This Is a Critical Strength to Cultivate

Whatever you decide to do with your life, whatever path you decide to walk, people are going to  stand in your way. They’re going to doubt you. They’re going to give you bad advice. They will do you wrong. On purpose and unintentionally. They’ll lie. They’ll undermine you. They may well actively take steps to stop you. 

Think about what it means to have a “disruptive” idea or business—something that promises to upend entire ways of thinking or doing things. It means you’re not just someone’s competition, you’re an existential threat. Why would anyone who faced obsolescence, then irrelevance, then oblivion, just accept that fate? Of course they’re going to put up roadblocks. Of course they’re going to resist and there is going to be conflict.

The important question is not if this is going to happen, at least according to the Stoics, it’s about how you’re going to respond to the challenge when it does. As Marcus Aurelius (whose 1899th birthday was this past Sunday) wrote , our opponents are going to gouge us in the ring, they’re going to bruise us and butt us with their heads. The question is how we’re going to react. Are we going to get angry and take it personally? Or are we going to keep our cool, take note of their tactics, and change our strategy so this cheating doesn’t prevent us from winning or catch us off guard?

The other critical part to dealing with an adversarial situation, at least according to Seneca, is how we’ll behave once we’re at the top. Are we going to hold on to grudges? Are we going to nurse anger about how we were treated by those entrenched interests or hang onto the resentment of powerful people that we felt when we were not powerful? Not if we want to be happy, we won’t. Not if we want to be a better kind of leader when it’s our turn. 

“It is not to your benefit to see and hear everything,” Seneca writes. “Many injuries ought to pass over us; if you ignore them, you get no more injury from them.” Not surprisingly, one of his most powerful essays is about clemencythe power of forgiveness, of kindness, even to people who have not been kind to you. And his point was that you must do what is right, regardless of the obstacles and the injuries. 

Don’t let them make you angry, or bitter, or mean. It should not surprise any of us that people will protect the status quo if it’s better for their own position, nor should it stop us. Just keep going. Love it all. Forget what doesn’t matter. Ignore the wrongs and the slights. Ignore the cuts and the bruises. We’re the stronger ones. We can absorb it and use it and learn from it. 

“The strongest man,” the great Nobel prize-winning poet Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote, is “the one who forgets the most.” Let that inspire you today.

P.S. This was originally sent on April 28, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism. 

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