It Doesn’t Matter What You Do, It Matters How You Do It

The occupations of the three most well-known Stoics could not be more different. Seneca was a playwright, a wealthy landowner, and a political advisor. Epictetus was a former slave who became a philosophy teacher. Marcus Aurelius would have loved to be a philosopher but instead found himself wearing the purple cloak of the emperor.

Zeno was a prosperous merchant. Cleanthes was a water carrier. Cato was a Senator. The modern Stoics include James Stockdale, a fighter pilot, and Tim Ferriss, a writer and a technology investor.

These jobs have very little in common. The lifestyles they support are vastly different as well—so are the opportunities, the temptations, the frustrations and the stresses that they produce.

But none of that matters. What matters is how you do your job and how you respond to the situations it creates for you. Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself that it was possible to live a good life anywhere—including in the complicated and intoxicating halls of power. He mostly proved that true. (Sadly, Seneca fell short in those same hallways).

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a janitor or a junior senator. It doesn’t matter whether you’re negotiating a multi-million dollar deal or negotiating traffic on the way to your unpaid internship. What matters is what you do with this time. What matters is how you manage it.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, it’s possible to live a good life and to be a good Stoic. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

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