Stay Focused in a Confusing, Modern World with 3 Ancient Stoic Principles

Confusion, outrage, mindless politics, and soulless corporate pandering – these are the things that dominate our world today. They look to grip you from the moment you wake up. What do you do when you first get up in the morning? If you’re like most people, you see your smartphone by your bedside. It has a black screen at the moment, but it’s waiting there patiently, like a genie in a lamp, itching you to rub it. From there, your wishes will be granted, but the cost will be a world of distraction and outrage that makes you feel worse and prevents you from accomplishing meaningful things.

It’s no surprise that depression, neuroticism, and anxiety are hitting record highs, but you don’t need to join in on the despair. In this post, we’ll go over…

  1. How to prevent your mind from being flooded with outrage.
  2. How to maintain a strong moral compass when everything in the culture wants to corrupt you.
  3. How to maintain a strong mental state in the face of loss.

Now, more than ever, with attention spans at less than 30 seconds, you need to keep your focus. You need to clear your mind and avoid getting swept up into outrage, anger, and mindless pandering. Otherwise, you aren’t going to be happy.

There is a way to better organize yourself in this confusing modern world, though. It comes from ancient Stoic philosophy and you will be happy to know that these Stoic principles were applied by the best men throughout the ages, as Quintus Curtius would say. In Thirty Seven, Quintus lays out Stoic principles that fit the modern world as much as they did the ancient.

With a little tweaking to meet modern circumstances, they can work just as well in keeping you focused and cleansing your mind of the constant negativity and consumerism that our world runs on.

1. Focus on yourself, not the outrage

For the Stoics, the possession of virtue alone was sufficient for happiness. Only virtue can make men wise. Men who aren’t wise are slaves. Their own ill-feelings, passions, and appetites control them. Men guided by virtue, on the other hand, are in control of themselves. They act, rather than react. As such, they’re in better control of their own feelings.

No principle from ancient philosophy is as relevant to the modern world as this one. Outrage is everywhere and wants to sweep you along into it. Like a wave, it churns, then crashes on shore, and then the next outrage comes and you’re swept back into the tumult. This is no way to live. It’s not a coincidence that the “cool,” woke kids are also the most unhappy. You don’t have as much time as you think, so you better do something else.

Don’t engage with outrage. Wait a few days before making judgment on the news. Act on your own inclinations, knowledge, and character instead of getting swept up with the mob. Control your attention actively and focus it on worthier pursuits. Remember, according to the top behavioral scientists, people can only pay attention to one thing at a time. Make sure that you’re paying attention to things that will benefit you.

Outrage mob
Wise men will know not to be a part of this race.

2. Moral goodness cannot come from the group

The cultural sickness we see before us today is the direct result of the failure to instill strong character at an early age. We are taught knowledge without wisdom, geared only toward becoming a cog in the machine of global capitalism and our own vanity.

We can only expect inverted morals to emerge from a society like this. Indeed, in the second decade of the 21st century, morals have been perverted into social climbing. Our elites like to claim the mantle of morality, but it’s really just a disguise for them trying to gain social cred with one another, all the while they enforce authoritarian rule on the populace.

Ralph Northam and Justin Trudeau’s blackface sagas reflect this, but there’s no more egregious example than what we’ve seen this week with woke cultural elites bowing to China. Steve Kerr’s sniveling cowardice is a good example.

These are the people that will lecture and hector you out of one side of their mouth, then cower before the world’s most powerful human rights abuser from the other.

They and the mobs that coalesce around them don’t have any morals. Their “morals” are simply sneering elitism and social climbing. They only care about what will make them popular with their woke friends and keep them above the “benighted” masses. Thomas Sowell called it 25 years ago.

The ancient Stoics understood that only virtue was consistent with moral goodness, and virtue is intrinsic to men. It doesn’t come from group or elite approval. The virtuous man who understands the good life will only sneer back, unfazed at these sniveling elites and their undisguised cowardice.

Virtue and goodness come from you and what you do. They come from right actions justly performed. They come from you being in control of and understanding yourself, your work, and your worth. No one gives it to you and no one takes it away.

When you keep this in mind, you will understand that the hectoring cowardice of our elite isn’t worth your time, and you won’t get swept up in their nonsense.

3. Your character is not defined by others or by circumstances

Tthe Stoics understood that the only real way to live a good life and accrue true wealth was with wisdom.

Suppose that a natural (or artificial) disaster takes everything from you. What if you fall prey to a mob or a hurricane? If you have a strong character, none of these things will matter. Things will suck for sure and you’ll feel like shit in the short term. Think about it though – how do you achieve anything in this world? It’s through your character and the actions you take. Nothing can take these intrinsic qualities away from you.

Shipwreck of Simonides
As seen in the shipwreck of Simonides, a man can lose his fortune in a disaster, but not the virtue and good character that allowed him to accrue it.

When you understand this, as the ancient Stoics did, you’ll approach the distractions of the modern world in a much healthier way. You’ll understand that transient circumstances, much less the mob or sniveling social climbers, don’t define you. Your thoughts and actions do and nothing else.

We live in a world that wants to pull us down to the lowest common denominator and define us in this way. Yet, that’s a choice that we don’t need to make.

When you understand the nature of your character and cultivate wisdom and virtue, you’ll understand what you should pay attention to. You’ll be detached from the outrage and mindless pandering wanting to suck you in. You’ll be more focused on the important things.

Humanity might be irrational animals, but we can harness these instincts to our own purposes, and the Stoics give us a good blueprint. Upgrade that blueprint by reading Stumped.