Episode 157 | The Richest Man in Babylon

In today’s episode, Steve shares an experience that he had many years ago that had a lasting impact on his life. At 16 years old his grandfather introduced him to one of his friends, Mr. Dave Conger. Dave was a successful real estate broker in the San Francisco Bay Area and took Steve under his wing. He recommended and gave him a number of books. One was a book by the name of The Richest Man in Babylon. The Richest Man in Babylon outlines principles regarding managing money and had a profound impact on his life.



Steve: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today. This is Steve Shallenberger your show host today and I am excited to share with you an experience that I had many years ago when I was a young man. And it will be the basis of our podcast show today. That experience that I had so long ago has had a lasting impact on my life. Here’s the story that I’d like to share. And may it have a positive impact on you and those that you love. When I was 16 years old my grandfather, Amos David Shallenberger, introduced me to one of his friends, Mr. Dave Conger. Dave was a successful real estate broker in the San Francisco Bay Area. He had five different real estate offices headquartered in the city that I was raised in, Vallejo. This was an absolute transformational period of time for me. And not only did Dave help me organize my first company which was a maintenance service company as we took care of houses where renters that leased from him or that rented from him were in or homes where people were evicted, or we’d put up signs. So, we created a company to service that particular market. But Dave also just kind of took me under his wings. He told me about a number of books or gave me a number of books as well and suggested that I read them. One such book was a book by the name of the Richest Man in Babylon. Perhaps this is a book that you’ve read, heard of, or are familiar with the Richest Man in Babylon outlines principles regarding managing money and they have had a profound impact on me and all my life. As a matter of fact, we’ve given a copy to each of our six children. I paid them fifty dollars per child to read it which they were happy to do. We’ve also given it the close friends we felt might benefit from and appreciate the contents of this book. It’s an easy, compelling and very interesting read. It’s 144 pages so not very long. I look back I have in my hands right now the very book that Mr. Conger gave to me. I notice that I’m sure I read it earlier, but in the front, I wrote down when I read it, it’s noted here June 1970, 17th of October, 1972 June of 1974, November of 1977. This is a time in my life when I was going full boar forward. I was in the middle and finishing my university training in accounting and business. I just bought my first company. It was a very exciting time and the principles of this book have been enormous as a foundation as I was engaging myself in the business world. I later went back after he had given it to me. I notice here in the 24th of December 1972, I asked Dave if he would sign the book and here’s what he wrote, “an understanding and respect for money in our society is necessary for success.” Well, that’s really a powerful statement and so true. I appreciate the contribution Dave has made in my life and so now it’s time to start giving copies to our grandchildren and today to provide to you, our friends, with an overview of the story and the book and may there be something from this podcast that will stand out as a gold nugget for you. All right. Well, this book was written by the way by George S. Clason. He was born in the southeast of the United States on November 7th, 1874. He attended the University of Nebraska and served in the United States Army during the Spanish American War. Beginning a long career in publishing, he founded the Clason Map Company of Denver Colorado and published the first road atlas of the United States and Canada. Wow. And in 1926 he issued the first of a famous series of pamphlets on thrift and financial success using parables set in ancient Babylon to make each of his points. And these were distributed in large quantities by banks and insurance companies and became familiar to millions. The most famous being the Richest Man in Babylon. Well as we talk about this today let’s just keep in mind that the setting that this was written in was 1926 and so the sensitivity to different genders isn’t quite as rich then as it is today. But in being true to George Clason’s story I’m going to go ahead and tell it as he shared it. It starts with Bansir and Kobbi who’s meeting with Arkad asking why fate has favored Arkad so much and that Arkad has grown rich while they remain poor. They grew up together so what was the difference? And it even seemed that they worked harder than Arkad. Arkad replies that he was once a hardworking scribe who made a deal with a very rich man, Algamish for the secret to wealth in return for a much-needed copy of a law that was immediately scribed into the clay. Arkad worked all night long to get these clay tablets ready for Algamish. Well, the rich man agreed and the next day when Arkad delivered the carving the rich man delivered in return the secret of wealth. Here’s what he said, I found the road to wealth is when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep and so will you. Arkad then relates that he asked the same question is undoubtedly on Bansir and Kobbi’s minds. Well isn’t all that I make mine to keep. Well, Algamish then said no. That a man had to pay for his clothes and his food etc. but that if he regularly saved at least a tenth of his income then as much more as he could afford to save and put that money to work earning interest, he would become wealthy. And so that was it. A part of all you earn is yours to keep. That was the first law that Algamish shared with Arkad, Arkad then relates that he did as advise saving a tenth of his income for a year and then investing that money with a brick maker who went on a journey to buy jewels to trade. He related this experience to Algamish who chastised Arkad for his foolishness. Every fool must learn he said. But why trust the knowledge of a brickmaker about jewels? Would you go to the bread maker to inquire about the stars? Well, Algamish then said he who takes advice about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such manners will pay with his savings for proving the falsity of their opinions. Arkad then saved his money for another year. And this time he invested it with Augur the shield maker who used it to buy materials. Every fourth month Auger paid Arkad rent for the use of these funds and Arkad spent these dividends on fine clothing and regularly scheduled feast. Algamish comments that Arkad is eating the children of his savings by not investing them. Arkad then adjusts his behaviour and when he finally meets with Algamish two years later Algamish is so impressed with how Arkad has taken his lessons to heart that he hires Arkad as a manager of his estate in Nippur and by continuing to save and invest wisely Arkad relates that he became a wealthy man that he now is. So, this is the start of the story in the Richest Man in Babylon. Arkad becomes well known in Babylon and this then leads to the next segment of this book which is entitled The Seven Cures for a Lean Purse. Here’s how it goes: Sargon of Akkad, the king of Babylon is told by his royal chancellor that the kingdom is poor, that there are not enough jobs for everyone and that people don’t have enough money to buy what they want. And farmers can’t make enough selling their produce to continue farming. All of the gold has found its way into possession of a few very rich men of Babylon and so the king asks why so few men would be able to acquire all of the gold and the chancellor responds because they know how to do it, and that one may not be condemned a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned to give to the men of less ability. But why, the king demands to know should not all the people learn how to accumulate gold and therefore become themselves rich and prosperous. Now that is a wonderful question. And after further consultation with the chancellor, the king summons Arkad to teach people how to become wealthy. Arkad then delivers a series of lectures to a class of one hundred men teaching them the seven cures for a lean purse. Here is the seven. Number one: start thy purse to fattening. Arkad instructs the men to begin by continuing to work hard at their current occupations but for ten coins placed in their purse to take out for use but nine and their purses will start to fatten at once and their increasing weight will feel good in their hands and bring satisfaction to their souls. Deride not what I say because of its simplicity, Arkad says, the truth is always simple. Number two is controlled by expenditures. How, some of the men ask, can a man keep one-tenth of all he earns to his purse when all the coins he earns are not enough for his necessary expenditures. How many of you have lean purses? Arkad asks and all of the men say that they have lean purses and that they have no money. Yet, Arkad responds thou do not all earn the same. Some earn much more than others. Some have much larger families to support. Yet all purses are equally lean. Now I will tell them an unusual truth about men and the sons of men. It is this: that what each of us calls our necessary expenses will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary. Arkad tells the man not to confuse necessary expenses with their desires and that all men are burdened with more desires than they can gratify. Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments, and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of thy earnings. Those are the first two. Start thy purse to fattening number two control thy expenditures and number three, make thy gold multiply. This simply explained that once you’ve started saving at least one-tenth of what you earn you must put that money to work earning interest and so put each coin to laboring that it may reproduce its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring to the income a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy purse. Wow, what a great concept that is. One upon one each of these principles helps you to become more financially secure. Number four: guard thy treasures against loss. Everyone is tempted, Arkad relates, by opportunities whereby it would seem that a man could make large sums by investing his money in the most plausible projects. They sound so good and often friends and relatives are eagerly entering such investments and urge him to follow. The first sound principle of investment is security. What is a person who wants a loan from you offering as collateral? Arkad relates again his decision to invest his money with a brick maker who is going to buy jewels to trade. Some Phoenicians took advantage of the brickmaker’s naivete concerning jewels and sold him bits of colored glass. Guard thy treasures against loss by investing only where thy principal is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable and where thou will not fail to collect their fair rental and consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the profitable handling of gold and let their wisdom protect thy treasure from unsafe investments and to build upon that, number five: make of thy dwelling a profitable investment. And I love this one if you pay rent to a landlord all your life at the end of your life you’ll have nothing to show for it. If you can instead pay a mortgage on a house, at the end of your life, you’ll have a house to show for it. Own thy house. Well, that’s great. That’s number five right there. And number six is ensuring a future income. Arkad instructs the class to prepare for retirement and to buy insurance so that their family will be provided for if they die. No man can afford not to ensure a treasure for his old age and the protection of his family no matter how prosperous his business and his investments may be. And now as I sit back and reflect the profound impact that these principles have had, these seven steps to cure a lean purse on me as I see now as these have had a powerful impact as I’ve worked with my children to be sure that they have insurance, for example, in place. That they are buying a home that we find ways to do this and the deal is if you don’t have these thoughts in the first place it’s not likely ever to become an action that you act out. And so that’s why this is so important. Ok well, here we go. And number seven is to increase thy ability to earn. A man must set concrete goals and work to achieve them. And I love these. This is exactly what we talk about becoming your best. These goals should not only be to advance in one’s career or one’s position but also to become wiser and more knowledgeable. Further, if a man respects himself, he must do the following: pay his own debts promptly and not stay in debt, take care of his family, make a will, have compassion upon those who are injured and smitten by misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits and do deeds of thoughtfulness to those that are dear. Well, I love this one. Just cultivate thine own powers to study and become wiser, to become more skillful, to so act as to respect thyself. Thereby shalt thou acquire confidence in thyself to achieve success and the considered and hoped for desires in your life. Well, there are the seven steps. Those are great. I’m just going to recap those very quickly. Outstanding. Number one: start thy purse to fattening. Number two: control by expenditures. Number three: make thy gold multiply. And now as I’m reading these each of these key topic headlines, the title lines, in the background you actually can see and imagine in your own mind what that means. Guard thy treasures for loss. Make thy dwelling a profitable investment. Ensure a future income. And increase thy ability to earn and especially through knowledge and gaining wisdom. Well, those are really seven powerful ways to cure a lean purse. He finishes off in this particular section by talking about luck and here’s what was said. He begins with a Babylonian proverb about luck. If a man be lucky there is no foretelling the possible extent of his good fortune. So, pitch him into the Euphrates and like as not he will swim out with a pearl in his hand. Arkad chats with another group of men and tells them that the goddess to good luck smiles upon those who work hard, save their money and invest well. She doesn’t really patronize professional gamblers who always seem to end up poor. A person must not procrastinate but must strike while the opportunity is ripe. Good luck can be enticed by accepting the opportunity. Good luck can be earned when no one is aware of the opportunity and prepared for them. Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck. Well, there we have it. That is the story that I have just felt that I should share with our listeners wherever they may be. It’s a message for my posterity, for my best friends, for those that I love because I know that this particular principle fits in with applying the power of knowledge and the 12 Principles of Becoming Your Best, the things highly successful leaders do. But as we gain the knowledge of mastering money and put ourselves on the pathway and especially if you can do it at a younger age in life the multiples as you move through life are enormous. We wish each one of you a great day and especially in applying these wonderful principles. It is so great to be able to associate with you to work on this wonderful pathway adventure of becoming your best together. May you find the greatest joy, happiness, satisfaction, and balance in your life as you work on these things. Wishing you a great day, this is Steve Shallenberger.

Outro: Thank you for listening. Would you like help to apply the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders in your life, in your family or in your organization? Call us today at 8886908764 to speak with a helpful representative to evaluate your situation and how we can help. Or you can visit Whether it’s a corporate training event, keynote, workshop, trainer certification or personal coaching it would be our pleasure to serve your needs. Once again call 8886908764 or visit today.

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