February 10, 2018 ANGER IS BAD FUEL

“There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, none more insane—since it’s not driven back by weariness even in defeat, when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself.”

—SENECA, ON ANGER, 3.1.5

As the Stoics have said many times, getting angry almost never solves anything. Usually, it makes things worse. We get upset, then the other person gets upset—now everyone is upset, and the problem is no closer to getting solved.

Many successful people will try to tell you that anger is a powerful fuel in their lives. The desire to “prove them all wrong” or “shove it in their faces” has made many a millionaire. The anger at being called fat or stupid has created fine physical specimens and brilliant minds. The anger at being rejected has motivated many to carve their own path.

But that’s shortsighted. Such stories ignore the pollution produced as a side effect and the wear and tear it put on the engine. It ignores what happens when that initial anger runs out—and how now more and more must be generated to keep the machine going (until, eventually, the only source left is anger at oneself). “Hate is too great a burden to bear,” Martin Luther King Jr. warned his fellow civil rights leaders in 1967, even though they had every reason to respond to hate with hate.

The same is true for anger—in fact, it’s true for most extreme emotions. They are toxic fuel. There’s plenty of it out in the world, no question, but never worth the costs that come along with it.

Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman. “The Daily Stoic.”

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