Book Summaries Philosophy

Work Hard (The Art of Worldly Wisdom)

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.

The Art of being Lucky. There are rules of luck: it is not all chance with the wise: it can be
assisted by care. Some content themselves with placing them-selves confidently at the gate of
Fortune, waiting till she opens it. Others do better, and press forward and profit by their
clever boldness, reaching the goddess and winning her favour on the wings of their virtue
and valour. But on a true philosophy there is no other umpire than virtue and insight; for there is
no luck or ill-luck except wisdom and the reverse.

Prize Intensity more than Extent. Excellence resides in quality not in quantity. The best is
always few and rare: much lowers value. Even among men giants are commonly the real dwarfs.
Some reckon books by the thickness, as if they were written to try the brawn more than the
brain. Extent alone never rises above mediocrity: it is the misfortune of universal geniuses that in
attempting to be at home everywhere, are so nowhere. Intensity gives eminence, and rises to
the heroic in matters sublime.

Diligent and Intelligent. Diligence promptly executes what intelligence slowly excogitates.
Hurry is the failing of fools; they know not the crucial point and set to work without
preparation. On the other hand, the wise more often fail from procrastination; foresight begets
deliberation, and remiss action often nullifies prompt judgment. Celerity is the mother of good
fortune. He has done much who leaves nothing over till to-morrow. Festina lente is a royal motto.

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.

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.

Never let Things be seen half-finished. They can only be enjoyed when complete. All beginnings are misshapen, and this deformity sticks in the imagination. The recollection of having seen a thing imperfect disturbs our enjoyment of it when completed. To swallow something great at one gulp may disturb the judgment of the separate parts, but satisfies the taste. Till a thing is everything, it is nothing, and while it is in process of being it is still nothing. To see the tastiest dishes prepared arouses rather disgust than appetite. Let each great master take care not to let his work be seen in its embryonic stages: they might take this lesson from Dame Nature, who never brings the child to the light till it is fit to be seen.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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