The Prosperous Peasant: Five Secrets of Fortune and Fulfillment

One night each month, I meet at a local restaurant with a group of friends. We are the Woodstock Writers Guild. Mostly we eat, drink, and chat, but we also take turns sharing the stuff we've written: fantasy novels, horror stories, and even some literary fiction.

Though most of us are only aspiring amateurs, we do have one real writer in the group. Mark has published two novels: The Green Age of Asher Witherow and Lost Son. At our last meeting, he handed out copies of a new book, The Prosperous Peasant, which he co-authored with Tim Clark. It took a moment for me to realize what I was seeing. I was crushed.

“Mark,” I said. “This isn't fair. I'm the personal finance writer. But you've put out a book about money before I had the chance!” He just grinned at me.

Prosperity principles
But The Prosperous Peasant isn't a book about personal finance. It's a book about prosperity — a success manual. Though financial success is product of personal fulfillment, it's not the source. Fulfillment comes from balance, and from the pursuit of goals.

Explicitly drawing inspiration from George S. Clason's classic The Richest Man in Babylon, this book reveals its “secrets” through stories told by a learned master. In The Prosperous Peasant, the master is HIdeyoshi, a samurai and one of Japan's great leaders. At his temple school in Nagahama, Hideyoshi teaches the secret of his success to all who care to hear. His secret?

I fear I must tell you the truth. There is no secret. … But there are five eternal principles on which the ancients' prosperity was founded, principles which will continue to serve successful men long after our grandchildren's children have turned to dust.

It is these principles that The Prosperous Peasant hopes to convey.

Gratitude attracts luck
“Gratitude instills a spirit of sincere and industrious service.”

True luck visits few people in life, but opportunity is a frequent visitor. It is those who learn to act upon opportunity that others believe to be lucky. “Luck” also comes from helping others. When you give your time and resources to help other people achieve their dreams, they're likely to remember your actions, and to return the favor in the future. This isn't luck, either, but a form of social capital. The lucky man is not lucky — he seizes opportunity and helps others to achieve their aims.

Know your gift
“All men of grateful spirit can achieve success if they work to make the most of their talents.”

Know your strengths and how to use them. If you're good with people, don't become trapped in a job where you're only shuffling paper. If you enjoy the outdoors, find a way to make that your vocation. I've always loved to write, and I like to think that I have some modest skill at it. For years, though, I did not pursue this gift. It was only once I focused on this strength that I obtained fulfillment.

What if you don't know your talent? What if you have no gift? Consider the non-obvious. The Prosperous Peasant tells the parable of Taro, a boy whose gift is unfailing persistence. Though he has no skill in any particular trade, he's able to become a master potter by dedicating himself to the craft for ten years.

Conceivable means achievable
“We must all begin where beginning is conceivable.”

Napoleon Hill once said, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Though this idea has been co-opted by Law of Attraction cultists, there's some truth to it. When you set and pursue goals, you're conceiving — and achieving — the things you desire.

You start by setting goals that actually make sense for your situation. You cannot start by saying, “I want to win the Tour de France.” You begin by learning to ride a bicycle. From there, you might set a goal to win a local race. You start with realistic goals, goals that are conceivable. Success builds upon success, and eventually you just may find that winning the Tour de France is achievable after all. Lance Armstrong had to start somewhere!

Effort determines results
“Average effort produces average results, but extraordinary effort produces extraordinary results.”

In the things we do, it is our effort that plays the largest role in how successful we become. Sure, we all encounter unexpected obstacles. But strength of will and perseverance can usually help us overcome these. In most cases, the degree of our success is determined by how much effort we put into something. If we do a half-ass job, we're going to get half-ass results. If we pour blood, sweat, and tears into something, our effort will be rewarded.

Success doesn't happen overnight — you are not going to get rich quickly. Instead, it's a result of extended effort over months, years, or decades. Yes, you can become wealthy (or achieve other forms of success), but to do so requires sacrifice and hard work.

Collaboration breeds success
Everything you accomplish owes to the help of someone else.

The child learns from her parents and her teachers. The young woman learns from a mentor. And the lady learns from her peers. From the day we're born, we draw our strength from others. Our ability to work with family and friends plays a large role in our success.

No one person can be a master of everything. In order to achieve our dreams, we must rely upon other people, to draw upon their skills. For me to form a successful business, I need the advice of a trusted lawyer, a good accountant, and other such advisers. In turn, it is to my benefit to help others achieve their goals.

The Bushido Code
Though I like The Prosperous Peasant for its exploration of these five success principles, I love it for its underlying philosophy, as embodied by this statement:

Prosperity is as aptly measured in love, friendship, and personal fulfillment as in gold or fame.

Here at Get Rich Slowly, we spend a lot of time talking about gold. (This is a personal finance blog, after all.) But financial wealth is only one aspect of success. A truly successful person is rich in all aspects of her life.

The final chapter of The Prosperous Peasant briefly describes the virtues of the Bushido Code: justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honor, loyalty, and character. These traits, and Hideyoshi's five principles of success, form an excellent foundation for life.

Recommendation
I like The Prosperous Peasant, and will certainly read it again in the future. I did have some problems with it — the narrative is slow to start, and I found myself getting lost in a sea of Japanese names — but these complaints are minor. I'll refrain from giving my usual buy/don't-buy recommendation. I'm not an impartial reviewer. Though I have no vested financial interest in the book's success or failure, it was written by friends, and I feel uncomfortable saying “Buy this book!” when I know my judgement is clouded by association.

Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take the book for a test-drive yourself. The authors have posted a longish chapter for free in PDF format: “Gratitude attracts luck: The scroll of fortune”. By reading this, you should be able to determine whether this is the sort of book that could help you. You can also read more from them at The Prosperous Peasant blog, in which they meditate on balancing fortune with fulfillment.

Free books! Mark and Tim have generously offered to contribute five copies to Get Rich Slowly readers. From the comments on this review, I will select five names at random to receive a copy of The Prosperous Peasant.

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Razvan Roman
Razvan Roman
12 years ago

I like how you didn’t recommend buying the book at the end of your post. It had the exact opposite effect.

I’d like a book to give as a present to someone.

Cheers from a Romanian reader,
Razvan Roman

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

Mark — if you are reading these comments, who are your favorite success authors?

plonkee
plonkee
12 years ago

I’m not sure whether this sounds like the sort of book that I’d like. If it’s going to be a parable, I prefer it to be a short story to be honest.

I certainly agree that prosperity can be measured in many ways, and I’d even go as far as to say that you aren’t prosperous until you are have reached a contented in each of them.

And I really like the sentiment “There is no secret”. That is definitely true.

The Saving Freak
The Saving Freak
12 years ago

So far I love what this book has to say. I am looking forward to purchasing it.

I agree with Plonkee. I do better with short stories. Maybe I am just too ADD to stick with longer novels since I tend to start them get half way through and lose interest.

Honest Dollar
Honest Dollar
12 years ago

JD – Sometimes your reviews are too good. So good that I feel like I don’t even need to read the actual book to learn something. Keep up the good work!

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

Plonkee, your highlighting of the sentiment “There is no secret” made me think of that wonderful Gertrude Stein quote:

“There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.”

And speaking of peasants, Stein has this other quote I’ve always loved:

“The earth is the earth as a peasant sees it, the world is the world as a duchess sees it, and anyway a duchess would be nothing if the earth was not there as the peasant sees it.”

Margot
Margot
12 years ago

I’m at work, but am looking forward to reading the sample text tonight. I’m quite intrigued by the approach of this book and am very interested. Thanks for the review.

Mark
Mark
12 years ago

Very insightful post! Particularly, the part about giving and receiving gratitude.

This is my first time visiting your site as we were both listed (as links) in Leo Babauta’s most recent post….

I will most definitely be adding your site to my RSS feed 🙂

Kind regards,
Mark

Camilla
Camilla
12 years ago

Well there’s a sign if ever there was one – i have been pondering all day on the decision of spending a not insignificant amount of money on one-to-one Bushido tuition. I was planning on phoning to book tonight, and this cements it. I love the idea of a monthly book-club meet over drinks and food, it sounds wonderfully sociable! Think i need to get involved involved in something like that, and get away from my computer occassionally. :~P Thanks for the review, and congrats to your friend on his third book! Quite a departure from the standard financial books,… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
12 years ago

Always good to take a step back and think about our actions and motives.

Also, gimme a free book!

ryan
ryan
12 years ago

it sounds very “richest man in babylon”, but that is a format not often used to convey personal/financial development books.

if it only had one lesson in it, or one thing that made me stop to think, it would be worth the read.

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

This book seems like it lists a lot of great principles to live your life by. As Plonkee mentioned – I like the quote that there is no secret. Too many people look for a magic switch to flip that will make their life perfect. It doesn’t exist.

Jonathan
Jonathan
12 years ago

Very interesting idea. Of the admittedly little I know of the bushido code, I think it could be difficult to interpret/use in this way, but I’m intrigued. Perhaps I’ll have to pick this one up.

giania
giania
12 years ago

@Razvan – I find that often the best ‘sales pitch’ is simply letting people know that there is an item, letting them know why it might actually be relevant to their interests, and then letting them decide for themselves. 🙂

Although given the nature of this blog, there wouldn’t be anything ‘sales pitch’ about it. I appreciate the sincere recommendation of a friend’s effort, and I have definitely shared this article with friends and co-workers who are fans of The Richest Man In Babylon.

Matthew
Matthew
12 years ago

I’m really interested in reading this book for two reasons. The first is that the contents of it sound really interesting; I’m all about living a more fulfilling life.
The second reason is that I’d like to see how the Japanese theme is presented. I’m living in Japan now, and I’ve become quite wary of Japanese themes as presented by Americans (forgive the assumption that the authors are in fact Americans 🙂 ).

The Financial Philosopher
The Financial Philosopher
12 years ago

Of course, someone writing a blog titled, “The Financial Philosopher,” would agree that “wisdom” translates to all areas of our lives. The same wisdom that works in personal relationships and personal health also works with personal finance.

As von Goethe said, “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.”

That’s why I urge people to bypass the business and personal finance section altogether and buy books on philosophy…

Raquita
Raquita
12 years ago

I would lvoe to read it – it seems like hte kind of blance I work best with as a reader.

i love your site, even though I don’t comment much I read it daily and pass articles to my hubby all the time, and I am glad its working well for you!

Rita Bradley
Rita Bradley
12 years ago

I think we can learn a lot from the Japanese culture. Even 3rd generation Japanese in the US seem to cling to(now)old fashioned values that made the United States great. I’m going to check out this book.

Robert
Robert
12 years ago

Thank you so much for your review of this book. I read the excerpt and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Not that it’s something I’ve never heard before, but I’m going through a tough personal situation at the moment, and this reminded me that I still have so much to be grateful for. I feel more lucky already!

PHoban
PHoban
12 years ago

Great review. Looks like a good read.
Have you ever considered creating a recommended reading page on your site?

I am always looking for a good sources of financial information.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Candice
Candice
12 years ago

Sounds like an interesting book – I’m looking forward to reading this one, because I’ve been trying to not focus on my financial status as a separate issue, but to learn to live my life in a way that is conducive to contentment and quality work, expecting that I will become more financially responsible among many other good things as a result.

Thanks for bringing it up to us!

Nathan
Nathan
12 years ago

Great review, looking forward to checking out the sample posted. Love the title too. If you’re content with what (little) you have, then you’re already rich!

IO
IO
12 years ago

I really liked the sample chapter. The parables as lessons method of teaching has long been my favorite. I think this book may be for me.

Jason
Jason
12 years ago

This sounds like a book that my wife might actually enjoy. I’ll definitely look into it.

Leman
Leman
12 years ago

Hi!
Here in Spain there isn’t to much money culture. Spain is a growing country now. I wish spanish readers start reading books like this and reading blogs like Get Rich Slowly. Have you though anytime in translating your blog or books like this to other languages?

About the book I have to say that I like to read educational books based in histories.

Good luck!

Maitte
Maitte
12 years ago

Hi from Miami,

Thanks for mentioning this book, it sounds interesting and I’d really like to read it! I guess it kind falls along the same lines of The Secret or rather the Laws of Attraction. Thanks

Hathaway
Hathaway
12 years ago

I love everything you have covered about the book. It sounds very promising on assisting someone in achieving their financial goals. I have introduced both of my adult children to your blog. Keep up the great work!!!

Wesley
Wesley
12 years ago

Sounds like a cool concept. I’m interested in the “know your gift” section. This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. I’ve been in the software field for several years now and have had some moderate success, but I’m to a point where I’d like to try something else (now that I’m finally debt-free).

Any advice from the shogun masters of this book would always be welcome 🙂 Thanks for pointing this one out…great review!

Matt
Matt
12 years ago

The title is catchy. It sounds like a cool club. I am curious how you found the club or did you and some buddies set it up?

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

@Maitte
I, too, thought that parts of the book — especially in the beginning — sounded like The Secret. Fortunately, the similarity is only superficial. TPP stresses the need for hard work and perseverance. No wishful thinking here.

@Matt
This writers guild was set up by some buddies of mine. We knew each other from college. It’s grown now, though, to include other people, like one of my former writing instructors. It was something of a lark at first, but I feel like it’s getting more serious with time. I highly recommend that aspiring writers find such a group.

J. D. Harper
J. D. Harper
12 years ago

This sounds like a fascinating book! I’ll have to look into this one–and that other one, The Richest Man in Babylon.

(**hopes for one of the free copies**)

Connie Brooks
Connie Brooks
12 years ago

This sounds like a wonderful book, I am going to check out the sample chapter and the blog. I like that the book (at least per your review) focuses on balance. The more I learn, and the older I get, the more I understand that everything is balance. Slow and steady progress, both financially and personally, is the true path to success. The other main point that I loved, and that makes me really want to read the book, is this one: >>Everything you accomplish owes to the help of someone else. It has taken me 30 years to realize… Read more »

Sue H
Sue H
12 years ago

That chapter was interesting – and true. I’d love to win and give the book to my son. He could benefit from the wisdom.

Dawn
Dawn
12 years ago

I like the format of this book. It is simply written and I feel that it will be a good book to share with my young teenagers, as well as an interesting read for me.

April
April
12 years ago

Sounds like something I could use at this point in my life. I’ve been feeling a bit “stuck,” and I wonder if this sort of wisdom could help me focus.

Ellie
Ellie
12 years ago

Sounds like an interesting book! I’m going to go read the chapter.

(p.s. it’s my birthday. hint. hint.)

Bryn
Bryn
12 years ago

I know it wasn’t intentional, but the line “There is no secret” made me think of a friend who is determined to base her financial life on the book “The Secret”. And that’s fine, but I think this one is closer to my own thoughts (I can only consider myself ‘successful’ if allowed to count those intangibles!)

I’m off to read that sample chapter now….

Alya
Alya
12 years ago

This could be a nice christmas gift!

Josephine
Josephine
12 years ago

Thanks for your honest and warm review of the book. Will read the sample chapter tonight and if I like it, Santa will likely give it to me this Christmas!

Joe
Joe
12 years ago

Interesting book. I’ve wanted to read more about the Bushido code and to see a book applying it to modern life would be very interesting. If I don’t win one, I’ll probably buy it or ask for it for Chirstmas.

CF
CF
12 years ago

I really enjoyed Richest Man in Babylon; sounds like I would like this as well. On another note, good for you for keeping in close touch with friends – too many of us lose track too easily.

allen
allen
12 years ago

I wonder if it is a continuing narrative, the tale of one specific peasant? Or is each chapter a different vinyet(sp) of example? These kind of core-Ideas are often important for people to process, but difficult to broach, so i am glad that a team somewhere has attempted. Was the narrator a real person in Japan’s history? Is this taken from some larger template? Or was this choice just a matter of style? QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED WHEN YOU BUY IT. Speaking of books, JD: You could accumulate the “best of” articles, along with the “best of” comments, & do… Read more »

Ryan
Ryan
12 years ago

I think that this approach is important to our society as a whole. Too many people equate building wealth with being greedy, stepping on others etc.. It’s refreshing to see that this book takes a kinder, considerate approach. I’m looking forward to reading this.

Heikki
Heikki
12 years ago

The book sounds good.

I especially agree on setting achievable goals, and making what is achievable grow everytime.

Lisa
Lisa
12 years ago

My husband suggested I subscribe to your site and while some of the topics I feel are slightly over my head, I do enjoy reading your blog everyday. Slow learner, but I’m trying.

The book sounds very interesting, good gift for my husband…we both loved ‘Richest Man in Babylon.’

Happy Holidays!

Greg
Greg
12 years ago

Interesting sounding book. I like parable aspect of it, but I’m not sure about a novel-length parable. In any case, I’m sure it would be an interesting read.

glinka
glinka
12 years ago

What’s the title mean peasant?

Gregory
Gregory
12 years ago

I noticed others have commented on it but I am glad that you too took the time to point out the pitfall of THE SECRET. Setting achievable goals, accomplishing them and then setting harder goals is a sure contributor to achievement. However, sitting in your room wishing and dreaming may inspire you to action temporarily but it will not give you determination or perseverance, both of which are qualities of achievers. A trait I think could be added would be observance. I have found many incredible achievers by taking a step back and watching the character flow out of individuals.… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
12 years ago

These 5 points are great! I was just scanning the article as I have an exam to study for, but I will definitely read it in depth later and will probably mention it in a blog post soon!
Thanks for all of the great info!

Stephanie
Stephanie
12 years ago

I really like the emphasis on balance, and that that emphasis is not only on our financial prosperity, but our overall prosperity. I feel like this has been a big life lesson for me recently. This blog and also getfitslowly have been very relevant for me, and have helped me identify some self-destructive traits in myself. When I endeavor to accomplish something (like be fiscally responsible, or lose weight) I tend to go to extremes – I turn ultra miserly and try not to spend a penny, at the expense of depriving myself of life experiences. But then I’ll drop… Read more »

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