The Richest Man Who Ever Lived - Chapter 2

Chapter 2
The Key to Winning Every Race

“Do you see a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.”
-Proverbs 22:29

Become the One in a Thousand Who Achieves Incredible Outcomes

In any endeavor we undertake, or any goal we pursue, we can experience outcomes that are incredible; great; good; okay; poor; terrible; and catastrophic.  In my fifty-plus years, I have experienced all of these outcomes personally, professionally, and financially. On studying the lives of many of history’s most successful people,  I discovered that they too have experienced of the gamut of these outcomes in one or more areas of their lives. But in the areas of their greatest achievements, without exception, they have achieved incredible outcomes. And every one of them achieved their incredible outcomes because they learned and utilized one simple, yet incredibly powerful, skill. This skill was their key to achieving their impossible dreams. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Clara Barton, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg are just a few of the people who have used it. The fact is, whenever it is used, it ultimately produces incredible outcomes.

Moreover, incredible outcomes are almost never achieved without it. Unfortunately, less than one in a thousand people fully utilize it. The good news is that it is a skill that can be easily learned. And it can be used by anyone, regardless of their background, education or IQ.

I’m talking about the skill of diligence.  Most people think they understand what diligence means, but nothing could be further from the truth.  When Solomon talks about diligence, he’s talking about a trait that is as rare as a ten-caret diamond.  The reason it’s so rare is that true diligence runs contrary to human nature.

We all have traits that are part of the human condition. These traits produce our natural drives, inclinations, strengths and weaknesses.  Diligence, however, is not one of them. In fact, the trait common to all humans is our desire or drive for instant gratification. We want as much as we can get, as fast as we can get it, with as little effort as possible.  That is our nature. We all have a natural inclination to follow the path of least resistance.  Fortunately, despite our natural inclination, we can choose to follow a path of greater resistance, and become diligent in the pursuit of any endeavor, project or goal.  And if you develop the kind of diligence that Solomon refers to, you can achieve incredible outcomes in any important area of your life.


Solomon’s concept of diligence   (It’s not what you think.)
My computer dictionary describes diligence as, “A persistent and hard-working effort in doing something.” I love the word “persistent;” persistence is certainly a part of diligence. “Hard-working,” on the other hand is not the most accurate term to use when trying to understand Solomon’s meaning.  I’d prefer to use the phrase, “smart-working.” If I need to cut down a tree and try to cut it down with a hammer, that would be hard-working, but it certainly would not be diligent.  It could take me hours, even days to chop down a tree with a hammer. On the other hand, if I use a chain saw I might cut that same tree down in minutes.  I would not be working nearly as hard, but I’d be working a lot smarter. My computer software lists the following words as synonyms of diligence: meticulousness, conscientiousness, thoroughness and carefulness.  Although all of these qualities are important aspects of diligence, they do not fully convey Solomon’s meaning.

To fully understand what Solomon meant by the word diligent, we need to add these definitions to Solomon’s words found in Proverbs 20:11. “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure and whether it be right.”  The key words here are, “pure,” and “right.” Solomon uses the word “pure” not just in the sense of a moral or ethical value, but rather about work in its purest form.  It’s more akin to a mining term than an ethical term.  Solomon’s mines represented a tremendous portion of his wealth; he often used mining terms in his writings. And if you’re mining for gold what do you do? You dig a lot of dirt, you find a big rock, and you take that big rock and subject it to a tremendous amount of heat.  This melts all of the impurities. What’s left behind is pure gold.  That is the “pure” side of diligence. It’s getting down to investing one’s days, hours, and minutes into that which brings a pure return on the time and effort invested.

The other side of diligence is the “right” side. It’s not just about working at something with persistence, and by working smart. It’s about doing it right– expeditiously, efficiently and effectively.  In other words, doing it on time to the highest standards possible, regardless of what is demanded or expected.  It means bringing creativity, persistence and even other people and outside resources into the effort to achieve an extraordinary outcome.

Now before you back away and say, “That’s just not me. I’m not a creative or persistent kind of person,” let me tell you, you can be.  All you need to do is follow Solomon’s recipe for developing the skill of diligence.   He understood that anyone could develop this skill. Remember, he said, “Even a child…”   And once we’ve mastered the art of diligence, we can use it in any important area of our lives, in any endeavor or pursuit to achieve incredible outcomes. We can use it to turn poor marriages into great marriages; good careers into incredible careers; and a failing business into a successful one.



DILIGENCE is a learnable skill which combines: creative persistence, a smart-working effort rightly planned and rightly performed in a timely, efficient and effective manner to attain a result that is pure and of the highest quality of excellence.

Sound complicated?  That’s because true diligence involves all nine qualities. That is why true diligence is so rare.   Perhaps it might be more easily understood by a simple illustration.

My freshman year of college I was made a platoon commander in R.O.T.C. The other 39 platoon commanders were juniors and seniors. The major R.O.T.C event of the year was the annual drill competition among the 40 platoons. Prior to the competition, one officer thought his platoon would win hands down.  He thought he and his platoon had been diligent all year in their weekly 7:00 AM drill sessions. What he didn’t know was that my platoon showed up every week at 6:00AM (voluntarily) and practiced for two hours instead of one. He didn’t realize that I had taught my platoon complex drill-team maneuvers during the hour each week that we alone occupied the drill field. Every one of the 30 cadets in my platoon worked diligently to master the maneuvers.

By the time the competition rolled around, we had practiced twice as many hours, and learned far more complex routines.  In relation to the other platoons, we had been truly diligent, while the others only thought they were being diligent.  The result was an “incredible outcome.”  My platoon won the event, scoring 287 points out of a possible 300.  The favored platoon placed second, scoring only 168 points.  I was the only freshman to command a platoon in the history of R.O.T.C. at Arizona State University to win the annual drill competition. I was named Cadet of the Year, given a 90-minute ride in a supersonic fighter, and offered an Air Force flight scholarship to pay for the remaining three years of my college education.  In all fairness, however, we all won it – my entire platoon.  And we did it, not because we were smarter or better educated, but because we were truly diligent.

The Rewards of Becoming Truly Diligent
It is human nature to follow the path of least resistance.  Solomon understood that we needed to be motivated to choose diligence over our natural inclination to “go with the flow.”  And what is that motivation?  Being truly diligent, he tells us, brings us priceless rewards, while a lack of diligence can produce devastating consequences. Here are some of the rewards he promises.

You will gain sure advantage.
In any endeavor, would you rather pursue it having a strong and unshakeable advantage, or having a lasting handicap?   Solomon assures us that those who are truly diligent will gain an insurmountable advantage over those who are not.  He says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage.” (Prov. 21:5).  Whether we’re competing against companies, individuals, circumstance or simply time, diligence will give us a unique advantage, one that will result in greater productivity, achievement, wealth and fulfillment.

You will be in control of the situation, rather than have the situation control you. 
Would you prefer to have your destiny controlled by your boss and other people, or would you rather control your own destiny?  Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” (Prov. 12:24). Those who are truly diligent not only control their own destiny, but enhance the achievements of those around them as well.

You will experience true fulfillment.
The vast majority of people are in a perpetual state of hunger.  Not for food, at least in America, but for things.  Americans today have more debt and lower savings than any generation in our nation’s history.  No matter what we have, it seems as if it is never enough. Contentment and true fulfillment seems to be as rare as a winning lottery ticket. In contrast, Solomon tells us, “the soul of the diligent is made fat.” (Prov. 13:4). When using the word “soul,” Solomon is referring to a man or woman’s innermost being, their very core, the seat of their personality and emotions. Imagine being so contented and fulfilled that you crave nothing. That’s the kind of fulfillment that is promised to the diligent.

You will attain the respect and admiration of those in authority.
While others fight to be noticed, the diligent are sought out by people in positions of authority or prominence. That is what Solomon means when he says that the person who is diligent in their business, “shall stand before kings,” (Prov. 22:29). They become bright stars that give off so much light that they draw the attention of all around them.

Your needs will be satisfied.
Those who work diligently in their field of expertise will achieve enough material success to satisfy their needs.   In Proverbs 28:19, Solomon writes, “He that tills his land shall be satisfied with bread, but he that follows vain persons is void of understanding.” Here, he also warns that if you stray from your field of endeavors to follow vain people or their advice, you will lose the path to understanding. Translation: don’t be fooled by people who look successful on the surface and offer “get rich quick schemes” which sound too good to be true. They are. When you encounter such people, run away.

You will experience ever-increasing success.
Solomon assures us that those who diligently labor will experience success and wealth that continually grows; but, money that comes to us easily, without significant effort, will nearly always be lost.  He says, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished., but he that gathers by labor shall increase.” (Prov. 13:11).  As hard as it is to believe, most lottery winners lose all of their winnings in a relatively short amount of time.  And even gamblers lucky enough to win big, eventually lose their winnings and end up in debt.  The casinos in Las Vegas don’t offer free palatial hotel suites to high rollers out of the goodness of their heart. They do it because they know that no matter how much a high roller wins, he will ultimately lose a lot more.

Your efforts will be profitable.
Solomon promises that ALL diligent labor results in a profit.  One that is measured by the successful achievement of your goals, and the financial reward you receive for achieving those goals.  In Proverbs 14:23, he says, “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”  Apply that labor to your marriage or your parenting efforts, and your profit will be measured by the amount of fulfillment you and your family gain. Mere talk, on the other hand, Solomon warns, is cheap and easy, and leads only to poverty.  Diligent labor is demanding.  It requires vision, creativity, commitment and effective partnering.  Essentially, Solomon is telling us that if you are not profitable in your career, or if your marriage isn’t as fulfilling as you wish, you are probably not working diligently enough. Applying diligence to any area of our lives always brings profitable results.

The Consequences of Not Being Diligent.
Our greatest motivations in life are the desire for gain, and the fear of loss. Solomon tries to motivate us with both.  If his seven rewards don’t provide the motivation you need to pursue diligence, perhaps the consequences of not being diligent will spur you on.

You will always be at an insurmountable disadvantage.
The diligent take all the time they need to plan, and prepare so that they can perform with excellence.  Those who aren’t diligent fail to take the time they need to plan, prepare or perform. They tend to “shoot from the hip, ” and their haste ultimately results in failure.  Solomon says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage. But everyone who is hasty {comes} surely to poverty.” (Prov. 21:5).

I have lost my life savings five times, and in each instance I acted with haste– I was anything but diligent. The first two times, my losses came to $20,000, and $120,000, respectively. The next three times, the amounts were much greater, in the millions of dollars. Similarly, my daughter lost her savings when she acted hastily without seeking counsel from me or others. Had either of us acted with diligence rather than in haste, she would still have a nice savings account, and I would have millions of dollars more in my financial portfolio.

You will be ruled.
No one likes living their life out of control. We hate being overly controlled by others. Yet Solomon warns, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” (Prov. 12:24). Who decides how you spend your days?  How much money you’ll be paid?  Whether or not you’ll be promoted, demoted, or even let go? Even with those who own their own businesses, if they are not diligent, their customers or their competition controls them.

You will crave, but find little solace.
While those who are diligent see their deepest desires satisfied and enjoy a profound sense of fulfillment, those who lack diligence are subjected to endless cravings that can never be fulfilled.  In Proverbs 13:4, Solomon not only tells us that the soul of the diligent will be made fat, he warns, “The soul of the sluggard craves, but he gets nothing.”  Sadly, for those who lack diligence, their lives are defined by desire rather than fulfillment .

You will lack understanding.
Today, the television airwaves are filled with people who promise wealth without work. You can buy real estate with no money down, make hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock trading, even if you have no money in savings, and on and on.  Solomon cautions that those who chase after quick-buck artists and their get-rich-quick schemes demonstrate only their ignorance.   “He that tills his land shall be satisfied with bread, but he that follows vain persons is void of understanding.” (Prov. 28:19).

Your wealth and security will dissipate.  
“Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished., but he that gathers by labor shall increase.” Prov. 13:11.  Solomon contrasts the two ways people gain wealth; those who gain it through their diligent efforts and those who gain it without working for it. In Proverbs 13:11, he warns that those who gain their wealth through vain pursuits, will see that wealth decrease and ultimately disappear.

Your efforts will come to nothing.
Those who diligently labor work their butts off; others are constantly talking about what they will do someday.  Talk is cheap. It requires no effort. Diligent labor requires a great deal of effort. But while the diligent is profiting from his labors, the talker is merely wasting his – and others – time. That’s why Solomon tells us in Proverbs 14:23, that, “mere talk leads only to poverty.”

How can you bring true diligence into every area of your life?
Solomon gives us four steps that anyone can use to make diligence a part of his or her daily life. However, there’s one giant roadblock. It’s a roadblock that we will encounter nearly everyday. I’m speaking of our inherent tendency to take the path of least resistance, our innate laziness.

Few of us view ourselves as lazy. But the truth is, we all have the seeds of laziness within our nature.  And if they are not dealt with, they will grow into a field that will undermine one or more aspects of our lives.  Left unattended, they can choke the potential from our lives. Often, we confront the seeds of laziness in one area of life, such as such as our job or career, and leave them unattended in other areas such as our marriages or our relationships with our children. I have known men who have made great fortunes in their professional lives, while their marriages end in divorce. It doesn’t have to be this way. Solomon shows us how to deal with these seeds wherever they lie, and replace them with the seeds of diligence.

Recognizing the Root Causes of Laziness  
There are four root causes of laziness, according to Solomon: self-centeredness, conceit (arrogance) and ignorance and irresponsibility.  (He often combines these last two into the single category he calls foolishness.)  To effectively deal with laziness, we have to deal with its root causes.

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes…” Prov. 21:2
We naturally see things first from our own point of view.  If we don’t choose to shift our focus to the interests and well-being of others, we will simply act in a manner that is most quickly gratifying to our ego and desires. We become blind to the impact on our future, or upon the lives of others. Solomon suggests we ask ourselves what course of action we could take that would be in the best interest of all who are affected.

Conceit (Arrogance)
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason…”
Prov. 26:1
Because we often think we’re smarter than those around us, we act without seeking the advice or counsel of others.  It’s much easier to act first and seek advice later. And since we think we know more than others anyway, we simply take the action that we want to take.  We simply need to accept that there are others who are as smart and wise as we are, if not more so, and seek their counsel before making major decisions and acting upon them. Those who are truly diligent seek out the advice of several wise counselors before embarking on any important course of action.

Ignorance and Irresponsibility (Foolishness)
“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.” Prov. 24:30-31
The last cause of laziness is ignorance and irresponsibility, or what Solomon calls foolishness. Often it results from our ignorance of the long-term consequences of our actions. It’s easier to act out of ignorance than it is to become educated.  To educate ourselves takes time and effort . Remaining ignorant and following the path of least resistance is easy.  However, the consequences of this kind of foolishness can be devastating.

Laziness Results in More Laziness.
“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.” Prov. 20:4
Laziness can spread into other areas of your life, as well . The more often you give in to your natural inclination towards instant gratification, the stronger that inclination will become, until it becomes a habit.

Laziness creates a painful barrier to personal achievement.  In Proverbs 15:19, Solomon says, “The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns.”  When I was a child, my next-door neighbor’s backyard was surrounded by deep hedge with red berries and big thorns.  We dreaded those occasions when my friends and I would accidentally throw a baseball or football into Mr. Fouts’ backyard. One of us would have to fight our way through the thorn bushes to retrieve the ball.  And who ever did the retrieving had the bloody scratches to show for it.

In the eyes of Solomon, laziness creates this same kind of barrier to personal success. Few are able or willing to cross over.

Solomon’s  Steps to Bring Diligence into Your Life
So how do we bring Solomon’s concept of diligence into our lives?  Being truly diligent takes time, and requires making a habit of using diligence daily in the important areas of life. The good news is you don’t have to wait years, months or even days to start applying diligence to your endeavors. Solomon gives us four steps we can use quickly to begin to bring diligence into our jobs, our careers, our marriages, our parenting, even the spiritual arena of our lives.

Step #1 – Wake Up to Reality
“How long will you lie there,” he asks.  “When will you get up from your sleep?”… poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” Prov. 6:9-11.
We think that we have more time than we really do to achieve our personal and professional goals. So we procrastinate doing what we know we should do. For example, almost 80% of Americans are now overweight.  Nearly every one of them thinks they will start losing weight next week, next month, or next year. They plan on eating better, exercising more and taking better care of themselves. But year after year, they don’t quite get around to it.  Getting into better shape remains only a dream for them, because they are asleep to their own reality. Similarly, husbands and wives, moms and dads plan to make their marriages and families better…later!  Solomon says, WAKE UP, and STOP DREAMING!

Don’t be asleep to the realities around you. Solomon asks us to wake-up to the real world, with its constraints, its demands and its opportunities. The clock is constantly ticking, and every day that slips away is a day that can never be retrieved.  And every day that passes brings us one day closer to the end of our limited time on earth. Wake up and bring diligence into your life now. Your opportunities will be multiplied!  It is time to take responsibility for your life, your attitudes, your values and how you spend your time.

Step #2 – Define Your Visions
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 28:19, “Without a vision, the people perish.”  Said another way, where we have no vision, we lose our direction, our motivation, our joy, our passion, our energy, our creativity and our commitment.  Fortunately, the converse of this proverb is also true. Whenever you introduce a true vision into any area of your life, you gain new energy . You will discover direction, motivation, joy, passion, energy, creativity and commitment. Defining a vision is an essential component of diligence.  In fact, it’s impossible to be truly diligent if you don’t have a clear vision of what you want to achieve.   By ringing diligence into your life is the single most important step you can take. In Proverbs, 6:6, Solomon tells those who lack diligence to look closely at the ant. The ant “has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”  In other words the ant is so mission oriented that even without supervision or direction, it does exactly what it needs to do, for its benefit and the benefit of the entire colony.  When you gain a clear vision for what you want to do, and when you have a detailed plan to accomplish that vision, like Solomon’s ant, you will take the initiative and gain the diligence to accomplish it.

Step #3 – Effectively Partner
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Prov. 15:22.
In any worthwhile endeavor, it’s impossible to be diligent without seeking outside counsel and effectively partnering.  We all know a little; no one knows a lot.  Most of us are only deeply knowledgeable in a few things; and we’re totally ignorant and incapable in millions of other things. Yet true diligence demands excellence in every step we take. The only possible way to achieve excellence in the areas in which we lack the necessary talent or know-how is to seek out counsel and/or effectively partner.  When I talk about partnering, I’m referring to asking the help of advisors, counselors, mentors, and anyone else that can provide us with the knowledge and skills we need to achieve excellence in fulfilling our vision.

Throughout history, no one has achieved any worthwhile goal, significant project or impossible dream without effectively partnering and seeking outside counsel. If the most successful people in history have needed the help of counselors and partners, why would you think that you can accomplish anything worthwhile without their aid. The fact is, none of us can.  The truly diligent do not seek counsel simply when an endeavor is in trouble; rather they seek counsel from the very beginning, before they begin an effort. This greatly reduces the risk of failure, and significantly increases one’s probability of success.

Step #4 – Pursue Wisdom; Build Your Life Upon It.
“How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”  Prov. 16:16
The final component critical to becoming a diligent person is to pursue wisdom, and build your life upon its foundation.  Solomon tells us to seek wisdom as if it is a hidden treasure. True wisdom is rarely found lying on the ground in plain view. Rather, it’s a treasure that must be searched out and those seeking it must often dig beneath the surface. But it’s not a difficult pursuit. It’s fun to search for buried treasure, and it’s wonderfully rewarding to find it. As you will see in the last chapter of this book, the rewards of gaining true wisdom are literally beyond your imagination.

In the next chapter I’m going to share how you can take control of your destiny. Most people I meet are not particularly fulfilled or happy. Whether I meet them on airplanes or at little league games, I can see their frustration.  That frustration is usually a result of being out of control. Their lives are controlled by circumstances, or by other people.  And being out of control of your life is never fun.  Solomon gives us incredible strategies that enable us to gain control of our lives, and maintain that control throughout our life.

———————-Knowledge to Wisdom——————-

Are you diligent in your job? Your marriage? Your parenting? Your career? Use this checklist to measure your level of  diligence in any important area of your life.  This checklist will help you determine when and where you’re lacking in diligence.  The skills you’re going to learn in the next two chapters will help you to bring diligence to any endeavor you pursue.

Do you:
___1. Have a clear and precise vision for what you want to achieve?
___2. Creatively Persist through disappointments and failures?
___3. Work SMART?
___4. “Rightly” Plan?
___5. “Rightly” Perform?
___6. Work Expeditiously (with target dates)?
___7. Work Efficiently?
___8. Work Effectively (achieving effective results)?
___9. Produce an end result that reflects a quality outcome?
___10. Attain true excellence?

A Note from Steven K. Scott:

Dear Friend,
The marvelous insight found in this sample chapter is merely a portion of what you can expect from a complete reading of “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived.”  I believe that reading the book and understanding the powerful truths contained in it can help you in the same way they have helped me and countless others.

I know that I am not the only person who has achieved his impossible dreams by following Solomon’s strategies.

I love reading biographies of those who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments both in modern times and throughout history. As I study their lives, I discover that their successes were realized by actions and attitudes that reflected Solomon’s teachings even though some may have never read his writings. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison were all readers of Proverbs in their youth. But even in looking at the lives of modern icons such as Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Helen Keller, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah Winfrey, I see that they achieved their impossible dreams by doing the very things that Solomon advises each of us to do.

I’ve also seen disasters befall men, companies, and nations when they act contrary to Solomon’s admonitions. Adolf Hitler was able to bewitch an entire nation because they ignored Solomon’s warnings. America was caught off guard at Pearl Harbor. Recently, the executives of America’s seventh largest corporation drove it into the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history. All of these events were brought about by violating a handful of Solomon’s admonitions.

What Can Solomon’s Wisdom Do for You?
So what can Solomon’s insights and teachings do for your career, your relationships, and your personal life?  No matter what you think they can do, the teachings of Solomon can do infinitely more.

Here are just a few of the rewards Solomon says you can look forward to when you follow his advice.

The Benefits of Solomon’s Strategies
Good judgment
Preservation and protection
Better health
Longer life
Financial abundance
Favor of those in authority
Commendation and promotions
Financial independence
Strength of character
Extraordinary achievement
Personal fulfillment
Great relationships
A truly meaningful life
Love and admiration of others
True wisdom

I hope you enjoyed reading this complimentary chapter from “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived.”

I have another article, that you may find helpful, “Three Communication Skills That Can Change Everything” you can find it here.

All The Very Best,

Steven K. Scott