- The Stoa Letter
- Life as a Game
Life as a Game
Seriousness and Playfulness
Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.
Every week we share two emails to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. Each email includes one meditation on Stoic theory, one action to do in order to become more Stoic, and links to the best resources we’ve found.
For a Stoic, so much of life is serious. Life is short. Focus on excellence.
But Stoicism also provides ways to see the world in a lighter way.
Consider our careers, for example.
The Stoics see virtue as the primary good. That’s what happiness is.
If we understand the happy life as one where we build excellent character, other visions of life lose their seriousness.
We can see our career as a game. Yes, we should play the game well. We should act with virtue. But our career does not define us. It need not be a matter of existential angst.
Sometimes this angst takes on a selfish character. The ambitious tie their happiness to their material success. They may seek to win at the cost of playing well. They sacrifice their happiness to get ahead. This way of life is not success, but failure.
Another kind of mistake pays too much lip service to superficial moral values. People who make this kind of mistake see every interaction as something that must promote social good. They take slogans like always be “customer obsessed” too seriously. They excessively moralize both their own and others' careers. Sometimes all you’re called to do is provide a good service. Whatever your career is, it’s one that fits into a system that, at its best, fosters good companies, cities, and nations. Not every interaction needs to be “meaningful.” We just need to play the game well, not “change the world.”
The sports analogy works well here. The Olympic competitors treat their game seriously. They develop their craft. They train and perform with excellence. But they also treat it with a kind of lightness. It’s just a game after all.
We can approach our careers in the same way.
Take something in your life, and see if you can take it less seriously by viewing it as a game – and then play it well.
🎧️ Listen to my conversation with Jennifer Baker. We cover teaching Stoicism and how the Stoics think about business ethics. Highly recommended.
💬 Let’s end with some motivation from Epictetus:
What did you think about today's letter?