And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: it’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it.
Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength— if we have the virtue of resilience.
The point, after all, is not just to read. The point is to read in a way that leads to better thinking, and to think in a way that leads to better living.
But when you’re in bed and not tired and it’s bright outside and you can’t seem to get your feet on the floor, you start to see that a lot of our most important battles are the ones we fight for self- mastery.
Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge. —-MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
I like the way Nietzsche put it: look at those works “as experimental laboratories in which . . . recipes for the art of living have been thoroughly practiced and lived to the hilt. The results of all their experiments belong to us, as our legitimate property.”
“Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”
A truly new and original book would be one which made people love old truths. –MARQUIS DE VAUVENARGUES (1715–1747)
If a piece of wisdom has survived for generations— if it has helped make sense of lives separated by vast distances of time and space— that’s a sign that it works. The new has no special claim on the true.
The test of a philosophy is simple: does it lead people to live better lives? If not, the philosophy fails. If so, it succeeds. Philosophy used to mean developing ideas about a life worth living, and then living that life.
The question is, are you aware of the philosophy you have— the assumptions, beliefs, and ideas that drive your actions? Are you aware of the way those assumptions, beliefs, and ideas add up to shape your life? Can they stand exposure to the light of day?
In the long run, though, deprivation of purpose is as destructive as deprivation of sleep. Without purpose, we can survive— but we cannot flourish.
We all need something to struggle against and to struggle for. The aim in life is not to avoid struggles, but to have the right ones; not to avoid worry, but to care about the right things; not to live without fear, but to confront worthy fears with force and passion.
In time, people find that great calamity met with great spirit can create great strength.
One quote he collected came from a young German who explained that he joined the Nazi party to be “free from freedom.” The desire to avoid responsibility can be overwhelming. That desire is so great that it has fed some of the greatest epochs of tyranny and acts of brutality the world has ever known. It is a desire so pervasive, so delicious, that tyrants have been able to rely on it in every era of human history.
Excuses are incompatible with excellence.
I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility.
Would you love people the same if they could never die?
When he reflected on all the selfish ambition he began with, and all the false starts and doubts on his path, he could only say to God, “I have loved you so late.”
Someone who cares about you, sweats with you, and corrects you when you need to be corrected is one of the most precious things in life: a true friend.
The happiness of excellence, like every happiness, finds its highest expression when we apply ourselves to a purpose beyond ourselves.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! W. H. MURRAY, MOUNTAINEER AND WRITER
In the same way that an infinite variety of colors can be created from three primary ones, we can think about the full range of happiness by looking at three primary kinds of happiness: the happiness of pleasure, the happiness of grace, and the happiness of excellence.
“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
We are meant to have worthy work to do. If we aren’t allowed to struggle for something worthwhile, we’ll never grow in resilience, and we’ll never experience complete happiness.
Any fool can learn from his mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.
–OTTO VON BISMARCK
What’s powerful about this simple idea is that, over time, you’ll begin to find models for almost any part of your life that you want to make excellent. And because of this, in any well- lived life, you’ll likely not have one model, but many.
…the way you act will shape the way you feel.
Decide who you want to be. Act that way. In time, you’ll become the person you resolve to be.
We sow a thought and reap an act; We sow an act and reap a habit; We sow a habit and reap a character; We sow a character and reap a destiny.
Eric Hoffer said this: “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.”
Poets like Walt Whitman got this. He wrote: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
One of the greatest gulfs in life is between sounding good and doing good.
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
But much of the time, when animosities and jealousies rule the day, it’s because the work simply isn’t important enough for people to put their differences aside.
Don’t say things. What you are…thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
As usual, Seneca captured the idea clearly: “At the moment we go to sleep, let us say, in joy and gaiety: ‘I have lived. I have traveled the path which Fortune assigned to me.’ If a god gives us the next day as a bonus, let us receive it with joy . . . Whoever has said to himself ‘I have lived’ can arise each day to an unexpected gift. Hurry up and live, and consider each day as a completed life.”