“Another thing, of course, is that life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. And some people recover and others don’t.
And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He said that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion. That is a very good idea. You may remember the epitaph which Epictetus left for himself: “Here lies Epictetus, a slave maimed in body, the ultimate in poverty, and the favored of the gods.”
I’ve got a final little idea because I’m all for prudence as well as opportunism. [He talked about his grandfather, Judge Munger, who under spent his income all his life and left his grandmother in comfortable circumstances, which he had to because there were no pensions for federal judges back then. Along the way, he bailed out Charlie’s uncle’s bank back in the ‘30s by taking over 1/3 of his good assets in exchange for bad assets of the bank.
He remembered his grandfather’s example in college when he came across] Housman’s poem:
The thoughts of others
Were light and fleeting,
Of lovers’ meeting
Or luck or fame.
Mine were of trouble,
And mine were steady,
So I was ready
When trouble came.
You can say, who wants to go through life anticipating trouble? Well I did. All my life I’ve gone through life anticipating trouble. And here I am, going along in my 84th year and like Epictetus, I’ve had a favored life. It didn’t make me unhappy to anticipate trouble all the time and be ready to perform adequately if trouble came. It didn’t hurt me at all. In fact it helped me.”