Downtown LA, 2011
Downtown LA, 2011

Don’t aim to be “great” in life — aim to be “non-small”.

I got this concept of “non-small” from Nassim Taleb in his book “Antifragile.” The concept is to be a grand person, you needed to not be offended by pettiness, or small things. By being “non-small” — you just avoid the small problems of life, and raise yourself above them.

Avoid pettiness

To become “non-small” — start off by avoiding pettiness.

We all know pettiness when we see it, or hear it.

It is the small little complaint, blame, or backhanded comment you give someone else (or to yourself).

Whenever something small bugs you, ask yourself: “Is this a petty issue?” If so, totally ignore it. Don’t even feel obliged to “forgive” someone for being petty. By being non-small, you are massive. If you’re mount Everest, can little pebbles thrown at you hurt you?

It’s not a big deal

Whenever you feel pain, just tell yourself: “It’s not a big deal — I can bear the pain, it barely hurts me, and it will be over shortly.”

Sometimes I’ve found that by focusing on things that hurt us, they hurt more. But rather — by ignoring it, or just seeing it as a small trifle, we feel less pain.

So whenever something (even something really shitty or horrible) happens to you, just say to yourself: “It’s not a big deal.”

Lessen your psychological pain. Become tougher.

Avoid ‘greatness’

If we want to become “great” — it is focused more on action. We need to make more money, gain more power, and more influence.

To become “non-small”, we gain it via subtraction (or ‘via negativa’ in Latin). We become non-small by not being petty, by not complaining, and not criticizing others.

Figure out what negative emotions, actions, or thoughts you can remove from your life.

What else would a “non-small” person do?

Nothing can harm you

Life is really fucking hard. But you’re a lot stronger than you think you are.

No matter how hard you try, people will (on purpose or accidentally) throw dirt and mud on you. People will (on purpose or accidentally) elbow you in the back of your head. Your loved ones will become sick and die. You will have financial stress, emotional stress, and physical stress.

Life is no dainty affair.

Rather than trying to change the world, you can change yourself. If the world is covered in thorns, do you try to wrap the whole world in leather? Or do you just put on some leather shoes for yourself, to read on top of the thorns?

So friend, put on your armor and get ready for the battle of life. If you are non-small, you will be able to ride on top of a great white stallion, covered in war-armor. If you’re non-small, can the tiny arrows of your opponents hurt you? No, they will simply bounce off your shield and armor.

Be strong. Be non-small.


Learn more: Stoic Philosophy >