Rule 44. An ounce of prudence is worth a pound of cleverness.
This maxim came from a source I had forgotten for a time, for writing about it I decided to look up the source. It came from The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balistar Garcian, a Jesuit author during the Baroque era of writing.
Usually I try to steer away from anything called “worldly wisdom,” but I read the book because a friend suggested it. The above maxim, however, did catch my eye.
Prudence is a necessary quality that keeps us on guard against doing stupid things, just as determination is applied will, prudence is applied wisdom.
Prudence implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity in discerning and selecting them. Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.Prudence is principally in reference to actions to be done, and due means, order, season and method of doing or not doing.
– Noah Webster, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Cleverness is something I will attest from the rooftops, declaring it’s profitability in life. However, as many people can agree, cleverness can only get you so far out of a bad situation. By prudence and discretion it is possible to avoid the bad situation all together, and it only takes a little thought to avoid what would take a monumental amount of cleverness and thought to get out of.