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How Did You Die?
by Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there – that’s disgrace.
The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts,
It’s how did you fight – and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

Jean-Francois Millet 1857-9 The Angelus, oil on canvas, Musee d'Orsay

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What is so unbereable about this moment?

Don’t panic before the picture of your entire life, don’t duel on all the troubles you face or have left to face. But instead ask yourself as each trouble comes: What is so unbereable or unmanagable in this? Your reply will embarrass you. Then remind yourself that is not the future or the past that bears down on you but only the present, always the present.

Marcus Aurelius, Mediations 8.36


Originally posted by makethiscanon

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Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic

Cleanthes, one of the earliest Stoics, had no great fortune. Instead, he worked nearly all his life with a series of humble jobs. He carried water for people’s gardens. He crushed grain. He was a laborer—by choice. When a wealthy king offered him enough money to cease these labors, he refused, so as not to be corrupted. Every dollar Cleanthes earned—even if it wasn’t many of them—was honestly made. Not one of them was stained with blood or tainted by injustice.

And isn’t this a much more impressive fortune? It’s not the quantity that we should care about. Something earnestly made and sold for a fair price, whether it’s millions of units or a few dozen: that’s honorable. Something earned with real effort: that’s honorable, whether it’s earned by sweeping floors or managing a company.

The philosopher Nassim Taleb has joked that a person possesses true wealth when the money they turn down is sweeter than the money they accept. An honest dollar is the only kind of dollar worth chasing… or collecting. If only more Stoics had lived by this, or had been strong enough too. If only more of us could find the strength to do this today. How much more impressive we would all be.

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According to Seneca [as pointed out by Taleb]:

“The bookkeeping of benefits is simple: it is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain (benefit); if he does not return it, it is not lost, it was given for the sake of giving.”  In this way, this thinking is 100% upside.

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Nassim Taleb.  I am well familiar with him, having read all of his books.  I recommend each and every one of them.

If you want to be smarter about risk, check out his take on a term he calls “antifragility” and his theory of “Seneca’s Barbells”.  I couldn’t be more envious…or thankful…

From his book ‘Antifragile’:

Antifragility is the combination aggressiveness plus paranoia—c l i p your
downside, protect yourself from extreme harm, and let the upside, the positive Black Swans, take care of itself. We saw Seneca’s asymmetry: more upside than downside can come simply from the reduction of extreme downside (emotional harm) rather than improving things in the middle.

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Injustice is a kind of blasphemy. Nature designed rational beings for each other’s sake: to help–not harm–one another, as they deserve. To transgress its will, then, is to blaspheme against the oldest of the gods.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.1 (trans. Gregory Hays)

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