208 – Radical Candor

208- Radical Candor

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

– Marcus Aurelius

Are you afraid to tell others what you really think or how you really feel? In this episode I want to talk about the idea of radical candor, and how committing to being honest about what you think and feel is one of the most challenging but rewarding things you can do.

Radical Candor

Let year I watched the TV series Picard, and one of the more interesting things I like about it was that there was order among the Romulans who follow a code of absolute candor. I really liked this idea because they do their best to be as truthful as possible, and they hold themselves to a high standard of being responsible for everything they say.

But radical candor is more than just saying what you think. It’s about being honest about how you feel about things. You’re not only being honest with others, you’re also being honest with yourself. And if you’re being responsible for everything you put out into the world, it gives you the opportunity to examine what you really think and feel about a situation.

Say What You Mean

When you decide to adopt radical candor, you speak clearly and honestly. You say what you really mean, and you mean exactly what you say. You don’t obfuscate or toss out ambiguous statements. When you don’t know something, you simply say you know, and you don’t pretend like you have all the answers.


So why don’t we practice radical candor as a society? Because we’re afraid of what other people will think of us. We’re afraid they might get upset by what we have to say, or they may no longer love us or they’ll possibly disown us. I know that in the culture I grew up in, I was afraid to say what I really thought about a lot of things at church because I was afraid I’d get in trouble. Questioning church doctrine was something that was frowned upon in the mormon church. If something didn’t make sense or was contradicted by evidence, you were told that you just needed to have more faith and trust the leaders. Asking too many questions made people uncomfortable. It was more important to be loyal than to be honest.


Some might think that radical candor would not be a good way to live your life, because we all have to “lie” from time to time to smooth things over. That if we went around telling the truth, we would simply ruffle too many feathers. Let’s consider lying from a stoic perspective. Is it okay to lie? What is the purpose of lying to someone? The purpose of lying is to deceive someone. When you lie to others, you are trying to control them. You are trying to make them feel something, or spare them from feeling something. You are trying to control or influence their actions based upon getting them riled up or upset, or convince them that situation is something other than it is. I would say from a stoic perspective, we should not lie.


Sometimes, one of the most heartbreaking things for me to watch was American Idol. With thousands of contestants wanting to give it a shot, there were often people that would get up in front of the judges who clearly could not sing. Often it was Simon that would be the bearer of bad news and let them know that they didn’t have what it takes to continue on. But what was more heartbreaking than watching Simon put the kibosh on their dreams was the fact that no one close to these people ever took the time to be honest with them. If someone had stepped in earlier and said, “Hey, do you really want to be a singer? Then I would recommend finding a good singing coach.” That would have given them time and opportunity to develop the skills needed to compete.

Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.


In Practice

So what would radical candor look like in practice? Does this mean that you would just be sitting around singing Kumbaya and sharing your feelings? Sure it could mean that. But in a more practical sense, it means taking time to think about what you have to say. When interacting with others, are you saying what you really think or feel or are you just running your mouth to fill the space? Are you expressing yourself clearly or are you leaving things vague and open to interpretation? The main reason behind radical candor is honest and clear communication.

Radical candor is about respecting yourself. It is about recognizing that you have the right to your own thoughts and opinions. It means that you when someone asks for your opinion about something, you do your best to be honest every time, even if it makes you or the other person uncomfortable. It means that you stand by the things you say, and just as important, that you take ownership of the things you say. You don’t change your opinion just please someone else, or try to spin things so they don’t upset some other person.

Not a Weapon

An important thing to remember is that radical candor is not a weapon. It is not an excuse to be an ass because you’re “just being honest”. It is not forcing your opinion on someone else or to shut down discussion by digging in your heels because you “have the truth”. Radical candor is about open and honest communication. It is about giving our honest opinion about something. It is about trying to express the world as closely as you see it. It’s telling your truth with clarity and compassion.

When you share your opinion about something, just remember it is just your opinion. It does not mean you have to tell the other person they are wrong. You can hold a different opinion than someone else. They don’t have to agree with you, and it is always possible that your opinion is incorrect.


If you plan on adopting radical candor, then you need to be open to the being on the receiving end. In fact, you should welcome others to speak openly and honestly. Think of how your relationships would improve if you encouraged others to honest about what they really felt? There would be less having to guess what someone “really” means. There would be less miscommunication with other people because you are focused on trying to communicate clearly. It would engender a greater sense of trust because others would know that you really wanted to know what they think or feel.


Radical candor is also how you set boundaries with other people. It means that you’re honest about what you are willing to do or not do, and what is acceptable for how others should treat you.


Nothing says you have to tell everyone everything that you think or know. You can always choose not to share your opinion. If someone presses you to talk about something that you don’t want to, you can let them know that this is a topic that you are not interested in talking about. This is being honest about what you think.


Probably the hardest part about absolute candor is the fact that it takes confidence to say what you really think and feel and stick with it. If you’re not used to having your opinion heard or you’re insecure, then stepping up and voicing your opinion can be downright scary. But the more you step up and state what you think and feel, the more confident you’ll become. It becomes a virtuous self reenforcing cycle.

And the thing is, you’re probably going to ruffle some feathers, especially if there are people in your life that you have previously hidden your true thoughts and feelings from. There are people who may not like what you have to say. But if they don’t like the real you, why would you want to spend time with people that you have to pretend to be something other than who you really are?


Adopting a practice of radical candor is difficult. We’re trained from an early age not to upset others and to do our best to fit in. But when it comes down to it, when you hide what you really think and feel, you’re being deceptive, and you’re not letting others get to know the real you. It signals to other people that you don’t trust them with your thoughts and feelings. And this is something that I’ve really had to work on. I’ve had to let go of trying to find the right thing to say or the right opinion to have. But in doing so, my most important relationships have gotten much stronger because I’ve committed to trusting them with the real me.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break podcast.

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Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.


207 – Resistance

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Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible. 

— Epictetus

What if you stopped resisting what life brought your way? What if you could cheerfully accept everything that came your way? How would that change the way you showed up in the world? This week I want to talk about the importance of dealing with what is, and not what we think it should be.

The stoic idea of Amor Fati, to “love your fate”, is often a confusing topic. Did the stoics mean we are victims of fate, and that we do not have freewill and we should just accept what happens to us? I mean doesn’t that just make us victims?

I don’t think so. I think what they meant was that life, fate, is going to happen to us no matter what. Unless you’re dead, there are things that are going to happen in your life, and you have no control over them. And because they are going to happen to us, whether we like it or not, we can either resist and complain, or we can accept that this is how life is happening to us, and flow with what happens.

Wisdom lies in cheerful acceptance of whatever life throws at you. 

—The Ancient Sage

Should Be vs. Could Be

When you focus on what you think “should be”, you are wishing for the world to be something different than it is. You are projecting your expectations on the world. You are chronically unhappy because the world will never change to meet your expectations. You judge everything by what you think it should be, not what it is. People are not doing the things you think they should. Events aren’t happening like you think they should. When you think about how things should be, you are wishing.

When you focus on what “could be”, then you are recognizing the way things actually are, and seeing the potential. You mind can be creative because it sees the possibilities, based on what is there, and what things could become. It gives you a real chance to actually accomplish something because it starts from a basis in reality, rather than trying to bend things to fit our expectations.

Once you can accept everything for exactly as it really is, especially the things we don’t like, you can be okay with whatever life throws are you. It doesn’t mean that you have to like it. It just means that you acknowledge and accept it. You can see opportunities and potential. You are curious and accepting, and less judgmental.

This is not an easy mindset to adopt. We’re told that we should visualize how we want things to be, and just think positively and everything will work out. While I think imagining the future we want is important, we should be cautious of wishful thinking.

I think a good metaphor would be if you went river rafting and complained about the flow of the river, the curve in the shore, and the challenge of the rapids. If you constantly wanted the river to change so it was more to your liking, then you’re never going to enjoy the river for what it is. You’re going to be upset that it didn’t meet your expectations.

On the other hand, if you simply accept the river for what it is, and appreciate and explore the challenges of the river, you’re going to focus your energies on the best way to ride the rapids, enjoy the lulls of the more placid areas, and appreciate the scenery. You accept what is, and focus on making the best of the situation, rather than wishing for the river change for you.

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. 

— Eckhart Tolle


I think that a lot of our stress comes from resistance. We don’t want to deal with what is, so we find ways to avoid dealing with what is. We may avoid having tough conversations. We avoid doing the hard things, hoping that if we just ignore it, it will resolve itself on its own. But this never works, and it usually makes things much worse. Even just half-assing it doesn’t work. Whatever the excuse is, it’s usually because we feel uncomfortable, and I’m speaking from my experience here.

For example, if you need to have a hard conversation with your partner, and you avoid and don’t commit to it fully and honestly, things rarely go well. You come up with all kinds of excuses and rationalizations as to why you should avoid having that hard talk, but for any of us that have been in long-term relationships we know that avoiding the problem never makes it go away, and generally makes it worse. If you embrace the hard stuff from the beginning, then it is much easier to deal with. When you let things fester, then it’s not just about the issue, it’s also about avoiding the issue.

It’s kind of like having an open wound – the more you ignore it, the greater the chance you have of it getting infected. If you take care of it right off the bat, it’s much easier to clean it out and keep it from getting infected. Once it’s infected, then it takes more drastic action to repair the damage, and the greater your potential for causing long-term harm to the situation.

How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life. 

— Marcus Aurelius


So what can we do to be more accepting of what life throws our way? I think one of the best ways is to let go of our expectations, and do our best to face our challenges head on. When we look at anything that pops up in our lives as just another day in our life and get on with dealing with it, we are better able to deal with it. When we complain, avoid, or ignore, we are not only wasting time, we are also putting ourselves into a mindset where we are even less able to deal with it effectively. If we look at each challenge as something we can learn from and build our skills, then we are using our time more effectively, as well as priming our minds to approach it with a more effective mindset.


I think another key area of accepting life as it is, is to accept ourselves as we are. For those of us that work hard to improve ourselves, we also need to remember that we have all kinds of expectations about ourselves that are often detrimental. There is a lot that we want to accomplish, and we can see the person who we want to be, but I think that we often make plans and set goals with this perfect ideal of ourselves in mind. If our plans expect us to be operating at our best, or some ridiculously idealized version of yourself all the time, without room for being at our worst, then we’re going to suffer a lot of failures in our lives. I think we need to recognize not just our strengths, but also our weaknesses, and work within what we can really accomplish, not just what our ideal selves can accomplish.

Remember, self acceptance it not about letting yourself off the hook. It’s about being realistic about what you can do, and who you really are. It also removes a lot of shame for not being something other than what you are. It’s a recognition that a lot of the ideas of what you should be are not yours, but are those given to us by family, religion, society, and other external influences.


Learning to accept life and ourselves and stop resisting what life hands us is not a simple task. But learning to be realistic about how things are and how we really are, can help give us a perspective about the potential of how things could be. When we work from a base of “what is” it’s more likely that we are able to realize our potential, and not get stuck in wishful thinking.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
Also stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.


206 – The Long Ride

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The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. 

— Epictetus

Do you think that life is meant to be comfortable? Do you make choices in your life to take the easy path and avoid discomfort? If so, then you may not be living a life as full as you could.

So much of our lives are built around convenience. This extends to so many areas of our lives – the way we eat and shop, the way we find entertainment, even how we date. We want things to be easy. We complain when things are hard. We whine when things don’t go how we want. So much of the technology that is created and sold in our lives is all about convenience. But are were short changing ourselves by taking the easy path?

Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life. 

— Robert Greene

The Long Ride

When I was really into cycling, I would take off work every other Friday morning and head out on a solo 72 mile ride. I simply called it “The Long Ride”. I would ride out to one of my favorite coffee shops, have a ham, cheese, and egg bagel sandwich for lunch, then head out to finish the long loop all the way home. It would usually take me about 4 to 5 hours, and when I got home, I’d crash for a few hours, then go pick up my kids from school. Some people thought I was crazy, but I loved it. It was right after my divorce and I had little money to take a vacation anywhere, so it was what I used my vacation time for.

Riding like that did several things for me. It was a way for me to push myself to my edge. When you ride a distance like that, you have to know how to pace yourself so that you have enough energy reserved to make it home without calling a friend to come pick you up. You push yourself to your edge to see if you can climb those hills a little faster, or increase your pace across a flat stretch of road by 1 or 2 miles faster than last time. Testing yourself, increasing your strength, or on tough days, just making it back home always created such a feeling of accomplishment.

It was also my Zen time. It was my time for thinking and working through the challenges I was facing in my life. It was also a time when I could just focus on being in the moment. When you’re flying along a country road on a warm summer day with legs pumping, lungs breathing in the air scented with raspberries and clover, you hit this flow state where everything feels perfect. It’s one of the most energizing and amazing feelings in the world.

Start living in discomfort. Gradually increase it little by little, and you will steadily grow. If you want sudden growth, deluge yourself in great discomfort and do not retreat from it. The more discomfort you are willing to bear, the more you can grow. 

— The Ancient Sage (@TheAncientSage)


To get to where you can do a long ride and just take off and ride 72 miles in a few hours, you have to put in the work. You have to build the muscle. You have to put in miles on your bike. You have to be able to climb, and you have to learn to pace yourself so that you can make it out AND back home. It’s not something that you can just pick up and do in a few days or weeks. It’s something that you have put in the miles week after week for a few years. Every time you go out, you have to push yourself a little more. You take those hills that you know will hurt. You drop into the lowest gear, and start pedaling, and when you can, you bump it up a gear. You gradually increase that discomfort by taking the hill a little faster than you did last time. You cut a few minutes off your overall time.

Discomfort is the currency of success. 

— Brooke Castillo

I think everyone needs something like a long ride that they're working towards in their lives. Why? Because when you practice learning how to face uncomfortable situations in one part of your life, it makes it easier to face uncomfortable things in another area. You learn how to find your edge, and how to push past it. If you have been practicing taking on that hill, one pedal push at a time, you will probably be more willing to sit through a tough conversation that makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.

Now it isn’t guaranteed by any means. Just because you’re great in one area of your life doesn’t mean you’ll be great at another area. I think you need to be mindful about applying skills across disciplines. But if you’ve never really had to work for anything, never pushed yourself out of your comfort zone, then you’re probably lacking the tenacity you need to see things through.

In fact, since I’ve slacked off from riding over the last few years, I’ve noticed that my tolerance for dealing with challenging situations is not where it used to be. I’ve started training to get back in shape to where I can take my long rides. It’s not easy. I’m nowhere near the shape that I was in, and I’ve picked up some bad habits, especially in my diet, that I need to change in order to reach that level of performance again. I’m also older and have to make allowances for how my body has aged. But I know that the benefits both in physical and mental health that come with  training for my long rides will be worth it. It will take mindfulness to plan workouts and diet, as well as managing my time in order to fit in the training and rides needed. It will take discipline to make sure that I don’t skip training because “I don’t feel like it”.

Comfort makes you weaker. We need some variability, some stressors. Not too much, but just enough. 

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb

What is Your Long Ride?

So what is your long ride? What is the thing that you want to get better at that you know the only way to do it is to put in the work? Maybe you want to bench press your body weight or break your personal record in running a 10k. Maybe it’s coding your own application or starting a business. Maybe it’s learning how to speak another language or sing in front of other people. Whatever it is, are you putting in the hard work? Are pushing yourself to your edge, strengthening those muscles, whether physical or mental, and building the skills? Or are you just putting the bare minimum, trying to fool yourself that somehow your minimal effort will be enough? Or maybe not even pursuing it at all and leaving it for “someday”?

If there is something that you’ve been wanting to do, but keep putting it off, take a look at why. What is it that keeps from doing it? What are you afraid of? What excuses do you tell yourself so you keep pushing off working on your long ride? Maybe you’re scared because you might fail. Maybe you’re scared that you’ll succeed. And I’m sure, like all of us, you can come up with all kinds of excuses. There is never enough time. There is never a perfect time to get started.

Start with something small, such as setting aside a little time each day to come up with a plan. Once you have a plan, start doing the plan. Make the steps just a little more challenging than you think you can accomplish. Make sure that with each step, you’re just a little outside your comfort zone. Every now and then, really step out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself. Maybe that’s an extra 10 miles on your ride or an extra 5k on your run. Maybe it’s picking out a song that you’re scared to sing because it’s a little out of your comfortable range.


A life in search of comfort is life spent taking the easy path. It is also a life where you never know what your full potential is, nor do you push yourself towards reaching that potential. Find your long ride and working towards pushing to your edges. It’s only when you step out of your comfort zone that you find that growth, and it’s in the unfamiliar that you find new possibilities.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast. You'll meet your fellow Stoics, and have a place where you can share your life experiences and what you've learned along the way. Also stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.