Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher, penned the following more than 2,000 years ago:
THE SIX MISTAKES OF MAN
1. The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others.
2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying.
6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
While these probably aren’t the only mistakes all of us make, this is a pretty good working list. Wonderful, isn’t it, that Cicero’s thoughts survived 2,000 years? How amazing it is to think that he penned these words so long ago and they are still with us!
What I love about this words are their immediacy—they feel fresh and new. They might apply to some of today’s headlines or to a challenge we’re grappling with as writers. And who knows better than we do the importance of #5? As writers, “acquiring the habit of reading and studying” is one of the keys to improving our craft.
“A word after a word after a word is power,” Margaret Atwood says.
How true! By committing his thoughts to paper (parchment or clay tablets back then!), Cicero gave us a gift and kept his own mind eternally young and strong. That’s the staying power of words: they endure, and encourage, and enliven. Write on!
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