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Of every work you take in hand to do, mark well the conditions and the consequences, and so enter upon it. For if you do not this, you will at first set out eagerly, not regarding what is to follow, but in the end thereof, if any difficulties have arisen, you will leave it off with shame.

So you wish to conquer in the Olympic games, my friend? And I too, by the Gods, and a fine thing it would be! But first mark the conditions and the consequences, and then set to work. You will have to put yourself under discipline; to eat by rule; to avoid cakes and sweetmeats; to take exercise at the appointed hour whether you like it or no, in cold and heat; to abstain from cold drinks and from wine at your will; in a word, to give yourself over to the trainer as to a physician. Then in the conflict itself you are likely enough to dislocate your wrist or twist your ankle, to swallow a great deal of dust, to be severely thrashed, and, after all these things, to be defeated.

If, having considered these circumstances, you are still in the mind to enter for the Olympic prize, then do so. But without consideration, you will turn from one thing to another like a child, who now plays the wrestler, now the flute player, now the gladiator, then sounds the bugle call, or declaims like an actor; and so you too will be first an athlete, then a gladiator, then an orator, then a philosopher, and nothing with your whole soul; but as an ape you will mimic every sight you see, and flatter yourself with one thing after another. For you approached nothing with consideration, nor with systematic diligence, but lightly, and with but a cold desire.

And thus some men, after having seen a philosopher and heard discourse like that of Euphrates (yet who indeed can say that any discourse is like his?) desire that they also may become philosophers.

But O man — first consider what it really is that you are desiring to do, and then inquire of your own nature, whether you have power to support the undertaking. Do you desire to become a pentathlos or a wrestler? Then scan your arms and your thighs and try the strength of your loins. For nature endows different men with different capacities.

And do you think that you can be a sage and at the same time continue to eat and drink and indulge your desires and be fastidious, just as before? Nay verily, for you must watch and labour, and withdraw yourself from your household and be despised by any serving-boy and be ridiculed by your neighbors, and you must take an inferior position in all things, in reputation, in authority, in courts of justice, in dealings of every kind.

Consider these things; whether you are willing at such a price to gain serenity, freedom, and immunity from vexation. And if not, renounce that aim at once, and do not like a child at play be now for a little a philosopher, then a tax-gatherer, then a public speaker, then a procurator of the Empire. For these things do not agree among themselves, and, good or bad, it behoves you to be one man. You must either cultivate external things or your own essential part, you must show your skill in the management of either your outward or your inward life — in short, you must take up the position either of a sensualist or of a sage.

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