Dennis is a personal hero of mine. A billionaire hippy poet, a wine expert and a complete one-off.
He made his money in magazine publishing with titles as diverse as "Computer Shopper" and "Maxim". The book is as much an insight into Dennis's setbacks as to his successes and is all the stronger for that.
Early on he analyses the chances of any person getting onto the Sunday Times Rich List, which he puts at seventeen in one million. These are actually far better odds than winning the jackpot on the national lottery in the U.K. (currently around one in fourteen million). He carries out an interesting analysis of why most people won't be rich. This includes age, state of health and working for the government. He also identifies that there are many ambitious people who channel their efforts into building their careers, as opposed to chasing great wealth, which normally rule them out too.
He points out that for many people, himself included, great wealth can have devastating side-effects. Long hours of work take their toll and the self-indulgence that can come once a person is wealthy can also be devastating, even fatal in some cases (from drink, drugs, crashing fast cars).
He counsels that you should only pursue great wealth , if you have an inner need to do so and not to equate desire with compulsion. Dennis is quite blunt, saying that "If you cannot face up to the fear of failure, you will never be rich". He cites this as "the single biggest impediment to amassing wealth".
His motto is that "ownership is everything" and he urges you to keep hold of every piece of equity that you can, rather than dilute it with others. Equity makes you rich, not salary, he points out.
He talks of the fallacy of the great idea, citing McDonalds as a good example of this. Ray Kroc made his fortune by turning an existing burger outlet into the multi-national franchise it is today. Kroc implemented better systems than anyone else, but ultimately became rich from selling burgers - hardly an innovative idea in itself. Dennis points out that ideas are cheap, it is their execution that makes you rich.
Far from inspiring all readers, the book is actually a very good insight into the pitfalls of being wealthy, and it may well put off some readers from trying to become wealthy. The damaging self-indulgence, the distrust of other people and their motives as well as the constant battle to protect wealth from thieves, taxmen and feckless future descendents, all serve to discourage readers from following in his footsteps. For me, this is where this book stands out from all the others. Far from being a saccharin-sweet picture of the joy of having virtually limitless abundance, it is a tale of heartache, bad health and battles with so many people trying to extract money from him. It is a salutary lesson and a riveting read.
"How To Get Rich" by Felix Dennis
Amazon Price: $7.16 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 11, 2015)