Stoicism is an interesting word. It means ‘the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.’ It is easy to see how an entrepreneur could benefit from being stoic.
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy popular with the Romans and Greeks until the 3rd century AD. In the early 3rd century BC, the Phoenician Zeno of Citium founded stoicism in Athens. This philosophy is a little gift to today’s budding entrepreneurs as it encourages resilience, persistence, and determination.
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Stoic entrepreneurs are one step ahead…
You can spot a stoic entrepreneur a mile off. They will have a calm, unemotional exterior in the face of adversity. They are not reactionary, instead choosing to accept things as they are without argument. They may feel emotions somewhere inside, but they choose not to be driven by them. Instead, they choose to focus on realistic, step-by-step actions to find the best solution.
The point in embracing stoic principles is that you are simply focused on right action. You want to cut out any unnecessary worry or drama and get moving with the best course of action possible.
Below are six stoic principles entrepreneurs should embrace if they are to achieve long-term success:
Stoic principle 1: There is always room for improvement
Entrepreneurs will always be looking for ways to improve and grow. The attitude that you’ve hit the jackpot and you can’t be any better than you are will probably result in stagnation. As the times change, both your business and personal skill set will probably need to change with it.
You may be good, but you could be great. There are so many areas of life that can be improved upon. Never lose sight of that and you’ll always be open to change and new opportunities.
Stoic principle 2: There is a solution to every problem
Stoics are by nature resilient. Whatever challenges they face, they bounce back. When they hit a brick wall, they will find a way to build a ladder and climb over it. Being an entrepreneur has its frustrations. The path is unpredictable. You’re trailblazing to some extent, so you’re probably going to face some unexpected challenges at times.
You might get knocked down, but if you’re stoic, you’ll just dust yourself off and find another route. You’ll accept that this can take time – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Perseverance is as important as resilience. No true entrepreneur gives up without exhausting all avenues.
Stoic principle 3: Mistakes are inevitable and educational
The road to success is going to be peppered with mistakes. This is especially the case for entrepreneurs venturing out into unchartered territory. When you are committed to improvement, as per principle 1, mistakes won’t faze you too much.
You’ll accept that mistakes are part of life, and they actually need to happen in order for you to learn and grow. Being afraid of making mistakes is stifling. You can become mentally paralyzed and risk averse.
Entrepreneurs must be willing to take risks, and when a few of those risks inevitably don’t pay off, they must have the faith that they’re smart enough to find another way, armed with more knowledge thanks to the previous failings.
Stoic principle 4: A challenge is an opportunity
When starting out in a new venture, we might be so keen to succeed that we can fear challenges. When you distill it down, the fear of challenge is directly linked to the fear of mistakes, and both are ultimately linked to the fear of total failure. The idea of failure probably conjures up all manner of insecurities and negative self-judgments, which aren’t nice feelings.
Therefore, we might go out of our way to avoid challenges, consciously or otherwise. Stoics would turn this attitude on its head. Like mistakes, challenges pose an opportunity for growth. When faced with any kind of adversity, you will find a way to overcome it… so rather than rejecting challenge, welcome it.
In the process, you’ll develop more resilience, new skills, and a stronger faith in your ability to succeed. When starting out with little idea of how the bigger picture will form, initial challenges may seem daunting. Yet with persistence and willingness to learn, you will find your way through each challenge as it arises; as the bigger picture eventually forms, it will probably look distinctly rosy compared to your original projections.
Stoic principle 5: Success stories are contagious
Successful people can be a little intimidating. There is a tendency to assume that because their shining story looks so complete, it was effortless for them. Maybe they have something we don’t. We wonder if they’re smarter, wiser, or just generally more motivated.
Everyone has their own unique strengths and abilities, of course. So it doesn’t help much to compare yourself to anyone else. What does help is to recognise that your own success story is within your reach, and that the success stories of others may just inspire you to take the leap when you are floundering.
Rather than projecting superhuman powers onto someone else, see them as someone who probably has stoic qualities. They are likely to be resilient and to have persevered when necessary. Study their stories and ask yourself which of their qualities you can adopt in order to enhance your own chances of success.
Stoic principle 6: Knowledge is always within reach
If you are curious, you will go far as an entrepreneur. To be inquisitive is to be open-minded. You may not be naturally good at everything, but there isn’t much you can’t learn. If you put your mind to it, the knowledge you seek can be yours.
The main requirement is that you are genuinely interested in the subject in question. Just because you haven’t been able to understand something before, it doesn’t mean you won’t in future. Perhaps you simply need a different source of information. Don’t give up!
Ultimately, patience is the biggest virtue here. You may not be able to learn a new skill overnight, but if you genuinely apply yourself, you will learn it. Discipline is as important as patience – you may need to put in some real effort, but if that’s what is required, that’s what an entrepreneur does.
Daniel Ross is part of the marketing team at Roubler — a cloud-based HR and payroll workforce management software founded in Australia. Their mission is to change the way the world manages its workforces.