning Man enthusiasts and can be found wandering the festival each year.
6 Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen is perhaps one of the coolest people alive. From humble beginnings in comedy clubs in NYC, Ellen has built an empire based on her brand, herself. Her comedy career launched with a couple of HBO specials in the late 80’s.
Then, in the mid 90’s DeGeneres starred in the sitcom “Ellen,” which was incredibly popular. In a groundbreaking episode in 1997, Ellen’s character came out as gay, which was also DeGeneres’ public coming out. She was one of the first major Hollywood stars to come out publicly and the first openly gay actress to play an openly gay character. Ellen became a champion for gay rights all over the world and a role model for people proudly living their sexual orientation.
In 2003, DeGeneres launched her daytime talk show “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which is still running. She has used the show as a platform to champion many different causes including civil rights, animal welfare, anti-bullying campaigns, and environmental preservation. Ellen does work with multiple charities including the Trevor Project, Pink for the Cure, and Gentle Barn.
In 2008 Ellen married Portia de Rossi and they are still together. Ellen is a perfect example of being comfortable with who you are, loving yourself and your identity, and helping others to find the same peace.
5 Neil deGrasse Tyson
Science is really important and really cool and Neil deGrasse Tyson has made it his mission in life to make sure everyone knows that. When he was a child he visited the Hayden Planetarium in NYC and fell in love with science and space. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and went on to Harvard and Columbia, eventually receiving a PhD in Astrophysics.
Tyson’s research has been wide ranging, everything from star formation to the way our Milky Way is structured. Under the Bush administration Tyson worked on multiple committees focused on implementing space exploration.
Tyson became a science celebrity, and a regular celebrity, due to his television work. He was the host of PBS’s “Nova” spinoff “Nova Science Now” and hosted other science shows and podcasts over the years. In 2014 Tyson was a producer, editor, and the narrator for the series “Cosmos,” which became a super popular hit.
In a case of dreams coming full circle, Tyson is now the Head of the Hayden Planetarium, where he first fell in love with science. Tyson is another example of making your passion your career and living your passions.
Oprah’s name is synonymous with both success and overcoming adversity. Oprah’s childhood was rough. She spent much of her childhood in dangerous ghettos and experienced neglect and repeated sexual abuse.
Through all this, Oprah was a diligent and gifted student. When she was a teenager she entered a speech contest at her local Elks Club and won a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. While at college she was recruited by her local CBS affiliate and started her television career. She became the first African American woman to cohost an evening news program in Tennessee.
Oprah had much success in television news and talk shows on many different stations before she launched the talk show that would be the foundation of her empire. The show was extremely popular, especially after Oprah starred in “The Color Purple.” From the start, Oprah used her show as a platform to discuss difficult issues like racism, abuse, poverty, and classism. She became known as a woman of the people, constantly advocating for others and changing lives.
Oprah never let her difficult beginnings hold her back and she always sets the bar high for herself and others. She is the most famous and successful black woman in America and she uses her money, fame, and power to empower others.
3 Bill Tai
Have you ever wanted to make adventure and fun your whole life and somehow still be rich? Well that’s basically Bill Tai’s life. Tai started off as a tech and engineering guru, involved in many successful startups. He used the money from these ventures to start a venture capitalist firm that provides startup money to innovative, new businesses. He spends most of time professional time consulting with new businesses to help them start successfully and maintain that success.
Tai is also a kitesurfing enthusiast and, of course, he found a way to combine his love of startups and his love of kitesurfing. He created a company that teaches tech moguls and prospective tech moguls to kiteboard and provides kiteboarding retreats. He believes the exhilarating sport has a lot to teach entrepreneurs about business, plus it’s super fun.
Tai is the embodiment of work hard, play hard, and he makes sure to do both as much as possible.
2 Steve Wozniak
Known affectionately as “The Woz,” Steve Wozniak is perhaps the most loved geek in the world. Wozniak is the other half of the dynamic duo that founded Apple Computers. His vision and designs led to the development of the Apple I and II computers, which were the basis for later Macintosh computers. Before he found Apple fame, he was already and avid gamer and video game designer.
Wozniak left Apple relatively early on, in 1985, but he’d already made his fortune from his involvement with the computing giant. He went on to fund many businesses and philanthropic efforts, mostly related to making computers accessible to students. He has donated hundreds of laptops to students and provided access to technology to hundreds of schools Wozniak also founded Fusion-io, a software and hardware company that ended up developing the technology for flash drives.
The Woz has dedicated his life to computers, which he loves more than most things, and he has spent his life passing that love on to others.
1 Paul Allen
Paul Allen is the Steve Wozniak of Microsoft. Allen worked with Bill Gates to co-found Microsoft in the 1980’s. Allen dropped out of college to become a programmer and became a powerhouse in the world of computer programming before he even joined forces with Gates.
The question that drives him is, “What should exist,” and he makes a point to involve himself with companies trying to answer this question and create these things. He is an investor in multiple tech companies and other business ventures.
He’s used his vast fortune to support the things he loves most: computers, planes, and sports. He owns three sports teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, oversees the restoration of antique planes, and owns a museum dedicated to computers.
Allen is also a major philanthropist. He has put over $350 million in to research in to the brain and the nervous system so we can better understand the body and the diseases that ravage it. Being a computer enthusiast, Allen has also invested millions in research in to Artificial Intelligence. His charity involvement is wide ranging, from Ebola relief to supporting the arts.
Allen is a shining example of using money to support what matters in life and exploring the world no matter the cost.
Sources: Biography.com, Telegraph, Virgin, Yahoo Movies, Crocodilehunter.com, People Magazine, Billboard.com, Business Insider