“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” -Zeno of Citium
My Take: Is it True that Man Conquers the World by Conquering Himself?
I think that this quote by Zeno, another great Stoic, ties in well with the recent Marcus Aurelius quote on why you shouldn’t worry about the opinions of others.
The path to success is one that does not involve caring what others think. Instead, it involves mastering yourself and being the best you can be. Who cares if the person near you isn’t held in trance to your beauty, compliments you for working out, or praises your intellect? That’s not relevant. What matters, rather, is how you better yourself. Are you working out so that you’re healthier? Are you combing your hair, wearing a shirt with a collar, and eating healthy so that you don’t dip into slovenliness or gluttony? Are you reading frequently and widely? If so, you’re bettering yourself. You’re doing what you can to be better and the opinions of others couldn’t matter less.
Furthermore, those ways of bettering yourself are how you improve your lot in life. Man conquers the world by conquering himself not because what others think of you or say about you matters, but because doing those things (and many more, obviously) is what helps you succeed in life. Knowledge is useful. Looking professional and well-kempt is useful. Living a healthier lifestyle will let you work and succeed for longer. Man conquers the world by conquering himself because conquering yourself involves learning the ingredients to success.
Do you think Elon Musk, one of the greatest industrialists and innovators of our time, cares what people think about him? No. He’s a master of the universe, almost literally thanks to SpaceX, because he put in the work to conquer himself. He works tirelessly, pushing his body to the limit to get the most out of his mind. He learns and hires those that learn and work hard. He innovates and surrounds himself with other innovators. Musk has mastered himself, so he’s able to master the world.
Of course, we all have weaknesses. Musk hasn’t quite mastered the art of not tweeting randomly and he is thrice wed. But life is a continual process of learning. No one is perfect.
But those weaknesses aren’t the point. The point is that success is only possible if you take responsibility for yourself and do what you ought. That’s what liberty is, the right to do what you ought, and it’s also the essence of stoicism. Stoics focused on bettering themselves, not so that others would praise them or to obtain worldly riches, but because they wanted to be better. Better writers, better thinkers, better emperors, better generals. The form didn’t matter. What mattered to them was improvement.
As a result, they have outperformed their peers. Marcus Aurelius was the greatest of the Emperors. CEOs are often students of the stoics. Our greatest president and “indispensable man,” George Washington, was a student of stoicism. That shouldn’t be a surprise. As Zeno said, “man conquers the world by conquering himself.”
So, don’t focus on the opinions of others. Master yourself. Learn how to be better and work on that improvement constantly. Exercise vigorously. Read widely. Study diligently. Work hard. If you do all that and do it for yourself, you’ll succeed.
By: Gen Z Conservative
Image at top from here