In the realm of entrepreneurship, challenges abound. From decision-making and prioritizing to staying positive and maintaining momentum, the journey of starting and running a business is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurs often find themselves grappling with these obstacles, searching for a framework to manage them effectively. Surprisingly, a school of philosophy dating back to ancient Greece, known as Stoicism, offers practical wisdom that can enrich both personal and professional lives. The Stoic principles followed by great thinkers and business minds, such as Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Arianna Huffington, and Jack Dorsey, resonate with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius, an ardent adherent of Stoicism, applied its teachings to lead Rome for nearly two decades. His reflections on Stoic leadership, documented in his journal titled “Meditations,” offered a guidebook for living a virtuous life, focusing on what truly matters, and persevering in the face of setbacks. 

As entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves unable to control external factors that affect our businesses. However, by embracing the principles of Stoicism, we can gain control over our own actions and reactions. Let us explore some valuable lessons from Stoicism that can empower entrepreneurs to launch and maintain successful businesses.

1. Setting Priorities: The Essence of Growth

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In the early stages of my company, I attempted to juggle multiple responsibilities, from customer service to shaping the business’s long-term vision. Unsurprisingly, this lack of focus hindered the growth I had envisioned. In the startup world, time is the most precious asset. Aurelius referred to this as the “essential” – the tasks that propel your company forward. By concentrating our energy on these essential tasks, we increase the likelihood of achieving our broader business goals, such as expanding our user base or entering new markets. For me, this entailed automating repetitive processes and delegating tasks like customer service, which were consuming a significant amount of my time but could be effectively handled by capable team members.

2. Curbing Stress: Focusing on the Internals

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Epictetus, a prominent Stoic philosopher, emphasized the distinction between matters beyond our control, which he called “externals,” and the choices we can influence. Entrepreneurs face a multitude of pressures daily, including deadlines, competing commitments, investor expectations, and customer complaints. For some, these pressures manifest as stress. Excessive stress not only harms our well-being but also undermines productivity and profitability. However, others navigate these pressures without succumbing to overwhelming stress. The key lies in recognizing what we can control and what we cannot. By focusing solely on the “internals” – the aspects we have power over – we save time and foster a more positive work culture.

3. Overcoming Procrastination: Embracing the Present

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One of Stoicism’s fundamental principles is to live each day as if it could be our last, urging us not to waste time. While contemplating our mortality may seem morbid, it serves as a powerful motivator to live in the present and cease postponing important tasks. Seneca, in a letter to his brother, outlined his method of making the most of each day. He posed three questions: How am I better today? What did I do with my time? What were my outcomes? Incorporating this reflective exercise into our daily routines helps hold us accountable for taking action and achieving our goals.

4. Managing Fear: Navigating Risk with Resilience

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Innovation is essential for defining one’s company in a competitive landscape. It necessitates taking calculated risks. While it may seem that successful businesspeople are fearless, they have simply learned to manage their fears and forge ahead despite them. Stoicism teaches us that wishing for a different world is futile; instead, we must learn to navigate the world as it is, fears and all. Stoics employ a technique called “premeditatio malorum” – envisioning the worst possible outcomes in any situation. By mentally preparing for these dreaded scenarios, we become resilient and, in the process, often discover that even the worst-case scenario is not insurmountable. This perspective enables us to confront our fears and take decisive action.

Running a business is undeniably challenging. While demands and pressures persist, adopting a strong Stoic mentality allows us to navigate these challenges with resilience. By focusing on what we can control, setting priorities, embracing the present, and managing fear, both our personal well-being and business endeavors flourish. Stoicism offers entrepreneurs a timeless philosophy to weather the storms of entrepreneurship, empowering them to lead with wisdom and fortitude.

Thank you for reading.