One evening in 2006, while on vacation with my family, I purchased a book titled, “How to Get Rich – One of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets.” I can still remember this purchase like it was yesterday. My wife and kids spent the evening shopping the various stores at the large luxury shopping complex. I wasn’t with them. I was in the bookstore reading THIS book. I finished this book the next day and went on to buy hundreds of copies for my coaching clients.
(Before we go on, you must read this book. If you’ve already read it, read it again. Really.)
The book was written by Felix Dennis, who built a significant net worth worth of $400,000,000 to $900,000,000. He shares his journey and what it really takes to become rich throughout his book.
This book changed my life in countless ways.
I’ve never shared this before, but I sold my real estate business because of THIS book.
Throughout the book, Felix Dennis shares exactly what you need to do to build a significant net worth. His advice is 100% accurate. I know firsthand from being in the trenches with several businesses. Towards the end of the book, he includes a chapter titled, “A Recap for Idlers.” The first five pages of this chapter include a warning on the quest for wealth. This warning starts with a quote from Cicero: “There is no fortress so strong that money cannot take it.”
“So what is your fortress? It is your inner core, your integrity, your belief in the worth of others and the love of those dear to you. Not to mention your own worth. It arises from belief in yourself. And, for a few, from a belief in their own destiny. Excessive idolatry of money will “take” all of those. It will corrode both self-belief and love. It will stretch integrity on the rack. It will “take” the fortress’ and it will not be a pretty sight.”
The pursuit of wealth will take your integrity, your belief in the worth of others, your own self worth, and the love of those dear to you?
I wanted to be rich. I really, really wanted to be rich. I was willing to sacrifice everything to be rich. However, I didn’t want to allow my pursuit of wealth to take away my fortress.
“Seeking substantial wealth is almost always a fool’s game….. consider the fact that the search will take up a great deal of your waking life for many, many years. You cannot get rich without “wasting” that time. Time is finite. Which is a fancy way of saying that you only have so much of it – then it will run out. When your are young, time seems to stretch into the distance for so far that surely it will always be on your side? When the young catch the old unawares, they may sometimes glimpse a look of naked envy, which is then instantly disguised. The old have reason to be envious. Truly, truly, they do.
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.”
Felix explains that we can build significant wealth. To do so, we’ll have to sell everything we value to get the money. We’ll also have to sacrifice the majority of our lives (time) in our pursuit. He, like other significantly wealthy people (Warren Buffett), would trade all of his money for more time. Buffett has said the exact same thing.
In essence, this rich man, who had what I desperately wanted, said he made a costly mistake. He traded away his life in the pursuit of money. If given the opportunity, he would reverse this trade. He would give the money back to have more time.
When I read this, I was 36 years old. I was a multimillionaire on paper. My oldest daughter was seven years old. My youngest daughter was three years old. I was prepared to make the exact same trades he had made. I was willing to sacrifice everything for more money.
“If you are young and reading this then I ask you to remember just this: you are richer than anyone older than you, and far richer than those who are much older. What you choose to do with the time that stretches out before you is entirely a matter for you…. Money is never owned. It is only in your custody for a while. Time is always running on, and the young have more of it in their pocket than the richest man or woman alive. That is is not sentimentality speaking. That is sober fact.
And yet you wish to waste your youth in the getting of money? Really? Think hard, my young cub, think hard and think long before you embark on such a quest. The time spent attempting to acquire wealth will mount up and cannot be reclaimed, whether you succeed or whether you fail.”
Felix Dennis wrote this book when he was in his late 50s. He died in 2014, just a few years later, at the age of 67 from cancer. Time IS always running on.
Here’s a guy who accumulated vast riches and he is telling us NOT to follow in his footsteps. He is trying to get us to understand what we have to give up is more valuable than what we’ll ultimately receive. It’s a bad deal.
“Even should you succeed in becoming rich, unlikely as that is, what will you have achieved?… Happiness? Don’t make me laugh. The rich are not happy. I have yet to meet a single really rich happy man or woman – and I have met many rich people. I am an optimist by nature. And I have the ability to write poetry and create the forest I am busy planting. Am I happy? No. Or, at least, only occasionally, when I am walking in the woods alone, or deeply ensconced in composing a difficult piece of verse, or sitting quietly with old friends over a bottle of wine. Or feeding a stray cat. I could do all of those things without wealth.”
As I read these words, I began to understand what he was trying to get us to see. However, I wasn’t completely sold until I read his last few words on the subject…
“But you must make your own choice. I have said my piece and meant every word of it. This small part of my book was composed in my mind years ago. It was easy to write. I knew all of it before my fingers touched the keyboard. It has troubled me for years and I thank you for allowing me to share it. I suspect it will have little effect on you, though. Please lodge one fact in your memory: the last one thousand five hundreds words was an important part. In my heart of hearts, I know it was THE most important part you’ll read in this entire book.”
There are 300 pages in his book detailing exactly how to get rich. In just 5 of these pages he tells us NOT to get rich. Out of the 300 pages, he specifically says these 5 pages are the most important pages in the book.
This was honest unbiased advice. He wasn’t trying to sell us anything. He didn’t have a training program for us to take, Dvds to watch, or seminar to attend. He simply laid his soul bare for us. We could make our own choice knowing what was really at stake. (Yes, I see the irony. I offer a training and coaching program.)
I listened to his honest advice and heeded his advice. I made my choice and decided to stop my pursuit of wealth.
His book led to several important decisions in my life, including the sale of my real estate brokerage, which happened just 11 months after finishing the book. Two years later, I officially closed down my large coaching business and walked away from hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue.
I’m so incredibly thankful for Felix Dennis and his words of warning regarding the pursuit of wealth.
Today, my priorities are completely different. I don’t value wealth. I value time. I’m not trying to build an empire. My goal is to simply increase my cashflow a little each month. I work a few hours a day and spend most of my time reading, writing, and spending time with my family.
My oldest daughter is headed off to college next year. My youngest daughter will be starting high school. I’m happily married to an incredible woman. I’ve had the luxury of spending a great deal of time with my family. I honestly don’t know where I would be today, if I didn’t find his book. I don’t know how my relationships would be with my family. I hope they would be strong, but I have a feeling my life would be a complete wreck today had I continued my pursuit of wealth.
This book may have saved my life.