Stoicism and entrepreneurship

STOICISM is an ancient school of thought, but its principles have great relevance to modern-day life. There has been a resurgence in Stoicism amongst entrepreneurs as its modern-day proponents are influencers amongst professionals, business people and entrepreneurs. 

Stoicism in Entrepreneurship

It has been described as somewhat of an inner operating system by the likes of Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss (the latter wrote on the topic as early as 2009). But whilst the principles of Stoicism appear to be a kind of coping mechanism with the stresses of running a business, there are concepts in the philosophy that fly in the face of conventional entrepreneurial thinking.

For example, this famous quote by Seneca stresses the need for contentment with what one already has,

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

But entrepreneurship is all about vision and forward-thinking. It is about planning and working hard today for a better tomorrow. Many schools of thought on entrepreneurship stress the need to not be content with what we have and that this is the main driver for innovation and business success.

Contentment vs Ambition

So whilst the wisdom of Stoicism and the practice of concerning ourselves only with what is under our control is an excellent way to deal with the challenges of business life, the underpinning ethos of Stoicism would suggest one should not strive for more. The entrepreneur, therefore, must adopt a hybrid version of Stoicism in order to best help them succeed in business.

The concept of Euthymia (contentment in the belief that you are on the right path) is a valuable one for the entrepreneur. Being able to compartmentalise what is and what is not in our control is another. Being able to enjoy the journey of life, living in the now, without concern for the past or having concerns over the future must surely be applicable if not taken to quite the extent of Seneca's above comment.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that several high-profile entrepreneurs and business people openly subscribe to Stoic practices despite the fact that they are ambitious and driven individuals.