Stoicism is a school of philosophy that is gaining popularity among startup founders for a good reason – its values and the mindset it teaches are very well suited for overcoming adversity and keeping yourself mentally healthy in hard situations.
Marcus Aurelius – the Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD, is without a doubt one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. Despite living two millennia ago, his wisdom is to a large degree applicable to startups for the simple reason that the character qualities and values that help people prosper personally and professionally are timeless and not context-dependent.
So, here are 6 quotes from him that will help you on your startup journey:
1. The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have. – Marcus Aurelius
As a startup founder, many things are beyond your control, such as market conditions, customer behavior, and economic trends. Moreover, your time and resources are limited. Consequently, instead of worrying about these factors, it is essential to focus on what you can control, such as your product development, sales and marketing strategies, and team-building efforts.
Of course, you still need to be cognizant of your environment even if you can’t control it, as it presents opportunities and threats.
2. Confine yourself to the present. – Marcus Aurelius
As an entrepreneur, it is easy to get caught up in future goals or to worry about the outcomes of your efforts.
Planning is important, but overthinking the future could counter-productive. The same is true about analyzing the past – taking lessons from past mistakes is crucial, but dwelling on them is destructive.
By confining yourself to the present moment, you can stay focused on what you need to do right now to move your business forward.
How do you climb that mountain? One step at a time.
3. How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life. – Marcus Aurelius
As a founder, you need to prepare yourself to be surprised and to be wrong quite often. The whole idea of the early startup stages is to test your ideas against reality and to find out in what way they need to be changed before investing in them heavily.
If you hold your beliefs too dearly, then you wouldn’t be flexible enough to succeed in the extremely unpredictable and dynamic tech environment.
4. Each day provides its own gifts. – Marcus Aurelius
While this thought is mostly about appreciation, it is also true about opportunities. To be a good startup founder you need to be able to spot them and seize them.
Of course, you need to be ready to create them as well.
5. Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst. – Marcus Aurelius
As a founder, you would make mistakes and fail often – when you deal with innovation, this is unavoidable. Because of this being honest with your stakeholders (and yourself) is crucial for two reasons. First, to build trust. And second – to buy yourself the freedom to take the optimal course of action without fear that the people around you have different expectations that you’ve built through dishonesty.
6. Have I been made for this, to lie under the blankets and keep myself warm? – Marcus Aurelius
Turning an idea into a real, working business is without a doubt a very hard task. What would motivate you to continue moving forward when the going gets tough?
If you embark on a startup journey, you need to be prepared to abandon comfort for the sake of ambition and more importantly – for the sake of what you find meaningful.