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Felix Dennis lived with his grandparents for many years as a child in the 1950s. His father had left him and his mother for Australia when he was two. They were extremely poor and had a bucket in a shed for a toilet and at times had to use squares of newspaper for toilet paper. Even though he says he had a happy childhood (and he didn’t know anything different at the time anyway), it instilled in him a hatred for having nothing and fire to become rich. He went on to become one of Britain’s wealthiest self-made entrepreneurs with an estimated fortune of $650m and a next-door neighbor to Mick Jagger on the island of Mustique.
TORN: Yet in How to Get Rich, he shares this:
“Happiness? Do not 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. The demands from others to share their wealth become so tiresome – and so insistent, they nearly always decide they must insulate themselves. Insulation breeds paranoia and arrogance. And loneliness. And the rage that you have only so many years left to enjoy rolling in the sand you have piled up.”
THEN he adds that: “In my heart of hearts, I know it (is) the most important bit you will read in this book.”
TORN: He also says that if you want to be rich, you have to “cut loose” from loved ones to focus on making money: “I have heard of very few men or women who made a ton of money who did not leave, or divorce, their wives or husbands or lovers sooner or later. Or who were not estranged from family members, often their children. It comes with the territory.” He said it happens because they valued the time it took to succeed more than spending it with their loved ones.
Conversely, there is a lot to admire about Dennis’ courage, brilliant resourcefulness, and how much he learned from running so many successful companies that provided thousands of jobs. His initiative and resolve are inspiring – as with many business leaders. He has a lot share with the world in a dichotomous way. What do I mean? It is packed with invaluable wisdom on how to grow a business and on how to think if you want to get up to bigger things in life. I’d highly recommend learning from him in this regard. It’s priceless.
And really painful. He was a cocaine addict in his 40s. Slept with over 100 prostitutes. Smoked his way to death from throat cancer at 67. Never married or had children.
It is a practical and insightful book that at no point says that getting rich will bring joy to your life. It leaves me torn – how do you balance wanting to get up to something big and not alienating your closest family and friends?
TORN: And why does our culture – most cultures throughout human history – revere its wealthiest citizens more than almost all its others even when some of them simply were the result of ‘lucky’ sperm or that there was a dark side to how some acquired their wealth through war or slavery? Yes, there are many business leaders to admire for how they built their ’empires’. Either way, money gives you power. Okay.
How often do you inflate the importance of money? Sometimes I feel like I have a balanced handling of it and other times it consumes far more of my thinking than is healthy. And I know that more of it probably won’t make me happier. It can buy more fun experiences around the world, but to make that money generally takes time away from my loved ones. Which isn’t particularly good for them or me.
Twenty years ago, I spent some time in Moscow and, as I walked about the streets day after day, was struck by how unhappy people looked. When I got back to the US, I was shocked to notice that people here didn’t look any happier – especially when they were driving! Now I live in one of the top 20 wealthiest neighborhoods in the wealthiest country in the world. And I cannot honestly say that the people I meet are any happier here than anyone else I’ve met. They all talk about their problems with the same levels of worry and stress.
It’s a warped message that our culture sends us. According to Daniel Pink’s research in his book, Drive, 75% of people are not motivated by money but are motivated intrinsically – that they find their meaning in life on the inside and not by money and possessions. Surely this then leaves many of us questioning our own intrinsic drive as somehow flawed given that popular culture suggests that the way to go is the high-net-worth lifestyle – that ‘real’ success only comes when you’ve hit certain financial levels; that finding your work or your relationships rewarding in and of itself isn’t enough.
Couldn’t Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, or Amelia Earhart have written a fabulous personal development book about true success? Van Gogh, Beethoven, and Emily Dickinson all died relatively poor or penniless – yet isn’t our world so much better for their contributions and didn’t they also teach us much about true success? What about all the men and women who contributed to fighting the Axis Powers in World War Two? If there is an afterlife, I couldn’t look any of them in the eye and tell them they weren’t successful.
Robert Holden made a living for many years writing, speaking, and coaching by asking the question: ‘What is success’? He pointed out how nonsensical we’ve become: how being constantly busy is a badge of importance and anything else is socially unacceptable, juggling dozens and dozens of “thin relationships”, trying to thrive in “hyperactive workplaces” and popping more pills or drinking more coffee to quick fix any oil or fatigue; always chasing MORE as if that were always the best solution. And never stopping to explore what success is for each of us partly because we think we are too busy to pause. Just reacting to the next alert on our handheld device that we are all addicted to.
Why does it seem like almost everyone in the world aspires to be rich and, worse, feels something of a failure when they’re not? What makes me feel frequently torn is having all this ‘knowledge’ and living with my own desire to grow financially too – as if I’m missing the most important point about life. Last weekend my eight-year-old daughter performed some impromptu songs. One of them was about a ‘dad’ who didn’t have time to play with his daughter and how sad she was! Ouch. But the waters can be muddy as what drives me most is a desire to provide more educational and life opportunities for my wife and children.
Do you feel the contradictions? I hope that by shedding more light on this, you can make more sense of it for yourself. Let me know what you figure out!
To being clear about your values!
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121