20 sec reading: How to behave like a fool

EN ESPANOL, CLICAR AQUI>> Nasrudin siempre elije mal

Illustration by Ken Crane

Mullah Nasrudin (the central figure in almost all tales of the Sufi tradition) had already become a sort of attraction at the main market in the town.
Whenever he went there to beg, people would show him a large coin and a small one: Nasrudin always chose the small one.

A generous man who was tired of seeing everyone laugh at Nasrudin, explained to him:

“When people offer you two coins, choose the larger one. Then you will have more money, and people will not think you a fool.”

“You are surely right”, replied Nasrudin.
“But if I always chose the larger coin, people would stop offering me money, in order to prove that I am a greater fool than they are.
“And then I would no longer receive enough for my food.
“There is nothing wrong with appearing to be a fool, if what you are doing is in fact intelligent.”

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  1. Amani says:

    In arabic there is a saying
    قليل مستمر خير من كثير منقطع
    which roughly translates to “It is better to have little and have it continuously than to have a lot and not frequently”
    and this story really carries that.

  2. Gina says:

    Everyone has a reason for playing their role…and roles change sometimes hopefully over time. Neither for good or bad is no matter so long as you play your role well today. At least you gain the possibility to live another day.

    Thanks for the beautiful art accompanying the simple message. :-)

  3. Brian Crockett says:

    Uhh! The archetype of the “Fool” or the “Trickster”! The world could use a few these days!

  4. RituRaj Singh says:

    good…but i’ve already read it.. I recently read your novel ELEVEN MINUTES….its unique..generally all the novelists work upon this subject..at least one of their work..

  5. Deepa Susan Koshy says:

    True. I’m reminded of an article i read, ‘Play fool to win smart in business’. Business or life, ‘all things are one’?

  6. hydie says:

    nice! i like it..! i can relate to this short story.. i sometimes do what Mullah Nasrudin ( the main character) is doing because “There is nothing wrong with appearing to be a fool, if what you are doing is in fact intelligent.” :)

  7. Florence says:

    Exactly ! I love that one ! :)

  8. gonzalo says:

    Simplemente Hermoso!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Es muy facil elegir la moneda de menor valor y mas aun sabiendo que no es necesario elegir la de mayor valor, para lo que uno necesita.
    Pero le aseguro que es muy dificil y doloroso, mas aun hoy en nuestra sociedad, superar el momento o los momentos en donde a uno lo tratan de loco, por mas inteligentes que seamos y aun sabiendo lo que somos y lo que queremos.
    Un abrazo

    1. Andrea says:

      Compleatamente de acuerdo con tu comentario ;)

  9. Alana says:


    Ní£o lia os seus livros por puro preconceito. Até que um dia um amigo me perguntou o pq? … ní£o tive como responder, pois só havia o pré- conceito …nada mais . O primeiro contato foi com o Alquimista … tocou-me imenso , havia uma verdade simples nas entrelihas … tí£o simples e acessí­vel … agora sem querer encontro na garagem um livro perdido as Valquí­rias .. leio-o … e a minha vida segue , como se o livro tivesse vindo ao meu encontro… depois vieram as situaí§íµes em que precisei daquele ensinamentos … a sensaí§í£o que tive é que estava sendo relembrada… estes conhecimentos que existiam em mim … agora veio o Diário de um Mago … como se fosse a cereja no Bolo … Tudo faz sentido … sinto Fé … Vida … sinto-me inteira… Grata pela tua Coragem de fazer aquilo em que acreditas…Deixo para ti uma mensagem , que veio até o meu encontro … . 1º cor. 13: 4-8 ; Mat 6:33; 1º Joí£o 4:8… Um Grande Abraí§o. alana souza

  10. Alireza says:

    Wow !

    B E A U T I F U L

  11. ASLI says:

    As far as I know, sufi stories carry many symbols behind of the real story. I belive “choosing small coin” tells us to fight/kill our “ego-in sufizm called as nefs. The main point is “if what you are doing is in fact intelligent”. What is intelligent? The philopsohy says that “intelligence shows it’s biggest capacity by deciding to stop when it is necessay to handover to God”.So, Intelligence symbols your intention, if you choose the money because you expect more or to kill your ego to reach to God one small step further.With the 2nd choice, you give the positive energy your inside and also outside so that people-universe-God give you more!

  12. veena singh says:

    take more but why beg?

  13. Aida says:

    Dear Paulo)
    U r a true genius. I love everything you write, especially I enjoyed reading ‘Veronika decides to die” It’s a wonderful story. Thank you so much for inspiring me and giving my life a new meaning) As for this piece, It’s nice and really worth reading. I hope I got the message you were sending me right) Thank you again for being with us))
    P.S. I’m so proud to live in the same epoch with u) This makes me smile every time i think about it))

    1. Dave says:


      Your comments are exactly my sentiments towards Paulo and his work.


  14. RAYDA says:

    Dear Mr. Paulo,

    i love your writing , it is very inspiring and sometime directional ….god bless you . Rayda from Egypt

  15. neha malik says:

    This reminds me of Steve Jobs famous speech where he quoted ” Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” . Lovely story, with a wonderful message.

  16. Angelo says:

    Merging in Love a shrude intelect and deep awareness of the soul make one able to exist and act wiselly regardless of others.
    A good lesson.
    I can articulate it very well with my words,, but I would be the first to take the larger coin!

  17. Mnaimoy Chatterjee says:

    At times in this world were people feel they know everything and behave as the most smartest people alive today, I feel it is better to be foolish at times which makes you much more open to the new ideas and thoughts.This makes you much more successful and lot of innovative ideas start flowing which makes you different from the crowd around you

  18. Marian says:

    Me encantas los cuentos que escribe ojala sigua escribiendo durante siglos.

  19. Me encanto! No todo lo que hacemos es comprendido por otros. Es por eso que nunca debemos juzgar. Blessings :-)

  20. barbara says:

    This story somehow reminds me of Claudius in Roman Times when he was thought of as a fool and because of that he survived.

  21. Liz says:

    This is such a great story! Not only was he wise, but he was also evolved enough to not let his ego get in the way of him acting upon that wisdom. I guess what I’m trying to say is that many people may have had the wisdom, or some may call it the “cunning,” to have taken the smaller coin so that the smaller coins would keep coming. However, I don’t think many people would be willing to do that at the expense of their ego suffering. To act as this man did – there would have to be very little ego to begin with… I love it!

    I am very new to your Blog Mr. Coelho (in fact, yours is my first Blog ever!) but I am not at all new to your work. I think over the past 10 or more years I’ve read everything you’ve published. (Unfortunately they only last 3-4 days at the most as I can’t put them down once I start!)

    Your teachings and spiritual lessons are cleverly woven in amongst the thread of your powerful stories so that, almost like subliminal advertising, the subconscious will grasp even what the conscious mind may miss. I think we all gain so much more from your work than we even realize that we do. Now THAT is a true teacher.

    You have made me laugh, you have made me cry, you have made my soul soar with glimpses into the grandeur and sheer brilliance of the universe. Thank you for your work. You are truly a gift to this planet. Bless you.

    1. Muri says:

      Beautifully said Liz.

    2. kalyan says:

      WOW ! Wonderfully expressed your feeling ! Mr. Paulo is amazing …

    3. Liz says:

      Thanks Muri and Kalyan, that’s lovely of you to say, however nothing I say could do any justice the the brilliant work of Paolo who raises the vibration of this planet with every book he publishes…

      BTW – uber cool blog Kalyan! :-)

  22. Leandro says:

    The worst of fools is he who would be well regarded and admired by all. Living life thinking about what others think of him.
    An impossible task.

    The worst is when we are foolish enough to stop doing what we like, because the others do not. Or fail to do something for fear of losing and being seen as a loser.
    Yes, we are often very silly.
    Hugs .

    1. Liz says:

      …True! Or in the (somewhat paraphrased) words of Dr. Phil: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of you if you realised how seldom they do!” ;-)

  23. tony lopez says:

    A wise man learns to hold his tounge, a fool always laughs out of no understanding.

    1. Mari Marcano says:

      so true

  24. nathali castro says:

    hola !!
    una maravillosa historia lo cual es verdad esta llena de cosas que aprender gracias por las lecciones y siempre ser mas inteligentes de lo que aparentamos pues la gente siempre nos subestima demaciado

  25. People will very often make you out to be a fool to stop you from your pursuing your dreams. They are stuck in their fears and beliefs, so, when someone comes around with the strength and courage to move past that, it is easier for them to label that person as a fool. More often than not, they are hiding behind their weaknesses.

    So, Celebrate every time you are considered a fool or child like for you have the courage to do what others will only dream of!

  26. marcel d says:

    On peut faire l’imbécile quand on est intelligent, l’inverse est plus difficile.

  27. Linda says:

    wow and again a great lesson :) thanks

  28. Pallavi Bhatt says:

    As far i have seen every one try to prove himself wise…
    but a very few know actual wisdom…
    some times wise decision for one moment becomes most foolish act of our life
    life , its all about balancing our wisedom and foolishness :)

  29. Sufi traditions are full of small tales with deep wisdom n humour
    this goes with this story too
    the same thing was part of a very lovely Indian movie called”delhi 6″
    n that time too watching it n listening to these lines i thought “what a deep meaning”
    n as katie quoted it very well”it is important to recognize the moment where one needs to drop the sheep fur & become a real fox.”

  30. Elaine Castro says:

    You need to be pretty smart even to look like a fool.

  31. Heimo Kruschinski says:

    German Translation/ Deutsche íœbersetzung

    Mullah Nasrudin (die zentrale Figur in fast allen Geschichten der Sufi-Tradition) war bereits eine Art Attraktion auf dem wichtigsten Markt der Stadt.
    Immer, wenn er dorthin ging, um zu betteln, zeigten ihm die Leute eine große und eine kleine Münze: Nasrudin wählte immer die kleine.

    Ein großzügiger Mann, der es müde war zu sehen, dass alle Leute Nasrudin auslachten, erklärte ihm:

    “Wenn die Leute Dir zwei Münzen anbieten, wähle die größere. Dann hast Du mehr Geld, und die Menschen werden nicht denken, dass Du ein Narr bist. ”

    “Sie haben sicherlich Recht”, antwortete Nasrudin.
    “Aber wenn ich immer die größere Münze wähle, würden die Leute aufhören mir Geld anzubieten, um zu beweisen, dass ich ein größerer Narr bin als sie.”
    “Und dann würde ich nicht mehr genug bekommen für mein Essen.”
    “Es ist nichts falsch daran scheinbar ein Narr zu sein, wenn das was du machst in Wirklichkeit intelligent ist.”

    Illustration von Ken Crane (Ich liebe seine Illustrationen!!!!)

  32. Kealan says:

    Okay I give in, give me the ‘small’ glass of wine :)

    1. Liz says:

      Lol! You’re a quick study! hehe!

  33. HECTOR says:

    Ser inteligente es escoger lo poco consecutivamente, que lo mucho solo una vez. “Aun que paresca tonteria es inteligencia”

  34. Yilmaz says:

    Being humble is a great and importnat virtue. http://youtu.be/bN1_h_eGitE

    Ask too much and you are greedy, don’t ask at all and you will reveice nothing.
    Matthew 21:22: And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

    Really aaaaawesome picture Ken!
    With love.

    1. Liz says:

      Thank you for sharing that video. Lots of wisdom in there… Imagine a world where everyone was both wise and devoid of ego… Wow – now there’s a thought! :-)

  35. Pandora says:

    How could anyone resist him anyway in his pink suit? ;)

    (super Ken, thanks)

  36. naina...always says:

    i liked it….this one’s good – to pretend i dont understand. most of people actually would not get anything basically you do, call you silly, you turn around and smile at silliness..
    sometimes what you say makes all the sense Mr. coelho thank you . your books are really nice. helps you understand life better.

  37. Marie-Christine Grimard says:

    On est toujours le fou de quelqu’un d’autre, et la sagesse n’est qu’une question de point de vue.

  38. Heart says:

    Our natural instinct is probably to pick the biggest and best one we are offered, and what gives immediate pleasure, instead of putting off something small to get something of more worth in the future. A funny memory comes to mind. I was handed a plate of freshly, steaming warm pastry and helped myself to one, probably on the top, as the pile might crash if I picked one underneath. Suddenly a 3 year old in the house started to cry and both his mom and I was asking what is the matter. He turned a cross face to his mom saying; “She took the biggest”! hahaha

    In love life we often talk about going with the second best, when we cannot have the partner we believe is the love of our life. We may talk about having starter, main course and dessert in love life, and I know you often say don’t save the best for last. Pretty much life is often about taking an opportunity while it is there, instead of pondering and pondering till it’s too late. My experience has thought me to wait till I am convinced about a choice. Let me tell you of one example:

    I was shopping for a big winter jacket to bring to Sundance Film Festival that will go ahead in Utha, USA in January, in the middle of cold, cold winter. So, I saw one I liked, thick, with a hood with fur around it, long reaching me down to the knees. Well, the size was a bit too big, and the green color of it didn’t quite fall to my taste, so after some consideration I put it back and left the store. For a couple of weeks, I went to a lot of other stores to see if I could find THE ONE jacket I’d fall in love with. Nope. It didn’t happen, so I thought, better than being without a warm jacket, I’ll go back and get the first one, that after all was pretty close to what I had in mind. I arrived the store, and found shortly thereafter, the jacket was gone! Bummer. There I was back to nothing. Well.. I kept looking around in the store and voila! I found another!! A puffer jacket in my size, in a black-greyish I much preferred, without the fur hood, which I would have liked, but what the hell, I can put on a cool scarf instead.
    So, there you go, I’m all set, and you guys probably shake your heads, and think; Women! ;)

    Btw I agree with Ketut…The closer you get to God the more humor you get!! :D

    1. Yilmaz says:

      Thanks for sharing this story with us. I love it!

      Here’s a thought, maybe we need to pick what we think is the 2nd or 3rd best partner in love life to come to understand what our 1st best choice is after all?

      Well, I made many mistakes concerning my choice of partners, OR maybe the girls made bigger mistakes choosing me, but then again, a mistake is not a mistake if we learn from it :)

      The question is, if I’ve learned: Hmmmm… no comment :p

  39. Sacha says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Thank you so much for all your beautiful, insightful, deep and warmhearted light and fun stories of wisdom!

    I have send you an email, I know you are really busy but I so hope it at least finds you?
    many blessings,
    Sacha Knop.


  40. mago says:

    I was just thinking the same just now…my life doesn’t make sense and I see how people judge, but I couldn’t care less..:)

  41. Heimo Kruschinski says:

    I confess I love Nasrudin. However, a magician should never reveal his tricks. Or? :-) Joking aside, thanks for this great story.

    I wish you all a wonderful Sunday

  42. LoveM says:

    Wisdom of the fool
    He sees what is obvious
    So he’s not fooled

  43. Oudini says:

    Love the silky material on his head.
    Have a bright sunny day.
    :) Big hugs

  44. nice says:

    in this life u have to be smart in order to survive…

  45. THELMA says:

    “There is nothing wrong with appearing to be a fool, if what you are doing is in fact intelligent.”

    There is a very Greek-Cypriot dialect ‘phrase': ‘ I play the fool’ = ‘Παίζω ‘πελλό’ = Παίζω τόν τρελλό = Pretending that I do not ‘understand’. :-))) This is for me the best way to .. avoid saying Yes or No, to take a decision or, even, to show any ‘sentiment’ or ‘reaction’.
    It is the best way to hide our WISDOM!
    Thelma xxx

    1. nice says:

      I like what u’v said :)


    2. THELMA says:

      Thank you, NICE! It is very …. effective!! :-)) People think, we have not ‘understood’ !! Try it!
      Thelma xxx

  46. Ketut Catur says:

    the closer you get to God, the higher senses of humor you got :D

  47. katie says:

    there is not much to say.
    no problem to be perceived as a fool, but then it is important to recognize the moment where one needs to drop the sheep fur & become a real fox.
    missing that moment, it may cost a lot, however one learns. LoL

    ken: thanks for the awesome picture <3

    1. Yilmaz says:

      Agree Katie. But maybe for some the real fox is in wearing the sheep fur forever. There is the scene from the tale of the three brothers from Harry Potter that I love so much. He wears the cloack of invisiblity until his last day…

      With love,

    2. katie says:


      a beautiful story. thank you! beautiful video. makes me thinking about invisibility.
      invisible = foolish?

      the invisibility in the story reminded me of how the totem animal “fox” is described:

  48. cyclopseven says:

    The enlightened ones always see the long term ‘smaller’ gains, rather that short term ‘bigger’ losses. Great piece.

  49. Appu says:

    Ha Ha Ha
    Thats nice.

  50. Ali says:

    Ja! Muy cierto! ^^