The Narrow Road

The Narrow Road

A Brief Guide to the Getting of Money

Felix Dennis

Summary in 100 words or less

Getting rich is a silly game with serious rules. Consider why you want to get rich and commit to the journey because it's not a sprint, but a marathon. Getting rich has little to do with chance and everything to do with your capacity to accept risk and failure—not just once, but many times. Owning assets—such as a business—is the only way to get wealthy. New or rapidly developing sectors often provide more opportunities to get rich. The most important talent you need: identify, hire, and nurture others with talent.


My Highlights

In the getting of money, it’s wise to consider one’s motives for the getting itself. It’s better to wrestle with motive early and consider its strength at leisure than to be surprised by it at some perilous moment in the future when all is in the balance.

The three valid reasons for not attempting to become rich are:

  1. I do not wish to be rich
  2. I would like to be rich but I have other priorities
  3. I am too stupid to make the attempt

Apart from those listed above, most of the so-called reasons for not pursuing wealth are not reasons at all; they are excuses. They are the children of fear and the parents of a thousand “if onlys.”

Anyone in good health and of reasonable intelligence, provided they utterly commit themselves to the journey, can succeed on the narrow road. The commitment is vital.

Luck helps – but only if you do not waste time seeking it. The belief that you have a great idea is not worth cuckoo spit. Ideas are ten a penny while the ability to execute counts for a great deal more.

Who is likely to succeed? Not those who want to and not those who need to or those who deserve to, but those who are utterly determined to, whatever the cost to themselves and to those around them.

There is no point in sitting around thinking about getting started – not just for the getting the money but for just about anything.

Forget glamor if the getting of money is your priority. The reason is obvious. The laws of supply and demand apply not to commodities but to the choices people make. Too many people wish to make blockbuster movies and live in Beverly Hill. Not enough people wish to start a landfill company and dig holes.

Gold rushes rarely happen in old mines. New or rapidly developing sectors often provide more opportunities to get rich.

You have to cut loose to get rich, from parents and family, from working for others, and from negative influences. It’s not that they do not care about you; they may well do. But two fears confront them: they (openly) fear you are placing yourself in harm’s way, which cannot be a good thing; and they (secretly) fear that should you succeed, you will expose their own timidity.

Young, penniless, and inexperienced? Excellent. You possess an advantage neither education nor upbringing, nor even money can buy – having almost nothing, you have nothing to lose.

Slightly better off and on the way up? You have the experience and the remnants of youthful stamina. Now is the time to decide whether you wish to continue to make your employer even richer, or, instead, become rich yourself.

Veteran manager or experienced professional? Find yourself a young and fearless partner. It’s your best, perhaps your only chance to survive and succeed on the narrow road.

If you have ever wondered why there are so few really wealthy self-made men and women in the world, you now have the answer. It has little to do with chance and everything to do with your capacity to accept the risk of being humiliated in the attempt – not just once, but many times, perhaps.

Startup capital is simply too precious to squander on physical purchases. The creating of a frugal company culture begins on the first day.

Revenues are not within your control. Cash spent on perks and fancy gear is.

Compulsion trumps desire in two ways: intensity and longevity.

The road to riches is a marathon, not a sprint.

Life is not a rehearsal. The getting of money may be a silly game, but it is a game with serious rules. It requires a level of discipline and toleration of hardship that is inimical to what most people regard as the purpose of a fulfilled life.

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. Failure to monitor cash flow is the source of most startup failures.

Obsessive monitoring and forecasting of cash levels cannot, of themselves, generate cash. But they can provide startup’s owner with an early warning – one that may well make the difference between ruin and survival.

Keeping costs low is a vital necessity for a startup company. One golden rule is: “Overhead walks in two legs.”

Do not fall in love with any project. You may believe in it wholeheartedly, but must remain prepared to abandon it should it show signs of failing. Then, examine whether the failure lies in the product or service itself or in its implementation.

If you are determined to become rich, there is only one talent you require: the talent to identify, hire, and nurture others with talent.

Talent is indispensable, although it is always replaceable. There are six simple rules concerning talent: identify it, nurture it, reward it, protect it from being poached. And when the time comes, fire it.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it – Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you are seeking for the right place and the right time, you are reading the wrong book. It is always the right time and this is the only place we have.

You must choose between seeking riches or seeking contentment. You may achieve neither, but you surely cannot seek both.

Given time, a salary begins to exert an attraction and addictiveness all of its own; regular paychecks and crack cocaine have that in common.

Working for others is a reconnaissance expedition; a means, not an end; an apprenticeship, not a goal.

There are only six ways of obtaining capital. You can be given or inherit it; you can win it; you can steal it; you can marry it; you can earn it; you can borrow it. However, the best two options we have here are either earning capital or borrowing it.

Very, very few entrepreneurs who accept a 51 percent partner in a new venture will get rich if they are also expected to run it. Control is mandatory.

You cannot get rich all on your own. No one can. You have to work within (or more likely, create) the right environment.

Human capital is by far the most important element of your environment, whether you’re starting up or deep in the game. By focusing on obtaining the right human capital you vastly increase your chances of becoming rich. Your employees, colleagues, professional advisors, suppliers, and customers are all human capital. Choosing those that will serve you best is an art form.

In the earliest days of a startup, you will likely have to do the hiring yourself.

The truth is, there are many clever, cunning, and adept people who are risk-averse. You are not risk-averse, because you are dedicated to becoming rich. Believe it or not, much cleverer people than yourself will happily work for you, providing they do not have to brave the narrow road.

When hiring, ignore prejudices, likes, and dislikes. This is not only good law, it’s good sense. Effectiveness, integrity, adeptness, professionalism, a desire to shine in the world – these are the attributes you seek. Who you like or do not like is irrelevant.

Team spirit is for losers, financially speaking. It is the glue that binds losers together – a strategy used by employers to shackle useful employees to their desks.

The road to riches begins with commitment and proceeds upon the basis of decisions and actions taken.

Listen by all means – listening intently is one of the most underrated of all entrepreneurial talents – but defer to no one.

Equal partnership suck!

Anyone determined to create wealth from a standing start must make a pact with themselves to abandon the fear of failure. One cannot banish fear, but one can face it down, crush it, bury it, padlock it in the deepest recess of your heart and soul – and leave it there to rot.

Having a great idea is not enough. It is the manner in which ideas are executed that counts. Implementation will always trump ideas, however good those ideas are.

If you never have a single great idea in your life, but become skilled in executing the great ideas of others, you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams. They do not have to be your ideas – execution is all.

Man alone lays claim to ownership. We purport to believe that individuals or groups can “own” the most astonishing things: islands, mines, mountains, forests, rivers, hills, and deserts. Such a collective delusion illustrates how silly the chasing of wealth really is. It defies logic because we are mortal and can take nothing with us. Wealth may provide access, but never true ownership.

The getting of money is a game. While the objective is absurd, the rules are deadly serious – precisely the reverse of the position taken by many who wish to become rich. In their estimation, the objective is serious while the rules are often absurd.

Contracting an incurable disease is a serious matter; the death of a loved one is a serious matter; even the rejection of your affection can be a serious matter. The making and losing of money is not a serious matter.

Ownership of an asset isn’t the most important thing in the getting of money – it is the only thing.

There is only one enemy – time.

Time spent recharging your batteries and maintaining your physical and mental health is not wasted. It is a necessity. Time frittered away attending to tasks easily achieved but relatively inessential to your ultimate goal is wasted – a criminal waste of precious resource.

Prioritizing is the key for every successful entrepreneur.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. – Seneca

Preparation is the key. Being prepared to do the heavy lifting and the homework in advance. Getting on with the job in hand, but remaining alert enough to spot a lucky opportunity when it arrives and then hammering at it with prepared intensity. If one is not prepared, the opportunity will go begging. If one is not alert, all the preparation will be for naught.

All who learn to delegate wisely (and early) increase their chances of success in the getting of money to a significant degree. Entrepreneurs and moguls are often poor managers because they never had time to practice the art of management. They were too busy delegating and becoming rich.

Tenacity will sustain and encourage you; not just to persist, but to do so in a more adaptable way.

Without self-belief, nothing can be accomplished. With it, nothing is impossible.

Persistence offers you a second or third bite at the cherry. Tenacity ensures that you will continue to search for alternative ways to succeed. Self-belief encourages you to stare down failure and naysayers while tenacity works its magic.

Embrace our doubts; without them, there is only naked ego, the kind of certainty that leads to untrammeled arrogance, to cruelty, or worse.

How to become a leader? By not seeking all the glory your smarter employees earn.

Making time to sleep well, eat well, and take an occasional walk in the park is not slacking, not a betrayal of the cause. It’s just good sense. Keeping mentally and physically fit is essential.

It is difficult facing up to swiftly changing realities on the ground. Most of us would prefer for things to stay pretty much the same so that we can carry on making money in the same way. But things do not stay the same.

Ownership shall be half of the law, doing an outstanding job shall be the other half.

Besides increase your chance in succeeding, there is an extra benefit attached to excellence. Should your company fail, the reputation of what was produced will endure while the failure of the business itself will soon be forgotten.

Breaking your neck is a misfortune. Losing someone you love is a tragedy. Failing to accumulate a fortune on the narrow road is not a misfortune, it’s just a part of the game.

When going through hell, keep going.

Never fall in love with a deal. A deal is just a deal. There will always be other deals and other opportunities. No deal is a must-do deal.

The best time to sell a business is when you don’t have to. The worst time is when you have little choice.

Hire the best-qualified accountant or finance director you can afford, even before you can afford them.

Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is always an orphan. – Anonymous

Closing down a business is a miserable affair. Shoulder the responsibility squarely. Get it done as fairly and responsibly as you can. And remember, there will be other opportunities later. You’ll be back.

It was all just a silly game, wasn’t it? Don’t forget to help other young entrepreneurs when you can. But don’t tell them what you found at the end of the road. No need to spoil the surprise!

More book notes

Measure What Matters
The E-Myth Revisited
The Psychology of Money
Rich Dad Poor Dad

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