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Stoicism will enhance your life and business

Whether you enjoy a bit of philosophy or not, one school of thought that can be extremely beneficial to an entrepreneur is stoicism. Founded in Greece in the 3rd century BC, stoicism is popularly associated with an indifference to hardship, but it is also marked by the pursuit of knowledge and virtue, and valuable perspectives on work and external influences, amongst other things.

The wisdom and comfort of stoicism has garnered a lot of fans in the business world. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jack Dorsey, Arianna Huffington and Tim Ferris are a few confirmed stoics. Ferris is such a devout follower that he includes a ‘Stoicism resources and recommendations’ section on his website, with a particular focus on the teachings of Seneca—one of stoicism’s ancient stalwarts.

“I’ve found stoicism to be a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort,” Ferris says.

Black and white portrait of Tim Ferris.
Tim Ferris

In an introduction to stoicism on Ferris’ website, entrepreneur, author and marketing expert Ryan Holiday writes: “Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act upon what can be acted upon. Just like an entrepreneur, it’s built for action, not endless debate… Stoicism differs from most existing schools in one important sense: its purpose is practical application. It is not an intellectual enterprise. It’s a tool that we can use to become better entrepreneurs, better friends and better people. Stoic writing isn’t about beating up on yourself or pointing out the negative. It’s a meditative technique that transforms negative emotions into a sense of calm and perspective.”

Let’s have a look at five aspects of life and business, and what the original stoics and other philosophers and writers think about them:

Externals

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius (Philosopher and Roman emperor 161-180 AD)

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within your control, and some things are not.” – Epictetus (Greek philosopher)

“Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and if they will not adapt to me, I adapt to them.” – Michel de Montaigne (French philosopher)

Perspective

“You can get rid of a great number of your annoyances because they lie entirely in your own head.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Men are disturbed not by thinking but by the principles and notions they form concerning things.” – Epictetus

Work

“Do everything as if it were the last time you were doing it in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Without labour, nothing prospers.” – Sophocles (Greek writer)

“Have I been made for this? To lie under blankets and keep myself warm?” – Marcus Aurelius

Bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius riding a horse.
Marcus Aurelius

Resilience

“If it is endurable, endure it. Stop complaining.” – Marcus Aurelius

“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.” – Seneca (Roman philosopher and statesman)

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” – Seneca

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl (Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’)

Virtue

“If it is not right, don’t do it. If it is not true, don’t say it.” – Marcus Aurelius

“If you want any good, get it from within.” – Epictetus

“Waste no time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus (Greek philosopher)

Lone green tree growing on a barren landscape.
Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash
  • Want to know more about stoicism? A good place to start is The Daily Stoic.
  • Want to make sure you receive the latest insights from Evolve? Sign up to our weekly newsletter here.

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