Book review: Rich Like Them

Author Ryan D'Agostino's proposal for his book, Rich Like Them must have sounded terrific back in 2006. He would cold-call at houses owned by obviously prosperous people and ask them to explain how they came about their fortune. Unfortunately, between the inception of his idea and the publishing of Rich Like Them, a recession intruded.

D'Agostino, an editor at Esquire and widely published elsewhere, had surprising success in convincing those who answered his knock to open up about the source of their bounty. He targeted homes in the top 100 toniest zip codes across the country, and recruited a wide variety of subjects, from software magnates to fruit peddlers, investment brokers to credit card processors. The books suffers, however, from two flaws; one predictable, and one that should have been.

Fault one, no fault of D'Agostino's, is that many of the subjects gained most of, if not all, their fortunes in property speculation. While investing in land and housing will no doubt eventually be once-again lucrative, in today's market such stories of success seem archaic.

The second fault is that the lessons taught by those who the author interviewed ran to platitudes, lacking the concreteness from which readers might gain insight. Among the obvious lessons D'Agostino's interviewees taught are--

  • Study your market obsessively
  • Work your ass off
  • Adopt a growth mind-set
  • Specialize
  • Network
  • Always be open to opportunity
  • Don't get greedy
  • Save
  • Watch every dollar
  • Follow your heart
  • Be patient

I can't help but think that a better book would come from interviewing the same number of people who failed, to learn why they failed. Sometimes successful people succeeded simply because they were damned lucky, and few would confess that face to face.

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