No. Not Seneca College.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (also known as Seneca the Younger, who was also known as Seneca) was a Stoic philosopher, writer, and statesman. And man, did he know how to live. So, last night I read On The Shortness of Life (or, De Brevitate Vitae in Latin). It was a series of essays Seneca wrote in 49 AD that gives insight on how people live their lives. More specifically, how we live them poorly. He calls out all the lazy people in the world who complain about why the failed instead of using that failure as way to learn how to succeed.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
Seneca posed the idea that if you’re living life thinking it’s too short, you’re doing it wrong, and so have I. He said that it’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it doing pointless things. We’re all aware of the fact that we’re all going to die someday, but we act like we’re destined to live forever. We complain about things going wrong with our lives instead of putting in the maximum effort to make things better. I know I can say I do this regularly. I put off writing for the day because, “Whatever, I can always write tomorrow,” knowing full well that that’s no guarantee. The right time is always now because you never know how much time you have to do all the things that you want.
Even more pertinent to my desire for self-improvement, Seneca talked about “tranquility of mind”. This is the concept of your mind being free from negative thoughts and vices so that you can operate at peak efficiency. I already knew this to a certain extent, but Seneca reminded me that we should really be seeking long-term happiness instead of things that will make me happy only for a short time. This is a pretty telling comparison to how we use the Internet. We just keep scrolling, see a dank meme, laugh, and then we forget it minutes later. That’s short-term happiness.
On the Shortness of Life is giving me the kick in the ass I need to maximize every single day. I’ve started exercising, waking up much earlier than I normally do, eating somewhat healthier, and I even created a plan for how I want my morning to generally go.
“You are living as if you are destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you.”
For a book that clocks in at only 106 pages, this is packed with critical life advice, from not letting a change of plans ruin your day, to replacing good habits with bad ones, to how it’s okay to take a break from work once in a while because the brain can’t handle working constantly all the time. On The Shortness of Life has to be one of the oldest self-help books ever written, and while it’s the only one I’ve ever read, I’m already confident that it’ll be the best. If you’re like me and you find yourself a little lost in life sometimes (and you can handle some Old English), then I strongly recommend giving this a read.