I recently finished listening to the audio of a book I had once read when I was very young called The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. I can remember my father brining the book home and telling me to read it, even though I couldn’t have even been a teenager at the time, this was something my father would sometimes ask me to do because he is does not read well. English isn’t his first language and he barely graduated high school as it was, but I on the other hand, had been a very early reader and would sometimes read books or articles for my father and tell him about them. So, he gave me the book and told me to read it, so I did. I can’t say that I remember very much of any books I had read at the time quite as well as this one. The book is a guide to success that outlines basic principles for the building up of wealth and financial security, which you would think would have been boring for a child, but this book was not. It was told in a series of parables that I was surprised to find I still remembered more than a decade later. Listening to the audiobook reminded me of where much of my attitude towards money had come from, and that I had been employing the lessons of this book since the time I found my first job in high school. Although so much of the book was familiar with me and the stories hadn’t changed in all this time, my perspective on the book was something that I discovered was remarkably different and caused me to understand the story in a whole new light. On the surface, The Richest Man in Babylon is a book filled with financial advice, yet in my second experience of the book I found so much more depth in terms of business advice that I knew would be important for me to remember and apply to my own business. So, today I wanted to share with you the three business lessons I learned from the story of The Richest Man in Babylon, in the hopes that this ancient wisdom is utilized even in our modern society!
1. There is no such thing as something for nothing
Getting something for nothing is a concept that has infatuated many people to their ruin. The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as something for nothing, although it’s quite an attractive offer, it’s against the laws of nature for someone to suddenly receive something of great value for little to no effort or risk. Belief in this concept leads many to gamble away large sums of money or waste tremendous amounts of time scheming to come up with some quick buck business concept. Although it may often seem, especially in this day and age, that people are striking it rich overnight with very little effort, in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our world may seem so transparent because of social media and modern conveniences, yet although we think we see much, we really see only a small portion of reality. The online business world is a perfect example of this, and although there is certainly much money to be made by a savvy business operating online, it’s not some get rich quick scenario. Ask anyone who has ever started a business online and they will tell you that so much work went into making their very first sale, and that after that things got harder, not easier! The business world is an uphill battle even when you are working with modern conveniences!
2. Luck comes to those who are ready and willing to act
I’ve said it before, I believe that we make our own luck, and that pertains to everything in life not just business. Yet, this concept of luck still tends to permeate our conversations and analysis of successful people and businesses. When we see someone doing well in their business, we tend to trivialize it. “They got lucky with the timing of their launch,” or “they got some good press because they know so and so, they are so lucky!” I’m not sure what it is about successful businesses that make people believe that luck had anything to do with it. There is no magical force governing which businesses will succeed and which will fail. We all have the same odds, the difference is that some people seize opportunity when they see it and are ready and able to strike when the iron is hot. Being ready for those “lucky” moments and being able to recognize them is the single greatest determining factor for success. If you’re sitting in your office focusing on your work and your business, you will never see the opportunities that may pass right by your door. You need to keep your feelers out there in the world, know what sorts of opportunities you are looking for and keep your plate just a little bit empty so that when a lucky opportunities arises, you have the time and resources to jump on it! Luck is really as simple as that!
3. There is nothing wrong with starting small
The third and final business lesson I learned while reading The Richest Man in Babylon is that when there is great risk and uncertain reward, there is nothing wrong with starting small. When it comes to business, I think people have some sort of preconception that you need to go big or go home, as though starting a large business has some greater chance of success and solvency than starting a small side business. The truth is, starting small is a great way to test a business. It gives you an opportunity to bring a product or service to market with the minimum viable product without having to spend a lot of time making things perfect. Once your business has begun, it’s much easier for a small business to grow than it is for a large business to downsize. Often a small business is better able to adapt and make instant changes to their offerings, which in the end, make their products more desirable because they are responding to immediate data rather than product development testing. Yes, it’s true than when you risk only a little bit, your reward will not be as great, but remember the two earlier lessons and understand that hard work and action are the two quickest paths to success and the type of business you create, whether it’s large or small, can’t escape that truth!
I hope these lessons resonated with you and that perhaps you learned something new from this old book based on even older truths. If you would like to check out the audiobook for The Richest Man in Babylon, feel free to use this link to get two free audiobooks when you sign up for a free Audible.com membership! If you have ever read this book, I’d love to hear what you thought of it and any other gems of wisdom you found particularly useful!