Reflections on Aphorisms #108

Well, I got enough stuff done today to avoid a crisis, but that’s not necessarily saying a lot.

It turns out that having my car in to have the oil leak examined actually exacerbated it, because it’s not a gasket like the shop thought but an actual crack in the part itself.

But it won’t be the end of the world.

Aphorism 148

The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than real brilliancy. (Maxim 162)

François de La Rochefoucauld


I’ve always prided myself on making use of what I have relatively well.

In truth, this is probably a fantasy, and there are quite a few things that disabuse me of the notion, but it is true that to such a degree as I am successful there is likely more to be said for making do than being particularly exceptional.

One of the things that I’ve never felt is that I’m some sort of chosen one with exceptional aptitudes.

Now, admittedly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I view myself as unimportant. But it does mean that I approach the world humbly as far as my potential.

Of course, I also believe that people have quite a bit of power and strength in them, so that’s not necessarily pessimistic.

However, as someone who’s had certain experiences as a part of growing up in my family (if second-hand anxiety is a thing, I’ve definitely got it) and been in traumatic work environments, I often find myself doubting my own potential and abilities. I know for a fact that this is keeping me down on my work; I always worry about my ability to complete my tasks.

The result is that I really value the idea that someone who doesn’t have exceptional talent can go on to create something spectacular, and overcome their basic aptitudes.

And I think that this is something universal, something that everyone can appreciate. Yes, the masters have their place, but most of the masters also have a distance from us by merit of their peculiar talents.

I think of it like classical music. I love classical music, but I grew up in a family with a lot of musicians, including (if you go far enough) professors of music and professionals with advanced degrees in music (from back when degrees meant something).

One of the things that interests me here is that most of my family members aren’t what you’d consider prodigies. They’re good, perhaps even great, at what they do, but none of them just picked up music naturally (except perhaps my maternal grandmother and a few individuals on her side of the family who I’m not familiar with). My parents, in particular, though musical, are where they are as a result of practice and not just having skill from the very beginning.

And I think that there’s some merit to that which you don’t get if you’re just particularly sharp. At some point, your edge fades, and you have to find the strength to carry on. If you’ve been tapping into that strength forever, you’ve developed it, but if you’ve been getting by on raw talent there’s not that substance there to carry you on.


Work with what I have, not what I would like to have.

When I can’t be great, at least be good.

Never waste a talent because it is humble.

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