Jean de La Bruyère’s Thoughts On Money, Wealth, And Fortune

The French essayist and philosopher Jean de La Bruyère achieved a degree of notoriety for his work Characters (Les Caractères ou les Mœurs de ce siècle), which he published in 1688.  He died young, at the age of 50 in 1696; perhaps his pen might have produced more marvels had fortune provided him more longevity. 

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What You Vote For, You Must Also Commit To

The Athenian statesman and general Phocion lived from about 402 to 318 B.C.  He was famous for his frugal and unassuming personal habits; and he always put the interests of his country first, in stark opposition to his careerist, opportunistic contemporaries. 

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Making Things Personal

I was walking today through some side-streets of Falmouth, Massachusetts and saw a lawn sign that caught my attention.  The sign said, “Drive As If Your Kids Live Here.”  What an effective message, I thought to myself.  The writer is making a direct appeal to the reader, asking him to put himself in the shoes of the people living in the neighborhood. 

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The Patriotic Wisdom Of General John Stark

One of the most impressive names in the annals of American Revolutionary War leadership is that of General John Stark of New Hampshire.  Few of his peers equaled him in fighting prowess, tenacity, and strength of character; and while his name may be unfamiliar today, this is only because he was an apolitical animal who scrupulously refused to seek the garlands of notoriety and fame.

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Some Leadership Principles Of John Paul Jones, In His Own Words

John Paul Jones, in a 1781 portrait [PD: US]

I have lately had the pleasure to read some of John Paul Jones’s correspondence during the American Revolution.  It was a surprise to me how many notables he communicated with—not just with his political superiors, but with Benjamin Franklin, the King of France, Lafayette, and many others. 

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The Ruses Of Diocles, Agnon, And Pindar

Wisdom is neither easily found, nor painlessly acquired.  If we seek it out, it is likely to present itself to the prospector in a way that conceals its true utility.  In the same way that precious metals and gems are distributed unevenly and clandestinely among geologic sediments, so is wisdom often submerged in quantities of intervening irrelevancies, or cloaked in a sheen of protective coloration.  For wisdom—prudentia—knows that only the truly worthy will bring to bear pickaxe, shovel, and grindstone to extract, refine, and polish her secret ores for all the world to see. 

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See The Throat, And Latch On To It

The Roman lawyer and government official Pliny the Younger wrote a fascinating letter to the historian Cornelius Tacitus that has fortunately been preserved for posterity (Letters I.20).  The topic discussed is whether it is better to deliver a long speech, or a short one.  Pliny says he has often debated this subject with a learned friend who believes conciseness in public speech is the best policy. 

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No Example, No Trust

The emperor Julius Valerius Maiorianus, known to English-speaking posterity as Majorian, was a vigorous and able sovereign.  He is conceded to have been one of the last western Roman leaders who made an energetic effort to maintain and improve the empire’s institutions.  Even Gibbon, who usually had only snide comments for the later occupants of the Roman throne, condescended to say a good word for him in chapter 36 of his History.  

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Our Actions Direct The Waters Of Fortune

There are many men who lack a certain sense of awe and grandeur at the inscrutable workings of Nature.  They are apt to favor crank theories instead of considered judgments; and they recline in  negativity and pessimism when the time comes for them to perform in the face of adversity.   They lack faith in the ability of the human soul to accomplish truly great things, because they themselves have no awareness of the capacities of that divine soul. 

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