In this Stoic breakdown, we look at Chapter 24 from Epictetus' handbook.
Here the Stoic master gives five potent arguments against the mindless pursuit of status and wealth.
If you ever dream of "making it" and fantasize about achieving great status, this article is designed to challenge some of your thinking and open up a new Stoic paradigm of success.
5 Reasons You Must Be Cautious About Chasing Success
I/ You Don't Need Fame or Money to Be an Amazing Human
Do you ever wonder if your life will amount to anything?
Perhaps you see other people on social media and TV living their best lives and compare yourself to them.
"I am going to live a very average life of little worth," you tell yourself at 3 AM when you wake up in a panic about how terrible everything is turning out.
But is being a "nobody in obscurity" really bad?
If you never become rich, successful, and famous... is that a true problem?
Firstly, becoming any of those things is not solely up to you. We can't just choose to be invited to an important meeting or get a million Instagram followers.
There are so many factors outside of our control that lead to superficial external success, including our genetics and birthplace, that to wager your whole wellbeing in these areas is to miss what is most important:
The things within your control: your intentions and thoughts.
There are certain parts of life that you are responsible for, namely your judgments, intentions, and actions. Choose to be a celebrity of virtue, and see clearly that there is no dishonor in not achieving society's standard for success, which is equally as out of your control as attaining it.
II/ You Can Help Your Friends by Not Helping
Perhaps, you will argue that you don't want to be successful for selfish reasons, but instead so that you can take care of your family and friends.
Do you fantasize about being rich and famous so you can take your friends around the world to exotic locations?
Remember that it is not your responsibility to make money for your friends, and who is to say this is even in their best interests?
If you ever achieve worldly success, one could argue a much better gift would be through teaching and inspiration rather than simply giving over material things you've acquired.
A parent who does everything for their children and doesn't allow them to figure things out on their own is not helping the child.
III/ Wealth At the Expense of Honor will Make You Miserable
Money is not bad; it just shouldn't ever come at the expense of your integrity.
If you discover a way to make lots of money while remaining completely honest, trustworthy, and dignified—feel free to follow that path.
But if you think it's okay to sacrifice your values so you can get your hands on material possessions that can never be intrinsically good, you must realize that this is foolish and not a wise path toward happiness.
What would you rather have, a rich friend or a faithful and honorable friend?
So why not model this for yourself, and aim to focus on becoming a person of value who doesn't sacrifice their integrity for material things.
IV/ To Help the World, Play Your Role as Best You Can
You might have aspirations to save the world from catastrophe. Maybe you dream of being the next Elon Musk, or inventor of a life-saving vaccine, and you believe to do that you need money and influence.
But the best way you can help the human race, as a whole, is not to force yourself into some unnatural position, but to play your own role as well as you can. Society depends on there being a variation in skills, talents, and passions.
The clothing maker shouldn't design the buildings, and the architects shouldn't grow plants. Instead, they should recognize that the best way to help humanity is to stay in their lane and follow their nature as well as they can.
V/ Integrity Helps You Attain Your Goals
If you have a large goal in mind, and in the pursuit of that goal you sacrifice your integrity, you will eventually lose trust in yourself as much as others will lose trust in you.
There is a great power that comes from acting with authenticity, and the universe (read nature) somehow conspires to help those who, in the long term, stay true to their path.