286 – Remember Death

How often do you think about your death? Do you go through your life just ignoring it and thinking that it’s always a long way off? Today I want to talk about why considering your death each day can make your life richer, fuller, and happier.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think."

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important things that the Stoics teach is to be aware of death, that we too will die one day. The term the Stoics use is Memento Mori, remember death. The Stoics want us to remember that every day could be our last so that we use the time we have the best we can.

Memento Mori is not about being morbid or macabre, but rather appreciating the fact that we are alive at this moment, and that we need to savor each moment we have because it could be our last. It means that instead of wishing for things to be different, we should accept things as they are and appreciate them. It also means that we should look for things to be grateful for right now. We need to find contentment now rather than waiting for it to come to us in the future after some event or accomplishment.


“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go."

— Mary Oliver

Memento Mori is there to remind us that we need to face reality. We need to accept that we will all die one day, and as much as we might want to ignore that fact, it is not something that we can escape. The sooner we come to terms with our own mortality, the less we fear death, and the better we can live in the present.

One day, when I was about 40, I had just gotten out of the shower and was trimming my beard. As I was looking at my face in the mirror and I noticed the wrinkles on my face standing out a bit more. I remember having this rush of fear and anxiety about how I was getting older, and that I would die one day. I realized that I had never put too much thought into the fact that I would die. Like most people, I just went about my daily life as if death was something I could just ignore. I realized that I needed to face my own mortality because it was something that would come whether I liked it or not.

Over the next few months, I would occasionally take some time and think about my death. I thought a lot about what it might be like after I leave this life. I thought about some of the things that I wanted to accomplish before I left this world. I worked on getting comfortable with the fact that I would have to face my death at some point. The more comfortable I got with death, the less fear I had about dying. This is not to say that I’m looking forward to it or seeking it out, but it no longer causes me the anxiety I felt when I was first confronting my own mortality.

Live Now

"Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time."

— Seneca

"The trouble is, you think you have time."

— Buddha

So why is it important that we learn to face up to our own mortality?

Remembering death sharpens our senses. It helps us to be more present in our daily lives because we can spend less time living for the future because it’s possible that we might not have one. When we recognize that all the plans and goals that we have may never come to pass, we learn to not let our happiness be dependent on things that we’ll accomplish or get in the future.

Facing up to your death helps you live more urgently. Memento Mori helps to prioritize the things that matter and the things that don’t. It reminds that we shouldn’t put off the things we want to do but try to do them as soon as we can. We often live with the idea that we’ll get to it someday, as if we had all the time in the world. The Stoics tell us to get busy with the business of living. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.

Will it Matter?

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

— Steve Jobs

When we take the time to remember death, we can develop a bigger and more helpful perspective about life. For example, if we ask ourselves, will this matter in 100 years? 1000 years? Things that may seem important in the moment, can seem trivial in the long run. The minor inconveniences that annoy and distress us in our daily lives can be laughed off when we think about them in a long enough timeframe because everything you do will probably not even be remembered in 100 years, and probably not even in 5 or 10 years.

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius says, “Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were either received into the same generative principle of the universe, or they were both dispersed into atoms.” In talking about this, he’s reminds us that regardless of the greatness of your achievements, we all meet the same fate. And even though Alexander was a great conquer, what good does that do him now? Is he still able to enjoy the glory of his conquests?

How You Live

"It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time."

— Samuel Johnson

So if that’s the case and it seems like nothing really matters, why should we try to do anything good? Why should we try to accomplish anything in this life?

It’s not that you have to accomplish great things in order for your life to mean something. Not everyone was meant to accomplish something that will be remembered. And that’s okay. Because how you live your life matters. Like I talked about in last weeks podcast, Ambition or Contentment, living a good life is not about all the accomplishments you achieve, it’s about the process of living. It’s about enjoying the journey and everything that comes your way. It’s about doing good things in the world, even if they are small acts.

Gratitude of Living

"It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had."

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

An important part of Memento Mori, is that it teaches us to practice gratitude for the the everyday things in life. Remember, it’s not the grand gestures and huge accomplishments that make life good. It’s all the little things. A good cup of coffee, a great conversation with a friend, listening to a beautiful piece of music, watching a sunset, or even just appreciating that you are alive and you get to experience all these things. Appreciating the little things, the small joys of life is an easy way to help you feel more alive with just small shift in your perspective.

Contemplate Your Death

"Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

— Mary Oliver, from the poem "The Summer Day"

A practice to you can use to help you appreciate life more is to imagine what it would be like if you died. Think about all the things that you would miss. Spending time with your friends and family. Watching your favorite film. Eating dinner at your favorite restaurant. Imagine that you will never get to experience these things again. When you think about how much you’ll miss them, you’ll appreciate them even more the next you get to enjoy them.

There’s a great example of this in the film Fight Club. There’s a scene where Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, pulls a gun on a convenience store clerk, Raymond, and threatens him with it. He takes his wallet and he sees that Raymond has an expired community college id. He asks him what he studied and what he wanted to become. Raymond tells him he wanted to become a veterinarian, but that there was too much schooling involved. Tyler then takes Raymond’s drivers license and tells him he’s going to check up on him and that if he’s not on his way to becoming a veterinarian in the next six weeks that he’s going to kill him.

He then tells Raymond to run.

Throughout the whole incident, Edward Norton’s character is trying to get Tyler to stop. After Raymond runs for his life, he asks Tyler why he did it. Tyler says, “Tomorrow morning will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than anything you and I have ever tasted.”

Now I don’t recommend that you go out and threaten someone with gun to help them face their fear of death. The scene in the movie was meant to be extreme to prove a point – that once you face your death, it breaks you out of the spell of your ordinary life, and you appreciate life in a more present and fearless way.


"For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one."

— Kahlil Gibran

We will all die one day, and this is one thing that none of us can escape. Many of us ignore this and live our lives as if we had all the time in the world. By practicing Memento Mori, you stop putting off things until tomorrow. You let go of things that do not matter because they don’t really matter in the long run. You are more present in your life because you appreciate the fact that you are alive and breathing and you get to experience and the great and small joys of life. Take a little time each day to think about your death, because the more you are willing to face up to your mortality, the more alive you can feel each day.

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
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285 – Ambition or Contentment

One of the key aspects of stoicism is to be content with what we have. So how does this balance with ambition? If you are content, does that mean that you shouldn’t be striving to accomplish your goals? Today I want to talk about how stoicism can help you accomplish your goals while still finding contentment in your daily life.

"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."

— Seneca

One question that I get from time to time is how do balance ambition with the stoic teaching of contentment? Meaning, if we’re supposed to be content with how our life is and accept it for exactly what it is, how do you work hard and achieve the goals you want to accomplish in your life?

This is an interesting paradox to consider, because it seems like they are in opposition of one another. If you are content with what you have, does that mean that you become apathetic? If you are striving to accomplish your goals, does that mean that you are discontent with what you have?


"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens."

— Epictetus

First, let’s dig into the definitions for each of these things. What does it mean to be content? Does it mean that you simply accept life as it is? Does it mean that you’re docile and just let life happen?

Often people think that contentment means that we are happy with life as it is and don’t want things to change. But that’s the thing, life will change. As soon as we are content with life as it is at a particular moment, things change. We can’t just be content with life as it is in one static moment because that moment will not last. We need to learn to be content with life as an ever changing process. We need to learn to flow with life as it comes.

Contentment comes from an acceptance and appreciation of what is, of all things in your life whether you consider them positive or negative.

Finding contentment means that we accept life and all its changes and recognize that we have the power to choose how we want to view the events that happen. It means that you choose your perspective and outlook and you don’t let external events and circumstances be the driver of your mood.


“Concentrate on what you have to do. Fix your eyes on it. Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people. Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it. But with kindness. With humility. Without hypocrisy.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Now let’s talk about ambition. Let’s go with the definition that ambition means that you have specific goals that you are striving to accomplish. It could be that you want excel in your career or you are trying to master a skill. Maybe you want to improve yourself in some way. Does mean that you aren’t content with the way things are?

Where ambition leads to discontent is when we become dependent on the outcome. When we set our happiness upon achieving our goal is where we find the conflict with stoicism. The problem is not that you are discontent with the way things are and are trying to change them. The problem is when we focus on the outcome of our striving, then we set ourselves up for several kinds of unhappiness.

The first is that when we set our happiness on achieving the goal, then it is likely that we won’t be happy while we are striving for our goals because it is still out of our reach. We have decided that we can’t be happy until we get what we want, and you’ve given away your control. You’ve placed your sense of well being outside of yourself. Since the stoics remind us to focus on what you can control, you can only control your perspective and the choices that you make in the present moment.

Another pitfall of setting our happiness on the outcome is what happens if we fail to reach our goal? What if we give it everything we have and still fail? If your happiness is outcome dependent then you are allowing your happiness be dependent on something outside of your control.

Another problem with being dependent on the outcome is that when we actually achieve our goal, then we are often happy for a time, but then we find that happiness fades. Our level of happiness fades to the level it was before we achieved our goal. This is known as the hedonic treadmill. We work hard to get the bonus or the new house only to find that after a while we are just as happy or unhappy as we were before.


"Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well."

— Epictetus

So how do avoid the pitfalls of striving for our ambitions? How do we find contentment without becoming complacent?

When we learn to focus on the process of what we are doing, then we are able to find contentment in it. We work on being happy with our growth and how we are doing something rather than just achieving something. We find joy in learning how to master something. We find contentment in our own improvement, know matter how small.

What about external validation? Again, if we are intrinsically motivated, if we are motivated by our comparison with ourselves rather than needing the validation of others, then we can find contentment. The only person we should competing with is ourselves. Are we better than we were yesterday? Have we made progress?

Now does this mean that if we ignore external validation and comparisons that we’ll achieve our goals?


You could still work really hard on something, enjoy the process, and still not get what you want. But what you will have is control over your happiness. It will not be as dependent on what others think.

The outcome will be what it will be, but your happiness is not affected by the outcome. Because you cannot control the outcome, you can fail, and still be content because you enjoyed the process and did your best. You may not get that promotion. You may not win the race. But your self worth, your contentment will not be dependent on those things.

Another thing to consider is that we can’t develop our virtues of Justice, Wisdom, Temperance, and Courage without engaging with other people. All of these are things that we improve while we work on other things. You don’t gain wisdom by just sitting in your room reading books. You may get knowledge by doing that, but unless you interact with others it’s just knowledge.

The same goes with Courage, Justice, and Temperance. Unless you are busy with life and trying to be useful in the world, you are unable to develop these virtues. How would you know if you have courage if you are never tested? How do you develop temperance without challenges? It is by getting out into the world and trying to better ourselves in all that we do that we improves these virtues, and thereby improve the world.

As an example, say that you wanted to become a leader at your company. In doing so, you’ll have to learn how to work well with others. You’ll need to have wisdom of how to manage other people. You’ll need to learn to be fair with others, and to manage your own moods when things don’t go as planned. By putting yourself out there and trying to achieve your own goals, you’ll have to improve yourself, and in doing so you can make your work environment a much better place for yourself and those you work with. And one of the byproducts of focusing and doing the best you can with each situation as it arises, the more likely you are to succeed.

Enjoy the Present

"Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life."

— Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to be better about being content while we work towards our goals?

First and foremost, as I’ve mentioned several times in this podcast, we can focus on the How. We do our best to grow and learn when we learn to enjoy the process of doing. When we do this, we let go of the outcome determining whether we are successful or not.

Does this mean that we will be successful?


You can do everything perfectly and still not succeed. That is not a reflection on your character or whether or not you’re a good person or even whether you deserve the outcome you want. An important part of finding contentment in any situation is that you control the things you can and you let go of the things outside of your control.

You can train for decades for the Olympics, be the best in your sport, perform the best you can, and still not win a medal simply because someone else was a little better or conditions where not in your favor. How well someone else does, the decisions a judge makes, and other external factors are all outside of your control.

You can work hard at your job, put in more hours than your peers, and still get passed over for a promotion. You can study for months on end and still fail a test. And you can still find contentment if you don’t let the outcome determine your happiness.


"True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future."

— Seneca

I think the best way to think about this comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a former professor of medicine and author of several books including Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. He has been instrumental in bringing mindfulness and meditation into the West, and one of his key ideas is to life a life of non-striving. What he means by non-striving is that rather than constantly trying to strive and push for what you want, if you can develop and attitude of setting out in a direction and taking things as they come, you can approach things in a much more relaxed and positive way.

When you cultivate this way of looking at your life, because you’re not focused on the the outcome of what you’re working on, you are able to deal with any setbacks and challenges as they arise. They are considered part of the process of getting where you want and not things that are stopping you. You are also able to be present and focus at the task at hand, rather than being stuck focused on the future.

In the past I’ve used the example of kayaking on a river. When you’re out on the river, you know the direction you’re going, and you know that you’re going to come across rapids and eddies and other challenges along the way. If you can learn to flow and work with the currents and focus on getting through one challenge after another then you’re more likely to reach your destination and enjoy the ride along the way.

Now does this mean that if you are feeling discontented with where you are, that you are failing?

Not at all. We are emotional beings. We feel emotions even when we have worked hard to master them. Sometimes we feel unsettled for good reasons. The thing is, we need to understand WHY we feel this way. Sometimes we feel discontent because there is an injustice that we see in the world, or we are in a situation such as an unhealthy relationship or a high stress work environment. This could be a deeper signal that we need to change something.

When we feel this way, again, the most important thing we can do is to understand what we can control. Are there things that we can do to improve these situations? What actions can we take? While some things can be improved by changing our mindset around them, there are times when we need to take more drastic actions such as leaving a relationship or finding another job.

Personally, even though I’ve studied stoicism for over 6 years, I still struggle with feeling anxious and discontent with the way things are in my life. Just because I understand these principles doesn’t mean that they are easy to implement. I have to work at it every day because my natural inclination is to get focused on how things will been the future, and about how it will feel once I accomplish the things I’ve set out to do. It takes effort to remind myself to be present and enjoy where I am and what I’m doing and to let the future take care of itself.


We all have goals that we want to achieve in our lives. We have ambitions to be good at something and improve ourselves. When we achieve those goals we have certain sense of satisfaction that may las for a few hours to a few months. But the more that we can be in the present and be content where we are, we can have a sense of satisfaction that becomes part of our everyday lives.

It’s not a choice of being content OR achieving your goals, it’s about being content with where you are on your journey. When you focus your energy and your talents on mastering where you are, you can find contentment at any moment. You can enjoy walking the path. If all you’re focused on is the outcome, then you’re trying to control something that you can’t. Do your best, and let the chips fall where they will.

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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.

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

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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.

Q & A

284 – Q & A – Daily Life, God, Difficult People, and Politics

Hello friends, my name is Erick Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take an aspect of Stoicism and do my best to break it down to its most important points. I share my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from them all within the space of a coffee break.

So this week's episode is going to be a little bit different. I've been traveling quite a bit. I am now in Amsterdam. And so I put a post out on social media a couple of weeks ago. I guess about a week or so ago, that I'm going to do a question and answer episode. This is the first time I've done this, but I thought it might be interesting to give it a go.

So, I had some people on social media ask me some questions, I also asked some of my friends for their questions about Stoicism and just kind of about life and philosophy in general, and we'll see how this goes.

So the first question that I got was: What are some common mistakes people make when trying to practice Stoicism, and how can I avoid them?

So, the first mistake that most people think about stoicism is that stoicism is about repressing your emotions. That it's not showing any emotions when you are dealing with something that you're struggling with. And this is really not the case. Stoicism is about emotional awareness. It's about making sure that you are in touch with your emotions in a way that allows you to manage them better.

That you have control over your emotions and yourself rather than letting your emotions control you and this comes with, really working on your awareness about yourself awareness about the way that you think. The way that your emotions come because of the things that you think because remember when you are struggling with an emotion. Emotions are created by the thinking that you have, and that your thoughts are the things that lead to emotions and it also can create a feedback loop because emotions can impact your thinking.

So for example, if someone says something that you consider to be rude, it's your opinion of what they said that makes it rude. It's your opinion that causes the emotions that you feel about what they said. And by recognizing that it's your opinion that is causing the emotions, you get to choose how you let those emotions impact you and the actions that you take.

So that for me is probably. One of the most common mistakes that people make it when they start to practice stoicism, you're not cutting off emotions. You're just becoming more aware of them so that you can actually do something about them and manage them rather than having them control you.

So the next question is: How did you discover stoicism or what made you start studying it?

So, I first heard about Stoicism from Tim Ferriss. He mentioned the book, The Guide to the Good Life: The Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine. And he said it was a book that changed his life. And Tim reads lots of books, makes lots of recommendations. And for me, when Tim says, hey, this is a book that changed my life, it caught my attention.

And I also was curious about the title. Or the subtitle, The Art of Stoic Joy. Because to me, I only knew stoic as somebody who is, you know, very rigid and very emotionless. And so stoic joy was something that I liked the contradiction, so I thought I'd give it a read. So I got the book, and I read through it, and there were a lot of good ideas in it, but it didn't quite click the first time.

And I knew that there was something more to it, because as I listened to Tim's podcast, I would hear again and again, hey, you know, talking about stoicism, talking about stoicism. So I got the audio book and for about two or three months, I listened to it on the way to and from work. It was like a 15 minute commute.

And I kept having a lot of these aha moments every time I would be listening to it. And it was at that point that it really started to click for me. And I just kept having these moments where I'd be like, wow, that is an amazing idea. I never thought of that. I never knew that the world worked this way.

So at that point, I bought the daily journal that Ryan Holiday has, and this was back in 2017. And just at the beginning of 2018, so I could write it in the new year. And I started journaling, and my New Year's resolution was to start a podcast. And I wasn't sure what I wanted to start a podcast on, I had all kinds of ideas.

And I figured since I was learning about Stoicism, I would just do a podcast on Stoicism and it was supposed to be just a practice podcast. I would just practice making a podcast and I would talk about Stoicism because I needed a topic to talk about. And then things kind of took off and here we are today.

Next question is: What is the best way to practice Stoicism on a daily basis?

I think there are a lot of ways that you can practice Stoicism, but there are a few things that I've always found helpful and I know it's going to sound like I'm repeating the same thing, but these are all things that. It'll allow you to practice Stoicism on a daily basis.

I think that reading something from the Stoics such as Meditations or writings by Epictetus and Seneca or Rufus Masonius are always, always something good to add to your day. If it's, if Stoicism is just something that you're getting into, Ryan Holiday's books are also a great way to get a good introduction if you find the ancient text a little bit hard to follow. I think there are lots of great books out there that can be incredibly helpful. And I even like to mix in things by like Buddhist writers like Thich Nhat Hanh.

Now, another thing that I talk about a lot is meditation. And even though I've kind of fallen off the wagon with this and have not been practicing it every day like I used to, gaining that awareness of your own mind is incredibly helpful for emotional awareness and emotional management.

So a few years ago, I challenged myself to meditate for 60 minutes a day for 60 days in a row. And it was challenging. It was something that was very, very hard. And I found that usually the first half hour to 40 minutes, my brain was just kind of like randomly firing off thoughts and thinking about all kinds of things.

And then the last, you know, 20 – 25 minutes would be where I kind of find some peace and I could watch my thinking in a much more relaxed way. But I found that doing that exercise really helped me to have an overall ability to manage my thinking better. So it, it kind of did a big reset. Like my brain worked through a bunch of stuff and so my anxiety levels overall are much lower. And I find that when I need to, when I'm feeling anxious about something, I can just stop, take a deep breath and I'm able to manage my thoughts quite a bit better.

And so it's something that I'm working on getting back into every day. Probably do it a bit shorter than that, but if you can, I highly recommend doing that exercise. It's hard. It's very, very hard, but I found that from that point on, I was a lot more in control of how I could think about things. Another thing to understand about meditation is it doesn't mean that you just have to sit quietly in a room for 30, 60 minutes, whatever.

It can be just walking out in nature and paying attention to your thinking. It can be just taking a moment on the bus and just pay attention to your thinking. And just taking some time, even just 10 minutes a day to just sit down and allow yourself to be bored and to pay attention to your thoughts. And the goal of meditation, at least for me, is to not necessarily relax, but to become much more aware of what my brain is doing, what my brain is thinking of. And it's a, it's a very valuable skill because it's hard to manage your thinking if you're not aware of what you're actually thinking.

And the last way that I recommend, again, these are all simple tools that everybody talks about. So for me, I find that sitting down and writing in my journal is a good way to get everything that's kind of stirring around in my head. It's also a meditative practice for me.

So sometimes when I'm feeling anxious about things or I'm unclear about what I need to get done in my life, I just sit down and do a brain dump. And just whatever comes to my mind, I just start writing it down. And it takes what's spinning around in my head and puts it down on paper so one, it's easier to see and two, it's much easier just to be able to organize those types of thoughts.

So if meditation isn't your thing, maybe try journaling. I think that either of those two practices will really help you to become aware of your own thinking, which is a big part of how you can practice stoicism in your daily life much better.

So the next question I got is an interesting one, but I think I'll, I'll address it. And the question is: Is “God” a pronoun, the name of an all powerful man, or is “god” an ancient word meaning the totality of an infinite universe, and why?

So, this is an interesting question, and not something that is really particularly answered by Stoicism, so this is just my opinion on it, and, for me, I would tend to fall on the second option.

So, I think that god is just a way to try and explain why there is something rather than nothing. And because this is such a mysterious area, people from the beginning of time have tried to understand where we came from, why we're here, and where do we go when we die. And the truth is, we don't know.

I mean, we do know that there has to be something at the beginning. There has to be something that created everything that exists. There is some kind of force, a creative force that exists, otherwise there would be nothing. But to assume that it's some old guy with a beard or to ascribe or assume that we know what this person wants us to do or believe is not something that I just, that I can’t follow.

I mean, we tend to anthropomorphize things that we don't understand. And throughout history, people have claimed to know what this all powerful being wants us to do. And usually it's what that person wants us to do.

So the next question: How can I develop a stoic mindset when it comes to dealing with difficult people or situations?

I think the most important thing you can do is to not take anything personally, even if it is. When you can put some distance between you and what the other person is saying or doing, then it gives you choices. And if you're constantly being reactive to what someone else says or does, then you're not the one that's in control.

They are.

So one of the easier ways to do this is when you can recognize that what the other person is saying or doing is just their perspective. It's just their opinion. Just because someone said something doesn't mean that it's the truth. And if it is the truth, well, you should be open to it. You should be open to taking in things that are factual, even if they are uncomfortable.

I think the bigger part of this is that if someone can get you easily stirred up, well, that's your problem and not theirs. Yes, they may be an asshole and they may say stupid or mean things, but it's your opinion of what they're saying that gets you stirred up. It's the thoughts in your mind that create the emotions you feel, and those emotions drive your actions.

If you can simply take in the things that they are saying is just that, that they are words that are coming out of their mouths, then you can be curious about what they are saying and think about it. And honestly, I think that being curious about what others are saying And why they are saying it is one of the fastest ways to not let others get under your skin.

An example of this where I failed recently was when I was a podcast guest just a couple of weeks ago. Now, the podcast host was a pretty hardcore Catholic who had some very hardline views on some things that I disagreed with, and I found myself getting very defensive and things got a little bit heated.

It was still civil, but I was definitely riled up. And I was not really trying to understand his point of view or to be curious about why he believed the things that he did. And after the interview, I had some time to sit and think about how I didn't live up to my stoic ideals. I realized that I hadn't been curious, but I just wanted to prove that I was right, or at the very least prove that he was wrong.

And it was certainly a learning space for me, because I want to be curious. I want to try and understand others, even if I don't agree with them. And while I feel like I failed, I also feel like I learned something for the next time I talk with someone like him.

Next question: Who would Marcus Aurelius vote for?

Oh boy, this is going to be a thorny one, which is why I saved it for last. I'm assuming that the person who asked it is referring to the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And right now politics in the U. S. and in plenty of other countries is very divisive. But let's not fool ourselves.

Divisive politics is nothing new in the world. It just feels very amplified because of social media and the fact that we have so much more news available to us that we didn't have until the last 25 years or so. So let's walk through this and think about how we should choose our elected leaders. When we think about Marcus Aurelius and how he tried to govern, we see a leader who was unselfish, who was principled, he was thoughtful and patient.

He tried to be a leader who served those that he governed. He did his best to govern in a way that benefited as many people as possible, not just those who were on his side. He was not there for his own enrichment or glory. In fact, he sold items from the palace to help pay debts that needed to be paid.

He didn't live lavishly, but he lived plainly in order to focus on the job of running the empire. He was faithful to his wife, even though there were rumors that his wife had had affairs outside of their marriage. A good example of him trying to live up to his stoic principles was when Marcus was emperor, there was an attempted coup by Avidius Cassius, who was actually a trusted friend and a loyal general to the emperor.

And this betrayal was a major test of Marcus Aurelius stoic principles. Because he was faced with a very difficult situation that could have led to a lot of anger and revenge. However, Marcus demonstrated his commitment to Stoic principles by showing mercy and forgiveness to Cassius instead of seeking retribution. Which would have been the normal thing for most other emperors at that time.

So with that said, you have to ask yourself, which of the people running for office is doing their best to live up to these principles? Which one is trying to serve the whole nation and not just those that follow him? Which one speaks out about trying to find ways to bring us together and find things that we have in common rather than trying to create divisions between us?

If you look at what each of them actually says and does, and not just what you hear on partisan news channels, then I think you'll find a pretty clear distinction between them. The question is, are you willing to seek out that information, or are you just sticking to the news channels that say the things that you like to hear? Have you picked a side?

Now, I'm sure a lot of you were disappointed that I didn't directly choose a side, but I think that's part of the problem. There are no sides. I think a big problem is that politics has turned into nothing more than rooting for a side like you would for a football game. And people want their side to win.

I want the person who will be the best leader for all of us to win. I want the person that is doing their best to serve all of us. Not just someone who is seeking power for their own glory and to pour down favors onto those that they consider to be loyal to them. So when you look at the candidates, there's a few things I want you to think about.

Do you filter everything that happens from one party through a negative bias? Do you look at the politicians for the things that they do and actually say or do you gloss over it and simply follow it because it's your side? Now understanding your own perspective on it can be very, very helpful because then you can look at somebody for the things that they actually do and the things they actually say and see if it lines up with you.

I mean, personally, there are people on both sides of the political aisle because in the U. S. that's pretty much what we have is two sides, that when they do something good, when they put in legislation, when they say things that try to bring us together, I support that. I don't have a side that I choose and go, yep, I'm just going to follow this one blindly.

I will criticize people on the political party that I generally follow when they do things that are really stupid or when they do things that aren't helpful. And I'll do things such as when there's somebody on the other side who does good things, I'll praise them and support them because I think that it's not about which side.

It's about how do we govern in a way that is beneficial to the most people. And while we may disagree on that, we need to be able to come together and actually talk about that and be willing to listen to people and understand their point of view. And I think that's the hardest thing, is that we get stuck in this way of thinking that other people think just like us.

And if we don't understand where someone is coming from and what their values are, what's important to them, they may choose a candidate who is just saying the things that they want to hear. Even if that candidate isn't standing up for the principles that we truly believe in.

Now the Stoics have four virtues, and I think that that's probably one of the best places to start to pick out a political candidate, and the four virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. Is the political candidate you're looking at wise? Do they take in science? Do they take in learning? Do they take in experience and try to apply it in a way that, again, helps the most people? Are they courageous and willing to stand up for their beliefs and their principles even when they're getting knocked down pretty hard for those things?

Are they in search of justice or are they looking out for vengeance or revenge? And lastly, are they moderate? Are they willing to listen to people on both sides? Are they willing to have the self discipline for themselves to not let their baser emotions, their baser impulses come out and lash out angrily at their opponents, but that they do their best to reach across and try to treat their opponents with respect and compassion and try to govern and not just rule? And I think that's really probably one of the best things that you can filter any political candidate for.

So that's the end of this week's episode. Like I said, this is something new that I'm trying out. If you have any questions that you want to send to me, I will probably do another episode like this and hopefully you will have some good questions for me to answer about stoicism, about how to look at the world through a stoic perspective, how to apply stoicism in your daily life.

I think there are a lot of things you can do and the more detailed the question, the more I appreciate it. I'd really like to get some good ideas generated through this. So I'd appreciate it if you'd send me your questions. And as always be kind to yourself, be kind to others and thanks for listening.

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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.

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or threads.
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.


283 – Interview With Gavan Wilhite

Hello friends! This weeks episode is an interview with Gavan Wilhite. Gavin is a longtime listener of my podcast and he contacted me a few months ago to chat about some things. We had a great conversation. He's a serial entrepreneur and he's got his fingers in a lot of different pies. We talked about entrepreneurship, about making an impact on the world and doing the things that we can do with the tools that we have.

We also touch on how stoicism is a powerful tool if you are running your own business and how that helps you to be a much better leader, because I think that as we can see from the throughout history, the good leaders all seem to display stoic principles in their lives.

Gavan is a smart, compassionate, and just an all around great guy. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. (Sorry there’s no transcript. The transcription service I use really messed the whole thing up and I haven’t gotten it cleaned up.)

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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.

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram, LinkedIn, and threads.
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.