Sid Mittra was not the boy voted most likely to succeed. He kept failing and failing as a young man, but eventually won big.
He has lived an extraordinary life. And that was before becoming one of the founders of the financial planning movement in the United States. In the U.S., he has been a financial planning practitioner, teacher and author. But before that he had to overcome overwhelming odds.
Yet even as it is seemingly impossible for a bee to fly, Mittra was able to surmount a million-to-one odds. They came from being born into a poor country, India, a nation that was struggling under an imperialist master that finally was sent packing in 1947.
Mittra succeeded in business in his country, went to a foreign country -- actually the book reads like a travelogue as he is forced to go through numerous nations in the pursuit of his dream -- where he obtains several advanced degrees, success again in business and raises a family. It may seem to some glorious and exciting now looking back on more than 80 years of Mittra’s life. Still, one rises from reading this little biography thinking that it was anything but beer and Skittles.
It has been a life in which the author must have thought many times about turning back. “Whom the Gods would destroy they would first make mad,” the ancient Greek playwright Euripides said. But Mittra never went mad.
How did he do it?
It was in part owing to the teachings of a professor. As a young man, he told Mittra that, if a bee could defy the laws of physics, humans could also overcome almost anything.
“I hope,” his professor says at the conclusion of the bee lesson, “this convinces you that the best course of action in life is to adopt a pluck-until-luck philosophy. That is, if you wish to succeed, never, ever give up, no matter how many times you’ve failed.” (Page 17)
Mittra would fail and fail, especially in academics, but would go on to attain much success in a busy life that still has some unwritten chapters. (Mittra is not going quietly. He has a plan to bring financial education to more and more people.) Mittra would get an education, which would require him to go on an astounding quest across three continents and thousands of miles from India to Northern Florida. This is a story within a story. It is a tale of a stranger in numerous strange lands. He had little money, difficulty with the way some Americans spoke English and no assurance that he would ever actually reach his destination. Yet the bee flew.