Is Stoicism relevant today? A few observations from reading Epictetus
Takeaway #5 (of 5): Being a value to others.
For this final takeaway, I am going to present a series of short excerpts and then try and tie them all together
“When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shrink from being seen to do it, even though the world should misunderstand it; Excerpt From XXXV: Epictetus. “The Enchiridion.” Ref A
Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance’ sake, but for the sake of having done right? . . . Is there no reward then? Reward! do you seek any greater reward for a good man than doing what is right and just? Yet at the Great Games you look for nothing else; there the victor’s crown you deem enough. Seems it to you so small a thing and worthless, to be a good man, and happy therein?” Excerpt From: Epictetus. “The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, with the Hymn of Cleanthes.” Ref B
“If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, for the pleasure of anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life.” Excerpt From: Epictetus. “The Enchiridion. XXIII” Ref C
“It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. ” Excerpt From: Epictetus. “The Enchiridion. XXIV” Ref D
“Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, how can you serve your country when you have become faithless and shameless?” Excerpt From: Epictetus. “The Enchiridion. XXIV” Ref E
Three major takeaways:
ONE: Whatever happened to just being satisfied from doing a great job? (Look to the above excerpts: Ref A. B & D.)
There are some who would say this is a generational issue…but I am not sure I buy that. Not because I don’t see the different mindsets by generation, but because I think it is more of a humanity core value thing. The true ‘master’ of anything, is the one who has learned that whatever feeds the soul the most is ultimately of the greatest value. A small, unnoticed act done in an amazing way feeds both the the souls of the doer and receiver much more than getting a million views of some video showing how stupid someone is or how big someone’s ass or boobs are.
An amazing example of this are comments in a recent interview by Neil Armstrong as part of the 50th anniversary of the first moon walk. The full piece is here — but specifically look at 10:00–11:00. Here is a man who has every reason to have the biggest ego in the world…yet is immensely humble. (The complete opposite of the bozo currently in the White House.)
TWO: Tech start-up value propositions. (Look to the above excerpt: Ref C).
I have worked with a number of start-ups over the years and have read, and created, many value propositions. But given the current status of some companies… I am sure ‘selling their soul’ to the money devil was not one of them. Did FB’s value prop mention anything about selling people data? Did Theranos value prop say they would lie on the validity of their testing? Did any of these racist/misogynist companies state this as a core value in their value prop? I wonder what would happen if tech founders HAD to complete a course in civics/ethics and morals before they received any money. (PS: VCs are as guilty of the current situation for not doing the due diligence.)
THREE: Paying it forward. (Look to the above excerpt: Ref E).
Not that long ago Tim Denning published a great piece titled, This Is Why You Should Pay It Forward — 7 Life-Changing Reasons. This is sort of the other side of the coin to my first point as it is a very pragmatic step forward in a new or modified direction for most people. I strongly suggest you click on the link for a quick scan before finishing my post. Some cynics may think that Denning’s ‘paying it forward’ approach is like trying to manipulate karma. Then you would be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons like I mentioned in ONE and TWO above.
Why being of value matters!
After years of compiling and organizing stuff I am finally starting to write my autobiography like a research piece. ‘Deconstructing Jeff’ attempts to observe decades of my own life through a Grounded Theory approach. Anyway, as a result of these deconstructed observations I will soon start to roll out a number of blogs about specific people who I am deeply grateful for being in my life. At the time they were just being themselves during our interactions. But decades later, through a variety of reflective methodologies, I have come to realize how great of an impact they each had in my life.
In other words, their ordinariness was of immense value to me…though neither of us probably realized it at the time. I can only hope that in years to come my ordinariness may be fortunate enough to end up on someone’s ‘grateful’ list.