Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This quote makes me wonder what we really own. According to the quote, nothing gained from fortune (luck) is really ours to own.
That makes sense, because what comes by chance can just as easily be lost by chance. Ask anyone with a Fantasy Sports team how that goes.
The same goes for card games, dice games and other things largely left to chance. Compare that to the things you work hard to gather, gain, and keep.
Your knowledge, learned from books or experience, cannot be taken from you. Nor can your character, your integrity or your love. Those are what you made them, and cannot be taken without your permission.
Why is focusing on what you can own (and keep) important?
Things can be owned, but things can also be taken away. Those convicted of crimes lose their freedom and all but their most basic human rights. Those who have possessions can lose them to criminals. You can gain or lose money in a game of chance, even ones with some skill involved can, and often do, go both for and against you in turns.
For those chasing fame, that may be the most fickle mistress of all, giving and taking your fame with hardly a noticeable act. Those who chase prestige live in a similar environment, as do those who strive to climb the corporate ladder. Fortune can smile, or frown. And what happens to them when Fortune changes faces?
All the things they thought they owned, the corner office, the devotion of fans, or the money, it can all vanish as quickly as it came. While there are those who lose their character quickly, it is usually because what the rest of the world saw wasn’t really their character, but a lie, and their true self, when exposed, destroyed the false image.
If we keep our integrity, live up to our word, and behave as advised by our best spirits (think of the angel and devil on the shoulder of someone – listen to the angel, not the devil), we will stay true to our character. We will be known for our character and our integrity. While some fame and fortune could come of that, those can come and go, but you will remain.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Take a moment and consider what things you are chasing. Yes, we all need some money to survive. We may measure success by accomplishments or other acts. But do we do what is needed to thrive and survive, or do we focus on it too much? Consider eating: do you eat to live, or do you live to eat? One is a bit healthier than the other, right?
Longtime blog readers will know that I was married, divorced, bankrupt and pretty much wrecked at one point in my life. I lost most of what I thought I owned. I lost possessions, I lost my wife, and I lost a lot of my false self-worth. But what I didn’t lose were my friends, my faith, and my character.
From this experience, I learned to differentiate between what I truly owned, as and those things of which I had temporary possession. It helped me understand that Fortune, good or bad, could neither give nor take away anything of actual value. I still was me, and as I learned and healed, I became even better.
My character was untarnished, as I was still behaving in line with my beliefs, and while these events hurt me (as in pain), they did not besmirch my character. I was still acting congruent with who I was, and all who knew men knew it to be true. I had chased companionship and love, as well as money, and both were gone.
While most of us won’t get wrecked like that, but if we can save ourselves a little pain down the road, it might be worth thinking about, right? What thoughts did you come up with, regarding what you are chasing, the stuff you are going after which might not be truly yours to keep? Are they really worth the effort, if they can be so easily lost?
What I would challenge you to do is consider what need each of these things are filling for you. Does having money to spend make you feel powerful among your peers? Does it allow you to feel magnificent or somehow greater around them? If so, I would ask what else you could do to fill those needs with things which are less fleeting.
Could you offer to help one with something they’re doing which you have some knowledge or expertise? You could both help and teach them, feeling both better and humble at the same time, all with things which Fortune cannot take from either of you. While this is a fairly narrow example, I hope you can use it to address your situation.
We all have things which Fortune can take from us, and things which are ours for the rest of our lives. Doesn’t it make sense to put a little more effort into the things we will have for life, and not the things which can disappear overnight? Find those things in your life, and truly own them.
Become the person with the character and integrity of your desire. Become the friend you would like to have. Become the loving person you would want in your life. Care more about people than about things. Live a life that is more about choices than chances.