Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sunday Book Review: The Richest Man In Babylon

If you read thirty reviews of this book, odds are 29 of them will use the word "simple." What they really mean is "short and clear." If people want to mistake brevity and clarity for simplicity, that is their choice, however I fear it keeps people from taking the book as seriously as they ought.

The Richest Man In Babylon was written in 1926 by George S. Clason. It's told as fiction, although the book does little to try to actually be a narrative. The main character is Bansir, a chariot builder, who wonders why the wealthy have gold and he does not.

As he seeks an answer to this question from Arkad, an old friend who has become the wealthiest man he knows, he discovers the principles that brought Arkad wealth are not out of his own reach, humble chariot builder though he may be.

Naturally, the book's principles also turn out to apply to you and me. They are not, believe it or not, principles of luck or craftiness or brazenness or any of the other things people think they need in order to succeed. They are actually solid, practicable principles that guarantee success.

If you went back and looked at those same 30 reviews I mentioned above, you'd probably see another phrase a lot--"common sense." This book is full of that as well, although in a world where most people receive more than one offer of credit a day and still count it a compliment that so many people are willing to lend them money, this type of sense has become far too uncommon.

Some examples:

Start thy purse to fattening - Part of what you make is yours to keep. Start keeping it. At least 10% of your income.

Control thy expenditures - If you don't have it don't spend it. In fact, don't even spend all you have.

Make thy gold multiply - Put your money where it will make you more money.

Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment - Own your own home. Get it paid off.

Increase thy ability to earn - Never stop learning. Not about money, nor about the things you need to know to provide yourself an income.

Again, this isn't innovative. The book was written in 1926. These are the tried-and-true, time-tested answers.

Those late-night infomercials you see that promise wealth in minutes, those ads you see promising great incomes for three hours a week worth of work--those are all attempted shortcuts. We all know about shortcuts, and how lost they can get you and how much time they can lose you.

This is the regular path. This is the way that you get there, the straight-line route that takes you from point A to point B. And while the book may be clear and short and straightforward, I think if you really read it, and believe it, and apply it from day to day, you'll discover the right word to describe this book isn't simple after all.

It's powerful.

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