Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Millionaire Next Door

tmnd.jpg Professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko spent years interviewing individuals with a net worth of USD 1 million. In The Millionaire Next Door, Professors Stanley and Danko present the findings of their research about who the average American millionaire is and what he does (he because more than 90% of the millionaires in this book are men). The millionaires discussed in this book are not movie stars or models and do not buy expensive cars or vacation in luxury homes. Instead, the millionaires discussed here are common people who just do different things, such as living well below their means, investing in building wealth, and avoiding consumption. The conclusion of the book is that even in a country where the average household net worth is a mere USD 72,000 it is possible for anyone to become a millionaire as long as he is willing to live a financially disciplined lifestyle. (You can click here to read the introductory chapter of the book).

Reading this book was like being reminded of many life lessons my grandfather and father taught me when I was young(er) and (more) impressionable: money saved is money earned, it is much easier to spend money than it is to save it so don’t do the easy thing, and simple living is the best living. Professors Stanley and Danko shatter the illusion about the rich people the media has created in our minds, and replace it with the hard reality of life. Of course, as an entrepreneurship professor I was glad to read that most millionaires are self-employed (carefully note that the opposite is not true- most self-employed are not millionaires).  

This book is one of those that should be a must read for every young person. I am also curious how generalizable some of the findings presented in this book are to other countries, including my native country of India. So, if you are an Indian or Chinese or Arab or European or African reading this, I would love to hear how if you think the findings about American millionaires generalize to your country.  

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Balancing Two worlds: Asian American college students tell their life stories

asiamer.jpg Balancing Two Worlds … (2007) is a book about the Asian American identity by Dartmouth Professor Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny. It consists of fouteen first-person narratives by Dartmouth students who came to the U.S. with their families between the ages of 5 and 12 from different parts of Asia, including Vietnam, India, Myanmar, China, Thailand etc. Students discuss issues of race, gender, stereotypes, assimilation, social interaction, family life, school, education, and challenges associated with being labeled “the model minority”. Some students discuss their childhood and early life, others focus on college life and adulthood. Some conceal their identity, others are comfortable with sharing who they are with the outside world. Professors Garrod and Kilkenny let the students speak in their own language, and if the two have any influence on students’ accounts it is not visible in the stories.

The Asian American population in the U.S. is also an invisible minority and a silent minority. Though increasing in number, the Asian American population is very small compared to the majority White population or the minority Blacks and Hispanics. Moreover, unlike Blacks and Hispanics, there is great diversity within the Asian American population, as they come from many different cultural backgrounds. Perhaps, because they are invisible and silent, Asian Americans issues are seldom discussed in public forums or policy making. Balancing Two Worlds… succesfully brings out the diversity of the Asian American population and effectively presents the issues that young people in this group are confronting.

Unfortunately, the book is only about high-achieving Asian Americans who succesfully make it to an Ivy League like Dartmouth. Focusing on this small group, reinforces the model minority image of Asian Americans- No matter how big their problems and obstacles, they will work hard and succeed. How about the experiences of hundreds and thousands of Asian Americans who never make it to college or join gangs. In all fairness to the two authors, they accept upfront that the stories presented in their book are not generalizable to all Asian Americans. I also find it interesting that Asian American students presented in this book are always using two lenses to look at the world- They look at the American society around through their Asian lens, and use an American lens to look at the Asian culture which they come from.

The book is short (about 250 pages) and can be read in a day (if you are reading in a coffee shop and that’s all you do that day!). May be a useful book for courses that discuss Asian Americans in education and school. Some of the stories are better written than others, but these are young students and I am impressed they even took the time to work on these stories.    

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The House of Mondavi

robmondavi.jpg The House of Mondavi: The rise and fall of an American Wine Dynasty (2007) by Julia F. Siler is a book about the journey of a true entrepreneur Robert Mondavi, the growth and decline of a family business (Robert Mondavi Wine Company), and an American industry (the wine industry). The book is set in Napa valley, the center-stage of the American wine industry, and spans four generations of the Mondavi family. The story of the Mondavi Wine family starts in early 1900s when a young Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi comes to the U.S. and enters the grape-shipping business, and concludes with the Robert Mondavi Corp.’s twenty-first-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune where the Mondavi’s lost the business they had created from scratch.

The book presents a great story about ambition, hardwork, vision, imagination, family feud, sibling rivalry, and business competitiveness. I find it fascinating that Cesare, the first generation of the Mondavi wine family, envisioned that “Americans would eventually start drinking drier table wines with their meals, in the European fashion”, and his son Robert devoted himself to convincing a skeptical American public that “wine is the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible, the liquid food praised for centuries…”. Today, wine is a must-have beverage with any fine meal in many American families. Entrepreneurs truly transform our lives in ways most people can not even imagine.   

I would recommend this book whole-heartedly, were it not for its length. The book is long- more than 400 pages. At the same time, it also feels like a typical Hollywood movie or a soap opera with family drama, business intrigue, and betrayal. And, it also helped me learn much more about the wine industry, than I ever knew!

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