“Through pure determination, fortitude, and attitude, Daniel” has become “the No. 1 mortgage loan officer in the world,” says Mark Victor Hansen in his introduction to Daniel Milstein’s short work 17 cents and a dream. Which makes me start reading the book with a serious feeling of yes, but. On the back cover Matthew Roslin describes the book as “a blueprint for success that any motivated professional can follow.” But the author himself writes of earlier mentors and friends, “I owe my success as much to them as I do to my natural born family,” and describes how his “natural talent for sales” would not have been enough without “the human touch.” 17 cents and a dream adds a little of that human touch to the author’s success, describing his loss of his grandfather to the aftermath of Chernobyl, his flight from the Ukraine and the persecution of Jews, and his family’s struggles to keep food on the table and clothes on the children’s backs when they first arrived in America. Driven to succeed, determined to help support his family, Daniel takes whatever jobs he can find and does his best, but a lucky entry into finance opens doors and sales become his passion. Succeeding beyond most people’s wildest dreams, he wonders how his grandfather would feel and remembers happiness and family come first--I end up wondering what else, or who else, the author has lost on his way.
This book contains some wise aphorisms, most notably always to be the best “me” I can be. And the author’s personal experience (briefly told) of American prejudice, teen cruelty, the mockery of fellow employees and the impersonal rejection of teachers lends balance to an initially idealized view of an almost perfect America. Perhaps the US is not the “only” place where rags can turn to riches (as advertized in the book), but Daniel Milstein’s rags certainly did and his writing brooks no disagreement. Perhaps dreams do come true for the fortunately talented and lucky, though clearly not for all, and perhaps the author’s daughter really can live here without fear of prejudice, though I'm others can’t (and even she appears only as a cipher in a tale that never mentions marriage or a mother). America isn’t perfect though, and the story’s progression gives a more honest view than its earlier chapters—a human tale of one man misfortune followed by hard work and good luck, and not a blueprint for success after all.
Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book as part of its recent promotion.
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