The 3 Hour “Magical” Business Seminar To Jumpstart Your Career

Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.

Marcus Aurelius

The word “Career” is defined as an occupation taken up for a significant portion of someone’s life.

Yet the ironic situation is that our schools, colleges and our society promote instant gratification.

These institutions promote learning inside a classroom for a few years more than learning in the field.

A 3 month certificate course to become a successful superstar of your industry, a 5 hour business seminar to get you the life of your dreams by building the business of your dreams, now at a discounted price of $300 only, oh and by the way, only for today I will throw in a bonus module on getting your relationships soar high above the sky. All you will need to do is just this one thing for 2 minutes a week to get your relationships to the next level!

Even more so ironic about this whole deal is me writing this article. Marketers like me are the people responsible for this mess and instant gratification crap.

Human beings used to have a life expectancy of about 30-40 years in the 18th century. Now, that would have been the kind of life in which I would want to have something super fast. That would have been the time where I would not have wanted to put one third of my life into something that might not work.

Even during those times we had people like Mozart who went through their standard of at least 7 years of apprenticeship.

Now, I guess early homo sapiens probably got eaten by an animal within the first 10-20 years of their life. One day you might be out for a hunt, looking for food and you became dinner for a lion. Those guys had a right to ask for everything right NOW.

They really did not have much time.

In the 21st century, human beings live to an average age of 80+ years and have careers spanning multiple decades. We even have people who do one thing for 10 or so years then move to another then another.

I’m sure you’ve heard of this guy who made a payment portal, an electric car, planning to get you settled on another planet. Yes yes, you don’t like his tweets, who cares. He still manages to wait patiently for things to play out. He puts in years of time and effort into something that he knows might not get done during his lifetime. Yet Elon Musk keeps on pushing for the vision he has in his mind.

We have the time to patiently learn & gather the required skill set, apply it, make mistakes and start over again.

Patrick Bet David, the owner and founder of PHP agency, or as you might know him, the host of the YouTube channel “Valuetainment” swears by the fact that real leaders of the industry are the people who stay in the same industry for 15-20 years.

He has worked on his YouTube channel for 8 years and garnered an audience of over 2M people and 220M+ views. The key thing is he has a team, and has spent 8 years on this platform.

We are not even halfway through this article, and I can see that fear has started to creep in.

“There is a saying: ‘four years for perfecting the dough, four years for rolling and another two years for cutting’. But cutting should not be underestimated, I have been making soba every day for the past 33 years and I am still scared of cutting.”

Yoshinori Shibazaki

Personally I don’t really like that 10,000 hour rule because we start using it as an excuse. But even that rule states that to be world class in your field you have to practice your craft for at least 10,000 hours.


Let’s calculate:

So if you worked for 8 hours straight every single day, with no bathroom or food breaks and no weekends and no holidays, you would touch the 10,000 hour mark in about 3.5 years. And here we are, 20 something olds changing our jobs every 2 years because we feel that 2 years is enough to learn everything about a role, or make the most amount of change in a company and it’s customers.

I have seen a lot of people throw this 10,000 hour figure into the conversation just to make their point about either being very good at their craft, or being miserable at it. You require patience, hard work and a will to go through the dips that are going to come along as you progress to the higher echelons of work culture.

People my age are changing their jobs every 2 or so years.

  1. I think I have learnt enough from this role or I think this job isn’t going to provide me much more knowledge
  2. I don’t feel I am getting paid enough for the work I have been doing for the last gosh! 1 and a half years!
  3. Even I have dreams to fulfill, I don’t think I am going to be able to fulfill my dreams by working for someone else, I will open up my own business

Now, there might be some truth to the third point there but I don’t think many people realize how hard, long and arduous of a process it is to sustain a business.

In this day and age of internet and low barriers to entry, people forget that they need to still earn the trust of real human beings who now more than ever are trying to shut themselves off from all the advertising that is thrown at their face from the minute they wake up.

Just when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough in your job, your career, your art, your writing, your singing, your guitar playing…you quit.

It’s not your fault. You were given complex tasks, goals that weren’t clearly defined and you were expected to figure it out all on your own. The result is nothing happened, you felt unmotivated to work or to even think problems through. A classic situation where Hock Principle comes into play.

The simpler and clearer the goal, the more intelligent your behavior. Complex targets on the other hand result in stupid behavior.

You are expected to fit like a cog in a machine that is the company you work for.

You were conditioned to wait for orders, then follow them with all your might throughout your school and college life. So it is no surprise to me that you feel suffocated after doing it in the real world for a couple of years.

In the real world, as opposed to the schools the pressure is too high, we’ve got bills to pay, food to buy, a house to run.

When Henry Ford popularized the mass production of automobiles, people saw what working in a factory really meant. He raised the minimum wage to $5 creating a tidal wave by setting a new high for the whole industry.

He still needed cogs who would fit into the machinery that his company was.

The whole industrial revolution was built on the idea of getting as many cogs(workers) available working on the assembly line in turn boosting the production. The high level decisions and inventions and design revolutions came from one or two people at the top of a company.

You could make out who these people were by the way they dressed in their three piece suits, with slick hair and large hats on their heads.

They always had slick and shiny shoes, with an overcoat as opposed to the factory workers who mostly dressed in a shirt and a waistcoat with a newsboy cap on their heads. The real change makers walked with poise, with their chest out, back in a reverse bow and could be seen in the company of similar men.

However, the situation is different now. Most of the change in a corporation now comes from collaboration of various minds at the lower level, for which the credit is taken by the higher managements.

This constant pressure of coming up with new ideas, then credit being taken away adds up over time. Human beings love to create but they also love recognition for their work whenever they can get some.

Absence of the chance to produce meaningful work with responsibility creates unnecessary pressure. These pressures add up to one day blow up your proverbial pressure cooker, and you end up feeling unsatisfied, wanting to start something of your own.

There are hardships in starting and running corporations, but it is in 2020 that a 10 person team can manage a $500M company with thousands of customers. Small teams help generate ideas that are closer to the core and keep people creatively involved.

Even large corporations such as Amazon, Asian Paints, Google are moving towards empowering individuals within the organization to bring about real change.

Change can also be brought about in a large corporation if you stick with it, improve upon your skill set, keep proving yourself constantly. You might need to learn about office politics, because of the sheer size of the company and the race to the top. But it is worth it, especially if you are learning more about your craft and producing better work.

We are not going to talk about quitting and starting your own thing in this article though. We are going to have a conversation about building a career over years of work and improving upon your craft.

Career I will re-stress, is something that is built over a lifetime. True skills are built by nurturing your art over years by hard work done with a strategy behind it.

If you want to stay the course, trust the process, do what needs to be done, then you’re allowed to read on.

If not, I would like you to just go back to whatever it is that you were doing before you stumbled across this essay of mine. And anyways, it’s going to be a huge blow to your ego if you read further too.

I am going to share a few questions that you can answer for yourselves. These questions are going to help you come to intelligent and thought after conclusions that are going to get you thinking in the right direction.

Remember to take your time with these. Even if it takes you a whole week. What is a week in the grand scheme of decades of building a career?

Question 1: What do you hate doing the most? If you have 2-3 items, note them down.

I want you to think deeply and answer these questions. Imagine if I pay you $1 Million to do these things for 15 hours a day.

Would you still be doing these things 2 years from now?

Would you trade those hours to do these things instead of spending them with your wife, your husband or your kids and parents?

Question 2: What kind of impact would you like to make in the world?

This question might come off as cheesy but it is imperative to understand what makes you tick so you know what general direction your career should be headed towards.

For example, If I want to help 100,000 young people figure out how they can build their careers, careers that they are happy with, I have no use taking a corporate marketing job. Optimally I should look towards education, teaching, making videos or writing articles so I can reach the numbers I hope to reach and then interact with them personally with their queries.

Question 3: What are the 3 different professions you have always wanted to take up & haven’t been able to?

We will build our way into at least one of these by the end of this article series on career and success.

Make sure to answer these questions with some thought but no restraints as no one else but you is going to see your answers.

Once you’re done with the 3 questions above, I want you to start thinking.

Thinking, not doing is the way to progress. Let the answers and the comparison with your current state marinate in your mind for a week or two.

A lot of stuff will be made clear to you in due time. A lot more, you are going to figure out by yourself after letting these ideas and answers sit in your head for a few days.

Know A Thousand Things: Miyamoto Musashi On Strategy In His “The Book Of Five Rings In 1645”

Book of five rings by Miyamoto Musashi

He knew his end was near, he wanted to share everything he had learnt through countless duels, battles with enemies and with himself throughout his life.

This was around the year 1643. There was a cave in the mountains north of Kumamoto, Japan. It was the perfect spot for this 60 year old man to retire into.

He was getting frail, his hair unkempt as usual. His receding hairline had retired to almost the back of his head.

Although old and frail, his mind was sharp as ever. He had chosen this cave to be the spot to transfer everything he had learnt about life throughout his travels across Japan, lessons he had learnt from his enemies and the battles he had fought. This would be his philosophy on life and martial arts compiled into text.

This text he named Go Rin No Sho.

Miyamoto Musashi is arguably the best swordsman our world has ever seen. He was born in 1584 in Miyamoto village in Japan.

He is known for his Book Of Five Rings where he highlights his philosophy of living a worthy life.

Although he garnered a reputation for not obeying a few rules such as not dressing the Samurai way, keeping his hair unkempt, he also had a reputation for using unusual weapons in duels.

One of his most famous battles was when he defeated a master with just a piece of wood derived from a boat oar, with one blow. He is also claimed to have defeated 60 opponents in 1 on 1 combat.

I believe his unusual choice of weapons, unkempt hair and body were simply means to throw off opponents. He was a master in the art of deception.

He would do exactly the opposite of what his opponents might have expected him to do. He arrived late to the duels when expected to be on time.

Once upon a time, his opponent set a trap with his partners to lure him into a 1 on 1 duel, while arriving with a platoon of people. As Musashi had a reputation of arriving late, they could easily ambush him.

Well, on that day he arrived early, earlier than the opponents and with one fell swoop beheaded their leader. This caught everyone off-guard, where he was able to then win over all those people.

Miyamoto Musashi, followed Bushido. Bushido is the way of the Samurai.

This code was practiced by all Samurais in all of Japan. And the basic premise of this code was honesty.

Honesty does not just mean being honest with other people, it also means being honest with yourself. Being honest about your shortcomings and your strengths in order to build a better you. Musashi in his book of five rings constantly talks about the importance of improving yourself from all fronts and how your death is dishonorable if you haven’t given something all you had.


Miyamoto Musashi promoted people to take up arts such as calligraphy that teach precision, patience and attention to detail as a means of winning in life. He was a master artist along with other things as well.

Art By Miyamoto Musashi

This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.

Miyamoto Musashi

Life can be easy at times, and at times it can be hard. We all have our fights, small or big.

We do not want to look back at our lives when we are 75 and say I wish I would have tried that thing I always wanted. Never leave your weapon undrawn.

It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.

Miyamoto Musashi

And we must fight our fights. To do that however, we must train ourselves to be stronger, wiser and better human beings. With time and delibrate training things start to become easier and easier as they get ingrained into our minds and bodies.

The letter below depicts one of the stories where Miyamoto’s way of thinking shows us that almost all hurdles in life can be crossed with adequate training of he mind and the body.

Dear Mookung, How are you?

I have been staying at Yagyu’s house. He is a really kind friend, so I am doing very well. However, a month ago, while I was learning swordsmanship from Yagyu, I met another friend, who is named Miyamoto Musashi. Before I met him, Yagyu told me that Miyamoto Musashi was the strongest Samurai in Japan. I asked him, “Is he stronger than you?”

He answered, “I did not compete with him, but I talked with him about swordsmanship many times. At that time, I always thought he was stronger than me.” I was surprised at his answer because Yagyu had very great swordsmanship. I met Miyamoto Musashi at his home.

Yagyu and I went to his home together, and I had an opportunity to learn swordsmanship from him, so many people envied me. Before teaching us swordsmanship, he showed us his swordsmanship. He said this style of swordsmanship was ‘Niten ichi ryu’. While learning swordsmanship, I asked how to have great swordsmanship to him. He pointed to a straw mat and said, “Can you walk on edge of the mat?” I walked on the edge of the mat as he said.

He asked again, “If the width of a bridge whose height is six feet is as narrow as the edge of the mat, can you walk on it?” Actually, the width of the mat was approximately three inches, so I thought it might be very dangerous to walk on the narrow bridge.

I answered, “Hmmmm… I am not sure…” He asked, “If the width is three inches, can you walk on it?” I said, “Of course, I can walk on it.” “How about this? What if the bridge links a mountaintop and the other mountaintop? Can you walk on it?” I answered with a serious look, “It is impossible. It is too dangerous to walk on it. I will never walk on it.”

Miyamoto Musashi laughed and concluded this argument. “The width of the bridge is same, so if you walk on the six-feet-height bridge, you can walk on the 3000-feet-height bridge. However, because we have distracting thoughts like fear of danger, people cannot walk on it.

Swordsmanship is the same as this. Thus, training in swordsmanship means throwing away the distracting thought.” I am impressed by his explanation. Before I met him, I just thought Samurais were only strong but not smart, and I saw many Samurais who swaggered because of their swordsmanship.

However, he was very different from them although he was the strongest Samurai in Japan. Thus, I believed that because of his personality, most warriors respected him. However, Musashi was also humorous, and he described swordsmanship and  object greatly, so he could be much famous than other Samurais.

After that day, we became good friends. He taught me swordsmanship, and I taught him accounting. He was very interested in learning accounting and good at math. However, he was going to have a big battle with his biggest rival, Sasaki Kojiro the following month.

Thus, I have not seen him for a while.What do you think about stories about my friends, Musashi and Yagyu? I hope that you enjoy my stories. After introducing two more friends, I will be able to go back home. I miss you a lot. I hope to see you soon.

Best,  

Dongpyo Hong 


With enough deliberate practice put into something, we can master that art. Training of mind, training of body are the most important things.

29 May 1453: The Bloody Fall Of Constantinople

Constantinople

It was a Tuesday like none other. All you could see was destruction, the two armies shooting at each other, huge cannons were being used to blow up enemy soldiers and walls. The water in the gutters had turned insidiously red. Dead bodies upon dead bodies of Ottomans and Byzantines were floating in the sea.

This was day 53 of a bloody siege laid on this beautiful, one of the riches cities in Europe, by 80,000-200,000 Ottoman men. On 29th May 1453 the siege laid over Constantinople by the 21 year old Sultan, Mehmed II came to an end giving power over Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire.

Roman emperor, Constantine the Great had made Constantinople the imperial capital in 330. The history of Constantinople is very interesting spanning over 11 centuries before being handed over to the Ottomans on this fateful day of 29th May.

During those 1100 odd years, it was captured only once during what they call as Fourth Crusade in 1204, only to be recaptured from the Latins in 1261. The 29th Day of May of 1453 came as the final blow which took away Constantinople for good.

Constantinople(modern day Istanbul), post the siege was made the new capital of the Ottoman Empire signifying the importance that the siege had. Capturing this city was in no way a small feat. Only once had it been previously captured in the 1100 year history to be taken back just 57 years later.

Constantinople even had withstood the black plague that lasted from 1346 to 1349 although it had sadly lost more than half of it’s population to this plague. Even though the empire was left to just a few kilometres around Constantinople by 1450, the city itself enjoyed a great name and fame being the largest and the wealthiest pf cities of Europe.

This siege might have lasted for 53 days, but Mehmed II had been planning this hostile takeover all along since 1451, when he had succeeded his father at the age of 19. He had strategically cut of the supplies and made an elaborate plan to take over the city as a crown jewel for himself.

Once the initial assault was successful, the Ottoman army spread throughout the city with only a few citizens managing to escape their bloody fate.

Lost Letters From 1679 – Travels To Spain

I have learnt, since this little Adventure, that ’tis the Custom in Spain, when any thing is presented to one, if he likes it, and kisses your Hand, he may take it with him.

Madame d’Aulnoy

A guy took her expensive mechanical watch to have a look(Tompion’s) and then took her hand in his and kissed it. As soon as he did it, he put the watch in his pocket, which she describes would have been bigger than someone’s travel sack, and walked away.

One such Tompion’s mechanical hand watch from 1708, sold for GBP 25,000 at an auction. One of Tompion’s table clocks sold for GBP 2M in 1999.

We arriv’d in good time at St. John de Luz: nothing can be pleasanter than this Borough, which is the greatest in France, and the best built; there are several smaller Cities : its Port lies between two Mountains, which Nature seems to have expressly placed to defend it from Storms ; the River Nivelle disgorges it self therein ; the Sea comes up very high in it, and the greatest Barks come up commodiously to the Key. The Seamen here are very skillful at catching Whales, and other large Fish.

Madame d’Aulnoy

I felt this was very interesting. The fact that in 1600s, there were fishermen skillful and crafty enough to catch whales.

Makes me wonder what did they exactly do with a whale they caught. Not all parts are going to be edible.

What did they use the whale teeth for?

Born to Nicolas – Claude Le Jumel, who was said to have served in the armies of Louis XIV for a long time. Her father Nicolas, was related to a few of the best families in Normandy, and her mother worked to provide special services to the Spanish Court.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness of Aulnoy, was a french fairy tale writer who became famous to the family for her works done in the late 17th century among other female fairy tale writers.

Her notable works included La Chatte Blanche, La Grenouttle Bien-complaisante, Le Prince Lutin, L’Oiseau Bleue

Baroness of Aulnoy
Baroness of Aulnoy

She got married at the age of 16 to Francois de La Motte who was 52 at the time. This fact really tells something about marriages and society of those times.

If the Contes des Fees of Madame Aulnoy have had a remarkable vogue, not so fortunate has been the lot of some of the historical endeavors of this lady. Her Memoires de la Cour d’Espagne (1679-1681) and Memoires de la Cour d’Angleterre (1695) have been quietly laid aside, together with the Histoire d’Hippolyte, Comte de Douglas (1690), and the Histoire de Jean de Bourbon (1692), for, though always interesting, the qualities of imagination which combine to the writing of a fairy tale are not quite those needed for the making of history, and unfortunately for the clever lady, it is in the field of “delicate frivolity that she has been placed.”

Most Faithful Servant

She traveled with little mules, her banker, and servants. She tells various stories in her letters out of which a couple I have highlighted.

Gateway Of Fuenterrabia
Gateway Of Fuenterrabia

Some who came to feed me, brought little little Sucking Pigs under their Arms, as we do little Dogs: it’s true they were very spruce, and several of ’em had Collars of Ribbons, of various Colours: However, this Custom looks very odd, and 1 cannot but think that several among themselves are disgusted at it: When they danced, they must set them down, and let these grunting Animals run about the Chamber, where they make a very pleasant Harmony.

Madame d’Aulnoy

She wrote this in her first letter, written to her cousin. She had to travel through France into Spain, her journey included riding with the litter through multiple mountains, then to cross the sea to finally come to a junction where you had to pay toll to enter Spain.

Both Spain and France had decided that at this toll, the two countries would split the collection irrespective of the political situation. To come to a conclusion like that feels a big deal to me, as it would be but natural for one country to want all the money collected during 1600s.

Medina Del Campo
Medina Del Campo

She explains in great detail the events that took place throughout her journey through Spain in 1679 through these long letters she wrote.

Her words resonate very well, seems like she is writing a fairy tale to take you through the towns, castles, and people she encountered on her long journey.

Definitely a great but lesser known storyteller.

She traveled a lot, wrote a great deal about her experience and died in her house in the Rue Saint-Benoit in January, 1705.

Seneca: On Choosing Our Teachers, Letter 52

Seneca The Younger, or more popularly knows as Seneca was one of the most prolific stoic philosophers this world has every seen. He was also an advisor to King Nero.

He wasn’t just another academician from 50 AD who used to teach people about philosophy. No. He lived his teachings. He was a famous playwright and a writer.

One of the richest men in Rome, and of course an advisor to the king.

He had seen his fair share of hardships in life to the tune of being exiled to Corsica for 7 years. His life ended with a stoic suicide that was ordered by none other than King Nero himself.

He wrote mostly about tragedy and is most popularly known for a compilation of his letters which mention Lucillus quite a few times who was the governor of Sicily in around 65 AD.

Letter 58, By Seneca The Younger

His letters are an amazing resource for someone living in the 21st century.

Surprised?

I was too.

The letters have a very high applicability in our times as well. This is because he talks about loss of a friend, of a loved one, being rich and being poor, on contemplating our mortality and more real life day to day problems.

His philosophy, Stoicism in general is not an esoteric philosophy. It is very well connected to our daily lives.

In a letter on choosing your teachers he talks about quite a few prominent ideas that I thought of sharing with you guys.

How mad is he who leaves the lecture-room in a happy frame of mind simply because of applause from the ignorant! Why do you take pleasure in being praised by men whom you yourself cannot praise?     Pythagoras made his pupils keep silence for five years; do you think that they had the right on that account to break out immediately into applause? 

Seneca, Letter 52: On Choosing Our Teachers

              
The applicability of the above line in 2020 from the letter comes as no surprise to me.

In this day and age of online course creators, and people who make videos and write articles teaching other people for social media followers and views, bangs right on.

It makes me wonder how the 1st Century Rome was. We might think that the world has changed drastically, but by this sentence alone, I know there were teachers preaching only for the claps and applause.

Teachers must lead by example and not just by word. That does not mean you cannot share what you are learning while you’re learning something but it is always better to apply before you teach.

Those are the types of teachers we should seek. A real teacher does not live for the applause but for the transfer of the knowledge itself so that when he dies, his knowledge is passed on.

These outcries should be left for the arts which aim to please the crowd; let philosophy be worshiped in silence. Young men, indeed, must sometimes have free play to follow their impulses, but it should only be at times when they act from impulse, and when they cannot force themselves to be silent. Such praise as that gives a certain kind of encouragement to the hearers themselves, and acts as a spur to the youthful mind. But let them be roused to the matter, and not to the style; otherwise, eloquence does them harm, making them enamored of itself, and not of the subject.

Seneca, Letter 52: On Choosing Our Teachers

I love that he says philosophy is worshiped in silence. I believe that real work in life gets done when nobody is watching.

We all put a mask on when people are watching us. Stoic philosophy is not a mask we can wear that easily.

Principles and teachings of Stoicism need to be contemplated upon, studied and applied to the situations in life.

If we start getting aroused by the way a teacher teaches, by how that person dresses and portrays himself, we are on the wrong path.

As a student we must get charmed by the subject matter and it’s application rather than just the style of the person teaching the subject. especially when it comes to practical philosophy of living life.

Upper Cover Of The Published Letters by Seneca

I should accordingly deem more fortunate the man who has never had any trouble with himself; but the other, I feel, has deserved better of himself, who has won a victory over the meanness of his own nature, and has not gently led himself, but has wrestled his way, to wisdom.

Seneca, Letter 52: On Choosing Our Teachers


This is classic Seneca. Tragedy teaches us more than the good times.


It is fine to choose to follow people who never had a conflicting opinion with themselves.


Maybe they have never wanted to do too many things or loved many things and had to choose only one or two of them.


The experience of letting go of something that you love, the experience of fighting with your own self, makes you a better teacher and a better student.

There are obstacles in our path; so let us fight, and call to our assistance some helpers. “Whom,” you say, “shall I call upon? Shall it be this man or that?” There is another choice also open to you; you may go to the ancients; for they have the time to help you. We can get assistance not only from the living, but from those of the past. 

Seneca, Letter 52: On Choosing Our Teachers

              
When looking for teachers, let’s look at the people who have lived in the past and have passed on their teachings, their philosophies on life and their experiences are going to be the first ones to choose.

Those guys have nowhere to go, so you practically have an unlimited amount of time with those people and their teachings.

I get a lot of people who ask me about finding a mentor.

Lo and behold, I give you unlimited resources at your disposal.

Let the Marcus Aurelius teach you leadership, let the President Lyndon Johnson teach you politics, let John Bogle teach you investing, let Charles Darwin teach you evolution and let Da Vinci teach you how to watch closely and think.

Choose as a guide one whom you will admire more when you see him act than when you hear him speak. 

Seneca, Letter 52: On Choosing Our Teachers

              
And when you have chose from the dead, choose a teacher from the living.


But don’t choose too many teachers at once. Look for one or two sources and then dive deep into those sources, building upon what you learn from them.


The real teaching does not happen while listening to the teacher. It happens when you think about what the teacher taught.


The best way to find a great teacher is by observing at what they do and not what they say.


Follow people who were in a similar situation as you in their lives and progressed from there.


Look at what they did to come out victorious on the other end.

Marcus Aurelius: 20 Life Lessons From The Emperor Of Rome Himself

Philosophy has been popularized as something learnt in a college from a 2000 page textbook where you try to find meaning of life itself.

As Ryan Holiday jokes, philosophy is not just limited to academia where people in turtleneck t-shirts ask difficult questions about life, rather philosophy is the practical guide to living life.

Many people think philosophy is something that you have once you have become successful in your life. They could not be more wrong.

Look at the masters like Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, they never got a philosophy degree in their life and yet they are given the ranks of the great philosophers. 

Shah Rukh Khan, one of the greatest actors India has ever seen is famously quoted with the line: “Don’t become a philosopher before you become rich” 

Well in my opinion, that advice is simply wrong. Now of course, I am not even nearly successful as Shah Rukh Khan, but I know a faulty advice when I see one. 

You see, philosophy is a set of rules we choose to live our lives by, successful or not, rich or not.

Successful people have their own philosophy to life, with which they stick by throughout. That is why they are successful and not the other way round.


Let’s take the example of Shah Rukh Khan himself. 

Once he had seen poverty closely, and tasted success through extreme amounts of hard work he got a clear picture on what he wanted in his life and the direction he wanted his life to follow. So, he decided a path for his life.

Every step he took had to be in that very direction. In short, he had a philosophy that revolved around the fact that being poor is bad. He never wanted to go back to poverty. 

Living up to that one rule that he had constructed on his own for himself, was his philosophy about for HIS life.

This (philosophy) has been quoted as the biggest motivation of Shah Rukh Khan’s life by none other than he himself.  

We are an evolved species because we have a philosophy on life. Even animals have a philosophy in their lives. What makes us Humans different is that we can choose our own philosophy, construct and edit it as we experience situations in our lives. 

This gives us immense power over not just our own emotions and momentum but also on the events that can happen around us. It gives us power over events and situations that would simply be out of our control. 

Vegans have a philosophy towards animal love, academicians have a philosophy towards knowledge, Maria Popova has a philosophy about consuming interesting art and sharing it with her millions of readers, Elon Musk has a strong philosophy revolving around evolving the human race and so forth. 

So, in this article I took apart the meditations or set of rules that the Emperor Of Rome from 161-180 A.D. used to live by. This guy, none other than Marcus Aurelius, has been treated as one of the key figures in stoic philosophy as well as the history of the world as we know it. 

Marcus Aurelius was known as one of the last good emperors of Rome under whose rule Rome flourished. After him the downfall of the empire started. 

Marcus Aurelius On A Coin From 166 A.D.

Marcus chose mornings to write his meditations, not for publication but for himself. It has been discussed at a lot of places that this compilation of meditations were more or less his own journal for himself and the lessons he was learning as he was living as the most powerful man on Earth. 

For all of you who might be unaware of stoic philosophy, it is a way of living life where we take events as they are. The aim is to remove the negative and positive connotations from them.

If you are a Game Of Thrones fan, in the last season, have a look at when Baelish gives advice to Sansa Stark about warfare.

He says something along the lines of “Every fight must be fought at the same time. Imagine you are being attacked by everyone from all directions at all times. Prepare yourself mentally for that situation so when it really occurs, it does not have the element of surprise anymore”

Well, that sounds a lot like stoicism, doesn’t it?
The aim of this article is to give you a few key set of ideas that might make you think a bit deeper on what you want to do in your life and give you a sense of control and direction.

 I have laid out my interpretations of these various phrases by Marcus Aurelius, in his journal: Meditations. If you have a different interpretation on either of these, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

1. Through not observing what is in the mind of another a man has seldom been seen to be unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.


We must be at peace with ourselves. The aim is to have a deep understanding of ourselves through experience and deliberate practice.

If we do not put in the time to become familiar with ourselves and who we are, we will never be able to find a true sense of happiness. We can always be happy when we do not know what others are thinking, however, if we are not sure about what we truly want in our lives, we can never be happy. 

I see and meet a lot of people my age, people who would otherwise be extremely happy with what they are doing but for some reason cannot seem to get the much needed peace of mind. They are either thinking about leaving their current job or have already left it and feel empty inside.

This situation occurs with people who either have not listened to who they are, have not paid close attention to their child like spirit and taken steps to nurture that spirit and take action upon what it wants or people who listened to it but ignored it and went along the masses.

It becomes extremely important today to listen to your heart and know that most career choices which would have been laughed upon 10 years ago, offer millions of dollars. For example, being a gamer, being a YouTuber.

Be in tune with yourself, the voice inside you and try and resonate your life according to it and not the other way round. I have kept this point at number one, because I believe mindset is the key. Self awareness is one of the most powerful assets we can have in our lives.

So I push you towards spending some time alone. After the lockdown is lifted go for a coffee on your own, deal with the stupid stares and the pity the waiter shows you when they see you’re having coffee alone. Have some fun and discover yourself and your thoughts.

Try to figure out who you are, take a deep dive into your own heart and mind. See what drives you, see what keeps you down. Just by knowing these things we can improve our choices in our lives by leaps and bounds and move a step closer towards happiness.

2. Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the perfect principles of art.


Every single action we take, be it in our career, relationships, business, health or any other subject, there always needs to be a higher purpose. 

In the past 5 years of studying all these successful people, picking their brains and being able to work with some of them them I have seen this common trait occur again and again. They not only take actions with purpose, but walk, talk and live with purpose. 

People like Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Neil Strauss have made systems in their life which allow them to do everything with a purpose.

For example, the best selling author Neil Strauss has automated his lunch delivery for everyday so he does not have to waste time in deciding what to eat.

He uses an app while writing, that locks his computer on one single screen(the word processor he uses) until he writes a specific number of words.

He is able to use that time and brainpower to do something that he is the best at. 

Writing.

Yes, we have to be sure of what we want in our lives and what our purpose is, which the previous meditation will help you achieve. 

It is not just about knowing our passion in life. Maybe, I want a better job, or a raise. So, all the actions that I take during my day should point me towards getting a better job or a raise.

Every single thing I do, person I help, things I learn should put me one step closer to my virtues and my ultimate goal. That is why understanding ourselves, and knowing our goals is highly important in life. They help us figure out what needs to be done everyday.

Everything we do, has to be done with a greater sense of purpose.

3. Take away thy opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, “I have been harmed.” Take away the complaint, “I have been harmed,” and the harm is taken away.


If I manage to remove my opinion on how a certain something should have been done, I will be left with nothing to complain about. Sometimes we believe that there is only one way to do something, and when people tend to not follow that line of progression it takes a mental toll on us.

When these do not get followed we naturally complain and destroy our own sense of composure. 
And when we remove the expectation that everyone will behave according to how we want them to, we end up not complaining about things at all.

Once we do that, everything that happens around us, has no effect on us. That brings for us the ultimate peace of mind where we can think inwards, work on our inner self, figure ourselves and our true purpose out and in turn achieve real mastery.

Just by removing the predisposed opinion on events happening around us we remove the ability of that event to negatively affect us in the long haul. 

I want to give you an example here just to make it clear in case the words above felt a bit abstract: Let’s say I believe everyone should shun offline marketing channels and take up online marketing channels.

When someone I know does not do that, I get angry and complain. And that harms my mental state, even though it has nothing to do with my life or business.

All I have to do to make the situation better, or make it impossible to occur, is to remove my opinion on offline advertising. Now, I do not want to remove that opinion, well, I don’t have to completely terminate it.

I just remove my opinion from other people’s actions. If I hate offline advertising, I won’t use it. I cannot expect everyone to do the same. Once I take a note of this fact, everything that happens around me is just an event. 

The negative connotation to that event is automatically removed from the equation.

4.  Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.


When people talk about dying, or death we say that the whole thing is a bit morbid. However, there are so many successful people who are motivated by death.

It is much less about death and much more about us realizing that our time on this planet is very limited. So, the question to you is are you doing enough good for other people that when you die you will be remembered?

And by that I do not even mean being remembered by millions of people. Even a 100 people? 
Those are a 100 human beings whose lives as well as their family’s lives would have been blessed by something that you did.

That, now is a huge accomplishment. Much bigger than most of us would ever do in our lifetimes.

Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius

MEMENTO MORI: a saying that reminds us of being mortals. One day we are going to turn to dust, but what we do before that one day comes makes us who we are. 


Marcus Aurelius made great choices. He felt great and proud of himself of not raping slaves, not treating people with disdain and bringing unnecessary harm to the ones around him, yes even the ones in his family who conspired against him. 

Imagine, the most powerful man on Earth, who can do whatever he wants going against what other powerful men did at those times(rape, drink and go crazy) choosing not to do anything like that and bring no harm to the slaves around him. 

Now that is a great decision.

5. Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered.


This quote is something that piques my interest. 

I have lived by this quote indirectly.

It has a deeper meaning behind it. 

We tend to rely on our past accomplishments and become complacent. However, in the real world, these accomplishments do not last long. Same is the case with negative stuff.

So if you are doing something good, you have to do something good everyday. 

If you are facing criticism and pushback from haters, well, it too will last for a very small period of time.

Keep moving forward.

6. About what am I now employing my own soul? On every occasion I must ask myself this question, and inquire, What have I now in this part of me which they call the ruling principle? and whose soul have I now,—that of a child, or of a young man, or of a feeble woman, or of a tyrant, or of a domestic animal, or of a wild beast?


Well, this one took me quite some time to get my head around. I had to push myself quite a bit to really understand this one and translate this to normal people English.

The gist is simple. He talks about having a different viewpoints for different situations that occur in life. Just by having a different viewpoint or in other words getting into different shoes each time a different situation strikes we use all of our potential or soul.

As Ramit Sethi says we all have lenses we view the world by. Now, how willing are you to just for the moment put on another pair of glasses and see the situation as someone else might see it from.

This would require a huge deal of empathy towards others, and that is what makes it difficult.

We must strive towards using as much of our brain as often as possible for as many situations as we can.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a master of this form of thinking. He went against the popular belief of having a big army to invade. 

In a lot of his battles, he would March in with an outnumbered ratio of 1 to 2 or even 1 to 3. This would give him the flexibility to move at double speed than the enemy and steer the direction of the battle itself. 

This kind of warfare also gave him the ability to find ways to attack the enemy that they would not expect. Napoleon had to be flexible in envisioning various scenarios and employ totally different ways to move in on the enemy forces. 

This gave him the ability to really step into the shoes of the other person and think on what they might be planning with the information and the size of the army they had they had. 

It simply showed him that the other person because of the sheer size of the army isn’t going to be able to out maneuver him quickly.

He also employed the fact that if he is able to scare off a chunk of opponent’s army, the whole formation would disintegrate leaving an opening for his small yet flexible squadron to mount a surprise attack.

Now, I believe this type of thinking is not uncommon and it should definitely be cultivated.

 7. It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be disturbed in our soul; for things themselves have no natural power to form our judgments.


Situations or circumstances are not alive. They do not carry a very specific instruction sheet with them on how we should act.

We carry a manual on how we react to situations and happenings in our lives. Normally this manual that we carry is built upon the past experiences we have had in our lives.

A true stoic however, studies the past experiences in a neutral light and takes notes from them. 

We have an initial emotional response to those events and the lessons learnt that hinders our future experience. 

Guess what, manuals can be edited, rewritten and reprinted whenever we want.

The aim is to not let a situation affect us in a way that negatively affects our life or our state of mind. 
A situation is just a situation, neither negative nor positive.

It just is.

8. Accustom thyself to attend carefully to what is said by another, and as much as it is possible, be in the speaker’s mind.


Hearing is different than listening. All we have to do is be present in the moment and really hone in on what the person is saying.

By doing this we can step into their shoes and watch the world with a totally different perspective.
It is great to see the different parts of the world with your perspective but even better is to see one part of the world with hundreds of different perspectives.

A lot of people I meet ask me why I read so many books or what is this obsession with consuming so much information. Well, all that reading and constant learning gives me a different set of eyes to look at the world from. 

By being able to look at the world from someone else’s reality I can not only learn what not to do but it also teaches me about human beings in general and how we make decisions, and that in turn places the power in my hand. 

9. To the jaundiced honey tastes bitter, and to those bitten by mad dogs water causes fear; and to little children the ball is a fine thing. Why then am I angry? Dost thou think that a false opinion has less power than the bile in the jaundiced or the poison in him who is bitten by a mad dog?


Having an opinion is natural for human beings. However, having an opinion that clouds our judgement is not.

The world can be seen through many different lenses and everyone views the world in their own way. Now, it is not necessary that you like what I like and you hate what I hate. 

So, having our own opinion is great but trying to impose it over someone else or the situations around us causes nothing but a mish mash of the events we do not want or like.

What Marcus Aurelius says is simple, having a false opinion on something is more dangerous than anything else. He pushes us to educate ourselves before we make our decisions based on half knowledge or stuff that we just heard from someone without credibility.

It might take us an extra minute or two to verify the statement before we make it public, and those extra minutes are going to be worth it because the scenario on the other end could even make us lose everything we have.

Robert Greene talks about this in his book 33 strategies of war as well. Never trust information from one single source. It could be that the person is trying to betray us or laying a plot for some future action.

Any information before being acted upon should be verified through multiple sources and then carefully thought upon before taking the final step. This once again, gives us power over people around us.

10. Be not ashamed to be helped; for it is thy business to do thy duty like a soldier in the assault on a town. How then, if being lame thou canst not mount up on the battlements alone, but with the help of another it is possible?


Okay, I am going to pivot a bit from the example Marcus Aurelius gives. Of course it is an apt example for the time he lived in. It was a time without internet, phones or anything else.

People wanted real power, power to dominate the planet and rule over everyone else.

Marcus Aurelius lived in a time where conspiracies were common, overthrowing emperors was what revolting people used to plan in the darkness of the night. He lived in a time where family conspired against family.

His own daughter, Lucilla conspired to have her brother(Marcus Aurelius’s son, Commodus) assassinated.

Those were some interesting times. However, a lot of this advice as with stoicism in general is quite practically applicable in this century.

Let’s talk about the so called ‘self made millionaires’. Are they really, ‘SELF MADE’?

Yes they are self made, only if we ignore the part following people might have played negatively or positively in their lives into shaping these so called ‘SELF MADE’ millionaires.

Parents, Friends, Family Members, Co-Workers, Random people they met, People whose interviews, documentaries, movies that inspired these millionaires, their employees, government, politics and let’s not forget a lot of times their pets to keep their sanity in place.

Humans are a collaborative species, we need help of each other to sustain the species and live for years to come. 


Just imagine if you were the only human being on the planet. Not to mention the insanity it would cause, but think of what you would not be able to do without anyone around. 

11. Be thou erect, or be made erect


HaHa. This one always gets me to giggle.

Are you with me? Yea, let’s move forward.

So, what Marcus Aurelius says in this simple yet extremely applicable quote is that sometimes we need to be flexible. Even though he uses the exact opposite word of flexible. 

If you’re a fan of Bruce Lee, you might have watched his video where he says ‘be like water my friend’ 

Water takes the shape of the container it is poured in. Water adapts to what is expected of it and in the long run even destroys huge rocks that stand in its way.

Then we also have Conficius who talks about the fact that a strong bamboo is the one that bends along with the wind. That is the bamboo or the green reed which survives the storm.

12. To the rational animal the same act is according to nature and according to reason.


So, this one took some time for me to contemplate and work upon.

Human beings are rational animals. It means that we think before we act and we have set rules we act upon. This means we human beings are not expected to be reactive but to be proactive in what we do.

Any situation or scenario needs thinking before doing, and in consistently doing something like this we develop a habit of following virtues in our lives. These virtues then become our second nature.

As we apply this logic and reasons more and more to our daily life these become our truth. So we need to consciously develop our nature in a way that makes us balance and think before we take certain actions.

With enough deliberate practice, this virtue then also becomes automatic and ingrained into who we are. 

13. Life must be reaped like the ripe ears of corn. One man is born; another dies.


There are a lot of moments in our lives which make us change who we are.

It is in our power if we let these moments become either big or small. If I want I could learn something new every hour of the day and change who I am every single hour.

But I will have to kill who I was an hour ago and a new ME will be born. Life then is a series of births and rebirths where we constantly improve and reinvent ourselves in order to grow and become a better human being.

Charles Darwin, had quite an experience with nature and recognizing species within England and he already knew quite a bit about nature at that point. However, once he reached the island of Galapagos, he realized there were thousands of new species, alive and dead which he knew nothing about. 

If at that moment, he would have not thought wow, there is so much I don’t know about, he might have never collected the samples that then he worked upon throughout his life and we would have never seen the evolution theory.

So, he had to kill the old Charles Darwin and a new Charles Darwin was born who had more excitement, more awe about nature and even more so curious about what lies beyond that he had seen in England.


14. Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.

All human beings are made up of the same framework. The building block for each one of us is the same.

The atom, the cells, the body systems, the skeleton. We are all same from the inside. 

However, our mind and the way we use it makes us totally different from each other.

If need be we can always reach deep down inside and get to our core where we all have that touch of human-ness. We all know what the right thing is and all we have to do is look on the inside and act on what our heart says.


15. On the occasion of every act ask thyself, How is this with respect to me? Shall I repent of it? A little time and I am dead, and all is gone. What more do I seek, if what I am now doing is the work of an intelligent living being, and a social being, and one who is under the same law with God?


Marcus Aurelius, wrote these thoughts out for himself every morning.

He; the most powerful man on earth at that time wrote to himself that if he ever has a difficult decision to make, all he has to do is ask himself of certain things before taking the next step on it.

We must ask ourselves “if this action that I am about to undertake complies with my belief set or not?” 

Will it make the world a better place and my name and legacy a good one after I am dead? 

Is the action that I am about take, will I be able to say that I made an intelligent decision here after I am dead? 


16. Thou hast not leisure [or ability] to read. But thou hast leisure [or ability] to check arrogance: thou hast leisure to be superior to pleasure and pain: thou hast leisure to be superior to love of fame, and not to be vexed at stupid and ungrateful people, nay even to care for them.


Even if you are not as educated as a doctor, or a lawyer you still have the ability to check your actions. 

You still have the ability to detach yourself from the current situation and look at it as it is. 
Something I learnt from stoicism and Ryan Holiday: situations are not negative or positive, situations are just situations.

You have the ability to detach yourself from the greed of fame, and to detach yourself from the comments and actions of people who do not want your betterment. 

There are going to be all types of situations and people in your life, and a lot of ungrateful people but you can still take charge and detach yourself from those people and their deeds.  


17. Everything exists for some end,—a horse, a vine. Why dost thou wonder? Even the sun will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the gods will say the same. For what purpose then art thou,—to enjoy pleasure? See if common sense allows this.


A big idea that all the stoic followed was of fate. 

AMOR FATI, which translate to love of fate. They believed that everything exists for some or the other reason. 

Every single thing, every single situation that occurs. From horses to grapes to the sun, has a purpose to fulfill. 

Even the situations that are not in our favor have something to tell us, something to teach us. The stoics had a way of looking for neutrality in every situation and every occurrence around them. 

What is your fate going to be? What purpose are you fulfilling by being on Earth? Are you just existing for pleasure, or are you here to serve a higher calling, serve your true purpose on the planet.


18. Receive [wealth or prosperity] without arrogance; and be ready to let it go.


If there is one thing I have seen in all the successful people that I have studied over the last 6 years is that they all are extremely humble and have a student mindset. 

The most successful people I have met have often times just taken out their notepad and started taking notes while talking to me which seems to amaze me every time since these guys have amazingly successful businesses and amassed superb wealth.

Surely they know more than me, however they always seem to grind one or two lessons in each conversation and are very humble about it. 

Humility is our friend and ego is our enemy


Seneca was one of the richest people in Rome, an advisor to Emperor Nero, and a celebrated playwright in Rome. He had this monthly practice of taking 24 hours every month and acting as if he was poor. 

He wood dress shabby, live on measly food exactly like a homeless person. 

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared? – Seneca

We all tend to underestimate our future misery and are never prepared for tough times. 

This is an amazing lesson to learn from the stoics. Be humble when on your way to top and be ready to lose it all if it ever happens. 

19. To-day I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside, but within and in my opinions.


Ryan Holiday was a talking about a situation he sometimes finds himself in where he is getting frustrated and says to his wife ‘you’re frustrating me’ and she says, I cannot frustrate you. 
Only YOU can frustrate you.

Situations are situations, neither negative nor positive. Be an observer and not a participant and you will see the world as it is, and you will see how to make decisions without being affected by them. 
It’s all in our own control. 


20. No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such.


Bla Bla Bla Bla, Bla Bla. 

That is how most of us are. Bla, Bla, Bla and on and on.

In this world of social media we tend to show the flashy parts of our lives, rent a Lamborghini for social media posts and on and on. 

All we need to do is walk the talk. Put our money where our mouth is. 

It is easy to blabber about how things need to be done, or how you can do it better, but what takes real courage is actually taking up the charge and doing them. 

Do.  

Pay The Plumber

Working on a project is certainly not the hardest thing to do in our lives.

We might feel otherwise at times.

This reminds me of an anecdote.

A guy calls a plumber to fix his sink.

plumber

The plumber takes a pair of pliers and lightly taps the pipes twice and says it’s done.

It will be $100, the plumber says.

A $100, are you crazy? For tapping on the pipe twice? The man exclaims.

The Plumber goes like, Well, tapping on the pipes is $5, knowing where to tap them is another $95.

The hard part is not the work itself.

It is knowing what to work upon. Once you have this figured out, getting the actual work done is a mere triviality.

I hope you pay the plumber.

Evils Of Envy: Robert Greene And Others On Using Envy For One’s Benefit

We humans are naturally compelled to compare ourselves with one another. We are continually measuring people’s status, the levels of respect and attention they receive and noticing any differences between what we have and what they have. For some of us, this need to compare serves as a spur to excel through our work. For others, it can turn into deep envy – feelings of inferiority and frustration that lead to covert attacks and sabotage. Nobody admits to acting out of envy.

You must recognize the early warning signs – praise and bids for friendship that seem effusive and out of proportion; subtle digs at you under the guise of good-natured humor; apparent uneasiness with your success. It is most likely to crop up among friends or your peers in the same profession. Learn to deflect envy by drawing attention away from yourself. Develop your sense of self-worth from internal standards and not incessant comparisons.

Robert Greene, The Laws Of Human Nature: The Law Of Envy
Laws Of Human Nature By Robert Greene


I went through an interview of the author Robert Greene talking about his book, The Laws Of Human Nature.


The daily stoic team had to visit Robert personally at his house for the interview as opposed to the regular thing; getting Robert to type out the answers to their questions and sending them via a simple email.

Why?


Robert had a stroke sometime before the launch of his book and was unable to properly use the left side of his body. So he was unable to simply type and send over his answers. He had to learn quite a few things right from the start, like getting his body used to using the left hand once again.


The reason Robert’s writing stands the test of time is because of his storytelling. Most of his examples span centuries back, so these stories have stood the test of time themselves.

Hence Robert’s work has always had the charm of feeling like an evergreen piece. The information in these would be applicable to our current and the future decades as well.


Robert put special attention to envy in his book and the interview.

In this book he explores envy and mentions it as one of the most poisonous human characteristics.

Envy

To take Envy next: we can see on what grounds, against what persons, and in what states of mind we feel it. Envy is pain at the sight of such good fortune as consists of the good things already mentioned; we feel it towards our equals; not with the idea of getting something for ourselves, but because the other people have it.

We shall feel it if we have, or think we have, equals; and by ‘equals’ I mean equals in birth, relationship, age, disposition, distinction, or wealth. We feel envy also if we fall but a little short of having everything; which is why people in high place and prosperity feel it-they think every one else is taking what belongs to themselves.


Also if we are exceptionally distinguished for some particular thing, and especially if that thing is wisdom or good fortune. Ambitious men are more envious than those who are not. So also those who profess wisdom; they are ambitious to be thought wise. Indeed, generally, those who aim at a reputation for anything are envious on this particular point. And small-minded men are envious, for everything seems great to them.


The good things which excite envy have already been mentioned. The deeds or possessions which arouse the love of reputation and honor and the desire for fame, and the various gifts of fortune, are almost all subject to envy; and particularly if we desire the thing ourselves, or think we are entitled to it, or if having it puts us a little above others, or not having it a little below them. It is clear also what kind of people we envy; that was included in what has been said already: we envy those who are near us in time, place, age, or reputation.


Hence the line:
“Ay, kin can even be jealous of their kin. “

Rhetoric by Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.

Aristotle in Rhetoric goes to great lengths talking about envy, it’s ill effects as well as how envy can take seed in someone’s thoughts to nurture into a fully grown cactus that can harm the people around it if not handled carefully.


(Fun Fact: Aristotle was Alexander the Great’s Teacher from the age of 14, and it is because of Aristotle that Alexander didn’t really force Greece’s culture over the kingdoms he later conquered in his life.)


Aristotle explains envy very simply. Envy being an emotion that we can feel when others get something in their lives that we may not have. It can be success, better job, better spouse, more money.


People can also feel envious in general if they fall short of having everything they dream about. Now this can even be a good thing as for a lot of successful people this type of envy has acted as a catalyst to work hard towards what they want to achieve.


This type of envy is relatively easier to control and use for our benefit. The other however, is extremely poisonous.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I know the hatred and envy of your hearts. Ye are not great enough not to know of hatred and envy. Then be great enough not to be ashamed of them!

Friedrich Nietzsche

For a person to confess that they have envy against someone is almost impossible. Confronting someone about them harboring envy can turn into an ugly situation as these people act enraged, and it is not a surprise that there have been many a criminal cases of violence committed by such people when confronted.


This non acceptance is because envy has been allotted the prestigious position within the 7 deadliest sins of mankind by many religions.


As Nietzsche points out, just accepting the hatred and envy we might feel for someone is a great deed in itself.


In order to overcome the negative effects of envy, we must accept it. Accepting that we can be envious of our friends or family at times is the first step of being able to use it to our advantage.

Once we know that someone else’s progress makes us envious, we can use it as fuel to push ourselves to do better. This turns the feeling of envy into a healthy competition against the people we feel envious about.


We must learn to be okay with these emotions and we need to realize that they are a part of human nature. This puts us in the right frame of mind to digest and being empathetic with someone’s progress or problems.

Cain murders Abel

According to  Gen 4:1-16, Cain murders his brother Abel, which is also called as the first murder and then lies to God when asked “Where is your brother?”

This first murder has it’s roots deeply dug into envy. Cain envied that God had regard for Abel’s offering of his firstlings or first flock and that God didn’t have any regard for Cain’s offerings of the fruit of the ground.


A classic example of how we can lose everything comes from Genesis 4:1-16, where Cain murders his brother Abel and lies to God about his brother’s whereabouts.

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.

Cain and Able, Book of Genesis

A simple emotion of envy dooms Cain as he is left to wander the earth. All because of the bout of insanity that came over him because of envy against his brother.

We too if don’t control our envy, can result in losing ourselves only to realize it too late that our lives are ruined by the emotion we failed to accept and work upon.


Robert Greene warns us of the poisonous envy that some people might harbor against us. An envious person is quite dangerous and we should always be aware of such people.

On hearing of the interesting events which have happened in the course of a man’s experience, many people will wish that similar things had happened in their lives too, completely forgetting that they should be envious rather of the mental aptitude which lent those events the significance they possess when he describes them ; to a man of genius they were interesting adventures; but to the dull perceptions of an ordinary individual they would have been stale, everyday occurrences.

This is, in the highest degree, the case with many of Goethe’s and Byron’s poems, which are obviously founded upon actual facts; where it is open to a foolish reader to envy the poet because so many delightful things happened to him, instead of envying that mighty power of fantasy which was capable of turning a fairly common experience into something so great and beautiful.

 Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life, and Other Essays

According to Arthur Schopenhauer being washed with envy is an emotion for the lesser minds, for the dull, for people who do not understand themselves and human emotion.

For the geniuses, listening to someone else’s interesting experience feels like an adventure in itself.

Envy in a group setting

Schopenhauer also talks about recognizing the envious people around us by telling these suspected people good news or bad news about you on purpose.

The people who harbor toxic envy are adept at disguising it. They have done it so often in their life that they can control their feelings and body language when given the positive or the negative news.

Human beings can become masters at controlling our major bodily response to such bouts of envy publicly, however as nature intended our species to survive even without the use of language, micro-expressions are one thing that are almost impossible to hide.

When you tell them a piece of good news about yourself, for a microsecond you might see a slight disgust or a negative reaction in their lips and their eyes before they put on the happy mask once again and vice versa.

Noticing the eyes is important.

One way to keep others from envying you is by downplaying your own success and pushing the role that luck or chance played in you getting where you are now. We see this with a lot of successful people in their interviews.


Although there is always some luck or serendipity involved but an interesting fact about people who work hard and learn a lot is that they tend to be luckier than the rest and fall upon great opportunities quite a bit more often than others.

When Napoleon Hill went to interview Andre Carnegie in 1908, Carnegie mentioned the following when asked about luck and success.

A man may, and sometimes men do, fall into opportunities through mere chance, or luck; but they have a queer way of falling out of these opportunities the first time opposition overtakes them.

Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie then goes ahead and downplays the role of luck a bit and highlights that along with luck there are 10 more things that define “power” according to Carnegie.

Carnegie means, a person is not always going to be lucky, and if they are lucky and unprepared, they are overtaken easily.

Human history has thousands if not hundreds of thousands of examples where someone got power or success by mere luck only to lose it all the next second to an uprising as they were not prepared for what comes with the power.

One of the most recent examples is that over 70% of lottery winners go broke within months of receiving their winnings.

We only excite envy in a child by telling him to compare his own worth with the worth of others. He ought rather to compare himself with a concept of reason…’See how such and such a child behaves himself!’

An exclamation of this kind produces only a very ignoble mode of thinking; for if a man estimates his own worth by the worth of others , he either tries to elevate himself above others, or to detract from another’s worth. But this last is envy.

We then only seek to impute faults to others, in order that we may compare favorably with them. Thus the spirit of emulation, wrongly applied only arouses envy.

On Education, Immanuel Kant

Working on such deep rooted basic laws of human nature, we must work upon ourselves and start noticing these things for us and people dependent upon us. As parents we must take into account what culture are we building for our children.

It is by our mistakes the children and their future can be ruined.

It follows from this that we are attached to our fellows less by the sentiment of their pleasures than by the sentiment of their pains, for we see for better in the later, the identity of our natures with theirs and the guarantees of their attachment to us.

If our common needs unite us by interest, our common miseries unite us by affection. The sight of a happy man inspires in others less love than envy. They would gladly accuse him of usurping a right he can not have in giving himself an exclusive happiness; and amour-propre suffers, too in making us feel that this man has no need of us.

But who does not pity the unhappy man whom he sees suffering? Who would not want to deliver him from his ills if it only cost a wish for that? Imagination puts us in the place of the miserable man rather than in that of the happy man.

We feel that one of these conditions touches us more closely than the other. Pity is sweet because in putting ourselves in the place of one who suffers, we nevertheless feel the pleasure of not suffering as he does. Envy is bitter because the sight a happy man, far from putting the envious man in his place, makes the envious man regret not being there. It seems that the one exempts us from the ills he suffers, and the other takes from us the good he enjoys.

Do you wish, then, to excite and nourish in the heart of a young man the first movements of nascent sensibility and turn his character towards beneficence and goodness? Do not put the seeds of pride vanity, and envy in him by the deceptive image of the happiness of men.

Emile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

We must teach our children to weigh their own worth on the work they do instead of just the material possessions.

If you did a piece just for money, and the money never comes, you’re left with nothing. But if you make art because you love to work, and money doesn’t show up, at least you’re left with your art.

Neil Gaiman in the 2012 commencement speech at University of the Arts in Pennsylvania

This sentence was used by Neil in a different context, but it highlights the very real fact that we must weigh our worth through our work and the difference we make in the world and this is the quality we must ingrain in our children right from infancy.

Perhaps a more uncomfortable emotion is at the source—such as envy or paranoia. You need to look at this square in the eye. Dig below any trigger points to see where they started. For these purposes, it might be wise to use a journal in which you record your Self-assessments with ruthless objectivity. Your greatest danger here is your ego and how it makes you unconsciously maintain illusions about yourself. These may be comforting in the moment, but in the long run they make you defensive and unable to learn or progress.

Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene suggests we can get started with overcoming our envious nature by using self assessments, journals and noticing small things in our nature and the people around us.

We can use this even for our kids. Get them to self assess their work, rate it and develop a habit of thinking about themselves under the light of the work they do, things they make and problems they solve.

Robert explores 17 other laws in his book, The Laws Of Human Nature