This morning I barely finished my tea when I was digitally assaulted by the latest, “You, Too, Can Be a Millionaire (Provided That You’re Not Too Stupid)” books. I know that ads are customized these days — pop ups tease me all the time about cashmere/silk yarns on the market — but as I seriously am not interested in these books, I don’t know how they tagged me.
Maybe I do. The concept of being a millionaire — free from working in the office everyday; free from wondering how the electric bill will be paid this month; free to be able to buy an Ugli fruit in the grocery store, just because — is so universal in the lives of ordinary working people who would just like a break, that books telling us how to do so erupt with the frequency and vehemence of teenaged acne. Or angst.
So, yes, we’d all like to have a bit more than we’ve got, and while a million dollars doesn’t stretch as far as it used to, most of us could make do.
One time — and we only needed one time — the Norwegian Artist, Son and Heir, and I checked out one of these books from the library (Does it matter which one? They all sound along the lines of, “Make a Million — EZ! EZ! EZ!”) and vowed to read it. The Son and Heir was the only one who made it completely through, and one of the most interesting facts he passed on was this:
“The author describes a friend of his who failed in business after business after business. Finally he hit upon writing books about and giving seminars on money management — and now he’s rich.”
Apparently the author saw no irony in this.
It would be nice if ordinary people did, but I can count on at least four hands the number of people in my small, small town who have read the author’s friend’s books and participated in his seminars, and not one of these real people is a millionaire yet. But the author’s friend is — many times over.
People, I understand. Financial security is a part of the American Dream that is rapidly flitting away from the masses — that’s us, you know, the masses. And if it were truly easy to honestly and with integrity amass the numbers in our bank accounts, don’t you think that most of us are intelligent enough to figure out how to do so?
But that’s the rub — the “honestly and with integrity” part. Think of a billionaire, any billionaire, and ask yourself: Are the words “honesty” and “integrity” the first two words you associate with them? If so, find their book and read it.
If not, save the purchase price and buy yourself a skein of yarn instead.
You could argue that I’ve joined the ranks of empty-promise-people, because I, too, have a book that I encourage people to buy — Live Happily on Less. And while, yes, I would enjoy seeing an income from what I do — write — I also like to see ordinary people succeed, simply because there are so many of us, and when we do enjoy financial success, we remember what it feels like to pinch and parse, and we give back to others who are still doing so.
Let me bullet point it:
- If a person or resource makes you feel overwhelmed by what he or it is asking you to do, walk away.
- Look at what you have, right now, and be grateful for it. Then figure out small steps you can take to make what you have stretch farther.
- Whatever your primary goal in life is, that will rule you. If it is to make a lot of money, that will supersede everything else in your life, including people.
- There are no short cuts; there are no magic tricks or tips. Nothing substitutes for hard work, perseverance, and determination. Okay — cunning, smarts, craftiness, and deceit achieve financial success, faster. But they extol their cost.
- This is all common sense, which is in shorter supply today than even money for the ordinary worker bee. However, common sense is something that all of us, regardless of our income, can achieve and enjoy.
Ambition is good. Hard work is what our country is built on. Go for your dreams — run fast, hit hard, pick yourself up when you fall.
But please, stop making millionaires out of people who make their millions by telling others how to be millionaires.
Figure out what you have, and use it well. My book, Live Happily on Less doesn’t focus on how to be a millionaire, but rather, addresses a goal that you can realistically reach — using the resources you have, live the best you can with what you’ve got.