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November 29, 2006

Harry Phibbs is still looking for a book on how to get fairly rich: How to Get Rich - Felix Dennis

Posted by Harry Phibbs

How to Get Rich
by Felix Dennis
London: Ebury Press, 2006
Hardback, 16.99

When people get to be very rich, like Felix Dennis, they can afford to be generous. Often this takes the form of them having more money they can think how to spend and so giving away great chunks of it to charity. In the past the rich were if not embarrassed, then at least reticent about their wealth. These days they are as likely to ring up the Sunday Times Rich List complaining that their wealth has been understated rather than that it has been exaggerated. Dennis wittily illustrates the inside covers with copies of cheques from his account made payable to the Inland Revenue for huge amounts.

Dennis was inspired to write the book after declaring:

What the world needs is an anti self help book. A book that tells people how hard it is to be a great manager or a great anything. How hard it is to get rich. Bugger the glib insights.

I like his efforts to offer straight answers to the questions he puts in the book which probably reflect those that he has had to contend with in real life over the last two or three decades. For example:

Just how quickly can I become rich?

Quicker than you probably deserve, but slower than you would like - there are too many variables for an answer.

More dubious is some of the Austin Powers-type 1960s baggage that Dennis clings to. He says:
People who grow rich almost always improve their sex lives. More people want to have sex with them. That's just the way human beings work.
Shagadelic, baby.
Money is power. Power is an aphrodisiac. It even says so in the Bible: "Wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things." (Ec. 9:10). Money did not make me happy. But it quite definitely improved my sex life.
How embarrassing. At least he quoted the King James version. Here's another quote from Ecclesiastes:
Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
But generally his desire to offer practical advice seems genuine. It is a sign of his self confidence that he doesn't mind if other people get rich, perhaps because they would be unlikely to get as rich as him (around 400 million.)

Incidentally, self confidence seems to be one of the keys. Several tips flow from it. For example:

Hire talent smarter than you. Delegate. Share the annual pie.
Another theme, rather more dubious, is to push your luck. Stretch to the limit what you can get away with. Break the rules and apologise later. But in other respects he advises thoroughly conservative
behaviour.
Overoptimism concerning cash flow. Any trained accountant or auditor reading this book has just nodded his head. Those last four words are the source of the vast majority of business failures.
One very good tip:
Ignore "great ideas". Concentrate on great execution.
I wonder if Dennis will give copies of this volume to members of the Board of Dennis Publishing. They might want to give Chapter Three a miss:
The board of directors that runs Dennis Publishing will talk earnestly and sensibly about the effect on morale for the rest of the company (usually forgetting to mention their own morale) in the event our proposed new magazine bombs.

In reality Dennis Publishing staff working on The Week, or Maxim, or Computer Shopper, won't give two hoots if the company's new car magazine is a sensational flop.

They are disguising their fears by:
appearing to weight the fears of others....[It is] a form of well disguised cowardice.
It seems to me that being quite as rich as Dennis would be a terrible burden. People endlessly sucking up to you, or blackmailing you or asking for money. 4 million would be good, 400 million too much. What I need is a book to tell me: How to Get Fairly Rich.

Harry Phibbs is a journalist.


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