Monday, April 13, 2009

Stoicism: Personal Development and Entrepreneurship

Here's a great post on Stoicism by way of Tim Ferriss' blog and how it can be a very practical philosophy for personal development and entrepreneurship.

Here are the 3 key practical suggestions put forth by the author (Ryan Holiday, online strategist for American Apparel):

1. Practice Misfortune
“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

Set aside a certain number of days each month to practice poverty. Take a little food, wear your worst clothes, get away from the comfort of your home and bed. Put yourself face to face with want, he said, you’ll ask yourself “Is this what I used to dread?”
2. Train Perception to Avoid Good and Bad

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.” -Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics had an exercise called Turning the Obstacle Upside Down...If you can properly turn a problem upside down, every “bad” becomes a new source of good....Suppose for a second that you are trying to help someone and they respond by being surly or unwilling to cooperate. Instead of making your life more difficult, the exercise says, they’re actually directing you towards new virtues; for example, patience or understanding. Or, the death of someone close to you; a chance to show fortitude.
3. Remember - It's All Ephemeral
“Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both.” -Marcus Aurelius

Alexander the Great conquered the known world and had cities named in his honor. This is common knowledge....Stoics would also point out that, once while drunk, Alexander got into a fight with his dearest friend, Cleitus, and accidentally killed him....Is this the mark of a successful life? From a personal standpoint, it matters little if your name is emblazoned on a map if you lose perspective and hurt those around you.

Remember that achievements can be ephemeral, and that your possession of them is for just an instant. Learn from Alexander’s mistake. Be humble and honest and aware. That is something you can have every single day of your life.

"As an entrepreneur you can see how practicing misfortune makes you stronger in the face of adversity; how flipping an obstacle upside down turns problems into opportunities; and how remembering how small you are keeps your ego manageable and in perspective. Ultimately, that’s what Stoicism is about. It’s not some systematic discussion of why or how the world exists. It is a series of reminders, tips and aids for living a good life."

***

As I read the article, I thought Stoicism might be too staid and staunch of an approach for me. I believe the pursuit of happiness is a worthwhile goal and that creating joy and fulfillment in everyday life is important, so I was relieved to find that these two ideals are not necessarily in conflict.
"Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; the philosophy holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand the universal reason." - (Stoicism, Wikipedia)

A line in the article mentioned above reconciled both views on life and put them on the same side of the coin:
"You can be a Stoic, and joke around and have a happy life surrounded by what’s valuable to you. In fact, that’s the ultimate goal."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is a very good message which we all should keep in mind. Thanks Lee

karim said...

Good one on Personal Development and it helps a lot.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking

Henna Ericson said...

Quite simple but really effective tips! Personality development is not an overnight work but it takes lots of time. To stand as an entrepreneur demands lots of qualities, a good leader can only be a good entrepreneur. Thanks for the post. Tips to Improve your Leadership Skills.