He Who Relies On Fortune Less…

The Stoics tell us that Fortune is a fickle mistress. Just when things seem to be going well, she abandons us. Just when things seem like they can’t get any worse, she piles on…and then, sometimes, we’re caught completely by surprise when a seemingly impossible situation turns around. Ideally, we want to remove these unexpected swings from our lives as much as possible. If your job depends on everyone loving you—that’s a dangerous position. If your finances depend on the market continuing to rise, that’s a vulnerable spot. If your happiness at home depends on getting lucky…

It’s why the line from Machiavelli is so great. “He who has relied on Fortune less has maintained his position best.” The problem with making wealth or status or present company conditional to our happiness is that these things are not controlled by us, they are the domain of fortune. So too are the opinions of the crowd, the weather forecast, or our good looks. They can be taken from us, changed, obscured in an instance.

The more you set your life up to be independent—to be indifferent—to these things, the more secure your position will be. The less you will be subject to that cruel, fickle mistress of fortune.