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How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis is very well-reviewed on Amazon and is a great book if the concepts of entrepreneurship are relatively new to you. It has some very entertaining anecdotes from Felix’s journey that serve to underline the mindset of a bootstrap entrepreneur.  

If you’re under 30 years of age then read this book asap!

Who was Felix Dennis?

Felix Denis was an entrepreneur, who made millions from publishing. He was colourful character and was even jailed for a while for “conspiring to corrupt public morals” for selling copies of the underground magazine Oz on London’s Kings Road. 

He provides some useful insights into the mentality of a self starting entrepreneur from the near penniless early days to the construction of a multi-business empire.  

Fun fact: After so many years in the publishing business with its heavy use of paper, Felix founded a charity dedicated to planting native broadleaf trees in South Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the UK.  The charity is called ‘The Heart of England Forest’ and Felix left the bulk of his £500 million fortune to it on his death; you can learn more about ‘The Heart of England Forest’ here:

In my opinion, the two most important contributions that from this book are: 

  1. the need to reflect on whether you merely desire to be rich, or whether you’ve a compulsion to be rich; and 
  2. the need to master and even harness your fears. 

My main takeaways from How to Get Rich

You need an unshakeable belief that you will be rich someday but you also need to work so hard that people around you despair and envy you.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

Felix was a poet and must have fancied himself as a bit of a writer as a lot of sentences in the book are eminently quotable.  Here are a few stand out points that I took from the book:

The fallacy of the great idea

In Chapter 5 of How to Get Rich, Dennis discusses how it’s not the idea that makes you rich, it’s how you implement the idea.

I bet you know at least one person who came up with the idea for Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg? The difference is that Zuckerberg knew how to implement the idea, and did it better than anyone else.

The idea is not a passport to wealth; it’s only a pair of runners to do the running in.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

The Five Most Common Start Up Errors

Chapter 8 is one of the most valuable chapters in the book and really makes you question whether you have a mere desire to be rich (that is shared by just about everyone) or whether you have an absolute compulsion to be rich and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. 

FIRST ERROR: Mistaking Desire for Compulsion

Desiring something is futile without the inner compulsion to achieve it. If you have the desire but not the compulsion you will have the worst of all words i.e. you will have paid the price but not have gotten the rewards. The saying that it is better to have tried and lost, than to not have tried at all does NOT apply to attempting to get rich. 

If you are not driven by inner demons to become rich then you absolutely should not try to become rich… There will be a heavy price to pay in becoming rich; you will not be the exception who gets rich without the heavy price being paid.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

SECOND ERROR: Over Optimism Regarding Cash Flow

You must fully comprehend cash flow from the outset. 

Dennis outlines how you can improve your cash flow: 

  • Keep payroll to an absolute minimum (do NOT misconstrue what Dennis means here; elsewhere in the book he suggests that you need to find the best people and pay them accordingly!); 
  • Never sign long term rent agreements or take plush offices unless your business demands that you make this impression;
  • Pay yourself just enough to eat. (I underlined this one; many entrepreneurs ultimately fail because they are not reinvesting their profits in the business and instead are using their business to fund an extravagant lifestyle); 
  • Personally call people who owe you money;
  • Check all staff expenses with an eagle eye; 
  • Do not issue staff credit cards, phones or cars;
  • Play one supplier off another ruthlessly; 
  • Only enter a factoring deal as an absolute last resort, and exit it quickly.

THIRD ERROR: Reinforcing Failure

Dennis reminds us that success has been described as the ability to go from one ‘failure’ to the next, unrepentant and with no loss of enthusiasm.  Success is not permanent; ‘failure’ is never fatal.

FOURTH ERROR: Thinking Small and Acting Big

Rather think big and act small.  

FIFTH ERROR: Skimping on Talent

Hire the best people; talent is the key to growth and growth is the key to wealth. 


Chapter 17 recaps the book’s key messages; here are some of the messages that struck a chord with me: 

Fool’s Errand

Seeking substantial wealth is almost always a fool’s game. Very few people succeed; the vast majority of them should never have tried in the first place because they aren’t suited to it.

Felix Dennis 

Soberingly, Dennis lays out that time is finite so be very, very careful before you decide to spend your time trying to get rich; you will not be able to get the time back whether you succeed or whether you fail. 

Financial Independence is a Myth

If you think you will achieve independence by becoming rich you are wrong. Your money will become a burden to you. No one is independent. Isolation breeds paranoia and arrogance. 

True Motivation

Work out what you really want to do and whether you really need to become rich in order to do it. 

Decision Comes From the Latin to Cut

The vast, vast majority of people will want you to fail. You must ignore them. 

Controversially Dennis says IF you still want to become rich you must be prepared to cut free from everyone and everything that might hold you back. 

Dennis doesn’t hold any punches on this point; he suggests that the realpolitik is that if you try to get rich the order of the pack from which you come will be shattered. 

Focus, determination and relentless drive are wearing in themselves – both to you and to those around you. You cannot afford distractions. Family, lovers and friends are distractions pure and simple.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

Ideas Man

Ideas are ten a penny. Execution of ideas is what matters.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

Choose the right mountain: What is the right mountain?  It is the right mountain for you but you won’t know that until you’re at or near the top. 

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

You must avoid the trap of chasing money in an area that you have no empathy with it. 

Go for something that attracts you and that uses your natural talents. 

Memorise that phrase:  The world is full of money. Some of it has my name on it. All I have to do is collect it.

Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich

Fear Nothing

What is there to fear? Everything and nothing. Fear of failure is the main stumbling block to becoming wealthy; you simply must face up to it.

What does anything matter if you are going to die soon; YOU ARE GOING TO DIE SOON. But knowing this sets you free!!!!!

Fear is what is stopping you. 

To be rich you must somehow learn to harness your fear to your own advantage.

Felix Dennis, How to be Rich


8 Secrets to Getting Rich

Looking for the secret to getting rich is not a sensible exercise.

Felix Dennis

  1. Analyse your need to get rich. Desire is insufficient; 
  2. Cut loose from negative influences. Stay the course; 
  3. Ignore great ideas; focus on great execution of ideas;
  4. Focus! Keep your eye on the money itself;
  5. Hire people smarter than you; delegate and share the wealth;
  6. Ownership is the real secret; hold on to absolutely everything you can;
  7. Sell the business before you need to; empty your mind when negotiating; 
  8. Fear nothing and no one; get rich then remember to give it all away. 

If you liked this summary of How to Get Rich, take a look at some of our other summaries.