Monday, October 17, 2011

Business Advice From King Solomon The Wise

In the book of Kohelet, know to English readers as Ecclesiastes, King Solomon offers solid business advice.

Every fall, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Jewish tradition calls for a reading of the book of Kohelet – a canon of Jewish Scripture known to English readers as Ecclesiastes.  Kohelet was authored by King Solomon, reputed to be the wisest of all men, whose reign over the kingdom of Israel some 3,000 years ago was the pinnacle of ancient Jewish civilization.  

The words of Kohelet have had a great many modern day admirers.  The great 20th century novelist, Thomas Wolfe, called it “the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.” 

The song “Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There is a Season),” introduced by Pete Seeger in 1962 and further popularized by the Byrds in 1965, and then by Bob Dylan, was directly lifted from the Book of Kohelet. 

It was Kohelet who said, “There is nothing new beneath the sun,” but I wonder if he would have come to the same conclusion if the king had beheld an Iphone.

The book of Kohelet is a very sobering examination of life.  Its message is ultimately a religious one – “the sum of the matter, when all has been considered:  fear G-d and keep his commandments, for that is man’s whole duty” -- but along the way, he offers some sage advice for business owners.

“Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their labor.  For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and there is no one to raise him.”

“A lover of money will never be satisfied with money; a lover of abundance has no wheat…Sweet is the work of the laborer, whether he eats little or much; the satiety of the rich does not let him sleep.”

Here’s a good one:  “Do not say, ‘How was it that former times were better than these?  For that is not a question prompted by wisdom.” (In other words, just get over it.)

“The toil of fools exhausts them, as one who does not know the way to town.”  (A traveler could be guided properly were he to ask directions.  Conversely, the fool persists in his folly to the point of exhaustion, because he refuses to consult with the wise and seek proper guidance.)

“One who watches the wind will never sow, and one who keeps his eyes on the clouds will never reap…In the morning sow your seed and in the evening do not be idle, for you cannot know which will succeed: this or that; or whether both are equally good.” (Financial advisers would call this diversification.)

And here’s a message for us all:  “Enjoy life with the wife you love through all the fleeting days of your life that He has granted you beneath the sun, all of your futile existence; for that is your compensation in life and in your toil which you exert beneath the sun. “