The Instant Millionaire
A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth
By Mark Fisher, Katherine Dieter
New World Library Copyright © 1990 Mark Fisher
All rights reserved.
In which the young man consults a wealthy relative
There was once a bright young man who wanted to get rich. He had had his fair share of disappointments and setbacks, it couldn't be denied, and yet he still believed in his lucky star.
While he waited for fortune to smile, he worked as an assistant to an account executive in a small advertising agency. He was inadequately paid and had felt for some time that his job offered him little satisfaction. His heart was simply no longer in it.
He dreamed of doing something else, perhaps writing a novel that would make him wealthy and famous and end his financial problems once and for all. But wasn't his ambition a bit unrealistic? Did he really have enough talent and technique to write a bestseller, or would the pages be filled with the bleak, unfocused ramblings of his inner misery?
His job had been a daily nightmare for more than a year. His boss spent most of each morning reading the newspaper and writing memos before disappearing to indulge in a three-hour lunch. He also changed his mind continually and gave contradictory orders.
But it wasn't only his boss — he was surrounded by colleagues who were also fed up with what they were doing. They seemed to have abandoned any sense of vision; they seemed to have given up altogether. He didn't dare tell any of them about his fantasy of dropping everything and becoming a writer. He knew they would treat it as a joke. When he was at work he often felt cut off from the world, as if he was in a foreign country, unable to speak the language.
Every Monday morning he wondered how on earth he was going to survive another week at the office. He felt totally alienated from the files piled high on his desk, from the needs of clients clamoring to sell their cigarettes, their cars, their beer....
He had written a letter of resignation six months earlier and had walked into his boss's office a dozen times with the letter burning in his pocket, but he had never been quite able to go through with it. It was funny; he would not have hesitated three or four years ago, but now he seemed unsure of what to do. Some-thing was holding him back, some kind of force — or was it simply cowardice? He seemed to have lost the nerve that had always helped him get what he wanted in the past.
He kept waiting till the time was ripe, finding all kinds of excuses for not jumping into action, wondering if he could ever really succeed. Has he turned into a perpetual dreamer?
Did his paralysis spring from the fact that he was saddled with debts? Or was it because he had simply started to get old, a process inevitably triggered the minute we give up our visions of the future?
One day, when he was feeling especially frustrated, he suddenly thought of visiting an uncle of his who had become a millionaire. Perhaps he might be able to give him some advice, or better yet, some money.
His uncle was a warm, friendly person who immediately agreed to see him. He refused to lend him any money, however, claiming he wouldn't be doing him a favor.
"How old are you?" his uncle asked, after listening to his tale of woe.
"Thirty-two," the young man whispered timidly.
"Do you know that by the time J. Paul Getty was twenty-three he'd already made his first million? And that when I was your age, I had half a million? So how in the world is it that you are forced to borrow money at your age?"
"Beats me. I work like a dog, sometimes over fifty hours a week...."
"Do you really believe that hard work is what makes people rich?"
"I ... I guess so ... anyway, that's what I've al-ways been led to believe."
"How much do you make a year — $35,000?"
"Yeah, about that much," replied the young man.
"Do you think that someone who earns $350,000 works ten times as many hours a week as you do? Obviously not! So if this person earns ten times more than you do without working any more than you do, then he must be doing something quite differently than you. He must have a secret you are totally unaware of."
"That must be true."
"You're lucky you understand that at least. Most people don't even get that far. They're far too busy trying to earn a living to stop and think about how they could get rid of their money problems. Most people don't even spend an hour of their time trying to figure out how they could get rich and why they've never managed to do so."
The young man had to admit that, despite his burning ambition and his dream of making a fortune, he had never taken the time to really think his situation through. Everything seemed to distract him and prevent him from facing up to a task that was obviously of fundamental importance.
The young man's uncle was silent for a while, then smiled.
"I've decided to help you out. I'm going to send you to the man who helped me get rich. He's called the Instant Millionaire. Have you heard of him?"
"No, never," the young man said.
"He chose that name because he claims he became a millionaire overnight after discovering the true secret of making a fortune. He claims he can help anyone become a millionaire overnight — or at least acquire the mentality of a millionaire."
His uncle turned to a large map on the wall and pointed to a small, somewhat isolated town.
"Have you ever been there?"
"Why not give it a try? Go and find him. He just might reveal his secret to you. He lives in a fantastic house, the most beautiful one in the whole town. You shouldn't have any problem finding it."
"Why don't you just tell me the secret? Then I won't have to take the trouble of going there."
"Simply because I don't have the right to. When the Instant Millionaire confided it to me, the first thing he did was make me swear never to tell it to anybody. However, he did say I could refer people to him."
All of this seemed both surprising and involved to the young man. It certainly aroused his curiosity.
"Are you sure you can't tell me anything? Anything at all?"
"Absolutely positive. What I can do is recommend you highly to the Instant Millionaire."
The young man's uncle pulled out a sheet of elegant writing paper from a drawer in his massive oak desk, took his pen, and hastily scribbled a few lines. He then folded the letter, put it in an envelope, and handed it to his nephew.
"Here's your introduction," he said, "and here's the millionaire's address. One last thing. You must promise not to read this letter. If ever you do open it, despite my warning, and you still want it to work for you, you'll have to pretend that you haven't opened it. But how can you undo what's already been done?"
The young man didn't have the vaguest idea what his uncle was talking about, but he agreed. His uncle had always been a bit eccentric, and he was doing him a favor, after all, so he decided not to press the point. He thanked him warmly and left.
In which the young man meets an elderly gardener
The young man sped off toward the Instant Millionaire's town, his mind racing faster than his automobile. How hard was it going to be to meet this man? Would he welcome an unannounced visi-tor? Would he reveal his secret method of getting rich?
Just as he approached the millionaire's house, he was overcome by curiosity and, despite his uncle's words of warning, opened the letter of introduction. He was shocked. His heart rate climbed and he broke into a sweat. He wondered whether his uncle had made a mistake or was playing a joke on him, because the "letter" was only a blank sheet of paper!
He was now at the gate of the millionaire's house and noticed a security guard. The guard had a stony expression; he looked as impenetrable as the enclosed fortress he was protecting.
"What can I do for you?" the guard asked drily.
"I'd like to meet the Instant Millionaire."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No, but ..."
"Well then, do you have a letter of introduction?"
The young man pulled the letter halfway out of his pocket and quickly stuffed it back in again.
"May I see your letter," the guard pressed.
The young man remembered his uncle's words, "If you open the letter, you must pretend that you haven't."
He handed the letter to the guard, who "read" it. His face remained totally expressionless.
"Fine," he said, as he gave the letter back to the young man. "You may come in."
The guard showed him where to park and led him to the front door of the millionaire's luxurious, Tudor-style home. An impeccably dressed butler opened the door.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I want to meet the Instant Millionaire."
"He's unable to see you at the moment. Please wait for him in the garden."
The butler accompanied the young man to the entrance of a garden with a glistening pond in the middle of it. He wandered in, admiring the beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees, and then he caught sight of a gardener who was bent over a rose bush. He must have been well into his seventies or eighties, and he wore a wide-brimmed straw hat that concealed his eyes.
When the young man approached him, the gardener broke off his work and welcomed him with a smile. He had bright, cheerful blue eyes.
"What have you come here for?" he asked in a warm and friendly voice.
"I've come to meet the Instant Millionaire."
"Oh, I see. And for what reason, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Well, I ... I'd simply like to ask him for advice...."
The gardener started to go back to his roses, then he stopped and turned. "Oh, by the way, you wouldn't have ten dollars on you, would you?"
"Ten dollars?" said the young man, blushing. "It's just that...that's all I've got left on me."
"Perfect. That's all I need."
The gardener looked very dignified. His manner exuded exceptional grace and charm.
"I'd really like to give it to you," replied the young man, "but the problem is I wouldn't have any money left to get back home."
"Are you planning on going home today?"
"No-o-o ... I mean, I've no idea," said the young man, now quite confused. "I don't want to leave until I've seen the Instant Millionaire."
"But if you don't need the money today, why are you so reluctant to lend it to me? You might not need it tomorrow. Who knows? You might be a millionaire."
The reasoning didn't sound completely logical to the young man, but he handed him the money. The gardener smiled.
"Most people are afraid of asking for things, and when they finally do, they don't insist enough. That's a mistake."
At that moment the butler arrived in the garden and spoke to the old man respectfully. "Sir, could you please let me have ten dollars? The cook's leaving today and insists on being paid. I'm just ten dollars short."
The gardener stuck his hand into his baggy pocket and pulled out a huge roll of bills. He must have had thousands of dollars in cash on him, because the young man caught sight of nothing but hundred-dollar bills, except for the ten-dollar bill on top. The gardener peeled off the bill he had just borrowed from the young man and handed it to the butler, who thanked him, bowed somewhat obsequiously, and quickly disappeared into the house.
The young man was outraged. How did the gardener have the gall to confiscate the last ten dollars he had in the world when his pockets were stuffed with more cash than he had ever seen?
"Why did you ask me for ten dollars?" he said, trying as hard as he could to conceal the rage he felt. "You didn't need it!"
"But of course I did. Look, I don't have any ten-dollar bills," he said, thumbing through the fat roll of cash. "You don't think I was going to give him a hundred, do you?"
"Why on earth do you keep so much money on you?"
"It's my pocket money," replied the gardener. "I always keep $25,000 on me in case of an emergency."
"Uh ... $25,000?" sputtered the young man, aghast.
Suddenly everything became clear: the ever-polite butler, that incredible amount of pocket money ...
"You're the Instant Millionaire, aren't you?"
"For the time being," replied the gardener. "I'm glad you've come.
"But tell me, how is it that you aren't rich yet? Have you ever seriously asked yourself that question?"
"Well, that's probably the first thing you should do. Think aloud in front of me, if you want. I'll try to follow your line of reasoning."
The young man made a few feeble attempts and then gave up.
"I see," said the millionaire. "You're not used to thinking out loud. Do you know there are lots of young people your age who are already rich? Some are even millionaires. Others are just on the verge of getting their first million. Did you know that when he was twenty-six, Aristotle Onassis already had $500,000 in the bank when he left for England, where he was planning to set up his shipping empire?"
"That's right. And when he started out he had only a few hundred dollars to his name. He didn't have a university degree — and he didn't have any rich uncles.
"But now it's time for dinner. Would you like to join me?"
"Thank you very much. I'd love to."
The young man followed the millionaire, who, despite his age, still had a lively bounce in his step. They went into the dining room, where the table had already been set for two.
"Please sit down." The millionaire pointed to the end of the table, the place usually reserved for the host. He sat to the right of his young guest, directly in front of a beautiful hourglass engraved with the motto Time is Money.
The butler arrived with a bottle of wine and filled their glasses.
"Let's drink to your first million," said the millionaire, raising his glass.
He took a sip, the only one he had all evening, and ate very modestly — just a few mouthfuls from a delicious salmon steak.
"Do you like what you do for a living?" the millionaire asked the young man.
"I suppose so. The situation in the office is a bit difficult."
"Make sure you're positive about your choice of careers. All the millionaires I've known — and I've met quite a few over the years — loved their occupations. For them, working became almost a leisure activity, as agreeable as a hobby. That's why most rich people rarely take vacations. Why should they deprive themselves of what they enjoy doing so much? And that's why they continue working even after be-coming millionaires several times over.
"But though it's an absolute must to enjoy your work, it's not enough. To get rich, you have to know the secrets of wealth. Tell me, do you really believe these secrets exist?"
"Yes, I do."
"Good. That's the first step. Most people don't believe there are secrets to attaining wealth. They don't even believe they can become rich. And they're right, of course. If you don't think you can become rich, you very rarely do. You have to start by believing that you can, and then crave it passionately. Most people aren't ready to accept these secrets, even if they are revealed to them in very simple terms. Their greatest limitation is their own lack of imagination. That's why the true secrets of wealth are the best-kept secrets in the world.
"It's a little like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe's story," the millionaire went on. "Do you remember it? It's the story about a letter the police were searching for and could never find, because, instead of being hidden away somewhere, it was lying in the least likely spot — in plain sight! Their lack of imagination and their built-in prejudices prevented the police from finding the letter. They weren't expecting to find it in plain sight, so they never saw it."
The young man listened to the millionaire with rapt attention. He was burning to find out what these secrets were. In any case, one thing was sure: Even if the millionaire didn't really have any secrets, he was certainly a master at setting an impressive scene.
In which the young man learns to seize opportunities and take risks
NOW, HOW MUCH MONEY are you willing to pay to get these secrets of wealth?"
The millionaire's question took the young man by surprise.
"Even if I was willing to spend money to get it, I haven't got a dime."
"But if you had money, how much would you be willing to pay? Name a figure, any figure. The first one that comes to mind."
The young man couldn't possibly evade the question now. The millionaire was asking for a very specific answer.
"I don't know," he replied. "A hundred dollars ...?"
The millionaire burst out laughing.
"Only a hundred dollars? Then you don't really believe these secrets exist, do you? If you did, you'd surely be ready to pay a lot more for them. Come on, I'll give you a second chance. Name another figure. This isn't a game, but a very serious matter."
The young man thought it over.
"I don't mind answering," he said. "But remember, I'm flat broke."
"Don't worry about that."
"But if I don't have any money, my hands are tied," said the young man, bewildered. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher, Katherine Dieter. Copyright © 1990 Mark Fisher. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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