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What Monument Are You Leaving Behind?

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The great Cato once quipped that after he was dead, he’d “rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.” What he meant was that he wanted the well-known examples of his honest and admirable behavior to be far more prominent than his likeness.

Of all the Stoics, Cato is one of the most interesting because he’s considered a philosopher even though he published no real writings, he never taught as a school, and was a career politician. Yet the way he lived his life according to Stoic principles was so compelling that he’s considered just as much a Stoic leader as Epictetus, who dedicated his life to study and teaching.

In this day and age, managing one’s reputation and “personal brand” has never been easier. We have all sorts of tools, all sorts of hacks and tricks to pursue fame, attention, and wealth. But is this really what we want to leave behind? Is this really all that impressive?

Of course not. Let your behavior be the monument you leave behind. Like Cato, do such great work and be such a powerful example that people say, “Why isn’t So-and-So more well known? They really deserve it.” That is the ultimate compliment and the real validation of a life.