Self-Help: Why Cicero’s 6 Mistakes Of Man Is All You Need

When it comes to personal development and self-help, clear guidance is often the most powerful…

…and can have the greatest impact for positive change in your life.

Now, this article is really just my opinion but I think it’s pretty un-controversial and whether you agree or not, should at least provoke some thinking (which when it comes to self-help has to be a good thing).

What Are Cicero’s 6 Mistakes Of Man?

I love Cicero’s 6 Mistakes of Man. I will go on to tell you why, getting back to the title of this article, but first for those who have never heard of Cicero’s 6 Mistakes of Man, here they are:

“The Six Mistakes of Man

  1. The illusion that personal gain is made up of crushing others.
  2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C. — 43 B.C.)

before I go on to talk more about these, I should thank Mitch Mitchell. I have long thought that the above are pretty much all the philosophy I need (which I accept could also be because I am too lazy to read much more in-depth study) and I have been intending to write an article about my love for this particular piece. That being said, today I stumbled across this article: Know Your Audience Part II on Mitch’s site and it reminded me to write this article (and what better time than right away – I have 20 minutes before we go out for a walk so hopefully I finish it & hit publish in time). Thanks Mitch.

Mitch’s article is basically about another example of Mistake #1 above.

What Do Each Of These ‘6 Mistakes Of Man’ Mean?

I was going to write a little about each one and perhaps what I personally think of each. The reason for this was that I felt I needed to add more rather than just post the list for your attention. I’ve changed my mind on that front. I am happy to share my thoughts. I am happy to write a longer post (I could easily write a part II to this – as I said, I genuinely love this particular piece of philosophy).

So why have I changed my mind? Well, the whole point of these is their simplicity. Hopefully they don’t need much explanation, each speaks for itself and I hope that reading them, like me, you can easily think of examples in your own experience that relate (like the one from Mitch’s site that reminded me to write this – I know I could easily find hundreds more of that one).

So Why Is This All The Self-Help You’ll Ever Need?

By the same token as I just stated above, I reckon that these 6 concepts are both powerful and fundamental enough to cover most self-help teachings that have followed. If you’ve read a lot of self-help books, my guess is they don’t say too much which is different to what Cicero told us above. At least a lot of the teachings will be variations on Cicero’s 6 mistakes. Please do let me know if you think different (and not just to prove me wrong, I haven’t exactly researched this, my point is just that I think this is pretty much all the self-help you need – what I’d like to know is, do you agree?)


Self-Help: Why Cicero’s 6 Mistakes Of Man Is All You Need — 13 Comments

  1. Wowza…talk about profound simplicity. I’ve never seen that list before, but now that I have, it’s one I want to use in my own life as basically a checklist to get a tiny bit better every day. Thanks for sharing that!

  2. Hi Alan,

    Wow, thanks for sharing my link and I’m glad it had an impression on you. I’m surprised that I didn’t know about this sooner, but it seems WordPress must not be notifying me of when I’m linked to other WordPress blogs anymore; sorry about that.

    I’ve made 5 of the 6 mistakes you mention above from Cicero. I’ve never done #3 because I don’t believe in the impossible across the board, though I acknowledge that there are some things that just won’t happen for some people (for instance, a guy standing 4′ tall is NOT going to start at guard for an NBA team and is NOT going to slam dunk on Lebron James lol). And out of the rest, I still struggle with #4; I’m an only child so that one’s hard to overcome across the board (yeah, I have some tendencies I just can’t give up).

    Simple and concise works for me though; great stuff.

    • No problem at all my friend,

      Yep – I really LOVE Cicero’s 6 mistakes. There are so many best-sellers which have been written but don’t beat these 6 simple statements (in my book anyway).

      take care & best wishes,

  3. Alan,

    A couple of years ago I finally realized the concept of letting go of things that I could not change. I stopped being angry over things beyond my control. Now I live by this motto: I cannot make anyone react a certain way, I can only change my reaction to how they act.

    This way of thinking changed my life, really. I let go of a lot of built up anger. Released it!

    Now I can actually find humor in those situations that previously aggravated me, usually. LOL. For instance, when my mom won’t stop talking about her darn cats, I chuckle and think, “she’s just getting old, I should sit and listen.”


    • Well, when it’s your mom, you just have to listen don’t you?

      My mother has been known (only very occasionally – I’m being diplomatic in case she’s reading this) to tell me the same story multiple tiimes and I consider it my duty to either express genuine interest each time or be careful to let her down very gently when telling her she already told me that story without making her feel senile … or change the subject.

      Plus who doesn’t want to talk about cats? Don’t you know they’re the most popular thing on the internet these days. Check out what the number one vid is on YouTube – I bet it’s a cat or a dog, probably a cat. Probably playing some kind of keyboard or riding on a skateboard. Can your mom’s cats do that?

      On a more serious note – good for you deciding to let things go, I know it’s not always easy but definitely very empowering when you can manage it as you so rightly point out.

      Now I want to tell your mom about my cat – I’m sure you wouldn’t be interested, but your mom would. Anyway, my cat is the most gorgeous cat in the world – and I’m not saying that because I’m a cat person – I was never really into cats that much – he just is. So there.

    • I agree with Allie. In fact, i was just reminded of the fact that we can’t change everything and sometimes it’s better not to try last night. I keep trying to change certain habbits my eldest son has and last night i finally resolved to just accept it. they still annoy me but i wasn’t angry or flared or evil mom today. I just let it go and the moment passed.

      • Hey Annie, thanks for stopping by and particularly for reading this post. It’s short but I think Cicero’s 6 mistakes is just about the best thing to read in the universe!

        Being able to let go or accept the things you can’t change is really powerful as both yourself and Allie testify.

        Chinese proverb: “If your problem has a solution, then, why worry about it? If your problem doesn’t have a solution – then, why worry about it?”

  4. But, really it is impossible if can not do it!
    I think these points are very sensible especially the one about reading and studying.

    • Not sure what you meant by your first comment, which ‘mistake’ were you referring to?

      yes – the point about reading and studying is probably the only one of these that is not regurgitated everywhere in self-help books, at least not as much as the others but I think just as important as the rest, perhaps more so.

      Well – I love them all. 6 rules, perfect, clever chap.

  5. Considering the first point – I was always wondered why people try to crush the others in order to succeed. In my opinion they are not feeling confident enough and by humiliating and destroying people they try to boost their self-esteem. At least this is my explanation about it.

    • You’re absolutely right Anna.

      It’s a very poor and ultimately self-defeating way for people to feel better about themselves – and you’re right, it’s usually fuelled in some way by a lack of self-confidence.

      thanks for the comment & Happy New Year!!

  6. I’ve never seen these before so I’m glad you posted them. Very interesting stuff there. I defintely agree with the first point about crushing others for your own personal gain. I’ve seen way too many people adopt that strategy for it only to blow up in their face. They are very simple mistakes to read about, but I think there is a lot of value to them. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks Steve, I’m glad you like these.

      Without explicitly thinking about it, writing them on the bathroom mirror or anything like that, I use them every day & can do so just because they are so simple, make so much sense (to me at least) and because they are easy to identify with, they are easy to remember.

      #2 is probably the one I try and remind myself (and more particularly my wife) of most 😉 There’s also a chinese proverb which says pretty much the same thing: “If your problem has a solution then…why worry about it? If your problem doesn’t have solution then…why worry about it?”

      There are many many self-help courses and books out there, lots of them quite pricey, but I reckon you could do a lot worse than just learning and living by these 6 little sentences (well, given that they’re mistakes, perhaps better by their opposites).

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