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These 7 Lessons From the Ancient Stoics are Relevant for Entrepreneurs Today

These seven lessons from Stoicism will no doubt bring positive change to your life

Thai Nguyen




Some of the greatest leaders in history were Stoics: Cicero, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius. It’s no surprise considering Stoicism’s emphasis on self-mastery. Success and leadership flows from the reflection in the mirror.

The key is found in responding, as opposed to reacting, to external circumstances. The Stoics taught that although we can’t control what happens to us in life, we can control our perception of it. That makes all the difference.

Responding requires being mindful, aware and in control, rather than under the control, of your emotions and thought process. We can choose to perceive events in a productive way, or a destructive way. Stoics chose to see the glass always half-full. They find the silver lining in every cloud.

Related: 5 Unforgettable Leadership Qualities for Successful Entrepreneurs

These seven lessons from Stoicism will no doubt bring positive change to your life:

1. Think about thinking

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Only an attentive mind can filter and revoke unhealthy thoughts, and subsequently, unhealthy behaviours. Stoicism taught a clear distinction between your thoughts and behaviour. It’s that old adage, think before you act. The mindless person acts viscerally and regretfully.

The next time you’re confronted with a frustrating conversation or your schedule is suddenly derailed, pause for a moment to create a break to process what happened, then ask yourself: What’s the best way I can respond?

The simple act creates the self-reflection necessary put an end to impulsive, negative responses.

2. New day, new beginnings

“Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.” – Seneca.

Stoics saw each day brimming with opportunities. Remember, it only takes a single event, a single conversation, to completely change the trajectory of your life.

An awful day doesn’t have to become an awful week. Failing to meet a deadline can spread to a rejected business proposal if the fire of frustration isn’t put out. The Stoics built walls of mental compartmentalisation when necessary. Little pieces of the big picture connect and affect one another. When a cancer of anger and negativity is identified, it needs to be cut out before it spreads.

A new day, a clean slate. Put a stop to the domino effect before your little errors turn into a major crises.

3. Purposed action

“If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favourable.” – Seneca.

The Stoic wakes up and knows exactly what they want from their day — a clear destination and clear goals. Starting your day with writing down daily goals creates a psychological pre-commitment and self-expectation that increases the likelihood of achievement.

Psychologist Dr. Gail Matthews‘ study took 267 participants and found those writing goals with specific weekly strategies had a 76 percent success rate compared with 43 percent for those who merely stated their goals.

Every action must connect with a destination. Otherwise, you can sail all day, and end up right where you started.

4. There’s a season

“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” – Epictetus.

Ambitious people live ten years in the future. Patience isn’t our greatest virtue. Stoicism stressed living in accordance to our inner flow, and also to the external flow of life. Patience is not the enemy of productivity.

Constantly trying to find shortcuts will send you round in circles. Quality often gets sacrificed on the altar of rapid development. Excitement can cause ignorance toward necessary procedures.

Giving something an extra day can make a great deal of difference.

Related: To Be a Leader you Need To Be One of The Guys

5. You’re already there

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient. – Seneca.

We all believe achievement and success brings happiness but, surprisingly, the equation can be flipped – happiness brings success and achievement. Modern science has recently clued into what the Stoics knew for centuries.

Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor shared his research during a Ted Talk. Professionals from various careers who took part in a gratitude practice at the start of their day performed at a much better level than those who didn’t. Achor showed that starting with a positive mindset releases dopamine, which increases overall performance and happiness levels.

Increase your performance with positivity at the starting blocks rather than at the finish line.

6. Authenticity

“Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale; were I a swan, the part of a swan.” – Epictetus.

It’s so important to have mentors and role-models. But emulation can easily turn into imitation, and all you produce is a second-rate product. Stoicism emphasised a harmony between acceptance and change, the perfect balance of fate and free will. It’s the wisdom to know when the leopard can’t change it’s spots, and when you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Practically, it means embracing your unchangeable quirks and leveraging your uniqueness. There will never be another Elvis. The iconic VW Beetle can’t be replaced. Figure out what your gifts and talents are, and exploit them. We often look to external sources for inspiration when the answer is within.

7. Make peace with death

“Rehearse death. To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” – Seneca.

It’s not something we like to talk about, but death is the one certainty in life. Confronting that reality is liberating. Whether we realise it or not,death anxiety is at the root of all our fears. Our fight/flight mechanism works to preserve life, to flee from death. But it often gets triggered long before death enters into the picture, crippling us from stepping outside our comfort zone to pursue passions and new creations.

Confronting and coming to peace with death diminishes that slavery to fear. Stoics stared death in the face and accepted it as a natural part of life. Becoming friends with the ‘monster’ defeats it.

Steve Jobs said it beautifully, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Related: How Google Turned Around Management Resistance

This article was originally posted here on

Thai writes from the intersection of success, psychology, & spirituality, and invites readers to embrace a holistic lifestyle. Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, completed a BA in Humanities in Texas. Thai has been a 5-star chef, international kick boxer, now spiritual teacher & writer. He’s currently living in Cusco, Peru finishing his book on the power of stories in shaping our lives. You can follow his work at or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook


Entrepreneur Today

Top Inspiring Speakers Give Entrepreneurship Insights On World Speech Day

Pretoria, South Africa; March 2018 – World Speech Day South Africa will take place on the 15th of March 2018 from 10h00 to 14h00 at the Tuks Monate, University of Pretoria.





Our Stellar line up of speakers includes Keynote Speaker, Abdullah Verachia, as well as Guest Speakers Taddy Blecher, Kiara Nirghin and Natalie du Toit, and will feature Speakers from Crawford Preparatory Pretoria, the Wild Olive Society and the University of Pretoria Debate Society, under the theme of “Entrepreneurship”.

Abdullah Verachia serves as the CEO of The Strategists where he plays an active role in assisting companies and organisations craft competitive future strategies. He has significant expertise in strategy, competitiveness and sector trends and facilitates a number of high level strategy sessions and breakaways for companies and governments and also speaks globally in this area.

Having presented and consulted in over 60 cities globally, Abdullah has been recognised as a leading speaker, disruptor, strategist and thought leader on competitiveness and the interplay between strategy and disruptive innovation.

Speakers who are passionate about education

Dr Taddy Blecher is the CEO of the Community and Individual Development Association (C.I.D.A.) which founded the Maharishi Institute (MI).

MI facilitates university education, vocational training and employment for unemployed youth. Dr Blecher is passionate about the approach of Consciousness-Based Education, a system of education developing the full potential of every student.

This has led the Maharishi Institute to winning the first prize in a global competition to find the most innovative education initiative in the world. Through his work with C.I.D.A, over 17,250 unemployed South Africans have been educated, found employment and moved from poverty to the middle-class. Dr Blecher also co-founded the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship with Sir Richard Branson.

Speakers who are both trail blazers and award winners


Kiara Nirghin, the 2016 winner of the Google Science Fair and Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa was recently acclaimed one of the Times and The Guardians top 30 most influential teens in the world for her invention, ‘No More Thirsty Crops’.

She is currently a student ambassador for WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and was nominated as a student leader for 2017 as part of the Three Dot Dash initiative. She was a speaker at TEDxPretoria, Forbes Women’s events and been featured in various publications both in South Africa and worldwide.

Olympian and Paralympian, Natalie du Toit is a South African swimmer specialist open water swimmer and has also won five Paralympic championship titles at the Paralympic Games in 2004. She became the first amputee swimmer to qualify among abled-bodied swimmers for the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing.

Natalie has moved on from her inspiring sporting career to apply her skills and determination to the business world in the field of Reputation Management. She was the first person globally to carry a national flag in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Her goal is to inspire all South Africans to believe that anything is achievable, even against all odds.

Related: 15 Great TED Talks For Sparking Creativity (Infographic)

Thanks to the University of Pretoria, WSD South Africa is able to host an audience of 300 people this year. Our sponsors also include Akanni Office Furniture Manufacturers.

By supporting World Speech Day in developing this community of change-makers and action takers – the entrepreneurs, the dreamers, the thinkers, the doers, and thereby engaging with inspired citizens and providing a catalyst for inspiration and a platform for collaboration; our sponsors understand, value and work within a similar vision and approach.

World Speech Day South Africa


In 2017, WSD Southern Africa was launched. Under the theme of “Demonstrating the Art of Public Speaking’, 55 speakers including Youth, Professional Speakers, Toastmasters, Tedx Speakers as well as representatives from Government, Parastatals, Business and Not-for-Profits from several Southern African Countries graced the event.

Now known as WSD South Africa, the focus has shifted to intensifying efforts to increase the number of WSD events within South Africa. The theme of “Entrepreneurship” was selected on the premise that the Wild Olive Society is a Mastermind Group that Promotes Entrepreneurship. WSD South Africa’s vision is to increase the number of participating events to between 50 and 100 events throughout the country.

Related: 5 TEDTalks Every Entrepreneur Needs to Watch

With “Active Citizenship” as the 2019 theme, we will not only contribute to developing public speaking skills in young people but get to be a part of this massive global phenomenon. Moreover, this platform will also serve as an opportunity for South African citizens to share in a unified voice with the rest of the world, the different ways we endeavour to and succeed in moving forward to make our country an even better place for us as a nation.

WSD South Africa will serve to complement the other mediums that are already actively doing this by keeping the dialogue on “Active Citizenship” ongoing throughout the year and will present perhaps another opportunity to come together with a common purpose.

Click on this link for more information on participation in WSD South Africa 2019. Please like, share and follow WSD South Africa on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

World Speech Day

The 15th of March is World Speech Day (WSD); a day dedicated to celebrating speeches and speech making through live events all over the world. Founded by Mr Simon Gibson (who resides in the UK), World Speech Day is a Not-for-Profit Organisation; a global effort with local impact – helping local communities share ideas by bringing people together through nothing more than the simple power of speech.

President Kennedy once said: “the only reason to make a speech is to change the world.” World Speech Day is fashioned around a simple idea: “Change The World”. The global theme for WSD is “Thoughts for a Better World”.

WSD acts as a source for new thinking – releasing the “wisdom of crowds” – gathering ideas from the unexpected, usually unheard voices of Everyman. It is about tapping into the truly original and inspirational – and then amplifying and making these voices available. The event is aimed at demonstrating skills in public speaking to youth throughout the world with the purpose of teaching them to use their voices as instruments to make the world a better place.

WSD Speakers are encouraged to put forward their ideas on how to make the world a better place.

World Speech Day has been recognised by the US Senate declaring March 15 National Speech and Debate Education Day in the US. World Speech Day was launched in 2015, with the 2016 event including more than 300 events in 30 countries; increasing to more than 60 participating countries by 2017 and 100 in 2018.

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What Happens When Founders Are Fired

Replacements face a daunting task.

Jeff Hyman




When a founder steps down from the company following its acquisition – as David Karp recently did at microblogging site Tumblr – it creates an urgent need for a leader who can bridge two worlds: digital native and corporate. It’s a rare combination that, in my studies of “rock star” talent in high demand these days, won’t be easy to find: a leader who can guide the company forward and, equally important, prevent other key people from leaving.

Entrepreneurial-minded founders don’t enjoy spending their days in meetings, corporate presentations and strategy reviews. This talent tends to be action-driven and hard-headed and is likely to lose patience with playing the corporate game. (I know from personal experience, having left six months after my first company was acquired.)

Karp’s departure from Tumblr, which he founded when he was only 20, follows a well-established pattern. Harvard Business School research has shown that founder-CEOs are often replaced precisely because their companies are successful. While Tumblr’s data is closely guarded, its revenue is believed to be substantially in excess of $20 million.

Related: 4 Lessons From The Pivotal Group Founders On Growing And Disrupting All At Once

On a broader level, Karp’s decision to step down is part of the scope of leadership challenges that occur as entrepreneurial firms transition from one phase to the next. Founders who are so used to doing everything themselves – product creation, sales, pitching to investors, managing stakeholders – often need support in knowing how to navigate these transitions. That’s why they need “hugs and kicks,” as I call it: Tough love and guidance from board members and advisers who help them stay motivated and understand the reality of what they’re facing.

That might have changed things for another founder, John Schattner of Papa John’s, who recently stepped down from the CEO role, while continuing as chairman, after linking a sales slump at the company to NFL protests during the national anthem. The company later apologised for his comments.

Although it’s well-known that startups benefit from having a board (typically, outside investors will insist on this), many entrepreneurs delay bringing in advisers. When a startup is successful, there’s little incentive for the founder/CEO to undertake the time-consuming process of recruiting board members. Then there is the need to compensate board members in some capacity, which may mean giving away equity stakes, which founders tend to guard jealously.

Trusted advisers, though, can make all the difference. As a serial entrepreneur, I was fortunate at the age of 27 to have management consultant and bestselling author Patrick Lencioni as my executive coach – it was literally life-changing. Now as an adviser myself, one of my key points for entrepreneurs (and for employers, in general) is about finding the right talent – especially those who are stronger in areas where the founder and other key leaders are weak (for example, recruiting a strong No. 2 as a chief operating officer). I’ve found it’s much more efficient for leaders to focus on their strengths than to expend so much energy trying to shore up their weak areas.

While some companies such as Google and McKinsey are strong recruiters, most employers are “sloppy buyers” of talent. Some 50 percent of new hires don’t work out, a degree of inaccuracy that is inexcusable for anything in business. Compounding the challenge at digital/internet companies, it’s a seller’s market for talent today, particularly for highly in-demand specialties such as artificial intelligence. The most qualified “rock stars” can basically name where they want to go, what they want to do and how much they expect to earn.

Related: Listen And Learn: Why Podcasts Aren’t Just For Start-up Founders

When the talent market gets really tight – as it is now, the tightest we’ve seen since 1999 – employers often default to hiring someone who is deemed good enough, rather than operate with an open position while continuing to recruit the right person. The problem is that hiring a “warm body,” who is only a B- or C-player, undermines team performance. The existing rock stars will be the first to leave (and will find themselves in demand), because they want to be part of a winning team. It seems counterintuitive because maintaining a vacancy – holding out for a top performer – means the slack must be taken up by everyone else. But, the rock stars on the team will love it because they know their employer is being highly selective.

For entrepreneurial firms everywhere, the challenge is always building a pipeline of talent: Qualified candidates need to be developed ahead of time to succeed key players in leadership roles, as well as to manage functions such as sales and technology. No matter how many other “priorities” entrepreneurs have in growing their business, having the right talent must always be at the top of the list. Without the right talent, even leaders with the best ideas will be severely hamstrung in executing strategy.

This article was originally posted here on

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Leadership: The Principle Of Authenticity

Knowing whether you are an introvert, ambivert, or extrovert, what your likes and dislikes are just means that you are navigating the periphery of your existence.

Dirk Coetsee




‘Know thyself’ – Socrates

Immerse yourself in the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates’ words and for a moment consider that this famous scribe possibly assigned deeper meaning to the knowledge of self, than for example simply understanding your personality type. Knowing whether you are an introvert, ambivert, or extrovert, what your likes and dislikes are just means that you are navigating the periphery of your existence.

To get to a deeper understanding of yourself in terms of what your true infinite potential is and what your “deep driving desire” (purpose) is, is far more meaningful work and creates a deep level of wisdom in terms of the self and others.

“Whatsoever your deepest driving desire is, so shall your thoughts be, as your thoughts are so shall your deeds be, and your deeds shall echo in eternity”

Related: Mark Pilgrim On Authenticity In Business


As entrepreneurs we will do well to be reminded constantly that our businesses are extensions of ourselves and our teams. To do the work of self-development and the development of others on the deepest level possible is the key to developing and growing your business. First and foremost invest in your own development as an entrepreneur and person and in that of your team, for when business teams stagnate the business stagnates.

Be yourself. Be Authentic

Trying to be a Tony Robbins or a Richard Branson when you are simply not like them is futile effort. You are not here to be someone else you are here to be the best form of yourself as an entrepreneur and person. Wasting the energy to try to be someone else will, in time just leave you tired, unhappy and unfulfilled. To be authentically you, you must first find out who you truly are under the periphery of personality types, likes and dislikes.

Related: Podcasting Is The Most Authentic Form Of Advertising

Take the first step towards authenticity and honestly and deeply ponder the questions of:

What really gives me peace, or what will? What in life truly excites me and sustainably so? What do I sincerely have passion for and a deep love for? When I completely stop acting up to others expectations of me and be who I really am and do what I really want to do, what would that picture look like?

Being authentically grateful

To ensure that he lives a life of authentic gratitude a fellow coach, William Badenhorst regularly asks himself the following very meaningful question:

“What if I were to wake up tomorrow morning only with the things that I was grateful for the previous night?”

Sincerely reflecting on this question casts light on the level of gratitude that you live with. Develop authentic gratitude even for the trials and challenges on your entrepreneurial and leadership journey, for as the great Persian poet Rumi exclaimed:

“Through the wound, the light seeps in”

These beautiful poetic words alludes to the fact that there is always something positive to learn and take from even severe challenges, that is if one is willing to look deeper into the situation and be truly objective about it.

Related: Women Who Lead: Bonnie Cooper And Esna Colyn On Wearing The Mantle Of Leadership

Lets’ get practical

Within a high pressure and highly competitive (within the business team) environment wherein creating an image is important as opposed to acting according to character, authenticity suffers. When you as an entrepreneur and leader create a paradigm shift towards constant self-improvement within your business and hire and fire according to character (true self within the context of this writing) and not image (false self within the context of this).

  • By example make it ok to admit your fears, weaknesses and struggles. If you hide them they never surface and thus are never worked upon and improved. Firstly admit your fears to your team and also explain what you are doing about it and then create an environment where they would openly share theirs and what they are going to do about it.
  • Be authentically you, if you are an operations expert be that and focus on that do not try to create the image of being a marketing genius when you are not, just develop the skill of finding the right person in your team to handle the marketing.
  • Starting now go on a lifelong journey of constant learning. If you do not like to read, listen to podcasts, or go and learn directly from a mentor, alternatively there is a wealth of free information on the net.
  • Ask yourself earnestly: “Where has my excuses got me to?”. Stop entertaining your own excuses because they form self –inflicted stumbling blocks on your journey.
  • Let your voice of authenticity and your truth be heard within the business environment. Withholding the value of your ideas and insights is a disservice to the business.
  • Take action. A meeting is purely talk. Thinking is just that, thinking. Procrastination is the fertiliser that problems use to grow. Do!!! Think before you do yes, but just for as long as really, really necessary and then do! Empires are built by building it not by thinking about it and doing nothing.

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