7 Stoic quotes to make you a better entrepreneur

Aug 17, 2020

Few things have affected my life, both personally and professionally, as immensely as studying and practicing Stoicism - as best I can.

You may not have read their books, but you recognize some of the Stoic thinkers: Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Cato.

These thinkers share a philosophy of Stoicism that is based on four virtues — wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. The same principles have been practiced by some of the wisest people to walk the Earth.

If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

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Having affected the way I think in almost every way, Stoicism has also influenced how I work. I work with other entrepreneurs and their businesses daily. I have the unique experience of solving the same problems they have - myself. It stands to reason, then, if I’ve gained helpful insights from the Stoics, you can, too.

Today I want to share some of the quotes that have shaped who I am today, as a person and an entrepreneur.

I hope you find them as useful as I did.


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As they say, wherever you go, there you are. Entrepreneurs are notoriously hurried, busy, and moving from one goal straight to another.

That drive we all share is undoubtedly helpful in building a business. But it’s worth checking in to ensure we aren’t staying in motion as a means of avoidance.

Are we avoiding our inbox, our calendar, or a disgruntled client or customer? Being introspective and honest about why we are in such a hurry can help ensure we’re working on the right priorities — for the right reasons.


Are you worried about the competition?

Concerned over what happens if you lose a key employee?

Paranoid about running out of cash?

Those are all valid concerns to ponder and plan for. But there's no need to carry all that weight on our shoulders and prepare for every possible thing that could go wrong. Why? Because most of it isn't in our control.

The stress we put on ourselves worrying about problems often does more damage than the actual events. We suffer from all the worrying, but as you know, the worst-case scenario rarely comes true.

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Entrepreneurs are sought after for answers all the time, just like any leader would be. And it's reasonable to want to provide those answers to your team.

But the simple truth is this: No one has all the answers, and acting as if we do prevents us from attaining them.

You should ask questions. You should be curious. You should try and collect all the data you can and seek to understand it. But do it honestly and in pursuit of knowledge. Don't do it just to be perceived as someone who has the answers.

Curiosity is also a key element in strong organizational cultures.



Being afraid of failing or being wrong is completely natural. Everyone has these fears, especially leaders. The only real concern you should have is staying on a bad road to avoid being wrong for as long as possible.

That's why entrepreneurs leading some of the best companies today embrace being wrong. This allows them to course-correct faster than the competition.

The only thing that's harmed from admitting we're wrong is our ego. I don't know about you, but between an inflated ego or pocketbook, I'd always take the latter.

Maintaining objectivity and openness to correction creates a culture of success.

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The Stoics weren’t keen on the new-wave version of positive thinking you’ve no doubt heard about.

They forced themselves to visualize what could go wrong to get comfortable with the fact.

However, they knew that our minds are creating habits all the time — both good and bad.

Negative self-talk, criticizing others, or complaining about things we can't even control... These are all habits.

We can break those habits by creating new, better habits with disciplined practice.



Why are we so driven as entrepreneurs?

Are you building a business with a purpose?

Are you building an empire for wealth?

There is nothing wrong with wealth, and we need money to survive and enjoy many of the things we prefer.

But we often chase the dream of “freedom” with money, only to realize that we have no freedom when we have big incomes. What we have are obligations that keep us doing things we don’t enjoy to keep them.

“Slavery dwells beneath marble and gold.”

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Last but not least, my favorite quote from Marcus Aurelius reminds me that I have complete control over my mind.

Not the jerky cashier at the store.

Not the annoying junk email I unsubscribed from a dozen times already.

Not the periodic internet slow down.

This is the point:

You might not be able to control the situation, but you can control your reaction. You can control how you respond to the situation. In recognizing that, I've felt both liberated and frustrated. If I'm pissed off about something, it's a choice I've made. But it's one I have control to change.


Further Reading

These are just a sample of the quotes that have resonated with me over the years. I have read more than many on the subject, but I am by no means an expert in the field. I’ve been happily influenced by the likes of Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday on the subject, and owe them both many thanks for introducing me to it.

Below are some resources I recommend if you want to explore more. Please note, I do receive a commission on some items if you purchase them using my link — no obligation to do so, though.

Ryan Holiday’s best books on Stoicism written in a way that impact and entertain:

 

The two sources I wake up to literally every morning as part of my routine:

 

A couple great videos to get you started:


 
 
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