Marcus Aurelius – Adversity to advantage

Marcus Aurelius – Adversity to advantage

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Marcus Aurelius, born in AD 21, grew up to become, for a time the most powerful man in all of Rome and the world. He ruled as emperor between AD 161- 180. It is strange then how when we speak of him we usually first mention him as a philosopher rather than an emperor who ruled over the Roman Empire for almost 20 years. This may be seen as a credit to his written work, the Meditations. This is now regarded as one of the finest pieces of philosophical writings amongst many. These writings were not intended for publication; instead it was a conversation that Marcus Aurelius had with himself which covers a range of diverse topics, all encountered with such clarity and wisdom. This book offers so much to the reader, many of the short aphorisms are relatable to this day and the reader can adopt the wisdom and teachings that this book has to offer. It really shows the inquisitive and awakened mind of one of the greatest stoic philosophers. He passed in 180 AD and it seems he would have been at peace during his last days, he writes…

“I am made up from the casual and the material. Neither of these will disappear in to nothing, just as neither came to be out of nothing. So every part of me will be assigned its changed place in some part of the universe, and that will change again into another part of the universe, and so on to infinity.”


So much can be taken from this great mind, we will no doubt return back to his work here on multiple occasions. Today we focus on an idea that is common amongst stoic philosophers, seeing obstacles as an opportunity to better oneself, seeing the opportunity in every disaster and seeing adversity as a challenge that must be overcome. This switch in thinking can be powerful beyond measure and propel you to greater heights.


“The mind adapts and turns round any obstacle to action to serve its objective: a hindrance to a given work is turned to its furtherance, an obstacle in a given path becomes an advance.”


History is littered with examples of ‘successful’ people who have had to overcome adversity of some degree and been greatly rewarded for their persistence and desire, it is hard to find a outlier or person of some breed of ‘success’ that doesn’t come with an accompanying story involving some if not all of the aspects that we are mentioning here. Take Dr Dre, now a successful business man and the richest guy in the hip-hop scene, with a net worth of around $700 million, from growing up in an environment that is less than ideal for cultivating the sort of life that he now lives during an era of severe police harassment towards the black community to continue to be persistent and over come any obstacles that got in his way. Now look at him. Or perhaps John D. Rockefeller who founded the Standard Oil Company during some of the toughest economic times in American history, this company ended up having 90% market share and its fair to say he made a few dollars. Or Tony Robbins who’s business was in massive debt, $700,000 I believe, to turning this around and now being able to live his life exactly how he desires whilst helping thousands of people become the best versions of themselves. Everyone has a story and has had to overcome adversity to get where they are today. Whoever you look up to and respect, take a look deeper in to their life and see for yourself – draw some inspiration from this!


Changing what you associate to an obstacle can help you re wire yourself for success. Perhaps you currently link obstacles in areas of your life with stress, anxiety and other emotions that we perceive as negative? Why not start to change how you think of obstacles to a more positive association such as obstacles are learning opportunities, after I overcome this I will be more learnt in this particular area, or see it as an opportunity to really show your persistence and desire, or even viewing it as a personal challenge for you to overcome. Switching what you associate to obstacles or in fact any other thing in your life is a good way to change your perception on situations and therefore your actions. It may take a little bit of practise but the results will be worth the time.


Remember “there is good in everything, if only we look for it!” – Laura Ingalls Wilder


– If you would like to grab your own copy of the Meditations then click here. This is a book that can be returned to throughout life, packed full with wisdom. Sometimes a few sentences is enough for one sitting. These sentences could have you pondering for hours, days, years, perhaps your whole life. Something in here is bound to cause a profound shift in your thinking or inspire you in a giant way.