The Philosopher King: Quotes from Marcus Aurelius

August 4, 2021

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts”. - Marcus Aurelius 

Let’s dive into a leader of our past, Marcus Aurelius. Some of you may have heard the name, others may have read his book Meditations, and a few of you probably know some of his accomplishments.

As we touch on leadership this week I want to talk about Plato’s idea of the ideal ruler, The Philosopher King, “a ruler who does not seek power for his own sake but to help his people.” Many believe that Plato developed the idea through exposure to his close friend Archytas who was a Pythagorean philosopher and political leader in the ancient Greek city of Tarentum, in Italy.

As a child Marcus Aurelius studied philosophy, who later grew to be an emperor of Rome, from 161-180 CE. He is known as the last of the 5 Good Emperors of Rome. In his book, Meditations, he writes: Book VIII.59: “People exist for the sake of one another; teach them, then, or bear with them.”
So you see who led with his heart, and obviously had a sharp mind too. 

When we look back at his life and his writings we can apply many lessons to our personal and business life that can help us grow in the right direction. Below I’ve outlined the 5 things that I have learned over the years from studying Marcus Aurelius. 

1 Our Perception is Reality. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Our perception determines what we experience, so why is it that we let other people or situations control our emotions? This is where you take back control and you begin taking notice of your responses. Are you emotionally reacting to most of your situations in life or are you remaining calm and processing the situation? 

2 Stop complaining. “Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough.” This one is self explanatory. You can either complain about what just happened to you or you can accept it, embrace it, and move forward with it. Learn from each situation and move on. 

3 We exist to help each other grow.Avoid all actions that are haphazard or purposeless; and secondly, let every action aim solely at the common good.” There are those who live selfishly, who wish to destroy others, who are takers, and only want to win in every situation. Then there are others who bring people together, understanding that we all differ in opinions and cultures, but can unite in the belief that humankind must work together to advance the greater good. 

4 Your ego is not your “Amigo”. “Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” This one is one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from Marcus Aurelius, where he says, if a person makes a decision that offends you, first consider whether they are “right to do this”. He’s telling us to take a deep breath and accept criticism if it fits, but take the time to think logically and have enough awareness that you will be wrong at times. Own up to your mistakes and remember that you are not above anyone else. You are among equals. 

5 Lead with kindness. “What can even the most vicious person do if you keep treating him with kindness and gently set him straight.” It takes a true leader, in all the sense, to put away ego and self interest and lead with compassion. To have empathy and awareness of how your words and actions can hurt and harm other people. Leading with kindness is the ultimate form of leadership. 

The last lesson has always stood out to me as his greatest quality to have,  leading with kindness. This one alone has helped me grow and connect with people all across the world in many different ways. Do I struggle at being kind 100%? Yes, I do. I definitely have my moments of anger, but accept it and I continue to move forward and grow in kindness, which is what I want you to do. 

This week, I'd like you to take the next few days and identify which one you want to work on for that day. To make it easy I would start with the first one and end with Lead with kindness! Each day practice being aware of each lesson that you’re focusing on.  Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe