Premeditatio malorum

I occasionally write about Stoicism on this blog. I find the philosophy well suited for E&C professionals.

The Stoics like to do an exercise called premeditatio malorum, imagining things that could go wrong or be taken away. Stoics are not pessimists, they simply like to be prepared.

Seneca, one of the richest man of Rome and a Stoic, would regularly practice poverty. He would eat a meager fare, walk around town with ragged clothes and barefoot, and sleep on the floor. He knew he might lose all his money one day. He had seen it happen to others and didn’t foolishly believe himself immune to misfortune. He wanted to be prepared. And so each day that he was still rich, he enjoyed it.

We all do this exercise from time to time. We read the news, learn of somebody else’s misfortune resulting from an earthquake, a flood, or a tornado, and for a brief second we try to imagine ourselves in their shoes. The thought alone is often so uncomfortable that we quickly abandon it.

What did the average American or European think about when they first heard of the coronavirus outbreak in China? How many asked themselves how they would react if their own government banned gatherings, closed schools and restaurants, and locked down entire towns? More importantly for this blog, how many E&C professionals thought about the new risks that could be created by such a situation?

Premeditatio malorum is a simple exercise that gets you ready for challenges, softens the blow when they actually happen, and makes you grateful when they don’t.

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