Socrates on the Secret to Success
“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be”._ Socrates
“Wisdom begins in wonder”._ Socrates
One day, a young man went to the home of Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, and asked, “Sir, I have come to seek your wisdom. Will you help me?”
Socrates looked at the boy and replied, “How can I be of assistance?”
The boy responded, “I want to be a great success. Will you teach me all I need to know so I can be a great success?”
“Certainly, my son,” replied Socrates. “Walk with me.” Socrates began to walk and headed towards the sea. Once on the sand, Socrates continued to walk straight into the water. The young man followed. When both were chest deep in the ocean, Socrates placed his hands on the young man’s head and quickly forced it under the water. After about ten seconds, the young man fought his way to the surface and began to gasp for air. Socrates released the boy’s head, turned and walked away.
The young man was appalled. He had traveled a great distance to meet with this scholar whom he admired and respected and when he asked for his wisdom all he did was put his head under water. Never again, vowed the young man, would he seek the advice of Socrates.
However, time as we know, has a way of healing wounds and after a week went by, the young man thought maybe he did something to upset Socrates. So back he went to visit the scholar. Again he beseeched Socrates to teach him all he needed to know so he could be a great success.
Socrates smiled and once again agreed. He asked the young man to follow him and again they walked toward the ocean. Just like before, Socrates walked in the water and, when the water was chest high, Socrates grabbed the young man by his head and pushed it under water. This time, however, the young man was ready. Before going under, he took a big gulp of air and held his breath for almost for thirty seconds before coming up gasping for air. As he wiped the water from his eyes, he saw Socrates already on the shore walking away.
Now the young man was livid. Twice he had approached Socrates for the knowledge he needed to become a great success and twice Socrates took him to the ocean and put his head under water. Never ever again would he be insulted and humiliated like this.
Well, thirty days passed and the young man had time to reflect. He truly wanted to be a success. Socrates had the wisdom he needed so he decided to go one final time to see the scholar. Upon arriving at Socrates’ home, he rapped on the door. When Socrates appeared, the young man said, “I hope you remember me?”
Socrates flashed a big smile and said, “I do. You are the young man who wants to be a great success.”
The young man once again asked Socrates, “Will you please teach me all I need to know and all I need to learn to be a success?”
Socrates nodded and said, “Absolutely.” Then he started walking toward the ocean with the young man following in step.
This time the young man was well prepared. As soon as Socrates grabbed his head, he took a deep swallow of air, relaxed and was able to hold his breath underwater for almost two minutes. When he finally surfaced for air, Socrates had already walked away.
Furious the young man ran after Socrates. When he was a few feet from Socrates he shouted, “Socrates, why is it every time I come to you and ask for your help to gain the wisdom and the knowledge on how to be a great success, all you do is take me out in the water and dunk my head?”
Socrates turned around, faced the young man, and said, “Son, I have tried three times now to teach you the secret of being a great success. The secret is simple: When you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, you will be a great success.”
Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. He is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes. Plato’s dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, though it is unclear the degree to which Socrates himself is “hidden behind his ‘best disciple’, Plato”.
Through his portrayal in Plato’s dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, and it is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus. The latter remains a commonly used tool in a wide range of discussions, and is a type of pedagogy in which a series of questions is asked not only to draw individual answers, but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. Plato’s Socrates also made important and lasting contributions to the field of epistemology, and his ideologies and approach have proven a strong foundation for much Western philosophy that has followed.
Socrates was born in Alopeke, and belonged to the tribe Antiochis. His father was Sophroniscus, a sculptor, or stonemason. His mother was a midwife named Phaenarete. Socrates married Xanthippe, who is especially remembered for having an undesirable temperament. She bore for him three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus.
Socrates first worked as a stonemason, and there was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Three Graces, which stood near the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.
Xenophon reports that because youths were not allowed to enter the Agora, they used to gather in workshops surrounding it. Socrates frequented these shops in order to converse with the merchants. Most notable among them was Simon the Shoemaker.