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Riches: An Interpretation

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE the word riches?

The answer you give is exactly what this book will mean to you. When the word riches is used from here on, it will mean riches according to your interpretation.

Some of you will visualize riches as an unlimited supply of money; a regal estate; a yacht; an airplane, etc. And if this is your objective—fine. Build upon it in your imagination and, as you continue reading this book, you’ll find it will be well within the realm of possibility to make your dream a reality.

Perhaps you interpret riches as meaning leadership: leadership in politics, in industry, in commerce, etc. Should your desires fall in this category, the contents of this book will put you on the right track to fulfilment.

You might think that wishing for both material riches and riches in personal power is expecting too much. But it is not. In fact you can hardly have one without the other. But beware! To wish for both—or even one—would get you nowhere. Be careful of that word wish! It can do you more harm than good as you’ll later learn.

I once heard a definition of riches which may apply to some of you.

Edel and I were visiting the cozy bungalow of a day labourer and his family. The house was small, but very tastefully furnished. It contained most of the modern conveniences. The small yard showed evidence of a green thumb. The mortgage on the house had been fully paid off. The husband had an income on which the family could live comfortably, and he was assured a pension when his day of retirement arrived. The total physical assets of this family would not exceed $12,000.

“I consider ourselves to be the richest family in town,” she said with great pride. “We have no financial worries” she continued, “and perfect harmony reigns throughout our house.”

If you have not attained this level of riches, you can think of it as your first plateau and use the power you will gain from this book to lift you up to it. Upon reaching this standard you can raise your sights once more and continue your climb to higher and higher realms.

There are those on this earth who possess practically nothing of a material nature, but who consider themselves rich, because of their happy minds and healthy bodies.

I do not believe any one of us should aspire to be a Croesus, because material riches can engender unhappiness as easily as they can raise one to the heights of ecstasy.

At this point I am going to ask you a very pertinent question:

“What is the greatest good one may expect from riches?”

To have money in the bank; to own a palatial home; to be able to entertain lavishly; to be able to travel anywhere anytime—in first-class manner—and to have a wardrobe which would be the envy of all, are a few of the things you might consider as being the advantages of riches.

Think of these things and anything else which might be associated with money and you will still be wrong as far as an intelligent answer to the question is concerned.

The real reason for wanting riches is to be happy. This is the end result of all accomplishment. Although one thinks his goal is riches, in reality he is seeking the soul-satisfying happiness which comes with achievement; the riches are his reward for attaining his objective.

At this point, let me cite a few illustrations which will make my point clear:

A New England capitalist had a unique way of spending his surplus money. He owned a large, fully stocked farm. Each summer a large number of underprivileged children was invited to spend a few weeks at this farm. The kiddies were given the best of everything: fresh, pure dairy products; the best meats of all kinds; delicious fruits and vegetables, etc. The boys and girls were under the supervision of affectionate, capable attendants.

This philanthropist could not possibly be happier using his money in any other way. He would retire at night with a smile as he thought of the joy he was giving to children who were not used to it.

And then there is a generous financier in New York who gains his happiness in quite a different way. He knows the value of home ownership and enjoys seeing young people own their homes free and clear of all encumbrances. He is constantly on the lookout for deserving young couples. When he finds one, he has his assistant make an investigation to learn the extent of the mortgage and who holds it. This bighearted man arranges to have the mortgage paid off— anonymously—and a clear deed sent to the worthy two.

It is not hard to imagine the peace of mind this open-handed individual is gaining from life.

Permit me to give you an illustration from the other side of the fence: the story of a couple whose lives have been made unhappy through the acquisition of riches.

As soon as they became rich, they had quite an extravagant home designed and built. Their garage housed two of the most expensive automobiles. The wife would not think of buying her gowns in any place except Paris. The husband was most popular in the swankiest country club.

But was this couple happy? Not by a long shot.

On week ends they would entertain sumptuously and, of course, on Mondays they would find themselves with big heads and a “dark brown” taste in their mouths.

Through overabundant living, their digestion and general health suffered. Through dissipation, their faces accentuated their ages and lacked the magnetism so easily acquired with proper living.

Were they happy? Their every expression revealed unbearable boredom. The head of this family worked diligently—and, undoubtedly, intelligently—in his pursuit of happiness. He gained his wealth, but because he didn’t understand just what true happiness was, he fell dismally short of his goal.

There is another definition of riches which should be considered and which, to my mind, is one of the most important of all.

“He lives a rich life” is often said about certain lucky people. What is a rich life? It is one well rounded with many interesting and illuminating experiences. Such a man’s day is separated into units of creative work, rest, recreation, and entertainment. No one of these, alone, is enough to produce happiness.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a saying I have heard since childhood; and it is true, no matter how many of us fail to heed its advice.

But to spend all your time resting would actually become tiresome. The purpose of the rest would be defeated. If rest and relaxation are indulged in between periods of work, they will both be thoroughly enjoyed, and you will also enjoy your work when you return to it.

Entertainment is the “dessert” one enjoys at the close of a satisfying day of work. Just as “all work and no play” is not to be desired, continuous entertainment would fail to give perfect happiness.

During periods of recreation you should allow time for constructive reading, and you should expand your circle of friends and acquaintances by allowing time to converse with others.

You can now see that a rich life is a blending of all the desirable elements of life.


Before starting this chapter, I asked this same question of many men and women in all walks of life. The variety of answers was as different as the people questioned.

A mechanic said: “I would give up my job, sell my house, then do nothing but travel for the next several years.” Do you think he would be happy? I doubt it.

I knew a man who retired from the presidency of a large corporation. He sold his home and intended to spend much of his life traveling. He became so bored with this existence that he returned to his former city, bought a new home and established another business.

An office manager unhesitatingly answered the question thus: “I would buy this business and become my own boss.” One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to learn much about this man from this simple answer alone. It is likely that this man is “bossed” too much, which makes him want to own the business so that he can do the bossing.

No man in business is ever his own boss. He has as many bosses as he has customers. He must give satisfaction or his customers will begin bossing him.

Perhaps this office manager is having financial difficulties and feels it would be great to head a company and have each mail bring him huge checks. But what this man and others seldom think about is that an executive’s salary is just as dependent as the office manager’s on the amount of money that comes into a large company.

Do not misunderstand me. It’s great to head a business of your own; but you must grow into it.

A housewife was asked what she would do with riches. I liked her answer.

“I have so many friends and relatives who are not enjoying the best things in life. I would like to take them, one at a time, and do things to make them happy. One I might take to a fine store and outfit her from head to toe with good clothes. Another I would take on an all-expense-paid trip. Still another has a good head for business, and I’d like to help him to develop a small business.”

The things she would do for others made a long and unselfish list. There was an expression of great sincerity on her face as she described what she would do with riches. She proved that she knew the truth of the statement that happiness comes from giving happiness.

A boy in his late teens was asked the same magic question:

“What would you do if you had riches?”

“Aw, gee, mister, I don’t know. I think, first of all, I would get Dad the motor boat he has always wanted. I would get Mom all the modern things for her kitchen and laundry so she wouldn’t have to work so hard. And for me, I would go to one of the big colleges and study electronics.”

Doesn’t a statement like that make you wish you could give this lad riches right now so that he could put them to work in such a wonderful way?

An uncultured, uneducated man was asked what he would do with riches.

“What do I want with riches?” he blurted. “Shavin’ and dressin’ up for meals, and mixin’ with the snobs and high-hats is not for me. I’m satisfied just as I am.”

To men like him this book offers little help. They would read it fearing that some of the suggestions might rub off on them and cause them to change from their present relaxed mode of living.


As you will discover before you finish reading this book, you can acquire riches—and in a manner far simpler than you ever dared to imagine. You can become rich in any form you wish: rich in material goods—money, home, etc.; rich in mental and spiritual blessings; rich in personal power and leadership; rich in friendships. Wouldn’t it be a good idea then to begin deciding now what kind of riches you feel would give you the happiness you strive for?

If you have been living as the average citizen lives, earning enough to get by, having the necessities of life, and a few of the luxuries, your interpretation of riches may be rather mild. Your bills all paid and a few thousand dollars in the bank could be a situation so far beyond your present status that it would seem foolish to “dream” further.

Do you know that the ability to acquire riches is a state of mind? Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, said: “Anything the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” To gain the full import of this statement, you must think about it. Your mind might conceive the wish: “I’d like to be a power among men; I’d like to have money—lots of it.” But if your mind could conceive the picture of yourself as having power and money; and if you really believed you could have power and money—brother, watch out; you’re on your way!

W. Clement Stone, when he was a young man (and he is still a young man), conceived the image of himself as the head of a large insurance company, and he deeply believed he could become the head. With a beginning of not more than $100, he went on to carve an insurance empire and multiply his original $100 into a personal fortune of $100,000,000. In the book he co-authored with Napoleon Hill, SUCCESS through a Positive Mental Attitude, he tells you how he did it. The pattern Mr. Stone followed was a simple one, once more proving the efficacy of Mr. Hill’s motto: “Anything the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”


Up to this point, nothing has been said about the provocative title of this book. It does sound fantastic, but as you learn more about the operation of the mind, you will find that our futures— whether successful or otherwise—are shaped in our subconscious minds, and mostly during the period of sleep.

Hundreds of self-improvement books have been published, but I doubt if many of them have been able to convey an
understandable picture of the vital part our subconscious minds play in our lives.

The average concept of “mind over matter” is that if you think in terms of success, you will manifest success. This is true; but what does it mean? Do you really understand it?

A woman came to me, principally to take issue with some of my theories. She did not disagree with my statement that “we first think in terms of success before we manifest success.” “But,” she explained, “it takes more stamina than I have to follow through with the effort necessary to back up my success thoughts and make them a reality.”

Her concept of developing mental power, and then making use of it is entirely wrong; and, I fear, it coincides with the thinking of most people who are exposed to theories of mental self-development.

I once wrote a booklet called “Developing the Urge for Self-Improvement.” This treatise pointed out that most people, after leaving school and college, realize that their education— instead of being complete—is just beginning. They realize that they should take steps to add to their storehouse of knowledge—and many of them do. They get books and home study  courses and make a brave attempt at adding to their present knowledge. It is questionable how much good they derive from this additional study, because they are doing it feeling they should do it. But, if they can create the urge to want to study, they will do so because they get a thrill every time they learn something new.

If you are trying to establish a thinking pattern along success lines, and have to discipline yourself to act contrary to your natural tendencies, it becomes drudgery, and extremely boring. Few will continue with such a regime; coming to the conclusion that “this is not intended for me.”

On the other hand, once you have accepted the idea that you are a success, your subconscious mind will guide you to the type of thought and action which will produce success. There will be no driving yourself to follow certain procedures; you will do all of the things in keeping with the success plan because you want to do them.

Isn’t all of this exciting? Can you wait until you begin taking the steps which you now instinctively know will liberate you from “pay-day blues”?

No, I am not digressing from the remarks I made earlier about “growing rich while you sleep.” I am including the previous points to help make it apparent to you that to grow rich while you sleep is not fantastic, but a natural phenomenon of the subconscious mind.

As I have pointed out in many of my previous books, we have two minds: the conscious and the subconscious minds. The conscious mind takes care of all of our thinking, scheming, and planning, while the subconscious mind looks after all of the involuntary operations in the body: breathing, circulation of blood, restoration of worn tissue, etc. In addition to this, it has reasoning powers independent of the conscious mind. While the conscious mind is working on one thought, the subconscious mind can be devoting itself to something else.

Haven’t you often said: “I have a feeling I should do this” or “I have a feeling I should not do that”? I know you have. Where did that “feeling” come from? It did not float from free air and bump into your mental antennae. It came from your subconscious mind.

If the “feeling” was negative in its nature, it was because you habitually feed your subconscious mind with negative thoughts. And the reverse is fortunately true. Positive thinking will create positive reactions in your inner mind.

When you arise in the morning, what is your normal tendency? Do you slip into consciousness with the thought: “Well, another day at the grind. Gosh, I wish I could sleep another hour or two!”

Or, do you start your day with vibrancy and the thought: “Boy, I feel good! I’m going out and shatter all records today.”

Why the great variation in day-openers?

Is there something physically wrong with the one who sluggishly starts his day? Perhaps yes in a few rare cases. In the great majority of instances, however, the condition at waking is a reflection of the thought pattern established in the subconscious mind the night before.

If you go to bed with thoughts such as: “Boy! Today was a tough one. I have some hard nuts to crack tomorrow which I am not looking forward to,” etc., etc., etc., you are apt to be restless all night long, while your subconscious mind mulls over the “tough day” thoughts you gave it earlier. Is it any wonder you awaken dreading the new day?

But, suppose you go to bed building on such thoughts as: “Boy, will I knock them over tomorrow! Today was a fairly good day, but nothing to be compared with what I’ll make it tomorrow. I’m going to turn in, have a good night’s sleep, and wake up early, raring to start the big day.” Isn’t it easy to understand how such an established thought pattern will bounce you out of bed with extreme enthusiasm?

Now then, isn’t a ray of light beginning to pierce the cloud of uncertainty which confronted you when you first saw the title: “Grow Rich While You Sleep”?

In fact, don’t you begin to appreciate the fact that the only way you can trigger success consciousness is while you sleep?

Whenever a powerful thought seeps into my consciousness I sense a slight twitching in the general neighborhood of my solar plexus. This, I am sure, is the building within of an urge to “get-up-and-at – ’em.”

Right now as I reread this chapter before starting on the next, I notice the same physical reaction, indicating, I am sure, that although the thoughts in this book are my own, and even with as much as I am accomplishing, I have far from reached my capacity of achievement.


Has that “twitching” caught up with you? Do you now intuitively know that the magic password “Open Sesame!”, which unlocks the door to a life of great abundance and glorious happiness, is yours?

If you don’t feel the “twitch,” you have not been concentrating while reading. So, for your sake, have a little break of some kind—thoroughly relax—and then reread this chapter before starting the next one.

In fact, in any event, it might not be a bad idea to read the chapter again before proceeding. It will be a fine way to get a good start to the new life awaiting you.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.