This is an extract from my latest and fourth book, The Anxious Entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is a nerve wracking business. Entrepreneurs are always anxious about multiple things. They have goals and therefore expectations, but it is known that things cannot go according to one’s wishes, plans, desires, needs or desperation all the time.
Expectations are rarely met and subconsciously, when they aren’t, we are shaken. It is an opportune window for anxiety or even depression to set in, depending on the severity or extent of the misfortune.
Over time, our anxiety threshold builds up. It can explode. Mine has, several times. In this post I turn to stoicism philosophy to escape anxiety. I’ve found that the following stoic quotes, like the hypothesis and subtitle to this book – ‘Anxiety Defeats Creativity – Creativity Defeats Anxiety’, help defeat anxiety.
I am not a ‘staunch’ stoicism observer, for a lack of a better word, but it resonates and helps me greatly to form a healthy perspective. I take it to be a telling philosophy that is meant to be practical and needs less, or no, deciphering.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy, written and practiced by people who played different roles in their society; slaves, politicians, businessmen, soldiers, emperors and artists.
The intended benefit, among others, is to practice virtue – as it can’t live just in words – and to not be adversely affected by events in life. It is also to manage our reactions, as this is what hurts us much of the time. A simple example is this quote, by Marcus Aurelius, telling himself the following; “Remember that it is not he who reviles you, or strikes you, who insults you, but it is your opinion about these things as being insulting. When then a man irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion which has irritated you.”
Here is a man who, through experience of life, formed this perspective and jotted it down to remind himself to practice it. In fact, Marcus Aurelius; a roman emperor from the year 161 to the year 180, wrote a series of guides, titled, “To Self”, as reminder to himself, to live by and for his self- improvement. Posthumously, the writings were named “Meditations”. This is simple ‘to note’ philosophy.
Stoicism, to me, is a practice with an intended good benefit.
“Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.” – Markus Zusak, “The Book Thief”.
A slap in the face can take joy from your day for multiple hours. But why should it? You have the power to not let it. This connects to the following quote;
“What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgements about these things.” – Epictetus.
Does being slapped say anything wrong about you? If yes, it is virtue to try changing it.
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Seneca.
Tomorrow will take care of itself, so take care of today, otherwise tomorrow will take ill-care of you today – thus losing today.
If you lose today every-day, you are lost every-day.
“It is impossible that happiness, and yearning for what is not present, should ever be united.” – Epictetus.
Strive towards what you yearn for. If it is impossible today, it is pointless to worry about it.
Find what must be done today and enjoy doing it.
Tomorrow’s worries contaminate the present.
I sometimes tell myself to think of tomorrow’s worries mechanically and for a set time, i.e. browsing and brainstorming a solution. After that I stop and I continue with today.
This idea connects to the following;
“If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favourable.” – Seneca.
I think of tomorrow as where to sail to. I write it down and get back to today’s business.
“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.” – Marcus Aurelius.
The Anxious Entrepreneur book is about defeating, or escaping, anxiety by getting out of the anxious zone and going into a creative zone.
You can’t be productive when you are anxious. The other part of creativity is productivity.
Therefore, escape the anxiety by taking a break, or doing any activity (walking, movie, dancing, etc.) and later, when the mind is refreshed, creative (productive) ideas will come.
You can’t think outside the box when you are inside the box, so get out of the box.
“Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfil itself? So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.” – Marcus Aurelius.
When pain comes, it must not derail you from your set virtues. If it does, you have failed to practice your virtues by going with the hype of pain.
What are virtues, if not practiced evenly in both times of joy and in hardships?
“Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment…he can have no other life than the one he loses. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.” – Marcus Aurelius.
This one is very hard for me. I’ve let people’s opinions, my own self judgements and many negative things take this life away from me.
No more! (Let me go practice).
“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” – Epictetus.
He is. I am.
“What is the point of dragging up sufferings that are over, of being miserable now, because you were miserable then?” Seneca.
There is no point, as it only brings suffering to the present.
“Many of the anxieties that harass you are superfluous… Expand into an ampler region, letting your thought sweep over the entire universe.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Get out of the anxious zone. Trick yourself.
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” – Seneca.
The cynic in me says it is not possible. But I remember that stoicism is practice and practice makes virtues a reality.
“Set aside a certain number of days during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while, ‘Is this the condition that I feared?” – Seneca.
I love this.
One day I forgot to apply roll-on. I had a splendid day that day.
Another time, I didn’t apply roll-on because I could not afford it. I remembered the day above.
The difference was only in my mind. The shame of not being able to afford it almost ruined that day.
I must investigate how to practice this further. Sometimes I pretend that I do not have internet data by not going on the internet.
“The obstacle is the way” Ryan Holiday. Actually this is the title to a book by Ryan.
There are always obstacles on the road. It is stupid and unrealistic to think there aren’t.
On the way to anywhere, we will come across hurdles which we must jump anyway.