The Accidental Millionaire is the memoir of Gary Fong, would-be slacker who revolutionized wedding photography, inventor of popular photography aids, entrepreneur, contrarian, bon vivant and a man who really, really didn’t want to become a doctor. A first-generation Chinese-American, Gary was raised in one of Los Angeles’ least-desirable neighborhoods and was forced to deal—in his own quirky and often very funny way—with the burdens of poverty, crime and his parents’ relentless aspirations. These issues almost overwhelmed him until he had a dramatic epiphany. Spotting a bumper sticker that read “Since I gave up hope, I feel much better,” Gary promptly did just that.
He stopped trying and started succeeding. At turns hilarious, insightful and instructive, The Accidental Millionaire is Horatio Alger-meets-David Sedaris. Turning the traditional self-help principles upside down, The Accidental Millionaire disdains the goal-oriented approaches of traditional self-help philosophies. Sometimes not knowing where you are going is the best possible way to get there.
My life has not gone according to “The Plan.”
The Plan was for me to go to medical school and eventually pull down a respectable salary of about $150,000 a year.
Had I gone with The Plan, by this point in my life (I’m in my mid-forties) I probably would have just finished paying off my student loans and would be eyeing that thirty-two-foot Catalina sailboat with the FOR SALE sign that I passed every night on my way home from the clinic. I’d be settled into a comfortable home in the ‘burbs, with my wife of twenty years and me 2.3 kids, driving a Lexus sedan. And living the life of my dreams.
Well, my parents’ dreams.
Which I tried, for a time, to convince myself were my dreams too.
Following The Plan made me cry a lot. Eventually I found myself with a literal gun to my own head. That’s when I ran from The Plan and began an adventure into uncharted territory.
Uncharted territory goes completely against the grain of my upbringin.
My parents were first-generation Asian immigrants. Their lives’ territory was very well charted. And they’d charted mine too. My destiny was determined before I was born, and I had absolutely no say in it. My parents didn’t know (or particularly care) if I was going to be gay or blind or a violent psychopath. All they knew was that I was going to be a doctor. Secondarily to that, of course, I would be married at a young age to a nice Chinese girl whom my mother endorsed, and I would deliver my mother numerous grandchildren for her to spoil. ASAP.
While I was growing up, my family suffered through sobering bouts of poverty. My parents sacrificed everythign to ensure that I could get a good education. All they wanted was for me to not have to face the same financial struggles that they had. As a side benefit, they also weren’t going to mind the privilege of saying, “My son, the doctor.”
I didn’t want to live in poverty either, so I gave The Plan a go for ma ny years. I even got a degree in pharmacology in my attempt to become a physician.
And what did I do instead? I became a wedding photographer.
You can imagine the songs of joy this caused to leap from my parents’ hearts.
And yet, spring-boarding from that career, which began with moving back into my parents’ apartment and shooting weddings for $150 each, I became a multi-millionaire within a fairly short period of time. And it happened due to one improbably accident after another.