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The Wealth Elite: A groundbreaking study of the psychology of the super rich Hardcover – 26 Apr 2018
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"Zitelmann's book is of great importance because it provides an explanation for the success of the market economy and our society's prosperity. It places the entrepreneur firmly center stage... In fact, Zitelmann's book deserves to be a standard text for current and future Ministers of Finance and Economics. Everyone with entrepreneurial aspirations should make space for it in their home library." --Huffington Post "'The Wealth Elite' is interesting for two reasons: On the one hand, Zitelmann summarizes the state of research into the essence of the entrepreneur. On the other hand, he reveals millionaires' very personal motives and perspectives through a series of verbatim excerpts from in-depth interviews. If you are at all interested in the nature of entrepreneurship, you will certainly find what you are looking for here, and far more besides." --Harvard Business Manager "Zitelmann's book is of major importance because, by focusing on entrepreneurship, it explains both the success of the market economy and the prosperity of our society. In neoclassical economic theory, entrepreneurs are conspicuous only by their absence." --The European "I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Wealth Elite and found some of the findings quite interesting. The part I liked the most was actual interview excerpts presented verbatim, which really helps one to understand exactly what the interviewer is trying to say in their own words. Zitelmann's writing style is effortless and engaging and makes this a fun read." --Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite "The Wealth Elite includes interesting insights and interviews about the DNA of the super-rich." --Reviewed by James Bernstein for IndieReader "I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the psychology behind the wealthy." --Reviewed by Kristi Elizabeth for San Francisco Book Review
"The Wealth Elite is a complete, educational analysis of successful and wealthy entrepreneurs. All topics are covered in depth with research to back up Dr. Zitelmann s findings. I particularly enjoyed reading the interview responses of the individuals in the study. Although each participant came from a different background, it was easy to see a general pattern of thinking among these successful individuals... I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the psychology behind the wealthy. --San Francisco Book Review
"Rainer Zitelmann s study of the psychology of the super rich is an ambitious project. Few could be better qualified for it than Dr Zitelmann an historian, sociologist, journalist, businessman and investor. There has been no comparable study and it is a compelling read for all who need to understand the characteristics and motivations of rich entrepreneurs. These people drive economic growth, back innovation, create jobs and finance philanthropic projects. So why has such a study never been attempted before? It is hard to access these people and design questionnaires that generate a meaningful response --Michael Maslinski, Financial Times, October 24th, 2018
The self-help genre is littered with books telling you how to get rich or become successful in easy, manageable steps. But this vast publishing industry, now worth $800 million and growing six percent per year according to Marketdata, has a major flaw. It rarely studies those that have actually become rich and successful […] This (Zitelmann's) research should, therefore, be seen as an antithesis to any self-help guide to becoming wealthy.” Oliver Williams, Wealth Management, Forbes
About the Author
Rainer Zitelmann is the author of 19 books. He was previously a senior editor at Die Welt newspaper. Later he became the leading communications consultant for the real estate sector in Germany. The material for this books is based on his second doctorate.
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As you read the book, it becomes clear that specific personality traits play a key role in whether someone gets rich or not. Above all, the book’s interviewees are characterised by their pronounced non-conformism – most of them enjoyed “swimming against the tide” or bucking prevailing trends. This book provides a host of interesting insights into the super-rich as young people. At school they tended to be distinctly average. It’s clear that it wasn’t their academic knowledge that made them rich. As Zitelmann explains, “implicit learning” and “tacit knowledge” are far more important, i.e. the out-of-school learning that the super-rich experienced during their youths. More than half of the interviewees were involved in competitive sports when they were at school or university. This clearly taught them how to deal with victory and defeat, and how to assert themselves against their opponents. They also developed a tolerance for frustration and developed self-confidence in their own abilities.
As you read the book, it is striking to learn how these ultra-high-net-worth individuals earned money while they were at school and studying. Almost none of Zitelmann’s interviewees did typical student jobs or worked for an hourly wage. Reading about their innovative ideas and ventures, you can’t fail to appreciate their enormous creativity. They sold everything from make-up to winter gardens, from tyres and wheel rims to car washes, from used cars and motorcycles to insurance and investment products, from animals they raised themselves to jewellery, homemade radios and second-hand car radios. These experiences were undoubtedly formative for the young people who later became entrepreneurs. They learned to organise, sell and think like entrepreneurs. They learned – often unconsciously – and acquired the implicit knowledge that is so important for successful entrepreneurs and investors. And their early entrepreneurial experiences were clearly the best preparation for their later entrepreneurial ventures.
It is therefore no surprise that most of the interviewees say they make their decisions from the gut. According to the author, gut decisions are not irrational – they are the result of implicit learning. Although this book is a scientific study, it is well written and generally easy to understand. And the interviews are often entertaining. It’s a pity that the book doesn’t have an index of persons or topics. I can highly recommend this book – not only for people who want to get rich, but for anyone who wants to gain an insight into the psyche of the “wealth elite”. After all, they are otherwise very isolated from the rest of society. I guess the author only got to speak to them because he is not only an academic but is also clearly rich himself.
Specific characteristics of the interviewees’ youths (school, university, informal learning through sports and early entrepreneurial activities).
Motivations for self-employment.
The role of goal-setting.
The importance of sales skills for financial success.
The role of optimism and self-efficacy.
The relationship between analytical and intuitive (“gut”) decisions.
The Big Five personality traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness.
The willingness to engage in confrontation.
Nonconformism and the willingness to “swim against the current.”
Dealing with crises and setbacks.
A number of these topics, including risk orientation, the role of optimism, and the relationship between decisions based on gut feeling versus those based on analysis, have been well researched in existing literature. By contrast, there has been little scholarly research on the other topics, such as the importance of sales skills for the financial success of the super-rich, or the significance of nonconformism.
If you plan to buy the book in the hope of finding easy-to-follow recipes on how to get rich, you will be disappointed. I don’t actually believe in any such recipes. But the book provides its readers with so much more, namely food for thought. Which means reflections about their own attitudes and behavioural patterns. The first part of the book will be most fascinating for readers interested in entrepreneur research and in psychological insider discussions. The second part revolves around a large number of quotes from the interviews. This is the part I liked best, because it very much brings the text to life even though it is an academic work.
Sadly, there are no equivalent publications in the UK or the US, or at least I couldn’t find any. What it most reminded me of was “The Millionaire Mind” and other books by Thomas Stanley. But the people Stanley interviewed were not nearly as affluent as the ones Zitelmann talked to. Zitelmann’s book is neither about the “millionaire next door” nor about tycoons whose assets run in the double-digit billions, such as Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett. It focuses primarily on those worth several hundred million about whom next to nothing is known. This is precisely what makes this book worthwhile. The one thing missing is a person and subject index, which is too bad. What makes up for it is an impressive bibliography that lists several hundred titles-most of them essays and books published in the US.