Courage in Adversity, Modesty in Success

In Larry Hendrick’s adaptation of Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great, he has the Eastern philosopher king say something that might well have been said by Marcus Aurelius:

“In my experience, men who respond to good fortune with modesty are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage.”

It’s important to remember that Stoicism isn’t just teaching us how to endure the so-called difficulties of life. Marcus AureliusSenecaCato, these men were extraordinarily successful. So were many of the other greats who were influenced by Stoicism. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were two of the richest men in America. Stoicism is what allowed them to handle this success without it going to their head, without it changing them for the worse.

One might not be harder than the other, but one is much rarer. Too many people become warped by their success—imperialized as Marcus warned himself against being, he didn’t want the power of Emperor to corrupt him. The same people who might have bravely faced any adversity that came their way early in life are then made self-important, entitled, conceited, and worse by their success.

Don’t let that happen to you.