The answer to these questions is at the heart of of The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth (New World Library, August 2010). Written by millionaire Mark Fisher, this memorable fable is based on the true story of his meeting with an old man who passed on the secrets of his success.
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. Something 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 always 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.
Excerpted from The Instant Millionaire © 2010 by Mark Fisher. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.