At the start of this week, I’d a lot planned.
Articles to write.
Podcasts to record.
People to interview.
A trip to London to arrange.
On Tuesday morning, thieves stole my car from the front of our house in the middle of the night. When I woke up the next day, I thought there was some mistake and that I’d parked the car elsewhere. I even walked in and out of the house again to be sure I wasn’t seeing things.
Suffice to say, my plans for the week were derailed by police, dealing with insurance and changing our home security set up. I found the experience more frustrating than disturbing.
Even this newsletter is late.
Still, it taught me that sometimes it best to step back and accept life’s inevitable interventions. Or as poet Robert Burns alluded to,
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
This Unusual Greek Word Reveals The Secret To Finding Happiness
What does it mean to be happy?
Searching for an answer, ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle proposed the concept of eudaemonia. It means to live well or flourish as a human being. If you want to live well personally and in business, you can break flourishing into three areas.
1. Virtue or Excellence
The purpose of a knife is to cut, and that’s why it’s useful or even productive. The purpose of an entrepreneur is to start and sometimes run a new business, even if this means taking on financial risks. The purpose of a CEO is to serve as the public face of a company and lead it.
Flourishing starts with knowing who you are and what your job is. If you’re not in an ideal job yet, consider your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to achieve.
Also known as arête, virtue or excellence is about more than earning money. Aristotle wrote,
“The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.”
Steve Jobs believed his purpose was to “put a ding” in the universe. The filmmaker David Lynch says his purpose is to create great films and TV shows. Nike founder Phil Knight’s original purpose was to fulfill a “crazy idea” of selling high-quality running shoes in the United States.
2. Practical Wisdom
Also known as phronesis, practical wisdom requires you to acquire the knowledge necessary to flourish personally or in business. For example, say you’ve always admired entrepreneurs, and now you feel like starting the next Nike, Facebook or Shopify. A good intention isn’t enough, Aristotle said:
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
Do you have the skills to launch a website, attract traffic and sell a product or service over the internet? If not, obtain them.
A doctor spends years in medical school acquiring the knowledge necessary to help patients. A business executive studies for an MBA or reads great books about their specialty.
An aspiring nonfiction author studies how other authors write and publish books. An entrepreneur takes online courses and works with a mentor. You develop your potential through a lifetime of gaining knowledge.
3. Moral Strength
It’s not enough to understand how to heal a sick patient or start a business or lead a company. And if you want to live well, it’s not good enough to accumulate knowledge if you don’t put it to use.
Steve Jobs knew what great design looked like, and he applied his skill set while creating the iPhone with his teams. David Lynch understands how he wants his films like Mulholland Drive and TV shows like Twin Peaks to look and sound. Then he creates them.
Nike founder Phil Knight didn’t just come up with his idea of importing running shoes into the United States. He travelled to Japan, signed a business deal with suppliers and created his business called Blue Ribbon (a precursor to Nike).
Put the knowledge you’ve acquired to use in a way that aligns with your values. This practice means conquering overriding desires to avoid hard or short-term work, but it will help you refine your understanding of your skill set or specialty.
Consider the entrepreneur who works 60- and 70-hour weeks to get their business off the ground, or the CEO who leads a company because he believes in its mission.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Ultimately, to flourish or embrace eudaemonia is a journey of self-discovery and developing your best talents.