Not too long ago, we had fun revisiting some Stoic wisdom as we mined some goodness with a range of books—including Musonius Rufus’s Lectures and Sayings, Donald Robertson’s How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and William B. Irvine’s The Stoic Challenge.
I can’t seem to get enough of Stoic wisdom, so after that deep dive, I continued the Stoic swim with Ward Farnsworth’s The Practicing Stoic.
Farnsworth is the Dean of the University of Texas School of Law.
He writes with the logical precision you’d expect from the Dean of a top law school.
I LOVED his book. Highly recommend it. Check out the Notes. Etc.
Today I want to chat about one of my favorite passages from the book—which includes one of my favorite phrases of all time.
Here’s the passage: “Stoics regard virtue as sufficient to produce happiness on all occasions, and also as necessary for it. The happiness centrally valued by the Stoic is eudaimonia, or well-being—the good life rather than the good mood. But the Stoic believes that virtue gives rise to joy and to peace of mind as well. Virtue produces these good consequences as side effects. The primary mission of the Stoics, in other words, is to be helpful to others and serve the greater good, and they don’t do this to make themselves happy. They do it because it is the right and natural way to live. But doing it in that spirit, as it turns out, makes them happy.”
Of course, we’ve talked about this theme countless times, but isn’t that passage fantastic?!
Then there’s this phrase: “the good life rather than the good mood.”
Slightly rephrased: The Good Life vs. The Good Mood.
As we discuss all the time, it’s really easy to mindlessly chase the good “mood”—not realizing that (and/or forgetting the fact that) the REALLY powerful game we want to play is to go after the GOOD LIFE.
As Ward tells us, paradoxically, when we go all in on striving “to be helpful to others and serve the greater good” (without doing so trying to be happy per se), our happiness shows up as a wonderful by-product.
Kinda reminds me of that Viktor Frankl gem we’ve discussed before.
(Reminder Note: Frankl was also deeply inspired by the Stoics.)
“Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Again and again I shall admonish myself and our community of Optimizers in Europe and America and all around the world…
Let’s not aim at success.
Let’s commit to Optimizing to become the best version of ourselves in service to our families and communities and world.