The Things That Don’t Change

Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man in the world, coined a great phrase a couple of decades ago when he told his employees to “focus on the things that don’t change.”

He meant it in a business sense. For example, people are always going to want free shipping. People are always going to want fast shipping. People are always going to choose convenience. Etc… and I guess you could say twenty years on, this line of thinking worked out pretty well for his back pocket.

But I think that to interpret his words as only being useful for doing business is to miss their greater meaning: From the beginning of human history to the present day, most of the things we do, have, and want, are exactly the same.

To quote Marcus Aurelius: we marry, we raise children, we get sick, die, we wage war, we throw parties, we do business, we farm, we flatter, we boast, we distrust, we plot, we hope others will die, we complain about our lives, we fall in love, we put away money, we seek high office and power…

And then it’s over.

Sure, the specifics might change from era to era and culture to culture. And that variety is a God-send, making all our lives richer. But the broad strokes? The outline? That hasn’t changed for thousands of years, and it isn’t about to any time soon.

I find that incredibly comforting.

People doing the exact same things:

Marrying, raising children, getting sick, dying, waging war, throwing parties, doing business, farming, flattering, boasting, distrusting, plotting, hoping others will die, complaining about their own lives, falling in love, putting away money, seeking high office and power. And that life they led is nowhere to be found.

Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations” Book 4

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