The subjects of America's business best-sellers almost never vary. We are obsessed with two topics: money and success. Whether it's Warren Buffet's investment secrets or Rick Pitino's tips on winning, the appeal is the same. We all want to know how to get rich and succeed.
We seem to be learning. New research shows that the population of millionaires in the United States is growing almost 20 times faster than the general population. Money is getting younger: for the first time, people between the ages of 35 and 54 are the country's fastest growing group of millionaires. And money is everywhere. The number of millionaires in Austin, Texas doubled last year to 20,500. The number of millionaires in Portland, Oregon now exceeds 31,000.
This issue of Fast Company suggests an addition to all of the traditional questions about becoming rich and successful: What comes next?
To answer that question, meet four millionaires, each of whom made their fortunes as part of the financial rocketship ride that is Oracle Corp.; each of whom is now coming to terms with the truth that Money Changes Everything. For these people, money is a mirror that shows them something fundamental about themselves. And far from offering definitive answers, it raises a new set of questions. For example: Now that I'm rich, what does it mean to be successful? Money sets them free to do what they want with their lives — and challenges them to figure out just what that is.
Who can help answer that challenge? We turned to worldly philosopher Jacob Needleman, a man who has counseled the rich and successful and literally written the book on Money and the Meaning of Life. "Money today has become like sex was to previous generations," Needleman says. "It's damn hard to think about money honestly."
We also turned to 15 achievers in various realms of work, business, and life for Unit of One advice on The Secrets of Their Success - and Yours. You'll hear from Wall Street billionaire Michael Bloomberg, leadership guru Warren Bennis, and cyberspace pioneer Stewart Brand.
Sometimes, of course, success comes in the form of a ready-or-not promotion. It's the worklife equivalent of hitting the lottery. Great, I got what I wished for! Uh-oh, I got what I wished for! In Congratulations, You're Promoted. Now What? we profile a group of hard-charging fast-trackers, each of whom had to confront the challenge of their own career success. Their experiences offer a set of practical tools to help you win that promotion — and to know what to do with it once you've got it.
Whether we like to talk about it or not, there's also a part of success that depends on discussing the undiscussable: The Four Toughest Talks in Business, the topics everyone desperately wants to avoid. Ultimately, if you want to succeed, you need to master these four conversations: how to fire someone, how to ask for a raise, how to admit a mistake, how to say no to the boss. Try following the strategies and scripts you'll find in this issue's ToolBox.
Of course, success is not only a matter of personal achievement. Companies and countries also grapple with what it takes to succeed. Rob Rodin, CEO of Marshall Industries, is reinventing the distribution business and revolutionizing selling. His three principles: free, perfect, now. By giving his customers what they want, Rodin has made his company a Sales Force.
Taiwan has spent the last 10 years becoming a Nation of Notebooks. It is now the world's leading manufacturer of portable computers. To see what it takes for a country to succeed, meet First International Computer Inc.'s Horace Tsiang and four of his top suppliers, people who assembled an industry the same way they assemble laptops.
Here's Fast Company's measure of success: read FC9 and get a better understanding of not only what it takes to get rich and achieve success — but also why it matters. Let us know if we've succeeded.
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.