Sunday, June 13, 2010


I'm working on several posts about history—historiography, philosophy of history and contemporary history. In the mean time, I'll put out this post: Not quite ephemera, but not terribly serious either.

I live by a series of aphorisms.

These don't represent a fully worked-out philosophical framework. I have one of those, but these aphorisms aren't it. Rather, these epigrams are simply wise words to live by. Sensible directives that aren't quite rules per se, but not merely quotes-of-the-day either.

I've picked them up from all sorts of unlikely places and people—Michelle Shocked, George Bernard Shaw, etc. Over the years, I've been adding and subtracting to this list. The first four have stood up fairly well over the last decade. The last three are still on a trial basis.

They are:

1. The secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go.

2. There's no such thing as an indiscreet question. There are only indiscreet answers.

3. Never get down in the mud to wrestle with a pig. You'll only get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it.

4. Always book your next gig before your last one opens.

5. The best deal is the one you're willing to walk away from.

6. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

7. If two people know a secret, then it's no secret at all.

These aphorisms have kept me in good stead. Do feel free to use any or all.


  1. A great article on

    In checking out your website, I noticed your aphorisms. I've also created a series of aphorisms several months ago regarding life.

    I'd like to post these here is anyone is interested in viewing them. You can check these out at:


  2. Hi GL, thanks for the great thought provoking series on ZH. The general thesis can be mutated quite a bit to allow different scenarios, but the overall theme just feels right...Bravo.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts, and insights.

  4. How about....

    A market always looks it's best at the top...
    Once a pattern is established it will fail...

    And last but not least....

    No market collapses unless you are long....

  5. good broadcast/article. keep em coming.

  6. Here's an aphorism that has stood the test of time.

    Ancient Chinese saying: "Empty barrel make most noise".

  7. No. 5 i'd say deserves a permanent footing in the list, No. 6 refers to an issue with potential for much confusion (malice can v.easily be disguised as incompetence), No.7 really depends on the person (this aphorism is a bit general, though generally right)
    I only came across your site yesterday but i get the impression you're doing good work.

  8. Similar to: Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

    Is one of mine:

    Never ascribe to conspiracy what stupidity and self-interest will cover.

    1. John, I assume that since the Libor affair was driven by stupidity and self-interest, not necessariky in that order, the co-operation among the large banks was no conspiracy? Just normal business.
      Under your guidance, can there ever be a conspiracy?

  9. Hey here is my beat one:

    Pain is not your friend.

    It works, you'll see

  10. Here are a couple of mine:

    If it doesn't seem right, it probably isn't.

    If you can take her away from someone else, someone else can take her away from you.

    Sometimes, it's better to avoid an argument than to win it.

    It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

    Best regards,

  11. Wise words from my husband in regard to big problems: "Throw a little time at it."

    Nice change, refreshing.
    Thanks from Kansas.
    P.S. No.3, pig is my favorite.

  12. When everything is bad, it's best to know what's worst.

  13. First visit to your site. Interesting.

    This has been my guiding light for years:

    Most people want to change the world to make it a better place. What a waste. If they would just take care of themselves they would be better off and so would the world.

  14. If you have a problem, and you get upset, then you have two problems.

  15. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what you've got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.

  16. There is an old saying:

    If you let the Camel get its nose under the tent it won't be long before all of it is in.

  17. You cannot shovel manure without getting a little on your own shoes.

  18. Point 6 needs a qualifier. it should read:

    6. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence unless the incompetence originates from a politician. They know exactly what they are doing.

  19. A central Texas saying that my father often used in counseling his hot-headed son:

    Why would you get into a pissing contest with a skunk?

  20. Some people learn by reading. Some people learn from other people's mistakes. And some people just have to piss on the electric fence.


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