In every work you take in hand mark well what must go before and what must follow, and so proceed. For else you shall at first set out eagerly, not regarding what is to follow; but in the end, if any difficulties have arisen, you will leave it off with shame. So you wish to conquer in the Olympic games? But mark the prefaces and the consequences, and then set to work. You must have discipline, eat by rule, abstain from dainties, exercise yourself at the appointed hour, in heat or cold, whether you like or not, drink nothing cold, nor wine at will; in a word, you must give yourself over to the trainer as to a physician. Then in the contest itself there is the digging race, and you are likely enough to dislocate your wrist, or twist your ankle, to swallow dust, to be soundly drubbed, and after all these things, to be defeated.
If, having considered these things, you are still in the mind to enter the contest, then do so. But without consideration you may turn from one thing to another like a child, who now plays the wrestler, now the gladiator, now sounds the trumpet , then declaims like an actor; and so you, too, may be first an athlete, then a gladiator, then an orator, then a philosopher, and nothing with your whole soul; but as an ape you may mimic everything you see, and be charmed with one thing after another. For you approached nothing with consideration nor regularity, but rashly, and with a cold desire.
And thus some men, having seen a philosopher, and heard discourses like that of Euphrates (yet who indeed can say that any discourse is like his?), desire that they also become philosophers. But, consider first what it is you are about to do, and then inquire of your own nature whether you can carry it out. Will you be a pentathlos, or a wrestler? Then, scan your arms and thighs; try your loins. For different men are made for different ends.
Think , can you be a sage, and continue to eat and drink and be wrathful and take offence just as you were wont? Nay, but you must watch and labour, and withdraw yourself from your household, and be despised and be ridiculed by your neighbours, and take the lower place everywhere, in honours, in authority, in courts of justice, in dealings of every kind.
Consider these things, - whether you are willing at such a price to gain peace, freedom, and an untroubled spirit. And if not, then attempt it not, nor, like a child, play now the philosopher, then the tax-gatherer, then the orator, then the Procurator of Caesar. For these things agree not among themselves; and, good or bad, it behoves you to be one man. You should be perfecting either your own ruling faculty, or your outward well-being; spending your art either on the life within or the life without; that is to say, you must hold your place either among the sages or the vulgar.