The 2,000 Year Old Temple Inscriptions That Sum Up How Self-Improvement Works

It turns out that the ancient Greeks knew some secrets that we’re still struggling to learn

Mike Sturm
Published in
4 min readMar 27, 2022


Credit: Spencer Davis

During the height of Ancient Greece’s influence, one could go to Delphi and visit the renowned Temple of Apollo. It was one of a series of temples built around 550 BCE. Unfortunately, it was destroyed under the influence of Roman emperor Theodosius I around 390 CE.

In one of the pillars in the forecourt of that temple were carved, 3 maxims — said to have been the best advice of the revered 7 sages of ancient Greece. They were:

  • Know thyself
  • Nothing in excess
  • Certainty brings ruin

Over 2,000 years have passed since the temple was built, and these maxims still hold true. In fact, in the absence of established rules for yourself, you could do a lot worse than these.

Know Thyself

I’ve attempted to explain self-improvement and personal development to hundreds of people over the years. And I don’t think there’s a better way to sum it up than this:

Self-improvement is actually just ongoing, iterative self-discovery.

We can’t improve what we don’t understand. And so many of us don’t understand ourselves nearly as well as we think we do. And it’s often during the process of trying to simply find out who we are that we stumble upon the very things that will propel us to incredible personal development.

That’s why reflection is such an important part of the journey of self-improvement. But it also explains why so many people are frustrated by that journey.

People can adopt a productivity system, build an awesome morning routine, and adopt a positive mantra. But without getting to know themselves deeply, none of that will yield sustainable growth.

And because situations are constantly changing, and in turn we also change, knowing yourself is not a one-and-done achievement. Rather, you learn, revise, and rediscover things about yourself. Again, this is why reflection is so important. The less you really know yourself, the less you can trust in…



Mike Sturm
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Creator: — A simpler personal productivity system. Writing about productivity, self-improvement, business, and life.