To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid; you must also be well-mannered.

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid; you must also be well-mannered. – Voltaire

He's happy. He got the loan, and now has the car. Will he still be smiling after he gets done with the insurance paperwork? Did he think ahead, or was he a little stupid?

He’s happy. He got the loan, and now has the car. Will he still be smiling after he gets done getting the insurance? Did he think ahead, or was he a little stupid?

What does that mean?
This is another example of the biting wit of Voltaire. He was also showing us how little things have changed since his day, roughly 300 years ago. The quote talks about the two things you need to get ahead in the world.

The first is stupidity. Yes, that sounds the opposite of what you would expect, but far more people achieve ‘success’ by attaching themselves to someone powerful than by making it on their own. Those too stupid to do it on their own need to find a benefactor.

That’s where the second half of the quote comes in. By having good manners, you can more easily ingratiate yourself, and stay in their good graces. Think about it, they even invented names for these people, including toadie and lick-spittle. They existed then, and they exist now.

Why is effort important?  
The amount and type of effort a lick-spittle or toadie puts into becoming successful in their way, they could easily be successful on their own. They just don’t consider what they do as something which requires effort. The effort only increases as they ‘work’ their way towards the top, and fight off the next person in line.

In contrast, many of us put our effort into either our jobs, our hobbies, our businesses, our families, or into our community. Yes, there are some people who are nearly effort-free, living off the largess of others, but they are few and far between. The rest of us tend to stay busy, even to the point of having to schedule our down-time.

We may be a little uneven in our application of effort, but we all have our moments. And somehow, we seem to manage to succeed without being stupid, and despite our lack of social graces. It works out, at least some of the time, right? And I’d rather be less than stupid, less than well-mannered and still succeed.

Where can I apply this in my life?
At, stupid is defined as “Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes.” and “Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish.” The lack of intelligence we cannot really address, but we can be more aware, take more care, make better decisions, and work on becoming more wise.

So how do you work on staying out of the ‘stupid’ zone? I would imagine that the largest fraction of our difficulties are from being careless in our actions or not thinking things through before making a decision. But what can we do to help limit those kinds of mistakes?

I believe that we can do quite a bit. How often do you make a ‘careless’ mistake? We all do it from time to time. It usually has something to do with being tired or distracted, at least for me. So to reduce these, rest more and work on focusing on the task at hand. Easy, right?

That’s an overly simplified version of what I believe can work, or at least it has for me. As an example, earlier this week, I forgot to click the ‘publish’ button on a post, so many people saw the last saved version, which didn’t even have the picture inserted. How embarrassing.

I’d been up late battling network issues at home (again), and allowed myself to become distracted before I completed the work. Rather than actually double checking the work, I simply assumed that it was all done, and went to bed. You do know what it means when you ‘assume’ right?

In this case, I should have known better, and double checked my work. I try to remember to do this any time I am tired or not at the top of my game, just to avoid a careless mistake. When do you make most of your careless mistakes? What can you do to try to limit their frequency and damage?

The other major source of ‘that was stupid’ moments is not thinking a decision all the way through. How much thinking does that involve? The simple answer is “as much as it takes to reach the proper conclusion.” Not a very useful answer, is it?

Most of us are wise enough to know that actions have consequences, and to not just grab the cheese off the mouse trap. Or at least we won’t do it twice. But how often do we think about what comes next, after the desire and the action?

Yes, we want a shiny new car. We figure out what it costs and what the payments are going to be, and we buy it. Then we go to the insurance company and find out that it’s going to cost even more to insure. Oops. That was stupid, wasn’t it?

We make decisions all the time. If you find you’re regretting them more often than you’d like, you might want to consider thinking things through a little more thoroughly. You can do this or that. Pick one, and ask what happens next. Then go back and consider what happens after you pick the other.

What is your path to success? Will you put your effort into kissing butt, or will you work hard at making good decisions and being careful in your actions? Think about the path, both the first step, and the one after that. Do you end up where you want?

From: Twitter, @famousquotenet
confirmed at : (although says it’s unsourced…)
Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer



About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
This entry was posted in caution, decision, effort, foolish, intelligence, judgement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid; you must also be well-mannered.

  1. doug says:

    So many ‘good’ decisions gone worng due to things you did not know you did not know, i.e. learning the hard way, another side of the coin is taking risks, the notion of risk takers has become politicized, and winners glorified and loosers mocked… its a whole shmorgasboard of different perspectives on closely related ideas.

    • philosiblog says:

      Yes, it life isn’t clear. Neither is it fair. We just have to move forward as best we can, learn from our own mistakes as well as those of others. And we should, at least in my opinion, work to make it easier for those who follow, so that they can learn from our mistakes. Hence this blog.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving your thoughts.

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