Stoicism is a philosophy that leads to mental calmness, composure and an unruffled acceptance of the world as it is. It originated in ancient Greece with Zeno (334-262 BC) and was developed by a Roman slave, Epictetus (55-155 AD) and a Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD). Stoicism means keeping the Englishmen’s “stiff upper lip”, living with the virtues of temperance and fortitude. It’s a popular, admirable philosophy. The President of my daughter’s college even quoted a Stoic in his welcome speech to parents: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD).
Stoicism embodies moderation and self-control. The Universe is rational and there are reasons why everything is the way it is. To the extent that our emotions rebel against this – they are wrong. Stoics believe that emotions are judgments and therefore, cognitive. They are forms of knowledge (either true or false). For example, greed is the judgment that money is the supreme good, to be acquired by every available means. It’s a false judgment that can be corrected with reason. Plato (427 BC – 347 BC) wrote that knowledge divorced from justice should be called cunning rather than wisdom. The world should be viewed through both intellectual and moral lenses.
Stoicism is a necessary addition to the Estate Planning War Chests of the successful because there is a danger in success. Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) wrote: “When fortune smiles and the stream of life flows according to our wishes, let us diligently avoid all arrogance, haughtiness and pride. For it is as much a sign of weakness to give way to one’s feelings in success as it is in adversity.”
Enjoy success – but maintain moral strength, courage and humility. It’s the Stoic way.