Stoic Letter 14
Last week, I was watching TV with my mom, and we were indulging in a little venting about the pace of the vaccine rollout. “If they keep up this pace, we’ll have our vaccine by 2030,” we joked.
When we finished our commentary on the news, I changed channels to a show about a Bitcoin millionaire. It was about a guy in his twenties who bought Bitcoin around $300 apiece (it’s around $40K right now). He apparently bought a bunch of them and has been living the lifestyle of the rich and the famous.
My mom has no idea what Bitcoin is, so she asked me how this guy got rich. I explained that it’s a digital currency and that this guy saw the opportunity before the mainstream caught on. She responded, “Where can I get some Bitcoin?”
We laughed. But after that, we talked about how good it is to work for your money. It’s really hard to see that we’re actually blessed with what we have. Good health, somewhat sane family members, a few good friends, and co-workers, having a job — it’s a blessing to have a “normal,” balanced life.
Seneca often talked about the bliss of moderation. He said: “It is the mark of a great spirit to hold great things in contempt and prefer moderate circumstances over excess; for moderation is useful and life-enhancing, whereas excess harms by its abundance.”
Look at life this way. Let’s say you have land and you’re growing crops. Excessive fertilizer will not make the crops grow any faster. In fact, ask a bunch of farmers, and they will probably tell you that too much fertilizer will only weigh down a crop. Excess is actually harmful.
This is not something you often hear in our society. We celebrate success, fame, and recognition, and we always assume more is better (of all of it). But not having those things is not that bad either. In many ways, a“normal” life without excess is actually more beatiful. Nothing builds more character than life itself.
I’m a big Jay-Z fan, and one of the things I love most about him is that he got into the entertainment business when he already was his own man. He released his first album when he was almost 27 years old. What’s even better is that he had the resources to do it by himself.
In today’s rap game, starting at 27 means you’re a dinosaur. Take Youngboy NBA, a 21-year-old rapper from Baton Rouge. I like his music too. The guy has already released four albums and SEVENTEEN mixtapes. He also has seven kids and had more legal issues than Jay-Z had in his 51 years on this planet.
One is not better than the other. But what I learned from Jay-Z is that character matters more than success. You can have all the money and fame in the world, but if you’re not a complete human being, what’s it good for?
A life of excess only leads to more excess. We all know how that ends. But somehow, we look at our own lives and compare it to others and think, “I suck.” No, screw that.
You know how those Reddit traders took on the hedge funds that shorted Gamestop? Well, in our own lives, we’re often those hedge funds. We sell ourselves short. Isn’t that stupid?
Do the opposite: Bet on yourself no matter what the outcome is.
Your life is good when you work on yourself — not when you get recognition. Hard times will define you. But you have to embrace the struggle and become friends with yourself. Accept who you are and own it. Never allow the desire for success to define you. That won’t make you a better person.
What will? Aim for being a person your best friend always can rely on. Someone who walks through life with a straight back, does what they say, and is comfortable in their own skin. All the best.