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In this letter Seneca describes three kinds of people. The first are those who have made life for the fullest on their own with a minimum of help. These are people who may be called self made working from the ground up to achieve success.
“Epicurus remarks that certain men have worked their way to the truth without any one’s assistance, carving out their own passage. And he gives special praise to these, for their impulse has come from within, and they have forged to the front by themselves. “
There is a second type that need to be led. They may not have the strength or ability to do things on their own and need to be instructed on what to do in aspects of life.
“Again, he says, there are others who need outside help, who will not proceed unless someone leads the way, but who will follow faithfully. “
Then there is a third that seems to be a hybrid of the two. They are capable but need the support and sometimes the push from others to progress in life.
“ You will find still another class of man, – who can be forced and driven into righteousness, who do not need a guide as much as they require someone to encourage and, as it were, to force them along. This is the third variety. “
Seneca further writes that a strong foundation is the key to making progress in life. He uses the metaphor of buildings. One with a strong foundation are built quickly while others without a strong foundation are wasting energy and resources.”
“Suppose that two buildings have been erected, unlike as to their foundations, but equal in height and in grandeur. One is built on faultless ground, and the process of erection goes right ahead. In the other case, the foundations have exhausted the building materials, for they have been sunk into soft and shifting ground and much labour has been wasted in reaching the solid rock.
The same can be said of people.
“So with men’s dispositions; some are pliable and easy to manage, but others have to be laboriously wrought out by hand, so to speak, and are wholly employed in the making of their own foundations”
When we look for role models and teachers we need to look for those who have character and not those that keep up appearances.
“Choose as a guide one whom you will admire more when you see him act than when you hear him speak.
The lecherous man is revealed by his gait, by a movement of the hand, sometimes by a single answer, by his touching his head with a finger, by the shifting of his eye. The scamp is shown up by his laugh; the madman by his face and general appearance. These qualities become known by certain marks; but you can tell the character of every man when you see how he gives and receives praise.”
The types of people we choose as teachers can be different varieties. They can be actual instructors if we are trying to improve ourselves professionally. It can also be therapists or coaches in different areas. The right kind of teacher we choose first depends on assessing where our own needs are.
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