“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice.”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.18.21
If you live in the United States, this time of year is always about the lead-up to the biggest sporting event in our country — the Super Bowl. America’s top athletes are interviewed ad nauseum about every detail, every piece of minutiae about their personal lives. It’s the longest run-up to the actual event ever — two full weeks of speculation and questions for the top competitors in the sport. It’s the same for the big football/soccer competitions in other countries around the world.
As The Daily Stoic points out in today’s chapter, athletes in these positions are peppered with questions that are designed to throw them off-balance, to catch them by surprise, to trigger some sort of unusual & newsworthy response. But they can’t be thrown off their game, they can’t be tripped up. They refuse to, because they’ve trained for this, too. They are unflappable, and therefore invincible.
These top tier athletes have learned that the secret of invulnerability is the same on the field as it is off the field — to keep one’s emotions in check and not overreact to anything. They’ve learned that if they want to be truly powerful, they have to master themselves and what’s going on inside first. They understand that their reasoned choice, their prohairesis, makes them invincible. It’s the most powerful ability that anyone can have, more effective than the biggest muscles or the speediest legs!
A few days ago, we talked about how pro footballer DK Metcalf learned that it isn’t manly to become enraged and lose control of your emotions on the field. It was putting him at a disadvantage, so he has upped his game to focus on self-mastery instead. The same is true in these Super Bowl press conferences — to react emotionally to a charged question will put the athlete at a disadvantage, so they use their reasoned choice to stay in control.
You might not be a pro athlete or get hounded by reporters, but you do get assailed by challenges throughout the day — some of them intentional, even! Thankfully, you have the same power of reasoned choice that the pros do, and you can be unflappable and invincible too.