Recently I've become enthralled with the ancient teachings of Stoicism and how they relate to success. I studied the Stoics in school, but only recently have I seen how powerful these teachings can be.
I owe much of my newly discovered interest in Ryan Holiday's books. Particularly, The Obstacle is The Way. Intrigued, I began researching and reading more. I found that these teachings helped me through my own ordeals as an entrepreneur. They also helped me gain clarity while coping with my Father's recent death.
Here's how the teachings of ancient Stoics can help you to have the courage to be more courageous.
Gain motivation from thinking about your death and what can go wrong.
"It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs." -Seneca
Thinking that your family can die tomorrow won't push you into depression. In fact, it's the opposite. I practiced these meditations while recently on vacation. I found myself in a near euphoric state.
It was as if I had experienced the loss of my family, and were now reunited with them in a profound and powerful dream. I took nothing for granted. I became dialed into the moment. I found myself choosing my words, and actions in a more precise manner.
These thoughts may feel morbid. But, addressing death, and even confronting it is the complete opposite of morbidity. It is the deepest celebration and appreciation of life. Of every breathe, touch and giggle.
See obstacles as opportunities.
The Stoics believed that no matter what happened to you that you could find the good in it. This may seem like a platitude, but when confronted with this reality in our lives, we can see that it's anchored in a truth that we can all feel.
I wish my Father were still here. I also know that I'm a better man for having dealt with his disease and eventual passing. I'm stronger, I take less for granted. I speak sweeter to my wife and children. These reminders are painful but true. There can be something good extracted from every bad situation.
Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat."
Remember how small you are, and that it all means nothing.
A friend has a company situated in midtown Manhattan. Their offices have a perfect view of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. His office hosts friends and family to enjoy the spectacle from his offices. During one such gathering, a few children (his own included) were playing with a ball in the office. It banged against a wall.
I said, "we may want to corral the children so they don't break anything in the office." To which he replied, "it all turns to dust anyway."
This comment stopped me in my tracks. It's also a pillar of the Stoic philosophy. Everything we hold in such high regard, our homes, cars, clothing. Mean nothing.
Even our legacy will end in time. No statutes will last forever, no buildings won't topple. Everything we find ourselves wasting our psychic energy worrying about means nothing.
"Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend...or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are."
- Marcus Aerelius
This is not a call to remove yourself from your life, only to take these things with less gravity. To not sweat the small stuff.
Now go and be courageous.