We have good days. We have bad days. We will have, as Seneca experiences, moments of heartbreak and bad luck as well as strokes of good fortune and good timing. The question is how we’re going to respond to these swings of fate, if we can follow the lines of Kipling’s classic poem, “If—”:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Remember that Marcus Aurelius commanded himself to “Accept it without arrogance and let it go with indifference.” Like Kipling, he saw success and failure as meaningless—as imposters. A rock thrown in the air gains nothing by going up, he said, and nothing by falling down. What matters is who we are. What matters is the character we live by.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If you can greet anything and everything that life throws at you, if you can be brave and calm and collected and disciplined no matter what happens, then you are a Stoic.
P.S. This was originally sent on November 11, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.