If you have a young person in your life – a nephew, a son, a daughter, a mentee – and you want to give them a few books that will really help them along in their lives, close to the top of that reading list should be a book by a Jewish Rabbi, whether you are Jewish or not.
“Life is business, and business is life. Learn one, and you will have also learned the other.” So says some of the jacket copy on Daniel Lapin’s Thou Shall Prosper. The byline reads ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money’ – but that sells the book short. The book is a refreshingly positive take on the dignity of work, the nobility of directed effort and the importance of serving others and changing the world, one customer at a time.
The ten ‘commandments’ are there – and they are immensely useful and easy to reference. But there is more meat to this book, with fascinating insights and a wide range of study distilled to give the reader a sense of pride that they aren’t a freeloader, a loafer, or an eternal protestor of some sort.
It is fashionable – as ever – among those who benefit from the surplus value of society to whine about capitalism and decry business. Daniel Lapin’s book is an antidote to that – an infinitely useful and practical guide to building character, integrity and yes – success – in business.
Full of research, anecdotes, amusing stories and solid, common sense instruction, the book begins by dispelling four harmful myths surrounding Jews and money. He then unpacks each principle in a substantial chapter that provides the reader with both a thorough thinking framework, and an immensely practical way to apply each principle.
1 – Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business – potentially the single most counter-cultural thing a person can do these days, and yet the truth of which has kept every whiner’s trap well stuffed even as they complain about ‘capitalism’.
2 – Extend your network – and in a really useful way, without the middle management networking event cringe that passes for building connections.
3 – Get to know yourself – an ongoing and active suggestion.
4 – Don’t pursue perfection.
5 – Lead Consistently and Constantly.
6- Change what you should and stick to what you shouldn’t.
7 – Learn to foretell the future, and how.
8 – Know your money.
9 – Be generous.
10 – Never retire.
If you are convinced that the world sucks, the odds are stacked against you, life is unfair, the little guy can’t get ahead and nothing ever turns out right – this book won’t help you. Nothing and no one can.
But if you are willing to think about things reasonably, have an open mind, examine the world as it is and not as it should be, and are willing to apply a little chutzpah to your life – this book is a treasure producing long-term and ongoing dividends. For young people it will deliver exceptional long term benefits – as it creates a framework on which useful lives and careers can be built.
The only risk in this quick summary is that it might make you think the review is sufficient. Thou Shall Prosper is a book to read cover to cover, early in your life, and occasionally as you go through it. It will bring a sense of achievement and peace, and a harvest of righteousness. Biblical language, but he is a rabbi. Exceptional book when thinking about the kind of person you want to shape yourself to be.