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Plato's Lemonade Stand: Stirring Change into Something Great

From Tom Morris

Most of us grew up hearing the old advice, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." But typically, no one says how. I’ve searched the wisdom of the great philosophers throughout the centuries to see if they had any advice for great lemonade making, and was delightfully surprised at what I discovered.

It turns out that there is an art of change, or transformation, composed of three component arts. These are the secrets to the spiritual process the ancients knew of as alchemy.

The Art of Change Involves:

(1) The Art of Self-Control

This art has three requirements:

Don't Rush to Judgment

Value the Right Things

Use Your Imagination Well


(2) The Art of Positive Action

This art also has three requirements:

Govern Your Attitudes

Look for Opportunities

Take the Initiative


3. The Art of Achievement

This art has 7 components.

The 7 Cs of Success:






Character and

A Capacity to Enjoy the Process


A Quick Story

When I checked into the Palm Beach Four Seasons Hotel once for a talk years ago, the bellman learned I had taught at Notre Dame and quickly told me about another guy from Indiana, a former farmer who, fresh into his first job as a salesman, had just visited the hotel for a sales convention the previous week. It was his very first time in a hotel. Not bad to start with the Four Seasons. He took his own bags up to his room to leave them quickly and get back down to an important first meeting. Five minutes passed, then ten. After a bit more time, his direct manager, who had traveled with him, called up to his room to see what was causing the delay. He said, “I don’t know what to do. I’m in the room, and there are only three doors. One is the bathroom, one is a closet, and the other has a sign on it that says Do Not Disturb.”

I was glad to be told this little story, however true or apocryphal. It sure captures the way a lot of people get themselves into a situation where they feel trapped and don’t know what to do. We all have to learn how to read and understand the signs that are around us, use our imaginations well, and find the proper doorway that any set of circumstances will present us.

If you’ve heard my talk on Plato’s Lemonade Stand, I hope our time together on that topic has helped you remember the degree to which you can exercise important forms of inner control and outer influence in any situation. And I look forward to seeing the great artistic results of that in your life as you continue to open all the right doors and move forward in wonderful and productive ways. Please keep me posted now and then!


Books on Our Inner Powers for Change

Many of these topics are reinforced in various ways in my book True Success: A New Philosophy of Excellence, and in The Stoic Art of Living: Inner Resilience and Outer Results, both of which are available any time at The Stoics really understood the inner conditions for life alchemy and for making world-class lemonade!