As you probably know by this point, I’m a big fan of Stoicism in general and of my favorite living Stoic philosopher Ryan Holiday in particular.
As much as Ryan’s great books have changed my life, he created something that’s been an even more powerful catalyst in my life.
It’s a little medallion. Something you can easily carry in your pocket. Details in a moment.
First, a little context. Imagine the glory days of the Roman Empire. Picture a huge crowd celebrating a victorious general returning from a successful battle.
The general is in his chariot, basking in the praise of an adoring crowd. He’s feeling pretty good.
Now, look a little closer and what you’ll see is an advisor sitting behind the general. That advisor has one job—to whisper something into the general’s ear.
What does he whisper?
Well, here’s a hint: It’s not “You rock! Well done.” The general’s receiving enough praise from the world.
Our advisor’s job? He whispered a variation on a couple themes—either saying “sic transit gloria” or “memento mori.”
Sic transit gloria? That’s Latin for “all glory is fleeting.”
Memento mori? That’s Latin for “remember death” (aka, remember YOU will die).
So, again, back to our parade. The crowds cheer. Our advisor reminds us that all glory is fleeting. It’s time to remember death.
Why in the world would we want to do that?
Well, ancient philosophers and wisdom traditions didn’t run away from death. They EMBRACED the fact that we’re going to die. They believed that it’s only our fresh appreciation of just how ephemeral life is that gets us out of the petty concerns of the day and the obsessive planning for tomorrow (and, of course, whether we’re rich or famous enough) and into what really matters: whether we’re living with virtue right.this.moment.
Memento Mori. Remember death.
That’s the front of our medallion.
The back? The back of the coin features a distillation of Marcus Aurelius’s wisdom. Aurelius, the noble Roman emperor-philosopher once said, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
Our coin’s distillation of that wisdom: “YOU COULD LEAVE LIFE RIGHT NOW.”
YOU COULD LEAVE LIFE RIGHT NOW.
Put the two together and put them on a coin and put that in your pocket.
And… Live accordingly.
P.S. You can purchase this little medallion online here. Note: I make nothing financially from this recommendation. I make plenty energetically by knowing I’m helping you Optimize and actualize. Here’s to remembering death! And truly living.