He was hated by the establishment of the day because he dared to say people should have the freedom to believe what they want.
French philosopher and writer Voltaire, a thorn in the side of the French government and Catholic Church, paid a price for his belief in freedom, being sent to jail and exiled to England.
Today, 238 years after his death – Voltaire’s brilliant advice can help us cope in today’s modern world of noise, confusion and malaise.
Judge people by their questions rather than their answers.
In business and in life, it’s really the questions people ask which say more about their character and intent, than any answers they may provide. As a manager, I was always amazed at some of the questions job applicants would ask following an interview. One candidate in particular, who was outstanding in the interview, asked at the end, “So can I take off my birthday and anniversary?” Listen to the questions people ask to really know where they’re coming from.
People are free at the moment they wish to be.
Do you feel trapped in your life? We all do from time to time. But how many of our chains are self-imposed? How many can be removed at any time without hurting anyone else, or without the permission of anyone else? If your life is filled with too many issues, stuff and people – you are free to change that. Voltaire gives you permission to do so.
No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.
In this bold statement, Voltaire gives us enormous hope. How easily we become discouraged in today’s world of distraction. And, how little faith we have in our own brain power. It’s now a cliché, but we do indeed need to think outside of the box. Relax your mind and the subconscious will feed you solutions.
Injustice in the end produces independence.
What an odd thing to say – but think about it. If there are injustices against us, we can plan to avoid them in the future and thus become more independent. If you feel you’re not appreciated at work, or that friends are ignoring you – give love to yourself. You know your value deep in your heart, and that is all that counts. Be independent of what others think and do.
What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.
In essence, Voltaire is saying here that we must forgive. Live and let live. I often find myself being critical of others, but then realize, I am far from perfect myself. Besides – all of the imperfections inherent in each of us are what makes us truly unique. So-called faults can simply be character traits. We all need to be more tolerant of each other. Perhaps even grow to like and appreciate what were once regarded as annoyances.
Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.
Voltaire’s positive view allows us to more easily accept our plight. Acceptance is the key to breaking out and growing. I must accept where I am in this life, even though I would much rather be in a different place at times. Instead of fighting how life has turned out for me – an internal battle that will simply waste time, I must calm down and start re-arranging some cards. Which cards can you rearrange?
The safest course is to do nothing against one’s conscience. With this secret, we can enjoy life and have no fear from death.
In this statement, Voltaire is letting us know that we are often our own worst enemy. For many of us, there is an endless stream of negative thoughts. We put ourselves down. To release ourselves from our own busy mind is to offer up a serving of peace and tranquility. Of course, much easier said than done. But the real struggle is not between you and the world. It’s between you…and you.
Voltaire’s real name was François-Marie Arouet.
Historians are uncertain of how he came to call himself Voltaire, but it’s believed to stem from a childhood nickname, “le petit volontaire”, which means “determined little thing.”
Voltaire was smart, but not about everything – choosing to have affairs with married women, and a relationship with his own niece.
But his advice is more needed today than ever.