So, there’s this bloke called Epictetus.
The fact that he lived around 2000 years ago seems to make no difference as to how relevant and astute his words are today. His philosophies have an uncanny contemporary relevance to today’s 21st century world and the multifaceted, high speed, ever-changing realm we operate in as leaders.
I’ve got this little book of his writings that I take with me everywhere.
And whenever I have a few moments to spare – whether its on board an aircraft, waiting in airports, or in between meetings; his words always seem to deliver just the right message at just the right time.
I am regularly surprised at the enduring appeal of ancient wisdom in all its forms. Greek mythology, the work of Socrates, The Art of War, and native indigenous wisdom as it pertains to our relationship with nature – these are just a few examples of the profound foresight and intelligence of our predecessors who happened to document their thoughts, all those years ago.
So today’s blog is a nod to this amazing dude Epictetus – and an opportunity to share with you some of his infinite wisdom.
A few interesting facts…
- This influential stoic was born a slave about AD55 in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire.
- Epictetus was sent to study with the famous Stoic teacher, Musonious Rufus. Epictetus so impressed Rufus with his superior intellectual talent that he became Rufus’ most acclaimed student and was eventually freed from slavery.
- He taught Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, who eventually became the ruler of the Roman Empire.
- His most famous work is The Discourses – a series of four books transcribed by his most famous student, Arrian.
Here are ten of my favourite quotes from Epictetus:
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond our power or our will. ”
“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”
“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”
“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”