Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, poet and cultural critic of the 19th century. He is considered to be one of the most daring and greatest thinkers of all time. His work is revolutionary, aiming for a “re-evaluation of all values”. He was one of the biggest precursors of existentialism, which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent, determining their own development through acts of will. By his famous words “God is dead!”, Nietzsche moved the focus of philosophy from metaphysics to the material world and to the individual as a responsible person for his own life. Nietzsche wrote several books, and his teachings have shaped the lives of many people; from psychologists to poets, dancers to social revolutionaries. So with that in mind, here ARE 10 IMPORTANT LESSONS THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE: 1) Be a harmonious totality Nietzsche says “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. According to Nietzsche, each of us have two main sides to our personality: a rational one, the consciousness, the responsible, the Apollonian side and an instinctual one, the subconscious, emotional, Dionysian side. In Nietzsche's view, the way to achieve greatness, the way to achieve a harmonious totality is to balance the two parts of yourself: the Apollonian side, Apollo being the Greek god of Sun, of knowledge, and the Dionysian side, Dionysus being the complete opposite, the god of wine, fertility, and madness. There is a strong analogy between the duality Dionysus & Apollo and the duality of Yin & Yang, Dionysus being similar to “Yin” and Apollo being similar to “Yang”. To have a balanced life, you have to be organized, responsible, logical, but at the same time, leave room for the more artistic part of yourself, your creative side, your emotional side. To really shine like a dancing star like Apollo, the god of Sun, you have to embrace your inner chaos, learn to explore it, listen to your feelings and intuition, and listen to your Dionysian side. Sometimes, we use one side of our personality to excess, at the expense of the other. For example, perhaps sometimes we can be too organized, we don't leave enough room for any creative moments, or moments of inspiration. Other times we might be too chaotic, lacking structure. While both are essential, we need to know when best to use them. Life requires us to be organized, for example, to make sure our house is tidy, our children are fed, and our finances are in order and so on. Other times, we might want to shake up our routine, go on wild adventures or to get in touch with our artistic or more sensitive nature. Even in our jobs, we need both sides too. For example, an engineer must use the Apollonian side to execute the work, but he also needs the Dionysian side to discover great insights and invent innovative solutions. We have to take care of all sides of our nature, to nurture them. Do not fight against your duality - instead learn to use it to your benefit. 2) Avoid having a reactive life Nietzsche said “Most humans distract their thoughts; to cease to be aware of life.” According to Nietzsche, we are too passive, too reactive. We don't act as ourselves, we are not honest enough, and we are not 'noble' enough. For Nietzsche, to be passive is not the same as inactive, but rather it means to have a reactive life. You can be active, indulge yourself in entertainment activities or in a meaningless job, but, in essence, you are empty inside, you have no goals, you move without purpose. Nietzsche invites you to be more honest with yourself, more reflective about your goals in life, to be brave enough to face reality and fight the obstacles which are blocking your path from getting what you want from life. Nowadays, with so much technology and amazing ways to indulge ourselves in aimless entertainment, we can easily lose ourselves but according to Nietzsche, the worst thing you can do is to wait for life to happen to you as you distract yourself with these meaningless activities which don't benefit you in the long run. We are all afraid of reaching the heights we are capable of, and to justify that, we keep lying to ourselves by saying things like “I have never wanted to make a lot of money”, “I wasn't really interested in that person” or “I didn't really want to visit that place”. Nietzsche advises us to stop being a passive spectator and take our lives in our own hands. You can start by avoiding too much TV time, internet time, spending time with toxic people or staying in a job which isn't beneficial for you in the long run but instead ask yourself the hard questions and focus on what you want to get out of life. 3) Avoid holding resentment towards others Nietzsche tells us “To be incapable of taking one's enemies, one's accidents, even one's misdeeds seriously for very long—that is the sign of strong, full natures in whom there is an excess of the power to form, to mold, to recuperate and to forget. Such a man shakes off with a single shrug many vermin that eat deep into others”. Resentment is poison and it can consume us deeply. According to Nietzsche, resentment is a trademark of a slave mentality and a sign of weakness and it harms no one more than the weak person himself. In contrast to a weak person, a noble person has an excess of life in himself, he is strong enough to forget and recuperate, however his revenge can be strong and fast though, and he doesn't hold on to the memory of a painful episode for too long. If you are weak, it might be too difficult to avoid resentment. The secret is to replenish your soul with positive things, to live your life to the fullest and to not mind the small people having a negative impact on us from time to time. This does not mean you will not keep the others accountable for their mistakes and you will not act against them if justified, it just means that you won't let this affect your inner nature. If somebody close to you hurts you badly, you should see the reality as it is first, accept the person as they are, take the immediate and necessary steps against that person and, afterwards, move on, forget and don't hold on to any resentment. Also, on a more mundane level, do not complain about the bad things you encounter every day, do not complain about the idiots, the government, crooks, bankers, malicious people. Instead, build yourself up, face them from your superior ground, be the better person, be the noble person. Avoid arguing for your limitations and keep going towards your goals. 4) Don't blindly follow the Masters In the words of Nietzsche “Don't just swallow the wisdom of the past masters of philosophy. Rather, strive to build your own path. Appreciate the masters from the past, but don't just follow them blindly.” Nietzsche was an avid reader of past philosophies, starting from the ancient Greeks to more modern philosophers, like Arthur Schopenhauer. However, at one point in his life, he denounced the past philosophies or reformulated the past philosophies into his own philosophy of life. He believed that finding his own path, his own philosophy, his own style of writing was crucially important. Sometimes, in life, we have to make major decisions, like denouncing some old ways of thinking or working, even at the cost of losing our status in society. To follow our own path often requires sacrifices, putting us in conflict with the authorities of present or of the past - the “masters”, but, according to Nietzsche, in order to live an authentic life, we have to give up the comfort of following the safe path, blindly - break away from the “Masters”, and work on our own philosophical principles of life and work. Of course, we still have to gain knowledge from the old philosophies, appreciate the wisdom of past philosophers, but, in the end, we have to build our own philosophy for our own lives, our own wisdom. We should use the wisdom of the “Masters” only as a source of inspiration for our own philosophy. Sometimes, in life, you find yourself at a crossroads and you have to choose between three paths: The first is a safe path with a guide telling you everything you need to do. The second is a dangerous path that you have to walk alone, going from potential failure to potential failure, and the third is the most effective path, the one where you think for yourself, analyze what “the masters” or “the experts” are really telling you, you take into account their credibility and you take from them only what is important and useful to your life. Nietzsche urges you to take the last path, because it is the path that will lead to the greatest rewards in the future. 5) Find your WHY Nietzsche says “He who has a 'WHY?' in life can tolerate almost any HOW?” For Nietzsche, the measure of success and freedom in life is to be able to look in a mirror and be proud of yourself, not ashamed. The only authority you should really fear is your own consciousness which screams at you to be always true to yourself and to always follow your North Star, your “why”. When you follow your “Why”, the “How” is not that relevant. No matter the amount of pain which comes with “How”, you will be able to endure it, because you would be living an authentic life - a life in line with your core values, your inner self. Nietzsche demands you to leave conventionality aside, ignore the other people who keep you down, because there is a path only you can go. Your life purpose cannot be found unless you find yourself first and, and after you find the reason to live, you can tolerate any hardship life throws at you. To find your why, your path, start by looking at yourself in the mirror and see if you are ashamed or proud of yourself. Did you betray the one on the other side of that mirror or did you honour it? Have you always been true to yourself? Did you really cultivate the talents life gifted you with? What things must you do in order for you to be proud of yourself and make you feel more powerful? What do you have to accomplish, what milestones and what would be the most exciting goal you can think of for yourself? This most likely would be your North Star for you to follow. You might not reach it during your lifetime, but at least you will know at the end of your life that you did everything in your power to come closer to it and you won't mind the hardship you've been through. 6) Suffering can make you stronger Nietzsche says “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” Nietzsche advises us to be like the Phoenix, always ready to rise up from our ashes. To evolve, we sometimes must destroy ourselves in some way, to rise anew and stronger. Suffering makes us stronger, it transcends us if we really know what to learn from it. Life is a journey and each stage is a level we must pass. In Nietzsche's view, a real thinker sees life as a knowledge quest, each event being an opportunity to learn something new. The outcomes, no matter how painful, are lessons to learn from and the process of learning is transformative. Nietzsche believes that we must keep ourselves apart from the outcomes, it is not relevant if it's a success or a failure, what really matters is what we learned from it, how we evolved from it. The biggest lessons we can get are from our biggest tragedies because they present us with our biggest vulnerabilities, our biggest fears and our biggest desires. We have to dive into suffering and let ourselves rise again from the abyss just like the Phoenix. As an exercise, try to think of the most painful episodes you've lived, make a list of them, think of what vulnerabilities these episodes revealed in you. Why have you suffered? What illusions about life or about people have you lost? Accept the loss, no matter how painful, and try to see the episodes as an observer. What knowledge about life or about people have you gained? In case you lost illusions, what knowledge have you gained which can replace these illusions now? How can you make this knowledge useful? How can this knowledge prepare you for similar events? Those tragic events have not killed you and, as long as you remain alive and capable of learning, you will grow stronger after each painful episode. 7) Avoid being just “busy” To quote Nietzsche “Men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whomever doesn't have 2/3rds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.” According to Nietzsche, people are either slaves or free. The free people or the “Masters” are strong, creative, they can do whatever they want, at least 2/3rds of their days. The slaves cannot do whatever they want, they work for others more than 2/3rds of the day, they follow other people and society's rules blindly, having little control of their lives. One should earn his bread and to work 8 hours per day is oftentimes inevitable, but this should be the limit somebody should accept to work for others. Anymore than this and you are at the mercy of other people or you are the slave of your own money, you cease to own your own life. The anxious feelings people might feel when they think they don't work enough, or they don't push hard enough or work more than 8 hours is more a consequence of the slave mentality. You have to make the distinction between working for others and working for yourself and you shouldn't work more than 8 hours of the day for others. If you do, no matter who you are, a president, a businessman, a scholar, an official, you are still a slave. Even if you are a businessman and you claim that you work for yourself, you have to ask yourself: am I working for making more money or am I really working for myself? If you work for your money, you are still a slave. If you really work for yourself, this means that the work you do nurtures you, makes you happy and gives you energy. Society is designed to make you envious, to make you want more, to consume more and chase things you don't really need, to keep you a slave. Nietzsche advises us to break this chain and learn to live for ourselves for at least 2/3rd of our days. 8) Live dangerously! Nietzsche says “The secret of harvesting the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is to LIVE DANGEROUSLY!”. We should all try to make from each day the best day we can. Danger is the test bench of ourselves and it makes us feel alive. We should test our limits in order to overcome ourselves and we should learn to enjoy living out of our comfort zone. Nietzsche urges us to stop being prudent and regular in life. Rather we should be overjoyed heroes, living dangerously, expressing our individuality freely, masters of our own lives and we should not listen to ordinary people, who are often feeling threatened by such a life lived dangerously. There is a huge number of people happy to live in the comfort of their cocoon, not willing to take any risks in life, avoiding any danger. They always try to copy others, rather than express themselves as they really are. Don't be someone like that, because in this way you would waste your life and you would miss a great opportunity to enjoy this life to the fullest. In order to start really living your life, try this test, ask yourself: 'Would I be willing to relive this day a million times forever?' Would I be happy or sad if I lived the same life over and over again? The answer to this question would help you to assess your current life. Make the appropriate changes until you will be able to declare that you are willing to relive every minute of your new joyous and adventurous life. 9) Become a Superhuman Nietzsche says: “Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superhuman--a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal”.