Life lessons from one of the OG Stoics. How to live a principled life with open eyes, not bogged down by external circumstances, specific narratives, negativity, or useless thoughts, to be graceful both in victory and defeat.
Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)
Citation (APA): Aurelius, M. (2002). Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library) [Kindle Android version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
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MY MOTHER Her reverence for the divine, her generosity, her inability not only to do wrong but even to conceive of doing it. And the simple way she lived— not in the least like the rich.
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To avoid the public schools, to hire good private teachers, and to accept the resulting costs as money well- spent.
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I wonder if this extends to online education? It is perhaps, for someone living in the third world, equivalent to hiring good private teachers as one can learn from professors at MIT and Stanford.
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to behave in a conciliatory way when people who have angered or annoyed us want to make up.
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To show intuitive sympathy for friends, tolerance to amateurs and sloppy thinkers.
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I need to do this and remember I once was, and still am to many others more learned than I.
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Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion— and insert the right expression, unobtrusively.
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Not to shrug off a friend’s resentment— even unjustified resentment— but try to put things right.
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The way he handled the material comforts that fortune had supplied him in such abundance— without arrogance and without apology. If they were there, he took advantage of them. If not, he didn’t miss them.
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His ability to feel at ease with people— and put them at their ease, without being pushy.
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This, in particular: his willingness to yield the floor to experts— in oratory, law, psychology, whatever— and to support them energetically, so that each of them could fulfill his potential.
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That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.
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As one door closes, another one opens. Perhaps we're not good at things because we're meant to be better at others.
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All things for which “we need the help of fortune and the gods.”
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Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time— even when hard at work.
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You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.
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The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.
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When it allows its action and impulse to be without a purpose, to be random and disconnected: even the smallest things ought to be directed toward a goal.
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The human soul degrades itself.
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The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.
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Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: if we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world— to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge? If our mind starts to wander, we’ll still go on breathing, go on eating, imagining things, feeling urges and so on. But getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits— all the things you need a healthy mind for… all those are gone. So we need to hurry. Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding— our grasp of the world— may be gone before we get there.
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You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self- important or malicious. You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts,
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Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.
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Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.
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Nothing is so conducive to spiritual growth as this capacity for logical and accurate analysis of everything that happens to us.
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Reflection is important as even Carnegie mentioned.
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No random actions, none not based on underlying principles.
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It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you— inside or out.
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That every event is the right one. Look closely and you’ll see. Not just the right one overall, but right. As if someone had weighed it out with scales.
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There is no "sign". Every moment is the right one.
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To the world: Your harmony is mine. Whatever time you choose is the right time. Not late, not early.
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“If you seek tranquillity, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”
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A key point to bear in mind: The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.
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Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants or children? Go deeper.
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Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. —Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it.
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So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.
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At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do?
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If an action or utterance is appropriate, then it’s appropriate for you. Don’t be put off by other people’s comments and criticism. If it’s right to say or do it, then it’s the right thing for you to do or say. The others obey their own lead, follow their own impulses. Don’t be distracted. Keep walking. Follow your own nature, and follow Nature—along the road they share.
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Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.
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The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.
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Color it with a run of thoughts like these: i. Anywhere you can lead your life, you can lead a good one.
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Things gravitate toward what they were intended for.
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Nothing happens to anyone that he can’t endure.
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Things have no hold on the soul. They have no access to it, cannot move or direct it. It is moved and directed by itself alone. It takes the things before it and interprets them as it sees fit.
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In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
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Ryan Holiday's Obstacle is the Way
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You can live here as you expect to live there. And if they won’t let you, you can depart life now and forfeit nothing. If the smoke makes me cough, I can leave. What’s so hard about that? Until things reach that point, I’m free. No one can keep me from doing what I want. And I want what is proper to rational beings, living together.
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Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.
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In the ring, our opponents can gouge us with their nails or butt us with their heads and leave a bruise, but we don’t denounce them for it or get upset with them or regard them from then on as violent types. We just keep an eye on them after that. Not out of hatred or suspicion. Just keeping a friendly distance. We need to do that in other areas. We need to excuse what our sparring partners do, and just keep our distance—without suspicion or hatred.
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If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
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The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t.
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When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them. It’s good to keep this in mind.
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Is my intellect up to this? If so, then I’ll put it to work, like a tool provided by nature. And if it isn’t, then I’ll turn the job over to someone who can do better—unless I have no choice.
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Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?
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No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.”
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The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself. Is undisturbed, except for its own disturbances. Knows no obstructions, except those from within.
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Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you—and just as vital to nature.
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Other people’s mistakes? Leave them to their makers.
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To direct your thoughts to what is said. To focus the mind on what happens and what makes it happen.
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It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.
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You have to assemble your life yourself—action by action. And be satisfied if each one achieves its goal, as far as it can. No one can keep that from happening. —But there are external obstacles.… Not to behaving with justice, self-control, and good sense. —Well, but perhaps to some more concrete action. But if you accept the obstacle and work with what you’re given, an alternative will present itself—another piece of what you’re trying to assemble. Action by action.
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remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits.
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External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight? And if it’s that you’re not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it? —But there are insuperable obstacles. Then it’s not a problem. The cause of your inaction lies outside you. —But how can I go on living with that undone? Then depart, with a good conscience, as if you’d done it, embracing the obstacles too.
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Nothing but what you get from first impressions. That someone has insulted you, for instance. That—but not that it’s done you any harm. The fact that my son is sick—that I can see. But “that he might die of it,” no. Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate. And nothing can happen to you. Or extrapolate. From a knowledge of all that can happen in the world.
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Does this mean not to read people or situations? Sometimes our intuitions are super valuable though. Maybe it's having the wisdom to separate intuition and antifragile experience from overthinking and paranoia.
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Injustice is a kind of blasphemy. Nature designed rational beings for each other’s sake: to help—not harm—one another, as they deserve. To transgress its will, then, is to blaspheme against the oldest of the gods.
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Don’t look down on death, but welcome it. It too is one of the things required by nature. Like youth and old age. Like growth and maturity. Like a new set of teeth, a beard, the first gray hair. Like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. Like all the other physical changes at each stage of life, our dissolution is no different. So this is how a thoughtful person should await death: not with indifference, not with impatience, not with disdain, but simply viewing it as one of the things that happen to us. Now you anticipate the child’s emergence from its mother’s womb; that’s how you should await the hour when your soul will emerge from its compartment.
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things that share an intelligent nature are just as prone to seek out what is like them. If not more so. Because their superiority in other ways is matched by their greater readiness to mix and mingle with their counterparts.
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Leave other people’s mistakes where they lie.
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When we cease from activity, or follow a thought to its conclusion, it’s a kind of death. And it doesn’t harm us. Think about your life: childhood, boyhood, youth, old age. Every transformation a kind of dying. Was that so terrible?
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True. There are perceptible demarcations in thought or state of mind from one phase to the next though you can never pinpoint the exact date or event that brought about the shift.
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How many offer you praise now—and tomorrow, perhaps, contempt. That to be remembered is worthless. Like fame. Like everything.
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eats. As a blazing fire takes whatever you throw on it, and makes it light and flame.
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Characteristics of the rational soul: Self-perception, self-examination, and the power to make of itself whatever it wants. It reaps its own harvest, unlike plants (and, in a different way, animals), whose yield is gathered in by others. It reaches its intended goal, no matter where the limit of its life is set. Not like dancing and theater and things like that, where the performance is incomplete if it’s broken off in the middle, but at any point—no matter which one you pick—it has fulfilled its mission, done its work completely. So that it can say, “I have what I came for.”
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As you move forward in the logos, people will stand in your way. They can’t keep you from doing what’s healthy; don’t let them stop you from putting up with them either. Take care on both counts. Not just sound judgments, solid actions—tolerance as well, for those who try to obstruct us or give us trouble in other ways. Because anger, too, is weakness, as much as breaking down and giving up the struggle. Both are deserters: the man who breaks and runs, and the one who lets himself be alienated from his fellow humans.
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Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way.
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False friendship is the worst. Avoid it at all costs. If you’re honest and straightforward and mean well, it should show in your eyes. It should be unmistakable.
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Practice even what seems impossible. The left hand is useless at almost everything, for lack of practice. But it guides the reins better than the right. From practice.