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In any project, consider the entire process and the steps it requires before you begin it. Otherwise you’ll start off eagerly enough, but quit when it’s time for the gritty work.

Say you want to win a gold medal at the Olympics. That’s certainly a fine ambition. But first review the full sequence of events, and then go for it if you still want to. There’s tremendous discipline required, a careful diet, rigorous training on a schedule, regardless of weather; your large or small vices must be given up; you have to turn yourself over to your coach as a sick man would to his doctor. And this is a matter of years, not hours or days. Then in each stage of competition you may sustain painful injuries, eat a lot of dust, take verbal abuse – and still lose. Taken all that into account? If you have, and you still want to go for the gold, go for it. Otherwise, you’ll act like a child who plays at being a detective one minute, an astronaut or a musician the next, depending on what he’s seen on television recently. The same way you’re a businessman one day, an artist the next, maybe a philosopher today – but absolutely nothing with your whole being. You ape the motions of whatever you’ve seen, and one thing after another catches your fancy. You’ve never begun anything with careful deliberation, after carefully reviewing the entire process involved, but rather you’ve started rashly, with what you thought was a cool determination.

Similarly, some have been exposed to philosophy, and want to be philosophers too – instant philosophers. Friend, consider the entire process and what it requires, and then decide whether you’re up to it. If you wanted to enter the pentathlon, you would have to consider the strength of your limbs and your wind; different persons are cut out for different things. Do you think you can go on acting the way you have, and be a philosopher? Do you think you can eat and drink the way you have, and be angry and quick to take offense? You’ll have to forego your ease, work hard, leave people behind, be despised by menials, be laughed at, and get crumbs at best when it comes to recognition and position – in all affairs. Consider these costs, and see if you’re willing to pay them to gain peace, freedom and tranquillity. If you’re not willing, stay away from philosophy.

Don’t be like a child who’s a philosopher one minute, then a movie star, then a bureaucrat. That’s inconsistent. You’ve got to be one person, good or bad. You take care of your own will and attitudes, or you take care of external things. You apply yourself to what’s inside you, or to things outside. You’re a philosopher, or you’re not.

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