“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.” — Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5–11
Imagine if Elon Musk simply followed the common opinion and did everything the way things have always been done in the automobile industry and the space industry. There would be no Tesla. There would be no SpaceX. There would be no Boring Company or OpenAI or Neuralink. There would be no vision for human settlements on Mars. We wouldn’t be thinking and working on colonizing Mars and setting up a base on the moon. There would be no company working on Hyperloops. If everyone simply did things the way they have always been done, there would be no Spotify or Airbnb or Uber. There would be no Bill Gates or J.K. Rowling or Abraham Lincoln. The thing about people who have done great things in life is that they were daring enough to challenge the dogma. They were not pulled down by the “wretched habits” of other people in their respective fields that never questioned why they were doing things the way they were doing them. Henry Ford saw manufacturing processes with skepticism and created the assembly line which transformed the world. Simon Sinek, in his famous TED Talk and later in his book “Start with Why”, talks about the importance of asking “why”. And the stoics remind us of the same thing. We must ask “why” and be wary of habits that people have built without ever asking why. One choice leads us on a path of innovation and greatness while the other choice leads us nowhere and sets the world in stasis.
This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.