Then Difficulties Arise

Thomas Edison, who was born some 171 years ago yesterday, once explained that, in inventing, “the first step is an intuition—and comes with a burst—then difficulties arise.” What set Edison apart from other inventors was tolerance for these difficulties, his willingness to tackle the kinds of problems that are endemic to the process—not exceptions to … Continued

There’s Nothing Time Hasn’t Touched

When the coliseum was built in 80 A.D. it was one of the most incredible architectural achievements in human history. 1,938 years later, time has taken its toll—its most recent major restoration was at a cost of nearly $30 million and took several years. When the famous Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue was first assembled out of bronze, … Continued

Poise Not Pose

What we see in the writings of the Stoics is that they strove to ensure that their ambition never corrupted their self-awareness. We rarely see ego and self-glorification in their pages, in fact, we usually find the opposite: meditations on how to improve, reminders that they were still human and flawed. This lack of ego was also … Continued

Just Trying To Get A Little Better

The knock against Seneca, even in his own time, was that he was a hypocrite. For a Stoic, he was obscenely rich. For a philosopher, he was uncomfortably close to the center of power and guilty of all the compromises such a position entails. Seneca was aware of this contradiction too. He even wrote about it. “Why … Continued

​To Be Good, First Do This

There is an intriguing line from Epictetus that seems almost Christian: “If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad.” What does it mean? It’s not unlike the first step in recovery from addiction—we’ve got to admit and accept we have a problem. Only then will we have the humility and unflinching realism required … Continued

The More You Play, The Better You Get

Throughout his bestselling book, Principles, Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund in the world, sounds very much like a Stoic without knowingly stating it. As he writes in one passage, he learned to see pain as a teacher—it almost became a game to him to figure out the hidden lessons in each painful … Continued

Poverty Is Good For One Thing

It was the Athenian statesman, Pericles, who would say that there was no shame in poverty. Only in not doing something about it. The Stoics would probably agree, though they might word it differently. They’d say, there’s no shame in poverty, only in not doing something with it. Seneca famously said that poverty was good for at least one … Continued

It’s Not So Bad

Whatever you’re going through, no matter how frustrating or horrible it may be, there is one thing you can be sure of: Someone else has it worse. You lost your job. Someone else recently lost their grandson. You’re feeling depressed. Someone else is feeling a lump in their breast. The market went south on you. … Continued

Give Forgiveness, Don’t Ask For It

Seneca had a rule for those who have been placed in a high position or accumulated success or power: “Bestow pardon for many things; seek pardon for none.” By that he meant that with power comes responsibility. A responsibility to be understanding and lenient with those who work for and with you, as well as a … Continued