“How becamest thou so wealthy?”
(The Richest Man in Babylon)
George S. Clason, 1926)
By L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
In 1926 George Clason wrote a fabulous little book, The Richest Man in Babylon. It’s all about wealth and wealth building. Yet there’s more to it—it presents a fictitious account (read, metaphor) about the first Modeling Project on Wealth Building. To highlight this delightful little book and provide 11 very Powerful Wealth Building Principles—free of charge, I have quoted extensively from the book and enumerated Eleven Principles that would begin you on the road to Financial Independence.
The Richest man in Babylon operated from a very powerful Belief, namely,
“Lo, money is plentiful for those who understand the simple rules of its acquisition.”
From that belief of Abundance, he then ennumerated Seven Cures for a Lean Purse. The king of Babylon wanted to know why should so few men be able to acquire all of the gold. What explains this? How could more do not become wealthy?
“Because they know how.” (p. 23)
In response to this information, the King of Babylon then did what any good modeler worth his salt would do, he searched out and found “the richest man in Babylon” in order to model the best. So when he finally appeared, he just went for it. He just asked the man directly,
“How becamest thou so wealthy?”
“By taking advantage of opportunities available to all citizens of four good city.”
“You hadst nothing to start with?”
“Only a great desire for wealth.”
“Tell me, Arkad, is there any secret to acquiring wealth? Can it be taught?”
When he discovered that it indeed could be taught, the King then invited him to teach it from the Temple of Learning (undoubtedly the city’s main Conference for such things). So the richest man began,
“Listen attentively to the knowledge… learn these lessons thoroughly, that ye may also plant in your own purse the seed of wealth. First must each of you start wisely to build a fortune of his own.” (p. 25)
And here were his first seven principles for fatting your purse:
1) Start thy purse to fattening.
Let an empty purse make you feel desperate and fed up. This will increase your desire to become wealthy. Ah, an Away From Propulsion System. But it doesn’t end there. There’s more Propulsion System described:
“The first storehouse of my treasure was a well-worn purse. I loathed its useless emptiness (Away From). I desired that it be round and full, clinking with the sound of gold (Toward!). Therefore, I sought every remedy for a lean purse. I found seven.” (p. 25)
Use your source of income as a stream of gold from which to build your wealth. For every ten coins you place in your purse, take out for use but nine. Thy purse will start to fatten at once and its increasing weight will feel good in thy hand and bring satisfaction to thy soul. “It’s a law of the Gods that unto him who keepeth and spendeth not a certain part of all his earnings shall gold come more easily. Likewise, him whose purse is empty does gold avoid.” (p. 28)
Develop “the soul to succeed.” Refuse to be a slave to money, to debt, to credit. Do you have “the soul of a freeman or a slave?” In a fascinating and biting conversation, a wise man strongly challenged another about his Character.
“If thou contentedly let the years slip by and make no effort to repay, then thou hast but the contemptible soul of a slave. No man is otherwise who cannot respect himself and no man can respect himself who does not repay honest debts.”
“But what can I do who am a slave in Syria?”
“Stay a slave in Syria, thou weakling.”
“I am not a weakling,” I denied hotly.
“Then prove it.”
“Thy debts are thy enemies. They ran thee out of Babylon. You left them alone and they grew too strong for thee. Hadst fought them as a man, thou couldst have conquered them and been one honored … But thou had not the soul to fight them and behold thy pride has gone down until tho art a slave in Syria. … Hast thou the soul of a free man or the soul of a slave?”
“The soul of a free man,” I insisted.
“Now is thy chance to prove it….” (pp. 97-98)
This empowering question created a shift in perspective—a new frame or Meta-State:
“A strange thing happened. All the world seemed to be of a different color as though I had been looking at it through a colored stone which had suddenly been removed. At last I saw the true values in life. Die in the desert! Not I! With a new vision, I saw the things that I must do. … Go back … treat my debts as my enemies…” (p. 100)
Within me surged the soul of a free man going back to conquer his enemies and reward his friends. I thrilled with the great resolve.
“The soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved, and solves them, while the soul of a slave whines, ‘What can I do who am but a slave.’” (p. 101)
This lead him to present another powerful Principle of Wealth Building and Success:
“Where the determination is, the way can be found.” Do you believe that? Would you like to believe that? Are your ready to say “YES!” to that? Then do it.
2) Control thy expenditures.
The principle is very, very simple: Live on less than you earn. Save 10% of everything you earn. Repeat these words until they stand out like letters of fire across the sky: “A part of all I earn is mine to keep.” “Impress yourself with the idea.” (p. 19). You’ll soon realize what a rich feeling it is to own a treasure upon which you alone have claim.
How can I save 1 coin of every 10 coins? You have to say No to framing everything as “necessary expenses.” Avoid doing that. In fact, refuse to do that.
“That what each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.” (p. 29)
We have to say “No!” to many of the desires that extend beyond our ability to gratify them. Yep, wouldn’t you know it! We have to actually budget our necessary expenses. Touch not the one-tenth that’s fattening thy purse. Let this be thy great desire that’s being fulfilled. Refuse to rebel against the slavery of the budget—its your way to true freedom. A budget helps your purse to fatten. It defends you against thy casual wishes that causes thy purse to leak.
“He who spends more than he earns is sowing the winds of needless self-indulgence from which he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.” (p. 94)
Develop a plan to get out of debt, then patiently follow it. So, do you have a plan? Do you know how to plan? Do you have the guts to follow it?
3) Make thy gold multiply.
The gold we retain from our earnings is the start. Now ask, How can we put our gold to work for us? “Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.” So? So, set your will for wealth (a meta-state!) After all, will power is but the unflinching purpose to carry a task you set for yourself to fulfillment.
A man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his purse; it is the income he builds— the gold stream that continually flows from his purse and keeps it bulging. Have you started your own “gold stream?” Do you know how to do that? Would you like to? If you found out, would you be willing to do the work necessary to follow through?
4) Guard thy treasures from loss.
Now comes the time to begin to guard your purse with firmness, lest it be lost. Use Security of your investments as thy first principal. Study carefully to avoid being misled by romantic desires to make wealth rapidly. Be not too confident of thine own wisdom in entrusting thy treasures to the possible pitfalls of investments.
Wealth brings responsibility. When you desire to help others, do so in a way that does not bring thy friend’s burdens on yourself. Humans in the throes of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold lender (p. 78).
“Forget not that gold slippeth away in unexpected ways from those unskilled in guarding it.” (p. 84)
Do not be swayed by the fantastic plans of impractical men. Better a little caution than a great regret.
5) Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.
“I recommend that every man own the roof that sheltereth him and his.” It will make your heart glad, you will have valuable property. Ah, the use of real estate in building wealth! Well, it’s a place to begin rather than throwing all your money away on rent.
6) Insure a future income.
Learn to make your treasure work for you. Make it your slave. Make its children and its children’s children work for you. Make preparation for the days to come. Have sufficient insurance.
7) Increase the ability to earn.
Make your desires strong and definite. General desires are but weak longings. Ah, sounds like State Management and amplification! Develop wisdom: the more of wisdom we know, the more we may earn. Learn more of your craft. Pay your debts with all the promptness in your power. Cultivate thy own powers— study and become wiser, more skillful. “There is abundance for all.” (p. 41)
“Ill fortune pursues every man who thinks more of borrowing than of repaying.” (p. 93)
8) Enjoy life.
Do not overstrain or try to save too much. Life is good and rich with things worthwhile and things to enjoy. Don’t miss it. There’s more to “wealth” than just money. There’s also wealth of mind, emotion, relationships, etc.
9) Don’t depend on luck—Use the real luck of proactive responses to Opportunities.
Give up myth of getting rich without effort. Not the way for “consistent winners.” When opportunity stands before thee, it offers a change that may lead to wealth. Do not delay or procrastinate then. “Good luck waits to come to that man who accepts opportunity.” (p. 50). Good luck flees before procrastination. Give up the needless delaying when you know that something is a good choice. Every man must master his own spirit of procrastination when it whispers in your ear. To attract good luck, take advantage of opportunities.
10) Know the 5 Laws of Gold.
Become wise in “the ways of gold.” Prove that you are capable of handling it. Put by at least 1/10 of your earnings. Find a profitable employment. Invest it cautiously, get smart about your business, avoid tricksters and schemers. (p. 63)
Learn to be thrifty who does not spend wantonly. Seek advice of the wise. Seek wisdom before money. Fanciful propositions that thrill like adventure tales will come and tempt you to endow your treasure with magic powers. Know the risks that lurk behind every plan.
“Because I learned these five laws in my youth and abided by them, I have become a wealthy merchant. Not by some strange magic did I accumulate my wealth.” (p. 67). Instead of seeking out some strange magic — learn the structure of the magic of wealth building, i.e., the laws and principles that truly govern it!
“They are not secrets but truths which every man must first learn and then follow who wishes to step out of the multitude…” (p. 70)
“In the strength of thine own desires is a magic power. Guide this power with thy knowledge of the five laws of gold and thou shalt share the treasures of Babylon.” (p. 71)
“Merchants must learn their trade.” (p. 81)
11) Learn to appreciate Work — and then turn it into Fun.
Work will become the best friend you’ve ever known if you use it for fattening your purse. If you take the attitude that only slaves work, you’ll not get far. Nor will you get ahead by shirking. So “work for him as hard as thou canst. If he does not appreciate all thou do, never mind. Work well-done, does good to the man who does it. It makes him a better man.” (p 124)
When you have the attitude of looking for how to get out of work, how to work minimally—you develop a lack of Quality Orientation. Do the opposite. Give it your best. Turn it into fun.
More Wealth Principles
Tony Robbins (1986, Unlimited Power, Ch. 19: Five Keys to Wealth & Happiness):
Use your NLP resources to take absolute control of your life, this means using your abilities, not just having them. Our actions are guided and controlled by our philosophies, so make sure you have some good ones!
1) Life will pay any price you ask of it.
What do you ask of Life? How big are your goals? Ask for resounding joy and success. Empowering belief: If you learn how to manage your states and your behaviors, you can change anything (p. 321).
2) Learn how to handle frustration.
Otherwise, frustration will kill your dreams. Frustration can change a positive attitude into a negative one. The worse thing a negative attitude does is wipe out self-discipline, and when that discipline is gone, the results you desire are gone.
Mind-Lines for frustration: The key to success is massive frustration, just look at any great success! People get paid very well to handle frustration. The more frustration you can handle, the more you can be paid. Aim to learn how to handle frustration effectively. Success if buried on the other side of frustration.
3) Learn how to handle rejection and the tiny word, “No.”
The fear of “no” stops most people from taking action. Learn how to strip it of all of its neuro-linguistic power! Refuse to turn failures into Big Events! How many “no’s” can you take? You give it power through how you represent it to yourself. Anchor yourself to “no” so that it actually turns you on.
Mind-Line on No: There are no real successes without rejection.
4) Learn to handle financial pressure.
Learn how to get and how to give, how to earn and how to save. Learn how to give back to the world—to create value, to act from the position of abundance, to become that kind of a person, to expand your sense of appreciation. Giving back teaches you more fully what money can do and what it cannot do.
5) Use the 10/10/10/70 rule.
Living on 70 percent of what you have. Save 10% to build up capital to invest, reduce all debts with another 10%, and give away another 10% of your income. Make money work for you instead of against you. Learn to earn, save, and to give. Operate with purpose and elegance in regard to money. Work from a set of dynamic, evolving and enabling goals.
6) Learn to See Opportunities.
Become a true capitalistic living in a capitalistic society, surrounded by opportunities everywhere. Take advantage of the very system that our forefathers fought to create. Learn to take your money and use it as capital.
7) Learn to handle complacency.
Comfort can be one of the most disastrous emotions. Judge yourself by your goals, not by what others are doing.
8) Always give more than you expect to receive.
The secret of living is giving. Give first. If you’re just accumulating money for you, to lord it over your kingdom, you are not really a success, don’t really have power, nor true wealth. Think of success as a process, a way of life, and a strategy for living. Then use your power in a responsible and loving way.