I recommend owning a copy of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. It’s the personal journal of the Roman emperor who was born in AD 121 and died in AD 180. Aurelius likely never intended for his personal meditations to be read by the rest of humanity but lucky for us, we get to read them.
Here are a few verses that seem to resonate and provide wisdom on how those of us in business can navigate the present times:
“If to your benefit as a rational being, adopt it: but if simply to your benefit as an animal, reject it, and stick to your judgement without fanfare. Only make sure that your scrutiny is sound.”
“If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigour, and good will: if you admit no distraction, but keep your own divinity pure and standing strong, as if you had to surrender it right now; if you grapple this to you, expecting nothing, shirking nothing, but self-content with each present action taken in accordance with nature and a heroic truthfulness in all that you say and mean – then you will lead a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.”
“Wherever it is in agreement with nature, the ruling power within us takes a flexible approach to circumstances, always adapting itself easily to both practicality and the given event. It has no favoured material for its work, but sets out on its objects in a conditional way, turning any obstacle into material for its own use. It is like a fire mastering whatever falls into it. A small flame would be extinguished, but a bright fire rapidly claims as its own all that is heaped on it, devours it all, and leaps up yet higher in consequence.”
“Always make a definition or sketch of what presents itself to your mind, so you can see it stripped bare to its essential nature and identify it clearly, in whole and in all its parts, and can tell yourself its proper name and the names of those elements of which it is compounded and into which it will be dissolved. . . . Ask then, what is this which is now making its impression on me? What is it composed of? How long in the nature of things will it last? What virtue is needed to meet it — gentleness, for example, or courage, truthfulness, loyalty, simplicity, self-sufficiency, and so on? So in each case we must say: This has come from god; this is due to a juncture of fate, the mesh of destiny, or some similar coincidence of chance; and this is from my fellow man, my kinsman and colleague, though one who does not know what accords with his own nature. But I do know: and so I treat him kindly and fairly, following the natural law of our fellowship, but at the same time I am to give him his proper desert in matters which are morally neutral.”
As you go about your life, you will leak out whatever is inside you: Calm, fear, courage, love, kind-heartedness, authenticity, fakery, hatred, or contempt. This is true of both leaders and followers. We all do better when we examine what’s inside and take note of what we are leaking. Go ahead and leak what you please, but do so knowingly.
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