Anyone who has tried to find financial advice on the web has encountered nothing but scams. “Invest with me, buy this book, use my AdSense secrets, and you will be making easy money in no time.” It is all garbage. Those who want solid advice to live by would be well served to consult The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin. In a few paragraphs Franklin wittily transmits the wisdom the made him a fortune and one of America’s greatest fathers. Beware: there are no secrets or short cuts, only common sense.
Franklin wrote the Way to Wealth as a speech given by a wise old man to the townspeople. The focus of the first section is the virtue of Industry
- Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
- Diligence is the mother of good luck
- God helps them that help themselves
We have all heard these familiar sayings, but how often do we neglect to live by them? Rising early, using time wisely, and getting to bed at a decent hour is the first step to building wealth. It puts you in the position to succeed.
Franklin also condemns laziness as the cause of many failures.
- Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright
- Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of
- Lost time is never found again
- He that riseth late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night
- Drive thy business, let not that drive thee
- Industry need not wish
- He that lives upon hope will die fasting
- There are no gains, without pains
- Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep
- One today is worth two tomorrows
- Have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today
- Be ashamed to catch yourself idle
- Let not the sun look down and say, inglorious here he lies
How often do we waste time complaining about a lack of opportunity? The reason you find no opportunity is that you waste time you should be using to build. The more we are idle the rustier we get. Laziness makes taking action more difficult. Through industriousness you create opportunities.
- He that hath a trade hath an estate
- He that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor
Here Franklin states that you need to develop a specialization that is valuable to others. A specialization provides a permanent source of income. No one is going to give you money. You need to give people value in exchange for it.
- At the working man’s house hunger looks in, but dares not enter
- For industry pays debts, while despair encreaseth them
- Constant dropping wears away stones
- By diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable
- Little strokes fell great oaks
Don’t be discouraged by the size of a task. Don’t make excuses because something looks difficult. Great accomplishments are built in tiny increments. You need to remember that the work you do builds up over time. People are often discouraged because they don’t achieve instant success. It is important to think of your work as a long-term investment. This will help you stay motivated during the painful early stages. Remember that most successful people toil for years in obscurity before reaching the tipping point when their hard work starts to pay dividends.
- Employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure
- Since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour
- A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. Do you imagine that sloth will afford you more comfort than labor?
- Trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease.
- Many without labor would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock
- Industry gives comfort, and plenty, and respect: fly pleasures, and they’ll follow you
Many people don’t like to work, especially if they have boring jobs. Everyone wants to live a life of leisure so we work as little as we have to. This is understandable; everyone prefers leisure to work. In truth, this is an extremely shortsighted attitude. Who do you think has the time play golf during the week or the flexibility to travel abroad? It is the people who worked hard, became successful, and are now reaping the benefits of wealth and leisure. You need to work hard now to gain leisure later. If you are lazy now you will miss out on leisure in the long run.
- Keep the shop, and thy shop will keep thee
- If you would have your business done, go; if not, send
- He that by the plough would thrive, Himself must either hold or drive.
- The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands
- Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge
- Not to oversee workmen is to leave them your purse open
- In the affairs of this world men are saved not by faith, but by the want of it
- Learning is to the studious, and riches to the careful, as well as power to the bold, and Heaven to the virtuous
- If you would have a faithful servant, and one that you like, serve yourself
- For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost
The point of these maxims is that working hard alone is not enough. You must also keep your business inline with care and attention. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste for a lack of organization. Don’t take anything for granted because small problems are the root of failure.
I cannot state with another emphasis how important these ideas are. Most people will recognize that this is nothing new and ignore it. These ideas aren’t complicated. The challenge is to live by them. If you try being truly industrious for one complete day you will understand what I mean.
The first half of becoming wealthy is Industry: working hard, using time wisely, and paying careful attention to your business. Industry generates revenue. The next step is turning revenue into profit. The second part of Franklin’s Way to Wealth explains the importance of saving what you gain.