More Than Money
Issue #28

Who Knows You're Rich?

Table of Contents

“The Gift of Fear”

By Gavin de Becker / Reviewed by Ruth Ann Harnisch

Afraid to come out of the green closet for fear you'll become a magnet for kidnappers, stalkers, and robbers attracted by your net worth? Stop worrying. Here's the book that teaches you how to protect yourself using your powers of observation and intuition. Gavin de Becker is the brand name in personal protection and violence prevention, advisor to presidents, rock stars, and you. He tells the unpretty truth about violence and victimhood in his book, The Gift of Fear. This book is a compendium of the best advice you can get on the subject. I know. I had to learn it all on my own.

As a television news anchor, radio talk-show host, and newspaper columnist, I dealt with almost every known genre of threat and threatener. I met thousands of disturbing people and hundreds of disturbed ones. For years, my stomach knotted every time the doorbell rang. My scalp tightened when the mail contained hand-addressed letters with no return addresses. Some of the graphic threats I received even upset the cops working my cases. If I'd had this book, I would have known how to stop the harassers from shattering my peace of mind, because I would have understood what was going on in their heads.

For example, I used to change my phone number constantly. The loonies always got the new number somehow. De Becker's simple solution: don't change your number. Finding the new number is part of the harasser's game. Simply stop picking up that phone. Use an answering machine with a greeting recorded by a friendly female voice, not your own (for sensible reasons, which de Becker explains). The greeting should make it clear that the caller has reached your answering machine. Next, you get an additional, unlisted phone number. Problem solved. No, it doesn't get the harasser off the streets . No, it doesn't teach the harasser a lesson. Yes, it's inconvenient for you and your friends to learn yet another new number, and it costs money for the extra line. But it accomplishes the main goal: the telephone terrorism stops. (De Becker's firm, reachable through , offers threat assessment services if you want a pro to evaluate the level of actual danger posed by your caller.)

De Becker makes a convincing case that human behavior is basically predictable and that every one of us is already an expert at predicting what other humans will do. Here, he teaches you to predict which people might pose a threat. You can't change those people, but you can stop them from bothering you by using de Becker's methods. The creeps will move on to another target. That's what they do. Your weirdo becomes someone else's weirdo. It's like the burglar bypassing the house with the barking dog. If this doesn't seem right, well, that's why the sign in de Becker's office says, "Don't Come Here For Justice." He offers solutions. Those solutions are seldom "fair."

The Gift of Fear is designed to help you prevent not only the kind of violence you fear when you're known to be rich, powerful, or famous; you'll also learn to prevent domestic violence, workplace violence, and even random violence. I've recommended this book since it was published in 1997. Take it from me: you do not want to learn this stuff any other way.

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