The Richest Man in Babylon (Book Review & Summary)

This book is my absolute favorite, in fact, I’ve read it more than 5 times already. Therefore, I would rate it at 10/10. And yes, there’s a significant number of people who would disagree with me, but I wouldn’t care.

So, it seems odd that I’ve yet to record my notes on it properly. I was just going to bed before stumbling on my old notes in my desktop on this book which apparently I’ve forgot to publish.

This is a book of terrific story telling skill and tales of the ancient Babylon.

Here’s the key reading points:

  • the book start with some background on Babylon. Babylon was one of the world’s richest city in its time. And Arkad, its richest man, was tasked to teach his fellow citizens on how to become wealthy.

Among his teaching include

  • always save a minimum of one-tenth (1/10) of your income. And invest your savings. Which means, making your money works for you.
  • Be thrifty. Which at the moment one of my goals for 2019. I’ve too many awesome watches at the moment,but I”m thinking of getting another Tissot or maybe a Tag Heuer. Man that aquaracer looks cool. Nonetheless, the book do teach me to budget carefully and not to spend on needless things. Yup, the struggles is real.
  • Seek the counsel of knowledgeable experts before you invest. Well, this rings true always. Recently, a distant family member of mine decided to invest in a fixed return investment scheme called ARBA, they invest thousands of ringgit for a fixed monthly ‘passive’ income. Well, the passiveness stop after few months, and they left with a huge loss. If they would’ve asked for my opinion, I would them to stay away from it likes it’s a plague. Besides, from Islamic perspective, investment which promises guarantee returns are Haram (prohibited) since the nature of investment are with profit and loss, so, there’s no way a fixed return investment are legit.
  • Never put the principal that you’ve invested at unseemly risk. As if the author suggest never to take unnecessary risk with your investment. A good idea, but also you need to evaluate your risk appetite. Besides, I’ve loss a lot of money myself when the previous Malaysian ruling parties loss to so called Pakatan Harapan (PH) which could loosely be translated as The Alliance of Hope. At the moment, I’m just hoping that they wouldn’t screw up.
  • Next lesson is to increase you knowledge, expertise and skills. Soyou can earn more. It’s like what Jim Rohn said, you’ll get paid primarily on the value that you’ll bring to the marketplace.
  • Good luck comes to those who know how to seize opportunities and act on them quickly. And if you want to learn more on good luck affect on our success, read my notes on Malcolm Gladweel’s Outliers.
  • Be cautious with your money. Lend it only to those who are sure to repay it. Trust me, it’s very hard to recollect your money. So, yup, lend your money wisely.
  • Take comfort in hard work. It is your best friend.
  • If you are determined to get ahead, you will.

Now lets take a look at assorted bits and parts of the book

The story of Bansir, the Chariot Maker

As skilled craftsman, Bansir built chariots for the high and mighty of Babylon. He was a hard worker, but after years of work, he became discouraged and distraught, because he had not saved even a single coin. And when his best friend, a musician named Kobbi, asked if he could borrow some money, Bansir humbly admitted that he had none.

Then, the two friends whining about their poverty. Then Bansir suggested going to see Babylon’s richest man, Arkad, and asking how he became wealthy. Kobbi agreed to accompany the chariot maker on his visit, so he could learn how to get rich, too. Excited, Bansir and Kobbi recruited others with the same predicament as them to walk to Arkad’s regal palace. They prayed silently to the gods, asking that this visit would mark an important turning point in their lives and that Arkad would be kind enough to share his secrets. They all hoped they would learn how to become wealthy.

“Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws which govern its acquisition.”

A bit on Arkad the Wealthy & His Mentor, Algamish the Moneylender

Arkad was a great man, Babylon’s wealthiest in fact, but also kind and wise. He was pleased to speak with the men. He explained that they could not improve their individual lots in life if they did not understand and apply the laws of developing wealth.

Arkad told the men his history. The son of a simple merchant, he had no inheritance. As a young man, he had gone to work as a scribe in the hall of records, engraving clay tablets. One day, Algamish, the elderly moneylender, ordered a copy of the “Ninth Law,” and promised the youth two coppers when he completed the job. Arkad began working, but the passage was quite long. He did not finish on time and Algamish was furious. Arkad wanted to become wealthy himself, but he did not know how. Therefore, he promised to work all night to finish the Ninth Law if Algamish would teach him the secrets of wealth.

Algamish laughed at his boldness, but agreed.

“The first sound principle of investment is security for thy principal.”

Arkad worked straight through until morning. The next day, he gave the newly baked tablets to the pleased moneylender. Sitting Arkad down, the old man proceeded to tell him how to get rich. First, Algamish said, Arkad must always keep part of his earnings. When the young man protested that he kept everything he earned, Algamish explained that no, he did not: he paid for things he needed, like food and clothing, but he did not save anything for himself. Arkad nodded. It was true. He had no savings. Algamish told him that saved money would work for him and earn even more money, the “children” of the saved funds. When the savings, their children, and their children’s children were working for him, Arkad would be rich. Algamish told Arkad that if he could do that, and control his expenses, he would soon prosper.

Here’s the advise.

“Every gold piece you save is a slave to work for you. Every copper it earns is its child that also can earn for you.”

Arkad took the moneylender’s advice. He began to save, but for his first investment he gave his savings to Azmur, a brick maker, who promised to invest the money in beautiful jewels the two of them could sell. But wily Phoenicians posing as jewel merchants tricked Azmur, selling him worthless glass trinkets instead of jewels. Algamish then warned Arkad to invest only with (known) experts that is, if he wanted to buy jewels, he should go to a jewel merchant, not a man who made bricks. When it comes to money, he said, always seek knowledgeable advice.

“A small return and a safe one is far more desirable than risk.”

Arkad started saving again. When he had put aside a notable sum, he invested it with Aggar, a maker of shields, who used it to buy bronze. Then he made and sold bronze shields, and gave Arkad a portion of the profits. Soon, Arkad was becoming wealthy. When Algamish asked if he was following the rules of wealth, Arkad could answer that he was and that he was getting rich. Algamish clapped him heartily on the back. Praising his intelligence, Algamish asked Arkad to become his partner, oversee his lands and inherit his estate. Arkad thanked the old man for his generosity.

He worked years for Algamish and was his heir when he died. By that time, Arkad had become wealthy through his own efforts. He smiled at the men who had come to his home to learn the secrets of wealth and told them these golden money tips

  • Save at least one-tenth (1/10) of what you earn.
  • Seek counsel from experts on how to make your money grow.
  • Invest your savings wisely so that they earn for you and so their earnings do the same.
  • Live within your means. Do not spend money foolishly.
  • Pursue opportunity promptly – that is the real meaning of good luck.

“Better a little caution than a great regret.”

on investing your money

King Sargon Seeking Arkad’s Counsel

Arkad counseled many people about gaining wealth, including King Sargon, who asked him to teach other Babylonians how to manage their earnings and prosper. Being poor, the citizens were restless and despondent. The king thought that if they learned about money, they could get rich and Babylon would become a great city of wealthy men.

A few days later, Arkad met with 100 of Babylon’s citizens in the great Temple of Learning. They eagerly waited to learn what he would teach them. His first rule was what he had taught the other supplicants: Save a tenth of your earnings and cut back on your expenses. He told them to invest their earnings, not to bury them in the fields for safekeeping.

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

Arkad explained that the most important investment rule is to protect your principal. He warned the men against quick-rich schemes, and told them to be as careful choosing their investments as they were when choosing their wives. To invest, he said, they should seek wise counselors who knew about both gold and life. Arkad told them never to invest their gold in ventures they did not understand or with men who were not skilled in the enterprises they promoted.

He told them to buy homes instead of renting them, thus taking advantage of one of life’s best investments. He cautioned them to plan carefully for their later years when low energy, illness, decrepitude and age would make it more difficult to work.

Finally, Arkad advised every man present to increase his knowledge, expertise and skills, to become wiser so he could earn more. The 100 citizens thanked Arkad for his excellent advice. They all applied his ideas, and passed his knowledge along to their friends and family members. Thus, many people in Babylon became wealthy and the city became as prosperous as the King had hoped it would.

“A man’s wealth is not in the purse he carries. A fat purse quickly empties if there is no golden stream to refill it.”

Awesome

The Story of Rodan and His 50 Gold Pieces

Rodan was Babylon’s most able spearmaker. Pleased with his craftsmanship, the king gave him 50 gold pieces. Rodan was both pleased and disturbed. He was happy to be rich, but he did not know what to do with the money.

Rightly so, many people begged him to lend them gold for this purpose or that. Beleaguered, Rodan went to Mathon, a trusted wise man, for advice.

Mathon told him a wonderful story about a farmer who could understand the animals’ language. The story goes like this.

“One night he hid in the barn to listen to them. What the ox said disturbed the farmer. The ox told the mule that he worked much harder than the mule did, because he pulled a heavy plow all day, while the mule only carried the master to market once or twice a week, and could rest or play the rest of the time. The mule told the ox that he, too, could spend the day laying in his stall if he pretended to be ill when the master came to hitch him to the plow. The ox followed his advice, but the wily farmer was ready for the ox’s deception. He hitched the mule to the plow and made him pull it for the following fortnight.
At the end of the day, the ox thanked the donkey for giving him a day of rest and the donkey proclaimed that he was “like many another simplehearted one who starts to help a friend and ends up by doing his task for him. Hereafter you draw your own plow, for I did hear the master tell the slave to send for the butcher were you sick again. I wish he would, for you are a lazy fellow.”  
I believe that’s the end of the friendship between the mule and the ox.

“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.”

Mathon asked Rodan to guess the story’s meaning. When the spearmaker could not, Mathon explained the fable. It showed that he should never help others if it means assuming their burdens on his own shoulders. He advised Rodan to loan his gold only to those who had the means to repay him and to enable him to earn a reasonable profit from the transaction. Mathon further warned that Rodan would never regret exercising extra caution when he lent money, because lending recklessly would lead to losing his gold and weeping bitter tears.

“That which each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.”

The Story of Dabasir, the King of Camels

One day in the market, Dabasir, Babylon’s most famous camel trader, approached Tarkad, a young man who owed him money. When Dabasir asked for the copper and gold he had lent Tarkad, the young man hung his head in shame and confessed he did not have the money. Dabasir urged him to go get it. When Tarkad said that was impossible, Dabasir told him a story.

“‘Fickle fate’ is a vicious goddess who brings no permanent good to anyone.”

He was once a slave, and still would be one if not for the kindness of his mistress, who took pity on him and helped him gain his freedom. She gave him two camels, some bread and a jug of water, and told him to ride across the desert to flee for his freedom. He was greatly afraid because the desert is vast and cruel. Then his mistress asked him if he had the heart of a free man. If so, she said, you will take your chance. If not, you will stay here and remain a slave.

Dabasir took her dare and rode into the desert. He journeyed for weeks, his food and water long gone. He thought often of death, but the words of his mistress spurred him forward. He vowed to trek on until he was safe and free.

“Good luck waits to come to that man who accepts opportunity.”

He finally made his way to Babylon. From that day on, he always used his learned determination to move forward, no matter what difficulties lay in his way. Dabasir looked hard at the young man by his side and told him that he, too, had either the heart of a free man or that of a slave, and that a free man would find a way to repay his debts.

Tarkad rose and thanked him for the story, assuring him that as a free man he would repay the money.

The next day he did. Where there is a will, there’s a way.

“Without wisdom, gold is quickly lost by those who have it, but with wisdom, gold can be secured by those who have it not.”

The story of the Merchant, Sharru Nada

Sharru Nada was the richest merchant in Babylon, but few knew that he also had once been a slave. Many years before, his master had chained Sharru Nada to two other men: Zabado, the stealer of sheep, and Megiddo, a burly farmer.

The master took the three slaves to Babylon to sell them. As they approached the great walls of the city, Megiddo, the oldest, advised the other two slaves to talk to any potential new master, to explain that they were hard workers and that the man would never regret buying them. Then, he said, they should become hard workers, because hard work is a man’s best friend and all good things derive from it.

Zabado laughed, and said he would not proclaim himself to be a hard worker lest he end up among the slave crews repairing the great wall, breaking his back carrying brick and mortar all day. But Sharru Nada thought long and hard about Megiddo’s advice.

Later that day, Nananaid the baker asked the slave dealer if any of the slaves for sale were trained as bakers. Sharru Nada quickly spoke up and urged the man to buy him, promising to work hard and willingly, even though he was not trained as a baker. Nananaid liked Sharru Nada’s bold spirit. He bought the young man and taught him to bake.

As he promised, Sharru Nada worked hard every day for his new master. Years went by. He always remembered what Megiddo had taught him. He treasured work the way other men treasure jewels and gold. Eventually, Sharru Nada was able to convince Nananaid to let him go into the city in the evening hours to sell honey cakes he baked on his own time. Nananaid let Sharru Nada keep one-fourth of the money he made. This proved profitable for both men.

Little by little, Sharru Nada’s savings grew. One of his customers was Arad Gula, a rug merchant who was so impressed with Sharru Nada’s enterprise that he bought the young man from Nananaid and gave him his freedom. He made Sharru Nada his partner so they could prosper together. And so they did, all because Sharru Nada learned the value of hard work.

And that’s it. The notes on this awesome book, one which without doubt one of the best read I’ve had.

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