The Unsuccessful Are Lucky

It’s interesting to consider that there is a certain survivorship bias when it comes to the Stoics. We really only hear about the extremely successful ones—the emperors and the writers, the playwrights and the generals. But given the popularity of Stoicism in Rome and throughout history, the vast majority of Stoics would have been ordinary people living ordinary lives of discipline and virtue. Fathers, mothers, businessmen, diplomats and blacksmiths. There would have been literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Stoics over the last 2500 years, but we know the names of only a couple dozen.

It might also be said that the ones we’ve never heard of—those were the lucky ones. It wasn’t fun to be Marcus Aurelius. Or Seneca. Or Cato. Yes, these are inspiring figures who made the world a better place, but they suffered for that privilege.

What does this have to do with you? Isn’t there someone whose status and success you envy? Someone who has gotten more recognition, who has sold more books or widgets or real estate, who has won more medals or set more records? And when we think of these people, we think, “Oh, they’re the lucky ones. They got what I should have gotten.” But is that really true?

Maybe the lucky ones are the hidden figures. The people who don’t suffer the burdens of a public office or a clique of hangers or the anxiety of a reputation to uphold or the chorus of critics, they’re the ones who were deprived? Please. The simple life, the middle class life, the just-enough-success-but-not-too-much? That’s the real blessing.

Today, if you feel yourself wanting more, feeling inferior because you don’t have more, think about that. Maybe Fortune has done you a kindness.

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