Something posterity will carry in its notebook – Seneca, @DailyStoic

I love this quote from Seneca, via The Daily Stoic’s newsletter:

How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.

It comes from Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius (Letter 33, paragraph 7 – he wrote a lot of letters).

I’m not sure where the translation comes from. I read it in the Daily Stoic newsletter, and also find it on The Mission (on Medium, here). In fuller version, the passage reads:

“For it’s disgraceful for an old person, or one in sight of old age, to have only the knowledge carried in their notebooks. Zeno said this . . . what do you say? Cleanthes said that . . . what do you say? How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.”

But elsewhere, I find a more pedestrian (but possibly more literal) translation (on Wikisource and The Stoic Life ).

That is why we give to children a proverb, or that which the Greeks call Chria, to be learned by heart; that sort of thing can be comprehended by the young mind, which cannot as yet hold more. For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them. For it is disgraceful even for an old man, or one who has sighted old age, to have a note-book knowledge. “This is what Zeno said.” But what have you yourself said? “This is the opinion of Cleanthes.” But what is your own opinion? How long shall you march under another man’s orders? Take command, and utter some word which posterity will remember. Put forth something from your own stock.

For words to live by, though, I’ll go with the Daily Stoic:

Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.

And, for a spot of random association, it reminds me of this line from the classic Warren Zevon song, The French Inhaler:

And when the lights came up at two
I caught a glimpse of you
And your face looked like something
Death brought with him in his suitcase.

I can’t find a decent live version online, but here’s the original:

And, in fairness, I don’t think Warren was a stoic.

 

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

The flexible workforce and the future of work

Short but interesting article on how business is responding to the rise of sovereign professionals by using this new, highly skilled and flexible workforce to power more agile and innovative business models.

This idea has been bubbling around for a few years. Back in 2012, Andrew Burke‘s research showed how freelancers contributed to both agility and innovation within firms (The Role of Freelancers in the 21st Century British Economy). Burke is now Dean of Trinity Business School and Chairman of the Centre for Research on Self-Employment.

Of course, the Irish management writer Charles Handy  foresaw all this in his 1990s books The Empty Raincoat (1995) and The Age of Unreason (2002). The ideas, however, finally seem to be gaining critical mass and traction with larger businesses.

In the last couple of years, Accenture have identified the move as one of the key trends in their annual Technology Vision:

Firms like MeasureMatch (a client of mine) are appearing to answer the need for reliable, responsive marketplaces to match buyers with the sovereign professional suppliers.

It’s an exciting time to be a sovereign professional.

 

 

Thumos – relight the fire in your belly!

Lost values?

Sometimes, it feels as if our world is lacking in those old-fashioned qualities of responsibility, integrity and honour.

Instead, we have a culture of “rights”, entitlements and expectations. Of “alternative facts” and blatant, cynical lies. Too often, the spoils seem to go to those with the straightest faces and the brassiest necks.

In his recent series of insightful posts, What We Know About 2018, Nicholas Bate ventured (I suspect rather hopefully) that:

It will be World-Wide Year of Ownership

Human beings will re-discover the lost art of taking responsibility; accepting history as well, history; agreeing to disagree but staying civil and realising the ‘sound-bite’ lacks both width, depth and certainly any kind of length.

I’m not sure I see it, sadly.

As an aside, earlier this month I took a wicked pleasure in hearing the editor of GQ magazine, Dylan Jones, describing his experience of photographing and interviewing Jeremy Corbyn for the cover of his magazine. For a day or two, he was everywhere (for example here, here, here and here) delighting other editors and interviewers with his behind-the-scenes revelations. And, selling magazines.

It was funny, but also, I felt, a bit dishonourable to have invited the politician onto the cover of his magazine and then to tittle-tattle like an excited teenager about what went on.

The lost concept of thumos

Anyhow, back on track. If we feel we’re losing the ideals of honour and integrity, then we have certainly lost the very concept of “thumos”.

The Art of Manliness blog introduced me to the idea the other day with a post entitled: Jack London on how to live a life of thumos:

The philosopher Plato thought that the soul of man could be compared to a chariot and consisted of three parts: a dark horse which represented the appetites, a white horse that represented thumos, and the charioteer which symbolized reason, and worked to keep the two disparate steeds in balance.

Of the three parts of the soul, thumos is the hardest for us moderns to grasp. The ancient Greeks thought it essential to andreia, or manliness, but there’s no one word in contemporary language that is a real match for it. Even for the Greeks, it was a multi-faceted force that they saw as the “seat of life.” Thumos was the source of emotion – particularly a righteous anger that manifested itself not only towards one’s enemies, but also at oneself for failing to live up to one’s own principles and code of honor. Thumos was the juice to action and the energy of drive – particularly that which led a man to fight, preserve his honor, become the best of the best, and leave a legacy. It was also the location of a man’s philosophical code – a matrix of discernment through which he pondered possibilities and intuited decisions. Thumos was a man’s spiritedness, his fire in the belly.

The post is a great introduction to the concept, but I find it’s been a recurring theme of the blog (maybe unsurprisingly given the blog’s title). You can find more about the ideas, here:

Fire in the belly

The juice to action, the energy of drive, the fire in the belly. Now, there’s a concept to play with. It underpins all those other fading concepts of integrity, honour and responsibility and is, surely, essential to all sovereign professionals.

Re-light your fire.

 

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

Echoes through time: leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day

The leading rule for a lawyer, as for the man of any other calling, is diligence.  Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day.  Never let your correspondence fall behind.  Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Notes for a law lecture

This echo comes via the very fine Cultural Offering blog.

Brunswick Green

London. Around the corner from Brunswick Square (not far from Charles Dickens’ home on Doughty Street) and opposite an ugly development called the Brunswick Centre, I found a row of dark green doors and a childhood memory.

During a brief and unsuccessful flirtation with Airfix kits, I fell in love with the rich range of exotically named Humbrol enamels. Brunswick Green was one of my favourites, along with Prussian Blue.

Back then, it never occurred to me to ask where (or what) Brunswick was. Good old Wikipedia.

Brunswick green is a common name for green pigments made from copper compounds, although the name has also been used for other formulations that produce a similar hue, such as mixtures of chrome yellow and Prussian blue. The pigment is named after Braunschweig, Germany (also known as Brunswick in English) where it was first manufactured. It is a deep, dark green, which may vary from intense to very dark, almost black.[42]

The first recorded use of Brunswick green as a color name in English was in 1764.[43] Another name for this color is English green. The first use of English green as a synonym for Brunswick green was in 1923.[44]

Deep Brunswick green is commonly recognized as part of the British racing green spectrum, the national auto racing color of the United Kingdom.

Brunswick green
About these coordinates    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #1B4D3E
sRGBB  (rgb) (27, 77, 62)
CMYKH   (cmyk) (65, 0, 20, 70)
HSV       (hsv) (162°, 65%, 30%)
Source [Unsourced]
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

The truth about trickle down – Thomas Sowell

A valuable explanation of how capitalism works from Thomas Sowell. It has nothing to do with wishful thinking or “trickle-down” thinking:

Those who imagine that profits first benefit business owners — and that benefits only belatedly trickle down to workers — have the sequence completely backward. When an investment is made, whether to build a railroad or to open a new restaurant, the first money is spent hiring people to do the work. Without that, nothing happens.

Money goes out first to pay expenses first and then comes back as profits later — if at all. The high rate of failure of new businesses makes painfully clear that there is nothing inevitable about the money coming back.

I came across this on someone’s blog. A hat-tip is due, but I can’t remember where I saw it.  Sorry.

Read the full piece, here.

 

Image: CapitalismMagazine.com

Echoes through time: most of what we say and do…

‘If thou wouldst know contentment, let thy deeds by few,’ said the sage. … Most of what we say and do is not necessary, and its omission would save both time and trouble. At every step, therefore, a man should ask himself, ‘Is this one of the things that are superfluous?’ Moreover, not idle actions only but even idle impressions ought to be suppressed; for then unnecessary action will not ensue.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.24)

 

Echoes through time: the roads of nature

I travel the roads of nature until the hour when I shall lie down and be at rest; yielding back my last breath into the air from which I have drawn it daily, and sinking down upon the earth from which my father derived the seed, my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk of my being – the earth which for so many years has furnished my daily meat and drink, and, though so grievously abused, still suffers me to tread its surface.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (5.4)

 

The Medieval gig economy? @HistoryToday

History Today has a piece by David Long on the employment status of the average priest in Medieval times.

As various professions like Law were emerging, the Church was well established as a career of choice, easily overlapping power in the secular and spiritual worlds. A young priest from a well-heeled family could afford a good education and a professional role as a prince (or at least senior manager) of the church.

The average priest-in-the-street, however, had more of a portfolio career, picking up priesting gigs in the neighbourhood and mixing those with other consulting and “enforcing” jobs.

Long parallels this “hollowing out” of the front-line parish profession with today’s “ever more casual and commercialised” professions.

I think it’s simply another reminder that our perception of work as a solid, predictable, 9 to 5, 18 to 65, activity is a relatively modern (and fleeting) construct of the Industrial Revolution. Work wasn’t like that before, and it won’t be like that after.

 

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash