“Act by everyone, in the same manner as if you supposed yourself to be him, and him to be you.” – Hierocles, On fraternal love

This same lesson has been preached by philosophers and laymen for thousands of years. Treat the people you encounter in life just as you would like to be treated if you were in their place. The only question that really remains is why do we so often fail in this basic task?

Why do we struggle to treat others fairly, and then bemoan our misfortune when we are treated unjustly?

Why do we act coldly and rudely to others who interrupt us, or bump into us on a crowded street, and then get angered when others treat us the same?

Remember, that people tend to learn from direct “firsthand” experience first, and through secondhand knowledge only if we’re lucky. That’s an important life lesson they don’t teach in school.

If you really want to excel in life, there are two simple rules you can adopt today.

1. The Hieroclean Rule or Golden Rule you were taught as a child will always hold true. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

This simple action distinguishes you from the majority by showing others that rather than being someone with which they must compete to succeed, you are instead an ally with which they can work to achieve shared success. Follow this rule and you will prevent adversaries and gain allies.

2. Learn from other’s experience and not your own whenever possible. Listen, observe and read as much as you can about anyone in your life that has failed at any task. If you can learn from their mistakes, you may just avoid making some similar ones.

If someone offers you advice—listen. The worst outcome would be recognizing that this person is to be avoided. The more likely outcome is there will be a kernel of truth in the story. Find that kernel and you can avoid the same pain your compatriot felt in his or her own experiences.

“Believing that we will be scorned by others unless we destroy every enemy we meet is characteristic of extremely ignoble and mindless men.” – Musonius Rufus, Sayings 41, from Stobaeus

A key lesson in life, perhaps lost in an age of social media furor, remains to take diligent care to not become mindless for the sake of other’s praise or fear of their disapproval.

Don’t be quick to anger. Don’t condone it. Don’t spread it. Anger is a sign of weakness. You will only demonstrate to the world how little control you have over yourself.

When you are confronted by anger in others, accept it as you would the wailing of a stubborn child or the cry of a lonely dog. Ignore it as best you can and move on. Never give in to anger. There’s no profit in it. What do you benefit by engaging in confrontation? There’s rarely a prize worth more than pride, and pride is a weakness for most and a vanity for us all.

Neither should we rely on the opinions of others. No one has the power to dictate truth for you. It is your duty to explore and come to terms with the world on your own.

You have a mind. Use it. When in doubt, ask yourself: Who does this opinion benefit ? Who does it harm? If we both can do as we please, and no one is harmed, why do I care what you believe?

“Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.”

– The Enchiridion by Epictetus, VIII

Stop wasting your precious time just waiting and expecting life to magically meet your every want and need. Nature works to ensure the best results for the whole and not the individual. This is an important observation too many forget.

Rather, be content that the world works on a foundation of natural and social laws. This makes life predictable. Remember, with careful planning you can better prepare yourself for the unknowable storms brought on by chance.

Key Points:

You’re unlikely to win the lottery. So, where else could you invest that dollar?

You’re not going to become stronger without exercise. So, what muscles have you strengthened today?

You’re not going to feel accomplished until you struggle to overcome difficult obstacles. So, what does your mind desire and how are you overcoming the obstacles necessary to obtain it today?

Our mind offers us an inner palace and fortress capable of remaining independent and free from the worldly events around us. Our mental palace can be a refuge in times of need—unapproachable unless you invite guests—worries—thoughts into its walls.

It can also be a university. Our mind can also be a place of learning if we choose to no longer let our idle thoughts simply glide across our minds only to be lost in that untamed wilderness.

Instead, take those thoughts and explore them in this hidden university. You can begin by deconstructing the world—the pain—the hardships—around you. When we understand the sources, causes and effects of such pain we can then begin to build a future with fewer obstacles in the way.

One can always find the courage to work through one more day—to endure hardship, pain, discomfort or merely inconvenience for the sake of progress.

Remember, nothing can be built without sacrifice. It is therefore your duty to use your Reason to determine how to both minimize your pain and maximize your gains.

You must do this without interfering with the rights of others. We must all be allowed to live as Reason allows.

Build a legacy while doing no harm.

That is the challenge I have seen few succeed in accomplishing.

I think most of us find ourselves distracted, more often than not, by the pursuit of pleasure—fine foods, wine, entertainment and sex.

There is never anything wrong in finding pleasure in one’s life. The only danger arises when we only seek pleasure. This obsessive pursuit can distract us from more productive endeavors and prevent us from ever achieving the greatness we are all capable of realizing.

How can you balance the pursuit of pleasure with the need to pursue the challenges in life necessary for greatness?

The easiest solution, though always so difficult, is to seek challenges and never the rewards. This ensures your will is never misguided, and still allows you to enjoy the pleasures which come across your path unsought.

One action is all that it takes to turn a life of disappointment into something else. Just like we are incapable of escaping the responsibilities of life by retreating into the past, we also should not ignore the present by hoping alone for a better future.

Instead, act.

Make a decision.

Follow through.

If it is to become the wrong decision, so be it. You have at least made an attempt to improve the lives around you, and you can use this experience to better learn strategies for the next choice which must be made around the corner