How to Get Rich
Cringe title, great book, and here are my notes
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It's a favorite book of Sam Parr, who founded The Hustle, Naval Ravikant who founded AngelList, and me, the guy writing this right now.
It's filled with great stories.
And it's packed with lessons from someone who actually did it.
That someone is Felix Dennis.
Felix founded Maxim magazine, built a publishing empire, and co-founded a $2 billion company that ended up going public.
He was also one of Britain's 100 wealthiest people.
And quite the character:
I spent a hell of a lot of what I made on sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. The rest - as the footballer Georgie Best joked just before he died recently - I wasted.
Thankfully, he decided to write about it, giving his blunt take on the business of getting rich.
And I'm sharing my notes.
But real quick, if you haven't seen them, my previous Book Note editions can be found below:
Alright, let's get to the highlights for How to Get Rich.
The Main Ideas
Decide if you actually want to get rich.
Felix spends the whole first section of the book talking about reasons not to become rich:
The only three valid reasons for not attempting to become rich are: "I do not wish to be rich." Or, "I wish to be rich but I have other priorities." Or, "I am too stupid to try to get rich."
And for the young, he thinks they're in the best position to get rich:
Young, penniless and inexperienced? Excellent. You stand by far the best chance of becoming as rich as you please... Nearly all the great fortunes acquired by entrepreneurs arose because they had nothing to lose. Nobody had bothered to tell them that such and such a thing could not be done or would be likely to fail.
Why it's more difficult for those farther along to get rich:
For the Slightly Better Off and On the Way Up, now is the time to consider whether or not you intend to continue making me (and people like me) even richer, or whether you wish to become rich yourself. You have little time left in which to make up your mind. Your youth and stamina are ebbing away. You are getting too comfortable.
Believe in yourself.
Persistence is not quite as important as self-belief. I have known people who believed in themselves, who acted on that belief, got lucky quickly and got rich. Persistence merely offers a second or third bite at the cherry. Your belief in yourself brought you to the cherry bowl in the first place.
Tune out negativity.
Now you must cut yourself loose from naysayers and negative influences: the Jeremiahs. These wretches cover the face of the earth. They will tell you, if you listen, about the impossibility (not the foolishness) of trying to make yourself wealthy. In doing so, they drain confidence and optimism from you. Such people often include your parents, your lover, your husband or your wife, and your "friends."
Become an owner and make more baskets.
To become rich you must be an owner. And you must try to own it all. You must strive with every fiber of your being, while recognizing the idiocy of your behavior, to own and retain control of as near to 100 percent of any company as you can.
I am one of the richest self-made men in Britain for two reasons. I own my company outright, and I began to make more baskets the minute the first had a few eggs in it.
When I had the chance (i.e., when flush with cash), I should have bought more magazines. Even a newspaper, if I could have afforded it... I should have considered going into radio or television production earlier than I did... I should have invested in one or two Internet start-ups I knew were going to do well.
Understand the realities of getting rich.
This is something I think most people gloss over, but Felix makes it clear:
Becoming rich does not guarantee happiness. In fact, it is almost certain to impose the opposite condition - if not from the stresses and strains of protecting wealth, then from the guilt that inevitably accompanies its arrival.
And of course, what wealth actually gets you:
And just what is the most precious thing in life that riches can supply? Easy. For me, it's Time. Time. Time to read and write poetry if I want to. Or to write a book if it takes my fancy. Time to travel on the slightest whim, to walk in the woods, to think, to commission art, to read, to drink, to hang out with friends and loved ones...to do just about anything really, as long as it does not involve day after grinding day making money in an office or a factory for somebody else.
But it's not for everyone:
Seeking substantial wealth is almost always a fool's game. The statistics show that very few people ever succeed. Most of them should never have made the attempt in the first place. They aren't suited to it, and if that sounds defeatist, then consider the fact that the search will take up a great deal of your waking life for many, many years.
Become an entrepreneur.
But be aware that if you want to make huge sums of money, then earning a living by slowly swarming up the greasy pole is rarely the way to do it. For a start, the salary begins to have an attraction and addictiveness all of its own. A regular paycheck and crack cocaine have that in common. In addition, and more to the point, working too long for other people can blunt your desire to take risks.
There is absolutely nothing more likely to dampen the prospects of becoming rich than a nice, fat, regular salary check.
Learn to delegate.
If you want to get rich, then learn to delegate. Don't learn to pretend to delegate. Delegation is not only a powerful tool, it is the only way to maximize and truly incentivize your most precious asset - the people who work for you.
I only started to get rich when I began to delegate and to ease up on my work schedule.
The work undertaken by your colleagues and employees is more important than your work. Your job is merely to lead, perhaps just to point in the right direction.
This was a central theme in the book. Felix mentions it a number of times, but for good reason.
Fear of failure is a subject about which I have already written in this book, probably to excess. I repeat that it is the main stumbling block to getting rich for most people.
After a lifetime of making money and observing better men and women than I fall by the wayside, I am convinced that fear of failing in the eyes of the world is the single biggest impediment to amassing wealth. Trust me on this.
And by overcoming fear, you get your first win, which sets you up for your next win:
Thus it was that the first issue of Cozmic Comics was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. It barely made a cent, but it provided the framework for yet more publishing ventures.
Take care of your health.
It's like I mentioned in how to stay fit for life, health matters if you want to succeed:
People in poor health usually find it difficult, no matter how clever they are, to muster the stamina that becoming rich demands.
Thinking big. That's the secret. Of the dozens of independent magazine publishers in Britain back in the 1970s, hardly one of them dared to think big enough to get on an airplane and hawk their wares in the biggest market in the world.
This reminds me of Make No Small Plans and how they just seemed to think bigger than everyone else, disregarding any thoughts that they couldn't accomplish what they set out to accomplish.
Put it all in perspective.
This might be the most important part of the entire book - where getting rich fits in with everything else in life.
The business of piling up wealth is an easy business. Easy, that is, compared with giving birth, or raising children, or pressing on a parent's doorbell at midnight to tell them their child has died in an accident. Or nursing children you know will never grow to adulthood, or pulling rocks on rollers under the lash of brutal overseers to build a monument to a deranged pharaoh. How easy do they sound?
Being rich is fine, and at the very least is better than being poor. But it shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of your life, or anyone's life.
But never despair. We are not engaged upon serious business here. We are only talking about the getting of money, and, occasionally, the losing of money. You may despair when you have broken your neck; you may despair when your only child has predeceased you; you may despair when terrible wars, famines or plagues afflict millions of innocents. But you must not despair over a simple thing like money.
Ask me what I will give you if you could wave a magic wand and give me my youth back. The answer would be everything I own and everything I will ever own.
25 Additional Noteworthy Quotes
- Whatever qualities the rich may have, they can be acquired by anyone with the tenacity to become rich. The key, I think, is confidence. Confidence and an unshakable belief it can be done and that you are the one to do it.
- If I had my time again, knowing what I know today, I would dedicate myself to making just enough to live comfortably (say $60 or $80 million), as quickly as I could - hopefully by the time I was thirty-five years old. I would then cash out immediately and retire to write poetry and plant trees. Making money was, and still is, fun, but at one time it wreaked chaos upon my private life. It blocked me from beginning to write poetry until my early fifties. It consumed my waking hours.
- A commander may be proved wrong. He may be proved right. But prompt decisions and orders, right or wrong, are far healthier than endless debate and prevarication.
- Still, potential loss is always an important consideration. Everything will depend on the degree of desire and belief you bring to an enterprise. What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it?
- While you may not necessarily want to be in a glamorous sector of any market, and they are often very crowded sectors, it helps to be in a growing one. Swimming with the tide rather than against it, so to speak. A swelling tide raises all boats, including yours.
- It is the instinct to seize an opportunity when it presents itself that perhaps sets apart the self-made filthy rich from the comfortably poor, the willingness to ignore conventional wisdom and risk everything on what others consider to be folly.
- A small success, though - even a tiny success - can provide a clue. It was my own success at selling magazines on the street that led me to begin to publish theme eventually.
- If you want to be rich, then watch your rivals closely and never be ashamed to emulate a winning strategy.
- One last word on obtaining capital. It's the worst part of the whole business of getting rich. Nothing is more humiliating or debilitating than trudging the rounds with your hand out, no matter how good your project or fierce your determination.
- If you are determined to be rich, there is only one talent you require... You need the talent to identify, hire and nurture others with talent.
- Talented people want a good salary, of course, but surprisingly often they are more attracted to new opportunities and challenges.
- The first basket paid the rent. But the second basket made a mint.
- Richard (Branson) has perfected one cardinal rule: he owns or part-owns more baskets than almost anyone alive. It's certainly one way to become a billionaire.
- The biggest basket I ever built wasn't my first or second. It was my twentieth. But if I hadn't built the second, I would never have reached the twentieth.
- I once made a million dollars by selling a magazine I had not even published yet to a rival. A million dollars for a day's work. And why? Why? Why? Because I owned it. I owned it all.
- Month after month, in those early days, I battered myself and my staff into setting world records for stamina and effort. Did it make me rich? No. It made me tired, bad-tempered and arrogant. It led me to make errors of judgement which I would have avoided had I gone about it a smarter way.
- If you wish to become rich, look carefully about you at the prevailing industries where wealth appears to be gravitating. Then go to where the money is! That is where you should focus your efforts. On the ball marked "The Money is Here."
- There is no substitute for good timing. There is always luck involved, but it's often the kind of luck you help make yourself.
- Human capital is by far the most important element of your environment, whether you are just starting up or deep into the game.
- But why would clever, cunning and adept people work for a mug like you? Simple. There are many clever, cunning and adept people who are risk-averse. You are not risk-averse because you are dedicated to becoming rich. Believe it or not, much, much cleverer people than you will come and work for you if you ask them.
- You do not need to be clever. You do not even need to be that adept. You need only a little cunning and massive determination to become rich.
- Getting rich isn't so difficult. But if you want to stay rich, then pay your taxes and don't milk the cow without reporting it.
- Don't do anything because you feel you have to. Go for what attracts you. Go for something that exploits your natural talents. Go to the the mountain which produces money. Money that has your name on it.
- You have less time than you think. We all do. Why then are you waiting to fulfill your perfectly legitimate, if foolish, desire? If you do not start today, then when will you start? Tomorrow? Next year? The year after?
- So that's it. That's how I got rich and how you can, too. If you want to. I won't blame you if you don't. Far from it. There are far more important things in life than money. (Spoken like the rich, hypocritical beastie you are, Dennis!)
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