B.J.’s Notes: The Richest Man in Babylon

Hey,

I’m working on my first e-book. It’s called “Don’t Be Evil: The Guide to Being a Successful Human.”

There are fourteen primary sources I’m using for the book, and so I’ve decided to share all my notes with you here from those sources. I don’t like doing things in a vacuum, so you can see what I’m thinking and the threads I’m pulling on from each source as I go.

The Richest Man in Babylon

P.22
-Live on less than you earn.

-Seek advice from experts “those who were competent through their own experience to give it.”

-Learn to make gold [money] work for you.

P. 23

-“Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.”

“If I set for myself a task, be it ever so trifling, I shall see it through. How else shall I have confidence in myself to do important things?”

P.33

-“I started my fortune in the humblest way. I had no advantages not enjoyed as fully by you and every citizen in Babylon.”

George S. Clason touches on this theme a lot about Babylon / America being the land of opportunity. How true this is in 21st Century America I’m not sure. I want to believe it is, but the Death of the Middle Class is no joke. Clason wrote this during the Roaring Twenties, so these are very different times.

P. 34

The Seven Cures For a Lean Purse

1.Start thy purse to fattening

-for each ten coins I put in, to spend but nine (p.37)

-I’m going to start doing this with each time I get paid, putting 10% into my savings account. I’ll let you know how it goes.

2. Control thy expenditures
“Confuse not the necessary expenses with thy desires.” (P.38)
That what each of us calls our ‘ necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our income unless we protest to the contrary.”

-This reminds me of that time management rule where the work you set aside time for expands to fill your schedule. (It’s called Parkinson’s Law.)

“Therefore engrave upon the clay each thing for which thou desireth to spend. Select those that are necessary and others that are possible through the expenditure of 9/10ths of thy income. Cross out the rest and consider them but a part of that great multitude of desires that must go unsatisfied and regret them not. (P.39)

Warren Buffet has a similar rule when it comes to goal setting too which I always liked.

Budgeting is something I struggle with. I’m broke but still buying comic books each week. Thanks, Dark Nights Metal.
P. 40

“Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for the necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments, and to gratify worthless desires without spending more than 9/10ths of thy earnings.

3. Make Thy Gold Multiply

P.41

“The gold we may retain from our earnings is to be the start. The earnings it will make shall build our fortunes.”

A lot of the personal finance books published since the Richest Man in Babylon all talk about this to some extent. Rich people don’t spend their own money, from my experience, and when they do they don’t pay more than they have to since they’re bargain shoppers. Their money comes from investments in other things and not in the money that they have.

-”A man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his purse; it is the income he buildeth, the golden stream that continually floweth in his purse and keepeth always bulging.”

4. Guard thy treasure against loss.

P.45

“Study carefully before parting with thy treasure, each assurance that it may safely be reclaimed. Be not mislead by thine own romantic desire to make wealth rapidly.”

-”Today my training would show to me at once the folly of entrusting a brickmaker to buy jewels.” (This seems particularly timely given the return of Yellow Journalism / Fake News and where we choose to get our information from.)

5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.

P. 47

“Therefore do I recommend that every man owns the roof that sheltered him and his.”

-Is this practical anymore given the environment and that owning a home has become a money pit? What about owning a car and all the costs involved with doing so versus using something like Uber or a self-driving car that comes to pick you up as needed?

Out of everything in this book, written in 1926, this was the only point I felt was badly out of date.

6. Ensure a future income

P.49

“Therefore do I say that it behooves a man to make preparations for a suitable income in the days to come when he is no longer young, and to make preparations for his family should he be no longer with them to comfort and support them.”

-This one is the opposite of the last point. It’s incredibly timely advice, and all of the books on “big data” and the coming wave of automation talk about the importance of unions, protecting consumers and people with the law, and other methods to ensure the survival of the middle class. We have to do our part too and save, but we also have to make sure we protect social security, our unions (to ensure humans the right to work), a universal basic income, and health care.

The free market is great, but if there’s no one around to spend money (and enjoy doing so) then who exactly is powering that market and ensuring its future?

7. Increase the ability to earn.

P.53

“General desires are but weak longings. For a man to wish to be rich is of little purpose. For a man to desire five pieces of gold is a tangible desire which he can press to fulfillment.”

-Napolean Hill talked about concrete and specific steps to achieve your goals in Think and Grow Rich. That book is 11 years older than Richest Man and was written during the depression. If I really want to get crazy with this research, I’d do a historiography of Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Richest Man in Babylon, but I don’t think there’s an audience for that sort of thing, and you’ve probably suffered enough from reading my notes here.

P.54

“Desires mut be simple and definite. They defeat their own purpose should they be too many, too confusing, or beyond a man’s training to accomplish.”

P. 55

What it means to be a man in the 20th (and 21st) Century:

“Always do the affairs of man change and improve because keen-minded men seek greater skill that they may better serve those upon whose patronage they depend. Therfore I urge all men to be in the front ranks of progress and not to stand still, lest they be left behind.”

-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 to 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 thoughtfullness to those dear to him.

-In addition to the Death of the Middle Class, I think Jane Fonda hit the nail on the head when she talked about detoxifying masculinity. Maybe there’s a blueprint here to help do that?

P.56

“Thus the 7th and last remed for a lean purse is to cultivate thy own powers, to study and become wiser, to become more skillfull, to so act as to respect thyself.”

P. 64

Some people (think: YouTube stars) may get lucky, but that luck is rare and often doesn’t last.

P. 69

Good luck waits to come to that man who accepts the opportunity.

P. 73

On Gut instinct (this also comes up A LOT in Think and Grow Rich as well):

“We mortals are changeable. Alas, I must say more apt to change our minds when right than wrong. Wrong, we are stubborn indeed. Right we are prone to vacilitate and let opportunity escape. My first judgement is my best. Yet always have I found it difficult to compel myself to proceed with a good bargain when made. Therfore, as a protection against my own weaknesses, I do make prompt deposit thereon. This doth save me from later regrets for the good luck that should have been mine.”

(Does Thinking Fast and Slow and other behavioral economic books contradict this?)

P. 74.

In giving in to procrastination we become our own worst enemies.
P.77

Good luck can be enticed by accepting opportunity.
-Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck. (Or as CM Punk says, “Luck is for losers.”

P. 92

“Wealth that stayeth to give enjoyment and satisfaction to its owner comes gradually, because it is a child born of knowedlge and persitant purpose.”
-EVERYTHING takes time and patience, and Clason said this in 1926, it’s just as true today where everyone wants things NOW.

Look, I’m the same way. I get pissed when HBO Now doesn’t work and I want to watch “Vice Principals.” I want to watch the show when I want to, but I also remember growing up when, if you missed a show, you were fucked until that episode played again in a few months.

I know ’90s nostalgia is a thing now but in all seriousness I kind of miss those days. The wait was (usually) worth it.

P.98

“Our wise acts accompany us through life to please us and to help us, just as surely, our unwise acts folow us to plague and torment us. Alas they cannot be forgotten. In the front rank of the torments that do follow us are the memories of things we should have done, or the opportunities which came to us and we took not.”
-“In the strength of thine own desires is a magic power.”

So, get over shit the best you can, otherwise, it’ll keep you from getting things done.

P.102 

Mo money, no problems. (The more likely you are to waste your time, money, and energy on stupid shit.)

P. 105

– “If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend’s burdens upon thyself.”

I wish I learned this fifteen years ago where I took on everyone’s problems. Help your buddies, but don’t get drawn into the shitshow because it’s not your show to star in.

P. 107

“Humans in the throes of great emotions are not safe risks for the gold lender.”

-Seems like common sense, but you know, common sense is dead these days.

P. 111

“Youth, never having had experience, cannot realize that hopeless debt is like a deep pit into which one may descend quickly and where one may struggle vainly for many days.”

Young people are ambitious and we will take short cuts like credit cards to get what we want, not realizing there are consequences for doing so.

We’re really bad at predicting the future and planning for it in general. That’s true with privacy and climate change also. We know we’re giving something up, but we can’t immediately see or feel it so we don’t care or don’t think it’s a big deal because it’s a future problem and not a now problem.

P. 113

If you lend people money unwisely, you’re not getting it back. “The wise lender wishes not the risk of the undertaking but the gurantee of safe repayment.”

Beleive me, I come from a family of deadbeats. So I learned this one the hard way.

P. 117

On Mentors (This is something also hit on quite a bit in Think and Grow Rich.) “Seek to associate thyself with men and enterprises whose success is established that thy treasure may earn liberally under their skillful use and be guarded safely by their wisdom and experience.”

If you have to make a big decision, don’t do it in a vaccum. Get a team of trusted friends and advisors together, preferably ones knowedgledable about you and your situation, and then consult with them first.

P. 118

“Better a little caution than a great regret.”

-I thought it was interesting of Clason to use madeup stories throughout this book to make his points. I may have to copy this in “Don’t Be Evil” but only if I can make the stories really funny.

P.124

We have a need and desire to be protected. Check out any article written about personal finance today and you’ll see this theme touched on in almost all of them too. Sometimes you’ll see that need framed in exactly those words. “Protect your money.”

P.134

“Thy debts are thy enemies.” (The most metal thing said in this book.)

P.138

”… 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 [Babylonian] slave whines, “What can I do who am but a slave?”
-Where the determination is, the way can be found.

Is this spoken from a place of privilege? From a time when the economy was doing well? I don’t know. I hate people who complain, and I’d like to think we all have SOME power to improve our lives and conditions, but I’m also very aware of how titled the world can be.

P. 144

“To take care of a faithful wife putteth self-respect into the heart of a man and addeth strength and determination to his purposes.”

I really liked this line. It’s true, I feel. If you’re married, you need to be committed to making your partner feel happy, safe, and secure every day that you can.

P. 163

“Any man may find himself a slave”

Especially true today between automation and advancing AI.

P. 164

“(Work) has brought me all the good things I’ve had, my farm, and cows and crops, everything.”