For today’s letter, I’m not sharing a piece of advice or insight about one of my favorite heroes—instead, I thought I would share something more practical. As the Mentor, it’s one of the most important tricks up my sleeve, one that has gotten me out of countless sticky situations. I can’t tell you how many times it’s saved me from deep wounds and powerful attacks. You could call it a tip, or a life lesson, or a quote, but as the Mentor, I think of it as a spell—because it certainly protects me as well as any magic I’ve ever met.
The unfortunate nature of the world is that it doesn’t have to be full of dragons in order for it to hurt us. And while a quick look outside shows very few goblins or evil wizards wandering the streets, make no mistake: the world is still very full of things that can harm you. But unlike dragons and monsters, you can’t solve these problems with a sword and a shield. Because the things that hurt us are very much alike what we see when we look in the mirror: people trying to navigate a complex set of facts and emotions, ones they often don’t understand.
That’s why, every day, before I interact with anyone, I repeat these words that Marcus Aurelius wrote thousands of years ago. I say, with him, “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness.”
I know long quotes like that are easy to skim. Easy to skip over. I’ve had to learn that lesson time again. But for those who are willing to read it carefully enough, there is a great reward. As you go through your day today, as you face the bumps and bruises life seems to offer so readily, remember: none of those people can harm you. No one can implicate you in ugliness.
But there’s another side to this quote—one that might actually be my favorite. When we go from expecting everyone to treat us the way we should be treated, to expecting people, from no fault of their own, to mistreat us, something else profound happens. The people who are meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly… They can no longer harm us. And the people who are kind, thoughtful, humble, honest, content, and encouraging? Well, we can see them for what they really are: our allies.
May the road rise up to meet you!