#129 Felix Dennis How to Get Rich



In the podcast, the host discusses the key themes from the book "How to Get Rich" by Felix Dennis. The book, highly requested by the audience, offers a candid and often unorthodox look into the journey of acquiring wealth. Dennis, a self-made multimillionaire, shares his experiences, from the inception of his company H Bunch Associates to his rise in the publishing industry with ventures like Maxim magazine. Despite his financial success, Dennis candidly addresses the darker side of wealth, including his struggles with addiction and the ultimate realization that money does not equate to happiness. He emphasizes the importance of ownership, self-belief, and the absurdity of the chase for riches, cautioning readers to consider whether the pursuit of wealth is truly worth their time and potential sacrifice of happiness. Throughout the discussion, the host reflects on these insights, recognizing the paradox of desiring wealth while acknowledging its potential pitfalls.

Summary Notes

Early Entrepreneurial Ventures of Felix Dennis

  • Felix Dennis started with a limited liability company named H Bunch Associates with the intention to publish comic books.
  • He convinced a lawyer to help him register the company and provided him with a semblance of respectability for a nominal fee.
  • His friend Dick joined him as a co-director and production manager, despite the lack of a substantial salary.
  • They acquired office equipment from Oz magazine where they had previously met.
  • Lemmy from Motorhead informed them about a vacant garrett in the west end which became their office space.
  • The garrett was in poor condition and required extensive cleaning due to its previous use as a puppy breeding location.
  • A friend designed note paper for the company pro bono, hoping for future work.
  • A printer from Felix's Oz magazine days agreed to print the note paper despite knowing Felix couldn't pay upfront.
  • Felix opened a company bank account with Barclays with a deposit of 50 pounds.
  • A magazine distributor from Oz's network agreed to distribute Felix's comic.
  • Felix sold his record collection to fund initial discussions with printers.
  • He convinced his distributors to assure a printer that they would prioritize his payment from comic sales.
  • The printer agreed to work with Felix, likely due to his persistence.
  • Felix's first issue of Cosmic Comics didn't profit much but laid the groundwork for future publishing ventures.
  • Within two years, Felix had 60,000 pounds in the bank and paid all his dues, retaining 100% control of his company.

"I persuaded a jolly young lawyer I had met to do an act for me. I had no money to pay him, but perhaps my hutzpa amused him." This quote demonstrates Felix Dennis's resourcefulness and ability to leverage personal charm to gain professional assistance without upfront payment.

"Lemmy was right about the empty flat, three rooms at the top of the most rickety stairs I had ever climbed." This quote describes the initial office space that Felix and his team acquired, emphasizing the humble and challenging beginnings of his entrepreneurial journey.

"A magazine distributor with whom Oz had done business agreed to distribute my product, although I had nothing to show them." This quote highlights the trust and network Felix leveraged from his past experience at Oz magazine to secure distribution for his comic books.

"This was the key. Business must have been slow, because the printer agreed." This quote reveals the turning point in Felix's venture where his persistence and the state of the business market led to a crucial agreement with a printer.

The Philosophy of Getting Rich According to Felix Dennis

  • Felix Dennis wrote a book titled "How to Get Rich" which was requested by many listeners of the podcast.
  • The book's title was initially off-putting to the host due to its directness, but its content proved insightful.
  • Felix Dennis is a self-made millionaire without a college education or starting capital.
  • The book discusses his mistakes and offers guidance on how to avoid them.
  • Dennis emphasizes the importance of confidence, persistence, and the willingness to work hard.
  • He suggests that anyone with determination can become rich.
  • The book is written with honesty and without jargon, aiming to be truthful and complete.
  • Dennis made his wealth through publishing, owning magazines such as Maxim and various pc magazines.
  • He discusses his personal struggles, including drug addiction and the misuse of wealth.
  • The book is unconventional in its approach, with a preface consisting of questions and answers that provide a glimpse into Dennis's personality and thought process.

"I believe that almost anyone of reasonable intelligence can become rich given sufficient motivation and application." This quote encapsulates Felix Dennis's belief that intelligence combined with motivation and effort can lead to wealth.

"Persistence is a powerful tool in the hands of a hungry young hustler on the make." This quote underscores the importance of persistence in achieving entrepreneurial success, as demonstrated by Felix Dennis's own experiences.

"After all, we were all once young ourselves." This quote reflects on human nature's inclination to support the young, suggesting that there are always people willing to help aspiring entrepreneurs.

"It is a bizarre, bizarre book. The format is bizarre. What he talks about, he's very frank." This quote from the podcast host conveys the unique and candid nature of Felix Dennis's book.

Misconceptions About Becoming Rich

  • Felix Dennis addresses common myths about getting rich in his book.
  • One myth is that people become rich by accident or by doing what they love without the intent of wealth.
  • Another myth is that a great idea is enough to become rich, but Dennis argues that execution is far more crucial.
  • A third myth is that the strategies used by Dennis in the 1960s to get rich are no longer applicable today.
  • Dennis believes that while times change, the fundamental human drive for wealth and the determination to achieve it remain constant.

"The follow through, the execution is a thousand times more important than a great idea." This quote dispels the myth that a great idea alone can lead to wealth, emphasizing the importance of execution in the process of getting rich.

"Times change. But human nature, the lure of wealth and the determination to acquire it remain a shining constant in the world." This quote refutes the myth that the methods of acquiring wealth are outdated, affirming that the underlying human traits driving the pursuit of wealth are timeless.

The Misconception of Impossibility

  • Ambitious individuals have proven the fallacy of thinking that success cannot be achieved based on the examples of those who were not even born in the 1960s.
  • Dwelling on the belief that something cannot be done may lead to remaining in poverty.

"The example of others not even born in the 1960s, is all around you. They prove such thinking to be false."

This quote emphasizes that success is not bound by time or generational constraints, as evidenced by the achievements of those born after the 1960s.

Advantages of Being "Poor, Smart, and Determined" (PSD)

  • Felix Dennis highlights the advantages of starting with nothing, as it means having nothing to lose.
  • Entrepreneurs often succeed because they are not aware of the impossibilities or are too busy proving others wrong.
  • Reading biographies of great people is encouraged to understand the mindset of successful individuals.

"You stand by far the best chance of becoming as rich as you please. You have an advantage that neither an education nor upbringing, nor even money can buy."

This quote suggests that starting from a position of having little to lose can be a significant advantage in the pursuit of wealth.

Trusting Instincts and Ignoring Conventional Wisdom

  • Conventional wisdom can deter initiative and provide excuses for inaction.
  • Trusting one's instincts can lead to innovation and success, as exemplified by Felix Dennis's entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Conventional wisdom is often correct, but when it's wrong, it presents opportunities for those who ignore naysayers.

"The first few million pounds I ever trousered were a direct result of my trusting instincts entirely at odds with conventional wisdom of any sort."

Felix Dennis attributes his early financial success to going against conventional wisdom and trusting his instincts.

Contemplating the Desire for Wealth

  • Felix Dennis questions whether the pursuit of wealth is truly what people want, suggesting that time is more valuable than money.
  • He advises understanding what is "enough" and shares his personal reflections on the consequences of relentlessly pursuing wealth.

"Real winners are people who know their limits and respect them."

This quote encapsulates the idea that recognizing and adhering to one's limits is a hallmark of true success.

Developing Mental Armor and Harnessing Fear of Failure

  • To become rich, one must develop a mental resilience to withstand criticism, mockery, and envy.
  • Fear of failure should be harnessed as a motivating force rather than a deterrent.
  • Felix Dennis compares fear to a horse that can be tamed and ridden, adding strength to one's endeavors.

"Develop mental armor. If you wish to be rich, you must grow a mental armor not so thick as to blind you to well constructed criticism and advice especially from those you trust."

This quote advises on the importance of developing resilience while remaining open to constructive feedback.

The Importance of Choosing a Career

  • Choosing a career is one of the most significant decisions one can control, yet many fail to recognize it as a choice.
  • Commitment to a decision can lead to unexpected opportunities and assistance.
  • Felix Dennis discusses the value of maintaining ownership and control over one's business.

"The biggest decision over which any of us is likely to exercise real control."

The quote stresses the importance of actively choosing one's career path, as it is a decision within one's control.

Avoiding Glamorous Sectors and Maintaining Control

  • Opportunities for success are often found in unglamorous industries.
  • Control and ownership of a business are critical for success and can prevent unwanted outcomes like forced sales or mergers.
  • Felix Dennis uses examples like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison to illustrate the importance of retaining control.

"Control is often the be all and end all of the game."

This quote highlights the significance of maintaining control over a business to ensure long-term success and autonomy.

Advice from John Lennon: Finding Your Own Voice

  • Felix Dennis shares an anecdote about receiving career advice from John Lennon, emphasizing the importance of finding one's unique path and voice.
  • John Lennon's advice to Felix Dennis was direct and impactful, leading to a reevaluation of his career goals.

"I once had a wake up call from a man who spared me several years of wasted time in my own search for a future career."

The quote reflects on a pivotal moment in Felix Dennis's life where he received advice that influenced his career trajectory.

Impromptu Jam Session and Finding One's Own Voice

  • Felix Dennis recounts a time when he sang R&B songs with musicians, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
  • John Lennon stopped the session to play back the tape, asking Felix what he heard.
  • Felix realized he was imitating artists like Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry instead of using his own voice.
  • John Lennon advised Felix that imitations don't sell and that he needed to find his own voice or stick to his magazine business.
  • The incident was a moment of self-realization for Felix about authenticity in art and business.

"What do you hear? I heard a guy who wants to be an R&B singer. I mumbled, yeah, but what you heard was an English guy copying Howlin' Wolf, and Chuck Berry's voice. But it isn't your voice. Now do one using your own voice."

This quote emphasizes the importance of originality and finding one's unique style or voice, as pointed out by John Lennon to Felix Dennis.

Determination and Hardship in Business

  • Felix Dennis discusses the theme of determination, referencing a chapter on not giving up.
  • He quotes Winston Churchill's words on never giving in, tying it to the persistence needed in business.
  • Felix relates a poem about despair to his own experiences of hardship while starting his business in the 1970s.
  • The period was characterized by financial decline in Britain, with high interest rates, strikes, and political instability.
  • Despite the challenges, including personal poverty, Felix remained determined not to give in to the safety of a regular job.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never. In nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense."

This quote underscores the theme of perseverance, which is crucial for success, especially when starting a business from scratch.

"I would not give in. I was going to be rich somehow, some way, someday soon. And I would not retreat to the safety of a decent job until I starved out of house and home."

Felix's determination is evident in this quote, highlighting his refusal to settle for a regular job and his focus on achieving wealth despite the hardships.

The Importance of Self-Reflection and True Desire

  • Felix Dennis reflects on the importance of understanding one's true desires and motivations.
  • He advises against pursuing wealth if one is not driven by a genuine compulsion to be rich.
  • The pursuit of wealth without true desire can lead to unhappiness and a lack of contentment.
  • Felix suggests that many people end up in careers they don't enjoy because they did not follow their true passions.
  • He encourages self-reflection to ensure that the pursuit of wealth aligns with one's inner demons and true desires.

"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."

This quote emphasizes the importance of introspection in determining whether the pursuit of wealth is a true calling or merely a misguided desire.

Cash Flow and Financial Management

  • Felix Dennis highlights the significance of cash flow over balance sheets for entrepreneurs.
  • He shares an anecdote about his lack of understanding of balance sheets despite being a multimillionaire.
  • Felix stresses that cash flow is the lifeblood of a company and that a healthy cash flow can help turn around even poorly managed companies.
  • He quotes Don Valentine of Sequoia Capital on the importance of cash flow and high gross margins in business.

"Cash flow is something that any entrepreneur must fully comprehend from the get-go. Balance sheets are a matter for accountants, banks, and auditors. But cash flow is the heartbeat of your company."

This quote illustrates the critical role of cash flow in the survival and success of a business, as emphasized by Felix Dennis.

Success, Arrogance, and Self-Belief

  • Felix Dennis discusses the transient nature of success and the danger of becoming complacent.
  • He warns against believing one's own hype and losing touch with reality.
  • Felix shares his personal experience of excess and near self-destruction in the 1980s and 1990s, highlighting the risks of "acting big."
  • He contrasts arrogance with rooted self-belief, admiring the latter for its ability to change destinies.
  • Felix Dennis cites Winston Churchill as an example of someone with unshakable self-belief, which was crucial for Britain during World War II.

"Just because you have a success or two under your belt doesn't mean you have it made. Success is never permanent. Failure is never fatal. The only thing that really counts is to never, never give up."

This quote conveys the message that one should not rest on their laurels, as success is not guaranteed to last, and the key is to persist through challenges.

The Power of Self-Belief

  • Winston Churchill's self-belief was crucial for Britain during WWII.
  • Self-belief can have a significant impact on the destiny of a nation.
  • Self-belief is essential for personal success; without it, one's chances of success are greatly diminished.

"But to read Winston Churchill's speeches today, and better still, to hear his recordings of them, or to hear the recordings of them, is to understand the astonishing power and mesmerizing quality of self belief."

This quote highlights the importance of self-belief as exemplified by Winston Churchill, suggesting that his confidence played a pivotal role in guiding Britain through a critical period in history.

The Importance of Ownership

  • To become rich, one must prioritize ownership above all else.
  • Ownership allows for control and the potential to retain more wealth.
  • The experience of Felix Dennis's rivals, Robin and David, serves as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of not maintaining ownership.

"To become rich, you must be an owner, and you must try to own it all."

This quote emphasizes the necessity of having complete control over one's assets as a key strategy for accumulating wealth.

The Absurdity of Wealth Pursuit

  • Recognizing the absurdity of chasing wealth can be beneficial.
  • Wealth should not be the sole focus of life.
  • The pursuit of wealth without recognizing its absurdity may hinder success.

"Appreciate the absurdity of the chase."

This quote suggests that understanding the inherent silliness in obsessively pursuing wealth can actually aid in achieving financial success by providing perspective.

The Value of Time Over Money

  • Youth and the time that comes with it are more valuable than wealth.
  • The pursuit of wealth can lead to misery, suggesting that time is a more precious resource.
  • Wealth can lead to isolation and unhappiness, emphasizing the importance of how one chooses to spend their time.

"If you are young, you are infinitely richer than I ever can be again."

This quote underscores the idea that the time available to the youth is a form of wealth that surpasses monetary riches.

The Futility of Posthumous Charity

  • Felix Dennis expresses skepticism about the value of leaving wealth to charity after death.
  • He critiques the act of naming charitable endeavors after oneself as ego-driven.
  • The true courage lies in giving away wealth while still alive, rather than posthumously.

"Giving away money when you're dead takes no guts, no courage."

This quote challenges the common practice of leaving money to charity after death, suggesting that it lacks bravery and may be driven by ego rather than altruism.

The Business of Making Money

  • Enjoying the process of making money is crucial.
  • One should not sacrifice happiness for the pursuit of wealth.
  • If the pursuit of wealth leads to misery, it's important to reconsider one's path.

"There is no amount of pie in the world worth being miserable for day after day."

This quote conveys the message that no level of financial success justifies prolonged unhappiness, highlighting the importance of finding joy in one's work.

The Importance of Focusing on Quality

  • Ownership and quality of work are equally important in the pursuit of wealth.
  • Being associated with poor-quality work, even in illegal ventures, is unacceptable.
  • Excellence in one's field is a prerequisite for achieving wealth.

"Doing an outstanding job shall be the other half."

This quote stresses the significance of excelling in one's work as a fundamental component of becoming wealthy.

Practical Business Advice

  • Felix Dennis provides practical advice on business operations.
  • Keeping costs low, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and understanding employee motivation are key.
  • Knowledge of the competition and timing in business transactions are vital.

"Keep costs down always. Overhead walks on two legs and it will eat you out of house and home."

This quote advises on the importance of managing business costs and the dangers of allowing overhead to grow unchecked.

Unique Format of the Book

  • The book's format is unconventional, allowing readers to skip to chapters of interest.
  • It combines personal stories with practical advice, sometimes in the form of numbered lists.

"You don't have to read it straight through."

This quote describes the unique structure of the book, which permits a non-linear approach to reading, catering to the reader's specific interests.

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