5 Ancient Wisdoms To Help You Lead A Happier More Musical Life
Digitally-intensive work like music production, DJing, and building a personal brand can quickly consume an artist and leave them feeling isolated and burned out. If you've ever felt these emotions while working on your craft know that you're not alone; artists throughout the world are struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression at record levels.
Fortunately, while they may have lived vastly differently lives than we do today, there were a group of philosophers known as the Stoics who wrote at length about mental wellness, mental strength, and set a blueprint for how to lead a calmer, happier, and more fulfilling life. The hope is that by studying their wisdom, each one of us can find something to apply towards progressing our own mental health.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 5 ancient wisdoms that may help us lead happier, more musical lives.
Focus Only What You Can Control
Markus Aurelius - a stoic philosopher and the emperor of roman empire from 161 to 180 AD - He was regarded by his countrymen as a man "of rarest excellence", particularly in terms of wisdom and virtue. Aurelius was the last of the Roman Empire's "five good emperors" and is best known today for his collection of writings (which historians believe were most likely to himself): Meditations.
In his work Aurelius is near-compulsive with the repetition of key concepts he considered critical to living a virtuous and fulfilling life, most notably the idea of his attention entirely on things which he could control. Aurelius wrote: "It is not events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgement about them."
Whether it's music production or any other creative pursuit, the path to "success" often includes seemingly endless challenges and unknowns, many of them based entirely on subjective decisions. It's easy to feel frustrated or even defeated by outside forces while chasing your passion, but the Stoics believed the answer in those moments was to ask oneself whether the issue is one that is within our control, and if not, to return our focus to our greater goal.
Stop Caring What People Think
Epictetus, a man born into slavery who became one of the most prolific philosophers of all time, joked: “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, 'He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.'"
No one can control how others think about them, yet it's easy to allow the thoughts of strangers on social media or even friends and family members affect our mental state. The Stoics realized that an integral part of mental strength was indifference to what others thought of you, which allowed them to be more authentic and true to themselves, something very few artists throughout history have ever succeeded without.
Embrace The Journey
Modern-day Stoic Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who wrote about surviving the horrors of the Holocaust in Man's Search For Meaning believed in two things above all else: the love of one's family, and chasing one's passion with complete and impenetrable dedication.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” - Viktor Frankl
Artistic pursuits such as music production can often turn into a chase for "making it," imagining that everything will be better once some subjective accomplishments have been met. And while financial security is no doubt an important consideration for artists, it's important to constantly remind oneself that "striving and struggling", as Frankl puts it, are two sides of the same coin and should be embraced with equal enthusiasm.
As the Stoic-inspired Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
"Not merely bear what is necessary, but love it."
Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote: "two elements must be rooted out once for all: the fear of the future suffering and the recollection of past suffering; since the latter no longer concerns me, while the former concerns me not yet."
Creatives can often find themselves so lost in the mental state of "next" that they forget to appreciate and savor what's happening in the present. This often leads to a feeling of being disconnected from one's life and a struggle to maintain relationships. However the Stoics believed that it was critical for us to live our lives with the constant awareness - and respect - for the shortness of our time in mind.
"Do every act of your life as though it were your last." - Marcus Aurelius
This may sound like an unrealistic or extreme suggestion, but Stoics believed that by keeping our mortality at the forefront of our mind, we would be more likely to make full use of it in the present moment.
According to legend, Socrates, in response to whether he enjoyed going to the market, responded: "I love to go and see all the things I am happy without." Similarly Marcus Aurelius instructed himself: "find joy in simplicity, self-respect, and indifference to what lies between virtue and vice. Love the human race. Follow the divine."
So whether your "divine" is music, singing, or simply bringing joy to others through whatever expression you can, keep the words of the Stoics in your mind and let them guide you towards your destiny.
"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart." - Marcus Aurelius