The book “The Art of Worldy Wisdom” was written by Balthasar Gracian in the 1600s. This man was praised by the famous German philosophers Neitzche and Schonepnahaur.
The book is a collection of 300 maxims explained in a little detail. It;s been translated and some claim none of the translations are near as good as the original. Sometimes words are lost in translation.
Here’s my favourite maxims from the book with some of my own commentary under them. I hope you find them as useful as I have.
✏️ NOTES & QUOTES
My notes are in bold with the ✏️ next to them
Avoid Victories over Superiors.
All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Superiority is always detested, à fortiori superiority over superiority. Caution can gloss over common advantages; for example, good looks may be cloaked by careless attire. There be some that will grant you precedence in good luck or good temper, but none in good sense, least of all a prince; for good sense is a royal prerogative, any claim to that is a case of lèse majesté. They are princes, and wish to be so in that most princely of qualities. They will allow a man to help them but not to surpass them, and will have any advice tendered them appear like a recollection of something they have forgotten rather than as a guide to something they cannot find.
✏️Note: Something everyone should learn. If you make your boss look bad by trying to show how clever you are, you’re out. In the big bad world there’s fragile egos everywhere. Watch that you don’t smash them. Be patient and do your work, but not at the expense of showing how inadequate someone else is.
There is no higher rule than that over oneself, over one’s impulses: there is the triumph of free will.
Application and Ability.
There is no attaining eminence without both, and where they unite there is the greatest eminence. Mediocrity obtains more with application than superiority without it. Work is the price which is paid for reputation. What costs little is little worth. Even for the highest posts it is only in some cases application that is wanting, rarely the talent. To prefer moderate success in great things than eminence in a humble post has the excuse of a generous mind, but not so to be content with humble mediocrity when you could shine among the highest. Thus nature and art are both needed, and application sets on them the seal.
✏️Note: This is kind of like the modern saying “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. If you have talent and a strong work ethic then you’re in the top 0.1% on this planet. The more you work with others in this world and hear stories, the more you realise how work ethic is rare and talent even rarer.
First guess a man’s ruling passion, appeal to it by a word, set it in motion by temptation, and you will infallibly give checkmate to his freedom of will.
✏️Note: Learn this to defend yourself. This is what politicians do all the time. Same with marketers. You want to look good and marry the one? Guess who uses words to appeal to you? Businesses. Guess that they tempt you with? Their amazing product. You’ll find it hard to resist if that combo hits right.
First, not in taste. O great and wise, to be ill at ease when your deeds please the mob! The excesses of popular applause never satisfy the sensible. Some there are such chameleons of popularity that they find enjoyment not in the sweet savours of Apollo but in the breath of the mob. Secondly, not in intelligence. Take no pleasure in the wonder of the mob, for ignorance never gets beyond wonder. While vulgar folly wonders wisdom watches for the trick.
✏️Note: The ancient Greeks called these people “sophists”. They say what you want to hear, they will say anything to please the masses. Politicians do this all the time. But in a personal sense, stop doing stuff just to please others. It gets you nowhere, you lose respect and you end up being a slave to others. People pleasing doesn’t come from a good place, it comes from a place of control. You want everyone to love you thus you’ll do anything to force that outcome, instead of being yourself and risk not being liked. It’s impossible for everyone to like the authentic you, and that’s fine. Don’t be a sophist.
Know how to Withdraw.
If it is a great lesson in life to know how to deny, it is a still greater to know how to deny oneself as regards both affairs and persons. There are extraneous occupations which eat away precious time. To be occupied in what does not concern you is worse than doing nothing. It is not enough for a careful man not to interfere with others, he must see that they do not interfere with him.
✏️Note: Stop getting involved in other people’s shit (unless it’s genuinely the right thing to do). You don’t have to have an opinion on everything. You don’t have to know the latest gossip about everyone. You don’t have to care about every drama in your friendship circle. Withdraw. Spend time alone, nobody does this. You risk losing yourself otherwise. Who even are you if you take away all the chat about drama, other people, love island and TV? You care more about a fake relationship on TV than your own mind. Wake up.
Fortune pays you sometimes for the intensity of her favours by the shortness of their duration. She soon tires of carrying any one long on her shoulders.
Recognise when Things are ripe, and then enjoy them.
The works of nature all reach a certain point of maturity; up to that they improve, after that they degenerate. Few works of art reach such a point that they cannot be improved. It is an especial privilege of good taste to enjoy everything at its ripest. Not all can do this, nor do all who can know this. There is a ripening point too for fruits of intellect; it is well to know this both for their value in use and for their value in exchange.
✏️Note: We often turn a brilliant holiday into a week of post-holiday hell. We try and stretch out the holiday, the pleasure from it and wish we were still there. Stop. Enjoy it for what it is and move on. We distort pleasure with our mind. It’s hard to do. Things come to an end and we feel sad, instead of a sense of joy from enjoying something so much.
Never lose Self-respect, or be too familiar with oneself.
Let your own right feeling be the true standard of your rectitude, and owe more to the strictness of your own self-judgment than to all external sanctions. Leave off anything unseemly more from regard for your own self-respect than from fear of external authority. Pay regard to that and there is no need of Seneca’s imaginary tutor.
It’s a sign of a noble heart dowered with patience, never to be in a hurry, never to be in a passion. First be master over yourself if you would be master over others. You must pass through the circumference of time before arriving at the centre of opportunity. A wise reserve seasons the aims and matures the means. Time’s crutch effects more than the iron club of Hercules. God Himself chasteneth not with a rod but with time. He spake a great word who said, “Time and I against any two.” Fortune herself rewards waiting with the first prize.
✏️Note: By passion he means being very emotionally charged.
Slow and Sure.
Early enough if well. Quickly done can be quickly undone. To last an eternity requires an eternity of preparation. Only excellence counts; only achievement endures. Profound intelligence is the only foundation for immortality. Worth much costs much. The precious metals are the heaviest.
✏️Note: Love this one. Slow and steady, one day at a time, Festina Lente. All saying the same thing for 1000s of years. Listen to wisdom that is still with us today. Stop jumping into 10 different ideas and back out. Stop trying extreme diets and yo-yoing. It’s never worked.
Adapt Yourself to your Company.
There is no need to show your ability before every one. Employ no more force than is necessary. Let there be no unnecessary expenditure either of knowledge or of power. The skilful falconer only flies enough birds serve for the chase. If there is too much display to-day there will be nothing to show to-morrow. Always have some novelty wherewith to dazzle. To show something fresh each day keeps expectation alive and conceals the limits of capacity.
✏️Note: I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of showing everything I can do for someone too quickly. Handing over all my knowledge and expertise trying to be a “good person”. It’s never been reciprocated and what a waste of energy and time.
If he thinks of No, go in search of Yes. Therein lies the cleverness, for most things are not obtained simply because they are not attempted.
✏️Note: True. It’s often people who have the balls to try that end up succeeding. Not necessarily the most talented or cleverest people.
Do not give way to every common Impulse.
He is a great man who never allows himself to be influenced by the impressions of others. Self-reflection is the school of wisdom. To know one’s disposition and to allow for it, even going to the other extreme so as to find the juste milieu between nature and art. Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement. There be some whose humours are so monstrous that they are always under the influence of one or other of them, and put them in place of their real inclinations. They are torn asunder by such disharmony and get involved in contradictory obligations. Such excesses not only destroy firmness of will; all power of judgment gets lost, desire and knowledge pulling in opposite directions.
✏️Note: this is why tracking our macros and steps are important. We gain self-knowledge of our eating habits and movement. We quickly realise how out of whack we are vs what we thought. By knowing more about our movement and eating, we can obtain self-improvement. Very simple.
Know how to Refuse.
One ought not to give way in everything nor to everybody. To know how to refuse is therefore as important as to know how to consent. This is especially the case with men of position. All depends on the how. Some men’s No is thought more of than the Yes of others: for a gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry Yes. There are some who always have No on their lips, whereby they make everything distasteful. No always comes first with them, and when sometimes they give way after all, it does them no good on account of the unpleasing herald. Your refusal need not be point-blank: let the disappointment come by degrees. Nor let the refusal be final; that would be to destroy dependence; let some spice of hope remain to soften the rejection. Let politeness compensate and fine words supply the place of deeds. Yes and No are soon said, but give much to think over.
Do not always be Jesting.
Wisdom is shown in serious matters, and is more appreciated than mere wit. He that is always ready for jests is never ready for serious things. They resemble liars in that men never believe either, always expecting a lie in one, a joke in the other. One never knows when you speak with judgment, which is the same as if you had none. A continual jest soon loses all zest. Many get the repute of being witty, but thereby lose the credit of being sensible. Jest has its little hour, seriousness should have all the rest.
Man is born a barbarian, and only raises himself above the beast by culture. Culture therefore makes the man; the more a man, the higher. Thanks to it, Greece could call the rest of the world barbarians. Ignorance is very raw; nothing contributes so much to culture as knowledge. But even knowledge is coarse If without elegance. Not alone must our intelligence be elegant, but our desires, and above all our conversation. Some men are naturally elegant in internal and external qualities, in their thoughts, in their address, in their dress, which is the rind of the soul, and in their talents, which is its fruit. There are others, on the other hand, so gauche that everything about them, even their very excellences, is tarnished by an intolerable and barbaric want of neatness.
Know Yourself —in talents and capacity, in judgment and inclination. You cannot master yourself unless you know yourself. There are mirrors for the face but none for the mind. Let careful thought about yourself serve as a substitute. When the outer image is forgotten, keep the inner one to improve and perfect. Learn the force of your intellect and capacity for affairs, test the force of your courage in order to apply it, and keep your foundations secure and your head clear for everything. mean in everything. The first and highest rule of all deed and speech, the more necessary to be followed the higher and more numerous our posts, is: an ounce of wisdom is worth more than tons of cleverness. It is the only sure way, though it may not gain so much applause. The reputation of wisdom is the last triumph of fame. It is enough if you satisfy the wise, for their judgment is the touchstone of true success.
Obtain and preserve a Reputation.
It is the usufruct of fame. It is expensive to obtain a reputation, for it only attaches to distinguished abilities, which are as rare as mediocrities are common. Once obtained, it is easily preserved. It confers many an obligation, but it does more. When it is owing to elevated powers or lofty spheres of action, it rises to a kind of veneration and yields a sort of majesty. But it is only a well-founded reputation that lasts permanently.
Things pass for what they seem, not for what they are. Few see inside; many take to the outside. It is not enough to be right, if right seem false and ill.
✏️Note: The most betrayed rule. How many times do you need to see a red flag before you run away? How many more times are you going to listen to words over actions? How many more times are you going to be fooled in the mind before you see things for what they actually are? It’s hard to accept the blatantly obvious, but if you don’t then you deserve what’s inevitably coming.
There are men of gloomy character who regard everything as faulty, not from any evil motive but because it is their nature to. They condemn all: these for what they have done, those for what they will do. This indicates a nature worse than cruel, vile Indeed. They accuse with such exaggeration that they make out of motes beams wherewith to force out the eyes. They are always taskmasters who could turn a paradise into a prison; if passion intervenes they drive matters to the extreme. A noble nature, on the contrary, always knows how to find an excuse for failings, if not in the intention, at least from oversight.
✏️Note: You can put on cynical glasses or happy glasses or whatever glasses you want. If you’re always seeing something through the lens of one past experience (example: Someone betrayed me so everyone is a betrayer) then you’ll live in a gloomy world. Being able to silo experiences and not let one wash over the next is important. Whilst we learn from the past we shouldn’t let past experiences dictate our future.
In Prosperity prepare for Adversity. It is both wiser and easier to collect winter stores in summer. In prosperity favours are cheap and friends are many. ’Tis well therefore to keep them for more unlucky days, for adversity costs dear and has no helpers. Retain a store of friendly and obliged persons; the day may come when their price will go up. Low minds never have friends; in luck they will not recognise them: in misfortune they will not be recognised by them.
Post Yourself in the Centre of Things.
So you feel the pulse of affairs. Many lose their way either in the ramifications of useless discussion or in the brushwood of wearisome verbosity without ever realising the real matter at issue. They go over a single point a hundred times, wearying themselves and others, and yet never touch the all-important centre of affairs. This comes from a confusion of mind from which they cannot extricate themselves. They waste time and patience on matters they should leave alone, and cannot spare them afterwards for what they have left alone.
✏️Note: When you’re not in the trenches, doing the work or being amongst reality this always happens. You’ll talk about shit that doesn’t matter, wasting time trying to give input that’s misplaced and not reliable.
Recognise unlucky Days.
They exist: nothing goes well on them; even though the game may be changed the ill-luck remains. Two tries should be enough to tell if one is in luck to-day or not. Everything is in process of change, even the mind, and no one is always wise: chance has something to say, even how to write a good letter. All perfection turns on the time; even beauty has its hours. Even wisdom fails at times by doing too much or too little. To turn out well a thing must be done on its own day. This is why with some everything turns out ill, with others all goes well, even with less trouble. They find everything ready, their wit prompt, their presiding genius favourable, their lucky star in the ascendant. At such times one must seize the occasion and not throw away the slightest chance. But a shrewd person will not decide on the day’s luck by a single piece of good or bad fortune, for the one may be only a lucky chance and the other only a slight annoyance.
✏️Note: Love this one. Sometimes we just have one of them days. Go to sleep, regroup and go again tomorrow. That often works. It’s like turning the computer off and on!
Select your Friends.
Only after passing the matriculation of experience and the examination of fortune will they be graduates not alone in affection but in discernment. Though this is the most important thing in life, it is the one least cared for. Intelligence brings friends to some, chance to most. Yet a man is judged by his friends, for there was never agreement between wise men and fools. At the same time, to find pleasure in a man’s society is no proof of near friendship: it may come from the pleasantness of his company more than from trust in his capacity. There are some friendships legitimate, others illicit; the latter for pleasure, the former for their fecundity of ideas and motives. Few are the friends of a man’s self, most those of his circumstances. The insight of a true friend is more…
Put up with Fools.
The wise are always impatient, for he that increases knowledge increase impatience of folly. Much knowledge is difficult to satisfy. The first great rule of life, according to Epictetus, is to put up with things: he makes that the moiety of wisdom. To put up with all the varieties of folly would need much patience. We often have to put up with most from those on whom we most depend: a useful lesson in self-control. Out of patience comes forth peace, the priceless boon which is the happiness of…
Be careful in Speaking.
With your rivals from prudence; with others for the sake of appearance. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one. Talk as if you were making your will: the fewer words the less litigation. In trivial matters exercise yourself for the more weighty matters of speech.
Distinguish the Man of Words from the Man of Deeds.
Discrimination here is as important as in the case of friends, persons, and employments, which have all many varieties. Bad words even without bad deeds are bad enough: good words with bad deeds are worse. One cannot dine off words, which are wind, nor off politeness, which is but polite deceit. To catch birds with a mirror is the ideal snare. It is the vain alone who take their wages in windy words. Words should be the pledges of work, and, like pawn-tickets, have their market price. Trees that bear leaves but not fruit have usually no pith. Know them for what they are, of no use except for shade.
✏️Note: I’ve always believed this. I respect people who say it as it is and admit things and say how they are flawed or what they did is shit. The worst people are the ones who always say they have good intentions, a silver-tongue, but end up doing the bad stuff. They deceive you and then betray your trust. A form of manipulation one wishes not to come by. Dangerous people.
In all Things keep Something in Reserve.
’Tis a sure means of keeping up your importance. A man should not employ all his capacity and power at once and on every occasion. Even in knowledge there should be a rearguard, so that your resources are doubled. One must always have something to resort to when there is fear of a defeat. The reserve is of more importance than the attacking force: for it is distinguished for valour and reputation. Prudence always sets to work with assurance of safety: in this matter the piquant paradox holds good that the half is more than the whole.
Do not live in a Hurry.
To know how to separate things is to know how to enjoy them. Many finish their fortune sooner than their life: they run through pleasures without enjoying them, and would like to go back when they find they have over-leaped the mark. Postilions of life, they increase the ordinary pace of life by the hurry of their own calling. They devour more in one day than they can digest in a whole life-time; they live in advance of pleasures, eat up the years beforehand, and by their hurry get through everything too soon. Even in the search for knowledge there should be moderation, lest we learn things better left unknown. We have more days to live through than pleasures. Be slow in enjoyment, quick at work, for men see work ended with pleasure, pleasure ended with regret.
Without intelligence, either one’s own or another’s, true life is impossible. But many do not know that they do not know, and many think they know when they know nothing. Failings of the intelligence are incorrigible, since those who do not know, do not know themselves, and cannot therefore seek what they lack. Many would be wise if they did not think themselves wise. Thus it happens that though the oracles of wisdom are rare, they are rarely used. To seek advice does not lessen greatness or argue incapacity. On the contrary, to ask advice proves you well advised. Take counsel with reason it you do not wish to court defeat.
Trust your Heart, especially when it has been proved.
Never deny it a hearing. It is a kind of house oracle that often foretells the most important. Many have perished because they feared their own heart, but of what use is it to fear it without finding a better remedy? Many are endowed by Nature with a heart so true that it always warns them of misfortune and wards off its effects.
✏️Note: The unfortunate truth. The heart is a red flag detector that’s hardly ever wrong. We are just stupid little humans who never listen to nature’s red flag device.
A Grain of Boldness in Everything.
‘Tis an important piece of prudence. You must moderate your opinion of others so that you may not think so high of them as to fear them. The imagination should never yield to the heart. Many appear great till you know them personally, and then dealing with them does more to disillusionise than to raise esteem. No one o’ersteps the narrow bounds of humanity: all have their weaknesses either in heart or head. Dignity gives apparent authority, which is rarely accompanied by personal power: for Fortune often redresses the height of office by the inferiority of the holder. The imagination always jumps too soon, and paints things in brighter colours than the real: it thinks things not as they are but as it wishes them to be. Attentive experience disillusionised in the past soon corrects all that. Yet if wisdom should not be timorous, neither should folly be rash. And if self-reliance helps the ignorant, how much more the brave and wise?
✏️Note: Nobody is better than you. Stop thinking they are because they’re in some love island villa or been in a film. Celebrity does strange things to the mind. Our imagination makes celebrities feel like they are on a different planet. We can and should admire great people, and it would be awesome to meet them in person. However, don’t raise them too highly or you’ll always feel inferior.
Do not hold your Views too firmly. Every fool is fully convinced, and every one fully persuaded is a fool: the more erroneous his judgment the more firmly he holds it. Even in cases of obvious certainty, it is fine to yield: our reasons for holding the view cannot escape notice, our courtesy in yielding must be the more recognised. Our obstinacy loses more than our victory yields: that is not to champion truth but rather rudeness. There be some heads of iron most difficult to turn: add caprice to obstinacy and the sum is a wearisome fool. Steadfastness should be for the will, not for the mind. Yet there are exceptions where one would fail twice, owning oneself wrong both in judgment and in the execution of it.
✏️Note: I was this fool (probably still am). As a ENTP (debater personality type) I’d love a debate but would hold on to views too firmly. Especially in my late teens / early twenties. I try and learn more about the views I am on the other side of than my own these days. Working on the ability to hold two opposing ideas in my head, at the same time, without imploding.
Do not take Payment in Politeness; for it is a kind of fraud.
Some do not need the herbs of Thessaly for their magic, for they can enchant fools by the grace of their salute. Theirs is the Bank of Elegance, and they pay with the wind of fine words. To promise everything is to promise nothing: promises are the pitfalls of fools. The true courtesy is performance of duty: the spurious and especially the useless is deceit. It is not respect but rather a means to power. Obeisance is paid not to the man but to his means, and compliments are offered not to the qualities that are recognised but to the advantages that are desired.
Have reasonable Views of Yourself and of your Affairs, especially in the beginning of life. Every one has a high opinion of himself, especially those who have least ground for it. Every one dreams of his good-luck and thinks himself a wonder. Hope gives rise to extravagant promises which experience does not fulfil. Such idle imaginations merely serve as a well-spring of annoyance when disillusion comes with the true reality. The wise man anticipates such errors: he may always hope for the best. but he always expects the worst, so as to receive what comes with equanimity. True, It is wise to aim high so as to hit your mark, but not so high that you miss your mission at the very beginning of life. This correction of the ideas is necessary, because before experience comes expectation is sure to soar too high. The best panacea against folly is prudence. If a man knows the true sphere of his activity and position, the can reconcile his ideals with reality
Know how to Appreciate.
There is none who cannot teach somebody something, and there is none so excellent but he is excelled. To know how to make use of every one is useful knowledge. Wise men appreciate all men, for they see the good in each and know how hard it is to make anything good. Fools depreciate all men, not recognising the good and selecting the bad.
Know how to transplant Yourself.
There are nations with whom one must cross their borders to make one’s value felt, especially in great posts. Their native land is always a stepmother to great talents: envy flourishes there on its native soil, and they remember one’s small beginnings rather than the greatness one has reached. A needle is appreciated that comes from one end of the world to the other, and a piece of painted glass might outvie the diamond in value if it comes from afar. Everything foreign is respected, partly because it comes from afar, partly because It is ready made and perfect. We have seen persons once the laughing-stock of their village and now the wonder of the whole world, honoured by their fellow-countrymen and by the foreigners [among whom they dwell]; by the latter because they come from afar, by the former because they are seen from afar. The statue on the altar is never reverenced by him who knew it as a trunk in the garden.
✏️Note: Jesus christ how accurate is this then! This is why moving away from your home town is ESSENTIAL. Nobody at home will see you grow if you stay there. When you move away, people see you as you arrive, a finished product. They haven’t seen your growth and change. A lot of people back home hate change, they resist it and refuse to accept people around them habe been able to grow and change. If you never leave home, you’ll never be who you really are. Don’t let your hometown and opinion of others there hold you back, they’ll always see you as your 13 year old self.
Know the great Men of your Age.
They are not many. There is one Phœnix in the whole world, one great general, one perfect orator, one true philosopher in a century, a really illustrious king in several. Mediocrities are as numerous as they are worth-less: eminent greatness is rare in every respect, since it needs complete perfection, and the higher the species the more difficult is the highest rank in it. Many have claimed the title “Great,” like Cæsar and Alexander, but in vain, for without great deeds the title is a mere breath of air. There have been few Senecas, and fame records but one Apelles
Attempt easy Tasks as if they were difficult, and difficult as if they were easy.
In the one case that confidence may not fall asleep, in the other that it may not be dismayed. For a thing to remain undone nothing more is needed than to think it done. On the other hand, patient industry overcomes impossibilities. Great undertakings are not to be brooded over, lest their difficulty when seen causes despair.
In Heaven all is bliss: in Hell all misery.
On earth, between the two, both one thing and the other. We stand between the two extremes, and therefore share both. Fate varies: all is not good luck nor all mischance. This world is merely zero: by itself it is of no value, but with Heaven in Front of it, it means much. Indifference at its ups and downs is prudent, nor is there any novelty for the wise. Our life gets as complicated as a comedy as it goes on, but the complications get gradually resolved: see that the curtain comes down on a good dénoûment.
Watch him that acts on Second Thoughts.
It is a device of business men to put the opponent off his guard before attacking him, and thus to conquer by being defeated: they dissemble their desire so as to attain it. They put themselves second so as to come out first in the final spurt. This method rarely fails if it is not noticed. Let therefore the attention never sleep when the intention is so wide awake. And if the other puts himself second so to hide his plan, put yourself first to discover it. Prudence can discern the artifices which such a man uses, and notices the pretexts he puts forward to gain his ends. He aims at one thing to get another: then he turns round smartly and fires straight at his target. It is well to know what you grant him, and at times it is desirable to give him to understand that you understand
✏️Note: An essential skill to have. Always think about this. If you do X then what is the outcome? Is that outcome or second step better for you or them? Why does someone want you to do X? What can they get from it? Often people conceded in one thing knowing it leads to something else that’s preferable for them. Once you unlock this ability you’ll always see it.
This depends not only on the clearness but also on the vivacity of your thoughts. Some have an easy conception but a hard labour, for without clearness the children of the mind, thoughts and judgments, cannot be brought into the world. Many have a capacity like that of vessels with a large mouth and a small vent. Others again say more than they think. Resolution for the will, expression for the thought: two great gifts. Plausible minds are applauded: yet confused ones are often venerated just because they are not understood, and at times obscurity is convenient if you wish to avoid vulgarity; yet how shall the audience understand one that connects no definite idea with what he says?
Reserve is proof of Prudence.
The tongue is a wild beast; once let loose it is difficult to chain. It is the pulse of the soul by which wise men judge of its health: by this pulse a careful observer feels every movement of the heart. The worst is that he who should be most reserved is the least. The sage saves himself from worries and embarrassments, and shows his mastery over himself. He goes his way carefully, a Janus for impartiality, an Argus for watchfulness. Truly Momus had better placed the eyes in the hand than the window in the breast.
Never take Things against the Grain, no matter how they come. Everything has a smooth and a seamy side, and the best weapon wounds if taken by the blade, while the enemy’s spear may be our best protection if taken by the staff. Many things cause pain which would cause pleasure if you regarded their advantages. There is a favourable and an unfavourable side to everything, the cleverness consists in finding out the favourable. The same thing looks quite different in another light; look at it therefore on its best side and do not exchange good for evil. Thus it haps that many find joy, many grief, in everything. This remark is a great protection against the frowns of fortune, and a weighty rule of life for all times and all conditions.
Know your chief Fault.
There lives none that has not in himself’ a counterbalance to his most conspicuous merit: if this be nourished by desire it may grow to be a tyrant. Commence war against it, summoning prudence as your ally, and the first thing to do is the public manifesto, for an evil once known is soon conquered, especially when the one afflicted regards it in the same light as the onlookers. To be master of oneself one should know oneself. If the chief imperfection surrender, the rest will come to an end.
✏️Note: what is your biggest fault?
Make use of Folly.
The wisest play this card at times, and there are times when the greatest wisdom lies in seeming not to be wise. You need not be unwise, but merely affect unwisdom. To be wise with fools and foolish with the wise were of little use. Speak to each in his own language. He is no fool who affects folly, but he is who suffers from it. Ingenuous folly rather than the pretended is the true foolishness, since cleverness has arrived at such a pitch. To be well liked one must dress in the skin of the simplest of animals.
✏️Note: Always believed in this. Act a fool to catch a fool. Sometimes it’s better to be underestimated.