Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Don’t Be “Distracted by Their Darkness” | Marcus Aurelius on Success

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Even though the Stoic teachings are geared towards tranquility, the end goal is living

virtuously and in accordance with nature.

So, theres something as being successful as a Stoic, which is living a life of virtue.

But no matter what we pursue, the works of emperor Marcus Aurelius contain many teachings

based on logic and reason that can help us improve our mindset, in order to be successful.

Here are five of them.

(1) Create your teachers.

Marcus Aurelius learned from many people in his close environment.

Its very inspiring to read how he extracts the positive aspects of people and sees these

as lessons to incorporate in his own life.

For example: From his mother, he learned generosity, from his great-grandfather, he learned to

avoid public schools and hire good private teachers, from Diognetus he learned to not

waste time on nonsense, and from Maximus he learned self-control.

Marcus described many different people as his teachers; from close family members to the Gods.

So, for him, teachers dont have to be literal teachers, but they can be anybody.

Instead of fault-finding, he focuses on the good aspects of each individual that he can

incorporate in his own life.

This can inspire us to do the same: we can take a good look at the people in our own

environment, and instead of judging their flaws we can admire them for the good characteristics

they possess.

We can also look at philosophers, certain celebrities, and even religious figures to

see what they can teach us.

Also, people we consider bad or toxic often have something admirable about them;

a trait that we might want to cultivate ourselves.

This way, we create teachers out of the people around us, instead of competitors, enemies,

and villains.

By working together and benefiting each other, were more likely to become successful than

the other way around.

The next four teachings are based on the fourth chapter of Marcus Aurelius Meditations.

Lets start with number two:

(2) Stop caring about them.

This may sound a bit contradicting to the previous teaching, but when it comes to other

people, Marcus points out the importance of not caring.

I quote:

The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say.

Or think, or do.

Only what you do.

Not to be distracted by their darkness.

To run straight for the finish line, unswerving.

End quote.

Too often, we see people hold back each other.

When I started this channel, for example, many people were skeptical and thought that

Id be better off (and more secure) focusing on my regular job.

In a way, theyre right: the nine to five jive is generally more secure.

But the thing is: they speak from their perspective, which might be completely different than yours.

This doesnt mean that it isnt useful to ask people for advice: but, at the end

of the day, the person who knows whats best for you is you.

The skeptics didnt have my vision and my knowledge, so they werent able to visualize

my ideas the way I could.

Even though I respect their opinions, I didnt let these people stop me from continuing my


A part of these skeptics probably have good intentions.

But there are those that malevolently try to sabotage us.

When this is the case, the advice of Marcus Aurelius is king: dont be distracted by

their darkness.

Many people are envious.

Many people take delight in seeing others fail.

This has more to do with their insecurities and shortcomings than with ourselves.

My book Unoffendable discusses how Stoicism can help us to care less about what people

think, so we can, as Marcus puts it, run straight for the finish line, unswerving.

(3) Do whats essential.

Now, another teaching by Marcus Aurelius can be seen as a form of minimalism.

Many people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of doing many things that arent

relevant, wasting a lot of time and energy.

When we dont have a clear image of what we have to do to reach our goals, we become


The consequence is that we become stressed out, or even burned out.

Thats why its important to stick with the essentials.

I quote:

If you seek tranquillity, do less.

Or (more accurately) do whats essentialwhat 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, youll have more time, and more tranquillity.

Ask yourself at every moment, Is this necessary?

But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well.

To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.

End quote.

Depending on what we want, doing the essential never fails us.

If we want more tranquility in life: do whats essential.

If we want to build a business: do whats essential, and weed out everything irrelevant.

For me, I write down the tasks for the day on the night before.

These tasks could be writing a script, shopping for groceries, or any other activity besides

laying on the couch.

This gives me focus; even before I go to bed.

The clarity of what I need to do the next day helps me to sleep better as well.

It also shields me from doing stuff thats not essential, because my tasks are clear-cut.

(4) Change your perception.

Hardship is part of life.

When were trying to achieve something, we can expect resistance.

Marcus Aurelius experienced many setbacks during his reign as emperor of Rome:

the plague, betrayal... and his wife Faustina cheated on him with Cassius, the governor

of Syria, when he, himself, was sick.

But as the Stoic, he was, Marcus Aurelius stayed grounded, accepting these events as

part of nature and, thus, beyond his control.

Whether or not we are harmed by hardship doesnt depend on the hardship itself, but on the

way we look at it.

So, its a matter of perception.

I quote:

Choose not to be harmedand you wont feel harmed.

Dont feel harmedand you havent been.

End quote.

Marcus advice sounds a bit simplistic, but its actually the basis of a popular

and widely used method in psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy.

This therapy is based on the idea that emotions are rooted in thought.

Thus, a certain event isnt the root of how we feel, but our thoughts about this event are.

If we, instead of aversion, develop a neutrality towards the thing we perceive as undesirable,

we dont feel harmed when we incur it.

And if we dont feel harmed, we havent been.

Knowing this makes us more resilient on our path to success because its much easier

to accept setbacks, and continue despite of them.

(5) Follow natures way.

The last teaching is a bit similar to the third one but fundamentally different.

The third teaching is do whats essential.

This means that we do only the things that are necessary.

Following natures way means taking the shortest and easiest route.

This idea is also prevalent in Taoism; an Eastern philosophy that values the path of

least resistance.

So, how to follow natures way?

I quote:

Take the shortest route, the one that nature plannedto speak and act in the healthiest way.

Do that, and be free of pain and stress, free of all calculation and pretension.

End quote.

Well, I admit Marcus advice is a bit vague.

Although, considering the Stoic end goal he might be pointing to living virtuously, thus,

conformably to Stoic ethics.

However, in the second book of Meditations, he tells us to consider the nature of the

world, our own nature, and how we relate to the world.

So, we could ask ourselves:

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses?

What activities are most fitting for me?

In what way can I contribute to the world, that fits my own nature?

Do I perform better alone?

Or do I work better in teams?

Et cetera.

By respecting our own nature, and just being who we are, as humans and as individuals,

we might discover the shortest and easiest route to success.

Theres no fixed set of criteria when it comes to following our own nature.

We have to find out ourselves whats right for us.

Theres an ideological and ethical side to this.

From a Stoic perspective, our success must be a contribution to humanity.

One can be a successful drug dealer, but from an ethical point of view, this persons

success is tragic for humanity.

And not only for humanity but for the person itself as well, as this profession goes

hand-in-hand with great stress, calculation, pretension, and a risk for violence in the

name of greed.

As a Stoic, its essential to take into consideration in what manner personal success

benefits the world.

If it harms the world, it isnt success.

As Marcus states: My city and state are Romeas Antoninus.

But as a human being?

The world.

So for me, good can only mean whats good for both communities.

Now, thats it!

Thank you for watching.

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