Alternatives to great riches

Felix Dennis is one of the richest magazine publishers in England, and recently he has written a book telling you how he did it. More importantly, he has written the book to show you how you can do it too. Fair enough? You want to follow in his footsteps? You want to go to be where he is? Only one problem. He won’t be there. He doesn’t like where he is, and is taking all steps to leave the place.

In two ways. Firstly, he’s spending a lot of his hard-earned fortune on a project that he thinks will have lasting significance for the country. He’s planting a forest in the heart of England, a forest of broad-leaved trees, which means native species. He is currently busy buying up land – that’s going to cost a hefty price – and employing people to clear the land and put in saplings. Well, you say, that’s going to cost millions. Yes, tens of millions. But don’t worry, his total budget for the whole thing is in the hundreds of millions. It’s going to take years ‘ most of the rest of his life, probably ‘ and it will cost most of his pile. Still, he has no children to leave his wealth to, so why not? His plan is to leave his carefully assembled pile of pounds to the nation, in the form of a mass of trees the residents can spend our future years in visiting and enjoying.

That’s his enjoyment. His second pleasure, recently discovered, is writing poetry. Even now, while his business empire prospers, and appointed managers oversee the smooth operation of his many ventures, he sits at home, (one of his homes, in Britain, the Caribbean or abroad) and composes verse. That is his passion. To do that he needs a minimal amount of coin to subsidise his expenses. The majority can go into new wood and lumber, seeds and blossoming leaves, without hurting his other ambition.

Now that’s a problem – for us. You see, most of us would take pleasure in reading the great man’s book and learning about the highs and lows of making money. We might feel a little envious, we may even become a little inspired. Most of us could see the benefit in accumulating wealth. However, and this is where a great big BUT comes into the picture, most of us wouldn’t be capable of seeing the damn point of trees and verse. Well, let’s be honest, I might, because I’m a writer, firstly, and secondly, I have a great passion for alternative energy and looking for ways to avoid the coming global environmental crisis. But hey, that’s me. What about the rest of you? If Felix is really saying, “Follow me down this road and you can gain enormous wealth”, then a lot of us ‘ maybe already thinking about Self Improvement and self employment – might say “Show us how!” But if the guy adds, as a small afterthought, “And when you get there, you can plant trees and compose poetry”, how many of you would still buy a ticket and how many would leap off the train and start running – away?

Worse, Felix admits in his tome that – actually, now he comes to think about it – if he had his time again, he wouldn’t bother going for the hundreds of millions that he has now. No, he would be sensible and stop at a manageable sum, say 40 or 50 million pounds. That, he says, would give him enough to pay the bills and maintain a comfortable life-style, while he pursues his interests. Now, that’s scary. This man is saying he would be quite happy with a tenth of what he has now. Or, to put it the other way round, he could give away nine tenths of what he’s got – which is what he’s doing – and still be happy! What kind of role model is that?

It reinforces one fact, perfectly. Most of us like the idea of being rich without bothering to say what that is. It’s as though we know instinctively that ten thousand a year could be ‘poor’ and a hundred thousand a year may be ‘rich’, but we haven’t bothered being specific about definitions, (and we aren’t too sure where we want to be on that scale anyway). When does poor become rich? Where is the transition state? Felix Dennis is doing us a favour here. He’s saying that forty million is enough. Get that into the bank and you can pursue your passion, whether it’s poetry, or golf, composing symphonies or simply fishing. If you read his book you’ll find out more, like how to make hundreds of millions, but fifty would be his cut-off point today, he’s suggesting, and everything else is just a worry.

Now there’s a lesson. Somehow, through a combination of luck, persistence and hard work, Mr D. put together a business empire that spans the globe and tops the hundreds of millions mark. If he had to start again now, he’d plan it more. He’d decide where he wanted to be, how much he wanted to earn, work like hell – then stop. Where would he be now? Under a palm tree, writing lyrics. Substitute your own dream for that last sentence and the former bit makes sense. We don’t all want the same outcome, but we all could benefit from reading the book and learning the ‘how’ in order to build the pile that makes our particular and personal dream possible.