Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) was a Greek philosopher, considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Along with Socrates and Plato, he laid the foundation for all of western philosophy, even until today.
The word “philosophy” literally means the “love” (philo in Greek) of “wisdom” (sophia). At the fundamental level, philosophy is the study of how you can live through wisdom. That means trying to understand and answer a few core questions: Who are you really? What is your character? What is right and wrong? What is wisdom and how can one acquire it? How can one live through wisdom?
Aristotle wrote and said many things to try to answer those questions. There is much to be learned from his attempted answers which are saved today in the form of quotations. The following are 6 Aristotle quotes that will help you develop your own wisdom.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Excellence is often thought of as an achievement one gets to after many hours of work. For example, people will say that a professional Basketball player like LeBron James practices for 1000s of hours to achieve a level of play we define as “excellence”. But, as Aristotle is saying, habits are the true excellence.
To get a big achievement worthy of being called “excellence” you have to have the habit of showing up every day. You have to work hard every day. You have to constantly push yourself to get better every day. You have to be sharp, on point, and focused every day.
Your daily actions are what lead to your eventual achievements. The seemingly small, everyday decision to push forward makes all the difference with thousands of little steps adding up over time. Habits are true excellence because everything else stems from them.
If you want to improve and achieve great things, start with your habits. Ask yourself: how can I improve my habits to achieve excellence? Remember that the small stuff really adds up over time. Get enough sleep each night, eat a healthy diet, don’t procrastinate, get something done every day. These small habits lay the foundation for a life of excellence.
“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
It can certainly be a lot easier to work on your own rather than in a team. You get to make all the decisions and you work when and how you want to.
You’ll definitely move fast working alone, but you won’t move far. You can only work so many hours in the day by yourself. On top of that, you’re limited to your own perspective and line of thinking (I know you’re smart, but a fresh perspective is always useful).
A strong team can always accomplish more than individuals in the long run. Teams combine the brainpower of multiple people leading to huge, non-linear gains in learning and growth. A team of two people can accomplish more than three individuals because the team members learn and work off of each other, making the job much easier. A team of 10 people can accomplish more than 100 individuals on their own. There are many 10 person technology companies that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Think of ways that you can work with other people to accomplish your big goals. Perhaps you can team up with people to complete a project or start a business. Distribute the load and get bigger rewards.
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
To do your absolute best work, you need to love your job.
Michael Jordan loved the game of basketball. Steve Jobs loved technology and design. Aristotle loved philosophy. That love is what motivated them to push through the hard work and to develop habits of excellence. No one wants to work really hard for something that they don’t care about. It’s a heck of a lot easier to work hard when it’s for something you do care about.
When choosing your next job or trying to shape your career, look for what you love. The cliche thing to say is “find your passion” but it really does work because the thing you’re passionate about doesn’t feel like work at all. You can stay focused on it for an incredibly long period of time while still enjoying it. That extended effort is what gets you the big results.
What do you really enjoy doing? What would you love to achieve? Find those things and align them with your next job and overall career. You’ll soon find the hard work a lot easier as it feels so fulfilling and is building towards something a lot more valuable than just a paycheck.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
Many people chase happiness as if it is some sort of achievement to be had. Aristotle didn’t think that that was a healthy mindset.
Having the mindset that happiness is an achievement means that you being happy depends on something. It could be making a certain amount of money or having a certain level of status or making some great achievements. But at the end of the day, your happiness can be affected by something not fully in your control. That’s terrible because it means that even the smallest mistake or change of plans can make you unhappy.
It’s a lot better to look at happiness as a choice rather than a goal. Thinking in this way puts you in full control because you can choose to be happy at any time, regardless of the circumstances. If you lose your job, happiness as a goal will make you sad and depressed since it looks like you’re failing to achieve your objective. But you can also choose to be happy. Even though you’ve just lost your job, you choose to look at the positive side of things: now you have more time to relax and look for a much better job.
This is a much more encouraging definition of happiness. You never need to meet any external criteria for success, so there won’t be anything blocking you from being happy. Being happy becomes easier, and that certainly leads to a better life.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
There are thousands of things to know out there in the world. Technical skills, soft skills, labour skills, life skills — and those are just the big general ones. The philosophers however put the most emphasis on one skill ii particular: knowing yourself.
Knowing yourself is all about understanding who you truly are as a person. What qualities define your character? How do you think and make decisions? How do you want to live your life?
Everything else in life stems from these questions. Your character defines how you talk and act and experience things. How you think and make decisions guides the trajectory of your entire life. Defining how you want to live your life is the first step to achieving your goals.
Answering these questions really lays the groundwork for a life of wisdom. By understanding yourself, you can effectively build your life in a way that is aligned with your goals and your personality. You’ve laid out the map and can now walk the path you wish to go through with confidence and ease.
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Being patient is probably one of the damn hardest things to do as a human being. We’re hardwired to go for the sweet short term rewards. Unfortunately, capturing the short term rewards will often come at the cost of the long term ones.
It’s important to understand that all of the best, biggest gains in life come from long-term commitments. Working in the same field of work for many years results in expert skills and big financial rewards. Being with the same partner or friend for a really long time creates happy moments and memories that can never be matched by short-term flings.
You keep building it and building it for a really long time and eventually, the big rewards will come to you. Short-term things only give you small rewards.
Delayed gratification is one of the most powerful skills you can master. The longer-term prize is always much sweeter, but it takes willpower and skill to wait for it and continue to work in the meantime. Just always keep that in mind: long-term is better. Keep building and you’ll eventually look upon something you’re really proud of.
Aristotle: The Desire to Understand by Jonathan Lear
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle