Gaining Worldly Wisdom

Gaining Worldly Wisdom

As a job seeker, I have to say publicly….there are way too many books on job search strategy and business strategy.

I’m also a little disheartened at the way in which a more militaristic, go-get-’em approach is being proposed in business: when classics such as The Art of War or The Prince are used as ways to develop business survival skills…well, those books may be useful for job holders (and seekers) if they were in Renaissance Italy, but not in a more technologically complex 21st century. Even classics that have a kinder, gentler edge, like Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. seem to act from an imperative – listen to our advice, it seems to say, and you will do well.

And how many times have we, as job seekers, heard that….yet our experiences often differ from reality.

So today’s post is about a “hidden” classic, written in the 17th century, provided as a series of aphorisms and explanations…and is my “secret weapon” in providing me with guidance in my job search. Think of it as my Thanksgiving eve present to you – a great resource which takes its cue not from warfare and conquest but from a sense of inner balance.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Baltasar Gracian, was written as a reaction to Machiavelli’s The Prince, and approaches the business of politics and power from a much more person-centered, “spiritual” approach. (Don’t worry, you won’t be converted to religion – just that this book contains a much more realistic, down-to-earth view). It’s not the kind of book you read in one sitting – more in bits and pieces here and there. It’s the kind of book that provides some great, small pieces of practical advice for the job seeker – things like

  • Don’t be a blacklist of others’ faults
  • Don’t risk your reputation on one roll of the dice
  • Know how to ask
  • Understand the characters of the people you are dealing with
  • When you start something, don’t raise other people’s expectations

Each of these is followed with a short paragraph explanation/meditation, and it’s a bit of a challenge to read – mostly, it’s to drive more contemplative thought than it is a solid do-it-this-way tome. It’s the kind of book that is best enjoyed in brief bursts, and that you will find yourself going back to repeatedly.

One note – you can find copies of The Art of Worldly Wisdom free online with a Google search; I would really suggest that you purchase (or put on your Christmas list) the 1992 translation by Christopher Maurer. (You can read his introduction and some sample entries via Google Books).  Yes, the translation may seem a little “new age” in tone, but what it does is help provide a kind of focus and balance. It provides some good, solid (although more philosophical) thinking about behaving in the world, and is a great resource to provide some positive guidance for your job search.

And unlike other books, you can just purchase this book – no workbooks, seminars, recipe holders, etc. If there’s one book to add to your must-read list, I highly suggest Christopher Maurer’s translation of The Art of Worldly Wisdom for job seekers.

But have you read it? Do you have any thoughts? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Or feel free to check out my other work via my web site, (You are more than welcome to connect with me via Linked In – just be sure to send me a note letting me know you came from this site).

Thanks again, and have a great Thanksgiving.


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  • Gordon ... this is available in its entirety over on ...

  • Brendan - there are free versions available, but it's a much older translation. The Maurer translation is definitely worth the money - it's written in a much more accessible, easy-to-understand style.

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