Key Points from Book: Seneca: On The Shortness of Life

Life is long if you know how to use it

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it

Why do we complain about nature? One man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by laborious dedication to useless task. One man us worn out by political ambition, which is always at the mercy of the judgment of others. M ny are occupied by either pursuing other people’s money or complaining about their own

You act like mortals in all thar you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire

He who saw that everything depended on himself alone, who decided the fortune of individuals and nations, was happiest when thinking of that day on which he would lay aside his own greatness

Yet most of these have died confessing that they did not yet know, still less can those others know. It is sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to be frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself

But the man who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day

But putting things off is the biggest waste of life, it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future

You must match time swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow

Just as travellers are beguiled by conversation or reading or some profound meditation, and find they have arrived at their destinatiom before they knew they were approaching it, so it is with this unceasing and extremely fast moving journey of life

Then they reflect how pointlessly they acquired things they never would enjoy, and how all their toil has been in vain

Some time has passed: he grasped his recollection. Time is present: he uses it. Time is to come: he anticipates it

But life is short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present and fear the future. When they come to the end of it, the poor wretches realize too late that for all this time they have been preoccupied in doing nothing

Life will be driven on through succession of preoccupations, we shall always long for leisure, but mever enjoy it

It is better to understand the balance sheet of one’s own life than of the corn trade

It is shameful sight when an elderly man runs out of breath while he is pleading in court for ligitants who are total strangers to him, and trying to win the applause of the ignorant bystanders

Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up by toughening those whom it constantly afflicts

Every individual can make himself happy. External goods are of trivial importance and without much influence in either direction: prosperity does not elevate the sage Nd adversity does not depress him

No man has been shattered by the blows of fortune unless he was first deceived by her

So fate has devreed that nothing maintains the same condition forever

The body’s need are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment, if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves ro serve our vices, not our needs

What luxury, if ten million meant poverty! How them can you think that it is the amount of money that matters and not the attitude if mind?

Nothing satisfies greed, but even a little satisfies nature

No man is despised by another unless he is first despised by himself

Sorrowers tend ti avoid what they are most fond of and try ti give vent to their grief, but you must share all your thoughts with her

Let my mind be fixed on itself, cultivate itself, have no external interest- nothing that seeks the approval of another, let it cherish the tranquility that has no part in public or private concerns

I imagine many people could have achieved wisdom if fhey had nit imagined fhey had already achieved it

Dissatisfaction with oneself arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not achieved what they long for, and all they grasp is hope

We must be especially careful in choosing people and deciding whether they are worth devoting a part of our lives to them, whether the sacrifice of our time makes a differemce to them

So we must bear in mind his much lighter it is the pain if not having money than of losing it

I shall not count this man happy if you can find me another who has nothing to lose

What is the harm in returning to the point whence you came?

It is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it


About Journeyman

A global macro analyst with over four years experience in the financial market, the author began his career as an equity analyst before transitioning to macro research focusing on Emerging Markets at a well-known independent research firm. He read voraciously, spending most of his free time following The Economist magazine and reading topics on finance and self-improvement. When off duty, he works part-time for Getty Images, taking pictures from all over the globe. To date, he has over 1200 pictures over 35 countries being sold through the company.
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