Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Balthasar Gracian

1601 – 1658 CE

Spanish Jesuit, philosopher and prolific writer, Gracian amplified the slogan/quote tradition of Aesop, Yang Xiung, the Dhammapada, Atisa and continued by Erasmus and Ben Franklin. At times highly respected, he was also exiled by outraged superiors for his provocative philosophy and lost his teaching tenure. An important influence on Nietzsche, Voltaire, Schopenhauer and Winston Churchill; his book Art of Worldly Wisdom - translated into many languages – continues today as a best seller and exceptionally valuable resource of helpful advice.

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Art of Worldly Wisdom

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Quotes by Balthasar Gracian (132 quotes)

“Avoid the faults of your nation… There is not a nation among even the most civilized that has not some fault peculiar to itself…It is a triumph to correct in oneself such failings… There are also family failings as well as faults of position, of office, or of age.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

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“Know how to wait…You must pass through the circumference of time before arriving at the center of opportunity… ‘Time and I against any two.’”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

Themes: Time

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“A resolution declared is never highly thought of.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

Themes: Progress

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“All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Preeminence is always detested”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 8. Like Water

Themes: Victory

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“Always act as if others were watching… know that walls have ears and that ill deeds rebound back… know that sooner or later, all will be known.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 73. Heaven’s Net

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Be more careful not to miss once than to hit a hundred times… Evil news carries farther than any applause… All the exploits of a person taken together are not enough to wipe out a single small blemish.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 60. Less is More

Themes: Evil Success

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“Do not be the slave of first impressions… Wait for the second or even the third edition of the news.”

Chapters: 20. Unconventional Mind

Themes: Slavery

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“Do not believe, or like, lightly… Lying is the usual thing, so then let belief be unusual.”

Chapters: 71. Sick of Sickness

Themes: Lies

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“Do not make much ado about nothing… Troublesome things should not be taken too seriously… It is preposterous to take to heart what should be thrown over your shoulders.”

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Mistakes

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“Do not show your wounded finger, for everything will knock up against it… The wise never confess to being hit… Never disclose the source of pain or of joy, if you wish the one to cease and the other to endure.”

Chapters: 22. Heaven's Door

Themes: Less is More

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“Every familiarity breeds contempt… the more a person shows, the less he has… Reticence is the seal of capacity… you must pay ransom to each you tell.”

Chapters: 17. True Leaders

Themes: Anonymity

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“Every fool is fully convinced, and everyone fully convinced is a fool; the more erroneous his judgment, the more firmly he hold it.”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Doubt

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“All fools are fully convinced and everyone fully convinced is a fool.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“Hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Hope Memory

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“intelligence… lets the first impulse pass by and waits for the second, or even the third.”

Chapters: 57. Wu Wei

Themes: Equanimity

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“Leave off hungry. One ought to remove even the bowl of nectar from the lips… Little and good is twice good… Too much pleasure is always dangerous.”

Chapters: 32. Uncontrived Awareness

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“Leave something to wish for. That way you will not be miserable from too much happiness… If one possessed all, all would be disillusion and discontent… Surfeits of happiness are fatal… when desire dies, fear is born.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

Themes: Delusion Desire

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“Leave your luck while still winning. A fine retreat is as good as a gallant attack…The higher the heap of luck, the greater the risk of a slip…Fortune pays you sometimes for the intensity of her favors by the shortness of their duration.”

Chapters: 9. Know When to Stop

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“Make use of your enemies… The wise will turn ill will into a mirror more faithful than that of kindness”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 31. Victory Funeral

Themes: Hate

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“Many would be wise if they did not think themselves wise.”

Chapters: 28. Turning Back

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“Much that would be something has become nothing by being left alone, and what was nothing has become of consequence by being made much of… Often the remedy causes the disease. It is by no means the least of life’s rules to let things alone.”

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Travel Letting Go

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“Never take things against the grain… Everything has a smooth and a seamy side. The best of weapons wounds if taken by the blade, while the enemy’s spear may be our best protection if taken by the staff.”

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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“Remember to forget. The things we remember best are those better forgotten… Very often the only remedy for the trouble is to forget it, and all we forget is the remedy.”

Chapters: 79. No Demands

Themes: Forget Memory

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“Reticence is the seal of capacity… You must pay ransom to each you tell… What must be done need not be said, what must be said need not be done.”

Chapters: 77. Stringing a Bow

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“some make much of what matters little and little of much… Many never lose their common sense, because they have none to lose… The wise person thinks over everything, but with a difference, most profoundly where there is some profound difficulty.”

Chapters: 21. Following Empty Heart

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“The art of letting things alone… Remedies often make diseases worse… It takes a wise doctor to know when not to prescribe, and at times the greater skill consists in not applying remedies.”

Chapters: 24. Unnecessary Baggage

Themes: Health Medicine

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“The first great rule of life - to put up with things – is half of all wisdom… We often have to put up with the most from those on whom we most depend… Out of patience comes forth peace, the priceless boon that is the happilness of the world.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 61. Lying Low

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“The first great rule of life… is to put up with things.”

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Letting Go

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“The tongue is a wild beast – once let loose it is difficult to chain… The worst is that he who should be the most reserved is the least.”

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

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“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.”

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

Themes: Time Less is More

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“There is no one who cannot teach someone something… Wise men appreciate everyone, for they see the good in each and know how hard it is to make anything good.”

Chapters: 52. Cultivating the Changeless

Themes: Teachers

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“Things are done quickly enough if done well. If just quickly done, they can be quickly undone.”

Chapters: 54. Planting Well

Themes: Patience

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“Let there be no unnecessary expenditure of either knowledge or power… too much display today and there will be nothing to show tomorrow.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 43. No Effort, No Trace

Themes: Power

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“Think with the few and speak with the many… Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar… The wise person therefore retires into silence and if he allows himself to come out of it he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons.”

Chapters: 41. Distilled Life

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“As many sages speak through your mouth as were consulted beforehand.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Education

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“Do not always do things the same way.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Skillful Means

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“What costs little if of little worth.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Consumerism

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“Hope is a great falsifier of truth.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Truth Hope

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“Often, more is taught by a jest than by the most serious teaching.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“When you hear something positive about yourself, keep a tight rein on your belief. When you hear something negative, give your belief the spur.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Belief Humility

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“[Giants are dwarfs.] Giants are usually really dwarfs as abundance lowers importance. Don’t value books by their thickness, quantity over quality, magnitude over intensity.”

Chapters: 66. Go Low

Themes: Appreciation

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“It is great and wise to be ill at ease when your deeds please the mob!”

Chapters: 41. Distilled Life

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“Know your strongest quality and cultivate it. Everyone would have excelled at something if they had known their strongest qualities but most do violence to themselves trying to be someone else.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 33. Know Yourself

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“Let there be no unnecessary expenditure either of knowledge or power… too much display today, there will be nothing to show tomorrow.”

Themes: Less is More

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“Fools rush in through the door — for folly is always bold.”

Themes: Patience

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“The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Truth

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“Flattery is more dangerous than hatred... A wise person gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Show yourself less and you will be esteemed more.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Less is More

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“Be extraordinary in your excellence but be ordinary in your display of it.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Humility

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“Pretend to overlook things… Most things should remain unnoticed.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Less is More

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“Virtue is its own reward, vice its own punishment.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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“An ounce of wisdom is worth more than a ton of cleverness.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Wisdom

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“Never start anything new if you have doubts... decisions made with certainty often turn out badly, how much more often if you start without confidence?”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Success Doubt

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“Never let the extent of your wisdom and skill be known... guesses and doubts arouse more respect than accurate knowledge.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

Themes: Inscrutable

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“All good activity in life depends on discretion, the highest virtue — that natural tendency toward the most rational and sure actions.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 54. Planting Well

Themes: Progress

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“Write your intentions in cypher and like an inky cuttlefish disguise them.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Inscrutable

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“The wise try to hide their mistakes while fools boast of them.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Mistakes

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“Things pass for what they seem, not for what they are.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Illusion

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“Philosophy is nowadays discredited, but yet it was always the chief concern of the wise.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Philosophy

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“Everything is good or everything is bad according to who you ask… aim to be independent of any one opinion, of any one fashion, of any one century.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Opinion

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“It is intolerable when an office engrosses someone with fixed hours and a settle routine... better to leave people free to follow their devices combining variety with importance.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Livelihood

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“Good things, when short, are twice as good... well said, is soon said.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Less is More

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“The more you seek esteem, the less you obtain it... those who insist on the dignity of their office show they have not deserved it, and that it is too much for them.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Fame

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“The alternation of contraries beautifies and sustains the world... by joining extremes, the more effective middle way is found.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Middle Way

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“A beauty should break her mirror early, lest she do so later with open eyes.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Beauty

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“Leave things before things leave you... Wise trainers put racehorses out to pasture before they arouse derision by falling”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Letting Go

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“A noble nature always knows how to find an excuse for failings”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Crime

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“A friend is a second self... seek someone everyday who will wish you well.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Friendship

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“Everyone is as others wish them to be... win their hearts and so their tongues.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Conformity

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“Never compete. Every competition damages your reputation… people of goodwill are always at peace and those of good reputation are of goodwill.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

Themes: Competition

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“In times of prosperity, prepare for adversity.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Strategy

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“Politeness is the main ingredient of culture — a kind of witchery that wins regard as surely as discourtesy gains opposition.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Culture

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“Pay respect that you may be respected and know that to be esteemed you must show esteem.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Appreciation

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“affect ignorance... In everything the taste of the many carries the day... follow it in the hope of leading it to higher things.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Conformity

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“Think more highly of what fate has given you rather than what it has denied.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“The more pains you take, the more you should conceal them.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“He is twice as great who has all the perfections in the opinion of all except himself”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Humility

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“become necessary to your office instead of letting your office remain necessary to you”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Livelihood

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“It is only of little known people that the failings are little known.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Mistakes

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“Folly consists not in committing folly but in not hiding it when committed... the wise try to hide their errors while fools boast of them”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Inscrutable

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“Grace is everything - the breath of speech, the life of talent, the soul of action... without it, beauty is lifeless.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Beauty Integrity

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“Never complain. To complain always brings discredit... and to disclose one insult just creates an excuse for another.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Chapters: 36. The Small, Dark Light

Themes: Complaint

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“Deceit rules and things are judged by their surface.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

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“The chief characteristic of highminded integrity is speaking well of an enemy.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“When people press for a reply, it is best to defer it... Long expected is highest prized.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Patience

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“If you have to deny something, mature the 'no' by appealing to an inner court of revision.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Contemplation

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“The greatest wisdom often consists in the pretense of ignorance.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Ignorance

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“Better to be wise with the many than a fool all alone.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“The chief rule of life is to keep a double store of good and useful qualities.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Never advance unless under cover.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Anonymity

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“Never disclose the source of pain or joy, if you want one to cease and the other to endure.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Inscrutable

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“Don't lose your way in useless discussion and wearisome verbosity wasting time and patience on matters best left along and then not have any time left for what's important.”

Themes: Contemplation

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“He than can live alone resembles the brute beast in nothing, the sage in much, and like a god in everything.”

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“The sage should be self-sufficient, his own universal friend depending on himself alone.”

Themes: Friendship

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“Muddy fountain water doesn't get clear from our meddling but from us leaving it alone and likewise, often the best remedy for a disturbance is to let it run its course.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Water Letting Go

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“All success depends on timing. To turn out well, an endeavor must be done on its own day. At that time, seize the opportunity without hesitation.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“Find the good in a thing at once […] amid a thousand defects, seize upon a single beauty.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Beauty

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“The pompous speak with an echo and at every sentence look for applause or flattery but contempt is the only reward for self-satisfaction.


from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“Lies always come first, truth lags last limping along on the arm of time.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Lies Truth

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“[ in conversation ] Discretion is more important than eloquence.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Less is More

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“Better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about worrying them afterwards. Most think less of consequences than of excuses.”

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“It's imprudent to like people too easily because lies may be told by deeds as well as in words and this kind of deception is more dangerous.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

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“Foolish friends get you into trouble, wise ones keep you out of it.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“We’re judged by our friends, the insight of a true friend is invaluable, and yet most don’t pay attention. Choosing good friends is one of the most important things in life. Therefore choose them by choice, not by chance.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Friendship

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“Better to be cheated in the price rather than in the quality of goods. (chapter 157)”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Business

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“Study people as deeply as you study books and you won't make painful mistakes about character. (chapter 157)”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Strategy Mistakes

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“Friendship multiplies the good life, divides the evil, guards against misfortune, and brings fresh air to the soul.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Friendship Evil

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“Most things are not obtained simply because they are not attempted.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“If you enter by the gate of pleasure, you leave by the door of sorrow.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Pleasure

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“Do not listen to yourself […] the attention you pay to yourself you probably owe to others.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Egolessness

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“Better to be first in something small than second in something great because the first move has a big advantage. Those who follow look like parrots.(#63)”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Success Ambition

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“Never go to extremes or drain anything to the dregs. If you push too hard for what’s right, it becomes wrong; if you milk a cow too much, you draw blood instead of milk.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Middle Way

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“Never hurt yourself to please another, better that they suffer now than you later and in vain.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“Receive information with more caution from one who praises than from one who blames”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: True Self

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“Blame is like lightning—it hits the highest.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“The secret of a long life is to lead a good one. The two things that shorten life the most quickly are immorality and folly.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Longevity

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“You may be obliged to wage war but not to use poisoned arrows.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Integrity

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“Distinguish people of words from people of deeds and never accept wages in windy words or in politeness which is only polite deceit.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

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“He who knows himself knows how to strengthen his weakness.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Inspiration

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“All forms of one-sidedness are deformities of mind and lead to indulgencies of folly.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“The half is more than the whole, the reserve is more important that the attacking force.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Paradox

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“The less words, the less litigation”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Crime

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“The wise always hope for the best but always expect the worst.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Middle Way

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“Everyone has a high opinion of himself, especially those who have the least ground for it.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“The imagination always jumps too soon and paints things in brighter colors than the real.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Imagination

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“One of the worst mistakes we can make is taking too much to heart, being anxious about and focusing on what doesn't concern us while neglecting what's important.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Confusion

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“Live and let live. Peacemakers rule life, sleep without bad dreams, and live a long happy life without dispute.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Longevity Peace

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“He has all that makes nothing of what is nothing to him.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Projection

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“The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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“Never let things be seen half finished because deformity sticks in the imagination. To see the tastiest dishes prepared arouses disgust rather than appetite. Take this lesson from Mother Nature who doesn't bring the child to light until it is fit to be seen.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Inscrutable

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“Never compete with someone who has nothing to lose.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Competition

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“One person's misfortune is another's luck, for one cannot be lucky without many being unlucky... There are people who always consort with the unlucky, and he that yesterday flew high and happy today stands miserable at their side. That reveals nobility of soul but not worldly wisdom.”

from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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