There are those times in life that you read something and it just speaks to you. You have every intention of changing, to implement what you have learned, only to find out how hard it is to change. Life is full of good intentions that never get done. Today’s stoic reading is one of those items for me. A girl in high school put the following quote in the yearbook by her photo, “it is better to not speak and let the world think you are an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt.” I feel the following excerpt verifies this fact.
Cato practiced the kind of public speech capable of moving the masses, believing proper political philosophy takes care like any great city to maintain the warlike element. But he was never seen practicing in front of others, and no one ever heard him rehearse a speech. When he was told that people blamed him for his silence, he replied, ‘Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.’”
—PLUTARCH, CATO THE YOUNGER, 4
It’s easy to act—to just dive in. It’s harder to stop, to pause, to think: No, I’m not sure I need to do that yet. I’m not sure I am ready. As Cato entered politics, many expected swift and great things from him—stirring speeches, roaring condemnations, wise analyses. He was aware of this pressure—a pressure that exists on all of us at all times—and resisted. It’s easy to pander to the mob (and to our ego).
Instead, he waited and prepared. He parsed his own thoughts, made sure he was not reacting emotionally, selfishly, ignorantly, or prematurely. Only then would he speak—when he was confident that his words were worthy of being heard.
To do this requires awareness. It requires us to stop and evaluate ourselves honestly. Can you do that?
Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman. “The Daily Stoic.”