Stoic Roundup (1) #noChill

Tonight we survey and put together some recent gems from @DailyStoic. In a lot of ways, these thoughts connect to remind us (READ: me) to #chill while maintaining the drive of a man of #Action. Controlling our emotions means placing things into proper perspective. You run your life, you are never the object in your life, but the subject, the author, the creator.

ON PERSPECTIVE

“It isn’t events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” – Epictetus

“He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears.” – Seneca

“To live a good life: we have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” – Marcus Aurelius

ON PRIORITIES

“You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.” – Marcus Aurelius

ON PROTECTING YOUR TIME

“I say, let no one rob me of a single day who isn’t going to make a full return on the loss.” – Seneca

“Take some of your own time for yourself, too.” -Seneca

ON GOLDEN SILENCE

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.” – Cato

“Deliberate much before saying or doing anything, for you will not have the power of recalling what has been said or done.” – Marcus Aurelius

ON PASSIONS

“And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Revenge is an admission of pain; a mind that is bowed by injury is not a great mind.” – Seneca

ON BOLD ACTION

“Let us also produce some bold act of our own – And join the ranks of the most emulated.” – Seneca

“Two elements must therefore be rooted out once and for all. The fear of future suffering, and the remembrance of past suffering; since the latter no longer concerns me and the former concerns me not yet.” – Seneca

It’s too easy to dismiss these teachings as anachronisms lost in times gone by. Personal philosophy is not something meant only for the battlefields of Rome and Greece. The Classical worldview did allow time for reflection, but what keeps you so busy that you can’t reflect on your life? I can guess…email, social media, worry, anxiety, rushing, modern desk jobs, fast food? It’s in there somewhere I bet. The point is not meant to be patronizing, but rather to force you to think…do you really need to spend all of your available time on those activities, or could you benefit by subtracting some or all of those things?

I digress. It’s time to get back to the daily grind, but this was fun, right? This Stoics Roundup will become a recurring event, because they are amazing and timeless.

Cheers, folks.

#FFW

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It’s OK to be OK

Ancient Stoic Philosopher, @Epictetus once said:

“Deliberate much before saying or doing anything, for you will not have the power of recalling what has been said or done.” – Epictetus

I have said and done many things to prove that statement correct, only to later realize that it doesn’t and shouldn’t be regret that follows #Action but a deep understanding that the choices we make make us. This quote stirs up some emotions in me from a heated discussion I had this weekend. An old buddy was in town and we met up downtown for some drinks after a concert. He’d met up with some random new people and everyone was having ‘New Acquaintance” conversations in a relatively loud bar. It came up in conversation that a majority of us were combat veterans, but one of the “New guys” was a patriot civilian with a passion for PTSD. In fact, I believe it was the first question out of his mouth to me. “Do you have PTSD?” The question didn’t really phase me, because although I’ve seen and been through some very intense training and real-life situations, I am very well-adjusted and have sorted out my emotions on the things I’ve done and seen. I do not have any lingering illness.

Like the image above, however I felt very alone in my opinion that “It’s ok to be ok.”

The guy kept pressing, and it was pretty interesting to hear his side of the issue. He ultimately came to the conclusion that he wants to make sure that vets get treatment and not outcast when they get back from combat, and if they need help, they need a better level of care. In the heat of the discussion, I had to think long and hard before saying anything because as Epictetus said, I know that words can’t come back. I wasn’t against everything he was saying, in fact, we agreed on plenty, but his tone… It was as if the man wanted every vet to be psychoanalyzed because surely, “You’re all fucked up when you come back.” Hearing that, I couldn’t simply say nothing. He needed to hear something from someone who’s been through hell and kept on moving.

You see, some people won’t talk about it. Some people will. Some will only talk to others who have “been there” and some people are ok. That demographic, the people who are ok, need to know that they are not somehow different, weird, or other than human. They should also not develop hubris and think that they are somehow Superhuman. He said to me, “I feel bad for your guys…” and I said, “That’s just it, You feel bad for me for having been through some of the most trying times of my life, and I appreciate the sentiment, but honestly, I feel bad for those of you who HAVEN’T been tested in such a way. You have no idea how strong you can be….” And I let that linger.

People who can handle incredible amounts of stress and life and death decisions are not liars who will hide their pain and emotions. The notion that EVERYONE is fucked up is false. Plenty of people can compartmentalize their experiences and learn, even grow from adversity. Check out Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile for a full treatise on the idea that it takes tests, and shocks, and struggle to become more than robust. Some things GAIN from disorder, rather than degrading.

image

@byreginatv posted this meme today, and it’s poignant. We all come from different places, and surely I can’t speak for everyone who’s had traumatic experiences, as we all sailed from different ports, but maybe if one other person reading this needs to hear that “it’s ok to be ok” then that’s good enough for me.

Life is an adventure. It can be interesting, terrifying, awe-inspiring, and downright difficult, but it’s important to realize that it’s precious. Our time here is but a breath, and it’s up to us to seize the moments we have any craft them into the stuff of dreams.

Engage, #Act, and keep up the #hustle.

#FFW

Human Doing

I’ve become a human doing rather than a human being. I don’t know when it happened but I imagine it’s been going on like this for quite some time. You see, I’ve got a fantastic to do list. To be quite fair, my #bulletjournal is awesome, it’s a combination planner/tracker/journal/note keeper that keeps my productivity running on all cylinders. Did you notice that all of those things I mentioned are #Action-oriented. 

David Allen’s Getting Things Done is an example of a productivity philosophy meant to address this unending stress we subject ourselves to. In his program the idea is to get the swarm of ideas out of your brain, on to paper, clarified and prioritized and then actioned on. There is a serenity in that thinking that speaks deeply to my inner go-getter. I can hear him shouting.”Heck yes! Get to work!” 

To do lists are awesome for getting things done because in the fog of “what should I do now?” Or after a disruptive phonecall, or kids spill or whatever cognitive trap you find yourself in, having the list to go back and re-cage is awesome. That said, you are just DOING at that point. There is an incredible feeling when you get into the groove or “FLOW” and are cranking out work. Some multi-tasters or task switchers are able to maximize and optimize their performance with a cup of coffee and a written plan. That is all well and good, but I realized that the high wears off and even the best laid plans in journals become stale and boring and repetitive if it’s all about DOING.

For that reason, built into my TO DO, is a distinct personal development section of TO BE. This didn’t have a title before tonight…it was simply a compilation of “dailies” that were bits of science, philosophy classical, western and eastern, and reflection on gratitude. That’s right, I’m using my own personal OCD-ADHD against myself to build personal development into my day as a purposeful TASK. I’m going to force myself TO BE a human being by leveraging my love for being a human doing. 

Can you help but grin at the idea of positively tricking yourself into being awesome, or at the very least more worldly and exposed to thoughts more meaningful than the latest meme or tweet?

In Antifragile, Nassim Taleb discusses how older things, books, ideas have withstood the test of time and proven, by not being replaced, that they are superior to the latest fad or trend. He goes into mathematical proofs that determine how long something will be around based on how long it’s been around and prescribes a diet of old world knowledge. In a lot of ways, his advice to avoid Neo-mania, is so counter-culture I can’t help but think he’s got to be on to something. I want to have the next big idea as much as the next Type A, go-getter MBA out there, but it would seem there is nothing new under the sun. 

Surprisingly, this thought doesn’t make me cringe or worry. If it’s all been done before there are lessons to be learned, and much like today’s labor of love on a new website…the answers are out there because somebody has seen this issue before. I might be mixing podcasts right now and can’t provide adequate attribution but an idea I heard yesterday suggested that the best performers seek Unions rather than Intersections. Excellence, then, is in integrating rather than  derivating. True creation sees what isn’t there and breathes it into existence. Copycats will later create completion and take your idea from 1 to n scale, but the Genius takes 0 and goes to 1. Attribution Peter Thiel Zero to One

Ok, tons of words tonight to say what? The world needs Human Doings but for personal development and sustainable mental fortitude and growth the #Action step needs to be purposeful TASKS designed to build yourself into the best Human Being possible. (At least that’s the story I’m telling myself this week…)

NEXT TIME: “Does truth really matter if the story works?”

Are you teachable?

Adulting is hard. Add a child or two to the mix and things get really spicy, really quickly. Think about it, some days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The littles in your life do, too. Put a parent and child together who have both had long days, one with chores and errands and commitments, the other with learning all the new rules at kindergarten and you have a recipe for conflict. 

Today was especially intense, but in the moment I caught a small insight. Mr. Opinion was telling me one of the 1000 things that he intended to do. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, “You are NOT in charge…stop telling me what you want to do… You are five, you need to learn that you don’t get what you want by demanding it…” It dawned on me just how much we have in common. This was a teachable moment if only I could properly seize it. This was a moment of #Action that could reshape these discussions. 

I’d read an Article that said our words become their inner voices and I realized that I needed to reshape the message. Do I want him to simply bow to my authority? By no means! What I really needed him to do was have respect for himself, for his parents, and to control his emotions and actions. How potent and important a message for a 5 year old to learn! What’s more is that in the moment I need the very same lesson. I won’t get my way by simply demanding it. This was a moment for direct application of some Stoic Philosophy that I’d written down just this morning. 

The BIG 3 Lessons of Stoicism

1) Our thoughts affect our emotions

2) There is wisdom in focusing on what you can control

3) Habits are important

So, was I teachable? Did I change the message? Heck yes! The new habit will be to relate and empathize, reinforce that I understand the struggle of not feeling in control, but to assure him that even when things get out of control and you feel overcome with emotion, we can control our thoughts, we can focus on our #Actions, control our behavior, and be strong people of character. 

The same lesson applies at 5, 15, and 50. These seemingly tiny changes in our thoughts and behaviors will play out in a lifetime of improved attitude and behavior. 

Adulting is hard, parenting isn’t easier, but we get the benefit of little instructors and trainers whose wants and needs are small (unending, demanding, relentless… sure) at this point but they are beautiful mirrors of the things we need to work on inside ourselves. 

We WANT things to go a certain way. We have our own plans at 5 and 50, but we will all do well to remember to see the little lessons and calls to #Action in the day-to-day.

#FFW

Never Wait Again

So there I was, on hold with the cable company…go figure. “All representatives are still assisting other callers” the robot chimed in-between the scratchy, overly loud hold music. Little did I know when they said that my wait would be over 15 minutes that what they meant was my wait would be roughly 42 minutes, but who’s counting? I began annoyed, but it didn’t take too long for me to catch the self-talk and quickly think of alternatives. I thought about all of the other people that are likely dealing with recording errors, blue/black screens, slow connection speeds, and a slew of other #FirstWorldProblems and that started phase one of my chilling the f out. This was in no way the end of the world.

This phone call was an #Action step to proactively meet one of my wife’s unstated but hinted at needs. The DVR wasn’t working correctly, and just did 1 second recordings that said “recording error” and wouldn’t play back. We had plenty of space and it could make space if needed. We were only recording kids shows to create background noise and distraction anyway, again not the end of the world. I figured I had a few minutes during breakfast routine, I’d make the call. I never thought I’d remember some #Zen teachings during a tech call.

It was probably the third time the robot chimed in that I realized my mindset made all the difference. I was “waiting”, like in the “Waiting Place” if you are familiar with Dr Seuss. This is “negative waiting” as Tim Ferriss describes because you are playing the victim role and big bad reality is not letting you do your will. Check out his 21 day No Complaints Experiment…I’ll start this one today with you. In any case, the switch flipped in my mind and I realized that “Life is what happens while you are waiting for your goals to happen.” All that dead space between “things” is life…you can recapture those moments and live then too…or you can keep waiting. The choice, whether you accept it or not, is yours.

#FFW

Free Agency

Not sure if this method of embedding video is allowed or not, but I wanted to make this video available to any readers. If you aren’t an avid Shark Tank connoisseur, or haven’t watched the Mavericks play and seen their owner out there supporting the team, you may not know who Mark Cuban is. He’s a billionaire investor, entrepreneur, and star of Shark Tank. As part of a really awesome series called 30 Days of Genius, @chasejarvis interviewed some of the best and brightest out there. Since I’ve already bragged about how awesome @RamitSethi and @TimFerris are, I wanted to point out some brilliant points Mr Cuban made in this piece. His mindset is, “We are all free agents” and we should be #hustling every day as such. There’s no time or reason to sit back satisfied, because no matter how far you’ve come, nobody’s “made it” yet. The most hardcore entrepreneurs are driven by that unending drive to improve more. These creatives are driven not by a desire to be better than the next guy but to be better than their previous self. There is so much room for growth if you are interested in growing!

I share a lot of Cuban’s ideas about the real #Action living at the intersection of emerging technologies. My day job relies heavily on working on that razor’s edge between remerging and adopted technology and maintaining the lead. Most industries live an operate in that space, but Cuban has made a living seeing how to PROFIT from seeing into the systems before they are apparent to everyone.

For all intents and purposes, Cuban has “made it.” To us common folk he’s got all of the trappings of the rich life that we’d love to have. He, and the other 1%’rs out there have made me inspired to craft a recipe for you and the 99% other average Joes to #BuyYourWayOutOfBondage. This will take Cuban-like focus, willingness to be out there doing what has to be done day in and day out, but it’s an algorithm for sure. If you are interested, let’s start a discussion.

#FFW

Stream of Consciousness

Wikipedia defines Stream of Consciousness as:

In literary criticism, stream of consciousness, also known as interior monologue; which is a narrative mode or device that depicts the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind.

Last night’s post was clearly an example of stream of consciousness thoughts. Although the message was there, it was hidden in the fog of incoherence. I actually really like what I read when I reviewed it after a glorious night’s sleep. I see, this morning, how ideas can seem so much better when you are tired, and then less so when fully alert. I’m not convinced the wakeful way we live is “better” because we interpret through so many logical filters. The sleep-daze ideas aren’t filtered, they seem to drift in and out of being like a dance rather than a recipe. In any case, the message last night was meant to be that no matter what your circumstance, you can find lessons and make progress. This morning, as the muses would have it, the following Confucius quote crossed my desk:

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. -Confucius

This hectic day and age, does this still apply? Can we make it if we make slow progress?

Heck, yeah!

Progress is progress, and to hold out on incremental and iterative improvement because you think you ought to be making larger gains is pure silliness. We get to our destination by the series of steps, not one giant leap. It’s not only that last step that got you there, but all the ones that came before it.

How does any of this connect?

If you want to be better at anything, you have to do it. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell suggests you have to put in roughly 10,000 hours to become good at something. So even if the writing, or the sales call, or the free throw isn’t your best, if you keep at it, every day, whether you want to or not, you are getting closer to the prize.

On a related note, let’s look at a physical principle of the body that can be applied generally to personal development. This theory is called the SAID principle, or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, which means that your body will adjust to whatever stresses you put on it. Want to run faster? You need to do SPRINTS to make yourself used to the faster pace and adapt to running faster. Want to get stronger? Sorry 20 reps of low weight will not cut it, you need to lift something HEAVY to make your body get stronger.

If this works on your physical body, your mind is no different…the Stoics (Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cato, Epictetus…) preach repeatedly that in good or decent times, we must prepare ourselves mentally for the pains and unpleasant times that could arise in the future. You must build yourself a bulwark, and prepare yourself to deal with adversity. In essence, you can’t shield yourself from pain and suffering and hope to be resilient in times of strife. Our modern lives are build around maximizing our pleasure and comfort, but in the long run, this is creating the next “soft” generation.

Am i suggesting we “practice bleeding?”

Metaphorically speaking,

heckyes

#FFW