133. You can never dispense with prudence.
Publius here with a simple but important message. Prudence — let’s refresh our understanding of what prudence is, and how it can be helpful in our modern life.
Merriam-Webster defines prudence as such:
1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources
4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk
The first definition is great — self-discipline is something we talk a lot about. A keen hand in managing affairs is important as well. Skillful use of resources, huge also. Finally, a nose for danger and how to avoid it is something only a fool would argue against.
Let’s take a look at a real-life application for each one of these definitions, including the flip side if prudence is not exercised.
Self-Discipline / Governing Oneself
Why do we need to be disciplined? Why do we need to govern ourselves, if no one else is around? Because without self-discipline, you will not live up to your potential. You will succumb to the pressure to become a slothful consumer, instead of a producer. Advertisements all around — consume this content, consume that content, try this tasty new burger, drink this new sugary booze concoction, got a problem — there’s an app for that!
That is no way to live life, blown here and there by the changing winds. In today’s always-connected world, there are more distractions than ever. It takes self-discipline to stay the course of your vision. If you don’t build the muscle to govern yourself, life will pass you by and you will have it lived on the terms of others.
Managing Affairs Shrewdly
I continue to be surprised at the lack of awareness and general ham-handededness displayed by my generation.
warning: sour grapes
Let’s say you tell me about a song you’re working on, and you play it for me. While it’s not my cup of tea per se, as a fellow musician, I know the passion and bone-scraping hours of deliberate practice that went into it. So I listen intently, and give positive feedback here and there. I might even probe to see what parts of the song you consider unfinished or still in flux, before giving more pointed feedback about a part I think could be improved (because to give feedback on a part already considered “finalized” is pointless and annoying).
Now let’s say I mention I’m also working on a song, and offer to play it for you. A little back-and-forth, a little listening party if you will. You listen at first, and chime in with a generic comment about how you’re not usually into this type of music (I know. do I give a shit? did I tell you that?) and you can picture it being played at insert-generic-stereotypical-scene-here.
But then you start prattling on about some inane topic, talking over the hook, the bridge, and the fucking lead. You — as a musician — are talking over the lead. And as the song ends, you say no more about it, content to ramble on about whatever silly gossip is currently distracting your mind.
By now you may have guessed that this in fact did happen to me in real life. And yes, it seems as if I’ve got a small case of sour grapes. So after my song was done, I waited for a break in the conversation and politely excused myself with a smile and a, “cheers.” Life’s too short to get worked up about it.
But this type of lack of self-awareness, ability to read social situations, and sense of mutual investment is too common among my generation. I guess when you’re trained to consume, consume, consume, that is what you do in relationships as well. It would be wise to manage your affairs more skillfully, because you never know who you will offend with a lack of tact.
Using Resources Wisely
We’ll keep this one super brief to make up for the last mini-rant. A basic tip to improve your finances — Don’t have a checking account that constantly charges you fees. Sign up for something like a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account. No fees, reimburses all your ATM fees at the end of each month, and pays interest on your balance. Your future self will thank you.
And how about a simple tip for this last application of prudence. Before you cross the street, do not only look both ways, but look left, then right, then left. Left–Right–Left. This applies to countries where cars are driven on the right side of the road. You take the time to survey any oncoming traffic from both directions, but then ensure that no cars are approaching on the side of the street onto which you’re about to step.
Simple, but spread across a lifetime it will reduce your risk of dying as a pedestrian. Oh, and always wear your seatbelt as a driver or passenger. Always.
In conclusion, be sure to never dispense with prudence. Whether governing oneself, managing your social affairs wisely, optimizing your resources, or minimizing risk, prudence is an important virtue with which to live life.
Take chances yes, but take calculated chances where you minimize the downside and maximize the upside. We’ll have a whole lot more to say on that in a future post.
Until next time,
You should consider reading one saying every morning from a classic collection written by a Roman slave. It would be the prudent thing to do.