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Letters from Home: A Wake-up Call for Success and Wealth

ISBN: 978-0-470-63792-0
272 pages
October 2010
Letters from Home: A Wake-up Call for Success and Wealth (0470637927) cover image


It's Time to Rediscover America.

Our nation is deteriorating. Slowly but surely the virtues and values we once celebrated—responsibility, resilience, dignity, respect—have been abandoned. Our work ethic has been replaced by an entitlement ethic. And as we lose the cultural traits that brought us to our leadership position, America's standing in the world will surely fall as well.

But there is good news, say David and Andrea R. Reiser. By rediscovering the qualities that made America great, we can start to turn things around. We can teach our young people—not to mention ourselves, our employees, and our fellow Americans of all ages—what truly leads to success, prosperity, and fulfillment.

That's what Letters from Home is about. Written in the form of letters to the authors' four sons, it explores fifteen basic American virtues that built our country and that foster individual success. Each chapter includes profiles of exceptional "real people"—the authors' wealth management clients, friends, and neighbors—who truly walk the talk. A few examples of what the book teaches:

  • Work hard. Go above and beyond in all that you do.
  • Be resilient and learn from adversity.
  • Seize opportunity when it comes (and it comes every day).
  • Follow your moral compass faithfully and consistently.
  • When you fall, take responsibility for getting back up.
  • Save prudently and spend thoughtfully.
  • Practice gratitude. Know that you’re blessed.

Part cultural treatise and part kick-in-the-pants, Letters from Home is a moving reminder that we live in a land of freedom and opportunity. It should inspire us all—parents, influential leaders, and ordinary citizens alike—to do everything in our power to honor and perpetuate that legacy.

The authors are proud to contribute 100% of royalties from the publication of this book to three personally meaningful organizations: Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org).

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Table of Contents


1 Education.

John Dodig: Maverick Educator.

2 Hard Work.

Eli Zabar: Hard Work Reaps Rewards.

3 Recognizing Opportunity.

David Cohen: Navigating the Sea of Success.

Tim Brabham: Opportunity Maker.

4 Realistic Vision.

Kate & Matt Jennings: Delicious Visionaries.

5 Integrity & Positive Attitude.

Ellis Waldman: Leading With Integrity.

Marucha Andrzejewski: Looking Forward, Moving Forward.

6 Resilience & Accountability.

Patrick Ciriello: Keeping Things in Perspective.

Mike Nardone: Head Down, Chin Up.

7 Self-Discipline & Patience.

Amy & Howie Blustein: Prudent Savers, Thoughtful Spenders.

Mary & Alberto Lobo: Epitome of the American Dream.

8 Harmonious Balance.

Stefani Phipps: Living a Yin-Yang Life.

9 Kindness & Gratitude.

Linda & Dan Kortick: Giving Back to Community.

Meredith Fried: A Friend Indeed.

10 Courage & Living Without Regrets.

Alysa Mendelson Graf: The Courage to Follow Your Heart.

Ina Garten: Jumping Off Cliffs.



About the Authors.

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Author Information

DAVID R. REISER is a Senior Vice President–Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, with offices in Westport, Connecticut, and Newport, Rhode Island. ANDREA R. REISER is an author, blogger, and community volunteer. They are the parents of four boys, and live in Westport, Connecticut, and East Hampton, New York. For more information: www.reisermedia.com

David and Andrea Reiser are proud to contribute 100% of royalties and other income from the publication of this book through John Wiley & Sons by supporting three personally meaningful organizations in the following proportion: 50% to Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), 40% to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and 10% to FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org).

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Press Release

October 21, 2010
Letters From Home

Everywhere you look, from talk shows to the office water cooler to the dinner table, you see people wringing their hands about the state of our nation. No wonder: It feels like we’re living through a slow-motion train wreck. Our national debt is out of control. Our politicians are corrupt. Our business leaders are greedy, inept, or both. Our young people are disrespectful and lazy. And a shocking number of citizens are more interested in grabbing entitlements than in working hard to pursue the American dream.

Okay, these unflattering descriptions don’t fit everyone. But if we’re honest, we have to admit they do apply to enough citizens to constitute a problem—a big one. And according to David and Andrea Reiser—coauthors of Letters From Home: A Wake-up Call for Success & Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95, www.ReiserMedia.com)—if we don’t shift our culture back to one that embraces the principles that made our country great, conditions will only worsen.

“It’s hard to deny that America has lost its way,” asserts David. “And there’s not going to be any easy fix. Certainly, we can’t legislate our way back to greatness. We have to find the seeds of that greatness inside us, one person at a time.”

“So many people we talk to feel the way David and I do,” adds Andrea. “What we need is a way to mobilize them—a way to spark a grassroots movement to return our country to its core values.”

That’s the hope that fueled the writing of Letters From Home, a project that’s part cultural treatise and part kick in the pants: for parents, for young people, for influential leaders—really for anyone and everyone who values America and wants to see it restored to its former glory.

Written in the form of letters to the authors’ four sons, the book explores fifteen basic American virtues that built our country and that foster individual success. Each chapter includes profiles of exceptional “real people”—the authors’ wealth management clients, friends, and neighbors—who truly walk the talk.

Here, excerpted from Letters From Home, is a quick look at the virtues the Reisers want Americans to embrace:

Education. Obviously, the way Americans make a living has changed a lot over the past few decades. Our education system needs to change right along with it. John Dodig, principal of Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, the top public high school in the state, wants to transform education to emphasize flexibility and adaptability. This, he believes, is the only way our young people will be able to compete in a global marketplace.

Hard Work. Too many Americans expect the maximum return for a bare minimum investment of “elbow grease.” Eli Zabar is the antithesis of this mindset. The youngest son of Russian immigrants, he is living proof of what can happen when you’re born into a hardworking family and internalize their values. Zabar has established himself as an esteemed icon of the New York City gourmet food world through his proprietorship of numerous markets, restaurants, and other operations. And he keeps his nose as firmly to the proverbial grindstone now as he did when he was just starting out in the early 1970s. 

Recognizing Opportunity. Many people seem to think that life owes them what they need, when they need it, on a silver platter—and that they shouldn’t have to go looking for opportunity. However, businessman Tim Brabham knows that such an attitude probably won’t propel you very far. Since graduating college in the early 1990s, he has held progressively more challenging positions at companies all over the United States. Brabham has learned that actively looking for the next great thing, combined with hard work and self-marketing, is a surefire formula for attracting opportunity.

Gratitude. We Americans have so much. The vast majority of us have a place to live, regular meals, and family and friends who love us. We have the freedom to do whatever we want with our lives. And yet, rather than feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the abundance in our lives, when people ask, “How are you?” we often answer with an empty, “Fine,” or a pathetic, “Terrible!” (followed by some self-centered whining).

“Our hope is that people will read our book, think about its lessons, and figure out ways to apply them to their own lives,” says Andrea. “We want them to say, ‘Well, lately I have been griping a lot instead of being grateful for all I have,’ or, ‘You know, maybe I am teaching my kids to be lazy and entitled.’ And then, we want them to commit to making a change.” “We can all stand to make improvements and live more consciously,” adds David. “And if enough people make the effort, then collectively, we can shift an entire culture. Yes, it’s an ambitious goal, but if any country is up to it, it’s America.”

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