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8 (Short) Stoic Quotes for a Better Life That'll Make You Immune to Tragedy
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People love stoicism but conveniently forget its dark side.
Marcus Aurelius is one of the heroes of ancient stoic philosophy. The self-help gurus would suck him off if he was still alive.
Yet what’s often forgotten is he was a filthy dirty junkie that was addicted to opium.
I don’t say this to make you hate stoicism. I use it as context. Even your heroes and those who are considered wise have a dark side. Don’t seek perfect role models.
Seek wise ones.
Find ones who’ve experienced tragedy to help become immune to it.
1. “Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”
This one is damn simple.
Expect misfortune to happen to you. Don’t complain or blame anyone when it does. The human life is full of suffering. Those who accept that truth and find a way to live in spite of it, access the good life.
At any moment tragedy can turn your world upside down.
I copped it last year when a family member got a 1 in 10 million blood cancer. I got it again a year before when I lost $1.2M out of nowhere. All of us will experience something like this.
What’s your plan for when tragedy strikes? Here’s mine…
Write as a form of relief
Approach my spiritual mentors
Help those less fortunate than me
Hang around high-quality friends
Expect tragedy … and life will get easier.
2. “No one has it worse than the person who is deprived of randomness” – Seneca
I write a lot about why the corporate world is toxic for people long term.
The main issue is a regular job is boring. There’s no randomness. Every day starts to feel the same. You’re a cog in a machine that can be laid off at any time.
Strangely, being laid off is a blessing.
For many workers it introduces randomness that forces them back into growth mode.
We’re not meant to do the same thing every day.
We’re not meant to work in the same industry forever.
We’re not meant to get one year’s worth of experience and repeat it for 30 years and call it a career.
Randomness makes life interesting.
It’s why people get addicted to travel. Going to different countries forces you to experience new things every day.
For those who are bored it can provide enormous relief. But if the randomness isn’t harnessed into something worthwhile, it soon becomes a form of escapism.
Force random things to happen each day. Choose randomness.
3. “It’s not winning that counts. It’s character.”
The internet amplifies success.
Everyone gets horny over it. “OMG Elon Musk drinks this supplement as part of his morning routine.” I don’t masturbate to this way of life.
I’m not interested in winners – or being a winner.
I’m interested in what people do when they win. The stoics say winning builds character. That’s only true if you use winning as a way to serve people other than yourself. If not, winning becomes a form of ego enhancement that ruins your life.
I’m a great example. I won in my 20s with a successful startup. And I helped no one. My character went from good to evil. I treated employees as my personal slaves.
I turned our company into a real-life Hunger Games.
Winning equals success if purpose and humility are the outcomes.
4. "The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts" – Marcus Aurelius
Between 2011 to 2019 I studied psychology obsessively.
People thought I’d gone mad. “You’ve lost the plot Timbo.” I took up this weird sport because I previously suffered mental illness. It occurred to me if I could improve the thoughts I had while by myself, I may be able to defeat it.
And I did win the war in my head.
Thinking can be more intentional than you may imagine. Learn about psychology so you can manipulate your mind to work for you rather than against you (default mode).
Plant tiny seeds inside of your head.
“People in third-world countries have it harder than me.”
“If I can overcome this, imagine what else I can do.”
“He doesn’t hate me. He’s having a bad day.”
“I’m better than I think.”
Use optimism to upgrade your thoughts.
Brainwash yourself and eventually the programming will stick. Negative thoughts won’t go away but they’ll become harder to stumble upon.
5. “This too will pass.”
Hundreds of years ago the Ancient Greeks had a competition.
They wanted to find out one sentence that’d always be true. “This too will pass” won the contest. It’s a sentence that will make you immune to tragedy.
Nothing bad that happens lasts forever.
In the moment it feels like a bad situation will always be with you. But after a few months most tragedies go away. And the ones that stick around – such as the death of a loved one – go from darkness to light.
As time passes, you see a tragedy as something that can’t be changed. Therefore only good can come from it. You see this with murderers all the time.
Often the families of murder victims will forgive a killer, because it’s the only way to make it pass and move on. Tragedy can’t be changed but it can be forgiven.
And forgiveness sets you free.
Life is less about who’s right or wrong, and more about dropping grudges so you can move on and let the negative situation pass.
6. “If you seek tranquility, do less.” – Marcus Aurelius
Minimalism became popular for a reason.
It’s not a competition of who has less. It’s about personal headspace. You can only retain so much in your head at any one time. If you try to do everything and collect excess physical belongings, you’ll have no time or thinking space to do what matters.
Most of you are far too busy which is why you’re stressed out.
Busyness is a form of mental illness. What most of us secretly want is peace. Peace lies in a mostly empty calendar and the time to think about what we care about.
It’s why many writers fail. They’re so busy reading useless tweet threads about ChatGPT that they have no time to join the dots in their head and output wisdom.
It’s not laziness. It’s tranquility.
7. “Wealth is the slave of a wise man and the master of a fool” – Seneca
Many of us are slaves to wealth.
I’m guilty your honor. If all you do is become obsessed with money, you become its slave. You become so focused on what money can buy as if it’s going to bring happiness or excitement.
The thing about consumerism is it leaves you feeling empty.
I remember the day I bought a new BMW. I was obsessed with it. I drove everywhere in my Big Man’s Willy and thought I was a celebrity. 2 weeks later the new car feeling had worn off and it was just another vehicle to get me to work.
To top it off, the operations manager got the brand new model of the same BMW and mine was suddenly old news.
The point of making money is to generate wealth. That wealth is best used to buy back time so you can do less. That’s the greatest purchase one can ever make. And you don’t need to make $100M to have that opportunity.
All you need to do is aim for a lifestyle that’s not excessive. Then financial freedom happens 10x faster and semi-retirement becomes a reality.
8. “I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make them think” – Socrates
One of the greatest causes of frustration is trying to change people’s minds.
“If only they’d listen to me.”
“If only I could convince them to buy my thing.”
None of us have the power to brainwash people. Stop trying to change minds and, instead, focus on finding the right people who want what you have.
As a writer, people disagree with me all the time. I used to try and force them to agree with me. Not anymore. If you don’t get what I’m saying that’s okay. If you read enough of my stuff it’ll eventually make you think – and that’s the real value I have to offer.
Once people start thinking deeply they have breakthroughs. And to help someone have one of those is one of the greatest feelings and achievements in the world.
One last thing before you go.
While most people are chilling by the pool, I'll be dedicating my June to people who want to inject some life to their LinkedIn.
But - I gotta know what you need.