Here we are at the beginning of a new year.
On the one hand, today is just a day, no different than any other. Yet there is also something special about today because we are starting the year 2021.
And as the expression goes, well begun is half done. In fact, the Stoics would express it a little differently, because to them, the beginning was the only thing that was up to us. As the philosopher Democritus said, “Boldness is the beginning of action. But fortune controls how it ends.”
So much of how 2021 will go is not up to us, just as how so much of 2020 was out of control. Nobody was expecting a pandemic. Nobody was expecting wildfires. Or so much of what happened. But the people who had a solid January and February were in a better position than those who had delayed and procrastinated, who had not taken the beginning of the year seriously. What is put off until next week is more vulnerable to what may happen today or tomorrow.
A Stoic believes it is in their power to, say, begin writing a book, but not in their power to determine how quickly it will come together, what the market will be like when it is released, whether people will like it or buy a lot of copies of it. A Stoic will fight bravely in battle but know that the outcome is determined by so many other things. They will run for office, they will start a business, they will compete in an athletic event—but whether they win? That’s not up to them. Whether they give it their best, boldest, and hardest effort? Well, that is. Getting started? That is up to them.
That’s the message for today—in fact, it’s the perfect message for today, as we begin a new year and sit at the beginning of a new decade. All we control are the beginnings of things. We control how we start. We control our first move. Whether we say hello to a pretty stranger, but not whether they reciprocate. We can make the pitch, or the apology, but fortune controls whether it’s accepted. We can plan the trip, but not when or if we arrive. We control this first minute of the long year ahead.
It’s not a lot… but it’s enough, so let’s do it right. Let’s do 2021 boldly, while we can.
As we said, The Daily Stoic is a $1.99 ebook right now (also Amazon UK). Plus, The Daily Stoic in our limited edition leatherbound is available in the Daily Stoic store (you can also order a personalized edition as well!).