Solomon’s Ten Secrets of Success

© by Dan Graves

Proverbs, a book of the Old Testament, was compiled by King Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. Nonetheless, this monarch’s secrets remain as relevant and practical as when first penned. This is not surprising. Human nature has not changed in the intervening millennia.

The third chapter of Proverbs, which seems to have been written to stand alone, gives ten secrets of success. The first seven secrets and the tenth each come with a promise, showing what can be expected (as a rule of thumb) when each admonition is followed. In this article, I have adapted those secrets as business advice.

Secret 1: Keep the law; you’ll get more out of your day, live longer, and have greater peace.

We are moral beings. Living by moral principles makes business more straightforward, keeps our footing secure and shields us from a good deal of worry, heartache, and disgrace. When we are doing what is right, we can concentrate more on the issues at hand than when we are distracted by negatives such as the fear of discovery.

Here the secret is in Solomon’s words:

My son, don’t forget my law; but let your heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to you.

Secret 2: Be kind and honest; then you will find favor with God and people.

This rule combines two things which at first sight do not seem to go together: mercy and truth. However, Solomon ties them together through a shared result: favor and understanding.

Wouldn’t you rather do business with someone who cares about you as a person than with someone who runs roughshod over you? Most of us appreciate the person who gives us an encouraging word, stands with us when we make a mistake, and doesn’t throw the book at us. We appreciate those who don’t hog our credit. And we appreciate those who keep their word. A study showed that one of the few characteristics the majority of self-made millionaires have in common is that they keep their word.

Here is Solomon’s version:

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about your neck; write them upon the table of your heart: in this way you will find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

Secret 3: Trust completely in God; you’ll find direction and be a lot healthier.

Secret three is so important that Solomon repeated it twice in different words. Essentially he was saying “Don’t be a know it all; look to a power greater than yourself.”

The fact is, none of us can see the end from the beginning. But those who trust in God need not fret when business undergoes a reverse. They don’t kill themselves if the stock market plunges or a factory burns down. They believe God will ultimately bring good out of such events. Quite simply put, if we look to God in our business dealings, he guides us, even if we don’t realize it at the time. Knowing this helps us to overcome serious reverses. Read the lives of Cyrus McCormick, John Wanamaker, or Lewis B. Tappan if you doubt this.

Studies have shown that those who believe in God, and who act on their belief, lead happier lives over all.

Here is how Solomon said it:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Don’t be wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil; it will be health to your navel, and marrow to your bones.

Secret 4: Be generous toward God and people; you’ll have more to show for it.

Businesses learned a long time ago that you have to give to get. The best web sites for example, offer free services or information, such as date calculators, newsletters, advice, and white papers.

Similarly, Solomon recognized that those who honor God first out of whatever they acquire (which includes giving to true charities), tend to prosper. One reason may be mental health. People who feel grateful tend to be happier. People who share with others have a pleasure misers can never know. Also, when we give, we are forced to think more carefully how to employ what we have left. This makes us better managers.

Now read it in Solomon’s words:

Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase: so shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine.

Secret 5: Accept correction; it is a sign God loves you.

We need to learn from our mistakes. In my own life, rebuke has often been my best teacher. If God thinks you are worth saving, he will correct you.

Here is how Solomon phrased it:

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loves he corrects; just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Secret 6: Learn the principles and science behind your business; you’ll make fewer mistakes, have better grounds for your decisions, and sleep easier.

Solomon wrapped his sixth secret of success inside words of praise for wisdom. The fact is, we should learn the science and sound principles behind whatever business we engage in. The laws of economics cannot be flouted with impunity any more than the laws of aerodynamics. If we want to succeed, we need to know what we are about.

This is the longest passage in Proverbs 3:

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for its merchandise is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain from it than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her: and happy is every one who retains her.

The Lord by wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding has he established the heavens; by his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto your soul, and grace to your neck. Then you will walk in your way safely, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid: yes, you shall lie down, and your sleep will be sweet.

Secret 7: Stay calm during crisis; trust the Lord instead, and your foot won’t slip.

Kipling wrote a poem which begins and ends like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man my son!

His poem is an appropriate commentary on this principle of Solomon:

Don’t be afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord shall be your confidence, and shall keep your foot from being taken.

Secret 8: Pay in a timely fashion.

No one appreciates being told the check is in the mail when it isn’t. Pay your employees and creditors in a timely fashion if there is any possible way to do so. It gains you the respect and confidence of those you deal with.

Solomon’s statement is almost a vignette:

Don’t withhold good from those to who deserve it, when it is in the power of your hand to do it; do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back later, and tomorrow I will give you something,” when you already have it with you.

Secret 9: Tolerate Competition.

Do you remember the days of gas wars, when stations tried to drive each other out of business by undercutting their prices? In Southeast Asia, gangs killed competitors in franchise wars between similar products. This is a poor business model. Today we know that if you put two pharmacies or two grocery stores on a corner, both will usually do better than either one alone. Competition is good for those who work hard and use innovative methods to hold the highest standards against competitors.

Here are the words of Solomon from which I derive this principle:

Do not devise evil against your neighbor, seeing he dwells securely by you. Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm.

Secret 10: Engage in fair business practices; then you’ll have the Lord on your side.

Any kind of coercive business dealing, whether by a corporation, mob, labor union, guild, or government, hurts the economy as a whole. When Spain expelled its Jews, its economy collapsed. When Acorn harassed bankers who would not give mortgage loans to those who could not repay, it helped create a situation in which the housing market collapsed and the United States went into an economic meltdown. On a small scale, businesses which trick people into signing documents, or who offer sneaky fine print lose credibility. There are web sites I visited once but won’t visit again because they tricked me with pre-checked subscription buttons. These are all forms of coercion. Deal openly and fairly.

The long-term benefits go far beyond anything in this world as you can see from Solomon’s words:

Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the disobedient is an abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesses the habitation of the just. Surely he scorns the scorners: but he gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

To read more lessons from Proverbs, visit Solomon and Christ.

Books Authored or Co-authored by Dan

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The Archbishop Who Killed a Man.
Anecdotes from Christian history.
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Doctors Who Followed Christ.
36 notable Christian doctors.
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Scientists of Faith.
48 notable scientists who were Christians.
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The Earth Will Reel.
A study of the Bible’s Geological prophecies. Revised 2017.
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Great Women in Christian History.
37 women who changed their world.
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This Day in Christian History.
366 days in Christian history.