Updated on 09.16.09

The Sleeping Fox Catches No Poultry

Trent Hamm

I love reading essays, and I have a collection of essays that have truly inspired me and made me think. Among these is Benjamin Franklin’s classic The Way to Wealth – something I often read when I need a piece of financial inspiration. If the circa-1750 language is rough on your eyes, here are the principles summarized well by Art of Manliness.

Just a few days ago, I read The Way to Wealth again. I was inspired to read it by our survival of the “summer of low income” – I made a tough choice to switch my advertising revenues for The Simple Dollar that resulted in basically no income during the summer, but we made it through to the other side with little problem.

As I was reading through The Way to Wealth, one phrase really stood out at me this time:

The sleeping fox catches no poultry.

What exactly does that little phrase mean in terms of our modern lives? I see it as a call to five things.

It’s a call to be alert. Our world is full of opportunities. Sales. Small investment opportunities. People trying to get rid of things. New jobs. New careers. Love interests. Friendships. Ideas. Purely lucky events, like finding fifty dollars in a parking lot. Every day, we’re brushed with many of these things. If we’re alert, we can see them – and if we choose to, we can take advantage of them, jumping in with abandon. You’ve got to keep your eyes open and see the world as a field of blossoming opportunities.

It’s a call to have resources in reserve. Of course, many of those opportunities are hard to pluck if you don’t have anything to pluck them with. It’s incredibly useful to have some money in reserve. However, money is just one of many resources that’s useful to have in reserve. Do you have relationships you can tap for advice or other things? Do you have time – are you not booked to the maximum with no flexibility in your schedule? Do you have patience to wait for good things to come? Do you have skills and talents that you can apply and share? Resources mean more than just money – much more.

It’s a call to know what you want. The fox sleeps outside the henhouse because he has a hunger for chickens. What are you hungry for? What are your passions? Figure them out and follow them, because when you’re chasing your passions, you’re showing others – and yourself – that this is a life direction that you want. You see more opportunities because you’re passionate, and you’re able to follow up more often because of the knowledge and insight you’ve picked up chasing your passions.

It’s a call to be aggressive. If you’re sleeping, you’re letting the world pass you by. Instead, seek out the opportunities in life. Instead of glancing at that yard sale, stop there. Instead of debating whether to pay $35 for that oak desk, offer $20 for it. Instead of thinking how fantastic that job would be, ask for it. Learn how to be assertive and go after the things you want.

It’s a call to get out there and DO something. Today.

Are you the sleeping fox? Or are you out there, alert, aware, drawing on all of your resources, and catching those hens that you hunger for?

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  1. Hey, Trent, I like the way you “call it the way you see it”. I have been following your blog for some time now, and I want to link my blog to yours, because your content is always excellent.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  2. Patty says:

    Thanks for the historical note….. I truly enjoyed getting an additional link to the reading. It is really inspirational that Ben Franklin penned them.
    Again, thanks

  3. Lenore says:

    If I were a fox (like Megan Fox, for example), I could sleep around and catch plenty of poultry (or diseases). Was that irrelevant? Irreverant? Sorry, must be the Benedryl talking because it’s still allergy season. Ben Franklin rules!

  4. Great stuff and all true.

    I have learned first hand that it does not matter what the economy is doing or any other external factors or excuses that you want to make.

    There is a ton of money out there to be made, and it can be done by following some of these bits of advice mentioned in Trent’s post—don’t miss sales/investment opportunities, follow your passions and be aggressive.

    Great stuff!

  5. I frequently ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” if I am debating whether or not to be more aggressive. That pushes me over the edge to make my move.

  6. Little House says:

    These are great tips, especially given the fact they’ve spanned over 250 years! I agree with them all, especially being alert and aggressive with opportunities. Too many people sleepwalk through life and end up in a place they don’t recognize. I’m one of those people who has no intention of ending up somewhere “accidentally” because I didn’t commandeer my own ship!

    -Little House

  7. Ellen says:

    Your point about being passionate about what you do really hits home for me. This is something I have often struggled with. Growing up I was encouraged to pursue a career that I would enjoy, rather than something that would just make me rich quick. Through college, I watched friends of mine major in whatever would get them a job offer by graduation, and most of them hated what they did. Chasing your passions isn’t easy and at times you feel like you are getting nowhere. But with all things in life, it takes time to see real results. You just have to take action and keep working at it to get up that big hill.

    On another note, you say, “If you’re sleeping, you’re letting the world pass you by.” I think it would be interesting to see how the world would function if we didn’t need sleep. What do you think?

  8. Dave says:

    The Way to Wealth is just about THE best general financial advice I have ever read…even if it is 250 years old! Like Trent, I also refer back to it to refresh my memory and to remember Mr. Franklin’s pithy yet insightful quotes. I tend to shut-up my Tea Party friends with this one:

    “Friends,” said he, “the taxes are indeed very heavy, and, if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.”

  9. Eileen says:

    Just wanted to say a quick thanks. With two small kids I don’t have time to read as much as I’d like, so when I read your summaries, then do my own reading at night, I feel like I’ve doubled my nightly education. Keep up the great work! Eileen

  10. K Ann says:

    This is the sort of fabulous article that keeps me coming back to the Simple Dollar. I’d like to see you choose one of Benjamin Franklins quotes from The Way to Wealth weekly to expound on as you did this one. Way to go!

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