Stoicism, the philosophy based on Socrates’ teachings, is increasingly becoming the popular foundation for some of the world’s top business leaders, politicians, sportsmen, military personnel, artists and ordinary folk who have been seeking for a more empowered and healthy way to work and live. They are investing their time and money in learning from experts on Stoic philosophy and how it can be turned into a practice for significantly improving quality of life, one’s psychological state and physical balance, business success and entrepreneurial wisdom.
Among these few experts is knowledgable, charismatic and highly skilled Alkistis Agio, who has been coaching individuals and top world corporations for over 20 years based on Socrates‘ teachings. She is also the author of two books on the topic, You Can Realize Your Dream and Take Charge. Agio related her personal story to Greek City Times, sharing the fascinating story of how she discovered Socrates’ teachings and ended up sharing them with the world.
What drew you to Stoicism, and to basing your professional expertise on the ideologies of Socrates?
I was hired by a global leadership training company to teach communication skills to managers. I found it very fulfilling; I was well-paid and I was appreciated for doing something that I seemed to have a natural talent for.
At that time I began to read more books on personal development and discovered that most of the top ‘leadership gurus’ referred to Greek philosophers, especially on leadership. For example, in his worldwide bestseller, “How To Win Friends & Influence People”, Dale Carnegie devotes a whole chapter to Socrates, openly admitting that: “The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates.”
This discovery excited me because it helped me to finally came up with a solid foundation on which to build my own method for leadership development.
For over 20 years now, I have had the honour and pleasure of training C-Suite managers at some of the world’s leading corporations like Sony, Mercedez, Barclays Bank, Novartis, Bayer, Bosch, CCC, TUI, BMW and other organizations. I focus on using the principles of Stoicism.
At what stage of your life did this happen?
In my youth I’d started off by following in my father’s footsteps and working in the banking world, something he felt was important for me to have security in life. But I was extremely unhappy in banking and suffered from high anxiety, even developing psoriasis because of it. After years of unhappiness, I decided to leave banking and try other things, travelling abroad and taking jobs to keep myself afloat.
What helped you decide to make Stoicism your life?
Studying the Socratic principles, which made me address the most critical questions regarding my own life. One day I considered various questions based on this philosophy and wrote down my answers as if I were engaged in a dialogue with Socrates. On that very day, I faced my deepest fears and took the decision to take charge of my own life… This led to a dramatic argument with my father, who expressed his great disappointment in me and his conviction that I was making a great mistake in letting go of a promising career. He ousted me from the house saying: “Tan I Epi Tas” quoting the ancient Spartan motto, “Return as a victor or upon your shield’.
Looking back at that moment, it was the best thing he could have ever done. He cut me loose; I had to stand on my own. For a few years I travelled abroad, taking up various jobs to stay afloat and trying to carve out my own path.
When I eventually developed The ALKISTIS Method, which is founded on Greek philosophy, that became the very ‘Shield’ with which I returned home to my father, whom I had missed so much after a 10 year ‘odyssey’ away.
Why has Greek philosophy and in particular Stoicism is increasingly popular in our modern society?
BecauseStoicism is a school of ancient Greek philosophy inspired by the teachings of Socrates that helps to develop mental resilience and self-leadership. Self-leadership means having an evolved sense of who you are, where you’re going, and what you are willing to do to get there. But also the ability to influence yourself and others, in order to achieve your goals.
Finding our life purpose and controlling our anger and anxiety are not new challenges…they go way back, even before Socrates, who taught that: “For a man to lead others, he must first lead himself.”
In today’s fast-paced, technological, consumer-driven society, people experience deep levels of anxiety, depression and stress and have lost faith in science alone. A real vacuum has emerged, which Greek Philosophy can help fill. It’s not by chance that Steve Jobs once said, “I would give up all my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.”
Greek philosophy is the Western world’s answer to Buddhism. It is increasingly appealing to people who want to live an ethical, value-based life informed by science and reason. Modern people don’t want dogmatic teachings.
On October 5-6 of 2019, you will be hosting Athens’ first ever STOICON event, can you please tell us more about it?
Stoicon is the annual conference of Modern Stoicism, and I’m so excited about co-hosting this historical event with best-selling author, Donald Robertson in Athens, Greece. For the first time ever it will be held here, at the birthplace of Stoicism! The main venue is Cotsen Hall of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
Our goal is to make Stoic philosophy accessible to everyone by highlighting its practical relevance to the everyday challenges people face in different aspects of modern life. Among other presenters, we will be welcoming Greek-Australian author Kathryn Koromilas, who also leads the Stoic Writing Scene and The Stoic Writer.