Marcus Aurelius – hero of the Sovereign Professional

Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 – 180), philosopher-king and last of the “Five Good Emperors“, is best remembered today for his Meditations.

Meditations was probably never intended to be published. It consists of Marcus Aurelius’s private thoughts and reflections. Today, it’s regarded as a classic of Stoic thinking.

But, what does that mean for the Sovereign Professional?

I would argue that stoicism provides a solid philosophy that is wholly relevant to the inevitable turmoil of individual toil.

The Daily Stoic site offers this definition of stoicism:

The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

That second sentence is key. We “cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.”

If you want to be sovereign, you recognise that your fate is in your own hands. Equally, you are no self-pitying victim. You don’t control external events, but you certainly control your response.

Marcus Aurelius, no passive, other-worldly sage in rags is a perfect role model. He was the most important and most powerful person in the known world. When he became emperor, Rome (as Republic and Empire) had stood for over 600 years. Sometimes, we talk of Ancient Rome like we do Victorian Britain or Soviet Russia; we forget it lasted a thousand years (in the west, and a further millennium, to 1453, in the east). Meditations tells us that Aurelius was a practising Stoic. His notes are not original philosophy. They are reflections and reminders, notes-to-self and admonitions. Indeed, the historian Mary Beard argues:

If a text like this were to be discovered today in the sands of Egypt, not tied to the name of an emperor, we would almost certainly interpret it as a set of fairly routine philosophical exercises – the kind of thing that a philosophically trained member of the Roman elite would compose to keep himself in good intellectual shape.

Meditations is Aurelius’ workbook, not his textbook. That’s where the value lies: practical philosophy for real life. Remarkably relevant and contemporary, despite being 1,800 years old.

Aurelius is a hero because he was a practitioner.

The Daily Stoic has a biography, here.

The Wikipedia article is here.

 

 

 

My own copies of Meditations have been the Penguin Great Ideas edition of a 1964 translation by Maxwell Staniforth, but I’m very tempted to try the recent Gregory Hays translation, as recommended, here.

 

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Don’t Stop Believin’ @JourneyOfficial

Sometimes you just need a little lift and Journey’s anthemic Don’t Stop Believin’ just hits the spot: the insistent keyboard intro, the soaring guitar and, of course, Steve Perry’s incredible vocal.

This live video’s a little faster than the album version…

The track is the opener on Journey’s 1981 album Journey, which took them to megastar status and cemented them in place as the very definition of slick and smooth, radio-friendly AOR.

T.Boone Pickens on optimism

Inspiring attitude from the 88-year old oilman:

Be the eternal optimist who is excited to see what the next decade will bring. I remain excited every day, engaged and thrilled in the office and on the road. I thrive on that activity, and I’m going to stick to it, no matter the setback.

His 1987 book, Boone, was an early influence.

Image credit: David Shankbone

Albrecht Dürer – hero of the sovereign professional

The 15th / 16th century German artist was a pioneer and a role model for today’s sovereign professional.

Back in 2011, The Economist published this article in their Christmas edition: Portrait of the Artist as an Entrepreneur, the Economist. I wrote about it at the time, over on the Burning Pine blog. 

Albrecht Dürer was a sovereign professional in so many ways. He was proudly independent. In an age when artists so often depended on patronage, he considered court painters to be parasites…

hanging round great men, waiting for a commission to fall from the lordly lips. He, by contrast, was an independent businessman. He made his money not by grovelling, but by selling copies of the woodcuts and engravings printed, since 1495, at his workshop in the centre of Nuremberg. He was not even a member of a guild, for there were no artists’ guilds in the city: he was a free individual, unaffiliated, making money and a reputation purely for himself.

Dürer was also keenly aware of his cost base (both the materials used and his limited time) and of the return on investment from various projects.  Of his “Madonna of the Rose Garlands”, he wrote: “My picture … is well finished and finely coloured [but] I have got … little profit by it.  I could easily have earned 200 ducats in the time.”

To a customer, he wrote, “I shall stick to my engravings, and if I had done so before I should be a richer man by 1,000 florins.”

By investing in his own printing press, Dürer was able to produce copies of his works and leverage his creative work more effectively whilst also maintaining control by producing the prints himself.

He also understood how to market his services. He understood the value of his brand, going to court in Nuremberg and in Venice to defend his trademark monogram.

Dürer took a strategic approach to levering his talent, he developed re-usable intellectual property and he built his own brand. He understood his business – his P&L – and his marketing. In every way, we have much to learn from Albrecht Dürer.

There’s a spin-off benefit, too. Even 500 years later, original Dürer prints are available on sites like Artsy for just a few thousand dollars. Not pocket-money, but not the mega-millions of original works either.

 

The true doctrine of self-reliance, self-help and self-mastery

The ever rich and varied Hammock Papers has this great quotation from Theodore Roosevelt:

Something can be done by good laws; more can be done by honest administration of the laws; but most of all can be done by frowning resolutely upon the preachers of vague discontent; and by upholding the true doctrine of self-reliance, self-help, and self-mastery. This doctrine sets forth many things. Among them is the fact that though a man can occasionally be helped when he stumbles, yet that it is useless to try to carry him when he will not or cannot walk; and worse than useless to try to bring down the work and reward of the thrifty and intelligent to the level of the capacity of the weak, the shiftless, and the idle.

The doctrine of self-reliance, self-help and self-mastery. Something of a credo for the sovereign professional.

I find that, as a Brit, I know very little about Roosevelt. Need to read more.

Image: http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/

 

20 classic poems: Opportunity – @artofmanliness

The Art of Manliness blog has a list of “20 classic poems every man should read“.

Some are familiar, although I’m embarrassed to have read so few.

However, the following seemed particularly apt for the Sovereign Professional:

Master of human destinies am I;
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk. I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and, passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late,
I knock unbidden once at every gate.

If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise, before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who hesitate
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain, and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more.

John James Ingalls (1833 – 1900), Opportunity

Now,there’s a lesson to remember.

Songs for Sovereign Professionals: Hello, Hooray @RealAliceCooper

The sovereign professional walks a solitary path. Sometimes you need a lift, something big and empowering and energising.

This has been the opening song on my daily soundtrack for the last few months.

“God, I feel so strong!”

The following comes from a TV show and looks fairly contemporaneous with the original release…

And, if you have Alice Cooper‘s Billion Dollar Babies album, check out Generation Landslide and Elected.

Cooper, always much more than a shock-pop-rocker, has written some great songs over the years, but he didn’t write this. Hello, Hooray was written by Canadian songwriter Rolf Kempf.

Over on Steve Hoffman Music Forums, I learnt that the song was originally recorded by Judy Collins. Hoffman’s post includes both versions along with a 1990s recording by Kempf himself. I have to say that Collins’ version doesn’t really work for me – but then I’ve grown up with the Alice recording.

Kempf tells the story of the song on his blog, here.

Let the show begin, I’ve been ready.

Image credit: alicecooper.com