278 – The Truth About Lying

Do you lie? Do you believe that everyone lies? Why are some lies acceptable? Why should we allow people to lie without repercussions? Today I want to talk about the different kinds of lies and deceptions, and what we can do to be a bit more honest, and a little more aware when others are trying to deceive us.

“We tell lies, yet it is easy to show that lying is immoral.”

— Epictetus

Why do we lie?

For most people, we lie because it gets us what we want. When we lie, it implies that we either want to gain something by deceit, or that we know what is best for the person and have the right to impose our will on them.

Sometimes we lie because it greases the social wheels and avoids conflict. Like when we tell someone that their hair looks great even when it doesn’t, it’s because we don’t want the other person to feel bad. We’re keeping the social situation from getting uncomfortable or awkward. When someone asks how we are doing and we say we’re doing fine, even when aren’t, it’s because we don’t really want to talk about it.

In other cases we lie to avoid punishment or to somehow avoid the consequences of telling the truth. In my own life, I often lied to my father to avoid getting beaten because of something that he disapproved of. I would lie at church so that I didn’t get in trouble with the bishop. In either case, telling the truth was something that was not rewarded, so like any self-preserving person I would simply tell them what I thought they wanted to hear.

Sometimes we lie to inflate our importance and impress others. We may embellish a story that we tell to others to get them to like us or think more highly of us. We may make our accomplishments on our resume sound more impressive than they really are so that we can get that job that we want.

Sometimes we lie to manipulate or control others. By deceiving others we may get them to do what we want. We see this in political rallies all the time. There are some politicians who will simply say what they think others will want to hear even if they know they aren’t true. Whether that’s demonizing others with differing politics or those that are weaker or have no political power, they say things that will get others riled up because when people are upset about something they’re easier to control.

We Want to Believe

“Liars are the cause of all the sins and crimes in the world.”

— Epictetus

So why do we fall for lies? Why do we believe some people even when they don’t have the facts on their side?

For the most part, we fall for lies because as humans we want to believe other people. Society runs smoother and generally works better when we assume that others are telling the truth. The benefits of believing that others are communicating honestly outweighs the cost of being deceived from time to time. Also, most lies that people tell are usually inconsequential and cause little or no harm.

Because we generally believe others, or at least want to believe others, it makes us particularly gullible, and targets for those who are good at deceiving others. Timothy Levine, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of Duped: Truth-default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception writes:

“People are typically honest unless they have a specific reason to communicate deceptively, and people tend to believe others unless suspicion, skepticism, or doubt is actively triggered”.

Another big problem is that we all like to think that we are able to know when people are lying to us. But in study after study, we’re not that good it. We tend to believe people that sound confident and self-assured, even if they are misleading us.

One of the most interesting aspects of deception is when we look at it through the lens of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone overestimates their knowledge and abilities in an area, but lack the metacognition to recognize their own incompetence. They will speak with strong opinions as if they’re an expert, yet they really know very little.

When it comes to deception, this has an effect on both sides. Because we tend to trust others when starting out, when someone speaks confidently we tend to believe them. And on the receiving end, because we think we are experts at knowing when people lie to us, we overestimate our own ability to know when others lie to us.

Future Liars… um… Leaders

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.

— Plato

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

— H. L. Mencken

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking talked about how she was in an information session for prospective Harvard Business School students. They were told that they should “speak with conviction…even if you believe something only 55%, say it as if your believe it 100%”.

Think on that for a moment. These are MBA students at one of the top business schools in the world. These are future managers and leaders of companies. Rather than working with data to come to conclusions that are sound and well founded, with exceptions clarified and doubts well-aired so that they can prepare for them, they are instructed to lie in order to get people to follow them. It’s as if their being trained to emulate the Dunning-Kruger effect.

One high profile case of this includes Elizabeth Holmes who defrauded investors of hundreds of millions of dollars with her biotech startup Theranos. Her ability to project confidence and believe in the product that her company was selling even though she knew it didn’t work got some of the biggest inventors in Silicon Valley to put money into her company.

Sam Bankman-Fried, who was the founder of FTX, which at one point was one of the largest crypto trading firms was so convincing about his abilities that he defrauded investors and traders out of billions of dollars. When FTX fell apart, the effect rippled through the crypto markets and even into the larger financial sector.

Confirmation Bias

“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

— Noel Coward

Often times we believe others because it’s something that we want to believe. Confirmation bias is when we tend to look for evidence that something we want to believe is true and ignore contradictory evidence. This happens because we want to believe things that align with our opinions or fears. The more evidence we find that supports our ideas, the better we feel about ourselves. We gain confidence in ourselves because we feel like our opinions are correct. It soothes the ego, and bolsters the identity that we have of ourselves. In other words, we like to feel like we are right.

Confirmation bias is also a cognitive shortcut. It’s often a way to deal with ambiguous situations or ones where we don’t have enough information. We latch onto an idea because we need some clarity, and search for anything that confirms our idea so that we’ll be able to move forward. If we remain in doubt for too long or wait until we have enough information we might get stuck and not take any action at all.

Look in the Mirror

“My philosophy means keeping that vital spark within you free from damage and degradation, using it to transcend pain and pleasure, doing everything with a purpose, avoiding lies and hypocrisy, not relying on another person's actions or failings. To accept everything that comes, and everything that is given, as coming from that same spiritual source.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“This is an era of universal hyperbole. Every day delivers a new banality disguised as an emergency. Distrust your first reactions. Begin with the assumption that you are overreacting. Conserve your emotional energies for your real concerns.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

So how do we make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of deceiving others? How can we get better about being truthful ourselves so that we don’t spread misinformation?

Most of us think that we’re honest and that we don’t lie to others. But if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we all lie and deceive to some extent. We may not even notice it. We might not be directly honest with someone or we will omit things because we don’t want to hurt their feelings, or we’re afraid that they will get mad at what we have to say. We also need to be aware of when we are not taking responsibility for ourselves. We may obfuscate or omit details so that we shift blame or lessen the consequences of our actions.

I think within each situation we need to act according to our principles. We also need to think about what we are trying to accomplish. Just because something is true and you are trying to be honest doesn’t mean that it needs to be brought up. Sometimes there are things that just don’t need to be said because they are are not important to the conversation.

But, with that said, it is not an excuse to not have difficult conversations. Sometimes, candor is exactly what is needed so that there can be clear communication and mutual understanding. In both situations it comes down to thinking about handling yourself according to your principles. Are you treating the other person with kindness? When you are speaking candidly, are you using it as a way to belittle or manipulate the other person? There are ways to be candid and yet show discretion and still hold to your principles.

Be willing to recognize that you could be wrong. Just because you hold an opinion about something doesn’t mean that it is correct, or that it even matters. When you get new information, be willing and open to changing your opinion. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind. In fact, the more you are willing to change your mind, the easier it is to grow.

You can also ask yourself if you even need to have an opinion about this thing. Does it matter if you have an opinion about it? Does holding that opinion make you more or less compassionate to others? Does it help you to be kinder to everyone around you? If it doesn’t then maybe you need to reexamine your opinion, and maybe even get rid if it.

Lately, ask yourself is it possible that the opposite is true? Be willing to look at something that you believe strongly in and try to hold the opposite opinion and see things from a different point of view. Taking the time to make sure that you can see the world from a different perspective can help you to see the world in a better light.


“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.”

— Denis Diderot

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

— Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to be more aware of when we’re being lied to?

A lot of why we believe people who lie to us is that they are often telling us the things that we want to hear. They are things that already align with our point of view or opinions. They feed our ego. We need to be willing to be skeptical about our own beliefs. We need to be willing to adjust our opinions. We need to be like a scientist and work with the best information that we have, and change our opinions and our point of view when we get new data.

Like most things, I think that we need to be clear about what our principles are. When we are clear about our principles, then it doesn’t matter who we are listening to or what they are saying because if it doesn’t align with our principles we can disregard it, or at the very least examine it dispassionately.

When we get too attached to who is saying something, then we often lose our objective point of view. It doesn’t matter what political party, gender, race, or any other difference that someone has, we should view what they have to say with how well it aligns with our principles, regardless of who they are. When we stick to our principles, then the message matters more than the messenger.

Watch your emotions. If you are getting really emotional about something, there’s a good chance you’re being manipulated. People who are masters of deception will play off your emotions as much as they can. When you are feeling a strong emotion about something, it’s easier override your rational thinking, and you’re more likely to make impulsive and irrational decisions. Learning to be dispassionate when you need to be can help you to take a step back and objectively look at what others are trying to convince you of.

Trust but verify. Next, verify from the most reputable sources you can find. Look at the track record of the places you get your information from. How often have they been wrong in the past? How often to they present opinions as facts? Part of the reason that we have institutions and agencies in our governments is so that they carry on the practices and procedures that help us move forward as a society. Often people who are trying to deceive us will attack those very institutions to further their own agendas.

Opinion vs facts. Be careful when someone states their opinion about something as a fact. We see this on news channels all the time, especially when it comes to politics. When someone states something as being true that sounds like an opinion, challenge them. Ask them for the facts to back up the things that they are saying. Often simply asking for the data or where they got their information from will expose that they either made it up, or they will actually get you the information that you requested.

This happened to me a few years ago when a friend contacted me and was trying to convince me of some pretty far fetched conspiracy theories. I told him that I’d need to see some real data from some reliable sources. He kept telling me to “do my own research” and I would “find the truth”. I kept politely asking him for his sources so that we could be on the same page. When he couldn’t offer me any reputable resources he just got more and more upset till he finally got so angry that he blocked me.

When it comes to political arguments, a good sign that the person you’re listening to is trying to deceive you or convince you of something that probably isn’t good for society is when they demonize or dehumanize others. Blaming others for what’s wrong in your life or the world is a typical tactic of demagogues. If someone can’t convince you of something using rational arguments and clear data and has to resort to tearing down others to try and win you over to their side, that should be a good indicator that someone is trying to manipulate you.


There’s lots of BS in the world. It’s been even said that we live in a post truth world because there is so much disinformation online. People hold onto their opinions so tightly that we can’t even agree on the basic facts of what’s going on to the point where it’s hard to know what the truth is.

The best way to handle ourselves in this chaotic environment is to make sure that we verify our information from reputable sources. We need to be aware when someone is trying to manipulate us through our emotions. We can filter what we hear through the lens of our principles so that we are not too attached to the opinions of any particular person or group. We can take the time to be a little skeptical of everything we hear. And most importantly we should be willing to question our own opinions, and change them when necessary because in doing so, we can grow and move a little closer to the truth.

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.

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Thanks again for listening.


276 – The Zen of Zeno: Exploring the Art of Stoic Patience

Are you a patient person? Do you pay attention in your life or are you just rushing through your day? Today I want to talk about how patience is one of the most important attributes you need to live a full life, and reach your goals.

"A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else."

— Epictetus


We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re used to getting almost anything we want easily and quickly. When you buy something on amazon, you get it just a day or two. You want to see a movie, listen to that certain song all you have to do is open your phone or your computer. Want a date or to order dinner? There’s an app for that.

But when it comes to personal growth or achieving our goals, often things don’t move that quickly. We may learn something and want to improve ourselves, but we are creatures of habit and changing behaviors and well worn thought patterns is not something we can just decide and change instantly. While I wish it were just as easy opening the menu of an app and choosing a few options, it takes consistency, and to be consistent takes patience.


“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.”

— Zeno of Citium

Patience is something that needs to be practiced and cultivated. Our world is all about instant gratification and trying to get your attention all day long. They even have a term for it – the attention economy. Your attention is so important that they are willing to do whatever they can to get your attention. The more that apps and advertisements have your attention, the more likely you are to buy whatever it is that they are selling.


"Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is 'timing' – it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way."

— Fulton J. Sheen

Impatience is a non-acceptance of reality. When we are impatient, we are expressing our frustration with reality for what it is and wishing that it was something else. We are registering out discontent with the now and want it to be something different than what it is.

When we are patient, we have a strong sense of awareness. We are present where we are. We give the now – where we are, what we are doing, and what we want to accomplish our full attention. If you wonder why the quality of your work is not where you want it to be, notice how much attention you pay to what you are doing.

Years ago I decided that I wanted to learn to play the cello. I got myself a nice cello, hired a teacher, practiced a minimal amount of time each day, and dutifully showed up for my lessons each week. While I made some progress, I felt frustrated because I wasn’t progressing as fast as I thought I should. I assumed that because I already knew a lot about music that my previous skills would help me to be proficient in a short amount of time. But after a year, I quit.

Looking back on it years later, I realized that I was too impatient. I had expectations of where I thought I should be after a certain amount of time. When I didn’t hit those expectations, I found excuses about why I wasn’t making the progress I wanted. Excuses like, “I was just too busy to practice like I needed to”, or “Maybe the cello is just not my thing”. In reality, it was simply that I needed the patience to put the time and attention to my practice to get to the level that I wanted to be at.


Patience is not procrastination. Procrastination is about doing anything other than what you are actually trying to accomplish. It’s about distracting yourself from the task at hand, because there is some feeling of discomfort attached to what you are trying to get done. Patience is the opposite of procrastination. Patience is about taking your time with what you are doing so you give it your full and undivided attention. Patience is about sitting with the uncomfortable so that you can accomplish what you set out to do.

Falling Behind

"Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time."

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of the reason why many of us struggle with patience is that we feel like we are falling behind. In each culture there are often markers of what means to be successful. We may see others around us making some kinds of achievements and feel like there is something wrong with us when we aren’t as successful as our peers. We may have also created expectations around ourselves and where we should be, and if we’re not there we start to feel like we are failing. We begin to feel stress, which ultimately leads to us not getting things done on time, or at the level that we know we can.

Do it Well

When we choose patience over rushing, then we do whatever it is we are working on better. Whether we are washing dishes, weeding the garden, or coding an application, when we choose to be mindful and give it our attention, the quality will almost always be better. When we take our time to do something well, then we also almost always save time because we aren’t rushing. When we rush we’re prone to do things poorly and make mistakes that slow us down and will often create issues that we will have to fix later.

Focused attention can save us time in the long run.

Patience is Optimism

When we are patient, we are also optimistic. When we choose to put the time and energy into doing whatever we are doing so that it is done right, we have faith that putting focus into our task is worth it. It means that we have decided that our task, whether that’s teaching a child how to play soccer, writing a book, or sweeping the kitchen floor, is worth our time and attention.

Listening is Understanding

“Formulating an opinion is not listening.”

― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Often we don’t have patience when we are reading a book or listening to someone talk. We hurry through the book we are reading. We put the podcast on double speed. When listening to someone we may try to rush ahead and generalize their message, rather than taking the time to really understand the subtleties and nuances. We try to get the information out as fast as we possibly can. But collecting information is not the same as understanding something.

When we rush ahead we miss the subtext, what is hinted at, implied, or said between the lines. We also miss the joy of discovery and play with the material or person we’re listening to. When we seek to understand, we take the time we need. We allow for discovery. We let what we’ve learned sink in. We may even pause to consider what we’ve heard, or go back and reread a paragraph that has something deeper that we may have missed on the first pass.

The internet is full of information, but what is more important than all the information that is out there is we understand what we are consuming in a deeper way. Finding the right book or the key information is good, but unless we internalize it, reflect on it, and understand how to apply it, then it just stays in the realm of knowledge, and never makes its way to wisdom. Wisdom takes patiences.

This is why Socrates asked so many questions. He didn’t just want information, but he wanted to understand the information that he had. Being able to recite all the facts about something does you little good if you do not truly understand what it means and are able to use that information in a wise way.


“I live my life, I live it slowly. I take my time, I’m in no hurry.”

— Seal

In order for us to pay attention, we need patience. Attention takes times, energy, and effort. But to do anything well, it needs our attention. Good relationships take attention. Raising children takes attention. Creating art, building a business, or developing a new skill, all of these things take attention. Attention is your greatest resource in anything you do.

So often we simply sleepwalk through our lives because we aren’t paying attention. We have a list of things that we need to get done, and we push through those, often on autopilot. We do this all throughout the day with whatever it is we are doing. Going for a run, shopping for groceries, driving the kids to school. We pay so little attention to what we are doing that the day just slips by and the next thing we know we’re brushing our teeth and heading for bed.

Consider how different your life might feel it you gave your life the attention you would give to performing open heart surgery. Rather than mindlessly crossing things off our daily checklist, think of how much more engaged with your life would you be if you gave it focused attention. You would still get all the things done on your checklist, but you would be much more present with each moment. You would have been more immersed in each step of each task. Taking the time to slow down and be present enriches each moment. It gives each moment more weight and focus.

Attention is Love

Growing up, one of the most important people in my life was my grandmother. What I remember most about her is the attention that she gave me when we talked. Whether that was me excitedly telling her all the details of my latest wrestling match or theater performance, or talking about the girls at school, I always felt like what I said mattered to her. I felt like I mattered. She asked questions and never rushed me. I felt loved around her because she didn’t just give me her time, she gave me her attention.

Do you give attention to the people in your life? Are you patient with them? Are you present and attentive with your family and friends or are you too busy scrolling on your phone? Even with the challenging relationship that I had with my father, the things I remember most are not the material things he gave me, but the interesting conversations that we had about things like the cosmos and chaos theory. It was his attention that I wanted.

Thinking Takes Time

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."

— Saint Augustine

Good thinking takes time. When we are rushed or stressed, our ability to think drops dramatically. Our ability to consider and come up with more options is reduced. This is why people in chaotic situations often make terrible decisions. This why soldiers practice in situations that are high stress so that they can slow things down and make good decisions under fire.

Now, most of us don’t need to make decisions under that kind of stress. We usually have time to sit down and think things over. But how often do you take that kind of time? How often do you sit at your desk and just think? Or sit down and write out your thoughts so that you can examine them a bit more rationally? Or maybe go for a walk to consider something? Taking your time to consider something is always a good choice because it allows your mind to consider more options and survey the landscape. You’re often better able to see the whole picture and have a broader view than when you’re rushing into a decision

Practicing Patience

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

— Aristotle

So how do we get better about practicing patience?

Patience is really about mindfulness. It’s about slowing down and taking your time. When you are doing something, be as mindful as you can be. At first, this will not be easy. If your tendency is to rush, you’ll want to get through something rather than experiencing it. Can you slow down? Can you start to notice details? Can you see how thoroughly you can do something? Can you find ways to do each task well and improve how you do it? I think you’ll be surprised at much pleasure you can get just by trying to do each step just a little better.

Limiting Distractions

The more you can limit distractions, the easier it is to be patient. If you’re in a conversation with someone, try putting your phone on airplane mode so that you can give them your full attention. If you’re working on a project make sure that your workspace is clean and organized and that other projects or distractions are out of the way.

For example, when I write a podcast episode, I will often take my laptop out of my office and sit on my front deck to write. Because I can only use the screen on my laptop rather than the large monitors in my office, it is harder to get distracted with other web pages or apps.


"Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears."

— Barbara Johnson

I often talk on this podcast about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is one of the most important skills that you can develop. When you choose to face discomfort head on, you are able to learn to relax when things are challenging. You are able to do what needs to be done even if it is not what you might consider fun or enjoyable. It is about taking control of yourself, and your emotions and pressing forward even when you don’t feel like it.

Being patient can feel uncomfortable. Whether that’s working on a project, creating a piece of art, or trying to make changes in our lives, we want to get things done fast. We fixate on the end goal, and miss out on enjoying the process. When we are patient, we are able to bring mindfulness to the process, and be present rather than just running on autopilot.

When you are working on a project or reading a book, set aside an amount of time where you are only allowed to work on the particular task or nothing at all. By forcing yourself to confront the uncomfortable feelings, you’ll start to develop the capacity to just sit with them. You’ll be able to be okay with with how you feel and not reach for distractions to alleviate the discomfort.

Observations on Boredom

One of the most interesting things that I’ve noticed when I really pay attention to a task that I consider boring like washing dishes or doing yard work is that I will often have random ideas or inspirations that pop up that have nothing to do with what I’m doing. By giving my focus to the task, it seems to take my full conscious attention, which allows my unconscious to work through something else, and give me answers in other areas where I felt stuck.


Time is the most precious resource we have. By learning to slow down and be patient with the time you have, you use it wisely. As I get older, I feel the weight of having less time ahead of me than I have behind me. I want my time to last as long as possible, and I want to use the remaining time I have on this planet to accomplish what I want. I’ve found that the more patient and mindful that I am in my everyday tasks, the days seem to slow down and last longer. And while patience is not about productivity, by practicing patience and attention we actually end up being more productive. Patience helps us to do everything we do at a higher level, and helps us be more present and really experience everything in our lives more fully.

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 twitter.
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.


240 – Interview with Trever Yarrish

Interview with Trever Yarrish
Interview with Trever Yarrish

Trever Yarrish is the owner and founder of Zeal Software and The Hiive co-working space. He is also a good friend and one of my favorite people to chat with about stoicism. He's an avid student of stoicism and brings many of the stoic principles and ideas into his companies and his personal life. We sat down and had a chat about life, work, family, and the importance of having a process for managing your mind and emotions.

Books mentioned in the podcast:
The Power of Giving Away Power
Existential Kink

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. 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.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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

Find me on instagram or twitter.

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.


239 – Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned
The Universe is Change

Hey everyone, this year has been an especially rough year for many of us. I can honestly say it has been for me. I had another episode mostly written but I decided that I wanted to change things up and talk about what I have learned over the past year, and ask you about the most important things you have learned.

The past few years have been quite a ride for the world. With Covid shutting down so many things and altering our way of life in so many ways, we have all been affected in big and small ways. For me, the company I work for shut down our offices and we now all work remote. Since the company I work for is very small, we all decided that it wasn’t worth the risk since if one of us got sick and came into the office, there was a high likelihood that everyone else would catch it as well.

This has been a mixed blessing. I enjoy working from home and having a lot a freedom and flexibility in my work. But, I’m also an extrovert and a very social person. I really enjoy spending time with others. Finding connection with other people is one of the things that feeds my soul, and Covid made that very challenging. Over time, I found myself retreating more and more and reached out less and less to friends. I think I also fell into a bit of depression because of my lack of time with others, as well as struggling with my own self esteem.

I had also stopped the podcast a while before the pandemic, but a year or so in, I decided for my own sanity to restart it so that I could spend some time each week tending to my mental health by working on the podcast. Each episode that I create is more than likely something I’m struggling with at the time I’m working on it. This helped me focus on the shit that I was dealing with, and try to find some ways to effectively deal with them. I call the podcast my public therapy.

But I think this last year has been one of the hardest but also one with some incredible growth. This year I’ve been working through the ending of my primary relationship with my partner of almost 9 years. In many ways I really put off dealing with it, which unfortunately made things much harder. It hasn’t been until the past few months that I felt like I had the strength and the skills to face it head on. It was why I took a break from the podcast at the beginning of last year, under the guise of spending more time working on learning Unreal Engine to change my career path. I felt a lot of shame over my failure to fix the issues in my relationship, and felt like a failure and a hypocrite if I continued the podcast. I mean how could I tell you, my audience, how to improve your lives when mine felt like a disaster?

But as I’ve worked through the ending of that relationship, I’ve learned some things about myself that helped me make some big strides, and I felt it was important to share them with you. I worked through some big blindspots and learned a lot about myself, and finally felt like I had a grasp on some concepts that could really move the needle for anyone who was trying to improve their lives. Many of those became episodes, and I feel like they’ve been some of my best. So now, I’d like to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year.

Lesson One: Failure is just missed expectations.

I often talk a lot about learning from failure on this podcast, and it’s become very popular to talk about being okay with failure. But, to be honest, I think that even though we say it’s okay to fail there’s a part of us that still struggles to accept that. We don’t like failing at things, even if we say it’s okay to fail.

But over the last year, I finally started to make sense of a quote from Epictetus that took me many years to understand:

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

― Epictetus

The reason why this was hard for me to understand is that when something goes wrong or there is some kind of failure, I used to think there was always someone to blame. But what I’ve come to realize is that we only consider something a failure because we have some expectations around it. When we just accept that something happened the way that it did because that’s how all the circumstances and variables lined up, then there is really no one to “blame”.

When we can simply look at something dispassionately as cause and effect, and release any expectations about what we think should happen, we are able to observe, accept, and deal with what is. We learn to deal with reality as best we can, and not be upset that things didn’t happen as we wished they would.

Lesson Two: You are worthy of love because you exist.

Often, I felt like I had to be perfect for someone to love me. I felt like I had to be perfect for me to love and accept myself, and this is simply not the case. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and to accept yourself. And there are several things to consider around this that support my opinion.

First, no one can ever be perfect. There is no absolute standard of what a “perfect” person is. And if there was, who would be the one to set that standard? Why should they be the one to set that standard? You have the ability to set the standards for yourself, and part of that standard, in my opinion, should be how kind and compassionate a person can be with themselves.

Second, people will love you because they choose to do so. You have no control over who loves you. As the stoics have well established we can’t control other people.

Third, the stoics recognized that we are all part of the human family and that we are here to help each other the best we can. If we live a life that is only centered around ourselves, then we have missed some of the best things in life. It’s been shown through many experiments and studies that the best way to create joy in your life is to help other people. So do your best to help others, and let them help you.

Lesson Three: The more you run away from the things that you fear, the more power they have over you.

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca.

Throughout the evolution of mankind, there were plenty of mortal threats that we had to have healthy sense of fear in order to stay safe. For the most part, most of us life in fairly safe places where we rarely have to worry about our physical safety. Most of the things that cause us distress are the thoughts, perceptions, and opinions in our own minds. In other words, we create our own fear. We stress ourselves out. We are the main source of our suffering.

More often than not, when we take the time to examine our own thinking about something, we can see that it is our imagination that is really scaring us. We create the worst case scenario in our minds, and convince ourselves that it is the most likely outcome. Whether that’s a hard conversation with our partner, kids, or friends, or standing up when there is an injustice that we object to, we imagine the worst outcome, and scare ourselves into inaction. We may fail to see that what we consider to be an awful outcome might be a great opportunity.

Lesson Four: You need to be the source of your self esteem.

For a lot of us, especially those who grew up in chaotic and unstable homes, we developed ways to deal with the chaos that, while they were helpful at the time, don’t serve us well in adulthood. Many of us become “people pleasers” in order to stay safe so that we minimize the abuse we suffered from the people closest to us. In my case, this was the unpredictable rage that came from my father. And when I say “people pleaser”, it really isn’t about pleasing the other person. It means that we try to figure out how to keep the other person happy so that we don’t upset the person we look to as our source of love.

When we get into relationships later in life, we will carry these ways of coping with us because it’s what we know. The problem is that if we’re with a partner that has a healthier sense of themselves and how relationships work, these kind of coping skills don’t work. We will try to figure out what we should say or do so this person will love us. We discard our own wants and needs so that this person will still love us. But, to anyone that understands healthy relationships, this is manipulation. We aren’t being honest, we aren’t being our authentic selves. We are trying to be what we think they want to be so that they will stay happy with us and love us.

So lesson number four is that we can’t expect others to be our source of self esteem and healing. We need to be that source for ourselves. To be honest, it is completely unfair that we should expect our partners to be the only source of love for us, and that they should be the ones to fix us. That’s a lot of pressure on anyone. It is also putting our source of self esteem outside of ourselves, so we aren’t in control of it.

When we learn how to accept and love ourselves, we become that source of love for ourselves. We take control of how we feel about ourselves, which means that we can show up in our relationships as a whole person that can accept the love of others, but is not dependent on it. This also means that rather than looking to the other person for what they can give us, we can find healthier ways to give and take in a relationship, rather than just taking.

There are a lot of other lessons that I learned this year, but these are the core ones that stood out to me, especially the lesson of self acceptance. Realizing that by putting that burden on someone else means that it is out of my control was really a life changer. It’s not an easy thing to change your thinking around yourself, and just accept yourself for exactly who you are. There is a lot of pressure to conform to societal ideas of perfection, that no one can ever live up to. There’s a lot of power in accepting yourself for exactly who you are, and extending that to others.

So what lessons have you learned this year? What helped move the needle for you? Are there things that you finally understood that make a big impact on your life? If you’d like to share, please share them on instagram. The account for the podcast is If you’re on twitter, you can find me at @StoicCoffee. I’ll put a post up there about lessons learned in 2022. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned over the last year that really impacted your life.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. 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.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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

Find me on instagram or twitter.

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.


226 – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance
It’s the Truth I’m After

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

— Marcus Aurelius

Today I want to talk about one of the most interesting things about humans, the fact that we cling so dearly to our belief systems in face of contradiction evidence, often to our own detriment.

Why do humans resist changing their minds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence? How often have you changed your opinions when presented with new facts? How often have you actually changed your behavior when you learned new information? How often to you rationalize your opinion or simply deny facts because they don’t fit your belief system?

The human mind is a very malleable and flexible thing. It is because of this flexibility that we are able to survive in all kinds of environments and circumstances. Over time and through experience, we develop a belief system of how the world works. Much of this comes from the circumstances we grow up in. The culture around us, the family we are born into, even the physical surroundings can inform and influence our belief system.

A big reason why we have this ability is that the brain is a pretty good prediction machine, but it needs to have principles and ideas to work from. It’s job is taking past experiences and merging it with current information to try and predict what will happen next. It is precisely this ability that helps us to survive.

As a child, it is easy to be more flexible with our thinking, simply because we are inexperienced and don’t have a lot of knowledge. Everything is new to us at some point, so we’re naturally curious because just don’t know. Our brains are looking for more information and experiences in order to make better predictions. We try things and see how they work or don’t work, and adjust our expectations accordingly. With each new bit of information we’re able to make better predictions to help us survive, and ultimately thrive.

But while the human mind is flexible and adaptable, as we age, it takes effort to keep this flexibility of thinking. As we gain more and more knowledge and experience we are usually able to make better predictions of how we think things work. These in turn inform our opinions and judgments and hopefully help us navigate the world in a safe way so that we might live long and prosper. Where we run into trouble is when we decide that we have enough knowledge and information and turn those opinions and judgements into beliefs.

Often though, we are simply given beliefs by those we trust. This includes family, friends, teachers, leaders – anyone that we consider an authority. Many beliefs we pick up are not well tested or thought out. They are just ideas that have been around for a while. Many ideas are tenacious not because they are right, but because they reach a critical mass within a culture or community. Superstitions, religious beliefs, conspiracy theories are prime examples. Pretty much anything that is taken as truth without little to no evidence, site dubious sources, or are not open to exploration with new information can be categorized as beliefs.

A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity that to your convictions. The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts. It’s to revise old views to incorporate new facts. Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.

— Adam Grant

When something becomes a belief, whether from external influences or ones that we have created ourselves from our own experience, it turns into something that we no longer question, but defend from anything that might threaten that belief.

So why do we find it so hard to change our beliefs? What’s in us that we will deny and fight for our belief, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we are wrong? What is the benefit of acting this way?

When we have a deeply engrained belief, and we come upon new information that shows that we could be wrong, we start to feel cognitive dissonance. Basically, when the mind has two or more contradictory beliefs, we start to feel tension as we grapple with the fact that something we thought was true, might not be true.

When we feel this disharmony, we have a number of options that we can take. We can take in the new information, adjust this belief that we have which will in turn change our behavior. We can can rationalize and make excuses for why it doesn’t really apply in this case so that we can hold onto our belief. Or, as what happens in many cases, we ignore or deny the information and go on holding the same belief.

Since our minds want to resolve this tension, it often takes the last option of just ignoring or denying the evidence in front of us is the easiest option. It’s the one that takes the least amount of work, and allows us to simply go on living like we had before. Change takes work and our minds are lazy and want to hold onto the status quo.

Most of us like to think that we’re good about receiving new information and adjusting our opinions and behaviors accordingly. But this is something that we all do, often without even really thinking about it. To illustrate this, I’d like to take an example from daily life. How often have you rationalized eating something that you know is bad for you, but you don’t want to give up? Maybe it’s your favorite ice cream or cookies whatever it is, you can find all kinds of ways to rationalize why you don’t have to give it up. You’ll point out that it has some healthy ingredients or that it’s convince yourself that it’s not that bad. Whereas if you were honest with yourself and truly wanted to eat healthier, you would simply remove it from your diet.

In my own life, it took me decades to let go of my religious beliefs, even though they never felt right to me. I had been told for so long from so many people I loved and trusted, that anytime something would come up that contradicted what I had been taught, I would find some way to rationalize it, or ignore it because I was scared to give up this belief. But once I finally had enough evidence that the church was a fabrication from it’s founder, I could no longer in good conscience stay in the church and so I left.

If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.

— Marcus Aurelius

So how can be better about integrating new information into our way of viewing the world so that we have more informed opinions?

I think the Buddha was on to something when he said that the cause of suffering is attachment, and in this case we get attached to our ideas and beliefs to the point where we feel threatened when something comes along that might disprove them. Our ego identifies with these beliefs, and if we’re wrong we often feel like that means there is something wrong with us. When we can learn to be less attached to these beliefs and develop a mindset of curiosity, then we can take in information without feeling threatened. We can actually seek out information to see if we can prove that our idea is wrong so that we can get closer to the truth much quicker.

This kind of approach is not easy though. It means that we have to become more mindful of our thinking. We need to pay attention to when we’re feeling defensive about something because that is often a signal that we are feeling threatened by something. We also need to notice when we feel fear in our bodies. If we’re not in physical danger but we’re afraid because of what someone is saying, we should probably look closer at why we’re afraid.

While I like to think that I’m good a this, it has taken a lot of effort to not be as reactive and not feel like I have to defend my ideas. I still fail from time to time, and end up feeling defensive and end up in arguments, but I’ve certainly made progress on that front. I’m better about recognizing when I start to feel defensive about things. I pay attention to my body and any physical sensations. I try to ask questions, to help move me into a space of curiosity and learning, and out of that space of having to prove that I’m right.

Developing a mindset of curiosity takes mindfulness, patience, and a willingness to learn over wanting to be right, and is something that can greatly enhance our lives and relationships.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. 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.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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

Find me on instagram or twitter.

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.


213 – Think Long

Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even, being withstood if they have been trained for in advance. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, are panic-stricken by the most insignificant happenings. 

— Seneca

When you're in the midst of a challenge it's really hard to think clearly. It's hard sometimes to remember that this moment is just this moment and will not be forever. In this episode, I’m going to talk about how thinking longer term can help smooth out the day to day rough patches and help you stay more resilient.

Short-term thinking makes people desperate, ungenerous, impulsive. Long-term thinking makes people calm, gracious, controlled.

— The Stoic Emperor

Short-term thinking is reactive, take no work, and often makes things worse. Short-term thinking is only focused on what you want in the moment. This can lead to being impulsive, reactive, and less of an ability to appreciate the consequences of your actions. Thinking short term means that you don’t have the patience to work things through and stick things out for the long haul. You’ll take short term gains over long term prosperity. You’re likely to give up easily because things don’t progress as fast as you want.

Long-term thinking is responsive, thoughtful, and takes practice. It’s being able to appreciate the intensity of the moment and doing the best you can, while keeping the longer term goal in sight. It helps you think through the consequences for your actions, and allows you to act well in the short-term. Big picture thinking helps you make choices in short term that will have a better chance of serving your long term interests. It also helps you to more realistic on the progress you’re making.

Why is Long-Term Thinking Important?

Misfortune weights most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune

— Seneca

When you think long term it gives you the opportunity to prepare for things that you otherwise not have anticipated. This is what the stoics call Premeditatio Malorum, or “to anticipate troubles”. When you assume that everything will just work out as you expect, you’re doing yourself a disservice and basically going in blind. When you prepare for things that could go wrong, then you are going in with eyes open and a willingness to work with what’s there, and not just fold because things aren’t as expected.

When we think long term it also helps us to get started. We recognize that our goals are going to take some time, and we can put our progress in perspective. We are willing to put in the work because we know that we’re not going to get this done quickly.


Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. 

— Seneca

When we think long term, we can keep our eyes open to opportunities that present themselves. We can put the work in so that we are ready for those opportunities. We can put in the time to position ourselves so that we can be in the “right time” and “right place”. If we’re only thinking short term, then we’ll never build up the skills that we need to be ready. We’ll miss the importance of taking on tasks that we may not like, but will help bring opportunities our way.

When we think long term we can also put the time in to nurture the relationships that can help us along the way. We can find those that are willing to help us along the path and are willing to support us on our journey. If we only think short term, we only think about people in the regards to how useful they are to us now, and if they aren’t useful to us as the moment, they are discarded.

Getting Started

Life is a storm that will test you unceasingly. Don’t wait for calm waters that may not arrive. Derive purpose from resilience. Learn to sail the raging sea. 

— The Stoic Emperor

How often do we wait for the "right time" before we do something? Whether that's a new project, new habit, or even getting back on track, there is never going to be a perfect time. Waiting for the stars to align is just another excuse for procrastination, and short term thinking. When we think long term, we know that there will never be a perfect time, just today. So we take a step in the right direction every day, even if it’s just a small one.

We also need to look at why we're waiting. It may be that that real reason we are waiting for the right moment is that deep down we really just don't want to do it. And that's okay. Just be honest with yourself so that you don't feel guilty about procrastinating, and just own your choices.

Life is always going to be challenging, and when we are honest with ourselves and the circumstances around us we won't waste time procrastinating and placing the blame outside ourselves. We'll own it and do it, or not.


People are always looking for shortcuts. The only way to achieve greatness in life is to have patience, consistency, and discipline.

—David Goggins

Learning to persevere is one of the most important lessons that anyone can learn. We often want the thing we want right now and have little patience for things that take longer than we think they should. I think that one of the worst things that can happen to people is that they succeed too quickly. Later, when things get hard, they don't have the skills to push through and keep going when things are hard.

A great example of this in literature is the story of Odysseus in The Odyssey. What should have been a trip of a few weeks ended up as a journey of several years. While it is certainly a tale of adventure, it is also a story of perseverance and dealing with all kinds of obstacles along the way home. With each challenge he and his crew overcame, Odysseus learned and he grew. Because he had his eyes on the prize, he was able to act well in the moment because he knew what his ultimate goal was – to make it home to his wife and family.

In our daily lives, when we try to start up something new we will often think about how great it will be once we achieve our goal. We get caught up in the outcome, and forget that it's the process that is the most important. When we focus on enjoying the work, and doing good work especially when it's really hard, that's when we grow. It's only when we take on the scary and difficult tasks that we see what we're really made of.

Involved Detachment

Learn to detach yourself from the chaos of the battlefield.

—Robert Greene

While most of us will never have to engage in an actual battle, the commotion of everyday life can often feel like we're under siege. With the complexities of life that we all have it's easy to get bogged down in everything we need to get done.

When you think about it, our lives are more complex than those of our parents or grandparents. The amount of information we have access to, the sheer number of options we have when we go shopping, even the possibilities for jobs and relationships is pretty astounding. When I sit down to work on music, I have access to sounds and instruments and tools that allow me to create symphonies!

While all this choice is amazing, it can also be overwhelming. We can get lost in the sea of optionality. Some may find it impossible to begin because of too many choices. Just as on the battlefield, learning to clear your mind, and detach from the swirling emotions can help give you some clarity. Is that thing that's stressing you out really that stressful, or is it just the thought that you have about that thing that creates the emotions you feel?

So how does involved detachment help us think longer term? If you are able to be in the middle of a stressful or chaotic situation and stay calm and relaxed, you are able to respond to what’s going on around you rather than just reacting to everything and being pushed this way and that way. It allows us to gain perspective on what seems so important at this moment. Is it really that important? Is it worth getting stressed out over? Is stressing out about this thing going to help us?

A useful practice, though this is challenging, is to set aside a few moments, take a deep breath and think about how you'll remember this in 5 or 10 years time. Ask yourself if the way that you’re acting and the choices you’re making something you’ll be proud of? If it is something pivotal or life changing, then give it all your energy and focus. If not then breath, relax, and do your best, or maybe decide this is something to walk away from. Thinking long term give you that guiding star to help you achieve your goal. Without that guiding star, it making choices that benefit you in the long is nearly impossible because you haven’t put the time into know what you want in the long term.


Long term thinking is not an easy thing to do. We are conditioned in our world to get want we want when we want it. But learning to be patient puts you at an advantage over the crowd. When everyone else is focusing short term gains or the latest trend you are already thinking many steps ahead of them. When people treat relationships as transactional, you’ll invest the time and energy into friendships to help support you on your mission. When you think long, you have a purpose which helps you keep a clearer perspective on your every challenges. When you think long, you may not win every battle, but you’ll win the war.

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Thanks again for listening.


212 – Friction

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Anxieties can only come from your internal judgement.

— Marcus Aurelius

We all have things in our lives that seems to stop us from completing things that we really want to do. Often, these things aren’t even all that big but end up being show stoppers nonetheless. Today I want to talk about why it’s important to pay attention to the things that get in your way, and some possible ways to get around them.

The other day I was listening to the Hidden Brain podcast and they were talking about the idea that we get stopped from doing things by obstacles that we don’t even really notice. We spend a lot of time and energy on adding fuel to our efforts, such as improving our skills, or spending more time or money, but we miss the small and sometimes seemingly trivial things that are really hammering our progress.

So what do I mean by friction? Friction is anything that slows you down from completing your task. Friction is different than an obstacle in that an obstacle is something obvious and very evidently in the way of completing your task. Friction on the other hand is usually something smaller, subtle, and much harder to figure out.

As a simple example of friction, if you’ve ever been ice skating, a zamboni out on the ice is an obstacle. It is something clearly in your path and something that you’ll need to go around. A rough patch of ice is friction, and while it doesn’t stop you it can slow you down and make your time on the ice much slower.

Why is it easier to add fuel than it is to remove friction? Fuel is obvious. Fuel is resources. Whether that’s time, money, effort, it’s the necessary elements that make up whatever it is you’re working on. It’s things that can be added. If you’re trying to send a rocket into space, adding more fuel to lift you out of Earth’s orbit make sense.

Friction on the other hand is usually something small. They’re usually hard to detect, and may time a lot of time. Often we ignore it as well because each one in and of itself may not be a big deal, but cumulatively several small frictions can add up, and have just as much impact as an obstacle. Back on our rocket analogy, this would be like removing every possible bit of weight that you could from your rocket and payload.

Adding More Fuel

Often times when we’re trying to work on or improve something, we do so by adding fuel. This often is the easiest part because we know what we need to add to something. By this I mean we put more effort into it, push harder, or maybe add more resources. But often times, what is foiling our efforts is not that we aren’t putting enough time or energy or money into something, it’s that we aren’t examining the things that are in the way. It’s not that we need more fuel, it’s that we need to remove friction.

Understanding that sometimes adding more fuel sometimes can actually be detrimental was a lesson that I learned while I was training for short course triathlons. A triathlon for those that don’t know, consists of swimming, cycling, and running, and while I’m not a great runner, I found that swimming was probably the most challenging aspect. When I first started out I could do 500m in about 20 minutes. Just on my own I was about get that time down to about 16 minutes, but it didn’t seem to matter how hard I swam, I couldn’t cut any significant amount off that time.

Then I purchased a book on how to improve my swimming technique, and as I read through all the different pointers, there were two small changes that had a giant impact my time. The first one, was that I needed to reduce the amount of drag that I had in the water by changing my stroke just a little more to the center of my body. Basically, reaching right over the top of my head, rather than to the side. This small change help me be more aerodynamic, and flow through the water a little more smoothly.

The second change, which seemed most counter-intuitive, was that I needed to slow down and use less strokes for each lap. At first I thought, this was crazy, but I tried it and bam! I found that by trying to trying to slow down and use less strokes, my strokes became longer, which helped center my body, and more efficient because less movement also created more flow in the water. By shaving off 2-3 strokes per lap in the pool, I dropped my time closer to 10 minutes.


In his book, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield talks about the idea of Resistance. Resistance is the opposing force in any creative endeavor, or any endeavor to improve ourselves. To me, Resistance is the mental friction that keeps us from doing our work and accomplishing our task. Whether it’s composing music, writing a novel, starting a company or non-profit, or even just trying to get back in shape, Resistance are the blocks that our minds put into place slow or stop our progress.

Pressfield defines it like this:

Resistance comes arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.

The thing about Resistance is that it happens to everyone. Those people that are most successful know this. They get that is not something to be feared, but understood. They don’t run away from their enemy, but study it, learn it’s tricks, and find ways to counter every move.

The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

— Ryan Holiday

The Path of Least Resistance

Part of why we often make the choices we do is because we tend to follow the path of least resistance. When we come up against a challenge, we tend to choose the easier way through. If you’re walking in the woods, you’re more likely to follow a path that others have already created. When we work on achieving our goals or making personal changes we will also take the path of least resistance, and that’s not always a good thing. If we’re trying to change our diet but we don’t make it easy for ourselves to follow our new plan, then we’re likely going to fall back on old eating habits because they’re much easier and require a lot less work. For example, I know some people who will batch cook meals one night a week so that they have healthy meals every day of the week, rather than trying to come up with some each night that fits into their diet.

Figuring out what is friction in your life is not an easy task. There are so many small things that keep up from stepping up and doing the thing that we want. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence. Maybe it’s a lack of skill. Maybe it’s a thought pattern or anxiety that keeps us from making the first step. Whatever it is, the more we can do to reduce the friction that we have in our lives, the better off we’ll be when we work on pursuing the things that we want.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.

—Marcus Aurelius


So how can you tell what items are friction and getting in your way of not accomplishing what you want? Often times it can be found when listing out why you are struggling with something. It usually starts with some something like, “I can’t x because of y”. For example, I have friend that gets anxious driving and parking downtown. In their minds they think, “I can’t meet up with friends downtown because parking is so stressful.” In a case like this doing things like finding a parking garage on a map, taking an Uber, or carpooling with a friend is a way to reduce friction of meeting up with friends.


I think one of the most pernicious and most obvious forms of friction is perfectionism. It’s the idea that if we can’t produce something that is good enough or follow our plan well enough that we shouldn’t even try. I know that when I sit down to work on music I will often get overwhelmed because I know that most of what I create that session won’t be very good, at least not at first. This is something that even though I’ve created music that I like, such as the theme to this podcast, I still struggle every time I sit down at the piano because of the pressure I put on my self.


Often we have things that distract us that keep us accomplishing our tasks. There are plenty of things that are easier to do than to put the work in. Our phones, Netflix, email, the internet, are all distractions that can keep us from working on things that we want. These aren’t bad things but we need to be honest about if we are using them to distract us from working on things that we want. Often these are things that feel productive, like answering emails or reading up on something for work. But are they really? Sometimes we do these things because we feel like we are doing work, but we’re not progressing towards our goals. We’re not moving the needle.

Never let people who choose the path of least resistance steer you away from your chosen path of most resistance.

—David Goggins

Social Costs

Sometimes when embark on changing something in our lives we may find that the social costs are something we don’t want to pay. Sometimes this can be our friends or family might not approve of what we want to do, so we avoid doing it, even if we know that it is good for us or it’s something that we want to do. I’ve read that sometimes people are often sabotaged by partners or family members when they want work on losing weight or getting into shape. Other people may not want the us to change, because it may mean that the relationship will change. For example, if one partner is losing weight the other partner may feel threatened because they don’t want to change their eating habits, or they may feel if their partner loses weight and gets into shape, that they may no longer be attractive to the partner that has changed.

Another big example of where let friction stop us from moving forward is our careers. We will often stay at job that we are unhappy with because the friction of finding another job and leaving is too great. We will stay in a field we don’t like because planning out and learning new set of skills can feel overwhelming. It can often be a simple as the idea of taking the time to update our resume seems like too much work, or setting up an account on a job site feels like too much of a hassle.

Reduce Friction

So how do we reduce friction in our lives? I think the biggest thing that we can do is to simply recognize the friction. Once we recognize it, then we can work on strategies to reduce or eliminate the friction. If we suffer from perfectionism, then we can treat our work or tasks as times of play and curiosity, and reduce the pressure to have some to good to just having something at all. If we are easily distracted, we can work to create a distraction free space. If we’re getting friction from our partners or friends, we have frank conversations with them and ask for their support. We do anything that we can to reduce the friction.

When I started this podcast, I found that a friction point for me was that I felt like I didn’t know how to record voices very well. I had been composing music in Logic Pro, so I could use audio software reasonably well, but using a mic to record my voice and make it sound good seemed so overwhelming that it kept me from doing it. So instead of using my expensive equipment, I used my iPhone for significant portion of the first episodes. Once I felt more comfortable with my process, I moved over to recording in Logic, and continued to improve my skills at mixing and recording my voice.


Each of us is going to have different points of friction for the things that we work on in our lives. Often we don’t even recognize what these things are, and in doing so, we may be missing small things that keep us from accomplishing what we set out to do. We may be trying our hardest and putting in extra effort, but finding that we are still falling short, or even digressing. Recognizing and removing the small things in our way can often have the largest impact.

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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203 – Belief Without Evidence is Wrong

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

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We all like to think that we are wise, that our opinions are well thought out, and that we’re smart enough to spot when we have inconsistent beliefs. Today I want to talk about why believing something without sufficient evidence is wrong, and that idea that how we come to a belief or a conclusion is more important than whether the belief or conclusion is correct.


One of the four virtues of stoicism is Wisdom. Wisdom is not just the acquisition of information, but the skill of properly applying the knowledge that we gain to make better choices and actions. It is our job to learn, to see clearly, and act upon the truth, but even more important than reaching the correct outcome, is having a correct process of learning and discovering the truth.

William K. Clifford was an English mathematician and philosopher in the late 1800s. He wrote a well thought out essay called “The Ethics of Belief”, in which he discusses how it is immoral to believe something without evidence, even if you end up being correct in your belief. But why is it so important to make sure that the process we use to form beliefs is sound? Because if you come to a belief based upon faulty evidence, then you can’t be sure that next time you use the same thinking that you’ll get to the correct outcome. Basically, you may think that you are smart because you got it right, but you didn’t. If you use the same thinking process, you may not be as lucky. Having a correct process helps you to be more consistent and to reach correct or more correct conclusions, more often.

Say, for example, you have a friend who is in the same math class you’re in. Your friend is an average student, and on a big test, they get a perfect score. Shortly after, you hear a rumor that your friend cheated on the test. You have no proof of this, nor do any of the people you talk to have any tangible proof, beyond their own speculation that the only way your friend could have done so well on the test, was to cheat. You decide to accuse your friend of cheating, and report them to the teacher.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes. Let’s say that your friend did not cheat, and after they are cleared of any wrongdoing, you retract what you said and try to make amends. You may have spoiled the friendship because you accused your friend with no actual evidence, other than the rumors spread by others.

Let’s say your friend did cheat, and you feel vindicated because you were correct. But should you? No. You are just as wrong as the first case because you made an accusation with insufficient evidence. It was just by chance that you ended up on the right side. You had no evidence to reason through that your friend had actually cheated. Based on the evidence you had, you made an assumption; you guessed. You had no right to come to the conclusion that your friend had cheated on the test. This is dangerous because once you have been “correct”, you are less likely to question yourself the next time because you guessed correctly this time.

Show me someone for whom success is less important than the manner in which it is achieved. Of concern for the means, rather than the ends, of their actions…I want to see him. This is the person I have looked for a long time, the true genius. 

— Epictetus

Process Over Outcome

When we reach the correct answer but have an invalid process, we have not learned how to make better decisions, so we actually do ourselves a disservice. If we don’t understand why we’re correct, or at the very least admit that we just got lucky and guessed correctly, then we will never create a framework that helps us to be successful consistently.

For example, often entrepreneurs will get lucky. They’ll have a lucky break that may not have anything to do with them. Perhaps the weather happens to ruin their chief competitor. They’ll attribute their success to something else, such as their own brilliance or the superiority of their product, and are unwilling to attribute it to the luck of circumstance that broke in their favor. They may not really understand the lucky break that helped lead to their success. They think because they were successful once they know how to be successful again.

No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may someday explode into overt action, and leave its stamp upon our character for ever.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

Beliefs Lead to Action

Why is it so important that we don’t hold on to beliefs that are incorrect or based on insufficient evidence? The beliefs that we hold, even illogical ones that we think are just our private beliefs, influence the choices we make and the actions we take in our everyday life, and some that can have pretty serious consequences.

An example of this how beliefs can impact the choices people make can be seen in when we look at vaccines and the pandemic. People have been fed a steady diet of how they should distrust the government, usually by politicians for their own benefit – though I find it disingenuous because these politicians are usually seeking reelection, so they’re the ones running things. This continuous disinformation campaign from politicians, pundits, talk show host, and others with a hidden agenda has eroded trust in the institutions that are in place to help us a society weather such events.

As we’ve seen cases of the Delta variant climbing higher over the past few months, it comes because of this distrust. We see that 98% of those dying from Covid are unvaccinated, and it’s not because the vaccine is not available, but the majority are refusing to get vaccinated because of the distrust they have in the government and its institutions, distrust of science, or distrust of vaccines.

Because of this belief that they hold, evidence that is presented is filtered through this distrust. Experts who have spent their lives in the service of humanity, who have dedicated their careers, are dismissed as unreliable, or even threatened for presenting evidence contrary to this belief.

If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.

— Marcus Aurelius

You Want to Believe

So what are some of the reasons we believe things without sufficient evidence? When we come into this world, we are given a world view, a belief system from our parents, our religion, and our culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We’re taught traditions, beliefs, and stories about how the world is, and it’s how we learn how to function in the world. Where we run into trouble, is that most of us are brought up not to question the world around us. We get in trouble for not simply obeying the rules, and often shamed for asking questions about things we don’t understand.

In my own experience, I was taught that obedience to the church leaders was more important than anything else. I always found the idea of blind faith troubling, because it makes abuse of power very easy, and we have seen this happen time after time. Also, to me it makes a mockery of god. If god just wanted me to just be obedient, why did he give me a mind that wanted to find answers, to question things that seemed illogical, and try to make sense of the world? When I was told to ignore evidence because it went against the teachings of the church, it made me distrust the person teaching it. They were telling me to ignore my own sense of reasoning, logic, and to just take their word for it.

Now, religion is not the only place where we see misguided beliefs that are not questions. There have been plenty of beliefs, ideas, and theories taught in schools or treated as common sense that were taken as fact. There was no proof, but because they have been around so long, were just assumed to be true. For example, for centuries, women have been treated as if they were mentally inferior to men in science, art, literature, music, and many other fields. Because of these ideas, women were denied education, careers, and often treated as second class citizen, all because of a belief that they just were not on the same level as men. This allowed those in charge to point out that there were not a lot of prominent women in as proof that this was true, all the while ignoring the fact that women were denied opportunities to make any contributions, thus creating a self reinforcing belief. It has taken a lot of hard work for our society to move past these ideas, and we still have a long way to go.

On a personal level, we often create beliefs about ourselves because they were things we were told about ourselves, or conclusions we came to through faulty thinking. Maybe we think we’re not very smart or creative because our parent told us so. Maybe we believe we don’t deserve to be treated respectfully, because we’re been treated poorly by others. One that I struggle with from time to time is that I’m not worthy of being loved because I lose my temper. There are plenty of beliefs that we adopt because our brains try to make sense of the world around us.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.


It’s Okay to be Wrong

So how to do we get better at challenging our beliefs? I think probably the most important aspect is that we need to be willing to be wrong. This is probably the hardest part. When we feel we are right about something, it feels good and we feel confident. We don’t like to be wrong because it feels uncomfortable and scary. So we avoid being wrong at all costs.

And how do try to avoid this? We’ll avoid admitting we’re wrong by discounting evidence that we don’t like. We’ll reinterpret or spin things in a way that shows our position in a more favorable light. We’ll double down on our position. We’ll get angry, which is a way to manipulate others to support our position. We’ll deflect and try to blame others for their shortcomings.

When we get comfortable knowing that we’re going to be wrong a lot, we can avoid a lot of anxiety and stress. We can be humble and think of ourselves as seekers of knowledge, not as the fountain of truth.

I think one of the best ways to start is to get comfortable with this is practice incorporating some of the following phrases into our language.

“In light of new information, I’ve changed my mind.”

“From the evidence provided, it looks like I need to rethink my position.”

“You make good argument. I’ll consider what you said.”

“I never thought of it that way. Thanks. Now I will.”

Once we are willing to be okay with being wrong, then we can take the time to ask more questions about our belief.

Where did I learn this? Who did I learn this from? What are their motivations behind promoting this belief? Understanding the source of this belief can help you be aware of conflicts of interest from others and yourself.

What evidence is available to support this belief? Are there scientifically rigorous studies, or experts in this area, that can help me learn more about it? We don’t suffer from a lack of information in this world. We suffer from a willingness to look objectively at that information and follow where it leads us, even if we don’t like the results.

How does this belief help me? Understanding this can help us see why we might unconsciously hold on to a belief. Often we want to hold on to a belief because it helps us. Maybe we find comfort in it because the alternative is too uncomfortable or scary. Often, just asking this question alone can help us see that a belief does not serve us, and we can work on letting it go.


The beliefs we have about the world guide our choices and actions. Doing our best to put our beliefs through a rigorous process can help us reach better conclusions. And even when we are correct, we should be willing to always work on refining our process of testing our beliefs. It is not enough that we have the correct answer. More important is how we got there.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. 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.

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179 – Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things

“Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.”

— Epictetus

The unglamorous, most powerful way to accomplish your goals and becoming the person that you want to become.

One thing that fascinates me about humans is our desire to find the easy way to do almost anything. So many of the things that we think of as necessities in our modern lives are simply things that make our lives easier. Things like dishwashers, microwaves, and email. All things that help us accomplish things that would otherwise take much longer to accomplish. Washing dishes or clothes by hand, while not exceptionally difficult, nonetheless take up quit a bit of time. Microwaves cook our food in less than half the time of traditional cooking. Dashing off an email takes far less effort than writing and mailing a letter.

None of these things are good or bad. They are simply tools to accomplish things in a shorter span of time. But just like everything, it comes with a cost. As we get used to the comfort and ease these tools bring to our lives, it gets easy to become complacent. We get used to things being easy and instant. We get bored if we’re not entertained. We find it hard to focus on and accomplish things that we want to. We get distracted by all the new and shiny things. We find it challenging when things are hard and take time.

Do you want to accomplish your goals? Do you want have more motivation throughout your day? Do you want to grow more as a person? If there is one thing that you can do in life that will help you to accomplish your goals in life, it is this:

How willing you are to do hard things, and how willing you are to suffer to accomplish them.

Why Do Hard Things?

“To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”

— Albert Einstein

Doing easy things does not bring about much of a sense of accomplishment. It’s when we push ourselves to our edge, challenge ourselves and take on a goal or task that feels risky or scary that’s when we feel alive. When we push through the difficulties and work our way through to the other side, it feels amazing.

If you want to have career success like Hugh Jackman or Steve Jobs, you have to do hard things. You have to get up each day and do the things that others don’t want to. You get up and you go for a run. You get up and go down to the basement and do that workout. You make a plan and follow it. You do the things that others don’t.

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a person perfected without trials.”

— Seneca

When it comes to growing as humans, taking the easy way never brings the fulfillment that we need. Personal growth is hard. If you want to be an exceptional human, or even just above average, you have to put in the work. There is no other way around it. You can’t have someone else do the work for you. There is no machine that magically turns you into an awesome person. There are no shortcuts in growing, and remember that it’s the journey, it’s doing the work is the point, not just reaching the destination.

To state the obvious, doing hard things is hard. That’s why everyone doesn’t have a body like Jessica Alba. Not everyone can sing like Kelly Clarkson or play the cello like Yo Yo Ma. It’s hard work.

Death Gives Clarity

The Stoics ask us to reflect on our own mortality. Momento Mori. Remember that we could die at any moment. Why is this important? Why think about death?

1. When we look through the lens of our own mortality, we get a clearer idea of things that are important to us.

2. We stop putting off important things until “later”, because there might not be a “later”.

Carpe Diem

— Robin Williams, Dead Poet Society

Let me put it this way…when you get to the end of your life and look back, would you rather reflect on how many hours you spent watching TV, or would you rather reflect on how you were able to grow and strive towards reaching your full potential?

I know for me I want the latter.

Massive Action

Training yourself to be disciplined and dedicated is hard work, but I think that there are two aspects of how to do hard things. Massive action, and small actions.

Brooke Castillo, my favorite life coach, talks about taking massive action. What this means is identifying what is going to move the needle the fastest. When we are able to make some great progress in a short amount of time, we can build up momentum to push through when things get tough.

Often, the massive action doesn’t have to be great, it just has to get done. Maybe something like writing a crappy first draft of a book over a weekend or writing 5 songs in a week regardless of how good or bad they turn out. Maybe it’s slowly walking a 5 miles on a weekend. It doesn’t matter if it’s great the first time. It matters that you took action that moved the needle.

Taking massive action gives you something to hold onto that helps keep you moving forward. In our example of the crappy first draft . If you have a crappy first draft of a book, you have something to work with. You have a foundation to build off of.

A good example of massive action in my own life is this podcast. My massive action was that I put out an episode every day for the first 137 days, a feat which still surprises me. I did slow down over time because what I wanted out of the podcast changed. I wanted to go a little deeper into each topic, and make it a little longer. I also wanted to spend time with my friends and family, so slowing the pace was necessary. But having created a large body of work made it easier to return to creating episodes after taking a break for over year.

Small Actions

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

— Bruce Lee

In 2003, I was watching the Ironman Triathlon broadcast from Hawaii. Now if you’ve never seen the Ironman, it’s pretty badass. It starts with a 5 mile open water swim, a 122 mile bicycle ride, and a full 26 mile marathon at the end. Finishing one is the probably the hardest sporting challenge a person can accomplish.

At the time, I was overweight, in terrible shape, and not very happy with my health. Watching the Ironman inspired me. Seeing the dedication and dogged persistence that those people, many of them just regular people and not professional athletes, lit a fire in me.

Over the next two years, I dedicated myself to training for triathlons. I started out small, just running for 15 minutes a day around my neighborhood. I was exhausted, my legs hurt, and my lungs burned, but I felt more alive than I had for years.

I started swimming at my gym. I would do 5 painfully slow laps per session. Over time I built up to 20 laps in the same amount of time.

I enrolled in spin classes and later bought my first road bike. As time went on, I found a passion for cycling and changed my focus. At my peak I was putting in around 200 miles a week on my bike and completed several century rides – rides of 100 miles. I also lost 55 lbs.

The most important lesson I learned from my years of cycling, is that consistency is king. If we want to actually finish what we start, we must become a master at building habits. Doing a small “hard thing” every day helps us get used to struggling. We get used to suffering for the things we want. That hard thing will be different for each person. It can be something that supports you in your goals or not, but it has to be something that challenges you. I should also be something that starts small and you do it every day until you don’t have to think about whether you should or shouldn’t. You just do it.

For example, say that you want to get up each morning and workout. If you get up on your first day and do a 60 minute workout after not having worked out for years, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be sore for a few days. You might resent how much time it takes, so remember to start small. Maybe on your first week, you get up and stretch for 5 minutes, do 10 push ups, and 10 sit ups. The next week, you might bump that up to 15 pushups, 15 sit ups. The next week you might add in some pull-ups or some free weights. The point is that you do it every day.

Once you have one habit that you do every day, add another. Then another. Soon you have a day that is a stack of habits of your choosing.

Feeling accomplished at cycling helped me feel more confident overall and willing to try other things that I might have felt were to scary or risky before. I also found that I was better able to create and keep helpful habits. Now that I’ve been out of cycling regularly, I miss that fire and drive. I’m also about 30 lbs overweight and I’m not happy with where my health is. I wrote this episode for me because I want to get back to doing hard things.


An important aspect to remember about this are that you shouldn’t wait to feel motivated to start something. If you wait to “feel motivated”, you may never get it done. Take the feeling out of it.

Like we talked about last week:

“You can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.”

— Marcus Aurelius

So if motivation is not what’s going to help us achieve things, what will?

Process. Process is greater than motivation. Motivation comes from momentum, and your process is what helps you create momentum. When you create a defined process, you have a clear step by step guide that makes it easy to know what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Creating a process also helps you anticipate roadblocks and plan around them, which removes a lot of fear and anxiety that pops up when we set out to do hard things.

Do you want to be a good writer? You get up everyday and you write. You remove the distractions. You close you browser and silence your phone and you write. Then you do the next day, and the day after that. Even if you don’t have anything to write about or that you think is any good, you write and you edit and you write until you start to find your voice. You practice your craft every day. You do the hard things.

You want to be a great singer? Then you practice everyday. You do your scales every day. You sing the same song over and over until you know it so well that you almost hate it. You listen to your singing coach and follow their instructions. You do the hard things.

Want to have a better relationship? You have to do all the small things every day. You have to communicate with your partner. You have to consider their needs along with your own. You have to set healthy boundaries for yourself, and respect theirs. You have to put in the work. Just putting in the minimum, or “phoning it in” as they say, won’t get you there. You don’t build a strong and healthy relationship without effort. You do the hard things.

Doing hard things is a core and fundamental piece to accomplishing anything worthwhile. It helps to give our lives meaning, and creates a sense of accomplishment. The next time you face a particularly scary challenge, don’t turn away because it’s not easy, rather turn into it because it’s hard.

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178 – If It’s Endurable, Then Endure It

If It’s Endurable, Then Endure It

“Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable… then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.”

— Marcus Aurelius

How often do we complain about the things that we don’t like about in life? There are so many things to complain about in life. Even at this moment, there are so many things to complain about. The Pandemic. The government. Politics. Our relationships with others. Money. Even the weather. We can all find things to complain about.

Complaining about something wishes things to be other than they are. It is trying to get the universe to change for us. The universe doesn’t care about our complaints. If you are able, do something about it. If you are cannot, accept it, let it go, and move on. To continue complaining is a waste of time and energy.

Why do we complain?

I think there are several reasons. Many of these have to do with covering up our own insecurities.

Attention – People often complain about things because it’s much easier that actually doing something about it. Internet trolls are a prime example of this behavior.

Avoid Responsibility – Blame other people or things so that you are not responsible for things failing. We don’t want to be the reason that we failed.

Excuses – This often is self soothing for things that are outside of our control. We don’t need to make excuse for things we can’t control.

Superiority – People will try to lift themselves up by putting others down. By pointing out someone else’s failures, they imply that they are superior to the other person.

Manipulation – This is often used as a way to bond with others. “If you hate the same things I do, we’re on the same side!”

Honesty is the best medicine

When we complain, it’s usually because we have expectations that are not met. We think that things should be other than they are. The fact that we have expectations mean that we think we have some kind of control over something. Because we think that something should or should not have happened the way that it did. The sooner we can recognize and accept how things really are, the less time we spend wishing things were otherwise.

Now, this does not mean that we should simply suffer in silence. Talking about things that are bothering us and saying them out loud a good way to understand what is bothering us. Sometimes we just need to vent.

The difference between talking through an issue and complaining is the motivation behind it. When you are discussing a problem or venting about an issue, you are trying to get things out into the open. You are expressing how you feel about something. It’s an investigation about what you are feeling and thinking. There is no expectation that anything is going to change. Complaining is putting things out there and expecting them to change without you having to do anything to affect that change.

Getting things out into the open is very important. The sooner we get them out, the more honest we can be about what is going on and the better we can identify what the reality of a situation is. The longer you hold onto these thoughts, the more they can drag you down. The more they float around in our minds, the longer they stay unresolved and often feel like they compound things and make it feel like they are much bigger than they really are. This is why talk therapy or journaling are so helpful for resolving problems.

What to do if we are a complainer?

We can notice when we are annoyed or frustrated by something. Be honest about why we’re complaining.

Are we hoping that things will change? Are wishing that someone else would fix this? Are we blaming others? Then we’re complaining.

Are we trying to figure out what’s bothering us? Are we just venting? Sometime talking through an issue out loud is exactly what we need to identify what is bothering us. And sometimes we just need to vent.

If we’ve identified that we can do something, are we willing to do it? We may not be in a place where we can. If we are, it’s a good time to ask for help if that’s something that we need.

If we’ve identified that we can’t do anything about it, sometimes just venting is all we need to get it out and let it go.

What to do if we are with a complainer?

Ask them if they are just venting, or if they are they looking for a solution. Ask if they want our opinion. Ask them what they are going to do about it.

If they’re venting, we can be that sounding board for them. We all need someone to listen to us and help us when things are hard.

If they’re asking for help, we can offer our opinions. We can offer our help if that is something we want to give.

We also need to not to take on their emotional labor. That means if they’re frustrated or upset about something, they may try to push those emotions on others, usually a partner or close friend, and expect them to try to soothe them and fix it. We can let them know we are not responsible for fixing their problems. We can listen. We can be supportive. We do not need to fix it for them and doing so robs them of the opportunity to grow. It also means that we are enabling them to continue in their unhelpful behavior.

Do what you can

I remember a few years ago when Neil Diamond was on tour and came down with the flu. While he was recovering, he still wanted to perform, but he let the audience know that because to his cold he was not up to his usual standard. He offered to refund anyone’s ticket to that wanted their money back and then went on to perform. Not a single person took up the offer. He did not complain. He did not make this anyone else’s problem. He took responsibility for what had control over.

Complaining is a lazy way to deal with a problem, because it is hoping that by airing our grievances they will somehow magically change for us. It’s how we become a victim and make ourselves powerless by giving our power away to people and things outside of ourselves.bra

If we can clearing identify a situation for what it is, do what we can, and let go of the things we can’t, we can stay in control ourselves and maintain our equanimity.

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172 – Responsibility

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How is one responsible for themselves?

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

– Marcus Aurelius

On this podcast I talk a lot about being responsible for for your own actions and thoughts, but what does that really mean? How do you actually accomplish this?

When you take responsibility for yourself, you recognize that it’s your own thoughts which create your feelings. You can step back and see that you can change how you view a situation. Regardless of what anyone else does or says, you are in command of your emotions. By choosing to think differently about what is happening around you, you don’t give power to other people over how you feel.

If we are upset because of what someone else said, we don’t blame them for how we feel. No one can make us feel anything without our permission. And while this is great in theory, it is hard to put into practice. Even our language makes it easy to blame others. “You made me so angry!”

On the flip side of that, we do not own someone else’s feelings. If they feel something, it is their own thinking that creates their feelings. They are responsible for how they feel, not you. This doesn’t mean that we have to be jerks. We can be compassionate and understanding. But if they don’t like something we say and they blame us for how they feel, we don’t take ownership of that.

What does it mean to be responsible?

Let’s break down the word: responsabilis, which is latin for “to sponsor or pledge, to be answerable for.” And -ility which means to act. So in a nutshell it means, “to act in the way that you have pledged”.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one.”

– Marcus Aurelius

I think the biggest key to taking responsibility for you actions comes down to one thing:


Choices are active. Being responsible means choosing to take action, rather than being acted upon. Choose your response to others instead of just reacting. Reactions are giving up our ability to choose.

In every situation, we have choices. They may not be many but we always have a choice.

Rather than simply waiting for something to happen so you can respond, be proactive and choose to act.

Don’t just avoid doing evil, choose to actively do good.

Rather than avoiding saying mean things, choose to say encouraging things.

Rather than trying to not get angry, we can work on being kind and compassionate.

Rather than avoiding an uncomfortable situation, face it head on with courage.

Take action.

How do we get better at taking action?

As with developing any skill, the first step is awareness. The more aware we about what we think, what we say, and what we do, the more we can choose those things, rather than reacting. Awareness always takes lots of work. It means that we can’t run on autopilot. The brain tries to be efficient by relying on emotions or gut feelings. These are shortcuts. Being truly aware is hard. It means that we look at the situation, applying logic, think about options and outcomes, then act on our decision.

As we become more aware of our own thoughts, words, and actions, we need to take some time to think about what kind of person we want to be. We need to ask if those thoughts and actions help us become the kind of person we want to be? We need to plan how we want to act in a given situation. Then act.

If there is one thing that I can recommend that will really help with this, it’s paying attention to the language we use. We can practice changing our language. “I felt sad when I heard what you said.” Even further: “I felt sad, because I thought X when I heard what you said.”

Taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions is not easy. But I think it becomes easier when we take an actively making choices, rather than just passively avoiding uncomfortable situations. Be the driver of your life, not just a passive onlooker.

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147 – Look Within

How often do we look outside of ourselves to know what to do? How often do we doubt ourselves and look to others to find a solution to a problem? How often do we seek the opinions of others to feel like we’re on the right path? This weeks episode is about learning how to find the wisdom in yourself.

“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The culture that we grow up in can have a huge impact on us as to how we view the world. If we’re lucky, we have parents, teachers, and friends that teach us how to listen to our own voice and know what we feel, and what is right for us. Many of us don’t get taught these lessons of self-reliance and self-confidence. We’re taught to please our parents, please our teacher, please our church leaders. Paying attention to what we feel and what we know is right for us is highly discouraged, or at the least given little attention. We grow up relying on the opinions of others to know what we should be doing. We look to see what kinds of relationships we should have. If and when we should get married. What kinds of jobs we should take. What kinds of shows to watch on Netflix.

The thing is, society doesn’t want you to stop and think for yourself. People who take the time to truly know themselves, are no longer easy to control. They are not easily manipulated. They are often poor consumers because they know what they want and don’t waste time or money on things they don’t.

In my case, the church taught me what I was supposed to want. So much of my life was wrapped up in pleasing the leaders and the members of my church. So much so, that I often didn’t know what I really wanted, or how I really felt about things. Even as a grown man, I often find it difficult to know what I really think or feel in a given situation.

When I’m working through what I want in my life, I will find myself looking for the right answer outside of myself because I don’t think that my own opinion is worth anything. I don’t trust that I’m smart enough to figure it out on my own, or that I have the right to decide what I want. To think for myself and do what is right for me, rather than what I think others think is the right thing.

To listen to yourself, to recognize your own wisdom is a scary thing because it means that you are responsible for the results you get. You are responsible for all your failures. You are blazing your own path, rather than parroting what someone else does. You are claiming your life as your own.

It’s also hard because when you decide what you really want to go after, it’s really scary to think that you might not get it. Often you choose someone else’s dream because if you fail, then it’s not that big of a deal.

“When you confine yourself to only those things that are under your control, you cannot be defeated. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. People with more prestige, power, or some other distinction are not necessarily happier because of what they have. There is no reason to be envious or jealous of anyone. If you lead a rational life, the good lies within you. Our concern should be our freedom, not titles and prestigious positions. The way to freedom is not to be too concerned about things we don’t control.”

— Epictetus

What does Epictetus mean by we can’t be defeated? If we only measure success by the things that we can control, we can never lose. We should never measure success based off of something that we can’t control, in this case gaining a powerful position. He also warns us not to be fooled by what others have because they may not be happier. This means that we should not define our happiness based on what others think is successful.

For example, if I measure the success of my podcast based on how many people are listening, then I will always lose. But if my measure of success is that I put out an episode each week that is important to me, then I am successful. If I feel like I’m improving, that I’m growing personally, then I’m successful.

Epictetus reminds us that if we do our best to be rational, to act on the things that we have control over and let go of the rest then we will find the good inside of us because we will see no need for jealousy or envy because we pursue what we deem as good and important. When we care less about the opinions of others, then we are free from all stress and striving and competition. We don’t care what others think so we do things that are good for us, not what others think we should do, and this is where true freedom lies.

Learning to listen to and trust yourself, and to think critically is a very important part of living a good life. It means that we learn to let go of what everyone else thinks is good for us, and we act on the things that we have control over, and trust that if we do our best, to be honest with ourselves we’ll make good choices. We may make mistakes from time to time, and we’ll fail, but we’ll learn and we’ll grow, and we’ll be free because we are living the life of our choosing, not someone else’s.