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Business Thought

George Samuel Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. By basing these parables in ancient times, but involving situations that modern people can understand and identify with, the author presents these lessons as timeless wisdom that is as relevant today as it was back then. The book began in 1926 as a series of informational pamphlets. Banks and insurance companies began to distribute these pamphlets, and the most famous ones were eventually compiled into this book. According to the edition book cover, more than two million copies have been sold.

George Samuel Clason

Babylon was a land of great disparity between the rich and the poor.

The Man Who Desired Gold

Bansir was a simple Babylonian chariot builder. He sat and looked over his meager home, and the unfinished chariot in his workshop. He wondered why he worked so hard, and yet remained so poor.

Bansir’s friend Kobbi, a musician, wandered up and greeted him happily. Kobbi asked if he could borrow two shekels until the noblemen’s feast that night. Bansir replied that even if he had two shekels, he could not lend it, because it would be his entire fortune. This shocked Kobbi, who had assumed his friend must have plenty, since Bansir spent so much time sitting and dreaming instead of working.

Bansir told Kobbi of his dreams of possessing fabulous wealth, and said his sitting and moping was a result of how disappointing reality was compared to his dreams.

The two friends reflected on how much money they had earned over the course of their lives, and how little they had to show for it now. Bansir lamented that future generations of his family would continue to toil and struggle. He concluded that the gods had not bestowed wealth upon him because They failed to notice his good works.

They observed slaves marching, loaded with heavy goatskins of water, and realized that they were quite lucky to be free men. Kobbi wondered if one could become wealthy by learning what the wealthy do and mimicking it. Bansir decided there must be a secret to acquiring gold, and they decided to ask their old friend Arkad, who is the richest man in Babylon to instruct them.

The Richest Man in Babylon

Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, was very generous with his family, and gave much to charity. Though he was very giving, his wealth continued to grow. Bansir and his party met with Arkad, and asked why fate should make one man so wealthy when any of them were equally deserving. Arkad replied that if they were not wealthy, it was because they had failed to learn the laws of wealth building, or else had failed to adhere to them. He said if “fickle fate” brings wealth, wanton spending will take it away. Furthermore, a person who lucks into wealth clings fearfully to their fortune, knowing they can not replace it. He said that few men can use their money wisely and can live happily.

During his youth, Arkad noticed that wealth magnifies power and happiness. He decided to be rich in order to acquire that which he desired. To be rich, he would have to immerse himself in the study of wealth accumulation, and once the laws were discovered, he would adhere closely to them.

Arkad stated that it’s not just what you know that’s important, but also being able to learn what you don’t already know.

Arkad found employment as a scribe in the hall of records. He worked hard, but felt that his earnings were not enough for him to acquire not only his necessities but his desire.

One day a wealthy money lender named Algamish ordered a copy from Arkad. He needed it in two days, and offered Arkad two coppers for express service. Arkad worked hard, but wasn’t able to finish the job. Algamish was angry that the job wasn’t finished, but Arkad made a deal with him. He would work all night to finish the job if Algamish would tell him the secret of how to be rich. Algamish accepted the deal, and Arkad completed the job.

Algamish said that he reached his status when he decided to “keep a part of all he earned for himself”, so he must do the same. Algamish explained that if Arkad spends all his earnings then it means that he labored for the merchants and not for himself. If he would keep one tenth of his earnings and didn’t spend it no matter what, then it would grow. When these savings have accumulated, it will be the time for him to invest it, to make his wealth work for him.

While putting this lesson into practice, Arkad was tempted to spend all of his money, but he didn’t give in. A year later, Algamish returned, and asked Arkad if he pays himself one tenth of his earnings. Arkad proudly stated that he does. Algamish asked Arkad where he invested his earnings. Arkad said that he gave it to Azmur, the brick-maker to invest in jewels. Algamish said that Arkad was a fool, he should have ask the jewel merchants about jewels, not the brick-maker. Advice is given freely, but should be looked upon skeptically. Sure enough, Azmur had been cheated, and had lost all of Arkad’s money.
Arkad continued to save, and twelve months later Algamish returned. He again asked Arkad about his savings. Arkad said that he loaned his money to Agger, the shieldmaker, who paid it back with interest. Arkad used the interest for luxuries. Algamish told him to continue to acquire wealth, and only when wealthy enjoy the fruits of that fortune.

Two years later, Algamish returned. He praised Arkad for having learned his lessons well: 1. Live on less than you earn, 2. Seek advice from those who are competent through their own experiences to give it, 3. Make your gold work for you. Algamish invited Arkad to work with him. He asked Arkad to take charge of his properties, and promised to give him a part of his estate when he dies. Arkad accepted the offer, and because of his ambitions made the property more prosperous. When Algamish died, he gave a part of his property to Arkad.

As the tale ended, one of the party said that Arkad was lucky because Algamish made him an heir. Arkad replied that he was fortunate only in that he had a desire to prosper before he met Algamish. His friends were really amazed and they told Arkad that he has a strong willpower. Arkad replied that willpower is only an unflinching purpose to carry a task to completion.

He said that if you set a task, you must complete it whatever happens, so don’t begin tasks lightly. He advised his friends to take the wisdom of Algamish and to prosper like him. Remember “part of all I earn is mine to keep.” Make gold your slave. Seek wise counsel. But don’t stress out in practicing the principles, instead enjoy life while ensuring your future.

Seven Cures for a Lean Purse

Babylon, the richest city during that time is experiencing an economic downturn. It was because a few rich men acquired the wealth of the city and left the majority of the citizens in poverty. Because of this the good King Sargon was very worried as the Royal Chancellor told it to him after he came back from the battle with the Elimates. King ordered the Royal Chancellor to bring Arkad to him because they believe that he knew the answers to the problem of their city.

The next day, the Royal Chancellor brought Arkad in front of the King. The King asked Arkad what is the secret on acquiring wealth and if it can be taught to others. Arkad replied that it is practical and it can be taught to others. The King was happy to hear that from Arkad. Arkad asked the King to command the Chancellor to arrange a class of one hundred men and he will teach them the seven cures to fatten their purse. On that night, with the command of the King the class of one hundred men assembled in the Great Hall of the Temple of Learning.

The First Cure: Start thy purse to fattening

Arkad stated the first cure to a lean purse which is “Start thy purse to fattening”. He asked some of the men what their works are. After questioning them he said that there are many trading and labor into which they can acquire gold and in their purse flow a stream of coins. He turned to an egg merchant and he set an example. He stated that if the egg merchant will choose only one basket and put each morning ten eggs but take out from it only nine eggs, and then what will happen? The egg merchant answered that it will overflow as time passed by.

Then, Arkad smiled to the class and stated the first remedy to a lean purse. He stated that for every ten coins that you place within your purse, take out only for use but nine. Then after that your purse will start to fatten at once and its increasing weight will feel good in your hands and bring satisfaction to the soul. He stated that “for each ten coins he put in, to spend but nine”. He said that it is simple but effective, that upon practicing this he can manage his wealth very well and he has not shorten like before. Then, the class was dismissed on that day.

The Second Cure: Control thy expenditures
On the next day, some of the class asked Arkad how they could save one-tenth of their earnings if it was not enough for their necessary expenses. Arkad answered that do not confuse the necessary expenses to the desires because each of them has so many desires in which their earnings cannot gratify. He continued that they should learn to live in a simple ways and must budget their earnings to their necessary expenses. Budget is necessary to control expenditures and to fatten their purses. He stated to them the second cure which is “Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings”.

The Third Cure: Make thy Gold Multiply

On the third day, Arkad explained to the class the third cure. He said that they should put their treasure or savings to labor and make it multiply. They must put it into investment because a man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his purse but it is the income that he builds. He continued that the golden stream of money that continually flows in their purses is the important one and which every man should desire. After that, he stated the third cure which is: “to put each coin to laboring that it may reproduce its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring to thee income, a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy purse.”

The Fourth Cure: Guard thy treasure from loss
Arkad explained to his class during the fourth day to study carefully the flow of business before making an investment. They must assure their investment from risk of loss. He said that do not be intrigued by earning a large income and they must acquaint themselves first to the dangers that they might encounter. He advised to consult the wisdom of those who are experienced in handling money for profit because such advice is free and its value is the same with that of the gold. He related with them his own misfortune during his first investment to Azmur. Then, he stated the fourth cure which is “Guard thy treasure from loss by investing only thy principal is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable and where thou will not fail to collect a fair rental. Consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy treasure from unsafe investments”

The Fifth Cure: Make of thy dwelling a Profitable Investment

Arkad suggested to his class during the fifth day to “own their own home”, which is the fifth cure, for them to enjoy fully their lives. He explained that if they choose to rent a room or house then their families would not be at ease. He also stated that a man who has his own domicile will receive many blessings and will reduce his cost of living and lastly will satisfy his desires.

The Sixth Cure: Insure a Future Income

On the sixth day, Arkad stated the sixth cure which is “provide in advance for the needs of thy growing age and the protection of thy family”. He said that they must give way for their future days and they must also plan for their certain investments or provisions that may endure safely for many years. He related to them the story of Ansan, the sandal maker. He said that Ansan had accumulated great income by depositing his silver to the money lender and because of this he can assure an income for the future.

The Seventh Cure: Increase thy Ability to Earn

Arkad said to the class that they must have a desire to increase their earnings and that desire must be strong and definite. He also enumerated the things that a man can do to make his life rich with gainful experiences. And these are as follows: “He must pay his debts with all the promptness within his power, not purchasing that for which he is unable to pay” “He must take care of his family that they may think and speak well of him” “He must make a will of record that, in case the gods call him, proper and honorable division of his property be accomplished” “He must have compassion upon those who are injured and smitten by misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of thoughtfulness to those dear to him.” Then, he stated the seventh cure for a lean purse which is “to cultivate thy own powers, to study and become wiser, to become more skillful, to so act as to respect thyself”. He told to his students that Babylon has plenty of gold, so they must practice what he has taught to them for them to prosper and grow wealthy...