Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Art of Worldly Wisdom

By Balthasar Gracian

We completely agree with Arthur Schopenhauer saying that this book is “made for constant use and should be a companion for life.” With just 300 concise slogans and sayings, it provides a verbal roadmap to happiness, integrity, and success. Unsurprisingly similar to the older compilations of Aesop, Atisha, Erasmus, Sakya Pandita, and the Buddha’s Dharmapada; Gracian researched and compiled the wisdom sayings available in his time and place. Many of these same insights found their way into more modern and familiar works like Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard's Almanack.

Themes

Quotes from Art of Worldly Wisdom

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

Chapters: 43. No Effort, No Trace

Themes: Power

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

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Themes: Less is More

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

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Themes: Beauty

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

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Themes: Friendship

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

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Themes: Crime

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“A resolution declared is never highly thought of.”

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

Themes: Progress

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“A wise reserve seasons the aims and matures the means.”

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Themes: Discipline

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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.”

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Themes: Conformity

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

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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

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Themes: Moral Freedom

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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.”

Chapters: 54. Planting Well

Themes: Progress

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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.”

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

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.”

Chapters: 73. Heaven’s Net

Themes: Skillful Means

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

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Themes: Wisdom

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

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Themes: Education

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“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.”

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

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

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Themes: Humility

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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.”

Chapters: 60. Less is More

Themes: Success Evil

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

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Themes: Livelihood

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

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Themes: Business

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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)”

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Themes: Ambition Success

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

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Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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

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

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Themes: Deception

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Deception

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“Do not always do things the same way.”

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Themes: Skillful Means

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

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Themes: Egolessness

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

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

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Themes: Conformity

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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.”

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Themes: Opinion

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

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Themes: Beauty

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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.”

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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”

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Themes: Inscrutable

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

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

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Themes: Friendship Evil

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

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Themes: Less is More

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

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Themes: Integrity Beauty

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

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Themes: Projection

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

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Themes: Humility

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

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Themes: Inspiration

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

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Memory Hope

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“Hope is a great falsifier of truth.”

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Themes: Hope Truth

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

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

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Themes: Contemplation

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“In times of prosperity, prepare for adversity.”

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Themes: Strategy

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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.”

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Themes: Livelihood

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

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Themes: Mistakes

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Deception

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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.’”

Chapters: 26. The Still Rule the Restless

Themes: Time

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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.”

Chapters: 33. Know Yourself

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

Chapters:

Themes: Letting Go

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

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Themes: Truth Lies

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

Chapters:

Themes: Peace Longevity

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

Chapters: 31. Victory Funeral

Themes: Enemy Hate

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

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Letting Go Water

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“Never advance unless under cover.”

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Themes: Anonymity

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

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Themes: Competition

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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.”

Chapters: 3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

Themes: Competition

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

Chapters: 36. The Small, Dark Light

Themes: Complaint

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

Chapters:

Themes: Inscrutable

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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.”

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Themes: Middle Way

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

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

Chapters: 15. Inscrutability

Themes: Inscrutable

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Inscrutable

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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?”

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Themes: Doubt Success

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

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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.”

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Themes: Confusion

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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.”

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

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Themes: Appreciation

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

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Themes: Philosophy

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

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Themes: Culture

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

Chapters: 29. Not Doing

Themes: Less is More

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

Chapters:

Themes: True Self

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

Chapters:

Themes: Less is More

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

Chapters:

Themes: Mistakes Strategy

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

Chapters:

Themes: Middle Way

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

Chapters:

Themes: Enemy Warriors

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

Chapters:

Themes: Skillful Means

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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.”

Chapters: 61. Lying Low

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

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Themes: Ignorance

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

Chapters:

Themes: Paradox

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

Chapters:

Themes: Imagination

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“The less words, the less litigation”

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Themes: Crime

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

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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.”

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Themes: Fame

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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.


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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.”

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Themes: Longevity

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

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“The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.”

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Themes: Truth

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

Chapters:

Themes: Middle Way

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

Chapters:

Themes: Mistakes

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

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Themes: Illusion

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

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

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Friendship

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“What costs little if of little worth.”

Chapters:

Themes: Consumerism

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

Chapters:

Themes: Patience

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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.”

Chapters:

Themes: Humility Belief

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

Chapters:

Themes: Inscrutable

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

Chapters:

Themes: Integrity

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Quotes about Art of Worldly Wisdom (2 quotes)

The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a book made for constant use, a companion for life... to read it only once is obviously not enough.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

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“Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety... In his experiences of life, Gracian shows a wisdom and perspicacity that cannot be compared with anything today.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

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