His writings inspired Shakespeare and many other authors throughout history.
Greek philosopher Plutarch was a firm believer that we all possess free will – and that what we do with our lives matters the most.
His beliefs, while they are almost 2,000 years old, carry valuable lessons for us to today, as we navigate our careers and lives in a complex world.
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
This was a very hard lesson for me to learn. When I was unemployed and depressed, the whole world seemed dark and impossible. Tired of going nowhere, I decided to liberate my mind and began to believe that I could actually get myself out of my poverty. I went from feeling sorry for myself to taking bold action. It worked. We all have the power to make our attitude and thoughts change our world.
“Prosperity is no just scale; adversity is the only balance to weigh friends.”
When you’re a success, everyone wants to be your friend. But when you’re down, that’s when a lot of people suddenly disappear. In my darkest days of unemployment, only one person continued to offer moral support. When the people you know are suffering, that’s the time to make your presence felt. Show no sympathy or pity. Rather – offer encouragement, empathy and most importantly, be there to listen.
“Courage consists not in hazarding without fear; but being resolutely minded in a just cause.”
Here, Plutarch redefines “courage” in a way that is more manageable. Rather than taking unwise risks and shedding fear – we ought to simply be laser focused. Today, when distractions are aplenty, it takes courage to block them out and move towards a single cause. In doing so, success will be inevitable.
“The whole of life is but a moment of time. It is our duty, therefore to use it, not to misuse it.”
We end on this reminder that time is finite. I speak to people who are in their 70s and 80s and they wonder where their life went. How did it go so fast? More can be done with time than with money. In wasting time, we are showing disrespect to God, life and the universe. See your time as the most valuable asset.
Plutarch was primarily a biographer, writing about the lives of Roman Emperors and Greek leaders.
He was less concerned with historical facts, focusing primarily on the character and moral outlook of his subjects. In fact, he downplayed their accomplishments, preferring to see what kind of a person they were deep down. For example, of the ancient Greek leader Alexander the Great, he wrote “He desired not pleasure or wealth, but only excellence and glory.”
Some of Plutarch’s texts sound like business books that could be written today, such as “Checking Anger” and “The Art of Listening.”
Plutarch saw the human side of his subjects, highlighting their better side.