If you’ve read Pressfield’s Virtues of War, you might be familiar with the concept of a daimon. Although the Stoics often called it by a different name, they believed in it too. It’s the idea that we have an inner spirit–a destiny inside us–that pulls and powers us. When you look at accomplished people you see a drive that made the success inevitable. I feel that urge. It is insatiable. That’s why I read so much, always feel like I’m stagnating, it’s the vague notion that I must be heading in the right direction at all times. For the people that’ve asked: that is why I work so hard.

But here’s the thing, I think. A lot of people have that. Maybe even most people. No one “aims” to end up part of a massive shell game, deluding themselves and others. At some point, they broke. When you get to Hollywood you see that most people don’t do anything. I don’t mean that they don’t work hard but that their job literally has no purpose. Again, not in the metaphorical sense–it does not need to exist. They don’t even know HOW to do anything. No wonder they’re unmotivated and lazy. Somewhere, something went wrong.

For me, it’s all about protecting that daimon. I’m absolutely paranoid about it. Were I to lose it, it’d be over. At 20, no less. Your daimon is sort of like your inner-child. Your purity. Your passion. Your clearheadness. The ability to look at problems and solve them instead of accepting them. The drive for a calling over a career. But it is in a constant state of temptation. And when it goes away it doesn’t come back. You make bargains like “80 hours a week for the next 50 years” and “yeah, I’ll sell a product I know is worthless.” Then you’re fucked.

By the time most people have made it through school, they’re gone. 8 years in intellectual prison breaks quite a few spirits. Each year after that, the world weeds us out. Cognitive Dissonance takes care of the ignorance. In preparing for this radically shifting marketplace, I think the single most important thing you can do is to protect that daimon. To prevent and resist breaking.

Here is the quote I try to use:

“Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, lose your sense of shame, or makes you show suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things done behind closed doors.” – Marcus Aurelius

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.