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In Any Event, Do Your Best

Daily Stoic Emails

Look: none of us are truly self-sufficient. The success of a salesman depends on whether they’ve been given a good product and solid leads. The project manager is only as good as the projects her bosses give her to manage and the employees she decides to hire to work on them. The movie needs a marketing budget if it is to have a chance to build an audience. An athlete’s performance is shaped by their coaching, the teammates the GM gives them, and the resources the organization provides for winning. How a general fares on the battlefield depends on the support of the nation behind them and the courage of their troops. 

It does not take much to say that history is replete with examples of these critical ingredients not being provided. All sorts of sales teams and armies and athletes being given only a fraction of what they need. The draftee—in sports or in the service—reports to find that morale is crap and the facilities are falling apart. The executive lacks the budget or the direction they need. 

And? And what should they do? Quit? Whine? Get comfortable with defeat? No. They must say to themselves and their team, as MacArthur did in World War II, looking at the woefully deficient resources provided to him in the Pacific, “In any event, I shall do my best. I shall keep the soldier’s faith.” He said it and then he got to work. He fought island by island, until in the end and despite the odds, victory was his. It was a victory for free people everywhere. 

The Stoics knew a thing or two about lost causes. They knew about low probabilities. They never let that stop them. Cato gave everything he had, despite what many saw as the inevitable rise of Caesar, to preserve the Roman Republic…and very nearly pulled it off. Washington sat in Valley Forge at the lowest point of the American Revolution, poorly supplied by Congress, undermined by his generals, and put on a play about Cato to inspire him and his men to keep going. Stockdale resisted his captors for nearly a decade, doing his best under incredible circumstances, keeping the soldier’s faith in his country, his soldiers, and himself. 

You can’t do the same? You think you’re entitled to give less than your all because someone else has let you down? Because things are not to your liking? 


P.S. This was originally sent on April 9, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.