Could an ailing ancient Greek philosopher successfully run a dynamic start-up? Quite likely so as despite the 2300 years that have passed since his times, Epicurus’ tips for a happy life will work perfectly in contemporary business.
Various philosophers focused on various matters. For Epicurus, the central problem was the question of how to achieve happiness. He concluded that happiness comes with pleasure, which he saw as lack of suffering or life problems. He developed a method which was to dispel four greatest worries preventing people from fully enjoying their lives. If you take a closer look at these concerns, you will easily realize that they come as a daily nuisance to almost every modern employee. Epicurus claimed to know a solution to the problems they posed. Below you can find what he would most possibly tell us all today:
1. Do not be afraid of failing
Epicurus saw people being afraid of death – unsurprisingly, yet quite unnecessarily! According to him, death is not much to be scared of. It does not concern those who are alive since if you are alive, you are obviously not dying. Similarly, death should not affect the dead – having no belief in any form of life after death, Epicurus maintained that those who are dead do not exist. How can one translate the above into contemporary business practice? Quite simply, as long as you do not get fired or your company does not go bankrupt the problem is simply none of your concern. Once it happens, though, you get detached from the past as you plunge into a completely different reality in which everything starts anew. Therefore, the best you can do is to focus on nothing else but here and now.
2. Stop getting scared of the big ones
Are you afraid of the competition? Of all those mighty multinational corporations that can knock your small business to pieces? Some ancient Greeks were afraid of gods, who were much more powerful than people and therefore inspired real awe. But, honestly, is there much sense in being scared of something (or someone) so powerful? Epicurus claimed that gods would take no interest at all in common people – they lived in their own world and paid no heed to the day-to-day lives of the little ones. Which is why it is no use fearing the great and almighty. Whether these are our competitors or fellow workers fighting for promotion, they are first and foremost busy with their own business rather than plotting to attack us. What we should do is to focus on ourselves.
3. Come to understand that possible problems at work are not really there at all.
According to Epicurus, it makes little sense to worry about problems that loom ahead. If they are really serious, they will quite quickly sweep you off the market and you will end up in a completely different reality (see rule 1). If, on the other hand, the problems persist, this will mean they are not the kind of unbelievably harmful calamity and we will cope with them one way or another. And since they do little harm to you, why not come to terms with them and take them in your stride?
4. Do not expect God knows what and be happy with what you have got
This crucial item of the Epicurus’ four-fold cure is quite a simple one to tackle: people simply do not know what happiness and success are! According to the Greek philosopher, the fact that we see our lives as a string of failures and misfortunes stems from our lack of understanding of the fundamental principle: it is all fine the way it is as it could always get worse. The real success in professional terms means avoiding problems and achieving the state of happiness with what you already have. To quote B. Russell:
”If that were at all possible, Epicurus would like to find himself in a permanent state of having just eaten a moderate meal without ever feeling the voracious need of food”
This is the path we should follow in our professional lives. According to Epicurus, our problems do not bother us much – what does bother us is the fear of them. Epicurus was himself an ailing man, suffering a lot in the period preceding his death and yet he stayed optimistic without losing heart. Even once his condition prevented him from experiencing any pleasures whatsoever, he would rejoice at those he had been offered earlier in his life.
A long story in a nutshell: the best recipe for happiness at any given moment? See the glass half full.