Stoicism is a school of philosophy that is gaining popularity among startup founders for a reason – the values and mindset it teaches are well suited to overcoming adversity and keeping yourself sane in difficult situations.
Marcus Aurelius – the Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD, is without a doubt one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. Despite living two millennia ago, his wisdom is highly applicable to startups for the simple reason that the character traits and values that help people thrive personally and professionally are timeless and context-independent.
So, here are 6 quotes from him that will help you on your startup journey:
1. The more we value things beyond our control, the less control we have. – Marcus Aurelius
As a founder of a startup, you have no influence on many things, such as market conditions, customer behavior and economic trends. In addition, your time and resources are limited. Therefore, instead of worrying about these factors, it is essential to focus on what you have control over, such as your product development, sales and marketing strategies, and team building efforts.
Of course, you still need to be aware of your environment, even if you can’t control it, as it brings opportunities and threats.
2. Limit yourself to the present. – Marcus Aurelius
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in future goals or worry about the results of your efforts.
Planning is important, but thinking too much about the future can be counterproductive. The same goes for analyzing the past – learning from past mistakes is crucial, but dwelling on them is destructive.
Limiting yourself to the present moment can help you stay focused on what you need to do now to move your business forward.
How do you climb that mountain? Step-by-step.
3. How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at everything that happens in life. – Marcus Aurelius
As a founder, you should prepare yourself to be surprised and often wrong. The whole idea of the early start-up phases is to test your ideas against reality and find out how they need to be changed before investing heavily in them.
If you cling too much to your beliefs, you won’t be flexible enough to succeed in the extremely unpredictable and dynamic technical environment.
4. Each day offers its own gifts. – Marcus Aurelius
Although this idea is mainly about appreciation, it also applies to opportunities. To be a good startup founder, you need to be able to spot them and grab them.
Of course, you also need to be ready to make them.
5. Hide a mistake and the world will imagine the worst. – Marcus Aurelius
As a founder, you would make mistakes and often fail – when you’re dealing with innovation, this is inevitable. Therefore, being honest with your stakeholders (and yourself) is crucial for two reasons. First, to build trust. And second – to buy yourself the freedom to follow the optimal course of action without fear that those around you have different expectations that you have built up through dishonesty.
6. Am I made for this, to lie under the covers and keep myself warm? – Marcus Aurelius
Turning an idea into a real, working business is no doubt a very difficult task. What would motivate you keep moving forward when the going gets tough?
When embarking on a startup journey, you must be willing to give up comfort for the sake of ambition and, more importantly, for the sake of what makes sense to you.