This book changed my life and it will change yours.

I’m not a motivational guru. I don’t have any dramatic rags-to-riches story to tell. I can’t tell you how to gain success or even what success is. I’m a writer, and writers have a different definition of success from entrepreneurs or politicians. 

But I came to a point in my career where I realized I had not achieved what I set out to achieve as a writer. My problem was not some big thing like motivation, or formulating my dream, or persistence. I had done all that and it worked – I am what I always wanted to be – a successful writer. I just haven’t fulfilled my potential.

The problem was more a collection of misunderstandings, bad habits, wrong perceptions and lazy, self-defeating attitudes I had without knowing it – an inability to behave successfully.

Then I discovered – or re-discovered – this book. 

It was my father who gave it to me, many years before, but I had neglected to read it back then. That was a mistake. 

The Art of Worldly Wisdom was written 400 years ago by a Jesuit priest in Spain named Balthazar Gracian. Of the many books he wrote, this is the one that is still considered a classic today. Written in 300 short, one-minute chapters, it is a mixture of practical philosophy and what we would today call self-help. 

Amazingly, everything he wrote about success and achievement then is still true today – every word.

The first thing that hurt were his words about fools. 

Gracian writes a lot about the difference between wisdom and folly, and of course I had always counted myself among the wise, until I began to realize that a lot of behavior he associates with fools … I had unknowingly displayed myself. 

It’s the little things, like joking around inappropriately, or not getting your priorities straight. We all tend to think highly of ourselves, but it takes a book like this to show you the faults that you do not recognize yourself. 

And of course that wasn’t all: Every chapter is full of practical wisdom that every man or woman who wants to achieve success should incorporate into their lives. 

I began reading one chapter every morning, which only took a minute or two, and slowly, insistently, I began to change the way I looked at myself and at my life. I saw that I had to change not only how I was behaving in society, but my basic presumptions about why I was doing what I was doing. 

This book gave me the means to be a person whose behavior revolved around achieving his own goals.

It is not a recipe for success – but a recipe for changing and improving yourself – for becoming a person capable of achieving an holding onto excellence.

Everyone should read this book. 

To make that possible, I am recording it in its entirely and putting each chapter individually online. On my YouTube channel (Grumpy Old Writer), you will find a new chapter as a spoken video every Monday and my own personal commentary on that chapter every Friday.

There are a lot of English translations of this book out there, but they all have the same problem: The language is often convoluted and opaque, and many chapters you have to reread several times to understand what he is saying. 

I solved that problem by taking an older translation – the classic Joseph Jacobs text from 1892 – and edited it for clarity and simplicity and modernized it (Gracian often refers to archaic myths that need explaining, so I rewrite the text to include he explanations, and of course he talks about how to be a successful man, which I changed to man or woman). My Thoughtfully Modernized Edition still features Gracian’s beautiful and dignified language, but is clearer and much more readable – a practical and useful text of the classic for our age. 

That’s the text I read online and have published under the Hula Ink banner. 

When I said everyone should read this book, I meant it – you can watch and listen to each chapter– and my commentaries – for free on YouTube or buy the book in a print, e-book or audiobook edition: The e-book is only $4.99, a price anyone can afford. 

I recommend reading one chapter every morning.

This book changed my life and it will change yours.