Trump opens his diary for 'Apprentice' devotees

Monday, October 18, 2004

Most of us will never be billionaires, but Donald J. Trump contends we all could think like one.

Trump tells us at length that billionaires can have incredibly fun lives. Work is not work but an extension of a passion for living to the fullest, succeeding, acquiring, consuming. If you consider your job a burden, you're in the wrong field and clearly not thinking like a billionaire, Trump advises in his new book, "Think Like a Billionaire."

So, um, fire yourself, and move on to the career you should have been pursuing.

This is partly a how-to book in the classic sense -- no-nonsense and authoritarian on the business of life (including a "How to be Married" section from a man who is preparing for his third marriage) and part pure publicity for the television show.

"Think Like a Billionaire" is one of those quick reads that will leave you feeling a little awed and empty at the end -- especially if you pay full retail, which Trump counsels you should do only rarely.

For the book is not so much a book as Trump memorabilia, like a tchotchke you grab at an airport when you feel the need to own a trivial trinket that says "Chicago." There is page upon page of glossy color photos, many of them featuring Trump, his supermodel fiancee Melania Knauss and fellow NBC celebrities. The last fourth of the book is called "Inside The Apprentice" and offers a primer and commentary on the show.

And why not?

As Trump further expands his domain from bricks and mortar to show biz, there is an increasing display of Trump the media product.

So, while you may never become a billionaire, you most certainly can indulge yourself in observing a real live one, up close and personal, on radio, television, in his new magazine, film and in book form.

Trump notes the obvious enjoyment others in his circle have gotten from their taste of television stardom. Yet, reading between the lines, it just might be Trump who gleans the most satisfaction from a ratings success.

Trump tells an interviewer, "An odd thing to me is that it seems my overall image is better since 'The Apprentice' started. People see another side of me, and even though I fire people every week on the show, they don't seem to mind. Maybe they can see that I make an effort to be fair. Who knows? It's still a mystery to me. I've always been the same."

Outside the ratings adoration, Trump has struggled recently.

His Atlantic City casinos are mired in steep debt, and a $400 million deal in which he would relinquish his controlling stake and CEO title to cut the interest payments fell apart last month. In suburban Los Angeles, a group of residents in tony Rancho Palos Verdes is battling Trump over his latest golf course development, which includes land owned by the local school district.

But in his book, Trump addresses common sense issues: credit card abuse, the use of brokers for such things as apartment and mortgage hunting, the role and abuse of debt, the true costs of being stupidly miserly versus wisely frugal.

"I obviously buy brand names when the brand is tied to a product's quality," Trump writes. "But aspirin is aspirin, shampoo is shampoo and cereal is cereal, so don't throw away your money on packaging and advertising."

The occasional little digs in "Think Like a Billionaire" are delicious. On Time Warner's colossal new Manhattan headquarters, which is near Central Park, but not on Central Park and on the other side of Columbus Circle from Trump's hotel: "I still wonder whether the new tenants there are enjoying their view of my building."

Other advice? Do not sleep more than you need, lest you dull your "competitive edge." Trump sleeps four hours nightly and says that's plenty for him.

This is Donald Trump's diary as much as it is any sort of inspiration or help. Sure, there are far worse ways to spend a few hours than reading Trump's musings -- but there are also about a billion better ones.

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