The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian
You should aim to be independent of any one vote, of any one fashion, of any one century.
300 maxims written by a guy back in the early 1600s. Since one of his maxims (#253) is to not explain too much, the collection is disorganized and seemingly contradictory. Here's Gracian In A Nutshell:
- You are competing with everyone else on the planet (for a spouse, for a good life, etc.)
- The world keeps developing; being competitive today takes much more than it did a mere century ago.
- You can't be competitive on your own; you need the help of your family and friends.
- You always need to improve yourself:
- Find those who can teach you.
- Learn how to test knowledge, and people.
- Greatness is Ability when applied over many years.
- Apply your knowledge, and try to predict every large event in your life.
- Identify your greatest strength and your greatest weakness; work on your weaknesses and play to your strengths.
- Work hard and ascend as far as you can. When you are limited, change offices.
- Fully expect what you do to be documented and read by everyone. Be great, and that's what you will be.
- It helps to have an ideal to emulate. Pick one.
- And be aware that there is a world out there. With very different ideas
- And you need to take care of yourself:
- Trust your heart.
- Do not be a slave to first impressions. Alexander kept one ear for the other side of the story.
- Always watch what you say. Some things can never be taken back.
- Do not believe or like too lightly. Let time work its magic.
- Avoid worrying by planning and doing.
- Know how to refuse well requests, or civil expectations
- Be Sociable, this will lighten the mood on those dark days.
- Help your family and friends to be good, and they will help you.
- Always listen to your family and friends. Never disregard what they say.
- Do not act in business. But rather seek to always be in control of your emotions, showing them when appropriate.
- Test the opinions of your coworkers. Knowing how something will be received will help you decide how to proceed.
- Be varied in your abilities, hiding some. It makes you difficult to fathom, and easy to admire.
- Choose that which you work on carefully. It does no good to waste time on a project with poor odds of success.
- Wear your command lightly, do not harangue, but simply ask.
- When a thing is well done, praise it.
- Hand out difficult tasks to entice people to act to their fullest.
- Be thorough in your activities and observation of your coworkers.
- Be approachable and able to converse.
- Have patience in your dealings and let people keep their dignity.
- Use all that you have available. Including your enemies (perhaps a truthful mirror?). Use those advantages.
- Seek out the motivations and states of those around you; elicit them with a word, then tempt into action when either they or you need help.
- People don't like to be bored.
- Keep conversation and their estimations of you lively through suspense, need, and well-practiced wit (attack, parry, defend, etc.).
- Be always ready for those attacks.
- Vary how you do things. This keeps friends entertained and enemies guessing.
- Do not meddle, but plan for the life you want to have. When it is in danger,
then you must act. Be bold only when absolutely required, lest you risk far too much, too often.
- Think over things; it is better to sleep on something before it occurs than to sleep fitfully after it happened.
- That said, sometimes luck just happens. Being prepared to handle the big Unfortunates in life involves much saving and planning.
- Know that time changes everything. Everything. This hurts in times of good, and is a blessed salve in times of evil.
Places where Gracian is just plain wrong:
- Maxim 126: "Folly consists not in committing Folly, but in not hiding it when committed." This contradicts his prior position that all will be eventually known. Why have a potentially damaging secret? This seems very un-Gracian.
- Maxim 133: "Better mad with the rest of the world, than wise alone." Since Gracian positions are based upon competition, if everyone's wrong, this is a HUGE opportunity, if you can take advantage of it.