Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man

Some truths are timeless. Here are six from the Roman statesman Cicero. He called these “The Six Mistakes of Man,” and though written more than 2000 years ago, each is still applicable today.

1. The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others
While this may be true of Hollywood villains and reality show contestants, most of us realize that true success comes from working together toward a common goal. Profits are certainly a vital component of success in business, but making them at the expense of those around you is not. Partnerships, collaboration, and teamwork are far more effective ways to build the kind of long-term, sustainable success most of us are after.

2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected
Far too much energy is spent on idle worrying. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t concern ourselves with improvement. By all means we should. But worrying never accomplished anything. Try not to get overly concerned with things that are beyond your control. Do your best, accomplish what you can, and keep plugging away.

3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it
Many of the things we take for granted today were once deemed impossible. Sure, a task may not seem possible right now, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t accomplish it someday or that you couldn’t team up with somebody (or several somebodies) to accomplish it in the not-too-distant future.

4. Refusing to set aside trivial preference
It’s easy to fall into the thinking of “my way or the highway.” There’s a reason we do things the way we do: because our way works. In many cases, a lot of time, effort, trial, and error have gone into refining our methodology. But sometimes, we just do things a certain way because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Opening our minds to other possibilities helps us grow personally — and as an organization or team.

5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind and not acquiring the habit of reading and study
Most business leaders are also lifelong learners — always reading, refining their skills, and studying others to stay ahead and continually improve their companies. Many also embrace a culture of learning throughout their organizations — cultivating knowledge, encouraging growth, and rewarding employees for ideas that translate to the company’s bottom line.

6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do
In some ways, this relates to #4 above, but on a grander scale. Instead of issues related to company policy and procedure, this mistake goes into personal beliefs and attitudes. Sure, life would be easier if everyone believed the same things and lived their lives the same way, but it would also be a lot duller. Different opinions, beliefs, and life experiences can infuse a team with energy and lead to fresher ideas and bigger innovations.

So, what do you think of Cicero’s mistakes? Can you think of any that he might have missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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