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5 Ways to Apply Stoicism to Entrepreneurship

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Elliot Kavanagh

Elliot is the owner and admin of elliotkavanagh.com. He's a qualified marketing expert with a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and 7 years of experience in digital marketing. He also loves to eat and play games, somewhat badly.View Author posts

There’s no denying that Entrepreneurship is tough. Based on findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of startups fail within the first year, that’s 1 in 5 businesses. Furthermore, by year 5, nearly half of all businesses will have failed. I wonder if those entrepreneurs were practicing Stoicism? and if they were, would they still be around?

Well, what if I told you there is an ancient philosophy that you can tap into that will give you so much mental fortitude that you will never want to give up? You’d hand over all your money to learn it right?

Well, that philosophy is stoicism!

For those of you that have stumbled upon this post, let’s talk a little bit about stoicism. We’ll discuss what it is and how to apply it to entrepreneurship.

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is an ancient philosophy founded in the 3rd Century BC by a philosopher named Zeno of Citium. It teaches you to be a logical thinker and to use reason to overcome emotions that may be self-destructive.

Stoics are also proponents of living a life of virtue, free from negative emotions such as jealousy and resentment.

Many great leaders including Marcus Aurelius, the last great emperor of Rome practiced stoicism to stay strong and virtuous.

In today’s world, Stoicism is finding its way back into modern life as people look to ancient wisdom as a way of improving their quality of life.

People such as Ryan Holiday from Daily Stoic are teaching Stoicism and how to use it for self-development and entrepreneurship.

I stumbled upon it through the YouTube channel Everyday Stoic and since then I’ve been hooked on finding ways to incorporate it into my entrepreneurial ventures.

I’m going to show you how it helps me in my personal development and how I use it to stay focused on my goals.

The Value of Time

Were tight fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers

Seneca

When I first heard this quote I was taken aback. I immediately thought of all the time I had wasted procrastinating and doing dumb sh*t when I could have been working on my business.

In today’s world, we are bombarded with so many distractions. Social Media, emails, phone calls, popup notifications, Netflix, music, sports, and the list goes on and on.

Seneca realized that people are so protective of their money or personal property but lax when it comes to setting personal boundaries.

Quite often people will give in to these temptations and give away their time so easily. But what if someone tried to take $1000 from you? Would you give it away as easily as you give away your time scrolling through Facebook?

Time is the most valuable commodity we will ever have and businesses take time to grow. So in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to prioritize your time wisely.

Writing Goals Down

In order to achieve success in anything, one needs to have goals. Marcus Aurelius wrote everything down throughout his two-century rule of Rome. His famous book, Meditations, was in fact a collection of his journals. He wrote down everything and used self-reflection to help him stay virtuous.

But journalling your experiences is not enough. I combine this ancient wisdom with modern techniques.

Every week I write down a list of the things I need to get done, starting with the most important. Setting goals and writing them down creates a plan in your mind and gives you the motivation to get up early and grind.

I use the S.M.A.R.T technique to make sure my goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Take careful note of the “writing them down” part. Its been scientifically proven that people who write down their goals are 3x more successful than those that don’t.

It’s as if these stoics had it all figured out, huh?

Regulating Emotions

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself

Marcus Aurelius

This is a very important practice, especially for entrepreneurs. Quite often entrepreneurs are thought of as crazy when they set off pursuing their dreams.

People tell us “it’s impossible”, “there are too many people doing that already”, “you need money to start something like that” and so on.

I found that it’s best to be tolerant of these people. Engaging in an argument with them is quite often a waste of time because they will never understand your vision quite like you.

Instead, keep your head down, focus on your goals and prove them wrong with results.

Of course, this requires staying strict with yourself and regularly practicing self-discipline.

Learning What to Care About

Learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference

Marcus Aurelius

This quote literally changed my life. When I used to start websites and businesses I would obsess over every little detail before going public that quite often I would end up scrapping the ideas completely.

The truth is, so many of the things I was obsessing over didn’t actually make any difference. Many people when they are starting a blog want the theme and layout to be perfect.

However, it doesn’t actually make much of a difference. What brings traffic to a blog is the content, not the layout.

This can be applied to everything we do in life. The things people say and think about you don’t really matter at the end of the day.

Learning to Control Needs and Wants

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

Epictetus

People hold themselves back a lot because they spend their money on stupid stuff that they don’t need.

Instead of reinvesting money into the company, they buy a new car so they look successful to their peers. Consequently, these decisions hold the company back.

Learning to be grateful for everything you have is a crucial step to self-improvement. It teaches you to prioritize your needs over your wants.

It’s funny because this point runs counter-intuitive to how entrepreneurship is portrayed on social media. These days, being an entrepreneur is cool, and often it’s some guy sitting on a Lambo while counting wads of cash.

News flash, these guys are frauds. The Lambo is rented and the money is fake. Entrepreneurship is a tough and often lonely road that few people have the guts to pursue.

However, with the help of these ancient stoic pearls of wisdom, one can become sharper and more successful by learning to focus on the right things.

To summarise this list of stoic wisdoms:

  • Make sure to value time

Time is precious, be stingy with it.

  • Write down your goals

Write down your goals and aspirations. This gives you the power to stay disciplined.

  • Regulate your emotions

Be strict with yourself, but tolerant of others. Everyone is going through their own troubles. Show empathy but don’t let it stray you from your goals.

  • Learn what to care about

Learn how to focus on the things that matter, rather than on the things that don’t make a difference.

  • Know your wants and needs.

Stop spending money on silly stuff just to satisfy your ego. Instead, save or invest that money into self-improvement or your business.

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