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#129 Felix Dennis (How to Get Rich)
June 4th, 2020 | E129

What I learned from reading How to Get Rich: One of the World's Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets by Felix Dennis.


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[0:01] How Felix started his first business with no money. 

[4:30] Human nature does not change. We are cooperative animals. Those who wish to start a company cannot expect a free ride, but they might be surprised at the number of people willing to help them to some degree or another. 

[5:11] This book was one of the most requested books for me to cover on the podcast. I was hesitant to read it because of the title. After reading it I think a better title would be How I Got Rich. 

[7:36] A large part of this book is philosophical. He is asking us, “Is this really what you want?” He opens up about his drug addiction. About his addiction to prostitutes. About how he blew 100 million dollars and almost died

[8:13] How To Get Rich sets to tell you about how I did it. How I got rich without the benefit of a college education or a penny of capital. It will expose the many errors I made along the way, which will contribute greatly to the length. 

[10:51] My constant refrain when I was bumming rides from friends as a teenager was, “You don’t understand. I was born to be driven.” 

[13:00] The key, I think, is confidence and an unshakeable belief that it can be done and that you are the one to do it. Tunnel vision helps. Being a bit of a shit helps. A thick skin helps. 

[16:01] Nearly all the great fortunes acquired by entrepreneurs arose because they had nothing to lose. Nobody had bothered to tell them that such a thing could not be done or would be likely to fail. Or if they had told them then they weren’t listening. They were too busy proving those around them wrong

[17:24] On trusting your instincts: The first few million dollars I ever made was the direct result of trusting my instincts— which were entirely at odds with conventional wisdom. I published a series of 8 full-page folded posters with articles printed on the back and charged the same price as magazines with 10 times the number of pages. I sold millions of copies around the world. Those magazines have earned me tens of millions of dollars in the last 25 years and are still earning me money today. 

[19:50] If you could turn the clock back for me by 40 years I would willingly give you every penny and every possession I own in return. And I would have the better of the bargain

[20:28] If I had my time again—knowing what I know today—I would dedicate myself to making just enough money to live comfortably

[21:00] Making money was, and still is, fun. But at one time is wrecked chaos upon my private life. It consumed my waking hours. 

[23:26] Think of fear—not as the King Kong of bogeymen—but as a mare. A mare, after all, is a horse. A horse can be tamed, bridled, saddled, harnessed, and eventually ridden. Harnessing the power of such a creature adds mightily to your own. Thus the nightmare of prospective failure provides you with the very opportunity you are seeking. 

[26:16] There is a lot of money and opportunity in unglamorous industries: One of the richest self-made men I know digs a hole in the ground to dispose of household waste. That's not how his company describes itself in its annual report, but essentially that’s what it does, along with building incineration plants. Glamorous? No. But in a good year, he earns $20 to $30 million. That's a sensational result for a small, wholly owned private company. 

[28:30] Advice John Lennon gave to Felix Dennis: “It won’t do, man. It’s not that you can’t sing. Sure you can do a fair imitation of Chuck Berry, but people don’t pay for imitations. You gotta find your own voice or stick to editing your magazines.” 

[32:26] One of Felix’s lowest moments: The electricity had been turned off in my flat weeks ago. So had the gas. I couldn’t afford to pay the bill. I sat by an open fire, feeding broken furniture I had scavenged from the trash into my living room fireplace. 

[33:00] If you happen to read biographies, as I do (scores of them every year), you will find a thread that runs through almost any story of success against the odds: They don’t give in

[34:08] It is my hope that this book will cause you to consider very carefully whether you are truly driven by inner demons to be rich. 

[35:06] This is how I interpret this book. He is writing to an earlier version of himself. 

[40:24] Felix winds up in the hospital. The doctors tell him if you don’t get off the drugs, and the alcohol, and the nightlife, you are going to die. 

[40:44] How Felix describes the person he was in the 80s and 90s: It is especially lethal to a coked up, overweight, cigarette smoking, malt whiskey swilling idiot with too much money who believe they are built of titanium

[41:10] On Winston Churchill and the importance of self belief: The iron determination and self belief of this one old man meant more to Britain at that moment than all the other Kings and Queens and her long history.

[44:02] But I do ask that you begin, right now, right at this very moment, to ask yourself whether you believe in yourself. Truly. Do you believe in yourself? Do you? If you do not, and worse still, if you believe you never can believe, then by all means go on reading this book. But take it from me, your only chance of getting rich will come from the lottery or inheritance. If you will not believe in yourself, then why should anyone else? Without self-belief nothing can be accomplished. With it, nothing is impossible

[45:35] I may well have been able to put a few hundred million in the bank because I recognized that this getting rich malarkey is just a game. A delusion, if you will. 

[48:19] Ownership is not the most important thing. It is the only thing that counts. 

[54:17] The most important part of the book. I won’t take notes on it. You just have to read it or listen to me read it. 


I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested, so my poor wallet suffers.”— Gareth

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