In our last few +1s, we’ve been learning how to operationalize antifragile confidence so we can make disaster virtue’s opportunity.
Today I want to chat about some ancient Stoic wisdom from Epictetus—this time via a modern philosopher named A.A. Long.
A.A. Long is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s also one of the world’s most respected scholars of Stoicism.
In his book How to Be Free, he provides a new translation of Epictetus’ classic Enchiridion and, as you might have guessed, gives us some powerful wisdom on how we can become free.
The book is PACKED with wisdom and Long’s introduction is fantastic. Check out the Notes for more.
Today I want to focus on a passage related to the importance of making progress.
Long tells us: “Epictetus can come across as heavy-handed and severe. But his purpose, as a teacher, was to show his students how to make progress towards the Stoic goal and not just settle for being ordinary. He was well aware that acting consistently on the system of values I have outlined would be a counsel of perfection and even beyond himself. His focus is not on heroic achievement but approximating to it, trying it out on situations that typically trouble people and undermine their performance in every day life.”
This is such an important concept in Epictetus’s teaching that Long has it in the Glossary of key Stoic terms we can find in the back of the book. (I actually started with this section.)
Let’s flip to page 161 for the definition.
PROGRESS – Technical term (Greek prokopē) for persons who have committed themselves to Stoicism as their philosophy of life and who make every effort to improve their performance.
Fun fact: I Googled “prokope” so I could find a version of it with the line on top of the “e.” I found it interesting that the first few results were from Bible study web sites. (Note: Epictetus’ books were written in the same colloquial Greek as the New Testament.)
Which makes me want to modify the usage of the word PROGRESS to generalize it beyond just Stoicism (and Christianity) so it’s more in line with our Optimize approach.
PROGRESS – From the Greek prokopē for persons who have committed themselves to their chosen philosophy of life and who make every effort to improve their performance.
Yep. That’s about right.
What’s YOUR chosen philosophy of life?
Have you committed yourself to it?
Are you making every effort (literally, EVERY EFFORT) to improve your performance?
THAT’s what Optimize is all about. Go all in. Use every moment to practice YOUR philosophy. Give us all you’ve got.