This too shall pass


In 1859, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Wisconsin state fair. In closing, he shared a story:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.

They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.”

How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

A year later, Lincoln was elected president. In 1862, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed 3.5 million African Americans enslaved in Confederate states. In 1864, Lincoln won re-election in a landslide. Five months later, he was assassinated.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

-Steve Jobs

Personal notes

When I was 26, I raised $1 million in venture capital for my first start-up. I felt unstoppable. Two years later, I was forced to close the company. Firing people was horrible.

Since then, I’ve had some successes and many failures. The ups are exhilarating and the downs are crushing. Through it all, I’ve noticed my life is better when I maintain a Stoic balance, like this Taoist story:

Once there was an old farmer. One day, his horse ran away.

The villagers shook their heads, “Such bad luck.”

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Next morning, his horse returned with 3 wild horses.

The villagers marveled, “What good fortune!”

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Next day, the farmer’s son tried to tame the wild horses and broke his leg.

The villagers muttered, “Such a terrible accident.”

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

A week later, soldiers conscripted the village’s men. They left the son because his leg was broken.

The villagers exclaimed, “What a blessing!”

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

If you imagine the 4,500-billion-odd years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 a.m., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms…Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed 20 minutes later by the first jellyfish…At 9:04 p.m. trilobites swim onto the scene…Just before 10 p.m. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than 2 hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow…by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 p.m. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At 21 minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge 1 minute and 17 seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant.

-Bill Bryson


References


This too shall pass. (2021, March 13). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_too_shall_pass

Abraham Lincoln. (2021, March 13). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln


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