Five Reasons Why Stoicism Matters Today

5. It’s a philosophy for leadership. Stoicism teaches us that, before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first. Our attempts to exert influence on the world are subject to chance, disappointment, and failure–but control of the self is the only kind that can succeed 100% of the time. From emperor Marcus Aurelius on, leaders have found that a Stoic attitude earns them respect in the face of failure, and guards against arrogance in the face of success. Stoicism has an appeal for anyone who faces uncertainty–that is, for all of us. But leaders are especially subject to risk and flux, so it’s not surprising that many of them find a Stoic attitude crucial to their mental health. We mentioned Barack Obama’s Stoic demeanor above–and there’s some more evidence for it in his recent interview with Michael Lewis. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he told Lewis. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make…You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” Whatever your opinion of Obama’s politics, that’s classic Stoicism–trying to draw lines between the essential and the inessential at every level of life. Of course, Stoicism doesn’t guarantee results. One of Bill Clinton’s favorite books was Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations–and he’s no one’s idea of a Stoic.  Cato the Younger subscribed to this philosophy from his young adulthood to his death, but he was also prone to violent outbursts of anger, obstinate pride, and occasional drunkenness. Yet in his most courageous moments–when he faced down the army of Julius Caesar and certain defeat without blinking–Cato lived out the Stoic ideal. The Stoics taught that we fail far more often than we succeed, that to be human is to be fearful, selfish, and angry far more often than we’d like. But they also taught a realistic way to be more. The more we practice Stoic qualities in good times, the more likely that we’ll find them in ourselves when they’re most needed. = Post by: Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman, authors of Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

Five Reasons Why Stoicism Matters Today