March 29, 2007 — 8 Comments

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’

–But it’s nicer here…

So you were born to feel “nice?” Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

–But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash and eat.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Every morning I have that dialog with myself, and so long as I come away siding with Aurelius, I feel like I’ve won. It’s not fun and surely it’s not easy. In some cases it borders on insanity and OCD. Little, meaningless things take on monumental importance–because I cannot NOT do them because it means appeasement. And I know that it is indeed a slippery slope, that once you begin the practice of capitulation to the Resistance, it never ends. There’s that Russell Banks book–The Sweet Hereafter–where the bus driver mentions that in 50/50 situations she always “errs on the side of the angels,” meaning she always gives God the benefit of the doubt. That’s the policy I’d like to base my life on, erring on the side of dedication, of hard work, of commitment.

And that’s the crucial question that Aurelius’ passage poses: You’ve had plenty of sleep…but have you had enough work?

….and fully aware of the irony, I’m enjoying my mini-vacation in Santa Barbara.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

8 responses to motivation.

  1. I woke up this morning at 5:30 intending get started on my day. Instead I went back to sleep and woke up at 11. After I read this post, I printed out that quote and put it up over my bedroom light switch. I’m not going to let those “stay in your warm bed” thoughts dominate my head anymore.

  2. You won’t know why, but please accept my thanks for this post.

  3. If it isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy, do you enjoy it? I find it odd to force one’s self to participate in activities that are not enjoyable in any way. If it’s not fun and it’s difficult, yet you enjoy it, then sure, I’ll agree. Buy why bother doing it if it isn’t enjoyable in any sense? It would simply be a waste of your time, would it not?

    • Yeah, if you’re a hedonist. The point is to contribute value to the world. That means “doing things and experiencing them” and “running to do what your nature demands.” Just because something isn’t fun or you don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you. Sometimes the hardest things to do are the things we should be doing.

      More here (especially the last sentence):

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