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Genuine Prosperity

America, the land of opportunity and success, is one of the wealthiest countries in the world; yet, the country is also known to be one of the highest Prozac-popping countries in the world. Perhaps the definition of wealth and prosperity must be more carefully defined. According to Tom Butler-Bowden, author of 50 Prosperity Classics, wealth is simply the possession of money or assets. However, prosperity is about the larger ideas of good fortune, abundance and well-being. While wealth is about the idea of owning the material, prosperity is about securing a peaceful state of mind built on the knowledge that the universe is an essentially abundant place.

If you are interested in securing the cycle of prosperity, one of best books to read this summer on the sources of prosperity is 50 Prosperity Classics, an inspirational amalgamation of commentaries of the best books written on how to live an abundant life. It is a true jewel. It is the first book to systematically highlight the key titles in this area, giving concise summaries of each book’s most crucial points, how they developed and what each can offer the reader on their path towards a prosperous life. The book highlights some of the great philanthropists in history who decided to give something back, such as Andrew Carnegie, who founded thousands of free libraries and realized that true prosperity was like a circle involving the attraction, creation, management and sharing of wealth. Thus, the four elements of prosperity, as outlined in 50 Prosperity Classics, are as follows:

1. Attracting Wealth
The millionaire mindset can be learned by reading key titles from the early 20th century, such as Wallace Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich and Charles Fillmore’s Prosperity, and contemporary bestsellers, such as Ask And It Is Given and The Enlightened Millionaire.

2. Creating Wealth
The creation of wealth revolves around innovation, entrepreneurship, and the building of enterprises. This can be learned by studying the successful business biographies of our time including those of Conrad Hilton, Bill Gates and Richard Branson, The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and Starbucks’ founder Howard Schulz. The compass towards wealth creation can also found in writings by influential economic philosophers, such as Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.

3. Managing Wealth
Genuine prosperity involves understanding the basic wisdoms of personal finance and investing. 50 Prosperity Classics covers books by contemporary personal finance and investing gurus including Suze Orman and Dave Ramsay, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham and Peter Lynch.

4. Sharing It
Finally, the cycle of prosperity cannot be completed without understanding the notion that wealth must be shared. According to Butler-Bowden, the great philanthropists who died the happiest were the ones who gave their money away during their lifetimes rather than hoarding it. This is a truth that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have both realized, with their massive combined charitable foundation. Prosperous people see themselves as stewards of wealth which will eventually be given back to society in one form or another. Andrew Carnegie once said, “No man becomes rich unless he enriches others.” Thus, as soon as one understand the definition of prosperity, one does not need to feel guilty about making money because the ultimate intention is to keep it flowing and make a difference in the world.

The Harvard Business School value of the “work-life balance” can be further studied by reading Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life, authored by Howard Stevenson and Laura Nash. Dissecting this book is the next best option for those unfortunate students who did not have the privilege of taking Professor Howard Stevenson’s over-subscribed elective-curriculum course at the Harvard Business School. It is important to understand the truth that many great businesspeople of our generation focused on their work to the detriment of life. However, according to Butler-Bowden, role models of the “work-life balance” do exist, such as Richard Branson of Virgin, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks. Richard Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity, shows how one can be a big-time entrepreneur while still pursuing non-work interests. In Branson’s case, his adventures in hot air balloons and chasing transatlantic speedboat records were, to some extent, used to promote the Virgin brand; however, equally important for Branson was that they served as a personal escape from work. By overlapping personal interests with business, it is possible to secure the “work-life balance.” And most importantly, by truly understanding the cycle of attracting, creating, managing and sharing wealth-genuine prosperity will be secured.

The publisher is kindly giving away free copies to Harvard Business School students. Please contact bvongova@fas.harvard.edu if interested.

May 5, 2008
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