illustration of a man standing on an island and looking out at the ocean with the title Robison Crusoe written in the sky

Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe

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What qualities does Robinson Crusoe possess that make him a successful businessman?

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Crusoe does have periods of despair when he realizes he is abandoned alone on a deserted island, but he also has the ability to pull himself together and see the bright side of his situation. Rather than spending all his time lamenting what he doesn't have, he focuses on what he does have, and, more importantly from a business point of view, exerts ownership over it:

I was lord of the whole manor [island]; or, if I pleased, I might call myself king or emperor over the whole country which I had possession of: there were no rivals; I had no competitor, none to dispute sovereignty or command with me.

As the above quote shows, Crusoe sees he has cornered the "market" of this island and therefore has all the advantages that come to the owner of a monopoly.

He also carefully marshals his resources with forethought and prudence. First, he realizes it is imperative to salvage as much as he can from the damaged ship before it sinks, and he does so. Second, he surveys and takes advantage of the resources at hand. For instance, he gathers up grapes, lemons, and limes so that he will have store when the wet season comes:

I found now I had business enough to gather and carry home; and I resolved to lay up a store as well of grapes as limes and lemons, to furnish myself for the wet season, which I knew was approaching.

He also has the forethought to cultivate grapes and to dry them for a winter food supply:

In this place also I had my grapes growing, which I principally depended on for my winter store of raisins, and which I never failed to preserve very carefully.

He recognizes the need to work hard and not simply depend on the island to supply his needs without any effort on his part:

I was not idle, and that I spared no pains to bring to pass whatever appeared necessary for my comfortable support

Crusoe has a fundamentally economic mindset. and interprets the resources around him in terms of the economic benefits they can bring him. This goes as far as his thought, when he sees cannibals row to his island for a visit, that he would like to capture and enslave a few or his own benefit:

I fancied myself able to manage one, nay, two or three savages, if I had them, so as to make them entirely slaves to me, to do whatever I should direct them

With a mind constantly at work devising ways to bring more profit to himself, it is hard to imagine Crusoe failing to prosper in the business of running the island.

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Robinson Crusoe is practical. He opens his tale by giving us facts and necessary background information. When he is shipwrecked, he immediately prepares for survival by salvaging whatever he can from the wreck. He is smart and knows he will need to build a shelter, and he is imaginative by turning the sails and poles into a tent. He then shows his intelligence and practicality by recognizing that this tent is not secure and sustainable for a long term stay, and so he comes up with a list of criteria for a new dwelling place. He thinks about every aspect of survival: how he will need water, protection from other creatures, shade from the sun, and a position to see potential ships.

Good business men are smart but also recognize when they lack expertise on a subject. Crusoe displays this when planning for crops. He knows he will need food and is resourceful in planting grain, but is not quite sure how long it will need to grow:

"Accordingly I dug up a Piece of Ground as well as I could with my wooden Spade, and diving it into two Parts, I sow'd my Grain; but as I was sowing, it casually occur'd to my Thoughts, That I would not sow it all at first, because I did not know when was the proper Time for it; so I sow'd about two Thirds of the Seed, leaving about a Handful of each."

Crusoe combats his lack of skills here by planning for mistakes. He only sows some of the grain, so if he is wrong he will still have some seed left.

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I don't know that there is any set list of qualities that you must have to be a successful businessman, but I will list some qualities of Crusoe's that would probably help.

First, he is able to concentrate on his work and stick to it.  He spends a very long time working on the various things he has on his island.  He does not give up.  Instead he takes all the time that is needed to construct his fort, etc.

Second, he is very resourceful.  Given only what he can salvage from the ship, he builds himself a pretty good life.  He manages to figure out how to do things like planting trees to protect his home and he manages to pound all those poles into the ground.

Third, he clearly is able to lead men.  Everyone he meets, Friday, the Spaniards, etc, agree to have him be their leader.

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