4 Stoic Virtues

There are two types of people in this world: The kind whose success makes them better and the kind whose success makes them worse. Nero and Marcus Aurelius began to be groomed for power at roughly the same age. One lusted for the throne, the other cried the day he found out he was selected for it. One murdered his step-brother, the other elevated his step-brother to an equal, making him the first co-emperor. One chased frivolity and pleasure, the other took to his job with seriousness and a sense of responsibility. One helped other people, while the other thought only of himself.

Now certainly this kind of absolute power is inherently corruptive, but the truth is that all success affects us. We work long and hard for something, then we get it. We start at the bottom and suddenly we’re on top. We now have distinction, we now have influence, we now have means at our disposal. How will we use these things? What will they reveal about us? Will they make us better or worse?

That is the question. Timeless. Urgent. Unique to each of us.

We’ve talked before about the lyrics to the Lori McKenna song, the one that effortlessly captures much of the four Stoic virtues. In that song she also explains the proper response to success, the path for being the kind of person that is improved by the gifts of fortune, not ruined by them:

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

When you get where you’re goin’
Turn right back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

So what kind of person will you be? What will your success reveal today? Tomorrow? For the rest of your life? Show us whether you’re a hero or a Nero.