Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Letters to a young man 10

Hello my friend. You tell me of your life and your achievements thus far and ask me if you are successful. You tell me of your plans, aspirations, and dreams, and ask me if by the end of it if you'd be successful if you achieved those things. I have an answer for you my young friend. The measure of your life will not be in whether you achieved this or that, or not. You will be the arbiter who decides. One thing I have learned in my life thus far,

Achieving your goals in life, and being happy with yourself, do not always go hand in hand; it's not a given.

We've all seen the keenly successful man adrift in his personal sorrows and drama. The actor who seems to have it all, yet who collides with his own feelings of desperation and failure at every turn. Does he not bear the trappings of success? Does he not have the comforts of the modern world at his disposal, including ready access to pleasures? And what do these do for him?

It's not our access to these things, nor our use of them that make a life worth living, a life of clarity and satisfaction. It's true such a life may be possible in their midst, but those who seek them out blindly should beware. For nowhere is it written in the natural laws that such things will indeed bring you happy. A man may be deemed successful if he triumphs over the world in such a way as to deliver himself to these things (for really he is in their ownership, in their possession), but has he truly triumphed over himself?

Advancing in years a man begins to find wisdom, if he applies himself and learns from all of his mistakes. For all men there will be many of those, that is one constant for all men. Reflect on your mistakes as they are the guideposts you set in the ground on your way. As you find this wisdom, you begin to see how ruling over your own fears and anxieties is a great triumph in life. You will see that controlling yourself in the face of desires which control you is a great triumph in life. Desires that are enjoyed at our will are one thing, but those which lead us around by the nose make us fish on hooks, ready to be pulled in and eaten by those who hold the reel. We must remove the hook, take hold of our own reel and triumph over our destiny.

So my young friend, I leave you to think on these matters as you ponder your life and direction. On some days the road will seem miserable, and not worth continuing. On other days you will feel that life is at your command in every way. There is one constant in all of this, and that is you. Do not expect to always command life in every way. Rather, make it your goal to be in command of yourself, and if you do so you will be one of the few, truly successful men in this world.

Farewell for now.

My book on stoicism.