In our last +1, we spent some time riding appropriately big waves and reminded ourselves that, when we’re wisely surfing the beautiful oceans of life, we remember to ENJOY the waves.
Today we’re going to bring my all-time favorite teacher (Epictetus!) back to the party to hear his take on the subject.
Before we go there…
Let’s pause for a moment and think about the great big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton.
The guy is obsessed about finding THE BIGGEST POSSIBLE WAVES HE CAN FIND!
Because that’s how he knows he can see what he’s made of and HAVE THE MOST FUN!!
And that’s how he is fulfilling his idiosyncratic, Heroic destiny and inspiring all of us to do the same in our own unique ways as well.
Side note: Have you seen Finding Joe yet? Laird tells his story in it. Along with Tony Hawk. They talk about all the FEAR they felt pursuing their big, hairy, audacious dreams. Watch the trailer here. Full movie for free here.
Let’s talk about the ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.
Epictetus was a former slave who taught the guys who taught Marcus Aurelius.
Every morning, I invite his presence into my consciousness during my AM Heroic meditation.
Every morning, he tells me pretty much the same thing: “Practice your philosophy and remember the choice of Hercules!”
As we’ve discussed, Hercules was one of the ancient Greek and Stoic philosophers' favorite heroes. They liked to tell the story about Hercules BEFORE he was Hercules. We talk about it in our Notes on How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and this +1 on The Choice of Hercules.
The quick recap.
Young pre-Heroic Hercules is walking in a forest. He comes to a fork in the road, at which point two goddesses approach him.
One goddess rushes ahead of the other. She’s overly made up and preening a bit as she tells him that, if he follows her, his life will be easy and awesome. She says her name is “Happiness” but she’s lying. Her name is really “Vice.”
The second goddess waits patiently then steps forward. She has a stern yet beautiful countenance and tells Hercules that if follows HER, his life will be full of pain and challenges AND… as he strives to overcome those challenges in service to something bigger than himself, he will earn the respect and admiration of the gods. Her name? Areté.
Hercules, of course, chose wisely.
Epictetus reminds me (EVERY MORNING!) that I need to make that Choice of Hercules EVERY DAY—especially TODAY.
A noble life worthy of the respect and admiration of the gods (and ourselves!) is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE EASY.
Those challenges we face? Those are the waves that give us a chance to flourish.
Epictetus often reminds me of another thing.
He tells me that, if I complain about the inevitable challenges of life, then I’m kinda like the boxer who enters the ring only to walk out the moment he gets punched in the face.
That, of course, would make NO SENSE.
What did the boxer expect? To do yin yoga with his opponent? 😂
Let’s quote the ancient Stoic sage directly here because it’s so good.
He tells us: “But what is philosophy? Doesn’t it simply mean preparing ourselves for what may come? Don’t you understand that really amounts to saying that if I would so prepare myself to endure, then let anything happen that will? Otherwise, it would be like the boxer exiting the ring because he took some punches. Actually, you can leave the ring without consequence, but what advantage would come from abandoning the pursuit of wisdom? So, what should each of us say to every trial we face? This is what I’ve trained for, for this my discipline!”
I repeat: IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE CHALLENGING.
I repeat: When we approach our inevitable challenges with the right mindset and consistent practices, life eventually becomes a LOT “easier” and those waves and punches become a joyful part of the Heroic, eudaimonic, noble, well-lived life.
Let’s remember that Today as we paddle out to our waves and step into the arena that is our lives.
Love ya. Let’s go!!!
P.S. Speaking of stepping into the arena, check out this +1 on The Optimizer in the Arena for some old-school Teddy Roosevelt wisdom!
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