Review of “How to Get Rich” by Felix Dennis
Blunt, Yet Sharp
Bluntness is the first word that comes to mind as I begin this review, and it’s the best part of this book. I like it, I try to use it, and I appreciate others who don’t waste time getting to the point. Mr. Dennis is very blunt and direct. The founder of Maxim magazine and publisher of about fifty other magazines, he started from nothing. Today, he estimates his net worth is between 400 and 900 million dollars. While that’s a big gap in his estimated figures, one thing is certain; he more than qualifies to be in the “rich” category.
The worst thing about this book is the title. I turned the book face down and hid it in a drawer as I was reading it. I am sure that if any of my friends saw the title, they would laugh at my naivety and gullibility for thinking a book would help me become rich. I would not have even picked this book up off the shelf had it not been for someone’s recommendation, who said it is really about the focus, determination and discipline needed to start and grow a simple small business into a successful one.
Felix starts off by giving a definition of what rich is, and explains the ups and downs of having all the money we non-rich think we could ever want. He dissects the odds of any one person actually becoming rich, and although meant to be encouraging, I found it to be quite the opposite. Winning the lottery is more likely, and requires far less effort. However, I did like how he bared his soul about the negative consequences having so much money had on his life, and how he would do things differently if he could.
Where Are You?
In Dennis’ opinion, there are basically three types of people. The “Young, Penniless and Inexperienced”, the “Slightly Better Off & On the Way Up” and the “Senior Manager or Professional”. He makes a great argument that the “Young, Penniless and Inexperienced” are actually in the best position to become rich, since they have the least to lose and the most to gain, and how fear stops people in the other two categories from being even more successful.
When Mr. Dennis begins discussing how to actually become rich, the first issue he tackles is fear, and how it stops so many people in their tracks. He boldly argues that if you cannot get over your fear of failure and develop a tough skin, you will never become wealthy. He challenges us to seize opportunity as it comes along, even when we are scared to death or feel inadequate. Make no mistake about it, opportunities pass us by almost daily, but most people are either oblivious to these opportunities, or are stopped cold by fear. Being able to recognize opportunity and overcome fear is the big secret of success that most people are searching for.
It Takes More Than Just a Great Idea
Another critical topic Felix covers is, and one I have preached about to many people in the past, is “The Fallacy of the Great Idea”, which refers to those who think they can get rich simply because they have a great idea. Both Mr. Dennis and I agree it takes far more than just a great idea to become rich (though it certainly helps), with hard work, luck, and other factors all contributing as much or more. Felix uses several examples to prove why a great idea alone doesn’t guarantee success, admitting even his own company has fallen into the “not invented here” trap in the past.
Giving In Gets You Nowhere
His chapter titled “Never Give In” speaks for its self. Mr. Dennis gives examples of his struggles trying to start a business, and how critical persistence is, both for his success and that of others. If you are an entrepreneur then you probably already know plenty about struggling and being persistent. But knowing and doing are two different things, and fearing struggle and not being sufficiently persistent is what stops most early business ventures dead in their tracks. Dealing with naysayers and watching others easily skim through life is one of the most difficult things entrepreneurs breaking their necks for peanuts will endure. It is hard to keep your head up and not second guess your decisions just to go through hell for a tiny chance at a better life, but if tenacity is not in your DNA, you will more than likely fail, and you will almost certainly never become rich.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Like I said earlier, Mr. Dennis is a very blunt and outspoken person. For example, if statements such as “Team spirit is for losers, financially speaking. It’s the glue that binds the losers together” bothers you or turns you off, then this book may not be for you. I personally have a few friends that most people either love or hate. They are blunt, crass and very rough around the edges, but I love them for this. I was raised in a military family, so I cherish people that don’t play games. His bold, “say-what-you-mean” style of communicating made me feel like I would enjoy getting to know and learning from Mr. Dennis.
I did not mention that Mr. Dennis was also a professional musician in his early years, and a poet later in life. He references many poets and classic writings throughout the book, and almost seems like an ironic contradiction that he can be both crass and refined at the same time.
At times it feels like Felix is trying to talk you out of the pursuit of wealth. It is not for everyone, and most people would be happier not being rich. He goes into detail about the sacrifices that you and those around you will HAVE to make in order to become rich, and it is not a pretty picture. It is one thing to hear a poor person tell you that money will not buy happiness, but it is another when you hear this time and time again from very wealthy individuals. There is scientific evidence that shows having higher income doesn’t guarantee greater happiness, and at a certain point, the joy brought by increasing wealth levels off or even declines. I feel that Mr. Dennis even hints at this himself, that there is an “enough” point. That point is different for everyone, and if you are reading this, you probably haven’t found it yet, but if you’re still searching, then “How to Get Rich” might just be the thing you’ve been looking for to help you reach the next level.