A Cool Way To Practice Misfortune

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig traveled all over the world as a young man. During his travels, he would play an interesting game that embodies the Stoic concept of visualizing and preparing for future adversity. When he would arrive in a new city, Zweig would pretend that he’d just moved there, knew no one, and desperately needed a job. He would go from store to store, checking to see if they were hiring. He’d read newspaper ads for companies that were looking for employees.

He would often call all the way through the hiring process until he got an offer. Offer in hand, he would then walk out and enjoy his trip. The idea was just to get a feel for what it would be like to have to start from nothing, to have to make his way in the world again and prove to himself that he could do it.

Later, on the run from Hitler, his possessions and livelihood stolen from him, Zweig really would have to start over. One can imagine this practice—this exercise in resilience and fortitude—could have only helped.