As entrepreneurs, we often look to peers in the world of business as we attempt to learn from their success and understand their strategies. Sometimes however, it pays to go beyond our contemporaries and take a broader view of history and the history of thought.
There are many lessons we can take from great thinkers and leaders of the past which are just as applicable to the challenges of today as they were to the challenges of yesterday.
One such example is the Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. While he may have lived 2000 years ago, he nevertheless has much to teach entrepreneurs and business leaders today.
As a student and teacher of stoicism, Marcus Aurelius believed in remaining calm in the face of whatever challenges life might throw at you. This is an excellent lesson for the entrepreneurs of today.
Aurelius’ method was based around the disciplining of thought. In his own words
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
While events beyond your control may get between you and your goals, it is you are in control of how you respond to these events. Every entrepreneur needs their own strategies for keeping calm, so think about what yours might be.
It can help you to stay focused on what really matters.
Remain in the present moment
The mindfulness industry is big business these days. Before apps and self-help bools however, Marcus Aurelius advocated mindfulness to the ancient Romans. In business, forecasting the future and learning from the past are crucial but, while it can be difficult to not try and look forward or dwell on the past, cultivating an ability to be present is a great advantage.
Marcus taught that you should try to live in the present moment and give the task at hand all of your focus. This allows get you a better result.
Marcus said, “Every hour, focus your mind attentively on the performance of the task in hand, with dignity, human sympathy, benevolence and freedom, and leave aside all other thoughts. You will achieve this if you perform each action as if it were your last.”
Do not seek outside approval
We all know that some of the greatest entrepreneurs are rule-breakers.
Unsurprisingly, this is backed up by Marcus’ stoic philosophy, which says, “The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say, or think, or do.”
As an entrepreneur, you may find yourself or your ideas being misunderstood. This can be challenging, and lead to doubt, but by looking inwards for the validation you need you can keep pushing the boundaries.
Deal with challenges quickly – and move on
Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn as an entrepreneur is not to dwell on difficulties and failures. Marcus taught that,
“A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briars in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough.”
You should not try to work out why something bad has happened to slow you down; just learn from difficult moments and move on. As Bill Gates says, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
As you can see, there is much entrepreneurs can learn from the life and teachings of Marcus Aurelius. Even Google greats use them! Are you inspired by the words of this great man? Whatever level you are at in your entrepreneurship journey, we think that reflecting on Aurelius’ words can provide a lot of self-reflection and development in your own work.