The protagonist, Siddhartha, a monk who looks like a beggar, has come to the city and falls in love with a famous courtesan named Kamala. He attempts to court her, and she asks, “What do you have?” A well-known merchant similarly asks, “What can you give that you have learned?” His answer is the same in both cases, so I’ve included the latter story here. Siddhartha ultimately acquires all that he wants.
Merchant: “... If you are without possessions, how can you give?”
Siddhartha: “Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instruction, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.”
Merchant: “Very well, and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?”
Siddhartha: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”
Merchant: “Is that all?”
Siddhartha: “I think that is all.”
Merchant: “And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?”
Siddhartha: “It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him. But, as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it. ”
“I can think” → Having good rules for decision-making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.
“I can wait” → Being able to plan long-term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources.
“I can fast” → Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.