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You Are An Artist (Whether You Know It Or Not)

Daily Stoic Emails

Maybe you don’t think of Socrates as an athlete, but that’s how Epictetus described him. The man was a ballplayer, Epictetus said, catching what life threw at him and throwing it back. And not easy throws either, but war and pain and being misunderstood, even eventually being sentenced to death. Socrates handled all this with the grace and skill of an elite athlete.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as an artist, just like Socrates didn’t see himself as an athlete, but maybe you are. According to Mikel Jollett, the founder of the band The Airborne Toxic Event and the author of a fascinating and haunting memoir about his troubled childhood, we have to “take our pain and make it useful. That’s what it means to be an artist.” His own art came from growing up in a cult his mother had joined, then living with her series of messed up husbands, struggling with addictions, getting in trouble at school, not knowing what he ought to do with his life. But all this struggle ultimately shaped him and in turn shaped the art he would make.

Marcus Aurelius wrote about how we turn our obstacles into fuel, we convert the impediments to action into new opportunities for action. That’s art, that’s sports, that’s philosophy. It’s a highly skilled thing—it’s certainly not easy. Still, it’s the only way.

Because life is going to keep throwing stuff at us. We’re going to experience pain and suffering. All we can do is catch it and throw it back. All we can do is find some way to make it useful.

P.S. Building the skill to take the challenges life throws at you and transform them into something useful takes practice. That’s why we created the Daily Stoic Challenge Deck, full of actionable daily challenges for you to push and develop yourself year round. Bundle your pack with the Challenge Deck Vol. II and save—available over at the Daily Stoic Store