Over Christmas break, I was going through My bookshelves and being reminded of all the books I have that I haven’t given much thought to recently.
I found a small paperback tucked among other books and papers that I hadn’t picked up in years. ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ was originally published in 1926 and considered a personal finance best seller. ‘The success secrets of the ancients – an assured road to happiness and prosperity,’ The back cover reads. As I flipped through it, I thought I could read it in less than a week, being so thin, and I also had my other book on the go at the time too. I hadn’t read this one before, by George S Clason. It was handed down to me years ago, and I hadn’t read it yet.
Each chapter of the book are Parables told by a fictional Babylonian character. As G S Clason explains in his introduction, “Babylon became the wealthiest city of the ancient world because its citizens were the richest people of their time…. We are taken back to Babylon, the cradle in which was nurtured the basic principles of finance now recognized and used the world over.”
If you are also Canadian, you may have read or heard of ‘The Wealthy Barber.’ My mom introduced that book to us when I was in my teens. This book was set as a barber passed on financial lessons, the main one I remember (I couldn’t find my copy when I looked just now) being the principal of ‘pay yourself first.’ To always keep 10% of your earnings aside for your future. As I read the Richest Man of Babylon, I realized the Wealthy Barber was a more modern adaptation of this book. The Richest Man has more ‘bible speak’ you could say, ‘start thy purse to fattening,’ as it says here.
My favourite parable is the last one, the Luckiest Man in Babylon. A slave was given advice in order to be treated well by a new master, to ‘tell them you are a good worker and will work hard for a good master.’ His friend had also spoken words that resonated with him, ‘I don’t shirk, I like to work and I like to do good work, for work is the best friend I’ve ever know. It has brought me all the good things I’ve had, my farm and cows and crops, everything.’
This slave takes this advice and adapts this mentality. He works hard, earns respect of both his master and another man, which subsequently earns his freedom, and then a beautiful life.
Is this not a refreshing mindset to have about work? Make it your best friend, what you give you get. And what if you go beyond that? Why just work? Why not life? Make life your best friend. Isn’t that why we are here? We are surely not just here to work. Just imagine it.