01/08/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

Wisdom Painfully Acquired

From working in government and on Wall Street:

• You cannot be too cynical about politicians.

• You cannot be too cynical about Wall Street.

From my brother, Denis:

• Many people appear sane until you consider their love life.

• In the pyramid of life there is plenty of room at the bottom.

About Human Nature:

• To complain is the strongest of all human drives. The sex drive is a distant second.

• You can't win an argument with a crazy person and anyone who argues with you is crazy. Have you ever won an argument?

About Careers:

• If you want to soar with the eagles, prepare for diet of rodents, carrion and a 95% failure rate on your sorties.
• Never enter a profession that bills by the hour.

About Money:

• If someone tells you, "it's not the money, it's the principle," repay him in principle.

• For the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10) is the correct quotation. No religion ever said, for the use of money, or the donation of money, is the root of all evil.

• "One can be too rich and too thin. The Duchess of Windsor was both.

Updated Aphorisms:

• The early bird gets the worm but the early worm gets eaten. Lawyers, brokers and other predators rise early. The rest of us should sleep in.

• You can break eggs without making omelets.

• There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but I have never needed even one.

Three aphorisms repeated by fatuous imbeciles:

Better safe that sorry. Indisputable and useless. Who would choose to be sorry rather than safe? The real question is weighing the costs of safety against the probable gains from risky actions.

That's the exception that proves the rule, a statement usually offered glibly after an exception has just disproved a rule. This canard really means that an exception confirms the rule in the cases not excepted. A sign saying, "Closed Mondays," indicates that the institution is open on all other days. This is the exception that proves the rule.

You can't take it with you when you go. And you can't take faith, hope, and charity with you when you go. Also you can't take prudence, justice, fortitude or temperance with you.

A Lifetime of Learning Compressed Into One Sentence: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but even more rewarding is to curse the candle.


After warning readers last week that Starbucks was now charging by the syllable, I noticed Starbucks ads in yesterday's New York Times featuring:

  • Triple grande three pump mocha with mocha drizzle
  • Grande nonfat extra foam vanilla latte
  • Grande extra hot white chocolate mocha
  • Grande caramel plan latte with extra whip