Living your beliefs is a hard thing to do

This was first published on October 13, 2020 on LinkedIn – Written by Chuck Papageorgiou

A few weekends ago, over a couple of glasses of wine, I had a long conversation with a younger and very dear friend of mine, who is going through some challenging times. Vaguely aware of the Stoics and, knowing I have been a student of the philosophy my whole life, and having recently had some challenging times of my own, he asked me how I stay true to that.

I love sharing what I know, so I told him about the Greek concept of Filotimo, and the 4 rules in my personal and family code of conduct:

  1. Be good at what you do;
  2. Do the right thing;
  3. Help others; and the most recently added
  4. Trust just a few;

and we talked about the Four Virtues stoics embrace: Wisdom, Temperance, Courage, and Justice.

And I thought that was that…

But since that conversation, I kept thinking about those virtues and how my actions reflect them, or not, and I was again reminded that it’s a never-ending quest…

  1. Courage – I have been in enough situations that tested my core beliefs and values to know I can “persist and resist.” But what about beliefs and values that are peripheral? Which ones do I hold, consciously and unconsciously, and are they also worthy of “persist and resist?”
  2. Wisdom – I have been around the proverbial block more than a few times, and, maybe I have gained enough insights to know the difference between making wise choices and unwise ones. But then, how good am I at knowing what the wise choices are in every situation, let alone making them every time?
  3. Temperance – I work every day on being a tranquil soul; But then, why do I also struggle every day with impatience, a bias for action, and a, somewhat infamous, Greek temper, despite practicing meditation and conservation of action and emotion for decades?
  4. Justice – I made a life-long commitment to being a just and honorable human being that aligns thoughts and actions towards the common good. But then, why do I struggle with knowing what the right justice is for people who have wronged me?

Having and living a belief system, like the Stoic Philosophy, is not that much different from practicing a religion. I often talk with my religious friends about their ability to leave up to their religion’s code, and the famous thought-experiment question; “Would you allow a robot in your house that would hold you to all your religion’s rules and punish you according to your holly scripts every time you violated their guidance?” And, just like those friends who chose to entertain the question, without fail, I also always answer NO, sometimes louder than others, depending on recent events, but NO, every time, nevertheless.

Living according to your beliefs every day is a hard thing to do, let alone live them while willing to accept that your beliefs may be wrong, and keeping an open mind to their limitations. But, while keeping an open mind, I have been committed to this belief system for over four decades, and I haven’t found a better one, yet. So, like Marcus Aurelius suggested in his Meditations centuries ago, and shared on one of my favorite websites as an introduction to Stoicism (

“If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, prudence, self-control, courage—than a mind satisfied that it has succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what’s beyond its control—if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations—it must be an extraordinary thing indeed—and enjoy it to the full.

But if nothing presents itself that’s superior to the spirit that lives within—the one that has subordinated individual desires to itself, that discriminates among impressions, that has broken free of physical temptations, and subordinated itself to the gods, and looks out for human beings’ welfare—if you find that there’s nothing more important or valuable than that, then don’t make room for anything but it.”

The advice shared in this article is based on how I work and a preview of the counsel I provide to entrepreneurs, founders, Corporate Executives, and Private Equity and Venture Capital clients based on three decades of work in these areas.