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Millionaire 101

I don’t want to be a millionaire.

I was looking forward to trips in my private jet, which would take me from the front gate of my MacMansion to the backyard swimming pool I would fill with gold bars, but once that extra 5 percent millionaire’s tax kicks in, all the fun of being filthy rich is going to vanish. If I can’t be a capitalist pig, I don’t want to be a pig at all.

If being a millionaire still appeals to you, though, here’s good news — Michael Ellsberg has just published a new book, “The Education of Millionaires,” which promises to make any numbskull ridiculously rich, even if the numbskull in question didn’t go to college.

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In fact, going to college is a definite drawback for Ellsberg, since he and the multiple millionaires he interviews prefer to get their education in the “real world,” and not in classes on the minor Renaissance poets in the ivy-clad halls of ivy-league colleges. (Ellsberg admits to attending Brown University, but, heck, anyone can take a wrong turn.)

As author Ellsberg proclaims on page one — “If you want to succeed now, then you must educate yourself in the real-world skills, capabilities, and mind-sets that will get you ahead outside of the classroom.”

If you’re not going to waste four years on a college education, where will you get your learning? In the first terrible, low-paid position you can snag. The strategy is to get on your feet by taking any job you can get. Once you are employed, you immediately start goofing off, or, as Ellsberg describes it, you “create more room for experimentation.”

By successfully slacking off on your job, you’ll have “space” to experiment with all the great new ideas you’ll have for businesses you can start — businesses that will surely make you a millionaire. If you can’t think of any of these ideas, don’t sweat it. The education you didn’t get in the classroom is about to be supplanted by the education you will get from leaching off all the successful people you meet.

Of course, the leeching comes later. First, it’s up to you — the impoverished, under-employed failure — to provide succor for the wealthy, successful people who will become your mentors. “Be the water beneath them,” Ellsberg writes, “pushing them up the fountain.”

You could also be the mop that wipes them up after the fountain overflows. Be whatever you want, really. I still don’t understand the fountain metaphor, though Ellsberg uses it repeatedly, also suggesting that when meeting “wealthy, connected powerful people,” you should “get under their fountain.” Fine and dandy. Just be sure to wear your poncho.

Since you basically don’t know anything about anything, Ellsberg has some suggestions on specific areas of learning that could be of interest to the super-rich, like nutrition. I agree with Ellsberg that if you are going to enter a conversation with a possible mentor regarding health issues, it is important to be “extremely tactful.” I suggest a simple statement of fact, like “Gee, you’re fat.” You may also be able to instruct the super-rich in the area of spirituality. In the author’s experience, “almost without exception, wealthy, successful, famous and powerful people I’ve met struggle with spiritual and existential questions of meaning, purpose and inner fulfillment in their lives.”

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to add value, since you have the one attribute rich people lack — poverty. And as everyone knows, there’s nothing a really rich person values more than the advice of somebody who is dirt poor.

The book is full of stories of college dropouts who made millions. I don’t disagree with the premise, but why wait until college to dropout? If you really gain so much more when you’re not in class, wouldn’t it be better to drop out in high school, or junior high? For that matter, why waste a whole year in kindergarten? Being good at blocks is not going to help you in the business world, and if you weren’t tied down with naptime, you could be out in the sandbox, finding mentors.

I’ve already been to college, so it’s too late for me, but if you’re five years old and thinking of applying to pre-school, don’t waste another moment in story time. The time to drop out is now. If you’re not a millionaire by the time you’re 18, you can always go back to kindergarten and start over. Just keep your hands off the red dump truck. That’s mine!

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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