Always seek to conquer myself rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the world, and in general, accustom myself to the persuasion that, except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power; so that when we have done our best in things external to us, all wherein we fail of success is to be held, as regards us, absolutely impossible. — Rene Descartes

That quote basically broke my head the first few times I read it, so yes, I empathize with you. However, there was an important point to it. Descartes, along with Marcus Aurelius, George Washington, and Seneca the Younger (not a fun name to have) were all famous stoics.

If you don’t know what a stoic is, that last sentence might have fallen flat on you. Let me explain.

A stoic is someone who follows the philosophy of stoicism. As for stoicism, I’m turning to a great mind of the 21st century for that definition:

Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness) for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly. Wikipedia

It’s a surprisingly accurate definition considering its size. Marcus Aurelius wrote a giant book on the subject! And now, I’m going to tell you about the one stoic that might actually surpass Marcus Aurelius (he’s got big shoes to fill).

Epictetus (the name starts off epic and just rolls right off the tongue) was born in present-day Turkey, at around 55 AD (a long long time ago in a galaxy right around here). He was born a slave, and was most certainly crippled (in the leg), although records conflict about whether he was born like that or his master broke it.

Once Emperor Nero died (he’s a whole other whack-job story), Epictetus was freed! Being a reasonable man, he chose the logical career path — philosophy. (Didn’t even consider being a librarian. Come on, man!) Epictetus taught about a lot of different aspects of stoicism, and actually influenced Marcus Aurelius’ book, Meditations! (Didn’t see that coming, did you?!) He even made a school, to teach people about his philosophy, and help them live their best lives.

The Path of the Philosopher

Stoic Philosophy

Mastery of the Mind

Keeping Death Present in Your Mind

Accepting the Moment

Virtue is The Only Good

There are three parts to this system: virtue, vice, and indifference, all fairly self-explanatory. Virtuous acts are positive, and positively impact (almost) everyone involved. Circumstances filled with virtue are the most impactful in life. However, actions filled with vice, virtue’s opposite, have the opposite effect. These are actions that harm, and are deemed wrong. Finally, actions of indifference don’t really harm or help anyone. This category also includes miscellaneous acts (e.g. those that don’t fall into virtue or vice).

Filtering by these categories allows us to choose actions that positively impact us and others, and allow us to grow and learn as people. They allow us to live our best lives.

Epictetus’ teachings are powerful, and have impacted many people. I would even go so far as to say that they are more powerful than Marcus Aurelius’ after writing this article. Epictetus actually influenced Marcus Aurelius, and probably every other stoic that has ever been. His teachings allow us to take actions that positively impact the world and ourselves.

If you’re interested in philosophy, wireless energy, blockchain, or AI, go ahead and connect with me:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/areez-bhanji/
Website: http://areezbhanji.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/areez_bhanji

14-year-old blockchain developer and machine learning enthusiast.