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Career Advice from Marcus Aurelius

  •  Stink positively
  • Why you Need your Problems
  • What Figs Teach You About Bad People

Marcus Aurelius ranks among the Top 5 Emperors of Rome.

He was CEO of Rome, Inc., the largest multi-national of its day.

He personally headed the Roman army, the superpower of its time.

He managed “hands on”, from the front, literally sitting around the camp fire with his troops on the frontier of his empire, as he waged territorial take-overs.

He blogged regularly about managing people (compiled in his book, Meditations).

Now he has some career advice for you:

You’re facing obstacles, challenges, problems in your career, life and business.  Good, says Marcus, you need them!

1.  For Fire You Need Firewood:  “Fire feeds on obstacles,” says Marcus.  You can’t have a business without problems to solve, you can’t have a career without challenges to face and you can’t have a life without obstacles to overcome.  The obstacle is the opportunity.  Whatever impedes you actually advances you.  What stands in the way, becomes the way.


Whether running an empire or a business, Marcus knew that it’s all just problem solving.  The problems evoke the solution; the challenge elicits the response.  You wouldn’t have a business (or life) if it weren’t for the challenges you face.  So stop whining and start growing.

Yeah, you say, but I face those problems, challenges, obstacles alone!  I have to solve everything myself!  That’s foolish pride, says Marcus.

2.  Get Help. “Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish.  And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up?  So what?”


Marcus knew it’s hard to develop yourself fully without assistance.   Growing up, he had 25 top tutors teaching him so he knew the value of receiving assistance.  He also knew that “Pride is a master of deception: when you think you’re occupied in the weightiest business, that’s when it has you in its spell.”

But I’m surrounded by stupid and bad people!  I sure won’t get help from my boss, colleagues, or staff.   It’s probably just their character, says Marcus, deal with it.

3.  Don’t Resent People for Their Character.

Fig trees bear figs because it’s their nature.  Don’t expect it to do otherwise.  If someone’s character causes you problems, do not exert energy trying to change that person.  Let it go.  “You might as well resent a fig tree for secreting fig juice,” Marcus says.  It’s you who must adapt to them, not they who must change to suit you.  Besides, “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.”


Ok, but how can I escape the office politics, corporate jockeying, and political games at work?   Cut the crap, says Marcus.

4.  Stink Positively: A straightforward, honest person should be like someone who stinks:  when you’re in the same room with him, you know it.  “Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be.  Be one.”


But I am a good person!  I just feel anxious about my future.  I’m swamped by the rapidity of change;  overwhelmed by the uncertainty of business life.   That’s normal, says Marcus, it’s just life, which you don’t control.

5.  Sh** Happens:  “How ridiculous it is to be surprised at anything that happens in life.”  Just roll with it.  You don’t, won’t and can’t control everything that happens to you in life.  “To pursue the unattainable is insanity, yet thoughtless people can’t refrain from it.”


I know, but I’m human and I can’t help worrying.   Take a larger perspective, says Marcus, look at the big picture.

6.  Relax and Re-Frame:  Put your problems and your worries in perspective.  Live excellently.  Be kind.  Have patience with those around you.  Enjoy your life.  Remember that “Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both.”

Your thoughts?

Other articles:

Why Top Performers Get Axed
4 Ways To Avoid the Axe
How The Job Market Really Works
The Only Career Advice You’ll Ever Need
18 Life Lessons From the Blues


About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


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