I take pride in taking the hard road and prove to people I earned it. ~Jake Ellenberger
When a man has the option of ease and to live a lavish life but chooses not to take it, he becomes something greater than a male in the biological sense.
Discipline, no matter how far we aim to run from it, will allow us to man up when the time comes and make no mistake, the time has already come.
It’s discipline and training that will allow you to recognize your dependency on things, on ease, on a softer way of life that weakens you as it threatened to do Marcus Aurelius a couple thousand years ago.
Aurelius, if it weren’t for letters he wrote to himself, would go down as yet another emperor of Rome who lived in opulence and rules with an iron fist. The fact that he did write letters to himself are incredibly valuable and telling.
The letters, packaged up and sold as Meditations, are letters of advice to himself. It’s an effort to find clarity where it seems not to exist. This is clearly a man writing to himself because it’s his own compass, his own voice and soul that will lead him to his truth. None of his advisors or friends will suffice, and it’s likely none of them knew what he was wrestling with.
To most, a flourishing life is one spent on vacation. But a true flourishing life needs vocation.
Man needs a quest.
We need something greater to pursue. While Marcus Aurelius had a quest, his struggles came not in pursuit of greatness, but in the pursuit of what was essential, and what was essential will always be essential.
Aurelius, and others Stoics like him, saw the changing seasons of fashion as useless and even destructive. As such, he dressed simply rather than dawning himself in the flamboyance of other prominent figures of the Roman elite.
He saw gossip and the conversations that most have as not only useless, but destructive. Delving even into thought, he struggled over which thoughts warranted exploration and which should be left alone.
The most powerful man in the world, rather than living a life of excess, saw the nobility and the benefit of living a disciplined life of less.
This isn’t to say that you strive for less, but that as you rise you strive to have less and depend on less. It’s in understanding what is essential that you’re able to focus on what matters and root out those things that will hold you back from reaching your potential, which, in the end, is all a man can strive for in this life.
The thing about potential is that it’s only realized when we become audacious in both goals and action. Our potential can only be realized when we deem what needs our attention and what doesn’t, and what needs our attention. What doesn’t need our attention brings us away from our potential, what does brings us closer to it.
Potential is something that we can only grasp when we’re performing at our very best, and without discipline and instead with laziness and ease our potential is beaten and broken down without our awareness of their decay.