Life & Career Lessons from Euripides’ The Trojan Women

eazl euripedes the trojan women

The Trojan Women is a Greek tragedy by Euripides, one of the most popular playwrights of his time, about the destruction of Troy by the Greeks (the Trojan War). The play takes place in Troy, just after the Trojans’ defeat. Euripides follows the fate of the women of Troy after their city has been destroyed, after their husbands and sons have been killed, and as they await their division and enslavement by the Greeks.

eazl euripides
Bust of Euripedes

I’ve been interested in Greek tragedies lately for my research project (related to ethics and philosophy) and asked Davis to find tickets to see a live Greek tragedy in Chicago. He tracked down a production of The Trojan Women (adapted by Sartre) at Three Crows Theater in Evanston, IL.

You can look at the original play here, if you’d like.

What I like about Greek tragedies is that there are SO MANY lessons to be learned and applied and they are 100% applicable to life today. Really, they’re timeless little pieces of philosophy in story form.

Here’s a little information about some of the characters to give you a some context:

Poseidon and Athena
Opening the play, Poseidon strategizes with Athena ways to punish the Greek armies after misconduct during the war. We don’t see him much for the rest of the play, but Poseidon does return to deliver the conclusion to the audience at the end of the play.

hecuba
The women of Troy console Hecuba.

Hecuba, Queen of Troy
Distraught throughout most of the play, with some glimmers of hope, Hecuba comes to terms with her fate as a fallen queen-turned-slave. She blames Helen for the war (conveniently overlooking her son’s role in bringing Helen to Troy).

Paris, Prince of Troy and son of Hecuba
Paris died during the war, leaving behind his mother and Helen. Menelaus’ revenge on Paris for stealing his wife caused the destruction of Troy.

Menelaus, King of Sparta

Ancient style sculpture of Menelaus supporting the body of Patro
After the Greek army defeats Troy, Menelaus returns to retrieve Helen and administer punishment for her betrayal. Helen manipulates him and they return, as a couple, to Sparta.

Helen of Troy, formerly Helen of Sparta
Considered the most beautiful woman in the world in Greek mythology, Helen left her husband, Menelaus, to be with Paris in Troy. She spends the majority of her role in the play trying to defend her actions by blaming the gods and manipulating Menelaus into not punishing her. We never see her or anyone else accept personal responsibility for their role in causing the war.

Cassandra, Princess of Troy and daughter of Hecuba
Having supernatural powers to foresee the future, Cassandra isn’t worried about Sparta receiving their punishment for their conduct because she has had visions of them being punished.

Talthybius, Herald of the Greeks
Popping in and out of scenes throughout the play to deliver information about the fate of the Trojan women and their future as slaves to the Greeks, Talthybius takes a don’t-shoot-the-messenger stance, showing no bravery or integrity.

Chorus- Captive Trojan Women
The Trojan Women share bits of their grief with us, following Hecuba’s lead, throughout the play.

Here are the lessons I took away from The Trojan Women combined with some further research and real-life applications:

  1. Do not seek vengeancevengeance

From the play:
Vengeance is sought by Menelaus, the King of Sparta, after his wife Helen –attracted to the opulent living of the royalty in Troy– leaves the King for Paris, the handsome Prince of Troy. This is cited throughout the play as the cause of the war between Troy and Sparta.

Hecuba, Queen of Troy and mother of Paris, wishes harm on Helen, who she views as responsible for the King of Sparta’s actions of war against Troy. You know, typical mother-in-law issues. She can’t wait for Helen to be punished.

Research:
In Berkeley’s Science of Happiness course, vengeance is shown to be a negative and unhelpful reaction and a symptom of an inability to forgive an offender.

Unforgiveness is associated with a negative emotional state that increases blood pressure and heart rate. It also leads to release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Basically, it’s really bad for your health!

Studies have shown that forgiveness decreases nervousness, restlessness, and sadness while increasing well being. (1)

Real-life application:
Seeking vengeance isn’t good for anyone involved, including you. You don’t have to absolve a person from their wrongdoings, but you’ll have much better personal and work relationships if you learn to speak calmly about your issues with others and make a conscious effort to forgive instead of seeking vengeance or cutting ties.

  1. Stop thinking that evil always winsgood vs. evil

    From the play:
    One of the Trojan Women repeats “crime pays” in the last scene of Sartre’s adaptation of the play when it’s clear to her that the gods will not punish the Spartans for their unjust behavior. Hecuba reminds her that Troy will be remembered forever and it will be known that the Greeks acted wrongly. And this play serves as the vehicle for communicating that knowledge!

Research:
There are a TON of instances of crime paying in the short term and punishing in the long term. Just take a look at current events that involve Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Martin Shkreli and EpiPen, Roger Ailes (once called one of the “worst Americans ever”), and Sophia Amoruso of Nasty gal –just to name a few. Some of these issues are still working themselves out, but these people fell hard and fast. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

Crime and wrongdoing ALWAYS have a price. We just tend to not see the punishment because it’s often hiding behind money, which we give people WAY too much credit for possessing.

Unethical people pay the price of their decisions through erosion of relationships, lack of happiness, and poor mental and physical health. Plus, the fall to the bottom is hard once people find out how awful you are.

Real-life application:
Accepting the false narrative that corruption and dishonesty is all a part of success isn’t fair to you or the society you live in. Be careful when you make decisions because every action has a reaction.

  1. Come to terms with the fact that materialism corrupts (and that includes you)materialism

From the play:
Helen is attracted to the opulent living in Troy and the physical attractiveness of Paris, Prince of Troy. She abandons her husband and her home for shallow desires.

In the end, she is hated by both the Greeks and Trojans, with both sides wishing her harm, but her grip is tight as she manipulates them with her beauty and deceptiveness. Helen lives despite Menelaus’ resolve to put her to death (he is weak) but her reputation lives on.

Research:
Studies have shown that we experience a short-term increase in happiness right after we buy something, but we then return to our baseline happiness level very soon after. Money only boosts happiness when it brings and individual out of an impoverished situation. Otherwise, it doesn’t impact happiness at all. (2)

What does lead to happiness is strong social ties and belonging to a strong community. Friendship activates oxytocin, which reduces stress hormones, and is one of the most powerful determinants of happiness. (1)

Real-life application:
By realizing the science behind consumption, we can curtail our focus of attainment of physical items and refocus our efforts on building relationships. Change your whole outlook on what your work means to you and, once your priority transitions from the paycheck to relationships and doing good, you’ll see how much more fulfilled your are in your work.

  1. Expediency is punishableexpediency

From the play:
Helen left Greece to live a better life in Troy (comfort-wise) and was quick to manipulate Menelaus and tell him her actions were the fault of the gods instead of her own fault because she feared being punished.

Research:
Humans naturally desire to punish people who act with expediency and self-interest. We are naturally compassionate creatures but we also choose who we exclude from that compassion –often those who display selfish behaviors. (1)

In addition, those who accept fault for their wrongdoings and make the effort to ask for forgiveness have stronger social ties and better relationships, which leads to greater well-being in lots of areas, including mental and physical health and stronger support networks. (1)

Real-life application:
Caring about others does pay off –don’t be fulled by what you see on the surface with self-oriented people. They do pay the price in some way…you just aren’t witnessing the punishment. You’ll be more successful at work when you begin to truly care about the people you work with. You might even find that others will begin to root for your success instead of being unnecessarily competitive with you.

If you haven’t already, work on your apology skills. An effective apology includes:

  • Remorse, shame, and/or humility
  • Acknowledgement of offense and accepting of responsibility
  • Offering of empathy/explanation
  • Undoing of the harm: offering of compensation/reparation
  • Reassuring that there is low likelihood of recurrence (3)

5. Align your values with your actions

align actions with values

From the play:
Talthybius, herald of the Greeks, continuously returns to deliver more bad news to the Trojan women, including the pending execution of the child heir to the throne due to the Greeks’ fear of future retaliation and announcements of future owners for the women’s enslavement.

We also continuously see Talthybius ask the women not to blame him because he is simply the messenger and is only communicating the King’s commands.

Research:
Talthybius’ don’t-shoot-the-messenger approach reminds me of research that has been done in the area of value and action alignment, as well as a concept called flow, which posits that we are happiest when we can throw ourselves into something that we truly value and believe in. 

Real-life application:
I see a lot of people in employment situations where they have to do and support things that they explicitly do not agree with and they are afraid to make a career change because it’s not fun looking for a new job or making a career move.

Ultimately, it’s far more detrimental to stay on the path that clearly doesn’t work for you. A person who is in the right work is excited to get up in the morning and make progress on a project that they are passionate about and that their skills and interests are aligned with.

What’s your favorite Greek tragedy? Tweet at me with your thoughts.

 

Sources:

  1. Berkeley’s Science of Happiness course on EdX
  2. David Myers’s The American Paradox
  3. Aaron Lazare’s On Apology
  4. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow

From Harvard Business Review: Playing Office Politics Without Selling Your Soul

playing office politics

“Unsurprisingly, research shows that when employees perceive their workplace as more political, they are less engaged, less productive, and more likely to quit. And yet, a more effective way of dealing with office politics is to engage in them — playing the game, instead of complaining about it. Fortunately, not all politics are bad, and there’s a way to play the game without selling your soul.”

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From Harvard Business Review: Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit

prevent burnout

“’I am sick to death of the ridiculous situations I have to deal with at work. The pettiness, the politics, the stupidity — it’s out of control. This kind of thing stresses me out to the max.’

Stress is a happiness killer. And life is just too short to be unhappy at work. But we hear this kind of thing all the time from leaders in industries as varied as financial services, education, pharmaceuticals, and health care. In our coaching and consulting, we’re seeing a spike in the number of leaders who used to love their jobs but now say things like, “I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore.” They’re burned out — emotionally exhausted and cynical, as a result of chronic and acute work stress.

Why is stress on the rise? A lot of it has to do with uncertainty in the world and constant changes in our organizations. Many people are overworking, putting in more hours than ever before. The lines between work and home have blurred or disappeared. Add to that persistent (sometimes even toxic) conflicts with bosses and coworkers that put us on guard and make us irritable. Under these circumstances, our performance and well-being suffer. Work feels like a burden. Burnout is just around the corner. And happiness at work is not even a remote possibility.

Here’s the good news: Some people don’t get burned out. They continue to thrive despite the difficult conditions in their workplace.”

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Ludell Jones on Finding Your Philosophy

“Rules are not necessarily sacred. Principles are.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

As the world around us changes at an increasingly rapid clip, we need to compliment learning and working with philosophical study. Operating from a solid set of principles leads us to make better decisions and to be stronger and more resilient.

Operating from principle tends to ground us when there is uncertainty.

Here’s how Elon Musk writes about principles: “I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy.” (Find his 2012 interview in WIRED Magazine.)

What are some of your principles?

You might also enjoy reading Ludell’s long-form blog post on the EazlBlog about keeping control of your own definition of success.

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Career & Business Book Haul (Summer 2017)

This post is part of our Summer Scale Up series. We’re helping you scale yourself and accomplish more.

career and business book haul

One way to start giving yourself regular Brain Boost (like the ones we publish every Friday) is to commit to making reading a regular part of your week (and your life!).

Reading is an essential part of being a well rounded person and achieving the success that you want. Big readers are more intelligent, better writers, and have a more robust toolbox for dealing with challenges and difficult situations.

We recently took a trip to Myopic Books in Chicago -a FANTASTIC book store to check out if you are ever in the city- and came back with a HUGE HAUL of books to inspire our work with Eazl.

Myopic doesn’t have a large business book section but you’d be surprised at what kind of inspiration and guidance you can find from literature that isn’t technically in the business category. At Eazl, we look to philosophy, history, sociology, and a slew of other topics for guidance in our business, our lives, and our personal career trajectories.

Here are the treasures we came back with (we spent an average of about $10 per book).

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

status anxiety by alain de botton
Summary: de Botton takes a look at history, philosophy, economics, art, and politics as they relate to growing status anxiety in the modern world.

Significance: This kind of topic and inspection on why people (aka consumers) behave the way they do is insightful on a career level and on a skills-of-life level. Imagine being able to better tap into what motivates humans in order to either be persuasive or create more positive interactions with others.

How I’ll apply it: There’s no doubt that what I’m learning from this book will show up in Eazl content somewhere. We’ve created content on similar topics before (like The Science of Happiness and Social Status). I’m also using it as research for an independent project that I’m working on.

The Division of Labor in Society by Emile Durkheim

the division of labor in society by emile dirkheim

Summary: Originally published in 1893, Durkheim wrote a lot about how societies could maintain their integrity the modern era; a time in which the Industrial Revolution was changing the landscape of society.

Durkheim presents a new vision of the social structures and the issues caused by capitalism (still relevant today). He argued that uncontrolled state power could lead to the end of individuality and believed that only a free society that promotes voluntary bonds between its members will result in the prosperity of individuals.

Significance: Concerning the current political and economic climate, this book is 100% relevant for our content on the future of work and for our own careers.

How I’ll apply it: I haven’t started on this one yet, but I’m guessing it could lead to a blog post at minimum.

Good Work by Gardener, Csikszentmihayli, and Damon

good work

Summary: Co-written by three renowned psychologists, Good Work provides strategies for creating a work life that is both expert and socially responsible based on real life stories from real professionals. They set out to prove that ethical success -in a world where market forces drive all- is possible.

Significance: This topic comes up a lot when we work with our students and clients on their career planning. There is always the question, “Is it possible to be both values driven and wildly successful?”

How I’ll apply it: I’m not sure about the level of sophistication in how the information is presented. I’ve been on the business ethics train for a while. Maybe I’ll learn something new or discover some tips for increasing profits in an ethical way. Not sure what to expect.

 

A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

a book of five rings

Summary: Written by the great swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi in 1645, the five books are the stories Musashi taught to his own students in his dojo. The teachings have been used and applied to business strategies in Japan all throughout the 20th century.

Significance:It is common to view business as a military operation and that mindset is pervasive throughout the business world. Whether or not you agree or opt into this kind of thinking, it is important to understand the approach that many other business owners and C-suite professionals are taking if you are going to operate alongside them.

How I’ll apply it: Not sure if I’ll apply this knowledge to my own career at all because, honestly, my approach to business and success is far more feminine and I don’t really know where military/warrior techniques fit into my life. It’s good to know how other entrepreneurs -in Japan in particular- are approaching business.

 

The Work of Nations by Robert Reich

the work of nations

Summary: Reich explores the effects of globalism has on the economy and job market today. How can normal Americans compete? What skills are the most valuable? And how can we ensure that all can benefit from the global economy. This book is well informed, ahead of its time and published in the 90s. A lot of the issues he covers may be familiar to you today but the masses weren’t attuned to this thinking 20 years ago.

Significance: So obviously relevant today politically and economically, the writer makes some interesting observations and warnings that may put some things in perspective for American workers.

How I’ll apply it: What Reich writes about in The Work of Nations is significant for all of us in America. We create a ton of content on the future of work (like How Blockchain will Revolutionize the World’s Data, There are Big Opportunities in Craft Products, Get e-Citizenship in Estonia) and will definitely continue keeping our community informed about the future of the labor market.

 

The Essential Essays of Reinhold Neibuhr

the essential reinhold niebuhr

Summary: Reinhold Niebuhr was a Theologian, ethicist, and political analyst and one of the primary figures of twentieth-century religious thought.  In these essays Nieburh, a liberal Protestant theologian, examines the catastrophes of the 20th century with “optimistic pessimism”.

Significance: Whether you are religious or not, you’ll find value in Neibuhr’s approach to examining human behavior and ethics.

How I’ll apply it: I’m not sure if the learnings in this book will show up in anything formally or if it will be used just for personal study. Regardless, if it does have a significant enough of an impact on the way I think, you’ll be seeing some version of it in some form or another, whether it’s in a blog post, a vlog, or the way I interact with the Eazl community. I would consider my (short) life’s work thus far to be related to ethics and values so I find what Neibuhr has to say incredibly invaluable.

Fun to note: Barack Obama views Nieburh’s work as instrumental in his own development.

 Other Books at My Bedside

From Jessika Jake: Dealing With Difficult People in the Workplace

This is an excerpt from an original post by Jessika Jake.

jessika-jake

bullying-aggressive-behavior-workplace-764x430

“It’s interesting to track the legal precedents that have been set (though also, in my case, promptly forget them and not bookmark them), but I will tell you this: Any good (and law-abiding) company will have a policy against bullying and aggressive behavior. If you are bringing up a complaint and get patted on the head with “Now, now, it’s just a personality clash,” change the topic to the inarguable, observable behaviors that are being demonstrated. Below is a partial list from ChangingMinds.org’s list of aggressive body language.

  • Facial signals – frowns, pursed lips, sneers, snarls, and stares
  • Stiffness – tensing up, clenching fists
  • Invasion – Invading personal space, false friendships
  • Insulting gestures, large gestures – chin tilts, arm thrusts, exaggerated movements, banging on tables, etc

In addition to aggressive body language, there is also verbal aggression. For an overview, read this Wikipedia entry, which notably highlights:

Workplace aggression can have devastating effects on an organization’s employees.[5] For example, it has been found that targets of workplace aggression report lower levels of well-being.[5] Other studies have shown that aggression in the workplace can cause the victims of such behaviors to suffer from health problems.[26]Bjorkqvist, Osterman, and Hjelt-Back even found that targets exhibited symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as anxiety and depression.[6]

aggressive behavior

New Course Published: The Essentials of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Learn How to Give Constructive Feedback, Build Effective Teams, and Continuously Improve

*Get $5 off the course*

In this course, you’ll develop communication skills, learn specific feedback methods, and see examples of leading group meetings, giving performance reviews, giving real-time constructive feedback, creating a collaborative team culture, and implementing systems that lead to continuous performance improvements.
• Learn to Be a Better Leader with Great Feedback Skills
• How to build trust and between people in a professional setting
• Communication skills for giving effective feedback
• Specific feedback methods and examples of them in action
• Building towards continuous feedback culture (e.g. people operations and analytics)

Master One of the Most Important Skills for Great Managers and Founders
Your ability to give, receive, and use feedback is one of the most critical skills in business and in life–and that’s borne out by research. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review in 2016, internal trust is the #1 predictor of team effectiveness. This course on feedback and team communication is relevant to all professionals–for senior managers, shift leaders, new team members, startup teams, and freelancers.

Communication Can Only Create Positive Change If It’s Done Well
Ideal for a professionals in all industries, organizational structures and sizes, and geographies, in this course you’ll learn how to build trust, how to work with a variety of personalities, how the world’s leading companies attract and retain top talent, when and how to use information that you’re receiving in the form of feedback, and a lot more.

This interactive training series starts with a section on building trust within teams, offering specific, actionable strategies that you can start using right away. This section includes a variety of tools–from formal psychology analyses to fun, collaborative games taught at comedy schools to foster on-stage communication. You’ll learn what these tools are, how to use them, why to use them, and specific step-by-step methods for building team trust.

In section two, you’ll learn communication skills that will help you, your team, and/or your partners and clients exchange feedback to improve outcomes. You’ll learn what good feedback looks and sounds like, what growth-oriented communications are, how to solicit feedback, and how to steer conversations so that you can be a stronger leader or manager. These communication skills are 100% necessary if productive feedback is going to be possible.

In section three you’ll learn specific forms of feedback e.g. how to use group feedback sessions effectively, how to use digital mediums (e.g. messaging apps or email) for feedback, how to be a good coach or mentor, how to lead performance reviews and performance improvement talks, and more. You’ll get specific step-by-step methods for implementing these strategies so that you’re supported with an easy-to-follow structure as you build your skills in this area.

Then, in section four, you’ll see the feedback methods you’ve learned put into action with examples and role-playing exercises performed on screen. This will enable you to see what you’ve learned in action so that you have a learning reference available to you any time you need it.

In the final section, you’ll learn the foundational principles of people operations and people analytics. You’ll start to build your knowledge of continuous feedback methodologies which have proven to be the most effective and rapid prescription for improving performance in a fast-changing world. These methodologies are being used at top firms like Google, Proctor and Gamble, and others.

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The Well-Balanced Ego (Excerpt from The Confidence Code)

*Find the full course here and grab a $5 coupon while you’re at it: http://bit.ly/palmer5*

In this excerpt from our course, The Confidence Code: Self-Esteem and Empathy w/ Palmer Jones, Palmer describes how an ego that is too big or too small can hold you back in your life and career. Listen to what Palmer says about getting your ego in check and having empathy for others.

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Content That Will Fuel Your Soft Skill Power

soft skill power

For the next couple of weeks, I challenge you to spend some time developing your soft skills. According to recent studies, soft skills have moved into the top listed skills that employers are looking for. Beyond helping you get hired, possessing soft skills will help you be a better manager, get you better results when you work on teams, and help you get where you want to be faster.

Here are a few pieces of content we’ve created that will help you skill up:

  1. 5 Ways to Feel More Empowered Today
    We, at Team Eazl, have been thinking about what role we want to play in the world of education because, really, it isn’t about us. It’s all about you and feeling empowered in your career. Whether you are a professional in the traditional workforce, an entrepreneur, or a freelancer, the more you know about how to build a good life for yourself through your career, the better. The less encumbered and “in the dark” you are about how things work, the more capable you are to truly have control over your life.

successful content

2. Build Your Digital Networking Muscles
It seems like all that anyone talks about anymore –whether in entrepreneurship or a traditional career path as an employee– is networking. And with good reason! Many are terrified of the idea of reaching out to a stranger. Plus, digital networking has added a whole new element to the mix.

successful content

3. From the vaults: FAMILY + BIZ Month: Tools for a Holistic Approach to Work
This compilation posts of self-empowerment, productivity, and self-development content we’ve created in the last couple of years will give you the fuel you need to develop your soft skills, which are some of the most powerful skills you can possess.

successful content

 

Have any favorite soft skills resources? We’d love to hear about it! Tweet at us

soft skill power