Review: Rich Like Them

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book.

rich like themRich Like Them by Ryan D’Agostino follows in the tradition of The Millionaire Next Door and The Difference: it interviews a large group of millionaires in order to figure out what traits they have in common.

Rich Like Them takes this tactic and runs in a slightly different direction with it. The author, Ryan D’Agostino, identified the fifty richest zip codes in the United States and went to forty nine of them. He quite literally went door to door, knocking on the doors of people in these communities, and asking them if they’d be willing to discuss how they “made it.” Surprisingly, he got a roughly 10% success rate, even including the droves of people that weren’t home or avoided the interview.

The result of these interviews is Rich Like Them – a collection of the advice that D’Agostino collected on this journey. In fact, he codifies all of this advice into five general areas.

One: Open Your Eyes
We’re all almost drowning in opportunities. The problem is that many of us simply don’t see them. We’re either too focused on the specific little thing at hand or simply aren’t keeping our mind open when we’re “off the clock.” Every person you meet and every situation you’re in is an opportunity not only to improve yourself, but to connect to others and open the door to money-making possibilities.

What steps can you take? Build relationships with people – and, even better, try to connect those relationships to each other, because bringing people together in a useful way is one of the best things you can do. Listen to what people are actually saying and doing – and try as hard as you can to keep your own conclusions out of the mix.

Two: Luck Doesn’t Exist
Luck is mostly about preparation. If you have the ability to record great ideas and to take immediate advantage of opportunities that come your way, you’ll seem much more lucky than the guy who never writes anything down and doesn’t have a hefty savings account.

What steps can you take? Write down ideas as soon as they come to you. Have an “opportunity fund” in the bank in cash form that you can use when something great comes along. Surround yourself with people who are doing useful and interesting things.

Three: The Economics of Obsession
Find something you’re passionate about and throw yourself in head first. Become obsessed with what you’re doing. Read everything you can get your hands on. Meet everyone even remotely related to your passion. Try it all. Practice, practice, practice.

What steps can you take? Figure out what you’re truly passionate about, then when you find it, make it central to your life. Surround yourself with people and activities that reinforce that passion. Become so obsessed, in fact, that others sometimes find it almost scary.

Four: The Myth of Risk
Risk is real, but most people use risk as an excuse not to try things. Instead, you should build a safety net for yourself and take that leap sometimes. A risk that others aren’t willing to take is often the source of an incredible opportunity for someone who is passionate and is prepared.

What steps can you take? Make your own life as financially secure as you can. Dig into opportunities and figure out their real risks. Realize that if something is truly in your wheelhouse, you’re likely to face less risk than someone less impassioned.

Five: Humility
Above all, no matter what happens, be humble. Humility takes you far in life – you can mess up and you will. The way you treat others often winds up matching the way they treat you, especially at that key moment when you really need their help.

What steps can you take? Treat everyone well. Don’t complain about the behavior of others – instead, set your own example. Be humble about your accomplishments instead of bragging about them.

The Best Part: Little Points of Wisdom
The part of this book that really stuck with me was the short principles and quotes inserted throughout the book every few pages. I collected these pieces together, simply because I thought they were so incredibly worthwhile:

Don’t forget your goal – even when you’re on vacation
Where others see death, imagine life
When you hear someone say “If only I could…,” you’re hearing an opportunity
Connect the people you meet
Even when you find the sure thing, save some money for a rainy day
Once you connect the dots, follow through
Choose your purpose, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong
Remember: with time comes free money
Watch your pennies, no matter how many you have
Keep your cool – it’s a big part of persevering
Don’t deviate from your planned path to get a quick gain
Perseverance doesn’t take forever
Once you find your calling, persevering is easy
Remember that you can’t do a business transaction with yourself
Prepare to get lucky
Find a driver other than money – it’s usually more lucrative than money alone
Do one thing and do it well
Obsess over whatever job you have
Take your mind off the money – you’ll earn more
Don’t plan a career – plan a life
Obsession makes you work harder
If you look forward to going to work, that’s a good sign
Discover love through immersion
Turn fear into passion
Never stop being a student
Calculate every risk – even the one you live in
Look for your window to go solo
You want autonomy? Let it motivate you
Be cocky when it counts
Don’t worry about what other people think
Reduce risk by believing in yourself
When you fail miserably, rejoice
If you hate your career, um, change it
Sometimes the biggest risk is doing nothing
Never let pride get in the way of profit
Be humble even if you’re as rich as Brooke Astor
Understand your limitations
Don’t be a slave to Plan A – it’ll prevent you from seeing plan B
Don’t be afraid to make less than your spouse
Never feel as if you’re too successful to sweat
Remember that you are not, nor will you ever be, a god or goddess

Good stuff, all around. Somewhere in there is a piece of advice that is probably a life changer for you.

Is Rich Like Them Worth Reading?
Rich Like Them is a spectacular handbook for someone who is a self-starter with an entrepreneurial bent. If you’ve got a strong desire to build your own success, the advice in this book can provide a great foundation.

If that doesn’t sound like you, Rich Like Them doesn’t have as much to offer. Unlike The Millionaire Next Door and The Difference, the focus here is strongly on entrepreneurial behaviors – taking advantage of the opportunities around you.

So, here’s the deal: if you have an entrepreneurial nature, Rich Like Them is an excellent read; if not, I highly recommend giving The Millionaire Next Door and The Difference a read.

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