The Best Writer You’ve Never Heard Of
There are many great writers throughout history. Most are well-known and deservedly so. People like Montaigne and Machiavelli are well-known for having lived some 500 years ago.
Their wisdom has trickled down through the ages.
The same goes for Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Locke, Hume and many many others whose work has survived them, and is being read to this day.
Yet one such writer, undeservedly lives in obscurity.
His name is Baltasar Gracian.
A Jesuit priest and orator from 18th century Spain.
A writer and thinker who understood people at the deepest level.
Understood what made them tick. What still makes them tick.
What makes Gracian so interesting is that even though technology and the world around us, has changed mightily since the 18th century, people have not.
People today are exactly the same as they’ve always been.
They are still driven by the same impulses, and governed by the same paradoxes that makes the human condition so perplexing.
Gracian understood people better than most.
He understood why people are drawn to power, how to get power, and what makes people fall from power.
More than anything he understood what makes people charismatic and attractive.
This book is a powerhouse of maxims, packed full of wisdom, you can use in your daily life.
Today, I am going give you three of them:
For thus the first and highest cause foresees and furthers the greatest objects. By gaining their good-will you gain men’s good opinion.
Some trust so much to merit that they neglect grace, but wise men know that Service Road without a lift from favour is a long way indeed.
Good-will facilitates and supplies everything: it supposes gifts or even supplies them, as courage, zeal, knowledge, or even discretion; whereas defects it will not see because it does not search for them.
It arises from some common interest, either material, as disposition, nationality, relationship, fatherland, office; or formal, which is of a higher kind of communion, in capacity, obligation, reputation, or merit.
The whole difficulty is to gain good-will; to keep it is easy. It has, however, to be sought for, and, when found, to be utilised.
Get in peoples good graces. Especially your superiors.
Find a common interest and play it up, until you convince them that you are alike.
Whether it is origin, hobbies or mannerisms — it doesn’t matter as long as you convince them you are alike. We like people who are like us.
This eases your way into people’s hearts. Once you are there they will see neither fault nor faulty-ness.
On the other hand, if you have not won people over, it won’t matter how good you are. All they will ever see is your mistakes.
The modern picture of this is Warren Buffett.
He is so massively successful in part because he is so persuasive. And he is so persuasive because he gets in peoples good graces.
He connects with people on a personal level, no matter if they are.
Practice this and it can take you far.
Never talk of yourself
You must neither praise yourself, which is vain, or blame yourself, which is little-minded
It ill beseems him that speaks, and ill pleases him that hears. And if you should avoid this in ordinary conversation, how much more in official matters, and above all, in public speaking, where every appearance of unwisdom really is unwise.
The same want of tact lies in speaking of a man in his presence, owing to the danger of going to one of two extremes: flattery or censure.
Never speak ill of yourself. It annoys the listener and has a negative effect on yourself.
Don’t praise yourself either. It comes across as braggy and self centered.
This goes for others as well. Do not speak of people in their presence. Whatever you say is bound to make them uncomfortable.
Remember how you should gain good-will? This is one way you are not going to do that.
Never talk of yourself. Or of others in their presence. People don’t want to hear it.
The modern picture of this is Elon Musk.
The Raddest man in the world, and never a word about himself.
About Tesla, SpaceX and his vision for Humanity, yes. But never of himself.
This too can be achieved with practice.
Maxim 3: Grace in Everything.
It’s the life of talents, the breath of speech, the soul of action, and the ornament of ornament.
Perfections are the adornment of our nature, but this is the adornment of perfection itself.
It shows itself even in the thoughts. It’s most a gift of nature and owes least to education; it even triumphs over training.
It is more than ease, approaches the free and easy, gets over embarrassment, and adds the finishing touch to perfection.
Without it beauty is lifeless, graciousness ungraceful: it surpasses valour, discretion, prudence, even majesty itself.
It’s a short way to dispatch and an easy escape from embarrassment.
Whether you are a consultant, an engineeer, a banker or in public office, grace is of the essence.
It is the final touch that completes your work. The elegance and ease with which you do things, is what makes you stand head and shoulders above your competition.
This was true in the 18th century and it is true today.
Practice gracefulness. Practice making things look easy. No matter how hard you’ve worked.
Gracefulness is the easy touch, the elegant solution and the quick turns of phrase that elevates your status.
The modern picture of gracefulness is Barack Obama.
No matter what he did or how sticky of a situation he was in, he always managed to act gracefully.
You and I can do the same if we put our minds to it and practice.
From the outside it will seem like magic.
The wisdom of Baltasar Gracian is timeless. The three maxims above are but a glimpse of what he has to offer.
The depths of his philosophy can be plumbed to no end. There is much to learn, much to read and much to practice.
And there is no better master to learn from, than this 18th century Master.