Today’s Daily Stoic, January the 28th: “Watching The Wise”.

“Take a good hard look at people’s ruling principle, especially of the wise, what they run away from and what they seek out.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.38

Today’s stoic passage suggests us to pick someone as a model or inspiration for our actions. This is probably the only stoic principle that I strongly disagree with.

(Not) Watching The Wise

When I was a child, I never liked superhero comics. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Avengers… they all seemed pretty flat and boring to me. Their motivation was so plain -saving the world, defeating evil…-, I didn’t really “buy” it.

Additionally, most of the times, what made them special was an innate superpower. Nothing they had “earned” with their own effort.

Curiously enough, it was the villains who normally caught my attention. They used to be clever, smart characters with strong personalities. Sometimes, they didn’t even have superpowers at all -like Lex Luthor-. Most importantly, they always had a troubled story behind.

They were definitely more interesting to me.

But it was clear to me that they were “the bad guys”. Their lack of empathy prevented me from really connecting with them.

Probably that’s the cause I grew up without models or roles as a child.

Of course, my parents were a strong inspiration for me.

Thanks to my mother, I developed my love for reading and writing at a young age. When I was five years old, my father put a Commodore 64 computer in front of me, and told me “This is the future, wanna play with it?”. That single gesture has probably had more influence in my life than anything else.

I also inherited from my parents a critical view of the world around me. As a result, I hardly had any hero or referential figure as a teenager.

That spirit has never left me, and has carried over to the present.

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Follow Your Own Path

Thus, I would suggest you quite the opposite to today’s stoic.

Follow your own path. Don’t let it be defined by others. Actually, the things that worked for someone else will not work for you, especially in business. So don’t fall into the trap of trying to imitate other people’s success.

Make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. Eventually, you will find yourself along the way.

Conclusion

Today’s Daily Stoic suggests us to find someone to serve as model or inspiration for us. Having grown up without those models myself, I would actually encourage you to the opposite.

Don’t look for someone to imitate or follow.

Create your own way of doing things, make your own mistakes, learn your own lessons, and end up being yourself, not the shallow reflection of a more successful, wise or acclaimed person.

Stop watching the wise, and have a look at yourself.

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4 Comments

  1. Ian Glass January 31, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Hi Ignacio
    Thanks so much for your daily stoic commentary. I have found it very beneficial for my own stoic journey.
    I think that you are perhaps confusing this stoic concept of gaining wisdom from others with putting someone on a pedestal / idolizing them.
    I think anyone with wisdom would immediately discourage you from idolizing them.
    The wise are the most likely to recognize their own shortcomings and if they are wise enough to have developed a way to avoid what trips them up, then surely that is worth learning from rather than us just repeating their mistakes.
    Marcus doesn’t say follow the wise, rather observe their actions and use what is beneficial as one would gain knowledge from a teacher but not necessarily agree with all they stand for.
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    1. nacho January 31, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Hi Ian!
      I definitely see your point, but ever since I was a child, I did not buy the easy story of “wise” vs “unwise”, “hero” vs “villain”, etc.

      For me, that is completely subjective, as my hero may be your villain, and nobody can be defined as a hero or villain to begin with. We all have our virtues and flaws. Yes, you can watch people looking for certain virtues and ignoring certain flaws, but then… Shouldn’t we just skip this intermediate step and look at virtues directly?

      The eventual conclusion for me was: look for wisdom, values, etc inward. Don’t look for their reflections on people, as they are subjective and can be definitely deceptive (we only see what others let us see of themselves).

      Just my opinion though, perhaps certainly biased for my aversion of superheroes when I was a child, but you made an excellent point, thanks for that!!!!!

      Reply
  2. Ian February 1, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Nacho

    I fully agree that everyone is a construct, a mask that we adapt. Everyone is a mix of wise and unwise, Seneca being a good example, and virtues may differ culturally or individually.
    However I think that we do not automatically aspire to virtue or even know what a virtue is without external input.
    I may not be naturally honest, but my parents instilled honesty as a virtue and perhaps observing their wisdom and how their own honestly effected their lives and those around them convinced me of its worth even though it may lead to uncomfortable situations or me having to take responsibility I would prefer to avoid.
    I can certainly see their personal failings too, but I think again one has to separate the teaching from the teacher. Which is exactly what we are doing studying the Stoics wisdom but avoiding idolizing them, which is why i find this such a refreshing divergence from organized religion.
    Have a great day

    Reply
    1. nacho February 6, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      Great points. Thanks Ian!

      Reply

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