Ancient Wisdom for Modern Work Life

As I enter the latter half of my third decade (I know, I know… age is just a number!), it got me thinking about all that we can learn from those who’ve come before us. Philosophers, spiritual teachers, and ancient world leaders examined the human experience, questioned the status quo, provided insights to inspire transformation and growth, and helped shape the world we now live in.

There is much we can learn from this ancient wisdom and apply to our current life – our work life specifically. Let’s dive in.

MODERN WORK LIFE WISDOM FROM ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS

PLATO: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Actions speak louder than words. Show, don’t tell, your boss and colleagues what you are capable of. Be authentic in your work. Leaders, watch how your employees show up, interact, and contribute. That is their truth.

SENECA: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Focus on what you can control at work. Invest into yourself and your professional development. Your continuing education and growth will help you be prepared when the right opportunity comes your way. You create your own luck.

SIMONIDES: “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Know when to speak up and know when to stay quiet. Specifically as a leader, leaving space for others to think, process, and then respond helps them grow. Great ideas that could change the trajectory of your company can come from those silences. Not to mention, if you don’t have anything constructive to contribute to the conversation, just don’t say anything at all.

ARISTOTLE: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Consistency is the key ingredient to success. High achievers show up as such every day, in every situation, not just when it is convenient for them.

LAO TZU: “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Part of leadership is taking all the blame when things go wrong, taking no credit when things go right, and being okay with it all. Great leaders are those who develop other leaders and find joy and meaning in doing so.

SOCRATES: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Curiosity and humility are a marks of great leaders and great employees. Approaching your work with curiosity and a desire to learn and see something from a new perspective can spark even better ideas and more progress for you and your team. Ask questions. Stay humble. Flex your curiosity. It is not the smartest person in the room that people look to, but rather the one that asks the best questions, facilitates conversation, and makes the others in the room feel smarter.

EPICURUS: “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – When you volunteer for a new project at work or take on a challenge that you’re not quite sure you’re ready for, regardless of the outcome, the sheer fact that you did it can bolster your confidence. Success is not easy. As you take on bigger challenges or say yes to that promotion, the more rewarding it can be.

CONFUCIUS: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – The only way to truly make progress at work and in business is to fail your way forward. It’s how you learn. It’s how you become stronger. It’s how you grow. The key, of course, is to own your mistakes and failures, get back up and take what you learned to do it better next time.

ARISTOTLE: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – While perfection is an illusion, when you are able to find joy and meaning in your work you will bring your best to it. There are so many career opportunities available today, take the time to find out what really gets you excited. And then find a way to parlay this passion into a career.

CLEOPATRA: “I will not be triumphed over.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Do not allow yourself to be underestimated. You are the CEO of your life and career. You are a leader. Show up, step up, and be seen. 

MARCUS AURELIUS: “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

  • Modern Work Life Wisdom – Do not get caught up in comparing yourself to your co-workers or your competition. Stay focused on your vision for your life, career, and business. Instead of spending energy on watching what others are doing, keep your eye on your prize. You’ll get there faster.

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