303 – The Antidote to Anger: The Art of Stoic Acceptance

Do you struggle with anger? Why do you think you get angry? What can you do to manage your anger better? In this weeks episode I want to talk about how Stoicism can help you to get a grip on your anger, and lead a more peaceful life.

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”


The other day I was out on my balcony and heard someone from an apartment above me shouting and swearing. I couldn’t hear much of what he was shouting or even what language it was in, except for the swear words in English. I couldn’t hear another voice, though I could tell that he was directing his anger at someone else, so I assume that he was talking on the phone.

As I listened to this go on for a few minutes and wondering what he was so angry at, it brought me back to the arguments that I used to have with my ex-partner over the last few years. I could feel myself feeling his anger, and I felt this wave of shame wash over me for the way that I often behaved in that relationship. I started thinking about if I’d be better able to handle myself now, or if I’d fall back into that same type of behavior if I got into another relationship.

And to be honest, I’m not 100% sure.

So I started thinking about why I was so often angry with my last partner, because even though I have thought about it from time to time, it’s something that I want to get a handle on. I want to make sure that the reason I don’t get angry like that isn’t just because I’m not in a relationship at the moment. I want to understand why I was angry and why, even with my deep understanding of Stoicism as well as understanding the long term consequences of not controlling my anger, I still didn’t seem to have a handle on my temper when it came to her.

So, as with many of my podcast episodes, I decided to sit down and work through this by writing about it so I could rationally examine what the causes of that anger were, and what steps I can take to make sure that I’m living the way I want to live, and act in accordance with my values. Because with all reactive behaviors, until you can get to the root of it, by understanding the conscious and unconscious thoughts, perspectives, and beliefs, it’s really hard to change them.

Digging Deep

As I began to explore this, one of the key things that I realized was that in many ways I didn’t trust her. I didn’t trust that she would truly accept me for who I am. I would often tell her what I thought she wanted to hear rather than what I truly thought about something. I basically would lie to her because I was so afraid that she would hate me if she knew the real me. This of course made it harder for her to trust me because she didn’t know if I was telling the truth about something, or just saying what I thought would make her happy.

So, why would I do that? Why, given the Stoics emphasis on being truthful and facing reality head on, would I lie about things, especially small things that didn’t really matter all that much, which was something that she asked me several times? I think that some of it stems from trauma in my childhood. When my father was upset about something, or even sometimes when I was just worried that something might upset him, I would bend the truth a bit or even outright lie just to keep him happy. I was trained that lying was okay because it kept me safe from my dad’s anger and violence.

Another factor was growing up in a strong religious where conforming to the beliefs of the church were more important than saying what you really thought. There was a strong social pressure to fit in and behave in the way that was expected of you. You learned how to say and do all the correct things in order to be seen as a good member of the church.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good reasons for societies to have rules of behavior. It keeps things orderly and safe when there is a strong culture of following rules that are part of our social contract. This is how we are able to live together in large groups and communities. However, when it comes to a persons relationship with god, of their personal beliefs, I think that’s where it starts to intrude on you own self concept. When you feel pressured to believe in things that don’t make sense to you or that you don’t feel are part of your own personal principles and perspectives, you lie to yourself and others to keep them happy and to think of you in certain way.

Anger is Fear in Action

So how does this all relate to anger and Stoicism? It’s been said that anger is just fear in action. Usually we get angry because we feel fear, and we’re trying trying to control the situation with that anger. Whether that’s trying to control another person, or getting upset that things don’t work out as we want them, at the core of it, we’re afraid.

In my case, I wanted my partner to love me, and I tried control her through subtle manipulation with the lies I would tell to try and convince her that I was someone worth loving. When that would fail, I would get angry and try to control her with anger because I believed that she didn’t love me. I desperately wanted her to love me and when she was upset with me, I was afraid that she didn’t love me, because that’s what I felt when my dad was angry at me—that I wasn’t loved.

Holding Onto Anger

Another aspect I want to talk about is why we hold onto anger. Holding on to anger is also something that many of us do, but why is holding onto anger such an appealing thing? Anger feels like power, and power feels good. But the thing is, anger is the illusion of power. When we are angry, we are not in control of ourselves. When we hold onto anger, we may inflict harm on others and feel like we are in control, but the person that we harm the most is ourselves. For example, whenever I’d get any with my ex-partner, I felt awful and ashamed afterwards. I felt like I’d let us both down, and pushed her even farther away.

Frederick Buechner in his book Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, paints a great image of what happens when we hold onto anger:

"Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."

When Marcus Aurelius wrote, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it,” he didn’t just mean that we harm others, but more that we harm ourselves. Seneca clarifies this further, stating, “Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” When we lose our cool, we become a lesser person. We show ourselves and others that we are not on control of ourselves, regardless of how much we rant and rave. We are also choosing to put ourselves in bad state of mind and disrupt our own inner peace.

How can we get better at managing our anger? What active steps can we take to not let ourselves let irritations, disappointments, or even betrayal, send us spiraling and behaving in a way that is destructive to ourselves and those around us? I think the biggest key is radical acceptance.

Acceptance of Externals

First: Acceptance of all the things in life you can’t control.

The Stoics teach about the Dichotomy of Control, which means that we truly understand what is under our power and what is not. Epictetus clearly explains the difference: ”Some things are up to us and some things are not. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or that which is not our own doing."

In short, what we control is our perspective, beliefs, desires, and actions. That’s it. Everything else is outside of our control. By accepting this fundamental truth, we can learn to focus on the few things in our control, and let go of everything else. We can’t control other people, our reputation, or even external circumstance and events. We can only control how we treat other people, our own behavior, and how we choose to respond to the things that happen to us. By accepting that most things are not in our control, we can look at things with a little more objectivity and rationality, and think about what choices we want to make that will be more likely to lead to better outcomes.

I think a good place to practice this is in accepting other people for exactly who they are. Before I moved to Amsterdam, I was dating a woman who I’m still close friends with. We spent a lot of time together, and never seemed to have much conflict. I asked her once why it was so easy to be around her and why things seemed to work so smoothly, given how my last relationship was often fraught with anger. She said, “Well, part of it is that we’re still getting to know each other, and that part of a relationship is often easier with new relationship energy. But, I think a bigger part is that I accept you for exactly who you are, with no expectation that you will ever change or be someone else. It’s not my job to change you, or expect you to. You will change, and if you change into someone that doesn’t work for me, then it’s my choice of what I want to do about it.”

I was floored. What she said resonated deep in my bones. I did feel incredibly accepted and appreciated for who I was, not some persona that I was putting on so that she would like me. Now this is not say that my previous partner didn’t accept me and love me. It was that I believed that she didn’t or couldn’t, which was not fair to her because I didn’t trust her to do so. It was a good lesson for me to work on accepting others for exactly who there are without trying to change them.

Acceptance of Yourself

This leads me on to my second point: Acceptance of yourself for exactly who you are.

Because anger is driven by fear, often we will react with anger because of some insecurity deep within ourselves. When others point out some flaw of ours, or someone says something disparaging about us, we often react with anger because deep down we’re afraid they might be right. This due to not really knowing and accepting of all parts of us, especially the things we don’t like about ourselves. When we feel the discomfort of who we project ourselves to be to others being in conflict with the darker parts of ourselves, we often feel afraid of what others might think of us, or even who we think we are.

For example, if we think we’re a very generous person and someone points out that something we’re doing is selfish, there’s an inner conflict. We might get defensive and even angry that someone would think that we’re being selfish. But if we can accept that sometimes we may act in ways that are selfish, when someone calls us out, we can objectively look at our actions and decide if we were acting selfish in this instance. If we were, then we accept that, and so our best to make amends. If we weren’t and we felt that we were acting in a way that aligns with our principles, then we can try to understand why the other person felt like we were acting selfish.

Marcus Aurelius said, “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, and the truth never harmed anyone.” This means that if the other person was right, there’s no need to get angry about it because it’s the truth. If the other person was wrong, then there’s still no reason to get angry about it because you’re living up to your principles.

Anger in Danger

Now, I often have people ask me about getting angry in dangerous situations, and if that isn’t key to our survival. When something frightens us, we often get angry about it, which can feel like an instant visceral reaction. But the more we can keep our cool in dangerous situations, the more we can make rational choices. This is why soldiers train in challenging circumstances, so that they can keep their fear under control. Once they get angry, the chances of them taking a rash or dangerous action increases dramatically putting themselves and others at risk. The more you can rationally control your fear, the more control you have over yourself in any situation.


Before I go, let me leave with this thought from Seneca:

“People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax. After every act they tremble, paralyzed, their consciences continually demanding an answer, not allowing them to get on with other things. To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it.”

Dealing with anger is something that all of us have to learn if we want to thrive in the world. By understanding that anger is driven by fear, we can start to look at the root causes of why we often act in ways that are truly counterproductive to the well being of ourselves and others. By learning to accept ourselves, and accept those things out of our control, we can make better choices that benefit not only ourselves, but more especially, those we love.

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Thanks again for listening!


302 – Stoic Fatherhood: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Dads

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

This week’s episode is called Stoic Fatherhood, Timeless Wisdom for Modern Dads. Are you a father? Are you close to your father? Today I want to talk about how stoicism can help you to be a better father and to appreciate your own.

So one of the interesting things at the beginning of meditations is that Marcus Aurelius takes a bunch of time to talk about the people who had a profound influence in his life, and he gives thanks to those. and he talks about what it is that he learned from each of them. And two of the main father figures that Marcus Aurelius had were his grandfather, Verus, and one of the things that he talked about Verus was that he taught him “good character and the avoidance of bad temper.“

The other most profound influence that he had in his life was Antonius, who was his adopted father, who was the emperor before Marcus. And when Marcus was adopted by Antonius, he knew that he was going to become emperor. And so he really looked up to Antonius. Antonius was a profound influence on Marcus’s life. And throughout Meditations, he refers back to Antonius. And one of my favorite passages and probably because of my own past experience, in speaking or writing about Antonius, he said, “He never exhibited rudeness, lost control of himself, or turned violent. No one ever saw him sweat. Everything was to be approached logically and with due consideration, in a calm and orderly fashion, but decisively, with no loose ends.”

And that, to me, is incredibly high praise. And to give a little bit of why that’s so important to me. I’ve talked a lot about on this podcast about my own challenging relationship with my father. My father was a complicated man. There were many things that I appreciated and really respected about him. He was very smart. He could be very kind. He could be very funny. And he was always there for us in a lot of ways that I really appreciated.

So the other day I was riding along on my bike and I saw a little kid on a bike with training wheels and I thought about what it took for me when I learned how to ride a bike. And in my case, what happened is we were riding, we were driving somewhere and my dad saw a bike that somebody had put in the trash, just sitting on the, on the curb in our neighborhood.

And because my father grew up poor, he was not one to waste anything, and was fine when things weren’t in perfect condition. So we pulled over the car and we went and looked at the bike and the only thing that was wrong with it was that the hard plastic seat, it didn’t have a nice comfortable seat the hard plastic seat had a crack on the back and part of it had come off.

So it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to sit on, but for me, I think I was five or six at the time, six at the time, it was just fine. So we took it home. He made sure all the tires were, were fine and that it was safe and everything was tightened up. And he helped me that day to learn how to ride a bike in one day. He would stand behind me while I was on the bike, holding onto the seat and holding onto the handlebar to help me steer. And we would move along the grass in our front yard. And so that I could get comfortable with being on it. And over time, over a few hours time period, I was able, he was able to let go.

And I was able to steer the bike down the grass. It wasn’t a very big yard, but steer the bike down the grass. And then I would stop, get back, go up to the slightly higher part of the yard and then do the same thing. And we did that for hours until finally I was able to get to the point where I could balance on the bike by myself and was able to ride around the yard that we had on the grass without falling over.

And by the end of that day, I was actually out riding on the street with my older brother because my dad had taken several hours out of his day to teach me how to ride a bike. I didn’t need training wheels. He just said this is something that I think you can do and I’m going to do my best to teach you how to do it.

And like I said, I was thinking about this as I was riding home. the other day on my bike, and it really made me miss my father. And I actually teared up while I was driving, while I was riding home and, and ended up crying a little bit, just thinking about many of the great things about my father, even though there were many challenging things.

And I learned a great deal from him, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to be much more forgiving of some of the things that he did when we were younger, that he wasn’t very good about being angry. And he’d loss his temper quite often over small things, which is not something that lends itself well to have a close relationship at times, because when you feel like you can’t trust your parent, it can cause a lot of damage.

Which is why, for me, talking about fatherhood is something that’s so important. And, one of the things that I remember, when I had kids. was that my guiding principle, sadly enough, was that I didn’t want a father like my father. I didn’t want to be that kind of father. I wanted to make sure that my kids always knew they were loved, that home was a safe place for them. And I worked really hard up until even now that we can talk about anything and everything, and that they know that they are absolutely loved and cared for, and that I will do everything in my power to support them in any way that I can.

So, what can we take from Stoicism to help us to become better fathers, for those of us out there who are fathers, or who are planning on becoming fathers someday? I think the Stoics teach us a lot of very powerful lessons, and the first one is you should embrace the role of virtue. As Marcus Aurelius said in, you know, the opening quote of this, was, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be, be one.” And that means that we should do our best to embody the virtues that we want to see in our kids, that we should be the kind of people that we want our kids to be.

We want to practice wisdom and courage and justice, meaning how we treat other people, and self discipline in our lives. And that by being a good example to our children, that they will be able to see not only the things that we think are important, but how to actually live these things. It’s oftentimes much easier to learn things by example than it is just to read them in a book.

I know for me oftentimes that when I’m struggling with something or thinking about the type of person I want to be, I think about the role models that I had in my life and think about what they did and how they acted and try to, I guess, mimic that in a way to try and become that kind of person because I think that Again, learning from example is sometimes the fastest way to learn almost anything.

The next thing that’s important for fathers, and this is something that I really worked hard on when I was a father, or I still am a father, but when I was raising my kids, was that I practiced patience and that I practiced acceptance. And this is something that, because children, when they’re growing up, aren’t just small adults who know everything, They need to learn things.

They need to struggle through things. They need to fail at things. And they’re going to make plenty of mistakes. They’re going to do things that annoy us or frustrate us. But the more that we can be patient with them and accept them for exactly who they are and not try to make them become something that we think they should be but rather help them figure out who they want to be.

I think that’s one of the most important things that we can do as parents. And as Epictetus advises us to practice patience, we should make, you know, he said, “Make the best use of what is within your power and take the rest as it happens.” Because there’s so many things in life that we don’t have control over.

And things where kids are going to make mistakes, they’re going to do things that are going to cause problems. But, again, because we don’t control our children, they’re…we need to make sure that we’re controlling ourselves, we’re living the type of life that we want to be, we’re being the type of people that we want to be, and we’re doing our best to support them in also becoming the type of people that they want to be.

The next step that we can do that I think is really helpful is we can cultivate emotional resilience. So one of the struggles that I had with my dad was that he had a pretty explosive temper. And it was often unpredictable, which was probably the hardest part. So it was really challenging at times because we would just be playing around and doing kid stuff and he would be in a bad mood about something that had absolutely nothing to do with us, but it would set him off and he’d get very angry and oftentimes he’d pull out his belt. That was the worst thing that he hit us with.

And it was pretty scary and it reached the point where we would often avoid being at home around him because we were scared of him. And I didn’t want my kids to grow up that same way. So I really worked hard when dealing with my kids to practice that kind of emotional resilience. To be calm and to be, you know, keep that even temper as best I could because as kids are growing and they’re going to make mistakes. And if we can’t learn to control ourselves, then it’s going to be much harder for them to control themselves. And we can learn about this from Seneca, where, you know, we understand that it’s our own thinking around things –

like, in this case, my father and the internal demons that he was struggling with, is “That we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” That often times the things that we think are going to happen that our kids do, you know, are going to cause all these big things. When often times at the end of the day, it really wasn’t that big of a deal and we overreacted to that.

And I’ve had a few people write me talking about how they struggle with parenting and asking for advice. And often times it’s because the parents are trying to control what their kids do, because they’re afraid that their kids are going to make mistakes or do something, you know, that’s, that’s going to end up embarrassing them. But the thing is, is that kids are kids. And what they need more than anything is to know that you are always there to support and love them.

The next thing that we can think about is that we have lots of quality time and spend time with our kids. Because life is short. As Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” Make sure that when you’re with your children, that the way that you treat them is always a way that if you died today, that their last memory of you would be something that you would be proud of, that they would have this great fondness for you.

And even if it’s just something simple, it’s just, you know, sending a text to your kid saying, “Hey, I love you. I care about you. I’m proud of you.” Whatever it is, making sure that you understand that you let them know that they’re loved because time is short in our lives.

So when we look back on the Stoics, we can also see that the Stoics were good examples of how to be good parents. Marcus Aurelius had a large number of children, and unfortunately there were only a few that survived him, but he tried his best to balance everything that he was doing as emperor with being a good father. And again, because the examples that he had, who were fathers to him, with Antonius and his grandfather Verus, I’m sure he was probably a pretty good father. And we can see that he struggled with being a good person. And when you try to be a good person, then those things naturally emanate out in the way that you treat other people.

Another great example, that’s not talked much about, is Epictetus. Epictetus didn’t have any children of his own. But later in life, when he had basically retired from teaching, he took in a kid who was going to be abandoned and raised him as his own with another, with a woman. It’s never said if they were married or if they were a couple, but he recognized that he could still do good in the world. And he took on a kid that wasn’t his own and raised it just like his own. And to me, that shows that he was willing to put his philosophy into action, that he was willing to step up and take care of somebody that he didn’t need to, but he chose to.

So what are some things that we can do in our daily lives that can help us become better fathers? I think the first is to set some time each day aside for reflection, taking the time to meditate or taking time to sit down and Be thoughtful about your life and be thoughtful about your day and maybe write about your kids and write about what you’ve learned from them.

And maybe write about things that you could teach them. And talk, think about how you are being as a father. Because if you’re not taking the time to actually reflect on that, then it’s harder for you to be deliberate about the things you want to do and the things you want to accomplish as a father.

So the one kind of a funny idea is to practice premeditatio malorum, which means to the premeditation of evils. And this is to take the time to contemplate all the things that could go wrong because there are plenty of things that go wrong when you’re raising kids. There’s all kinds of chaos when you have children around, but the more that you can recognize all those chaotic situations, the more you can keep your equilibrium and your equanimity within those situations, allowing you to be a good example and a good leader and father to your children, that you don’t overreact to situations because you’ve already thought about all the horrible things that could go wrong.

And I know that’s bad sometimes to, you know, people struggle with the idea of premeditatio malorum because they think it’s depressive. But premeditatio malorum is the idea of sitting down in a safe space and just imagining, “how would you handle these situations? What are the, what’s the worst that could happen”, so that you can be composed and you can handle these situations in a calm and measured manner.

Another thing that we can do is practice gratitude. Seneca advises practicing gratitude as a way to cultivate contentment, and by taking the time to practice gratitude, voice your gratitude about life, voice your gratitude about your children, to your children, and show them how great life is. And to help them to appreciate all the things that they have in their lives. And letting them know how much you appreciate them.

I know for me, I tell my kids all the time how much I love them. And one of the things that I really appreciated about my kids is that kind of a side effect of having children was it made me a much less selfish person. And that’s something that I’m grateful for. I had to learn how to put a lot of my needs aside because I had these two children that I needed to take care of. And it wasn’t always fun, but in doing so, I learned to be more patient. I learned to be kinder to myself. And I, like I said, I also learned to be a much less selfish person, which was something that I needed in my life.

So fatherhood, when viewed through a stoic lens, becomes, like I said, a profound opportunity for personal growth and virtuous living. These are great opportunities for us to practice the four virtues. We practice wisdom when we teach our kids. We practice courage in stepping up and being a good example for our kids and helping them when they need help.

We practice justice by treating them fairly and kindly and lovingly. And we practice self discipline because sometimes we have to put our own needs aside in order to facilitate the needs of our children. And for those of you who are fathers out there, it can be tough sometimes, but leaning on the framework of Stoicism, it can give you some good guiding principles of how to be a good father, principles that you can pass on to your children, and hopefully they they will make you proud and become the type of people that we need in this world.

And that’s the end of this week’s Stoic Coffee Break. As always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening.

Just want to remind you, if you’re not following me on social media, please do so. You can find me on Instagram and threads at And you can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok at StoicCoffee.

Thanks again for listening!

Visit the Stoic Coffee Break website for more episodes, transcripts, and merch.

Find out more about the Leadership Mastermind.

Find me on linkedIn, instagram, twitter, or threads.

Coffee Break

300 – The Importance of Friendship from a Stoic Perspective

Do you have close friends? Are you a good friend? In this episode I talk about the importance of friendship and how Stoicism can help you be a better friend.

"Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve."

Check out this great video of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman interviewing each other. It's fantastic!


 Hello friends and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. My name is Eric Cloward. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take aspects of Stoicism and do my best to break them down to their most important points. I talk about my experiences, both my successes and my failure, and share my thoughts on Stoicism in the hopes that you can learn something new.

All within the space of a coffee break. Now this week's episode is called The Importance of Friendship From a Stoic Perspective. Now before I get into that, I just want to kind of give you an update on how things have been going for me. I finally got an apartment. It's been nice to be settling in. Things are still a little bit messy, but I'm getting there. It's a pretty nice place in the south of Amsterdam and It's nice to be settled. So thanks for everybody for your comments on my previous episode where I talked about how I got scammed and what I, how challenging that was for me.

And this week's episode is episode number 300, which is pretty exciting. And when I started this podcast, I never thought that I would reach Episode 300, I started the podcast as something to practice making a podcast. And I just happened to talk about stoicism because it was what I was studying at the time. And because so many people listened and wrote in and talked about how much it helped them, that gave me the courage to continue with this process and to really delve into stoicism and make it part of my life.

And I find that the times that I took a break from the podcast, And then coming back to it, I found that doing that really helped me to integrate these principles into my life in a very deep and meaningful way because I was studying them on a weekly and daily basis. So thanks so much for supporting me and thanks for listening to the podcast.

I guess some other news, I've had a, kind of a rough start getting into my apartment. I ended up slicing up my finger, my thumb, and I have four stitches in there, so now they're healing. But, I kind of had to laugh about it because something good that came from that, which is part of what Stoicism teaches, is that, I have been playing guitar, which you can see in the back here, if you're watching the video and was writing a song and there was a chord structure that I couldn't get.

And because I couldn't use my index finger, I had to be creative with how I was practicing guitar and finally figured out the missing chord in the song that I was working on. So sometimes when things don't seem good. They have a blessing in disguise. Anyway, onto this week's episode. So like I said, this week's episode is about the importance of friendship from a stoic perspective.

And part of the reason why I wanted to do this was there were two things that happened recently that I really was impacted by and one of them is I was watching a video and I'm sure plenty of you have seen this. And if not, I will have a link to it down in the, in the show notes on this. But it was an interview of Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds, and they were interviewing each other and they have a very close friendship.

They've been friends for about 20 years now. And for me, what was just. Amazing to watch this video is here are these two superstars. I mean, and watching them talk and help and support each other and the way that they talked about each other and how much fun they have with each other. And they have so much, but they also have their struggles in life.

And they talk about the importance of friendship and why their friendship It means so much to them and how it's enhanced their lives and the things they've learned from each other. And they were also incredibly vulnerable with each other. They tell each other that they love each other and they care. I mean, and these are two guys who are considered, you know, fairly macho and whatnot, but they're not afraid to express their emotions and they're very open about a lot of those things.

And to see how encouraging they were. So, one instance, Ryan talks about how when he first got on the X Men set, and it was the first time he met Hugh, and Hugh ran up to him and gave him this big hug and said, Hey Ryan, it's so good to see you here. And Ryan was just like, you actually know my name. And he talked about how Hugh was such a great example of how to be on a film set, and how to care for not just the people who are going to help your career, but for everybody who is helping to make the film.

And then Hugh talked about how impressed he was with Ryan about talking about his struggles with anxiety and how much support he's given to his fans in dealing with that anxiety. And this is the kind of friendship that I think we all strive for. I mean, we're all not going to be hanging out with superstars like that.

Maybe some of us will, but more than anything, it was really neat to see just two decent human beings and how much they cared about each other and were so supportive of each other. So this week's episode, I want to, like I said, I want to talk about why friendships are important and what we can do to build up some of our friendships using stoic values.

Oh, and I, I forgot the second thing that happened recently. That really made me want to do this episode is I had a friend who is struggling with some things in life and You know said hey, I want to run some things by why don't you swing by my place? And so I went over there the other night, and we just had this really great conversation talking about the things he's struggling with.

And for me, it was really, it was very touching, the fact that he reached out to me, hoping that I would be able to shed some light on some difficult situations where he was trying to wrap his head around, and wasn't being the kind of person he wanted to be. And the fact that he would reach out to me to help him with these struggles meant, meant the world to me.

Because that means that I have somebody who trusts me that much that they can be that vulnerable. And this is somebody that I admire. They have, to me, he seems like he has so much going on and has everything together, but to hear him talk about his struggles and just be that open and honest, just, yeah, it was really touching to me.

And then I got some in return. He was able to help me kind of focus on some of the things that That I struggle with, I'm not the most organized person and I have so many creative ideas and trying to stay focused while I'm trying to, you know, work on becoming a coach and, you know, and writing a book and working on the podcast and some other ideas and things that I'm working on.

And he really kind of helped me break some of those things down because that's where his strength lies. And I think that these two things just really wanted me to dive into this a little bit deeper. So first I want to talk about the idea of. Stoicism and friendship and what it means. So Marcus Aurelius talks about, you know, people exist for the sake of one another, teach them then or bear with them.

And the Stoics were very, very keen on teaching us that connections with other humans and friendship were all very, very important. And they're part of the human condition because we're social animals. We do more, we do better when we work together, when we are together. And it's those connections. with other people that really make life that important.

And the Stoics have this theory of social development. And I learned about this while I was working on my book. And the early, and it's called oikiosis. And the earliest stage of oikiosis is self preservation. And this is something that all living animals have. They have an inclination towards self care and preserving themselves.

And this is the basis of more complex forms of social affection. The next step that they, they defined was rational self interest. And as human beings mature, they begin to use reason to understand their needs more. And start to recognize that their well being is tied to their moral character and their rational choices.

And not merely just to external conditions. They see that they can actually take actions in this world to get their needs met. And the third step in the Stoic's oikiosis is what they call social affection. And this involves extending care beyond just yourself to those who are close to you, such as your family and your friends.

And you recognize that they also have desires for happiness and that you can work together to get your needs met. And that's something that's really important for all of us. And then the next step is what they call moral awareness and universal concern. And this is, it, it's part of the stoic idea of cosmopolitanism, which is rather than just thinking of yourself As part of a family or part of a tribe or maybe part of a city or a country that you are a citizen of the world and that all humans are part of your extended family and that you need to make sure that you step out of yourself and just those around you, and find ways to do good in the world in a much larger way. Again, in that this is part of our human nature to do so.

So the Stoics viewed friendship as an essential component of having a good life. And friendship is a way for us to practice virtue. It's a way for us to practice kindness. It's a way for us to practice courage of being vulnerable and practicing radical candor with our friends and being honest with them about our struggles and being honest with them about some of the things that they're struggling with.

And, the Stoics pulled a lot from the Epicureans, and I like this quote from Epicurus, where he says, It is not so much our friend's help that helps us, as the confident knowledge that they will help us. Sometimes just knowing that you have people supporting you, even if they don't do anything, you know, directly to help you, really just enhances your life.

When you think about all the people around you, and having a good social net and a good social community is just incredibly important to living a good life. So what do the Stoics have for qualities of friendship? What makes a good friendship? Well, obviously, honesty. And I like to, I like to dig a little deeper and put that as candor.

And the idea behind candor is that everything you say is honest. But it is also vulnerable and revealing of some of the things behind what you say. And there's also mutual respect, and of course living in accordance to virtue. And when we are close to people who care for us and who help build us up, then we're able to grow into something better.

And when we return those same things and we try to help them and support them and help build them up as well, then that makes us a better person because we We learn wisdom, we learn, we improve our justice. And again, the idea behind the Stoic virtue of justice is, how do we treat other people? That's incredibly important to the Stoics, which is why it's one of the four cardinal virtues of Stoicism.

And we can see this in the friendship between Seneca and his nephew, Lucilius. They had an ongoing correspondence. And we have those letters today, and they're called the letters of Lucilius. And they talked a lot about philosophy. They just talked a lot about basic things in life. They're very affectionate and intimate with each other in a very kind and generous way.

And we also see this when we look at Marcus Aurelius. Because Marcus Aurelius had a friend named Fronto, one of his mentors. And they wrote back and forth to each other all the time. And even though Fronto didn't really like that Marcus Aurelius was big into philosophy, they were still incredibly close.

And at one point Marcus wrote to him and said, My dear Fronto, I miss you so much. I miss, you know, and I love you as much as I love myself. Because that's how deep their bond was. And this was the emperor of Rome. I mean, he had people around him all the time, but he chose particular people who made him better even if they disagreed with him on a lot of things.

But having friends who can be very different than you and still loving and caring and supporting them is a big part of what makes a good friendship. So as we've talked about before, there are just a lot of practical benefits to friendship. I mean, you have emotional support. You have people who will help you to be resilient when things are hard.

You learn a lot of things from them, such as, you know, maybe where your values are out of alignment. They can point things out when you kind of screw up and you do things that, that maybe aren't the best, but they can do so in a way that you will actually listen and they can help give you advice and guide you into becoming the type of person that you want to be.

And this is another quote from Epictetus I really liked. He said, “He who seeks friendship for favorable occasion strips it of all its nobility,” meaning that if we only have friends when things are good, then we're missing out on the true part of friendship and that reaching out to our friends when things are hard and supporting our friends when things are hard for them, is a big part of what makes a good life. And that we shouldn't just have fair weather friends, but friends who will stick by us through thick and thin.

Another thing to think about is that Marcus Aurelius, in the opening of Meditations, lists off all the people who have been a big influence on his life. And a lot of them are close friends, and people that, Not only who were mentors that he respected, but were people who taught him great things in his life to become the kind of person he wanted to be because he knew he was going to be emperor of Rome and he knew that he needed to develop the character in himself so that he wasn't corrupted by that position.

And he had a lot of people, like I mentioned Fronto before, Rusticus, who was one of his teachers who guided him into Stoic philosophy, but through that you can see that Marcus Aurelius, at the very beginning of meditations, is listing off all the people who helped him and supported him and who he respected – friendship is the first section within meditations. Because it was, it's really that important. And human connection is that important.

So how do we use stoicism to help us cultivate better friendships? I think a lot of things that really help is that you, you seek out people who are trying to help you to be better people. As Seneca said, make sure that you associate with people who will make you better. And that was something that the Stoics found very important, is that we learn through being around other people. We can't just develop virtue in a vacuum. We can't just become a virtuous person by studying these things. We actually have to go out and practice those things.

And one of the best ways is associate with other people and to find friendship. And some of the best things about cultivating good friendships is that you have to practice accepting others for exactly who they are. And that's part of what the Stoics teach us is that we can't control other people. We can be friends with people and care about people who disagree with us.

In fact, they should, at times they should disagree with us because we don't know everything. And so oftentimes having that friend who disagrees with you on something helps to open up your eyes so that you can see things in a new way. You can learn things that you didn't learn before.

The other thing is then you have other people who will accept you for who you are, and that you are allowed to be authentically you. And that's something that is incredibly important because the Stoics talk about How you need to live a life of integrity and be the kind of person that you want to be no matter what and when you can find friends who appreciate that and accept that and support you in that, then it helps you to become a much better person as well.

They can also be there to point out your good qualities when you're having a hard time remembering them. And they can also, like I said, help you find direction when you're not living according to your value.

So I want you to take some time this week and think about how the friendships that you have and think about what kind of friend you're being. Are you being the type of friend who is encouraging others to live a good life and to practice stoic virtues, even if they're not stoics? But that you encourage them to practice, courage, wisdom, justice, and self discipline to help them to become the best people that they can. And finding friends who will help you to do the same because you can't go it alone. We all need other people in this world.

And one of the things that I'm so grateful for since I've moved to Amsterdam are the number of great friends that I've met and people that I know that I can rely on the fact when I was had to go to the hospital to get stitches in my hand the other day, it asked for a family contact or an emergency contact. And since I don't have any family here, they wanted somebody local and my friend who helped me move into my apartment. I was able to put his name down and then I sent him a text saying, Hey, by the way, I put you down as my emergency contact. And he, you know, gave that a big thumbs up and was like, yeah, that's great, man.

And its small things like that just warm my heart because it means that I have a support network here. I have people who care about me and who are looking out for my best interest. And I think that's what we all need in this world, because world's a hard place and having people that, you know, have your back is something that we can all really use in this life.

And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. As always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening. I also wanted to say, if you aren't following me on social media, please do so. You can find me at Instagram and threads at, and you can find me on TikTok and Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and YouTube at StoicCoffee.

Thanks again for listening!

Visit the Stoic Coffee Break website for more episodes, transcripts, and merch.

Find out more about the Leadership Mastermind.

Find me on linkedIn, instagram, twitter, or threads.


299 – Imposter Syndrome: Who do you Think You Are?

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Do you often feel like you’re just faking your way through life? Today I want to talk about how Stoicism can help you overcome imposter syndrome and live a more authentic life.

“Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.”

—Marcus Aurelius

We all have times in our lives when we feel like just faking our way through the day. We often have this nagging feeling that we’re “just not good enough”, even when we achieve some success. Imposter syndrome, the persistent feeling of being a fraud despite evident success, is a common struggle among many of us, especially high achievers. Stoic philosophy, with its timeless wisdom, offers profound insights and practical strategies to overcome this debilitating mindset. By applying Stoic principles, we can cultivate a more resilient and confident self-perception.

In my own life, imposter syndrome is something that I’ve struggled with. For example, early on in making this podcast, I often felt like I was an imposter because while I understood a lot of the Stoic principles I was discussing, I didn’t feel like I lived them very well. But one of the things I’ve learned over the last 8 years of studying Stoicism is that the Stoic taught and wrote about these ideas not because they were bragging about how perfect they were, but it was also their way of working through these ideas for themselves. It was their way of reminding themselves of the way that they wanted to live their lives. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations were his personal thoughts and reminders for himself so that he could work through the challenges in his own life. Creating this podcast has been very much the same. I do it so that I can help others and so that I can constantly work through my own struggles. I’ve joked with friends that this podcast is my “public therapy”.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome manifests itself as a fear of being exposed as incompetent or unworthy, regardless of our achievements or external validation. This fear often leads to anxiety, self-doubt, and a constant sense of inadequacy. By applying the principles of Stoicism, we can develop our own inner strength and equanimity, which can help counter these feelings.

Principle 1: Focus on What You Can Control

One of the core tenets of Stoicism is the dichotomy of control, as articulated by Epictetus in his Enchiridion:

"Some things are up to us and some things are not."

Imposter syndrome thrives on focusing on what we cannot control—other people's opinions, the outcome of our efforts, and external recognition. By shifting our focus to what we can control—our thoughts, actions, and responses—we can reduce anxiety and build confidence. For example, instead of worrying about whether others perceive us as competent, we can concentrate on doing our best work and continuously improving our skills. As Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”

Principle 2: Embrace Your Humanity

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, reminds us in his "Meditations":

“Do not be disgusted, discouraged, or dissatisfied if you do not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when you have failed, return again, and be content if the greater part of what you do is consistent with man's nature.”

Here Marcus is reminding us of the importance of accepting our imperfections and shortcomings, and focusing on our actions. Imposter syndrome often stems from an unrealistic expectation of perfection. By recognizing that everyone, including ourselves, has flaws and makes mistakes, we can alleviate the pressure to be flawless and instead strive to be our best selves.

Principle 3: Reframe Your Perspective

Stoicism teaches us to reframe our thoughts and perceptions. Seneca, another prominent Stoic philosopher, said:

"We suffer more in imagination than in reality."

The Stoics taught that negative emotions were created from misperceptions or incorrect judgements about an external events and circumstances. When we experience imposter syndrome, we often exaggerate our perceived shortcomings and failures, and get stuck in ruminating on them. Often times, even when do achieve success, we let perfectionism get in the way and look for all the ways that we should have done it better. By practicing cognitive reframing, we can rationally challenge these distorted thoughts and view them more objectively. For instance, instead of thinking, "I don't deserve my success because I cold have done it better,” we can reframe it to, "I have worked hard to achieve my goals, and I continue to learn and grow."

Principle 4: Practice Self-Reflection and Acceptance

Self-reflection is a vital Stoic practice. Marcus Aurelius advises:

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

I think that the biggest creator of imposter syndrome is that often we really don’t know ourselves. We may think things like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not worthy enough.” But what does that really mean? Good enough for what? And who decides if we’re worthy enough?

So what keeps us from really getting to know ourselves? Fear. We’re too afraid of looking at the things that we don’t like about ourselves because it’s scary. But until we are willing to face that darker and less likable parts of ourselves, then we’ll be constantly running away from them.

In episode 218 Accept Yourself, I talked about how I had to really take a deep look at why I thought I was not a very good person. I felt like I needed to have validation from my long term partner in order to feel better about myself. When she was upset with me, I felt awful about myself. My sense of self, and my self esteem were so tied up with what I thought she thought about me, that I made us both miserable. We would get into arguments because I would try to change her opinion about me so that I could feel better about myself.

As Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “Things do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; so our perturbations come only from our inner opinions.” It is the opinion about ourselves that causes us the most distress, and what we think about ourselves is something that we can control.

Regular self-reflection helps us identify irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns that fuel imposter syndrome. By journaling our thoughts and experiences, we can gain clarity and perspective, recognizing our achievements and progress.

One journaling practice that I recommended in episode 218 is to write down everything that you don’t like about yourself, and practice accepting those things about yourself. I know that it may sound counterintuitive, but until you’re willing to face up to negative opinions you hold about yourself, they will continue to drag you down. And to be honest, I think you’ll be surprised at how trivial most of those things really are, and you’ll recognize that most of the things on your list are probably on the lists of those closest to you. But more than anything, it’s a way to be honest with yourself, own up to the things that scare you, and accept yourself for exactly who you are.

Principle 5: Cultivate Inner Resilience

Stoicism emphasizes resilience in the face of adversity. Marcus Aurelius encourages us to build inner strength:

“Remember, too, on every occasion that leads you to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.”

Imposter syndrome can trigger intense emotional responses, but Stoic resilience teaches us to manage these emotions and remain steadfast. By practicing mindfulness and being aware of our own thinking, we are better able to regulate our emotions, and we can respond to self-doubt with calm and rationality, rather than letting it overwhelm us.

When we do suffer setbacks, then we can look for the opportunity that comes from it. How we respond to a failure is place for growth to become something even greater. If everything worked out exactly as we wanted all the time, then life wouldn’t be very interesting. When we have challenges and the risk of failure then it makes it all the more rewarding when we succeed. As Seneca wrote, “A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.”

Principle 6: Seek Wisdom and Support

The Stoics valued wisdom and learning from others. Seneca wrote:

"Associate with people who are likely to improve you."

Seeking guidance from mentors, colleagues, or trusted friends can provide valuable perspectives and encouragement. Sharing our struggles with imposter syndrome can also help us realize that we are not alone and that others have faced and overcome similar challenges. Also, by understanding that you don’t have to be perfect, and accepting the areas where you are weak gives you insight into knowing when to ask for help.

Principle 7: Live with Integrity

Living according to our values and principles is a cornerstone of Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius urges us:

"If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it."

By aligning our actions with our values, we can develop a sense of integrity and authenticity. This alignment helps us build self-respect and reduces the likelihood of feeling like an imposter. When we act in accordance with our principles, we can take pride in our efforts and trust in our capabilities.


Imposter syndrome is a pervasive issue that can undermine our confidence and well-being. However, by applying Stoic principles, we can cultivate a more resilient and grounded mindset. Focusing on what we can control, embracing our humanity, reframing our perspectives, practicing self-reflection, cultivating inner resilience, seeking wisdom and support, and living with integrity are powerful strategies to overcome imposter syndrome. By integrating these Stoic teachings into our daily lives, we can navigate challenges with greater confidence and grace, ultimately leading a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Visit the Stoic Coffee Break website for more episodes, transcripts, and merch.

Find out more about the Leadership Mastermind.

Find me on linkedIn, instagram, twitter, or threads.

Thanks again for listening!


298 – A Map is Good, A Compass is Better

Do you struggle because you can’t handle when things don’t go according to plan? Today I want to talk about how having a plan is important, but having an inner compass to guide you can help you be more adaptable, make decisions under uncertainty, and forge a path when things don’t work out as planned.

“What then can guide a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the soul within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without a purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy.”

—Marcus Aurelius

A while back, I was reading Mark Tuitert’s book The Stoic Mindset and getting ready to interview him for my podcast. There is a line in the book that I really liked: "A map is good. A compass is better.” It was one of those lines that jumped out and made me stop and think for a minute. The more I thought I about it, the more it made realize that this is why Stoicism is so powerful. It’s not just a set of steps that you follow to happiness, but a set of principles and tools that help us deal with challenges in all situations in life.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with creating a plan or a map to help us accomplish what we want. We need to know where we going or what we’re trying to accomplish, and not thinking through the best way to get there is well, foolish. But a map can only get us so far.

The Inner Compass

Stoicism teaches the importance of focusing on what is within our control. As Epictetus stated, "Some things are in our control and others not." This fundamental distinction underpins why we should prefer a compass over a map. Maps detail external environments and plans, and are only as useful as the accuracy and permanence of their content, which are outside our control and prone to change. In contrast, when we are guided by our inner compass of virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation, we remain steadfast regardless of external conditions.

Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic emperor, relied heavily on this internal compass. His writings in Meditations serve not as a map of his empire, but as reflections on how to maintain his composure, virtue, and rational judgment amidst the chaos of life and governing. For instance, he advises, "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

Practicality and Adaptability

The Stoics valued adaptability, a trait inherent in the use of a compass. As Seneca wrote, "Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant," teaching us that those guided by their internal virtues can navigate life's unpredictability with greater ease and grace. When maps fail—when plans go awry due to unexpected events—it is the compass that provides the means to recalibrate and forge a new path.

This adaptability is particularly relevant today, where our careers and personal lives are often subject to rapid and unpredictable changes. The Stoic practice of premeditatio malorum, which involves visualizing potential adversities, prepares us to use our inner compass in any situation, helping us to be resilient and giving us the ability to thrive under changing and difficult circumstances. By focusing on the things you can control, you reduce the impact that external circumstances and events have on you.

In my own life, I’ve come to realize that the plan that I was taught as a child of what it meant to have a good life was like many others. Graduate from high school, get a college degree, find a job, get married, buy a house, have a few kids, and work towards retirement. If I measured my success in life by this map, then I have failed pretty dramatically. The plan that I had for my life has turned out far different than what I expected, and has been far harder and more rewarding than what I could have imagined.

Even in the last few months in upending my life and moving to Amsterdam and changing careers, nothing has gone exactly to plan. I was hoping to find a place to settle in after a few months, but even now I’m dealing with the challenges with grace, having lived in 4 different places in 4 months. There are times when I feel anxious about my career change into leadership coaching and wonder how I’m going to be as successful as I want. But through it all, I’ve leaned heavily into my Stoic principles to help me navigate through the setbacks by recognizing that all of these challenges are opportunities to grow. I’m learning to be patient and pushing forward each time something doesn’t come through. I’ve been reaching out to others for help and guidance and I’m finding other opportunities that I couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Developing Your Inner Compass

So how does developing virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and discipline help you navigate when your map fails? Think of a map as the outline of what you’re trying to do. Maybe this is a personal goal, such as getting back into shape or starting your own company. Maybe it’s a career goal you’re working on such as completing a project or learning a new skill. Having a roadmap is essential for knowing where you’re going and some idea of how to get there.

But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Do you give up because your map of how to get there wasn’t exactly right? By applying the virtues of Stoicism as your compass you’re able to calmly evaluate what went wrong, come up with alternatives, and keep going. If you miss some days in your workout due to illness or injury, you take time and recover properly and get back to it as soon as possible. If you miss a deadline or run into a seemingly insurmountable problem at work, you take a step back, evaluate where you are, come up with other solutions to work around the roadblocks in your way.

Let’s take the example of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism. Zeno was a merchant who lost everything when he survived a shipwreck and ended up in Athens. He wasn’t sure what his next steps were, so he spent time at a local bookshop where he stumbled on the biography of Socrates by Xenophon. He was so taken with the character and description of Socrates that he found a teacher and threw himself into studying philosophy, and later developed Stoicism based on what he learned from his studies. Rather than bemoaning his loss, he adapted and found a new and more fulfilling direction in his life. He later reflected, “I made a prosperous voyage when I was shipwrecked.”

Inner Compass and Decision Making

Another important aspect about developing an inner compass of virtue is that it helps you make decisions about how you do things. Maybe the path your on brings up choices that would have you do things that aren’t ethical or legal in order to reach your goals. If you have developed a strong moral compass, you face up to and take responsibility for your behavior and actions. You don’t have to debate whether or not you should take questionable actions. You do the right thing even at the cost of your career because you’d rather maintain the integrity of your character than compromise your principles. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “It can only harm you if it harms your character.”

Benefit to Society

For Stoics, the moral compass does not merely direct personal choices; it also aligns with universal ethical principles. Standing up for your principles is not always an easy thing to do, but doing so not only benefits you, it can benefit society as a whole. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in captivity, only to forgive his captors and work for peace upon his release. When he finished his time as president, he left office and ensured a peaceful transfer of power rather than trying to stay in office. He recognized that his example of how government should operate was far more important than his own enrichment or glory.


Through the Stoic lens, an inner compass proves superior to a map. While the map—our plans and external knowledge—can inform us and offer a possible path, it is the compass—our internal virtues and moral judgment—that truly guides us to live not just successful, but virtuous lives. As we navigate the complex landscapes of modern existence, nurturing our internal compass becomes essential, ensuring that we remain steadfast in our principles and adaptable in our methods. When the maps and plans that we have for our lives fail us, having a strong inner compass gives us the resilience to navigate the detours, and to do so with patience and courage.

Visit the Stoic Coffee Break website for more episodes, transcripts, and merch.


297 – From Socrates to Seneca: The Timeless Power of a Good Question

Do you ask questions? And what I mean by that is, do you go into conversation or arguments thinking you already know everything? Today I want to talk about the importance of staying curious and how to ask useful questions.

“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”

—John Stuart Mill

Far too often we think that we know everything about a situation and forget to approach things in a way that could be useful. We decide that we know the answer and we spend our time trying to convince the other person that we have the right answer and they should agree with us.

Now it is possible that we have right answer. Maybe we’re an expert in a certain domain, and we really do know what we’re talking about. But time and again it’s been shown that good communication is not just about stating the facts confidently and expecting them to be accepted.

The Importance of Asking Questions

When we take the time to ask questions, then we start to understand how others think. In doing so we might actually be able to clarify what they might not understand. We’re also able to gain insight into their biases and preexisting beliefs, which color their perspectives. It can also help us to see our own biases and beliefs and how they might be coloring our own perspectives.

Asking questions shows that we’re interested in trying to understand the other person and want to have a real conversation with them, rather than just trying to talk to or at them. Also, by showing interest in others we show that what they have to say matters, even if we disagree with them.

Marcus Aurelius reminds us to, “Accustom yourself not to be disregarding of what someone else has to say: as far as possible enter into the mind of the speaker.” By trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and see things from their perspective, we gain a better insight into how they view the world.

The Stoic Approach to Questions

The Stoics teach that in order to live a good life, we need to live a life according to virtue. One of the cardinal virtues of Stoicism is wisdom. Now wisdom is not just knowledge, but how to apply knowledge into practical experience, and they way that we gain wisdom is to be curious and always be willing to change our opinions.

The Stoics even teach us to question ourselves constantly and to never take something at face value. We can see this from the Stoics concept of impressions and assent. When we perceive something, we are exposed to an impression. Once we have agreed that what we perceived is accurate, then we assent or agree to it. But taking the time to question ourselves, we can get better at recognizing our own logical missteps, and be more forgiving of others when they fall into the same traps. As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, "Question your assumptions."


Nothing is more frustrating than having a conversation with someone that is trying to change your opinion on something. One tool that be can useful when having conversations with others is to remember the Stoic idea of indifferents. This means that anything outside of your will, meaning your thoughts, choices, and actions is outside of your control. The most important thing outside of your control is what others think, say, or do, so the less you try to control other people, the more likely you are to have a good conversation with them.

By remembering that you don’t have control over another persons opinion, you stop trying to control the conversation and the other person. And when you think about it, why does it matter what someone else thinks? Why is it important that they agree with you?

One of the things that I’ve worked on in my life is not worrying about if others agree with me. When I was younger, I would often get into arguments with people I cared about because I needed that validation. I needed them to agree with me because if they didn’t, I felt like there was something wrong with me. If I believed I had the right answer or opinion on something and they didn’t adopt the same opinion, I took it as a personal rejection. It took me a long time to understand that people can think differently than me, and they can still love me.

Benefits of Asking Better Questions

Better Connections

Asking questions can strengthen relationships by showing interest and respect for others' perspectives. It shows them that you are truly interested in them, and not just trying to convince them the rightness of your opinion. Even if at the end of it you agree to disagree, at the very least you’ll have deeper understanding of the other persons point of view, and shown respect in trying to understand why they have their perspective.

Better Decision Making

When you ask more questions, you improve your ability to make decisions. Thorough questioning leads to better-informed decisions, reducing errors from assumptions. You may be the smartest person in the room, but you still can’t know everything. Taking the time to truly understand something increases your own wisdom. In short, you might be misinformed or lack some crucial piece of knowledge. Being humble and asking questions is way to not only gain knowledge but sharpen your wisdom.

John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher and economist summed it up nicely, writing, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”

Increased Self-Awareness

Questions lead to introspection, aiding in personal growth and alignment with your values. When you have a good conversation with someone, you’re not only examining the other persons thinking process, you’re working through your own, which can help you to see faults and biases in your own way of thinking. As Epictetus taught, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”.

How to Ask Better Questions

First off, be honest with your questions. If you’re going into a conversation or argument simply to prove the other person wrong, you’re not going to make any headway. Being combative, such as just being contrarian and just taking the opposite perspective just to score points isn’t going to do either of you any good.

Next, as open-ended questions that provoke thought rather than those that elicit yes/no answers. You’re trying to understand their perspective, and yes/no questions don’t give you any context or insight to why they think the way they do.

When the person responds, practice active listening, which means listening to understand, not to respond. If you’re focusing on what you’re going to say next you’re going to miss some key information, and you’re simply showing that you’re not real interested in what the other person has to say.

Another important thing is to do so at the appropriate time and context. If you’re having a difficult conversation with someone, make sure it works for both of you. If either of your are tired or not in a good headspace, it may not be the best time for a deep dive into a difficult topic. Also, the other person has to be open to it. Sometimes people don’t want to have their opinions and perspectives questioned. So, be smart, and be kind, and let it go if it’s not the right time and place.

Lastly, use follow-up questions. Follow-up questions show active engagement and help dig deeper into issues. If someone answers your questions, go deeper to be sure that you clearly understand their answer. I’ve often found some pretty big flaws in my own thinking because someone asked me a question to dig a little deeper.

Practical Examples and Techniques

One of the greatest examples from philosophy about how to ask questions is Socrates. Socrates’ way of teaching was mostly to ask questions, and let his students and others he was speaking with come up with their own conclusions. He also entered the conversations humbly, and almost as more of a facilitator rather than an expert.

One of my favorite examples of this is in Plato’s Latches, where Socrates and other discuss why bravery is. First he enters the conversation with humility and honesty, stating: “Well, Lysimachus, I shall try to advise you about this matter as best I can, and what is more, I shall also do everything else you are asking me to do. However, since I am younger than anyone else here, and less experienced than they are, I think that what is most fitting is that I first listen to what they say and learn from them. Then, if I have anything to add to what they say, I should provide instruction at that stage, and try to convince yourself and these men too.”

As the dialogue progresses, a definition of bravery is put forth as someone who is willing to stay and fight at his post when the enemy is advancing. Socrates then clarifies that he is looking for a definition for bravery that could be applied to all military situations. A second definition is put forward that courage is "a certain perseverance of the soul”. Socrates then asks if a solider was fighting while retreating would not also be brave, if retreating was the more prudent thing to do? Laches, one the participants in the discussion, concedes that a retreating solider could also be considered to be brave in some circumstances.

Now, I’m not going to go on with the rest of the dialog because it is rather lengthy, but the point is that Socrates, rather simply stating an opinion on what it means to be brave, was willing to ask questions, and ask for clarifications. He also was humble and came into the conversation with an honest perspective of trying to understand the topic. As Epictetus teaches us, “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

In my own life, I often used to dominate conversations with my opinions and knowledge, to the point where I would often annoy people because the conversation was all about me. I wasn’t necessarily rude, but other people didn’t feel like they were part of the conversation because I was too busy talking. Much of this was due to my own insecurities and wanting others to like me because of the stuff that new. The way that I helped break myself of this habit was to write the number 3 on my wrist to remind myself to ask 3 questions to anyone I was talking to. This helped me to be more aware of how much I was talking and to include others in the conversation.


Asking better questions, and actually listening to the answers is an important aspect of creating clear and helpful communication with others. It shows that we care about them, and are willing to try and understand them, even if we disagree with them. We can also keep in mind that the Stoic teach us to remember that other peoples opinions are not something that we can have control over, which helps us to not worry about trying to change their opinions, fostering a more inviting environment for others to share their honest opinions without judgment, building stronger connections and more understanding with those we care about.

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294 – The Ripple Effect of Small Acts of Kindness: A Stoic Perspective

Does the world seem more divided and angry? Does it feel like it’s hard to trust others in our society? Today I want to talk about how the small things we do can have a bigger impact than you think.

"Kindness is mankind's greatest delight."

— Marcus Aurelius

Often times we get stuck in thinking that the world is a mess. Since our minds are attuned to spotting negative things so it can keep up safe, watching the news or seeing what’s happening in our feeds on social media can easily make the world seem pretty grim. If we’re not careful it’s easy to become anxious and pessimistic about humanity.

The significance of small acts of kindness stands as a beacon, illuminating the path toward a more compassionate society. Today I want to explore how seemingly insignificant gestures acquire profound importance, offering a roadmap for individual and collective betterment, and how small actions can impact others, ourselves, and society as a whole.

The Stoic Foundation of Kindness

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoicism emphasizes virtue, wisdom, and the pursuit of the common good as the foundations of a fulfilled life. Marcus Aurelius, once penned, "What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee”, underscoring the Stoic belief in the interconnectedness of all individuals and the importance of contributing positively to the community. In the context of kindness, Stoicism posits that even the smallest gestures of goodwill ripple through the social fabric, benefiting the whole.

Humanities greatest strength is that we can work together to accomplish amazing things. While many attribute our intellect as the reason that we have come to dominate the world, it’s out ability to work together in large groups that is truly our defining characteristic.

The Power of Small Acts

The other day I stumbled down a rabbit hole on Quora about small acts of kindness. As I read through each of the posts of seemingly small acts, I found myself tearing up and smiling at the generosity of strangers, often in situations where they didn’t need to be. From buying some hungry teenagers a box of tacos at Taco Bell, to paying for gas for an elderly woman who only had $3 in change, to a former math teacher on the subway helping a father relearn fractions so he in turn could help his son who was struggling in school, the kindness of strangers is alive and well.

Trust is a the glue that builds strong communities. Since most of us live in cities and larger communities, it’s not possible to know everyone, so we need to be able to trust others. Small acts of kindness are manifestations of our inherent capacity for empathy and compassion. These small acts, where you show kindness in situation where you don’t need to, increase trust in society. Where there is more trust, we feel safer, and our outlook on the world improves. Such gestures may seem trivial, yet their cumulative effect can transform communities and, by extension, societies.

Everyday Kindness

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

— Mother Teresa

Stoicism teaches us to focus on what is within our control—our actions and attitudes. Acts of kindness, no matter how small, are within everyone's grasp. Epictetus remarked, "It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” which means that we choose how we want to interact with the world. By consciously deciding to perform acts of kindness, we assert control over our lives and contribute in positive way by helping others where we may have nothing to gain.

The Impact on the Giver and the Receiver

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."

— Seneca

From a Stoic viewpoint, the benefits of kindness are twofold: they enhance the well-being of the receiver and enrich the character of the giver. We become better people by practicing kindness. Because practicing kindness is a choice, it is an exercise of will to find moments where we can be kind, and to step up and take action rather than just going on about our day. Stoicism encourages us to seek out opportunities for kindness as a means of self-improvement and as a way to contribute to the greater good.

One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned in this life is that when you learn to be kind to others and less selfish, you are happier overall. Usually people are selfish because they feel like they are not getting something they think they deserve or need in order to be happy. I know for me when I was younger I was definitely a more selfish person and this was certainly the case. Practicing small acts of kindness helps you to overcome your selfish tendencies. You do good things to others not because they deserve them or because you’re expecting anything in return, but because you want to give them.

The Neuroscience of Kindness

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

— Aesop

Modern neuroscience supports the Stoic perspective on kindness, showing that acts of generosity and compassion activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. These findings suggest that kindness is not just morally commendable but also beneficial to our psychological and physical health.

There have been plenty of studies that also show the fastest way to improve our own sense of wellbeing is to do something kind for someone else. We actually get a small burst of dopamine when we do something kind, even if it is a small act. If you’re feeling a little down, doing something kind for someone else is a simple yet effective way to improve your mood.

Kindness in Action

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

— Epictetus

The world abounds with instances where small acts of kindness have led to significant impacts. Consider when Princess Diana shook the hand of a man with AIDS. At the time, there was a lot of misinformation about AIDS, and her simple act of kindness help to change the view of the world towards those who had contacted the disease. Or the chain reaction set off by a single act of kindness in a coffee shop in Pennsylvania, where patrons paid for the orders of those behind them for hours. Minor gestures can inspire, motivate, and spread joy beyond their immediate context.

In my own life, I’m currently living in Airbnbs in Amsterdam until I find a permanent place. A few weeks ago, I had a short trip scheduled for Berlin and didn’t want to take all of my stuff with me, and there was no way that I would be able to take my bike with me. The host at one of my Airbnbs was kind enough to let me leave some of my stuff and my bike at his place while I was away. It wasn’t a big deal for him since he had plenty of storage space, but for me it was incredibly helpful to not have to find somewhere to store everything while I was away.

Cultivating Kindness

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

— The Dalai Lama

So how can we get better about showing more kindness in our lives?

Incorporating kindness into daily life does not require grand gestures. It begins with a conscious effort to recognize the humanity in others and to act on this recognition in even the smallest ways. This could be as simple as listening attentively, offering a word of encouragement, or expressing gratitude.

To get better at practicing kindness in out lives, we need to become more aware. It’s far too easy to go about our day focused on just ourselves and not engage with others. By working to cultivate an attitude of kindness, you can develop an awareness of how you show up in the world and look for small ways to practice kindness. Whether that’s opening the door for someone else, buying a coffee for a stranger, or giving a stranger a compliment, we can all do small things to make others lives just little easier.

Another exercise you can do is to practice reflective journaling. Each day, take some time reflect on acts of kindness you observed, received, or performed. This practice, rooted in Stoic reflection, encourages mindfulness of kindness as a daily practice by keeping it top of mind.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to take the time to just listen to someone else. There’s a lot of loneliness out in the world. Because we spend so much time online, we often forget to connect with others in real life. Make a conscious effort to listen more attentively to others can help them feel seen and connected and I think that we could all do with a little more of that.

Speaking of being online, practicing kindness in this world does not stop when you’re on your phone. When you’re online and you feel tempted to post a snarky or rude comment on someones post, take the time to think about how this might impact others. Does it help or hurt them? What would this say about you? Take the time to find a way to lift others and you’ll find yourself in a better mood knowing that you made an active choice to do good in the world.


In a world that often emphasizes the grandiose, it is the small, everyday acts of kindness that weave the fabric of a compassionate society. The cumulative effect of widespread acts of kindness can lead to a more empathetic and cohesive society. By fostering an environment where kindness is valued and practiced, we can counteract divisiveness and isolation, creating communities that thrive on mutual support and understanding.

In the spirit of Stoicism, small acts of kindness are not merely altruistic gestures but a fundamental component of a virtuous life. They serve as a testament to our capacity for goodness and our potential to effect change in the world around us. As Marcus Aurelius reminded us, "The best way to avenge yourself is to not be like that." By choosing kindness, we rebel against cynicism and apathy, embracing a philosophy that nurtures our collective humanity.

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293 – Perspective is Reality

Are you aware of how your perspective influences how you see reality? Today I want to talk about how the Stoics teach us that our perspective shapes our reality.

“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.

— Anias Nin

Perception and Reality

Our reality is not an objective construct; it is a subjective experience shaped by our individual perceptions. These perceptions are the lens through which we view the world, influenced by our beliefs, past experiences, and emotional states. This lens filters every experience, interaction, and decision we make, often without our conscious awareness. Our perceptions profoundly shape our reality, molding our experiences, choices, and interactions with the world. Stoicism holds that our perceptions—how we see the world—play a critical role in our emotional and psychological state.

The Plank

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

— Shakespeare (Hamlet)

The other day I stumbled on a perfect example of how our perceptions can impact us in a very literal way. There’s an interesting bunch of videos on YouTube about Richie’s Plank Experience. What this is, is a simple VR game where you take an elevator to the 15th floor of a virtual building. Once the elevator opens, you step out onto a plank that is about 12 inches wide, which is about 30 centimeters for those not in the US. The goal of the game is pretty simple. You walk out to the end of the plank and eat some virtual donuts. Then you can either jump off and fall to the ground, or turn around and go back to the elevator.

There are several videos of this on YouTube, but the one that I watched, took place on the streets of London where they asked passersby to try the game. What was fascinating was that even though people knew they were safe on a street in the middle of London, they still felt the same fear as if they were actually on a plank 15 stories high. Each person talked about how scary it was, how their hearts were racing, and one person even had his legs shaking with fear. There was one person though, who was able to override this fear better than the others, and was even skipping across the plank.

I found this so fascinating. Even though they rationally knew it was just a game, most of them couldn’t get their bodies to relax. They still felt like they were in danger. In a very literal sense, they put on a new lens that changed their perception of the world, and their unconscious and their bodies reacted to these perceptions.

Influencing Opinions

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

— Henry David Thoreau

Our opinions are a direct outcome of our perceptions. For instance, two individuals can witness the same event and have entirely different interpretations based on their personal biases and past experiences. For example, in politics, where perceptions are heavily influenced by ideology, this leads to divergent opinions on the same issues. A conservative might view a tax increase as a burden on economic freedom, while a liberal might see it as a necessary step towards social equity. Here, their political ideologies, acting as a perceptual lens, shape their opinions of the same policy proposal.

Shaping Choices

Our choices, from the mundane to the life-changing, are also deeply influenced by our perceptions. Consider the decision to change careers. To someone with a growth mindset—a belief in the potential for personal development and improvement—a career change is an opportunity for advancement and learning. To someone with a fixed mindset, the same decision might seem fraught with risk and uncertainty, and as a sign of failure in their current path. The Stoics would argue that by shifting our perception to see the opportunity in the challenge, we can make choices that align with our true values and aspirations.

Interactions with the World

"Mankind are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate."

— Marcus Aurelius

How we interact with the world and others is a reflection of our internal perceptions. For example, if we perceive the world as hostile and uncaring, we may approach others with suspicion and reserve, potentially leading to isolation and loneliness. Conversely, viewing the world as a place of opportunity and kindness can lead us to form meaningful connections and engage with life more fully. Marcus Aurelius, another Stoic philosopher, emphasized the importance of perceiving the interconnectedness of all things and acting in harmony with this understanding for the betterment of oneself and society.

The Placebo Effect

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality."

— Seneca

Our minds are powerful things and our perceptions of something can have real impacts in surprising ways. For example, the placebo effect is a powerful demonstration of how perception can alter our physical reality. Patients given a placebo, a treatment with no therapeutic effect, often experience an improvement in their condition simply because they believe they are receiving a real treatment. In many studies, patients were given were sugar pills and found relief from their symptoms. This phenomenon illustrates the capacity of the mind, guided by perception, to influence the body.

Social Media and Perception

Social media platforms are modern examples of how perceptions can be manipulated and, in turn, shape reality. Algorithms curate content that aligns with our existing beliefs and perceptions, reinforcing our worldviews and often creating echo chambers. This can intensify political polarization, as users are rarely exposed to opposing viewpoints, leading to a more divided reality based on perceived differences rather than actual ones. Because social media is also only selected slices of life, we only see what others are willing to share, which are usually just the highlights. We get a distorted view of who other people are, and what their lives are really like. Because of this, we make judgments about them based on very limited information.

Awareness of Perceptions

"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them."


So why do we want to be aware of the perceptions that we have about the world around us?

Because those perceptions can either be the wind our sails that propel us forward to accomplish the things we set out to do, or they can be the millstone that keeps us not only stuck where we are, but often are the very thing that sink our ship even before it gets out of the harbor. The Stoics teach us that our perceptions are one of the only things that we have control over, and therefore can have the largest impact on our wellbeing and happiness.

By developing the awareness of the perceptions we have, we are able to recognize our own limiting believes and biases, and learn to see when they are holding us back. We can also choose to change our perceptions into something that keeps us open to possibilities, seeing the world in a more positive light, and let slights, insults, and frustrations slide off of us like water off a duck.

Stoic Mindfulness

"You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

— Marcus Aurelius

How do we get better at managing our perceptions so they help us navigate the world in a happier and more productive way?

The Stoics offer a remedy to the potential distortions caused by our perceptions: the practice of mindfulness and the discipline of questioning our automatic interpretations of events. By becoming aware of how our perceptions shape our reality and actively challenging them, we can align our perceptions more closely with objective reality, or at least a more constructive subjective reality.

When something happens to us, we have what the Stoic call an “impression”, meaning, we observe what happens to us. We take these impressions and make a judgement about it, and that judgment leads us to take some action, usually driven by some emotion. But the Stoics recommend that we take a moment and try to see these impressions at their most basic level.

Did someone say something you thought was offensive? If we break this down to its most basic elements, what really happened was that someone made some sounds with their mouth, we interpreted what they said by thinking about those sounds, and we made a judgment about what those sounds meant. Recognizing your own judgments about what the other person said gives you the space to choose what you want to do about it. This is what Marcus Aurelius mean when he said, “Choose not to be harmed and you won’t be.”

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any feelings surrounding the things that happen to you. If you partner breaks up with you, it hurts, and it’s okay to feel hurt. There is nothing wrong with feeling those uncomfortable or negative emotions. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the relationship and to feel the loss of the future that you thought you would have. What’s important is that you are aware of those feelings and your perceptions, so that even if you feel the hurt, you make choices not from the hurt, but from your rationality, principles, and values. Rather than lashing out from of hurt or spite, you can act with honor and compassion and make the situation easier on both parties. As Seneca said, “The consequences of anger are often far worse than the thing that caused the anger.”

Higher View

Another way to shift our perspective is to take what the Stoics call “the higher view”. What this means is that the more we can zoom out from our current perspective and look at situation from a much higher view. For example, if you can imagine viewing your current situation from 30,000 feet. Think about how small you look. Think about all the other people in your neighborhood, your city, and even the world and all the things they are working on and struggling with at the same moment. It gives you a perspective on how small you are and how small the things you are worried about are. But it also gives a perspective on the interconnectedness of us all.

This is actually a documented phenomenon called the “overview effect”. Astronauts who spend time in space often talk about how their whole perspective on life shifts when they see the Earth, the “pale blue dot” as Carl Sagan, a prominent physicist would call it. This literal change in perspective, changes how they view the rest of the world. Seeing the Earth and its thin layer of atmosphere, they see how fragile, tiny, and almost insignificant our planet seems in the vastness of space. They often gain a feeling of connectedness with the rest of humanity, a sense of compassion for all inhabits of the world, and a great sadness at the conflicts and struggles that plague us as a species.

Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant who spent several days in space, saw the planet through the context of her profession. She wrote, “It felt unifying, but it also made me think of healthcare disparities in a different way. How can someone born on that side of the globe have a completely different prognosis from someone born over here? I could see the nations all at once, and it felt more unfair than ever, the ugliness that existed within all of that beauty.”


Our perceptions are not merely passive windows to the world but active constructors of our reality. They shape our opinions, influence our choices, and dictate how we interact with the world. Stoicism teaches us the importance of examining and, when necessary, adjusting our perceptions to live a more fulfilling and less disturbed life. By understanding the power of perception, we can begin to see not just the world as it appears to be, but as it could be, through a lens of compassion, reason, and openness to change.

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290 – Laughing With The Stoics: Finding Humor on the Path to Virtue

Do you think that Stoics are too serious and all business? Do you think that if you adopt Stoic principles that you can’t have fun? Today I want to talk about humor and some of the misconceptions of Stoicism.

“It’s better for us to laugh at life than to cry over it.”

— Seneca

When you picture a Stoic, you might imagine someone with the emotional range of a sloth, but surprise! The Stoics weren't the ancient world's equivalent of grumpy cat. They actually had quite a bit to say about living "according to nature," and let's be real, what's more natural than snorting milk out of your nose from laughing too hard? Exactly.

So, how does humor fit into Stoicism?

The Stoics often talked about achieving eudaimonia, also translated as ‘good spirit’, which for the Stoics is about reducing negative emotions, and cultivating positive emotions. Since we are emotional creatures, we aren’t expected to not have emotions, and for me, having a good laugh certainly helps me get closer to having a ‘good spirit’.

Absurdity of Life

Because stoicism is about trying to see the world for exactly what it is, we can laugh at the absurdities of life. Seneca was all about chuckling at life's curveballs when he said, "Fortune is like that drunk friend who tries to help but ends up knocking over the lamp." Life is unpredictable, so why not have a laugh when things go sideways?

When you think about it, this is what Amor Fati is all about. It’s about not just accepting everything that happens in life, but loving everything that comes our way, and what better way is there to love everything that comes your way when you find humor in even the darkest times?

When we take things too seriously, we often get stuck ruminating and stressing out over things that are small or even imagined. When we get stuck in this mindset, our thinking becomes more narrow as response to stress, which it makes it hard for us to make better decisions. In these situations, often times the best thing we can do is laugh about it. Lightening our mood helps us relax which in turn helps us think more positively and be more open to possibilities.

The Stoics recognized that joy is not the same thing as being frivolous. They understood that joy is part of a well-rounded life. The Stoics themselves practiced self-deprecating humor in order to not take themselves or life too seriously. Epictetus was known to have a very dry and ironic wit. You can totally picture Epictetus cracking a smile and reminding us that just because we're after virtue, doesn't mean we can't enjoy a good meme. When talking about death, he once said, “I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.”

It was reported that Chrysippus literally died from laughing at the sight of his intoxicated donkey trying to eat figs. Marcus Aurelius, the emperor of Rome, once cracked, "I get up in the morning because the universe isn't done with me; also, someone has to feed the ducks." Keeping yourself grounded with a little self-mockery is very much in line with Stoic principles.

Keep Perspective

Laughter helps us to keep things in perspective. When we are in good spirits, we are better able to see things as they are, or imagine how they could be. When things don’t go the way we want, we’re better able to roll with things, focus on what went right, and move forward in a more positive direction. When we are stressed or pessimistic, then we’re more likely to catastrophize, only see the downsides, and wallow in why things didn’t work out.

Seneca gives us some good instruction on keeping a humorous outlook when comparing the serious and sullen Heraclitus the more cheerful Democritus. He wrote:

“We ought therefore to bring ourselves into such a state of mind that all the vices of the vulgar may not appear hateful to us, but merely ridiculous, and we should imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus. The latter of these, whenever he appeared in public, used to weep, the former to laugh: the one thought all human doings to be follies, the other thought them to be miseries. We must take a higher view of all things, and bear with them more easily: it better becomes a man to laugh at life than to lament over it. Add to this that he who laughs at the human race deserves better of it than he who mourns for it, for the former leaves it some good hopes of improvement, while the latter stupidly weeps over what he has given up all hopes of mending.”

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When comes to health, laughter is truly good medicine. With the pace of the modern world, we’re all under a lot of stress, which is detrimental to our long term health. Since stress hormones, those released for our ‘fight or flight’ instincts are meant to get us out of short term danger, such as escaping from a saber toothed tiger, we’re not meant to operate under this type of duress for long periods.

Exposure to these hormones over longer periods increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, depression and many other illnesses. Laughter, as it turns out, helps counteract many of these problems by relieving stress, increasing oxygen intake, and releasing healthy chemicals into our bloodstream.

Strengthening Social Bonds

The Stoics stress that it’s important for us to build community and be a productive member of society. Laughter is something that brings people together and helps to strengthen social bonds. Sharing a good laugh with family and friends or even strangers can help us form better social connections.

At a very simplistic level, when we laugh with others, we relax around them and are better able to just be ourselves. It feels like the other person ‘gets us’. We associate good feelings with them. Our memories of them are positive, which means it’s more likely we’ll want to spend time with them, or be willing to help them out when they need it.

For example, even though I had a difficult relationship with my father, some of my fondest memories of him are when he shared funny stories or we watched a movie that had us rolling on the floor. I can still remember his deep belly laugh and when he’d have to take off his glasses because he had tears in his eyes.

When we can see the lighter side of life, we are also better able to be compassionate to other people and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. When we’re stressed or pessimistic, we’re more likely to place blame on them when things aren’t working out.

Wisdom in Humor

There are many ways to learn and often humor is the best way to communicate wisdom. The best teachers I had growing up were usually those that could make learning fun or add some humor into their lessons. A bit of humor in the class often made the difference between really enjoying a class or just getting through it.

Sometimes, the truth is so blunt, it hurts. But wrap that truth in a joke, and it becomes wisdom you can approach with a smile. Some of the best comedians share hard truths about life with humor that otherwise would be uncomfortable. By shining a light on hard things with humor, we’re more willing to look at things that we might otherwise would have avoided. By making us laugh, they open us up to seeing things from different perspectives that we may not have considered before.


When we can learn to laugh about the hard things in life, we become more resilient. When the going gets tough, rather than letting it drag us down, we’re able to make something good of a tough situation. With a shift in perspective, what may have seemed like a frustrating situation, can be turned into something more neutral or even a funny story to share with friends later.

Learning to laugh at life also helps us in embracing imperfection. Nobody's perfect and Stoics get that. A well-timed joke about our own blunders reminds us to accept our flaws. I can imagine that if Marcus Aurelius had social media, he'd probably tweet, "Messed up today. #JustEmperorThings."

Looking at the Bright Side of Life

So how can you get better about looking at life from a more humorous perspective?

A big thing for me is to just watch some good comedy. Last Sunday night I was working on some business ideas and was finding myself stressing out about it. I found that my thinking was narrowed and it was really hard to generate ideas. Then I would get even more frustrated because I couldn’t seem to get out of this downward spiral.

So I went to a comedy show. It was small show but the crowd was really fun and the comedians were great. Some of the topics broached were dark, but still funny. I also made friends with the couple sitting next to me. Two hours of laughing reset my mood and started the week off with a much better outlook.

Since the Stoics are big on having awareness of what you are thinking, pay attention to when you’re getting critical towards someone or something else. Approach the situation like a comedy writer. Can you stop and see if you can find something funny about the situation? Can you laugh at yourself for getting too serious about something? I found that if I think about how I could turn it into a funny story to tell someone later can help to lighten my mood.

But with this said, be careful not to take things too far. Humor can be a great coping mechanism, but it can also be used to avoid having difficult conversations or dealing with challenging situations. Also, laughing at the expense of others is one way to burn bridges rather than building them.

The Stoics teach us to practice temperance, so make sure that you use humor at the right time and in the right doses. Trying to be funny at the wrong time can backfire and may cause more harm. Life isn’t all doom and gloom, but it’s not a laugh-fest either. Finding that sweet spot between levity and seriousness can help you strike the right balance in any situation.

Like they say, know your audience.


In essence, Stoicism with a dash of humor isn't just palatable; it's downright enjoyable. It turns out, you can pursue virtue and still have room for a good laugh. So next time you're pondering the Stoic virtues, remember to lighten up and let humor be your companion on the path to eudaemonia.

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, twitter, or threads

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


288 – Starting Stoicism

Are you new to Stoicism and want to know where to get started in learning about it and how to apply it in your life? Then this episode is for you.

One of the things that I appreciate about Stoicism is that it’s very practical philosophy, and there are a lot of ideas and principles that have stood the test of time because they work in helping you live a good life. There are also misconceptions about what stoicism is and what it isn’t so today I’m going to walk you through the basics of what stoicism is, and how you can start applying it in your life immediately.

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that originated in Athens, Greece, then moved into Rome as it gained popularity. It was founded by Zeno of Citium, a merchant who found himself in Athens after surviving a shipwreck. While trying to figure out what to do next, he frequented a bookseller in Athens. He came across the writings of Xenophone, a Greek historian and military strategist, and in them read about Socrates. He was so inspired be what he read, that he asked the bookseller where he could find someone like Socrates to teach him philosophy. At that moment, Crates of Thebes, a Cynic philosopher, just happened to be passing the shop. The bookseller pointed to Crates and told Zeno that Crates was such a man, and Zeno became his student.

As Zeno began to learn more about Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the other philosophies, he began to develop his own ideas about how to apply philosophy and live a good life. One of the main points about Stoicism is that it’s primary goal is not to answer the big questions about life such as why we exist and where we go when we die, but rather how to have a good and peaceful life by living a life of virtue. It’s a practical philosophy that can be applied in all aspect of life.


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

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the first and most important teachings of Stoicism is that we need to understand what we have control over and what we do not have control over. The reason why this is so important is that most of our stress and frustration in life comes from trying to control things that we do not have any control over. When we focus on the things we can control, we’re able to make progress, and gain a sense of peace in our lives.

When we try to control what we can’t, we waste a lot of time and energy without making much progress. We can find ourselves getting angry, upset, or depressed because we’re trying to control something we can’t control, or often because we’re trying to control someone else or their behavior. On the flip side, when we don’t take control of the things that we do have control over, then we allow ourselves to become victims, and miss opportunities to create real change in our lives.

So that begs the question: What do we actually have control over? The Stoics teach us that the only thing we really have control over is our thinking, and our choices. In short, our will. Everything else is outside of our control. We don’t have control over nature, other people, or even our own bodies.

For example, you can’t control the weather, what other people think of you, or if you get cancer. They are are just things that happen, and not things you have any control over. What you do have control over is how you respond to the things that happen. You can choose to wear a raincoat when it rains. You can choose not to let what others think about you bother you. You can follow your doctors instructions in treating an illness. All you have control over are the choices you make about how you want to respond.

Suggested Episode: Two Sides of the Same Coin


“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Another reason that the Stoics teach us that we have control over our thinking is because the way that we think influences how we feel and how we respond to the things that happen to us. The emotions that we feel are caused by the thoughts we think, or the judgments we make, about the things that happen to us. Whether we feel calm or distressed in a situation is caused by what we think about the situation.

For example, let’s say you have two people heading to the same office, and they both miss the bus for work. The first person gets upset and yells at the bus. Whereas the second person shakes it off, laughs about it, and sits down on the bench and waits calmly for the next bus. Why does one person handle the situation angrily when the other is able to relax and go on with the day? Shouldn’t they both act the same since they both missed the bus?

It’s because of their thinking. In the first case, the angry bus rider is thinking how unfair it is that he missed is bus. He fumes about the fact that he’s going to be late, and is in a rotten mood for hours afterwards. Whereas the second rider sees that there is nothing that he can do about it, and that stewing over it will do him little good, so he lets it go, and enjoys the extra time he has waiting for the next bus. Same situation, just different thinking.

Suggested Episode: Drop Your Opinions, Live Your Principles


“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.“

— Epictetus

“Who does not admit that all the emotions flow as it were from a certain natural source? We are endowed by Nature with an interest in our own well-being; but this very interest, when overindulged, becomes a vice.”

— Seneca

One of the biggest misconceptions about Stoicism is that it’s about repressing your emotions and that Stoics don’t feel anything. But this is far from the case. Stoics have strong emotions just like everyone else. The difference is that they have practiced not letting their emotions overrun their thinking. They practice taking a moment to understand the thinking that led to the strong emotions. They also understand that emotions are transitory, meaning that they may feel strong or even overwhelming in the moment, but that over time they will fade and change.

The difference is that a Stoic recognizes that one of the main reasons that we experience negative emotions is because of our judgements about something. That the reason we’re upset or angry is not because of thing itself, but because of the meaning that we give to something, and that if we can be aware of our judgments then we change how we think about something. We can also decide that something is not worth spending time thinking about and let it go. We can also choose not to have an opinion about something.

For example, we often think that when we get angry at someone, it is the fault of the other person that we are angry. But the Stoics teach us that it’s not the other person that makes us angry, but our own thoughts that cause our anger. It’s the judgment that we made, the meaning that our minds give to what the other person did or said that causes us to feel angry.

Now I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is wrong. If someone says something offensive, then surely it must be the fault of the other person that you’re angry. But this is not the case. It’s your judgement about what they said that leads to you feeling angry. In a purely objective sense, the other person simply spoke some words, and we are the ones that gave those words meaning. If you decided that you don’t care about what someone said, then you can let it go.

To drive the point a little further, imagine if the other person said something offensive but spoke it in a language that you didn’t understand, would you still be offended? You probably wouldn’t because you don’t know what they actually said. Your mind wouldn’t have anything to judge so there would be nothing to find offensive.

Suggested Episode: Stoics and Emotions


“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.”

—Marcus Aurelius

One of the core tenants of Stoicism is that in order to live a good life, we need to follow the four cardinal virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance, which often translated as Moderation or Discipline.

But why these four virtues?

Let’s go over each of them briefly.

Wisdom can be defined as the practical application of knowledge and experience. It’s not enough to just know a lot, it’s important that we know how to apply it. Also, we don’t just gain wisdom through reading or studying, but by experiencing life.

Courage is the willingness to take action, even if we know we might fail. We need courage to gain wisdom because it takes courage to practice self awareness and see where we fall short, and have willingness to see where we are ignorant.

Temperance means moderation or discipline. With all things, we need to know how much is too little and how much is too much. By practicing temperance, we learn how to govern ourselves.

Justice, in a broader sense, can also be thought of as how we treat other people. When we treat others fairly, and advocate for justice in the world, we help make the world a better place.

The virtues are self reenforcing, like legs on a stool. We need to have courage to help us be self aware enough to experience life and gain wisdom. We also need courage to make the hard choices to become more disciplined. Temperance and wisdom are necessary for being courageous because too much courage can make us foolhardy and make bad choices, and not enough courage can mean that we fail to act.

By practicing discipline, gaining wisdom, and developing courage, we stand up for what we believe in and advocate for justice. By cultivating these virtues, we aren’t just meant to be good people, but we are meant to do good in the world.

Suggested Episode: A Courageous Mind


“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 impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Another core teaching of the Stoics is that the challenges that we find in our lives are not simply obstacles that are preventing us from getting what we want, but that they are the way to getting what we want. They are the things that help us to learn and to get stronger. If you simply got everything that you ever wanted and never had to struggle for it, would you ever learn how to accomplish anything?

Think about it this way. If you went to the gym and paid someone else to lift weights for you, would get any stronger? Would you put on any muscle?


What’s more rewarding for you? Working hard, overcoming obstacles, and gaining skills and achieving your goal, or just being handed the prize you seek by a parent?

What’s more interesting to watch, an athlete or a performer who has put in countless hours of work and preparation, overcome all kinds of obstacles and developed their skills, or a someone just being given a role or position because they were well connected?

When I was about 12 years old, I spent many hours babysitting the neighbors kids and doing yard work so I could buy myself a stereo system. I had it for many years and every time I used it, I always felt a sense of pride because I knew that I had worked hard and saved up my money to get it. It was mine because I had worked hard to earn it.

Suggested Episode: Easy Life


“It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.”

—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics were big on living a life of integrity, meaning that you do the right thing in all situations. That you would live your principles not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. That you would do the right thing even when no one else would know if you didn’t. Your character matters and you do good always, not because of how others perceive you, but because when you are good and act with integrity, you feel good.

We all are faced with situations where we could get away with something that would benefit us. But the thing is, you would know that you did something against your principles. You will have to live with that. You will have to live with the knowledge that you did something that soiled your character. Whether it’s tossing garbage out of a car window, cheating on a test, or covering up mistakes at work, even if you never get caught, you would still know that you didn’t live up to your best self, and that you actively made the choice not to do so.

Suggested Episode: Show Up


So how can you learn to apply Stoic principles in your own life?

First off, become familiar with Stoic teachings and principles. This podcast is a good place to start, and I’ve included links into the show notes for episodes that dive a little deeper into the ideas and principles that I’ve talked about.

Some books that I recommend include A Guide to the Good Life: The Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and most of Ryan Holiday’s books are good places to start. I especially like The Obstacle is the Way and found it to be very useful in reframing how I view challenges in my life.

I think that taking time each morning thinking about the things I’ve talked about today, and examining how you can apply them in your life can be very helpful. Starting off the day considering these ideas can help you keep them top of mind so that when situations arise you can find ways to apply them.

Each evening, take some time to consider how your day went. Did you handle a situation poorly that day? What can you do next time to handle it better? This kind of reflection each evening also helps you become more self aware and help reenforce where you succeeded or failed during the day and how you can handle things in the future.

And as I always do, I recommend taking some time each day to meditate and to write in your journal as they are good ways to develop self awareness. Since the Stoics stress that it’s important to manage how you think about things, journaling and meditation are both excellent ways to become aware of your own thinking. You don’t need to meditate for hours or write long essays in your journal. Just a few minutes to pay attention to you thoughts, or jot them down on paper can be exceptionally revealing.


More than anything, applying these principles take consistency. While the principles and ideas are pretty simple and logical, their application takes time and practice. Just because you learned something does not mean that you’re going to be great at applying it in your life immediately. But if you are consistently studying, thinking about, and consciously trying to apply these ideas in your life, you’ll start to see changes in your life for the better. Often, you’ll simply notice when you handled a situation poorly, then you’ll consider ways that you can handle that better in the future. Awareness, and the courage to practice that awareness are the first and most important steps to becoming a better version of yourself.

Before you know it, you’ll become a Stoic.

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.


286 – Remember Death

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

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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


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

— Mary Oliver

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

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

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

Live Now

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

— Seneca

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

— Buddha

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

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

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

Will it Matter?

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

— Steve Jobs

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

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

How You Live

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

— Samuel Johnson

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

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

Gratitude of Living

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

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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

Contemplate Your Death

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

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

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

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

He then tells Raymond to run.

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

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


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

— Kahlil Gibran

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

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

Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

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

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


285 – Ambition or Contentment

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

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

— Seneca

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

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


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

— Epictetus

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

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

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

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


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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

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

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


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

— Epictetus

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Present

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

Does this mean that we will be successful?


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

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

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


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

— Seneca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

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

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


282 – Timeless Principles For Handling a Changing World

Far too often we’re focused on the things that change in this world and in our lives. But what are the things that don’t change? Today I want to talk about things we can build on that can help us through the ever flowing tide of changes that happen in our lives.

"Everything is in a state of flux, and nothing remains the same. So be prepared for change, and embrace it as a natural part of life."

— Marcus Aurelius

What Doesn’t Change?

The other day I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast and he was interviewing Morgan Housel, a personal finance expert who just finished up his book called Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes. In the interview, Morgan tells a story about how a CEO was chatting with Warren Buffet, arguably the greatest investor of all time. The CEO was asking him back in 2009 if America would be able to recover from the financial crisis.

Warren turned to the CEO and asked him, “Do you know what the best selling candy bar was in 1962?”

The CEO responded, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers. Do you know what the best selling candy bar is right now?”

The CEO responded again, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers.”

Now, this story is emblematic of Warren Buffet’s investing philosophy: find the things that don’t change and invest in those. Far too often investors are betting on what they think will change in the future. Because there are so many factors in our lives and the world that impact how things will turn out, humans are not great at predicting the future.

The reason this story struck me is because this is very much how I view stoicism. Stoicism for me is about focusing on the things that don’t change, so that you can handle the things that do. Stoicism is not a set of rigid prescriptions that you need to follow. It is not dependent on a charismatic leader handing down dictates of how you should live. It is based on tested and timeless principles and ideas that have lasted through the ages and can be applied to every aspect of your life.

So today, I want to go over some of the principles that I find useful in my own life, and hope that you can find them as useful as I do.

Understanding What is Within Our Control

"The only thing we can control is our own actions."

— Epictetus

In our daily lives, we encounter situations that are beyond our control, like traffic jams, bad weather, or the actions of other people. Because they are outside of our control, the more we try to control them, the more we stress out and create unnecessary anxiety. Instead of fretting over these, Stoicism teaches us to focus on our reactions to the things that are outside of our control.

For instance, we can use the time in a traffic jam to listen to a podcast or audiobook, turning a frustrating situation into a productive one. We can enjoy and appreciate the storms or heat waves that nature brings our way. We can improve our communication skills and our patience when others make choices that impact our lives in a negative way.

Accepting Change as Inevitable

“Change is the only constant in life."

— Heraclitus

Change, whether it's in a job, relationship, or environment, is inevitable. The more we try to resist change, the harder we make things on ourselves. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not and we have the choice to embrace it or resist it. If we look at change as the thing that makes life interesting and worth living, then we stop fearing it, and embrace it.

Seeking Growth Over Comfort

“What stands in the way becomes the way."

— Marcus Aurelius

Challenges are not roadblocks, but pathways to personal growth. If there were no challenges in your life, you would never grow. The way to get better at something is working through it. Avoiding challenges doesn’t teach you how to get better at something. If you are constantly avoiding anything that is challenging or uncomfortable, then you are passing up opportunities to grow. This is why courage is one of the foundational stoic virtues because it take courage to forsake comfort and seek growth.

Practicing Gratitude

"It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

— Seneca

Much of our unhappiness comes from our feelings of what we think is lacking in our lives. We think that by changing our circumstances we’ll be happier. We often think about how much happier we’ll be when we get the house or the car or the new gadget that we want. Our whole consumer culture and the marketing behind it is based on making you believe that your life will be so much better if you go out and acquire all these new and shiny things.

But the thing is, our our circumstances and possessions don’t change who we are as a person. Sure, some circumstances are more comfortable than others, but we can’t always change our circumstance, and our possessions are mere objects and in the longer arch of our lives we are simply borrowing them since we can’t take them with us when die. When we learn to be grateful with whatever we have and whatever our life situation is, then we are able to feel content with our lives at any moment.

As an example, I recently got rid of most of my possessions and sold my house. I gave away most of my possessions to friends and others and I’m currently traveling and living out of two suitcases and a backpack. My level of happiness is very much the same as it was when I owned a house and had lots of stuff. I do feel a greater sense of freedom not having all those possessions, but I still worry about many of the same things in my life that I did before. Having more or less possessions hasn’t changed me as a person.

Embracing the Present Moment

"The present is all we have; live it fully."

— Marcus Aurelius

When we worry to much about the future or the past then we are missing living in the present moment. The past is already gone and cannot be changed. The future is unknowable and will more likely be nothing like what we thought it would be. When we worry too much about the future, we create anxiety over things that may not even happen. If we dwell too much on the past, we live in regret about things that we can’t do anything about.

This has been especially important for me to practice over the last few weeks. Like I said, I sold my house and I’m traveling and trying to figure out what to do next in my life. Other than plans to head over to Europe and see what kinds of opportunities I can make for myself, I don’t have a clear idea of what my future will be. It’s very exciting, but when I dwell too much on trying to figure out what my ultimate direction and goals should be, I get anxious and a bit stressed about it. When I focus on relaxing and enjoying where I am and what I’m doing in the present moment, I keep myself in a better mindset knowing that I don’t have to have it all planned out. I know that I can handle whatever comes up, when it comes up.

Cultivating Inner Resilience

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

— Marcus Aurelius

Life will invariably present challenges, but our inner response to these challenges is key. Cultivating a resilient mindset helps us bounce back from setbacks. Having this kind of inner resilience helps you to take in challenging and frustrating setbacks with calmness and a clear mind. You’re able to step up and take action rather than fretting or losing you cool. When things go wrong, you’re able to roll with the punches and make the best of any situation.

For instance, if you fail to achieve a goal, instead of being harsh on yourself, analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and prepare to try again with a stronger, more informed approach.

Practicing Compassion and Understanding

"Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself."

— Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism teaches the importance of empathy and understanding towards others. When dealing with difficult people, try to understand their perspectives and circumstances. Far too often we’re quick to rush to judgements or make assumptions about others intentions. And even if others have bad intentions towards you, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat them poorly.

Part of living a principled life is to live your principles not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. This could mean being patient with a friend who is struggling, offering help instead of criticism, or simply listening without judgment. Practicing compassion not only aids in personal peace but also fosters a positive environment around you.


The world is constantly changing and it often feels like the pace of change is increasing. It’s easy to feel anxious about the overwhelming flow of information and bad news. This is why it’s important to anchor yourself to principles that stay the same over time. Since it’s very challenging to accurately predict what impact changes will bring, the more we are grounded in the things that don’t change, the better we’ll be able to handle the things that do.

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.


279 – Not True But Useful

Can you hold beliefs that are not true, but are useful? know that I talk a lot on here about trying to get as close to the truth as possible. But are there times when it is useful to believe something even if you’re not sure of it yourself?

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

— Marcus Aurelius

A few weeks ago I was listening to Derek Sivers who was a guest on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. They talked about a few ideas that I found very interesting and fit right along with stoicism and how our perspectives can shape how we view the world.

The overarching idea is called “Useful, Not True”, in that our perspective on something doesn’t have to be true, as long as it’s useful. In a way it’s a bit about self-deception, which is a little ironic after last weeks episode about how to be a little better about knowing when you are being lied to, and how to be little more honest. But self-deception is something that we all do, and as long as you are aware of what you are doing, there are times when you can believe something that may not be true, but is still useful.

Derek listed off a few ideas and I want to discuss each of them here. You can also find them here:

"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them."

— Epictetus

1. Almost nothing is objectively true.

Things in the physical world are generally things that can be considered objectively true. It is not something that you have to believe in. It is something that is true no matter what anyones opinion is about it. Things like, my water bottle is made of metal and plastic, the sun is a giant flaming ball of gas, and I am speaking right now are things that are objectively true.

Now, on the other side of that there are lots of things that people treat as if they are true, but are not.

Some examples of thing that are not true:

  • My country is the greatest.
  • Family is everything.
  • AI is the future.
  • That person is offensive.
  • I would be more successful if I were smarter or better looking.

All of these things are just beliefs or opinions that we hold. They are not objectively true.

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

— Seneca

“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.”

— Marcus Aurelius

2. Beliefs are placebos. You’ve got to believe whatever works for you.

This is what the stoics mean talk about the importance of our perspectives. It is our perspective on something that informs how we will feel and act. Let’s say for example that there is a traffic jam. One person might think the traffic jam is bad and get pissed off and angry about it and feel like the universe is getting in their way. Another might see it as some time to relax on a busy day, and sing along with the songs on the radio. Which belief is true? Neither. Either belief is just as valid, but most people would agree that the second one is certainly more useful.

Any time you say, “I believe…” whatever comes after that is something that is not true. Unless it is something that is evidence based or objectively true, it is simply our perspective. For example, I would never say that I believe in my water bottle because it objectively exists.

So why would we believe in something, even if we know that it is not objectively true? Because it can be something that helps you be better and accomplish something in the world. For example, Fred Rogers who created and starred in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood believed that kindness was the most important virtue in the world and that we should all be kind to one another.

Was he wrong in believing this because it is not objectively true? I don’t think so. Even though I can’t prove that we should all be kind to each other as an objectively true thing, I choose to believe it because I feel better when I’m kind to someone, and when others are kind to me.

Another example of believing in something that cannot be proven but is useful is believing in an afterlife. For some people, they have a belief in an afterlife because to think that there is nothing after this life is something that is terrifying for them. While I have no idea what happens after we die, I can understand why people want to believe there is something after we die. If that’s something that keeps you going and lessens the distress in your life, then I think it can be useful, even if it’s not true or knowable.

A prime example of how you can choose a belief that works for you is from Zeno of Citium, the founder of stoicism. He washed up in Athens after his ship was lost at sea and he lost all of his cargo. While trying to figure out what to do next, he spent some time at a bookshop. He was so taken by the teachings of Socrates that he asked the book seller where he could find someone like him to teach him philosophy. The bookseller pointed out Crates the Cynic who just happened to be passing by and Zeno became his pupil. He later said, “Now that I've suffered shipwreck, I'm on a good journey." Zeno’s perspective shows that fortune or misfortune is simply a perspective, an opinion.

Probably one of the most relatable ideas behind this sports superstitions. There are athletes that have beliefs that certain things are lucky and other things are not. It could be a lucky pair of sock, a mantra, a talisman of some kind, or having to get up on a certain side of the bed on game day. If it’s something that works for you and isn’t harmful, use it. Often, something like this is helpful for focusing your mind. There is nothing wrong with believing in things like this, but just understand that it is something that you are choosing to believe in. When it stops working you can let it go.

“You are not affected by reality itself but by your interpretation of reality. A change of perspective changes everything.”

—@TheAncientSage (twitter)

3. Rules and norms are arbitrary games that can be changed.

There are all kinds of rules that become part of our culture that are treated as how things are supposed to be. Some of these rules include the idea that in order to live a happy life we need to go to college, get married, have kids, and get a job. Or, that to be considered successful, you to have a lot of money, a big house, and a nice car. Or that in order to be successful you have to hustle all the time.

In short, any rule that comes from the expectations or the opinions of others is one that you don’t have to follow. As long as you don’t break the law, the rules are bendable and can often be ignored. You choose what works for you.

Religions are great examples of things that are taught as if they are true, but are not. They set up a system of rules that they think that everyone needs to live by in order to please some deity and keep people in line. I grew up believing that the Mormon church was the only true church and that everyone else’s beliefs were wrong. I believed that I had to marry someone else who was Mormon, or I was betraying my faith. I believed that if I left the Mormon church that I would go to hell because only bad people left the “true” church. Because of these beliefs, I was unhappy for a long part of my life, and didn’t see any way out of it.

Once I realized these was just a belief and not the truth, I left. Once I left, nothing awful happened to me. In fact my life got much better. I was mentally healthier because I was making choices in my life that worked for me, not because some old conservative guys in Salt Lake City said I should behave a certain way.

With that said, we need to keep in mind that while norms and rules can evolve, many have developed for practical reasons. We should be thoughtful about breaking rules, and consider their original purpose and potential consequences. Sweeping dismissals of all norms may cause problems. Be smart about what rules you choose to follow and those you disregard.

“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

4. Refuse ideology. You need to accept ideas individually.

No organization or ideology is 100% true and therefore should not just be swallowed whole. Even stoicism. There are some religious aspects to stoicism that I don’t follow. In many of the stoic texts, they refer to believing in god as a core aspect of stoicism. I don’t believe in god, but I find that there are so many good parts of stoicism that are so helpful that it doesn’t really matter.

Does this make me a lesser stoic? Maybe. But I’m not a follower of stoicism for others to judge how good or bad I am at it. Having grown up in a very dogmatic religion, I don’t take any ideology as a whole. I take the ideas that help me live a better life and do my best to apply them. If something doesn’t work for me, I do my best to try and understand it, see if I need to adjust what I’m doing, and if it still doesn’t fit me, I let it go.

This mindset also keeps me open to all kinds of ideas from other sources. I find that there are a lot of ideas in Buddhism that are very useful. Some of them are a little “woo woo”, and I may not believe in the metaphysical aspects of them, but I can still use them if they are useful.

Probably the most obvious idealogical organizations are religions. The biggest problem with most religions is that they have a whole set of beliefs and expect you to believe all of them. They don’t like it when you pick and choose which things to believe in and which not.

I certainly saw this growing up and found that there were plenty parts of the Mormon religion that I disagreed with and had really hard time believing. While there are some aspects of the church that I think are laudable, their views on the role of women in society and homosexuality were ones that I just never really agreed with.

When I got older and learned about the history of of Joseph Smith, I started poking holes in the ideology. I found out that he had made up the text of the Book of Mormon, that he couldn’t translate Egyptian like he had claimed, and that he would send men out on missions and marry their wives. I finally reached a point where I realized that it wasn’t true. It was made up by someone who took advantage of others for money and sex. From that point on I decided that I would never follow any ideology without examining each piece and use what works for me.


There is very little in this world that is objectively true. The stoics remind us this a lot when they remind us that our perspective informs how we judge reality. We are the ones that choose what we think reality is. There are a lot of beliefs in this world that we just take on as being true, even if they aren’t. It’s important to learn to objectively look at what you believe and decide if it’s helpful. There are also time where we can’t objectively prove something is true, but it’s still helpful to believe it. But, be aware that beliefs that contradict evidence are unlikely to be helpful long-term. When we look at things through a balanced, evidence-based perspective that incorporates objective truths along with our subjective viewpoint is likely to yield the most accurate and useful understanding of reality.

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, threads, 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.


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.

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Thanks again for listening.


273 – The Four Types of Problems

Do you know that some problems are simple, while others are complicated, complex, or chaotic? Do you know the difference between them? Today I want to talk about how understanding the different types problems can help you face up to your challenges more effectively.

"We must not let the impressions carry us away so that we are not in control of ourselves, but we must receive them in such a way as to be in control of ourselves."

— Epictetus

Types of Problems

A few weeks ago I was listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast and he was interviewing Albert Brooks who is a columnist for The Atlantic and a professor at Harvard who writes and researches happiness. Now I’ve been reading Albert’s column in The Atlantic for years, so I was really looking forward to the conversation. They went over a lot of different topics and ideas, but there was one that they briefly talked about that caught my attention because I didn’t quite understand it.

In the episode Albert talks about how his father taught him about complex and complicated problems, and that far too often, because we don’t understand the difference, we waste a lot of time and energy trying to solve problems in the wrong way. When we can understand what type of problem we’re dealing with, then we can start to apply the appropriate type of solution.

As I began thinking and researching about these ideas so that I could understand the distinctions, I came across some articles that talked about what is called the Cynefin (pronounced “ku-nev-in”) framework which was developed by Dave Snowden in 1999 while working for IBM. The more I read about this framework, it really helped me understand several types of problems, and how to approach each of them. So let’s dive in and discuss the four main types of problems.

Simple Problems

First, we have simple or obvious problems. Simple problems are those where we can easily understand the problem, all issues are easily known, and relationship between cause and effect is clear and obvious. There are well established solutions, and any issues are easily resolved. This would be something like if you were baking cookies, you would need to get the ingredients from the store, follow a recipe, and bake the cookies for a set amount of time, and there you have your cookies

Complicated Problems

Complicated problems are ones that, while they may be difficult and challenging, they are solvable or tractable. It means that there is an absolute solution to them, and they can be completed.

A clear example of some complicated problems would be something like building a bridge, manufacturing a phone, or getting a college degree. There may be a lot of steps involved, and lots of moving parts, but the steps can be mapped out and followed, and the goal is quantifiable and can be reached. Generally, if it is a problem that can be solved, and it is not simple, then it is probably complicated.

Complex Problems

Complex problems are problems that have no known solutions, just best attempts. Complex challenges are creative problems, with many unknown, unpredictable moving parts. When you work on complex problems you often won’t know if your solution is effective until a strategy actually works, and even then there maybe tradeoffs that don’t show themselves right away. Complex problems are dynamic, and there will probably be lots of failure as you try different solutions.

Examples of complex challenges are things like creating a loving relationship, running a campaign, or ending poverty. Complex problems are not problems that can usually be solved, but are problems that are managed on a continuing basis. They are fluid and ever changing, so the solution is always evolving. Complex problems are often confused with complicated problems, and people try to solve them using the same methods as solving complicated problems, which usually ends up failing and often making things worse than they were before.

Chaotic Problems

The last main type of problem is chaotic problems. Chaotic problems are usually ones of circumstances that are out of your control. In these circumstances it is usually important to respond quickly, and the goal is usually to establish order or stability.

Examples of chaotic problems would be emergencies such as a car crash, natural disasters like tsunamis or earthquakes, or chaotic environments like getting caught in a mob of people. There is not a lot of time to sit and think about a solution, and circumstances are often unpredictable or in a state of flux.

While chaotic problems are very reactionary, certain aspects can be prepared for, though they are always just best guess scenarios and are subject to change as the situation unfolds. Creating an emergency or crisis plan can help mitigate some aspects of a chaotic situation. For example, firefighters think through as many contingencies as possible and train for things to go wrong so that they know how to keep calm and respond effectively when they do.

What’s the Problem?

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”


So why is it important to understand what type of problem we are dealing with?

When we understand the type of problem that we are dealing with, it helps us to be more effective as to how we approach it, and the kinds of solutions we can bring to bear. If it is a simple problem we can find some straightforward solutions and choose one, and have satisfactory results.

The most important thing that we need to understand when dealing with simple and complicated problems, is that we misjudge them. We may have a simple problem that we overcomplicate, or a complicated problem that we think is simple, and we approach it the wrong way. By learning to discern what kind of problem we’re dealing with, we can address it properly and make progress with the right kind of framework.

When we confuse complicated and complex problems and try to deal with a complex problem in the same way that you work on a complicated problem, you’re going to try to manage unpredictable issues as if they were predictable.

A clearer example would be if you tried to manage your marriage the same way you manage building a bridge. There are clear engineering methods and standard practices that have been developed over the centuries about the best ways to build a bridge. By following these methods and standards, given the correct materials, competent workers, and enough time you can get a bridge built correctly.

Whereas a relationship is something that is always changing, and is never the same from person to person, from day to day, or even situation to situation. There is no perfect blueprint to create a good relationship. There’s no perfect formula that you can follow that will guarantee happiness with another person. It is about trying things and seeing if they work. Often, they won’t, and that’s when you have to be willing to be wrong and try something else.

Personal Development is Complex

As I was researching this, it occurred to me that one of the main reasons that self development and personal growth is challenging and often made even harder, is that it is a complex problem but is often treated as a complicated problem. Meaning, that it is not something that can simply be solved with some blueprint like engineering a bridge or a building. While there are aspects of personal growth that this type of problem solving can be useful for, the overarching challenges for growth is a complex problem.

Our physical health is also something that is a complex problem. Our bodies are complex systems which is why diagnosing illnesses or creating an optimal diet or workout plan are not a “one size fits all”v. This is why, for example, some people with cancer may respond very well to a particular treatment while others will not. There are so many factors at play and many of them are unknown.

So how do we approach each of these types of problems?

Obvious Solutions

For simple or obvious problems we should look to find the best or most obvious solution. The thing to look out for when dealing with simple problems is to make sure that we don’t confuse it with a complicated problem. Otherwise we may oversimplify a complicated problem or overcomplicate a simple problem. With simple problems, there are well established and accepted solutions that are known to work. Simple problems are common, and they are easily solvable.

For example, if you wanted to wake up in the morning at a particular time, you would purchase an alarm clock or use the alarm on your phone. If you need to secure your house, you buy a lock and only give a key to the people that need it. If you want to stop drinking alcohol, the simplest solution is to remove all alcohol from your house and do not purchase any more. If bars are a temptation for you, then choose non-alcoholic bar, or find some other place to meet up with people.

Now understand, that the last solution is for a part of what could be a more complex problem. If you are an alcoholic and your body is addicted, then simply removing alcohol from your life is going to be more challenging than just removing it from your home. But I hope you get my point in that in many cases, the obvious solution is often the best solution to simple problems.

Complicated Solutions

“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”

— Epictetus

From a stoic perspective, simple and complicated problems are ones that we have control over. Complicated problems are often a lot of simple problems wrapped up into a project. By finding and implementing the best tried and true solutions for simple problems, and the various components of complicated problems in our lives, we can reduce the amount of time and energy we spend on them. This frees up our energy for the dealing with the complex and chaotic problems that we face.

Complicated problems are best solved by breaking them down into the smallest tasks possible, and finding the best way to accomplish those tasks. Many problems that we try to solve in this arena have methodologies about how to manage them. This is generally how most construction and software projects are managed. The more problems in your life that you can identify as complicated, will allow you to use existing methodologies to help you solve them.

For example, if you wish to be more organized and declutter your home or workspace, there are solutions as to how to accomplish it. At a very basic level, you get rid of the things you don’t need or use. Then you figure out a place for each of the things that you do own, then make sure that when you are done using something, you put it back in its place. There are of course many variations on this, and there are various solutions that you can use to organize your life. It just depends on finding which one works for you, and sticking to it.

Complex Solutions

“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

The stoics give us guidelines of how best to deal with complex problems by teaching us to know and live our principles. Complex problems are hard because there is often no clear way forward. By having a clear set of principles, we are able to make better choices, try things out, see what works, and make adjustments accordingly. Things like finding your life’s purpose, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, or learning to be truly happy, are all things that will vary from person to person because there isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of solution.

Solutions to complex problems are the most challenging, as they take the most creative effort, as well as the ability to try, fail, and keep on trying. Complex problems are ones that change and morph over time. As soon as we think we understand the problem, we may find other issues that we were unable to anticipate because the problem is, well, complex.

As I said earlier, I think that most mental and physical health problems fall into the category of complex problems. We often don’t know or understand the things that hold us back. As we seek to understand the things that keep us from making progress, we are often surprised by what we discover. Our path forward is something that is unique to us and no one else. It takes creativity and resilience for us to figure out solutions for the many challenges we face. We may think that we understand how to move forward, only to find that we missed something that dealt us a heavy setback. What worked for us last week might not be as effective this week. The important thing is to keep pressing forward and keep trying.

Mental health issues such as dealing with trauma or depression, are complex issues that take a lot of work to deal with. Often, as we unravel one issue, we stumble onto another that we didn’t even know was there. We might be making progress in one area, only to falter in another due to some unexpected circumstance that took us by surprise.

Physical health issues are also complex problems. We might want to get in shape, but find that because of injuries or other issues, a specific plan that works for one person may not work for us. In my own case, because of issues with my shoulder, I’ve had to be very careful in my daily workouts not exacerbate my injuries. So as I work through my routines, I’m not able to do them exactly the way I want, but I notice how my body is responding, and adjust as necessary. I also may add or remove some exercises depending on how I’m feeling that day.

Chaotic Solutions

“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

Lastly, the stoics give us lots of ideas of how to work through chaotic problems. Learning to manage our emotions, accepting that there are circumstances that we cannot change, and doing our best to remain true to the principles that we have internalized can help us weather the storms that life throws our way.

Tools like premeditatio malorum, which is imagining all the things that can go wrong can help us figure out beforehand how we might deal with situations that we otherwise never would have imagined. This is what crisis and emergency management is all about. We think about what things that can go wrong, and then we work on trying to prepare how we can handle those situations the best.

Chaotic problems are generally rare and are hard to prepare for. Even with the best planning, we also understand that even if we prepare for as many things that can go wrong, we know we probably won’t get them all. Flexibility, grace under pressure, and the ability to adapt quickly are key attributes needed to handle chaotic problems. It’s really about doing the best you can.


Life is full of problems, but understanding the nature of the problems that we face can help us to apply the correct tools. Some problems will have straightforward solutions or processes that we can apply. Complex problems will take lots of resilience, and a willingness to try and fail, and use our principles to guide us when we are unsure of what the next steps might be. Chaotic problems will call on us to keep control of our emotions, accept our circumstances, and do the best we can. The next time you find yourself dealing with a problem in your life, take a moment and see if you can identify what type of problem you’re dealing with, and take the appropriate action.

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.


272 – Drop Your Opinions, Live Your Principles

Do your opinions get in your way? Do your opinions cause issues in your relationships? What would happen if you weren’t so attached to your opinions? Today I want to talk about why we should be willing to let go of attachments to our opinions and how doing so can help you live a happier life.

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

— Marcus Aurelius


“Be disentangled from all perceptions. They are not you.”

— Brian Thompson

The stoics talk a lot about how our opinions are one of the things that cause us the most stress in our lives, and that we can, at any point, choose to not have an opinion about something. Now what exactly does this mean? I mean, the stoics seemed to have some pretty strong ideas about what life is about and how to live. Is this is ironic? Does it mean the stoic are wrong?

When the stoics talk about having an opinion on something, they recognized that an opinion is just our perspective on something. It is not something that is a fact. The problem is that we often treat them like facts, and get so attached to them that we’re willing to end friendships, and exclude people from our lives because they don’t hold the same opinions as we do.


"It is not things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments about those things."

— Epictetus

First, lets talk about the different kinds of opinions that we have, and some of the downsides to each of them.

Opinions are often judgments that we have about something. Usually these are based on some experience we have which cause us to form an opinion around something. While taking time to judge things properly is important, we need to be careful that we don’t make sweeping judgments or fall into black and white thinking. For example, we might see some bad behavior by someone and make a judgement that they are a bad person without knowing the whole context of a situation.


“Opinion is the enemy of reason. We prefer the plausible to the true.”


Beliefs are simple strongly held opinions. It is not something that is based on facts, because if it were based on facts, then it wouldn’t be something that you would need to believe in. Often, we will justify our opinion on something by claiming that it is something that we “believe”, but this doesn’t make it any less of an opinion, or immune from scrutiny. In fact, I think that it’s highly important that we examine the things that we claim as beliefs. Any time someone claims that they “believe” something, just remember that they are simply sharing their opinion.


“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.”

— Marcus Aurelius

I also want to differentiate between something that is a principle versus something that is an opinion. Generally speaking, a principle is a fundamental, foundational value that guides our actions. An opinion, on the other hand, is a specific idea or view about something that may or may not be based on a principle.

In other words, a principle is like the foundation of a house, while opinions are the different rooms and decorations that can change over time. You may hold a principle of treating others with kindness, but have opinions about what kindness means in different situation. We may also have opinions that do not necessarily reflect any deeper principles, such as having an opinion about whether pineapple belongs on pizza, which of course it does.

Another key differentiation of principles and opinions is that principles tend to be focused on things that are in our control, like our own thoughts and actions, while opinions might be more focused on things that are outside of our control, like what others think or do.


“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

— Marcus Aurelius

So why do people hold onto and defend their opinions so strenuously?

Often, people defend their opinions because they are afraid of being wrong or looking foolish. The insecurity that comes from being wrong about something can drive people to defend their opinions, even if their opinion is unhelpful, damaging, or downright wrong.

Another reason why people feel such a strong attachment to their opinions that they want to feel certain about how they view the world. The world is a complex and confusing place that is not easy to understand or make sense of. For some, ambiguity and uncertainty are very uncomfortable, and so they look to find answers that make sense to them to reduce their anxiety. Often these ideas are not well thought out, but they speak to the persons preconceived ideas of how things are, so they latch onto them.

Another key idea in Stoicism is to recognize the role that emotions play in shaping our opinions. When we're attached to an opinion, it's often because we're feeling a strong emotion like anger, fear, or pride. If we can take a step back and try to identify the underlying emotion, we can then question whether it's serving us well.

Probably the biggest problem we run into with attachment to our opinions and beliefs is they can become part of our identity, meaning that we see our beliefs as part of our self concept or self image. We see letting go of a belief as letting go of a part of ourself. When we hold onto opinions this tightly, we feel like changing our opinion would threaten who we are as person, and in some cases, it threatens our reality.


“Everywhere, at each moment, you have the option: to accept this event with humility; to treat this person as they should be treated; to approach this thought with care, so that nothing irrational creeps in.”

—Marcus Aurelius

So what happens when we hold on to our opinions too tightly?

When we're too attached to our opinions, we can become closed-minded, defensive, unwilling to change our minds, and even hostile toward others who disagree with us. In our need to be right, we can alienate others, such as friends and family members. This can make it harder to find common ground, come up with creative solutions, and understand where others are coming from. In other words, it can create rifts and make it harder to connect with others.

Growing up mormon, I lived in a culture that was so sure that their beliefs and opinions were the correct ones, that those with differing opinions were not welcomed. Because of this attitude, I’ve had friends who’ve been excluded from their families because they had different political opinions or religious beliefs. Their families decided that their attachment to their beliefs and opinions was more important than reaching out and trying to include those who thought differently.


When we’re too attached to our opinions or beliefs, we can use them to justify things that actually go against our principles. We’ve seen throughout history that people believing in the rightness of their opinions or beliefs has led them to do pretty awful things. From the Crusades to slavery to the Nazis of World War II, we have seen what happens when groups of people have a belief or opinion that they want to force upon others.

No Opinion

“Intelligence consists of ignoring things that are irrelevant.”

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb

So how can we get better about being less attached to our opinions, and have opinions that better serve us?

There is nothing wrong with having opinions. As I said earlier, opinions are just our perspectives and judgments on the world. Having opinions on things is how we navigate the world. It’s our attachments to our opinions and beliefs that can cause us issues.

One of the things the stoic talk about is that we don’t have to have an opinion on everything. There are plenty of things that we don’t need to waste our energy on, because we have no control over them, nor do they have any impact on our lives whatsoever. For example, why would I care about what some celebrity wore to some awards show? It has no impact on my life, nor does my opinion of it impact anyone else’s life.

It’s Okay to be Wrong

“Strong opinions, loosely held.”

— Paul Saffo

“Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

— Voltaire

Another thing to realize is that you might be wrong. Your opinion is just an idea and perspective on something at a certain point in time. You should always be willing to update your opinions based upon new information because the world is always changing and you are always changing as well. It may mean that at some point in time you may hold the completely opposite opinion, or just not care about something because it doesn’t really matter in your life anymore.

I look back on a lot of the opinions I had when I was young and realize how uninformed they were. Some of that was because I just didn’t have enough information. Some of them were simply opinions that I inherited from my parents and the culture that I grew up in. I also just didn’t have enough experience in my life to really have an informed opinion.

Now that I’m older and have a lot more life experience, I can see how I held onto a lot of opinions that seemed so important I don’t even care about any more. I try to be more curious about other peoples opinions, and be open to them so that my opinions can be better informed.

Live Your Principles

“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Where our opinions are important is how well they help us live our principles, not be used as an excuse to skirt our principles. For example, if we claim to live the principle of justice, but we fail to uphold it for others that we deem undeserving based on something like their class, gender, or skin color, then we aren’t living by our principles. We have opinions we are using to selectively apply our principles. So when it comes to our opinions, we might ask, "Is holding this opinion useful?" and "Will this opinion make me more or less likely to act in accordance with my principles?"

We should also recognize that others may have different opinions on things, but can hold the same principles that we do. Often times is just that they have a different approach on how they think things need to be done. When we focus more on finding our common principles and less on our differences of opinion, it is more likely that we can find common ground to work together.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of our opinions are about how we think other people should be or ways that they should behave. When we hold onto these opinions we end up driving others away from us because we think we have the right to tell others how they should act, and as the stoics taught, we don’t have control over other people.

When we’re willing to be less attached to our opinions, we are more likely to bring people closer to us. We are able to approach conversations with the goal of learning and understanding, rather than pushing them away because of our need to “win” be “right”. By cultivating an attitude of curiosity and openness toward others' perspectives, rather than immediately trying to refute or dismiss them, it allows us to see things from a different angle and perhaps gain a more nuanced understanding.


Everyone has opinions in life because it’s how we operate as humans. We hold onto ideas about how we think the world works, and they can help us make choices. But the more that we can be aware of our opinions, the better we can recognize that our opinions and beliefs are just our perspectives on something and not necessarily the truth about something. But most importantly, we need to make sure that our opinions don’t get in the way of living our principles.

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.


269 – Getting Unstuck

Are you stuck in life? Do you feel like you can’t break out of the rut you’re in? Today I want to talk about why we get stuck and offer some ideas of how to get unstuck.

“What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgements about these things.”

— Epictetus


Getting stuck in a rut is a fairly common occurrence in modern life. To be honest, it’s often been a curse throughout the ages. Because we are all creatures of habit, we often find something that works, then we cling to it because, while it may not be the best thing for us, it’s safe, and if we’re working in a creative realm we often have all kinds of fears and anxieties that pop up and make it challenging to move forward.

The reason that I’m doing an episode on this topic is that I struggle with this every week. I wish that I could say that creating an episode each week was easy and that the ideas just flowed from my mind and through the microphone, but they don’t. Each week is a challenge that I face as I come up with an idea, find information and quotes to help illustrate the points that I’m trying to make, and sit down synthesis all these ideas into a good episode for you.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, almost every episode that I put out is usually something that I’m working through in my personal life. As I work to try and solve the problems that I deal with, sitting down and creating an episode is a way for me to find some solutions, and do my best to share them with you.

So why do we get stuck? What is it that keeps up from progressing forward in our lives?

Lack of Resources

Sometimes we are stuck because have a lack of resources to make progress. That could mean that we don’t the funds to accomplish our goals. We may not have the right equipment or tools to complete a project. We may not have the opportunities for the education we need.

Often the resource we lack most of is time. We may simply have too many other commitments and lack the time to be able to achieve what we want. I’ve run into this many times myself and have gone through periods of my life where I reduce the number of things I’m working on at any given time so that I don’t burn out.

Other People

We may be dependent on someone else. Sometimes other people are in positions that block us from being able to accomplish what we want. This could be anyone from a manager to even someone in your family.

Probably the most challenging is when it comes from a partner. So, last week I sent out an email to all the people on my email list and asked them what their biggest challenge was when it came to self improvement. There were a lot of different answers, but one that came up more frequently than I expected was dealing with partners who were not interested in personal growth, and they felt like they were at odds with them in their efforts to improve themselves.


Sometimes we get stuck because we don’t know what to do. We may be trying something new, and because it’s new, we don’t know what steps are needed to move us forward. For example, as I’m working on turning the podcast into a full time job, I’m very unsure of what to do.

Coaching, masterminds, creating courses, and learning how to market them is something that is way outside of my comfort zone, and there are plenty of times when I have no idea what to do next. In my case, there is certainly not a dearth of information, but rather there is too much information. I don’t know what next steps I should take because there are so many opinions of how to make this successful.


Often we’re stuck in a rut because we’re just simply burnt out. We might be over scheduled. We might be just trying to take on too much. We might have other obligations or people that have demands on our time that we don’t have the courage to step up and say no to. Burnout is something that is very real, and often times it takes us crashing and burning to recognize that’s what’s going on in our lives, and this will often force us to take step back and start to care for ourselves a little better.


“The limit is not the sky. The limit is the mind.”

— Wim Hof

I think the biggest reason that we get stuck in our lives is fear. Fear is the primary driver of so many of our actions, that we may not even be truly aware of it. But the thing is that fear is caused by our own minds. Most of the things that we are afraid of are things that we just imagine might cause us some kind of pain, but in most cases the only pain we ever feel is our own distress, not any real physical harm.

There are different kinds of fear that can keep up from moving forward. First and foremost is the fear of failure. We can get so fixated on not being able to meet certain expectations, that we fail to even get started on a project or we refuse to put ourselves out there. This fear can also be driven from several places such as our fear of being judged by others, especially when we sensitive to external validation from others. Rather than even trying, we just avoid the situation altogether.

The fear of failure can also swing the other way and we can become paralyzed with perfectionism. Our inner critic can convince us that whatever it is that we are working on is just not good enough. So we keep working on it and working on it far past the point where most people would consider it complete. Sometimes we just give up on it because we never reach a point where we consider it complete.

We can also get stuck with fear of the unknown. Because the future is always uncertain, we may stay stuck because of that uncertainty. We’d rather stick with what we know because it’s safe. We might even be comfortable where we are in life, and therefore don’t want things to change at all. But as we all know, life is never static so the wish to keep things as they are is something that will ultimately fail.

The thing about all the fears we have that keep us stuck are usually things that don’t even exist outside of our own minds. It is our perception of these things, and all the awful scenarios that we conjure up which cause us the most pain in the form of anxiety. We become our own tormentors.

So what are some things that we can do to help get ourselves unstuck?


“Discomfort is the currency of success.”

— Brooke Castillo

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

— M. Scott Peck

Often, we procrastinate on something because we have associated a strong negative feeling with the activity that we are trying to do. It’s often challenging because we feel like something is wrong with us that we have something we want to accomplish, and yet, we will put it off and even self-sabotage ourselves.

I know that for me, many times I have struggled getting this podcast done because I feel like it’s just not going to be good enough. That feeling that it has to somehow be perfect creeps in and makes it so my brain wants to avoid working on it. At that point, everything else seems much more interesting, so it’s easeir to get distracted.

In order to move past procrastination, we need to be mindful of the story that we are telling ourselves about what we need to accomplish. We need to be mindful of the feelings that we have somehow associated with our task. In my case, that it needs to be perfect. I continually remind myself, that a good episode is far better than none, and more likely to get a good episode done than a “perfect” episode.

Developing that mindfulness can help us face the different fears that we have about something. If we don’t understand why we’re avoiding something, it makes it very challenging to to actually face up to and overcome the fears that we have created in our minds.


“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! […] Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”

— Epictetus

I know that I talk a lot on my podcast about focusing on the process and learning how to enjoy the work, but sometimes we get fixated on the out come. So, if this is the case, and we’re going to slide into that way of thinking, why don’t we do a nice jujitsu move on our brains and use this to help us out?

Sometimes imagining what accomplishing something will feel like in the future can be very useful to us. We can imagine how good it will feel to complete our task. We can imagine how much less stressful it will feel once we’re done working on it. When you reach that point, your future self with thank your present self for putting in the hard work.

Copy The Masters

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while."

— Steve Jobs

One thing that I’ve found that is helpful when I’m creating music, writing, or even writing software, is that I find songs or elegant solutions that other people have created and copy what they are doing. If it’s music, I’ll try to may my own version of someone else’s song then start adding my own sounds, arrangements, or variations to make it my own. If it’s writing, I’ll read great books or listen to great podcasts to get inspiration or learn new things to expand my horizons. If it’s coding problem, then I’ll try to find tutorials or code that others have posted that can help me make progress on what I’m doing.

The point is, in this age where we have so much information available to us, we should use it to build off the shoulders of giants. Much of what we do in this world is about combining unusual ideas to create new and better ones. We have all kinds of of processes and tools that can help us take what is good, and make it great. Sometimes it’s not about creating a completely unique idea, but rather looking at something with a different perspective.

Break it Down

Sometimes we get stuck because the task we’re approaching seems so overwhelming. By taking some time to break things down to smaller and more discreet tasks, it can make things much easier. Rather than being one giant task that you have to get done, it can be several smaller tasks that are much easier to get done.

This is something that we do very often in software development. Since software applications are built of lots interworking pieces of code, breaking a large project into smaller parts that can be completed in a shorter amount of time makes it more likely that the project will get completed. If you’re interested in this process and want to adapt it into your workflow, check out scum or agile development and see if you might be able to apply it to what you’re working on.

Short Timelines

Sometimes the way to get past the being stuck it to set yourself short timelines so that you just get started. And what I mean by that is that if you find that it’s difficult to go for a run, set a minimum amount of time that you have to run. Something like 5 or 10 minutes. That means that you only have to run for 5 or 10 minutes, then you can can turn around and go home. Or, that you only have to write or paint for 5 or 10 minutes then you can quit. Often, it only takes getting the action started, then it’s easier to keep going. By creating some momentum with a timeline that is easy to complete, it makes it easier to keep going.

Ask For Help

“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.”


Probably the hardest thing to do when we’re stuck is to reach out to others and ask for help. This is not easy because far too often we think that we need to go it alone and that asking for help is admitting failure. Often we think that other people won’t want to help us and so we don’t ask so we don’t get rejected. But the thing is, other people like to help, and often can bring new and interesting insights into what you’re working on. They may have skills that you don’t have, and know things that you never would have figured out.

This is something that I’ve been working on myself. I’ve found a few people who are stronger in areas that I don’t know much about, or they are willing to just talk through things that help me see things that I might have missed. Plus, when you ask others for help, it’s a great space to build a better connection with them. I know that I appreciate it when people are vulnerable and ask me for help.


Getting unstuck is not an easy thing to do, but most of the things that keep us stuck are products of our own mind. By becoming aware of the thoughts and behaviors that derail us, we can develop coping mechanisms that can help get us back on track. We can find ways to help our minds work with us and achieve the things that we want, and in doing so help us get unstuck just a little faster.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening.

if you want to take these ideas and yourself to the next level, join the Stoic Coffee House.

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.


267 – Conquering Victimhood with a Stoic Mindset

Are you a victim? Do you put yourself in the role of a victim rather than owning up to and taking responsibility for yourself? Today I want to talk about why we fall into the role of victim and how we can step up and be responsible for ourselves.

“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

Life Happens

There are a lot of things that happen to us in life. As the stoics have told us time and again, there are very few things that we control. In short, we control our thoughts, our choices, and our actions, and that’s about it. So if we control so little, doesn’t that make us the victim of the circumstances that we have no control over? When things go wrong, can’t we just blame it on the universe? Other people? The government?

Sure. We can always do that. We can put the blame for our unhappiness on someone else. It is always a choice that we can make. But, if we want to actually be happy, grow, and make progress in our lives, blaming others is a waste of time. The sooner we move out of the role of victim, the more likely we are to create happiness, and actually accomplish the things that we want to in our lives.

So why do we allow ourselves to become the victim in so many ways? Why would we let go of the power we have and put ourselves in a place of weakness?


“People think that if they complain about life, life or the world might change. But of course this does not happen. You cannot change Nature and its laws. It is what it is. No amount of complaining, resentment or mourning will help. Accept, let go and move on.”

— @TheAncientSage (twitter)

One of the main reasons that we fall into the role of victim is that it gives us an alibi for failing at something. Often we try to make ourselves feel better by making the reason for our failure something or someone else. If the reason for failing is external to us, then we feel like less of a failure because it was due to something else that we do not have control over.

Coming up with excuses also removes the pressure from having to make changes and actually do something about the situation we find ourselves in. If we can place the blame outside ourselves and find some other reason other than ourselves for why we failed, then we don’t have to change. Change is hard and we will look for all kinds of reason to not have to put in the work to improve.

I know that in the past that I would fall into this way of behaving. Much of that had to do with growing up in the church and the turbulent home life I had growing up. In both cases, if I had a good excuse for why I had done something then often things went more smoothly and I didn’t get in as much trouble as if I had just owned up and taken responsibility for my actions. If I could come up a good enough excuse, there was good chance I could escape punishment for my actions.

This bad habit took a long time to become aware of and even longer to remove from my way of operating. But just like everyone, I sometimes fall into coming up with excuses for my not so great behavior. It takes a lot of effort to change this kind of behavior, especially when it worked so well in the past.


Another reason why we will play the role of a victim is that it brings us attention. Most of us want to be noticed by others, and playing the victim, we have something that sets us apart without having to put much work into it. Rather than putting effort into something and receiving attention for our actions, our self victimization allows us to feel important with little work.

There are people who continuously cast themselves in the role of the victim for whatever life brings their way. Every new setback is something to complain about and to tell others about how unfair their life is and garners even more attention.


Secondarily to garnering attention, playing the victim can garner sympathy from others. When we are the victim and are in a position of weakness, it plays on the sympathies of others. On the whole, people like to help others who are in need, and this exploits the natural tendency that most people have to helps others. Garnering sympathy makes us a feel like we are loved and that people care for us, but again, it can easily be used to manipulate others into getting us what we want.

The sympathy we get from others in our victimhood also becomes a way of validating our feelings and our sense of righteousness. The more validation we get, the more we feel like we don’t have to make any changes to our behavior. Because we feel like we are “right” in our feelings of being a victim, we continue on on this role without ever really questioning ourselves.

Growing up I remember a relative who always had something wrong with them. Their spouse and other family members were always doing everything for them because their wide ranging ailments were used as excuses to not have to do anything around the house. Every time we would visit my dad would joke that we shouldn’t ask how they are doing because they might tells us and we’d be there all night listening to the never-ending list of ailments and calamities in their life.

Group Acceptance

Sometimes we will use our victimhood as a way to fit into a group. When we find fellow victims, we can bond over the ways that we were wronged. Victimhood becomes a sort of social currency. Because we get that validation from others, we can stay stuck in that role, convinced of the “rightness” of our position. This aspect of playing the role of a victim can be the most dangerous because it allows us to stay where we are without anyone else questioning our belief. The reinforcement and validation of others makes it easy to never question it ourselves either.


Often we will use victimhood to try and control other people. In the role of a victim, we hold onto the idea that we have been wronged. We feel like we are in the “right” and try to use it as leverage against someone else. We may try to control them by trying to make them feel guilty and shame them into do what we want them to do.


“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is.”

— Eckhart Tolle

Ultimately, we play the role of the victim because it’s a way to try and control the situation around us. It also allows us to feel morally superior without having to take responsibility or make changes to our behavior. So what can we do to be more aware of when we are acting like a victim, and take more responsibility for ourselves?

One of the key components of stoicism is that we have to understand what we do and what we do not control. When we try to control things that we don’t have control over, such as the opinions of others, or other people in general, then we’re wasting our time and energy, and it turns us into victims. When we are not controlling the things that we can control, then again, we allow ourselves to become victims because we could actually be doing something about the situation, but we’re choose not to.

Sometimes it’s hard to see that we’re playing the role of victim. We feel righteous about our position and we hold onto the conviction that the other person needs to change for us. But the thing is, as much as we might want the other person to change, we have no control over them. We can sit around all day wanting them to change for us, but if they don’t want to, there is very little that we can do. By making our happiness dependent on the will of others we actually give them control over us.


“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One clear way to recognize when we might be trying to control other people is if we are angry with them. Often, we are angry with someone because they won’t do something we want, and we try to use anger to control them and get them to change or do something. I know that I often did this with my ex-partner. When she was annoyed or disappointed with me, I would try and argue with her about why she shouldn’t be.

Now, much of this was driven from a fear that if she was upset with me that she didn’t love me, which is a trauma response that I have from my childhood, but it’s no excuse for my behavior. Nonetheless, it was my way of trying to control her by trying to change how she felt about me.

Rather than stepping up and owning my feelings about the situation and giving her space to have her have her feelings about it, I would cast myself in the role of the victim and make it her fault that I felt uncomfortable and angry. Doing so pushed her farther away from me because no one likes having someone trying to control their feelings.

Point of View

“If we know only our own side of the argument, we hardly know even that; it becomes stale, soon learned only by rote, untested, a pallid and lifeless truth.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

One tool that we can use to help pull ourselves out of being a victim is to put ourselves in the other person’s point of view. This isn’t easy to do, especially when we’re convinced that we are in the right. But, if we only pay attention to and know our side, then we do not have even close to a complete picture of the situation. Our own point of view may be severely limited because we have let our emotions take over, or we may just have a limited amount of information.

Own It

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

— Antisthenes

Another thing to consider when you’re acting like a victim, is to understand what exactly it is that you are upset about. Are you upset that someone pointed out a flaw of yours? Did they say something mean or gossip about you? More to the point, is what they said actually true? We don’t like being called out on our bad behavior. But if you find yourself upset at someone for pointing out something you actually said or did, then you are arguing with reality. In this case, we need to step up and own our behavior.


“Emotions are easily hijacked by illusory threats that tap into our insecurities. We can’t be strategically dynamic if we are always on the defensive. We are more effective when we realize how many things don’t require any response at all.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

“At any given moment, you can choose to follow the chain of thoughts, emotions, and sensations that reinforce a perception of yourself as vulnerable and limited, or to remember that your true nature is pure, unconditioned, and incapable of being harmed.”

—Mingyur Rinpoche

The most important step to getting out of victimhood is taking responsibility. Now when I talk about taking responsibility it includes a few areas.

First, we need to be responsible for our emotions and reactions in any situation. This can be incredibly challenging because it often feels like our emotions come from what someone else did or said, or what life sent our way. Our emotions are actually formed by the meaning that we give to an event, so trying to blame how we feel on someone else is a mistake.

Also, when we put the blame of how we feel on someone or something else, we are letting something outside of ourselves have power over us. We are allowing circumstances or what others do control our moods and emotions.

Most importantly though, the area of responsibility that falls to us when we no longer want to play victim, is that we recognize that we need to be ones the take action in our lives. While you may not be to blame for whatever happens in your life, you are the one who is responsible for doing something about it. Waiting around for someone else to fix things leaves you powerless.

Even if someone else did something that put in you at a disadvantage or harmed you, they may not want to change in the way that you expect them to. Since we don’t control other people, you need to step up and do what you can do, rather than waiting around for others or the world to change for you.


Playing the role of victim is something that is easy to do. Doing so is a way to escape having to do the hard work of taking responsibility for your life, and putting in the work to improve your life. Taking that kind of responsibility means that in any situation you are able to find opportunities for growth and improving your situation. It takes awareness of yourself and the situation. It takes a willingness to control what you can, and let the rest go.

When you place blame on someone or something outside of yourself, you forfeit the power you have to do something about it. So the next time you find yourself a victim, rather than waiting for someone else to do something, ask yourself, “What can I do in this situation?”, then step up and start doing it.

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.


266 – Finding Balance: The Paradox of Pain and Pleasure

Do you think that life should be all pleasure and no pain? This week I want to talk about the balance between pain and pleasure and why if you want more pleasure, you may have to add more pain to your life.

“If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.”


The Paradox of Pain and Pleasure

A few weeks ago, I had an episode called Suffer Well, and in that episode I talked about how we should be willing to put ourselves in pain deliberately because it teaches us how to deal with unexpected suffering. I also talked about how exposing ourselves to the right amount pain helps us grow, become more confident in ourselves, and find purpose in our lives.

This week, I want to explore the link between pleasure and pain from a slightly different angle. Last week I was listening to a two part episode on Hidden Brain, which is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. The episodes, The Paradox of Pleasure and The Path to Enough talked about research into the connection between pain and pleasure and how if we are only pursuing pleasure, we can actually end up causing ourselves a lot of pain.

In the episodes, Dr Anne Lembke, who is Chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University, talks about how because pain and pleasure are colocated in the brain, when we experience pleasure and get a dopamine hit, the brain automatically tries to balance it out. Think of it like a seesaw, that as soon as you push on one side, the brain starts pushing on the other side to achieve balance, or what is called homeostasis. This is why when you indulge in something pleasurable, such as taking drugs, drinking alcohol, eating sugar, or even checking social media, your brain is constantly trying to balance things out. This is why we get a hangover, come down effects from things like drugs and alcohol, and reduced pleasure from social media.

This balancing act in our brains is why many people find pleasure when they do painful things. As I talked about in Suffer Well, when I’m out cycling and stressing my legs I notice that when I get home and I’m relaxing after my shower, I have this pleasurable buzzed feeling from the endorphins that my body produces after I exert myself. This is the same phenomenon as a “Runner’s High”, but on wheels. Almost any physical activity can generate similar effects. I know that I feel better after a walk, lifting weights, or even just 20 minutes of yoga.

Another example where pain can cause pleasure is when people who like to eat really spicy food talk about the pleasurable high that kicks in after eating something spicy. It’s because the body kicks in pleasure to help balance out the pain that you feel.

I like to think of this like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states, “For each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. It appears that for pain and pleasure in our brains, this is also the case. The more we pursue pleasurable things, the more we create a dopamine deficit, and the more we do things that are challenging and at times painful, we are rewarded with a natural dopamine increase.


“A person who has built his life around pleasure is bound to be disillusioned. Hedonism is not sustainable, and it leaves a person empty. We are not meant to experience sustained pleasure. Therefore, to cope with the drab routine of daily existence, one must find meaning somewhere.”

— @TheAncientSage

While most people apply temperance to alcohol, we need to consider that almost anything can become an addiction. In fact, the researcher, Anna Lembke, talks about her own addiction that disrupted her life in a fairly dramatic way. And you might be surprised at what it was: romance novels. She became enthralled with the erotic portions of romance novels to the point where she would read until 3 or 4 in the morning even though she had to be at work early in the morning. She found herself reducing her time spent with family and friends. To keep others from knowing what she was reading, she bought a kindle. She was losing connection with the real world and escaping to fantasy in the pages of erotica.

Other addictions that are mentioned in episode include dugs, online gambling, pornography, shopping, food, video games, and even social media. We have so much instant pleasure at our fingertips we can easily find ourselves addicted without even really being conscious of what is happening. Because our brains are always trying to keep homeostasis, after a certain point, those pleasurable things can actually start to cause us harm.


Where we really start to run into issues with pleasure that when you keep doing something on the pleasure side, and you get that dopamine hit, then your brain tries to balance it out by reducing the pleasure you get from it. That means in order to get the same amount of pleasure you had from the previous hit, you have to have more. You can build up a tolerance to almost anything pleasurable, to the point where it starts to make you irritable, anxious, or even sick.

One of the most interesting things that I learned from this podcast is that often the thing that someone is addicted to is used not to treat the original issue, but to treat the comedown effect from the last use of it. Meaning that you use it, your brain counters it, then you have to use it again to try and block the negative effects from the last time you used it.

This was illustrated in the second episode of the podcast, where they talk about a patient named Delilah, who suffered from anxiety and depression and would smoke cannabis to help relieve those symptoms. But as Lembke worked with Delilah, she realized that the anxiety and depression that she was treating was actually being caused by the cannabis. She convinced Delilah to give up cannabis for 4 weeks to try and reset her dopamine levels.

After 4 weeks Delilah returned and talked about her experience. She said that in the first week she was vomiting violently because of the withdrawal from cannabis. She recognized that she had actually been addicted, and that her body had been changed by such chronic heavy use. After the four weeks of not using cannabis she said that she felt less anxious and depressed than she had felt in years.

Lembke herself talks about how when she gave up reading erotica, that the first two weeks she had terrible insomnia and even headaches as she was going through withdrawal symptoms from the lack of dopamine she was used to. She had to detox from the erotica in order to reset her dopamine levels.


So why does our brain work this way? Why does it try to limit pleasure and reward us for pain? Because it’s trying to keep us safe and help us grow. How does it keep us safe? Because often those things that offer instant pleasure are things that are not good for us in the long term. A good example of this is hard drugs like meth or heroin. While in the moment they feel incredibly pleasurable, they take their toll on those that use them. Our brain is doing its best to keep us alive by putting the brakes on pleasure.

On the flip side, our brains reward us for seeking out the right kind of pain. For example, when we exercise, it is uncomfortable and at times painful, we grow stronger, can run faster, and our bodies work better overall when we subject ourselves to certain levels of pain and stress. By pushing on the pain side, we get our brains to reward us by releasing pleasurable chemicals.

Embracing Discomfort

“Why do I keep repeating harmful behaviors/habits when I know they are bad for me?” Because they give you pleasure or help you avoid discomfort. And you are too weak to let go of a little pleasure or to bear a little discomfort.”

— @TheAncientSage

So now that we know how the brain handles pain and pleasure, what can we do to take advantage of this knowledge?

One of the best and worst things about modern life how much access we have to comfort and pleasure. In fact, it been shown in studies that as our societies have more access to easy pleasures and comforts, we have higher levels of unhappiness. It seems that the easier our lives have become, the worse off we are. People in developed countries as a whole report far higher levels of stress and anxiety than those in less developed countries.

When we learn to embrace discomfort, we are not only strengthening ourselves, but we are actually able to find more pleasure. When we learn how handle things that are challenging, we actually get a natural hit of dopamine when we overcome a problem. Taking on the right amount of physical pain and stress we are also rewarded as our brain tips the seesaw over towards the pleasure side. Our brains reward us for doing hard things.


Another reason why we often seek out too much pleasure is to cover up our own pain or unhappiness. Often times the addictive behavior comes from trying to escape difficult feelings. While these feeling are uncomfortable and at times painful, when we try to numb them out with pleasure, then we are creating another problem on top of the one that we are trying to avoid.

When we are willing to step up and face the difficult feelings, then our brains actually reward us. I know that in my own experience when I step up and try to work through things, even though it’s hard, I usually feel better about myself. When I make a breakthrough and handle a challenging situation better, while it may not be the pleasure hit from a good whiskey, there’s an underlying good feeling of accomplishment that lasts far longer because I’ve made some progress.


While listening to the episodes, it made me think about how the stoics teach us about the importance of moderation, also referred to as temperance. It is so important to the stoics, that it is one of the four virtues along with wisdom, justice, and courage. The stoics understood what neuroscience is discovering – that the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, can actually cause us harm.

When we think about temperance or moderation, there’s often this idea that in practicing moderation we’re spoiling our fun. But the stoics knew from watching human behavior that the pursuit of nothing but pleasure and avoiding pain led to a life of excess and little growth. In fact, in writing about the pleasure seeking of the Epicureans, Seneca clearly states that when you seek out virtue first, then happiness will follow.

“Let virtue lead the way: then every step will be safe. Too much pleasure is hurtful: but with virtue we need fear no excess of any kind, because moderation is contained in virtue herself. That which is injured by its own extent cannot be a good thing: besides what better guide can there be than reason [as opposed to pleasure] for beings endowed with a reasoning nature? So if this combination pleases you, if you are willing to proceed to a happy life thus accompanied, let virtue lead the way, let pleasure follow and hang about the body like a shadow: it is the part of a mind incapable of great things to hand over virtue, the highest of all qualities, as a handmaid to pleasure.”

— Seneca

Here Seneca is pointing out that when we seek pleasure for its own sake, then too much can cause us harm. Seneca even points out, “That which is injured by its own extent cannot be a good thing”, he’s pointing out that sometimes pleasurable things can cause injury by using them to excess. For anyone who has had one drink too many, I think you can agree that there can be too much of a good thing.

When we act with virtue, then pleasure and happiness follow as a natural consequence. When we act with virtue it is also self regulating. You can’t harm yourself practicing moderation.


As the world moves faster and pleasure is easier to access, we find that people are lonelier and more unhappy than ever before because they are working against their own biology. The next drink, the next pill, the next bet, the next post gives us that next little hit of pleasure, but our own brain knows that easy pleasure always comes with a price. When we can instead learn to govern ourselves, to choose the harder path of growth and moderation, we can work with our biology, and find the pleasure in the pain.

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.


265 – The Road to Growth: Why the Journey Matters More Than the Destination

Why do you set goals? Why is it important for you to accomplish those goals? Today I want to talk about why we should try to accomplish goals, even we never achieve them.

“That which we desire lies across an ocean of hard won knowledge.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)


Because we live in an achievement driven culture we often feel like if we don’t achieve certain things that we are falling behind. Whether that’s getting a college degree, making a certain amount of money, or achieving a certain amount of fame, there are always areas where we may feel like we’re not accomplishing what we think we should.

But, let’s stop and think for a moment. Is there anything in this world that we actually have to accomplish? If you think about it from the most basic level, the only thing you really need to accomplish in this world to be a successful human is basic survival. Everything else is just things that we choose to do. There is nothing that we actually have to do.

So if that’s the case, why do anything?

Because part of being a human being is to learn and grow. It’s fundamental to our nature. It’s hardwired into us. I mean, just look at a baby. They can’t help but learn and grow. They’re always curious about everything and trying to learn and understand anything they come in contact with. They’re always making noise as they figure out how to speak. Curiosity, learning, and improvement are very natural things.

Process vs. Outcome

“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.”


Have you ever had a time when you accomplished an important goal? Maybe you worked hard for a promotion at work, or you got a car that you had always dreamed of only to find that you were happy about it in the moment, but a few weeks or months later, you were at the same level of happiness as before you achieved you goal? This is because far too often we get stuck on the outcome, of thinking that the actual achieving the goal that will make us happy.

In study after study, scientists have found that even when they achieve some goal, people find that their happiness only lasts for a short period of time, then they find themselves at the same level of happiness as before they achieved it. This is called the Hedonic Treadmill, meaning that in order to sustain the same happiness, we have to keep achieving even more because we are never satisfied.

So if this is the case, if we are not happier after we achieve out goals, then why should we even try to achieve or accomplish anything more? Why not just coast along and do the minimum in life?

We work to achieve our goals not for the outcome of the goal, but because of the person we will have to become in order to achieve that goal.

We go after goals because of the growth and change that will happen when we try to accomplish them. The work that we put in to achieve those goals stretches us in ways that otherwise would not occur in our everyday life. The skills we have to learn and the processes we have to put in to place will help us become a better person. The journey to a goal is far more important than the goal itself. A goal is something to give us a direction.

Man on the Moon

In 1969, the US landed the first manned craft on the moon. This goal had been started years earlier when President John F. Kennedy challenged NASA to put a man on the moon before the Russians did. While part of the reason for this goal was to prove military superiority over the Russians, Kennedy also knew that to land a man on the moon was an audacious goal.

In a speech to Rice University in 1962, Kennedy said:

“We choose to go to the Moon… We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

Kennedy knew that work needed to get a man on the moon would be the organizing principle behind great advances in humanity. The technology that would have to be created to accomplish such a goal would need to be invented. He knew that discoveries in mathematics, engineering, material science, and many other fields would need to happen before we able to successfully have anyone striding on the lunar soil. He knew that even if we failed, the progress that we as a society would make in trying to reach the goal would be incredible.

From that one goal, we now have all kinds of amazing technology. Things like improved fireproof gear that was created for astronauts is now standard in fire departments around the world. Other inventions that are in wide use include water filtration systems used to purify water, freeze dried food, camera technology for telescopes that is now used in mobile phone cameras so you can thank NASA for your selfies. We have integrated circuits that are in almost everything tech based, and even ski goggles that filter out blue light so that you hit the slopes without being blinded. These are just a few of the myriad technologies that came from trying to hit an audacious goal.

So what are the stumbling blocks that can get in the way as we work to achieve our goals? What can we do to be sure that we’re getting the most out of our journey on the way to accomplishing what we set out to do?


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

— David Goggins

Because you are trying to live the stoic ideals, the stoics believe strongly in justice as one of the four major virtues. Cheating to win or to accomplish your goal obviously doesn’t help you live the virtue of justice. You should hold yourself to high standards, and to achieve your goals ethically. Doing so is an important part of building your character.

But the biggest reason why cheating is a waste, is that if you cheat to get your goal, while you may actually get the outcome you want but in doing so, you miss the growth that comes along with it. Remember, the goal is not the point, it’s what you become while trying to achieve that goals that matters. Even if no one else knows that you cheated, the person who loses is you. You may have the outcome you want, but deep down it’s a hollow victory.


“True success is achieved by stretching oneself, learning to feel comfortable being uncomfortable.”

— Ken Poirot

So what happens if you work really hard but never achieve your goal? I know plenty of people that won’t even set goals because they feel like they will never reach them. Even if you never actually accomplish the goal, you will still grow in trying to accomplish it. You will learn something. You will still grow and gain skills in whatever area you are working on. These things matter far more than actually achieving the goal.

This is why setting a challenging goal that seems like it’s out of your reach is still a great thing to do. The trick is to not focus on whether or not you achieve the goal, but that you are continually moving towards that goal. Making progress is far more important than the actual outcome. Defining yourself as a failure simply means that you haven’t achieved some expectations that you set for yourself. If you are making progress, you are not failing.

Set Worthy Goals

“So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.”

— Seneca

Because we want goals to help us grow, we need to set goals that challenge us. If we set easy goals that don’t challenge us, then they aren’t really helpful. We might be reaching and completing goals, but if the goals don’t help you grow then they aren’t really helpful.

If you want to be better, set goals that scare and excite you.

This is something that I’m experiencing right now. As I’m working on attracting coaching clients for my mastermind and other programs, it often produces anxiety because I’m having to learn all kinds of skills such as how to create courses and masterminds that are helpful for others. I’m learning how to write copy that explains the value my programs offer, how to create videos that are entertaining, and how get better at posting on social media. I’m learning to manage my time better and how to get more organized.


“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

Another aspect to think about when you work on achieving your goals is to not take shortcuts or scrimp on the quality of your work. Remember, the reason for the goal is for you to grow, so part of that growth is learning to do high quality work. Just as with cheating, the more you slack on how well you do something, the more you cheat yourself by not learning how to do things at a high standard.

Now, doing good work does not mean that you have to do it perfectly. Perfectionism is the killer of great things. Perfectionism is born out of insecurity and a need to please others. We feel like we have to get it just right in order for us to feel like we are good enough for other people to appreciate us. Doing good work means that we do the best that we can, at the level we are able to work at, and take into consideration any other circumstances.


Goals are something that are important for us to set, but we need to understand that achieving the goal is probably the least important part of the process. Goals are something we need to use because of the growth that they will bring. We need to set goals that will help us become the people that we want to be. They need to be challenging and uncomfortable. While the outcome of the goal might be something great, the person you’ll be on the other side of that goal will be even greater.

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.


264 – Personal Maintenance

Are you always looking for the lazy solution? Do you try to find “one and done” solutions to the problems in your life? Today I want to talk about how most progress is not just about knowing what to do, but about doing it consistently.

“How do you move forward? One step at a time. How do you lose weight? One kilo at a time. How do you write a book? One page at a time. How do you build a relationship? One day at a time. In a world obsessed with speed, never forget things of real worth and value take time.”

— Thibaut

Personal Maintenance

The other day I was talking with my therapist and she mentioned how some of the issues that I’ve been struggling with were things that I knew and could do, but are things that I needed to be better about continually applying what I already know. As we discussed it a little further, the thought occurred to me that most things in our lives are not about a big breakthrough idea, but the consistent application of things we already know. It’s about personal maintenance.

This kind of maintenance is something that we all need to do, but is not easy to because it feels like they’re just small things that we have to do over and over again. But, it’s kind of like showering – it might be annoying that we have to do it regularly, but if you don’t you really notice it.

But we often just want the easy solution or we want something that we just do once and never have to do again. There are very few things in life that are just one time things that once they’re done you never have to work on them again. As I was working on this episode, I struggled to think of anything in life that falls into that category.

I mean take for example, when you have a kid. When the is born it’s not like that’s the end of it. In fact, that’s just the beginning of a whole endeavor of bringing up a kid to adulthood.

When we have this kind of mindset, then it makes it challenging to make progress because we’re too focused on just getting through whatever it is that we want. This creates a feeling of impatience because we place our satisfaction on the end goal.

When we get too focused just getting through to the end of what we are doing, then we are often unhappy while we’re doing it. We want the outcome so bad, that we miss the journey. When we can learn to appreciate the process of what we’re doing then we can really enjoy it, and since life is all about the process of living, we can apply it to anything in life.

Never Done

“Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.”

— Epictetus

I think the biggest thing that comes to mind is that we are never done with personal improvement. You never reach a place in your life where you can say that you are done growing, learning, or improving. And for me this is a beautiful thing. I love the idea that we always have space to grow and to learn.

In fact, when I was a teenager and the Mormon’s talked about how when you die and go to heaven, if you have been righteous enough that you’ll be perfect and be like god. This always troubled me because I realized that if I knew everything and was perfect, I would get bored because I have such thirst for learning. This was actually terrifying for me. I get a dopamine hit when I learn something new and interesting. When I have those moment when something clicks for me on an interesting idea, it’s like a rush. It’s honestly a big driver for why I do this podcast.

Doing > Achieving

Because we live in a goal oriented and achievement based culture, we need to be careful with making our happiness dependent on our accomplishments. When we set our worth based on outcomes, we are putting our happiness and worth on things outside of our control. This could be something as basic as needing to own a certain size of house or model of car as a symbol to show others our value.

Often, we get stuck in the idea that we need to be achieving and accomplishing things in order to feel like we are a productive human. And while accomplishing our goals is good, our goals should be the things that we aim at because they are the things that will help us create processes in order for us to grow. But let me state this clearly, we don’t need to accomplish anything to be a good human. We use goals to set a direction for us because we know in the process of trying to achieve that goal, we will grow and learn.

Now, just because I said we don’t need to accomplish anything to be a good human, most of us feel better about ourselves and about our lives when we are contributing to something. We don’t have to have massive achievements. We just need to be contributing to something in some way. We want to feel useful.

Big Effort, Little Maintenance

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

— Lao Tzu

Sometimes we do need to take big actions to get things to where they need to be. That may be a project at work, a personal breakthrough, or some other big a change in your life like getting married or having a child. While the big event took a lot of effort, after the big event, there are usually things that need to be done on a continuing basis.

For example, when you get married, it’s not like you suddenly live happily ever after and never have to work on your relationship again. I know from my own experience and discussing this with friends that it’s really at that point that things are going to be a lot more challenging as you work to create a healthy and supportive relationship. It takes daily effort to help the relationship grow, and even then people can grow in different directions and desire different things in life. But for there to be a chance that the relationship can grow and be beneficial for both people, it takes every day work.

Another example is that I just spent a few weeks getting my house ready so that I could put it up for sale. It took a lot of effort. I had to get rid of a lot of stuff that I don’t need anymore. I had to organize areas of the house that I had let slide, and make repairs that I had put off.

By the time I got everything done for the house to be ready to show, I was exhausted, but having done that it’s been pretty easy to keep it clean and tidy. Now it’s just maintenance work. It’s simple things like just wiping down the counters after a meal. It’s making my bed when I get up in the morning. It’s putting clothes away rather than letting them sit by the side of the bed.

With personal maintenance it’s the same thing. It takes work to get to where we make a breakthrough, but after that it’s just being mindful and being consistent. It’s about creating systems or processes to continually apply what you have learned.

Do It Well

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

— Ancient proverb

One thing we can do to help us maintain what ground we’ve gained, is to continually do something well. If we can appreciate mastering something simple and doing it well, then we make it in to something greater than just the task.

An example of this is a Japanese tea ceremony or chadō. Doing something as simple as making tea is done with a sense of mindfulness, elevates it from the mundane, to something beautiful and artistic. When we can find ways to be mindful and present with what we’re doing, it’s no longer just something to get done and out of the way, but can be thought of as a practice of how to do something, anything, well.

The reason why we should practice this with normal everyday tasks is that when you have a mind to do simple well, it becomes a habit in everything else you do. It’s more about developing the skill of discipline than simply improving the skill you’re practicing.

It also turns something you’re doing as a practice in mastering something, and for me, the feeling that comes from having done something well, even if it’s something trivial still feels good. As silly as it seems, this is why when you see those videos of people tossing a water bottle and landing it feel so satisfying. Applying this kind of thinking to other seemingly trivial tasks can help develop a work ethic of excellence. Need to prepare dinner? Can you find a way to make the process into a performance? Have to do the dishes? Do them like a dishwashing guru.

Do Hard Things

“There is no better way to grow as a person than to do something you hate every day.”

— David Goggins

I’ve often spoken on this podcast about doing hard things or things that are uncomfortable and there’s a reason for that. In our culture of convenience we get too comfortable. We reach a point where we only do things that are easy or pleasurable. Life is not always pleasing. Life has a lot of hard challenges that plenty of people avoid. If you want to make progress, you have to do things that are hard or uncomfortable. The more willing you are to push yourself, the more progress you’ll make.

In my own case, as I’m working to create a mastermind group and work on finding coaching clients, I have to do things that are new and uncomfortable for me. I have to stretch myself in ways that I’m not used to, like creating a social media calendar or recording videos. But I know that if I want to be successful I have to do them. I have to work on being more organized and follow up coaching clients. I have to try things that haven’t tried before.

Doing all the small things we need to do can sometimes feel very challenging, which is why sometimes we just need to have the courage to push through. Usually we find on the other side of it that it wasn’t nearly as scary as we thought it would be.


“It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.”

—Bruce Lee

One of the best things that we can do to help us be more effective, is to reduce what we do. There is so much in modern day life that can take up our time. Trying to remember to do all the things we need to become who we want to be can be daunting. There are plenty of thing in our life that want our attention, but don’t really bring much value to us. When we take the time to figure out what is truly essential we will also get a lot more done on the things that truly matter.

Are there things you can remove from your life because they bring little value or take up your energy for other more important things?

What holds value is totally up to you, but for me, things that help you physically and mentally, or help you connect with or serve others are things that should be a priority. For example, as much as I enjoy video games and shows on Netflix, I make sure that I don’t waste too much time on them so that I have energy to work on the things that are really important to me.


So the real question is, what are you doing each and every day to apply what you know? Are you practicing meditation and writing in your journal? Are you aware of the thoughts in your own mind and recognizing when you fall into thinking traps like catastrophizing or all or nothing thinking? Are you being mindful about how you treat other people? It’s creating systems that help you achieve these small things that you do every day that lead you to a better life.

Just as wiping down the counters or making your bed or vacuuming the floors helps keep a house tidy, it’s the little things that keep us on the path to improvement. It’s being aware of your moods. It’s making sure that you are taking care of your health. It’s practicing mindfulness and making intentional choices each and every day that helps you progress. The little things are far more powerful to improving your life over the long term than grand gestures.

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.


263 – No Self

Photographer: 919039361464473

Do you think of yourself as a “self”? What if we had no part of us that was an enduring self? How would that change how you acted in the world? Today I want to talk about the idea of how we would view the world different if there was no self.

Who Am “I”?

“It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.”

― Epictetus

“Your happiness depends on three things, all of which are within your power: your will, your ideas concerning the events in which you are involved, and the use you make of your ideas.”


How do you think about yourself? Meaning, when you refer to the “I” that is you, what do you think of? I know for me, and a good number of people, we think of this “I”, the “me” part of us, as our core, as the pilot of our bodies and our consciousness. This is the “I” is also referred to as the ego, and we consider is a core part of our identity.

The reason that I’m talking about this idea is that this morning I stumbled on an article ( that claims that the self as most of us think about it does not exist. At first, I was skeptical, but as you well know, I’m always curious to take in other perspectives and if there is something useful that I can add to my world view. The author, Chris Niebauer is a neuropsychologist, and he does a pretty job of convincing me that there might not be a “self” in the way that we know it.

Thinking of the “I”, the pilot that is us the navigates us through the world is pretty consistent in the western world. But in the eastern world, in traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and others, they hold the idea that there is no self and that what we think of as the “I” or ego, doesn’t actually exist. The self is just an illusion. The self then is a phenomenon that happens because of the process of thinking. That without thinking, the self does not exist.

I think the best line in the article is when he says, “The self is more like a verb than a noun”, meaning that unless the mind is thinking there is no self. The self is a process, and only exists when thoughts are happening. As a side note, this might explain why we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, as the mind is in a constant cycle of reinforcing the self.

He points out that neuroscience has made tremendous progress in the last few decades as far as mapping out what parts of the brain handle which tasks. We know where the language centers are. We know which areas of the brain handle recognizing faces or the emotions of others, but there is no place in the brain where the “self” resides.

Split Brain

Niebauer also talks about different experiments and incidents that have happened throughout the last century have taught us much about brain is creating our sense of self on the fly, that it is not something that is permanent and fixed.

Where they made some real progress in this area was working with patients who had suffered from severe epilepsy. These patients had the corpus callosum, which is the communication layer between the two hemispheres, severed, so that they now live with what is called a “split brain”. In doing this, the patients no longer suffered from debilitating seizures, but their hemispheres no longer communicated properly. This allowed scientists to perform some fascinating experiments.

They would give instructions to the right side of the brain by showing them cards with instructions to just one eye. The right brain is the acting portion, and so when they would show them cards with actions such as “stand” or “laugh”, the patient would stand or laugh. But when they would ask them why they stood or laughed, the left brain, which is the “interpreter”, would answer the question. Since the left side had no knowledge that the original instruction that came the right side of their brain, it would try to explain things by using what information it did have, and would make something up in an effort to make sense of what was going on.


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

— Marcus Aurelius

So what exactly does this mean? According to the author it means that there is no single self or pilot that is in control of us. The left hemisphere is constantly interpreting what it thinks is going on and gives meaning to it on the fly, which guides our actions. This interpreting process is what tells us in real time what we like or don’t like, if someone else is angry or sad. In other words, unless this interpreter is giving meaning to something, there is no self that is acting or piloting us.

The other part that was interesting to me, is that the left brain was wrong, but was convinced that it was right. Even those of us with normal brains will try to make sense out of what we are experiencing and come up with an explanation. We hold onto that explanation and believe it to be correct, but we can see through those experiments that it is just a perspective and not necessarily the truth.

For me as a software developer this idea of the self being a combination of thinking processes is easy to imagine. When you work on code in most modern languages, a program is not just some big monolithic file of code. It is usually built with different modules that handle different aspects of what the application needs. There’s the UI library that handles the visual elements and user interactions such as pushing a button, or clicking a checkbox. There are modules that help you make calls to external datasources. Each of these are combined and stitched together to create an application. There is no application unless all of these elements are working together and doing the things that they were designed to do.

This also reminds we of how memories work in the human mind. We know for example that memories are not something that are just held in our minds like videos stored on a hard drive. Our brains actually recreate our memories on the fly each time we recall them, so each time we remember an event, we are not watching something fixed, but we are recreating something slightly different. It’s like our brain has the basic story and tries to fill it in. This is why when people are asked about things in the past at various times, they may remember things that are generally the same but over time they begin to change into something that isn’t really all that close to the original event.

I Am Who I Think I Am

“I think, therefore I am who I think I am.”

— 2NU2

“There are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is perspective.”

— Marcus Aurelius

So why is this important? Why should we worry about whether there is a self or not? For me, it is an interesting way to think of the mind. It shows that the stoics were quite ahead of their time. If the self is really just a construct of our thinking, and that, according to stoics, our thinking is one of the things that we have control over, then we have a lot more control over who we are as a person than we thought we had.

In this view, the self is not some static unchanging entity sitting somewhere in our brain. We are a unique combination of ever changing thought processes and sensory inputs coming together at a specific moment in time. How we feel and think at any given moment in time is a combination of all of those elements, and therefore who we are is in a constant state change.

If we look at the self as a product of our thinking, then who we think we are and how we think about ourselves is very important. Our self image, who we imagine ourself to be is something that is up to us. It is not a static thing. It is something that is always changing and more malleable than we like to think. I think this is why we are often easily swayed by the opinions of others. If our self is a product of our thinking, if we let others have too much influence over how we think, they can influence how we think and thereby change who we are.

We Are What We Do

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts."

— Marcus Aurelius

Because we are in a constant state of change, and the self is always in flux, it is important that we have tools to help us on a daily basis. Because the self is not just a static, fixed thing, we can’t just do something once and expect it to be a lasting change. It is something that needs constant attention. This is why mindfulness, practices, rituals, and habits that help us to think better are so important for us to implement. By thinking better, we become a better person. We create a better self.

The habits that we develop are thought patterns that have become engrained into a part of us to the point to where they are almost automatic. Therefore our habits are a part of our “self” as well. We are what we repeatedly do, which is why when we are able to understand the deeper thought patterns that drive our bad habits, it makes it easier to change them. Just trying to change a habit without understanding it is possible, but you are more likely to succeed when you understand why you have the habit.

If we think of the self as thought, then meditation an important way to get to know ourselves. If you are unaware of the thoughts that you have each and every day, then it’s really hard to know who you are. Therefore a daily meditation practice allows us to know what we think. The more we know what we think, the more we understand what makes us who we are.

As always, I’m going to recommend journalling as another way to get to know ourselves. If we hold this view that the self is nothing but thinking, then recording our thoughts is another way that we get to know ourselves. These podcast episodes are often an outgrowth of me just sitting down and writing about what I’m thinking in an effort to get to understand myself better. I’m also a strong proponent that clear writing leads to clear thinking, so the more time you spend writing and organizing your thoughts on the page, the better your thinking, and the better self you create.


The idea that there is no real “self” and that we are simply a product of our thinking is a fascinating perspective. Just as with other theories of consciousness, it’s hard to say whether it is correct, but for me, I think it is certainly a useful model. If our self is created by our thinking, then we have the opportunity to choose who we want to be, and by improving our thinking, we improve our “self”.

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.


262 – The Inverse Law of Desire

Do you struggle with getting the things that you want in you life? Are you unhappy because you are unable to achieve the success you want in life? Today I want to talk about an idea call the Inverse Law of Desire, and how it may be keeping you from accomplishing your goals in life.

“We humans are unhappy in large part because we are insatiable; after working hard to get what we want, we routinely lose interest in the object of our desire. Rather than feeling satisfied, we feel a bit bored, and in response to this boredom, we go on to form new, even grander desires.”

— William B. Irvine

We all have desires in our lives. These may be material items, achievements, or personal accomplishments. Maybe you want to have a partner or family or start your own business. Whatever it is, we all have something that we’re working for. But what if I told you that your desire might just be the thing that is getting in the way?

Inverse Law of Desire

“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

— Naval Ravikant

There’s an interesting phenomenon from the Tao Te Ching that I like to call “The Inverse Law of Desire”. It’s about how when we really want something, it can backfire on us and cause us more distress. The more you desperately want something, the more you feel the lack of it.

The more you desire to be rich, the more acutely you’ll feel the lack of money you have. The more desperately you want to feel loved and accepted by others, the lonelier you’ll feel, regardless of who is around you and how much they support you. The more you desperately to cling to someone you love, the more likely you are to drive them away from you.

I think a good example of this is in the realm of dating. When you’re out on a date and you’re trying to be funny, the more likely it is that you won’t be funny. The more you can relax and not try to impress your date, the more likely you’ll enjoy yourself and have a good time.

The reasoning behind this inverse law is that when we desire something too strongly, what we actually want is the outcome, which is something that we can’t control.

On the opposite side, when we are willing to accept negative experiences, the less negative they seem. It actually becomes a positive experience. The easier you can accept when something goes wrong, the easier it is to learn from it and move past it. If you want to learn more about how to accept negative experiences, you should listen to episode 260 – Suffer Well.


“I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care for money. Decorations, titles or distinctions mean nothing to me. I do not crave praise. The only thing that gives me pleasure, apart from my work, my violin and my sailboat, is the appreciation of my fellow workers.”

— Albert Einstein

So how do we get better at making sure our desires don’t sabotage us?

By learning to find contentment with what we have.

People often think that if you are content, then you will not strive to achieve anything, that you will simply be apathetic and never accomplish anything in your life.

This is a false paradox.

Contentment is a state of mind that is not dependent on external circumstance. Contentment is a choice, and is completely under your control. It is the ultimate self sufficiency because you are happy and content under any conditions. Your happiness is not dependent upon things that are external to you. When you have mastered this, ironically, it becomes much easier to improve your external circumstances.

This is why we need to learn to be content with what we have. When we can recognize and appreciate exactly where we are, then we are happy. We see that we don’t need anything more to make our lives complete. When we do this, then anything we strive for beyond our current state is because we choose it. We are able choose to do something from a place where we are already happy, rather than out of a place of stress and discontent.

This is something that I’m struggling with right now. As I’m pivoting from being a software developer to building a community around this podcast, it has been challenging. I created a 30 day challenge course in last month about developing self-discipline that went pretty well the first round, but as I’m preparing for the next round next week, I’m finding it harder to attract students.

At times, I can feel myself getting discouraged and want to quit because I really want this to succeed . The stress around not achieving the success that I want starts to seep over into my mood and impact my daily life. I have to work to be aware of this and remember that my life is still in a good place. I’m healthy, my kids are doing well, and even though there is a lot going on in my life, I’m doing okay. I also remind myself that in this big change that I’m making progress, I’m learning how to market my course and to get better on social media.

Passion About the Process

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Some people think you need to be passionate about what you are doing, and I don’t disagree. Being passionate about something can be a great driver, but often we are passionate about wanting the outcome of something. If you only do things when you feel passionate about them, then your effort may fall by the wayside when that passion dissipates. If passion were the only thing needed to become great at something, then I would be a Broadway singer, a famous movie actor, and a pro cyclist.

What you need to be passionate about is the process. You need to be passionate about doing the work. You need to be passionate about consistently putting the effort and the time needed to accomplish your goals. For example, great athletes love to practice as much as they love to compete. If you just rely on passion, then when things are hard, you may not show up and get the work done.


“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

— Alan Watts

Often times we have strong desires for something because we feel like we are somehow incomplete or lacking. We may feel like we have to achieve something in order to be fulfilled or feel worthy. But the thing is, if we are unhappy with ourselves and who we are, then achieving something does not cure that discontent. That feeling of discontent is something that is internal, and achievements are external.

The key to being content with what we have is being content with who we are.

Everything else is external to us, and therefore is not something that we can control. If self-acceptance is something that you struggle with, I highly recommend that you listen to episode 218 – Accept Yourself. There is great exercise that I talk about in that episode which was highly transformative for me.

Managing Desires

“A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.”

— Seneca

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions.”

— Epictetus

When we learn how to manage our desires, then we are better able to pursue them because we choose to do so. We can pursue things because we decide they will make us better people and will help us grow, not because we believe they are a cure for our unhappiness.

If we can learn to be happy, or at the very least be at peace in our current situation, then we are able to operate from a place where we are in a better mindset. When we are stressed or discontent, it closes down our thinking. It’s harder to maintain an optimistic outlook. When we get stuck looking at the pessimistic view, then we are restricting our view of what is possible. We might still accomplish what we need, but we doing it feeling stressed, rather than enjoying the process.

This is where learning to be dispassionate can give you a healthy perspective on something. By taking a step back and being able to view things from a rational and less emotion driven perspective can help you focus on doing the work and not tying your happiness to the outcome.

This is what Steven Pressfield calls “turning pro”. You do the work because it’s your job. You show up and get it done because it’s what you agreed to do with yourself. I mean we all have shown up to jobs and did the work, even when we really didn’t want to because we needed to pay the bills. Applying that same attitude to things we are passionate about will help carry you through the tough times.


Learning to be content with what you have might be one of the best tool to helping you achieve your goals. When we are a slave to our desires, we are trying to control things that we don’t have control over, namely the outcome. When we can learn to be content with what we have and more importantly with who we are, then we can pursue our desires from a place of calm, even-mindedness, and in control of our desires.

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.

other people

261 – What Others Think

Do you worry about what others think of you? Does it keep you from doing or saying things that you would like do? Today I want to talk about thinking errors and projection and how we can use stoic ideas to clean up our thinking.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

— Epictetus

A lot of what we do in our lives is geared towards what we imagine others think about us. We act certain ways, wear certain clothes, or buy certain things because we think that we will somehow gain approval or fit in with some certain kind of group by doing so.

But if we really think about it, we really don’t know what others are actually thinking about us. We are really just making assumptions and guessing based on our life experience and our own thoughts about ourselves.

What Others Think About Us

About a year ago, I did an episode about self acceptance which I consider one of my best and most important episodes. If you want to go back and listen to it, it’s episode 218 – Accept Yourself. The reason that it was such an important episode for me is that I had learned some hard lessons about how I was not very accepting of myself. Because of this, I had low self esteem, and I felt like I was just not a very good person.

At that time, I decided to figure out what it was that was so awful about me. I did an exercise where I made a list of everything that I didn’t like about myself. I realized that if I was going to work on self acceptance, I really needed to understand what I wasn’t accepting about myself. After I wrote down everything I didn’t like about myself, I realized that about half the items on the list weren’t things I didn’t like about myself, but were actually things that I thought others didn’t like about me. To be clear, these were not things that others had told me they didn’t like about me, they were stories that my mind made up.

As part of that practice I discarded those things because they didn’t fit my criteria. But it was a powerful lesson about how our minds will make up stories to keep things consistent. Meaning, if you believe that you are an awful person, your mind will try to find proof to back it up. It will catalog everything you do that you feel reflects negatively on you as proof of your belief. If it is unable to find things, it will begin to reinterpret things in such a way so that it helps to prove you right.

Because our minds seek to make sense of the world and create the consistency that it needs, our thoughts about ourselves are incredibly important. In fact, how we think about ourselves is far more important than what anyone else thinks about us. Who we think we are, guides our choices, which leads to the kind of life we have. We take actions because we think they are in line with who we are as a person. Our minds try to help us stay consistent with our identity.

For example, when I was religious, I said and did things that in hindsight I really wasn’t sure I believed in, but I repeated them because it’s what I was told was the truth about the world. Because I had a certain identity, I acted in accordance with that identity. Once I started questioning things, I chose my own belief system that felt more aligned with being the kind of person I wanted to be.

So why do we we get caught up so much in what other people think of us? There are a number of reasons.

Social Creatures

We are social creatures and we thrive when we are part of a community. We are built to connect with other people and other people are a mirror of ourselves. It is through other people that we get to know who we are. For example, how do we know if we are a kind person if we have no one else to be kind to?

Because we want to fit in with our community, we are constantly trying to be aware of social cues and body language. But, it is all a guess on our side. We may think we know what a certain look or sigh means, but we can easily misinterpret things, and since we really do not have direct knowledge of what most people think of us, we make assumptions. We fill in the gaps because we don’t know what someone else might think of us.

The problem with filling in the gaps is that we tend to assume that others think like we do. So if we don’t really like ourselves, we assume that others won’t like us either. We may even treat them poorly simply because we assume they dislike us, based upon our own assumptions. They may have done nothing for us to be able to make a clear judgment about how they feel about us, so we’re really just guessing.

You Spot It, You Got It

“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”

— Marcus Aurelius

In psychology, there is a term called projection. The idea behind projection is that often people will accuse others of something that they are struggling with. For example, if someone is cheating on a partner, they will often accuse the other person of cheating. If someone is insecure, they may project those insecurities on other people and accuse them of the very thing they are afraid of.

Often, we project on to others the things we are afraid to look at about ourselves. As one of my therapists would say, “You spot it, you got it.” This is why people seem to be rather hypocritical when they point out the flaws of other yet seem completely oblivious to their own similar behaviors. For example, someone who often dominates conversations may accuse others of doing the exact same thing without recognizing their own behavior.

Now, it is not always going to be the case that noticing someone else’s behavior means that you have the same flaw. But if there is something that someone else is doing that really frustrates you, take a moment to see if you might be projecting some of your own thoughts, ideas, or fears onto this other person.

Out of Our Control

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The stoics have long reminded us that what others think about us is not something that is under our control. We could be the kindest and most generous person in the world, and yet someone may form an opinion of us that is unflattering.

Since we have no control over what they think of us, we need to get comfortable with others not liking us. They may even hate us and there is little that we can do about it. And it doesn’t even matter why dislike us. They could be misinformed. They may have reasons that really have nothing to do with us. Nonetheless, we need to recognize that it is out of our control and not let what others think of us change how we act.

But, if I’m being honest, it’s hard to let go of what others think of us. Because we are social creatures, we get caught up in wanting to be liked, which is again something that is out of our control. Any time we do things to get others to like us, we are giving control of our happiness to someone else.

So how can we get better about not worrying what others think about us, and also be aware of the assumptions and projections that we make about others?

Just the Facts

“Accustom yourself to attend carefully to what is said by another, and as much as it is possible, try to inhabit the speaker’s mind.”

—Marcus Aurelius

One thing we can do it take time to be sure that we are basing our judgments of others off of the facts. If we aren’t working off of what we actually know, there is a good chance that we are making unfair assumptions or projections.

One way that projection showed up for me was with my former partner. When we would get in to arguments I would accuse her of hating me, or thinking all kinds of rotten things about me. Now these were things she had never even said, but were things that I thought about myself. I would twist things that she said to make them sound like she had said mean or cruel things to me, all in an effort to somehow prove that I was as awful as I thought I was. Basically, I thought I was not a very good person, so I would unfairly project all those thoughts onto her.

Know Thyself

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

— Marcus Aurelius

An important step to make progress in this area is to get to really know yourself. By knowing what you think of yourself and the world, you’ll be more likely to notice when you project your thoughts or ideas onto others.

I talk a lot about meditation and journalling on this podcast, and the main reason is, they are great tools for getting to know yourself. I know that many people talk about how hard meditation is, and they are not wrong. Our minds are constantly noticing the world around us, as well as constantly moving back and forth from the past to trying to predict the future.

Meditation is one of the best ways to exert your will over your mind. It is how you get started in knowing what you are thinking. Awareness is the first step in change, and meditation is how you become aware of your thinking. The more awareness we have of our own minds, the better we are able to direct our thinking.

When it comes to journaling, for me I think of it as my third mind. We all have the part of our mind that is the observer, as well as the active part which is more of the doer. When you put your thoughts down on a page, they are much easier to work with because you are no longer trying to remember them. It also gives space for the observer and doer parts of your mind to work together. You’ll start to make connections that you never made before. You may even hit some deeper parts of yourself that will surprise you.

Get to Like Yourself

“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.”

— Epictetus

After you get to know yourself, get to like yourself. We all spend so much time worrying about if others like us, but focusing on getting to like yourself is for more productive. I know I enjoy spending my time around those who are truly comfortable in their own skin. They’re happy with who they are, so anyone else’s opinion of them doesn’t change how they feel about themselves. They don’t also don’t need to tear down anyone else to make themselves feel better.

Getting to like yourself is also something that you have control over. You can decide to like yourself at any moment and immediately boost your mood. Now, I know this is not always an easy thing. I know that I get caught up in some negative thought loops about how I’m not a very good person or that people shouldn’t like me for all sorts of reasons. Usually it’s because I have some expectations that I think I have to meet in order to be considered a good person. I’m working on just letting go of this way of thinking and just accepting myself for exactly who I am.

If this is something you struggle with, I highly recommend listening to episode 218 – Accept Yourself and doing the exercise that I talk about. It was a real game changer for me.


“The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The last and most important thing that you can do to not get bog down by the opinions of others is to live your principles the best you can. How we live our lives is one of the only things that is truly under our control. If we live according to our principles, then what others think or say about us doesn’t really matter. We uphold our principles regardless of the situation or what others think of us. As long as we hold to our core principles and act in a way that we consider honorable, then we should be confident with our choices and actions.

We don’t need to defend ourselves for doing what we think is right.


Worrying about what others think of us is not always an easy thing to do. We are social creatures and having that external validation feels good, but it is something that have no control over. When we learn to focus on what we can control, namely our own thinking and choices, we become more resilient. When we improve our own opinion about ourselves and like ourselves, then what others think of us has a far less impact on us. And, in my own experience, the happiest people I know are those that truly like and accept themselves just the way they are.

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.


260 – Suffer Well

Do you give up on things because they’re hard? How willing are you to suffer for the things that you truly want in your life? Today I want to talk about how to get what you want, and why it’s important to learn how to suffer well.

"Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind."

— Seneca

Life is Suffering

The first principle in Buddhism is that life is full of suffering. It is something that we cannot avoid. But, once we accept that life is full of suffering, it makes it so the suffering isn’t so bad. The idea that there should not be suffering, actually leads to more suffering, because we waste time and energy on what we think should be, rather than what actually is. When we accept that life is full of suffering, it is acceptance of reality.

We can see the importance of suffering in religious traditions. Jesus is said to have fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before he began to preach. The Buddha spent many years fasting and putting himself through physical hardship to reach enlightenment. Shamans in many cultures must endure physical trials before they are considered worthy to guide others. Prophets and teachers were not considered worthy unless they have suffered.

In our time, so much of our lives are centered around seeking comfort, but what if we took the time in our lives to practice suffering well? What if rather than avoiding uncomfortable things, you embraced them? What if rather than seeking comfort in your life, you sought out things that were hard, things that made you suffer by choice?

Suffer By Choice

The reason I was thinking about this topic is that yesterday I went out for my longest bike ride for the season yet. It was just under 30 miles and was quite challenging because I haven’t been out riding as regularly as I’d like to. As I was out straining and climbing the hills south of my home, I was thinking about how I had missed riding, and how much I loved pushing myself to see how much faster and stronger I could get. I thought about how much I was willing to suffer to become a better rider.

For a little backstory, I started cycling back in 2003. I was living in Minnesota at the time, and I was not in very good shape. I had been overweight for a number of years, mostly out of laziness. I wasn’t in very good health and had all kinds of digestive issues because my diet was very unhealthy.

One Sunday afternoon, I watched the Ironman triathlon that takes place in Hawaii every year. This was the first time I’d ever watched it, and I was entranced. Watching the stories of the participants and what it took to get there was pretty intense, and very inspiring. Here were people who were willing to sacrifice and suffer to see how hard they could push themselves.

It reminded me of how intense wrestling practices had been in high school. I remembered how I looked forward to that intensity because even though it was hard. On the mat, I learned how to push myself further that I thought I could. I learned that even when I thought I was done, I could pull a little more out of me.

So on that day in 2003, watching those triathletes push their limits, I decided that I needed to get off my ass and get back in shape. I decided that I would start training for triathlons. I began attending spin classes at my gym. I hit the treadmill. I even started swimming laps, which was something I had never really liked.

At first, it was really hard. I would finish up spin classes completely drenched in sweat. My pace on the treadmill and my lap times in the pool were embarrassingly slow. But I kept at it. I decided that I was going to be a triathlete, and that was that. It was worth suffering for.

A little over a year later, I did my first triathlon. It was a short course, so nothing near as hard as a full Ironman. I had also lost a lot of weight, and was in the best shape of my life since high school wrestling.

After that I found that I was drawn more to cycling than triathlons, so I changed my focus. Nonetheless, I still appreciated the struggle and was happy to suffer a few times a week in the saddle. There’s just something incredible feeling about pushing yourself to those limits.

Now please note, I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. Over the past 10 years, I let my riding fall by the wayside. I could have carved out time for it, but I found excuses for why I didn’t get out and ride. Even this week, I could have ridden at least one more day, but came up with some excuse of why I should skip it. It’s challenging, and sometimes I don’t feel like I have it in me to suffer that much. Sometimes it’s only after I’m done that I appreciate the struggle.


“Pain is neither intolerable nor everlasting if you bear in mind that it has its limits, and if you add nothing to it in imagination.”

—Marcus Aurelius

So why is it important to suffer for something?

When we suffer for something we learn to be resilient. When other things in our life fall apart, we are able to draw upon the lessons we learned from suffering and apply them somewhere else. We know that even though things seem really bad, that we can keep pushing through till things get better. We can handle uncomfortable things, because we have practiced doing so. We increase our tolerance for the slog. We know that we can continue to push through the parts that suck. We step up and face things that we are afraid of. We learn how to focus under stress.

Embrace Discomfort

When we suffer for something, we learn to not avoid discomfort, but we turn to it and embrace it. We recognize that if we want to grow we need to go towards the things that are hard, the things that we might rather avoid. We can see that these are the things that will make us grow. When life throws challenges your way, because you know how to handle suffering, you are better able to navigate life’s challenges. You’ve already practiced how to keep going and how to manage yourself when things suck.


Probably the most obvious thing we learn from suffering, is discipline. When we have decided that something is worth suffering for, and we continually push ourselves through it, we develop the skills to get ourselves to do what we want to do, even when it sucks. When we look at what we need to do to accomplish our goals, we don’t seek out the comfortable option. We seek out the most effective option, even if it’s hard because we know that we can handle hard things.

Learning to suffer well also helps develop emotional discipline. Because we have increased our capacity to suffer, we are far less reactive. We can sit with discomfort because it’s something we’re used to. We’re okay with not everything being comfortable in our lives.


"The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it."

— Epictetus

One of the things that happens when we learn how to suffer well is we become more confident in our abilities. We learn where our edges are and that we can push ourselves much further than we previously thought. If we are continually taking the easy path, we never really discover our strength. We don’t know how much we can really take until we push our limits.

We also find inner strengths that we may not have even known we had. We learn how to function well in hard situations. Since we are rarely actually pushed to our limits, when we practice doing so, we’re more likely to keep a clear mind when disasters strike or we find ourselves in challenging circumstances.


Another reason why we should learn to suffer well is to develop a stronger sense of purpose. If you have never worked hard for something in your life, you have never really stretched yourself. You’ve never pushed yourself hard enough to see what you really can do. If you’ve never sacrificed for something you’ve never worked for something that you have found to be valuable enough to sacrifice for. It means that you have lived a pretty unremarkable life.

The harder we have to work, the more we have to overcome to achieve something, the more it means to us. If it’s too easy, it’s boring. If it never tests your strength or stretches you, then it doesn’t feel all that rewarding to accomplish it. This is something that I constantly have to remind myself when I hit something hard that I’m working on. There’s a part of me that wants it to be easy, and to just work the way I want it. But if it’s something that I have to put effort into, the feeling that I get when something finally clicks, or something works out after I put effort into it is very rewarding.

Do I Really Have to Suffer?

Now I know that I’ve talked a lot about physical suffering in the episode, but that’s because physical suffering is a good teacher. Your willingness to push through when something is physically demanding takes a lot of mental discipline to keep at it when your body wants you to turn away and quit. When you can develop the necessary mental fortitude to push through something physical, you can transfer the skills onto other areas of your life.

This is often why people join the military. They want to develop the mental and physical toughness to help them face the challenges of life head on. When you develop this kind of skill, it makes it easier to set goals and to go after what you want. When you hit a roadblock, you don’t just throw up your hands and quit. You know how to stick with things even when it’s difficult.

The other reason why I think physical challenges and suffering are helpful is because progress is pretty easy to measure. When you push yourself physically you will get stronger. You’ll be able to run or ride further and faster. You develop mastery over your body, and since we experience the world in our bodies, experiencing the full capabilities of your body is truly a wonderful experience.

Doing something physical is also really good for your mental health. I know that when I come back from a long ride my mind is usually clearer. I have a sense of calm from both the exertion and the endorphins, which often spills over into the next day.

Pain Or Pleasure?

I want you to consider this idea – that we really only truly suffer because of what we make something mean. When I’m climbing the hills on my bike, I don’t really consider it suffering in the traditional sense. Yes, my calves burn and have to generously use my massage gun on them once I get home, but because it’s something that I enjoy, I don’t really consider it suffering. It doesn’t mean that it’s not hard and at times painful, but I consider it pleasure because I know that it’s making me stronger, and I love how it feels when I’ve finished a ride.

What Are You Willing To Suffer For?

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

@TheAncientSage (twitter)

So what are you willing to suffer for? Is there something in your life that you would like to do that is hard and would push you to your limits? Maybe running or swimming or rowing? If you’re not in good shape, consider just getting outside and walking every day. Do something that challenges you physically, and note how it affects your mental state. I would bet after 30 days of challenging yourself physically that your overall mental state would be much improved. If you’re willing to share, I’ll put post on instagram where you can share with me what you’re willing to suffer for. I’d love to hear what you’re willing to suffer for.


When we seek a life of comfort, we’re playing things safe. We aren’t pushing our limits. We aren’t living our best lives. When we decide to actively push ourselves and suffer for something, we not only improve our physical health, but the mental discipline and resilience we develop spill over to other parts of our lives. We know that we can push through discomfort to reach the the goals that we want, all because we learned how to suffer well.

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.


259 – Enemies

Do you have enemies? Are there people that you don’t like? Are there people who don’t like you? May there is someone who makes your life more difficult? Today I want to talk about the importance of having people in our lives that challenge us.

“There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.”

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us as social creatures is to deal with our enemies. Now when I use the word enemy in this episode, I mean everyone from people in our social circles that we don’t like, to romantic or business rivals, and everything in between. There are plenty of people that we probably don’t like and plenty that may not like us.

And believe it or not, it’s a good thing to have enemies.


“Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it.”

— Tim Fargo

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us to do is to be honest with ourselves. Our mind likes to play tricks on us, so we will often change how we remember things so that it put us in a better light. We will change our interpretation of things so that when we make mistakes, that we still come out looking good. We will fudge reality so that we are still the good guy in a story, even if we have done things that, deep down, we know were not things that aligned with our principles.

Our friends will let things slide and often let us get by with not being our best or taking the best course of action. They may be more likely to comfort us and say the things we want to hear. They might not call us out when we backslide or try to weasel out of owning up to our mistakes. If our friends approve of everything we do and let us get away with everything, we would never improve. We should seek out those who tell us when we’re not holding up our principles. We should listen to those who are honest enough to call us out.

This is why having enemies is important. Enemies will not let us forget the things that we have done. When we make mistakes or screw up, they are the first to point them out and call us out when we don’t act according to our principles and values. Our enemies are the ones that challenge us to live up to what we say we will do and call us out when we don’t. They will find our smallest flaws and are not afraid to point them out. This is why our enemies can be our best friends. This can be very frustrating and we might even get angry about it, but it can be the fastest way to see if we are living up to our principles.

The Truth

“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it’s a lie, laugh at it.”

— Epictetus

Recently, I found out that an old friend of mine that I used to be closed to quite dislikes me now. At first I was upset and thought they were being unfair because they disliked me for some of my behavior in past that had nothing to do with them. But as I was talking to a mutual friend they pointed out the fact that I had actually done these things in the past, and rather than complain about them not liking me, I needed to step up and do better.

While I didn’t like to own up to my past behavior, they were not wrong. Some of my behavior in the past wasn’t great. I realized that how they perceived me was not under my control. There is nothing I can to do change the past, nor little I can do to directly change their opinion of me. The only thing I can do is to be the person that I want to be. I have no control over what others think of me, only my choices and the actions I take. If this person dislikes me, and I’m holding to my principles and values, then they are not the kind of person I want to be around.

Hold To Your Principles

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

— Winston Churchill

Now, just because someone is unhappy with something that we do doesn’t mean that they are right and that we need to change to make them happy. There are times when we will do things that others may not like, but it’s the right thing to do.

We need to have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what other people think of us. We need to build our character and follow our principles in such a dedicated manner that the choices we make and the actions we take are aligned with who we want to be. If we constantly change our choices and actions based upon what others might think, then we really need to take a look at ourselves and make sure that we know what our core principles and beliefs are.

When we live by building our character and not worry about what other think of us, we rarely need to apologize for how we act. If someone is upset with us because they don’t like something we have done or said, we should see if we have done something against our principles.If we find that we haven’t lived up to our standards when dealing with other people, we should be quick to apologize.

We don’t apologize because someone is upset with us, but because we have failed to uphold our principles. If someone is upset with us and we have upheld our principles, then there is no need to apologize. We never need to apologize for upholding our principles and doing what we think is the right thing.

Expand Your World

“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

One of the main reasons why we should listen to those we don’t like is because we don’t have all the answers. When I was in the Mormon church, there was a strong emphasis of not reading or listening to those that disagreed with the teachings of the church. This close-minded way of acting in the world was something that always rubbed me the wrong way.

I mean, why should we be afraid of listening to those who don’t think like we do? Shutting yourself off from ideas don’t support your worldview will actually make you mentally weaker. If your way of viewing the world is so good, then you should be able to listen to new ideas, logically see the mistakes in them, and dismiss them. By engaging with opposing points of view we make our own arguments stronger because our opponents can point out the weaknesses.

By taking the time to listening to ideas we don’t agree with, we may actually find some new ideas that we can use to make our lives better. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. As smart or as great as we think you are, we don’t know the best way to do everything. We thrive as a culture because we have all kinds of new ideas and we challenge old ways of thinking. If it’s a good idea, there’s a good chance that it will stand up to scrutiny. Then we take what works, and do our best spread those ideas.

I mean, that’s what I’m doing with my podcast. I try to take the best ideas that I can find, apply them in my life, and help spread them around to others so that they can use these ideas to improve their lives. Hopefully, they can improve on these ideas so that I can learn and use the new and improved versions. Don’t get so attached to your own ideas such that you think they are the only way something can be done. Doing so means that your ego is in the way.

Defeat Your Enemy

“Your enemies cannot make you hate them, define you, or make you obsessively think about them, only you can do that.”

— Carmine Savastano

One of the most important reasons why we should try to understand our enemies, is because spending energy on hating others makes your life miserable. When we consider someone to be our enemy, we are blaming them for something that is wrong in our lives. We believe that if they would just act a certain way, then everything would be fine. In a sense, we are trying to control something that we do not have control over. Letting go of anger makes your life more positive and focuses your energy on things that are more useful.


“An honorable man is fair even to his enemies; a dishonorable man is unfair even to his friends!”

― Mehmet Murat ildan

If you have someone in your life that you consider an enemy, I want you to think about why. Do they act in a way that you find distasteful? Are they mean or cruel to others? If their behavior is something that goes against your principles, then it may be it’s someone that is not good to have in your life. In that case, use them as an example of what not to be and learn by watching their mistakes.

But, if it is because they make you uncomfortable by pointing out the truth, it may be time to try and build a bridge. Then maybe this person is more of a friend than you might think. This may be someone with enough character to tell you what you need to hear, and an honest enemy is better than a friend who only tells you what you want to hear.

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.

Challenges Change Future

258 – Nothing Endures But Change

How do you handle change? Does it overwhelm you? Do you try to ignore it or do you embrace it? Today I want to talk about understanding change and how we can use stoicism to help us through some rocky times.

“Nothing endures but change.”

— Heraclitus

“There are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will delve into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is perspective.”

— Marcus Aurelius


Change is the only constant in the universe and is something that everyone has to deal with in life. There is simply no way to avoid it. Life is change. When you stop changing, you’re dead.

As much as we like variety in life, most of us enjoy stability or the sameness of life. This is why we don’t get up and move every day. We like finding a place to live, people to be friends with, stores that we regularly shop at.

There is a certain comfort that comes with familiarity. We see this in all areas of our lives. When we go to the store, we like to know where the things are that we want and get frustrated when things are moved to a new aisle. We will often buy the same brand of shoe year after year because we like the fit or the look. We go to the same restaurants or bars because we feel comfortable with the decor, the staff, and the food.

When it comes to work we will often stay at jobs we don’t like because the amount of changed involved feels like it will be too much. Looking for a new job, learning new skills, and possibly moving can seem daunting and cause us to not take action. Starting your own company or working for yourself may be a dream that never gets fulfilled simply because there is too much change involved.

When it comes to people, we have friendships that last for years because they bring us connection and community. We will often hold onto not so great friendships simply because we have had them for a while. People may stay in romantic relationships even when both partners are unhappy simply because making that big of change is too scary. There’s a comfort with what we know, and even if we may not feel that close anymore, there’s a familiarity that is not easy to let go of.

We like things to stay the same.

We always have the opportunity to make changes and choose different things in our lives. This is something that many of us don’t really think much about. We forget that at any time we can decide to change our lives. Often it isn’t until something big happens to knock us out of our comfort zone that we try something new, and that’s often because we have no choice.


“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.“

— M. Scott Peck

The reason that I’m discussing this topic this week is because my life has been hit with a lot of changes over past year. My kids are out of the house and living their own lives. They’re doing a great job being adults, and I’m proud of them, but I’m not longer a caregiver in that sense any more. My romantic relationship of almost 10 years came to an end and it’s been a struggle to process it and move on. I was laid off from work a few months ago and even though my skills are usually in high demand, I haven’t even gotten a first interview. On top of that I’m selling my house because I don’t need this much space for one person. I’ve also decided to move to Europe after I get my house sold, though I’m still unsure where I’ll end up.

Talk about massive changes.

This last weekend I went camping at a regional Burning Man music and art festival. For me, events like this are always a place for reflection and processing hard things in my life. It’s a space to get away from daily life and slow down. It was a hard weekend in some ways because I realized how adrift I felt. So many of core parts of my life have shifted in such dramatic ways that at times I feel overwhelmed. I took the time this weekend to reconnect with friends and really think about my next steps in life.

So, with that said, I want to talk about some of the things that I learned over the past few months about how to deal with with big changes in our lives in the most effective way.

First, I want to talk about some of the challenging emotions that we face when we have big changes that happen in our lives.


“Fear is the basis of all suffering. Both desire and anger are manifestations of fear. Fear itself is a creation of your mind. It does not exist independently. Since it is a fabrication, you don’t have to fight it. Just understand it. Understanding is the key to freedom.”

@TheAncientSage (twitter)

We often feel fear when there is a change in our lives because we were comfortable with the way things were, and we’re scared of the unknown, we’re scared of the future. While we rationally understand that the future is never something we can know, when we are in a comfortable place in our lives, our minds get used to it and we act as if life will continue on the same.

When we start to worry about the future, we will often fall into the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing, which is where we imagine the worse case scenario and believe that is what is going to happen to us. We start to assume that things can only get worse and will never be as good as they were.

If we lose a job, we might worry about how we’re going to pay our bills. We may believe that we will never find another job. If a relationship ends we may feel like we will never find another relationship where we are loved again.


There are many emotions that come up when grapple with change. Grief is probably the heaviest one to deal with. What grief is really about is struggling with change. It’s about recognizing that from the moment of that loss, that life will no longer be the same.

When I talk about grief, I’m not just talking about the death of someone we care about. It can mean any significant loss that we facing. It could be the death of a loved one or even just someone we admire. It could mean the end of a significant relationship. It could mean the loss of a job that we really loved. It could be the loss of a home or a pet, or even moving to a new city.

When there is something that holds importance to us, we feel like it’s a part of our life. When that loss occurs, we feel like we are losing a part of our lives. Since we are social creatures, we integrate people into part of our lives. We know who we are by our interactions with other people. When we lose someone close to us, it can feel like we are losing a part of ourselves, and in a way we are because our lives aren’t just us as a single person, but us as part of a community.

Losing a job can also be something that can cause a lot of grief. We may feel a lack of purpose in our lives if our job is a defining part of our identity. I know some people identify so strong with their careers that they feel like they aren’t themselves if they aren’t dong their kind of work.

When a romantic relationship ends we can often feel a great deal of loss. When we have someone that is so entwined in our lives, they really are a part of us. You feel like you are missing your other half. Loneliness always lurks around the corner. You miss that comfort of the other person that knows you so well and has been your support.

Your social life changes pretty drastically as well. As much as they try not to, friends may divide themselves onto one side or the other. Attending events without your former partner feels strange. You often feel like you will never be loved again like that person loved us.

So how do we deal with big changes in our lives? I think that the hardest part for any of us is to let go of the resistance that we put up when big changes come along in our lives. We don’t want things to change, and the more we can flow with the changes, the easier we’ll be able to see and embrace the opportunities ahead. We’ll be able to take actions that will help us move forward into the future with confidence.

Feel It

“No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.”

— Alan Watts

I think the most important thing we can do when we struggle these heavy emotions is to give ourselves time to fully feel them. The worst thing you can do is to try and ignore them or repress them. When the stoics talk about living according to nature, for me that includes feeling your emotions. Every one of us has emotions which is part of our nature. The notion that stoics do not feel emotions is wrong. We just work on trying to manage our emotions in a healthy and productive way.

When we feel fear, we need to lean in, feel it, and understand why it is there. We can talk with our friends about the fear that we are feeling. I know for me I will often feel so much better just talking about the things that I’m afraid of. I talk about my worries of the future so that they are out of my head. Once they’re out in the open it’s easier to talk about what I can do about them. It also makes it easier to see that they aren’t really all that scary, and that people throughout history have dealt with massive changes in their lives and they have not only survived, but plenty have thrived.

“It is better to conquer grief than to deceive it.”

— Seneca

When it comes to grief, I think that it’s really important to let yourself feel it. The more you try to ignore grief, the more it will sink you. When you feel a loss so big that it causes you grief, you really are losing a part of yourself, and you need to mourn that loss. If you don’t process that grief, you are simply delaying something that your mind needs to work through. Talk with a good friend, and if it’s too much for them to handle, find a good therapist. There is no shame in grieving. Even the mighty Spartans grieved over those lost in battle.

Premeditatio Malorum

“This is why we need to envisage every possibility and to strengthen the spirit to deal with the things which may conceivably come about. Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. Misfortune may snatch you away from your country… If we do not want to be overwhelmed and struck numb by rare events as if they were unprecedented ones; fortune needs envisaging in a thoroughly comprehensive way.”


One of the best ways that we can prepare for dealing with fear, grief, and anxiety about change is to take some time and imagine the worst possible scenario. Now I know this feels like it’s falling into a catastrophizing mindset, but premeditatio malorum is about thinking through all possible cases while you are in a safe place. You prepare yourself mentally to go to a darker place, all from the safety of your own mind.

I recommend either writing in your journal, talking to a good friend you trust, or even a therapist. The more you just let them float around in your mind, the scarier than can seem, so get them out of your head. You can set out a basic format of listing all the things that can go wrong, and then think about ways you could handle them should they arise. You can work backwards and think about ways that you can prepare for them and maybe even see ways that you can prevent them.

Acceptance and Appreciation

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

— Epictetus

The next big area I want to focus on is acceptance and appreciation. The stoics teach us that it is important to practice amor fati, that we learn to love our fate. Life is going to throw things at you whether you like it or not. The universe doesn’t care how you feel about it, so doing your best to love what gets sent your way is a way to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed when big changes come. When you can learn to appreciate the hard things and the lessons they teach you, then you are more likely to see them as opportunities than challenges.

“Change is never painful, only your resistance to change is painful.”

— Buddhist proverb

In many ways, all the hard things that have happened to me have pushed me to step up and take more responsibility for my life. I don’t really have the option to just sit back and coast. Since I’m unemployed, I’ve had to step up and figure out how to cover my expenses. When I lost my job a few months ago, I didn’t stress out about it nor did I get mad at my former boss. I just recognized that it was just a part of life and that now I had time to work on other things that I didn’t have time for in the past.

Since then I created a 30 day challenge stoic challenge course for my listeners. I’ve been working on setting up mastermind groups and private coaching. I’ve been learning about marketing and creating content. I’ve also been practicing piano more often, exercising every day, and taking steps to improve my health. I’ve taken time to grieve over the loss from my relationship ending, and also appreciated the great things that I gained from that relationship.

Another thing I realized with all the big changes happening is that even though I do feel adrift, it’s okay. I realized that rather than feeling anxiety that things are so unsettled and wishing that things were more certain, I decided I to get comfortable with things being adrift and trust that at some point in the future things will be more solid. I’ve accepted that I’m just going to feel untethered, and that I need to stop resisting and do my best just flow with the changes.


“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.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

Life never goes according to plan nor according to our desires, and to be honest, I think that’s a good thing. If life went exactly the way that we wanted we’d be rather bored. It’s the challenges and the hardships that we overcome that make life interesting and exciting. When we have to stretch and work for what comes next, that’s when we grow. That’s when we learn how to accomplish great things. That’s when we feel most alive. When we accept what happens to us and figure out how to make the best of what comes our way, then we are truly living life like a stoic.

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.


257 – Face Your Fears

Are you afraid to take risks? Do you continually play it safe? Are you living a life that is comfortable but unchallenging? Today I want to talk about how we can push ourselves to take more risks and live life more fully.

While we wait for life, life passes.


Our brains are always looking to keep us safe in any situation. It’s part of the reason why we have evolved as a species and why we are the dominant species on the planet. Because our brains catalog things that can cause us harm, we are able to avoid situations that would be detrimental to our safety, and we survive.

But survival is not the same thing as thriving. We might be able to feed ourselves, take care of our basic needs, but this is not the same thing as living a great life. A great life, to me, is one where we are able to take our skills, talents, and ambitions and live a life where we continually become better versions of ourselves. We use our talents to make the world a little better.


People often wonder what the purpose of life is, and to be honest, I think the purpose of life is figure out what makes a good life for you, then live that. This is challenging because it takes a willingness to explore. It takes a willingness to be uncomfortable and try new things, and what makes a good life at one time in your life will be very different at another time in your life.


It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.

— Marcus Aurelius

So what is it that holds us back from taking more risks in our lives?

Simply put, it’s fear.

There are lots of fears that hold is back from doing what we really want.

There’s the fear of rejection of others including family, friends, and society. Being accepted in our peer group or community is something that we all want, and doing things that might bring down the judgment of others or could get us ostracized can be incredibly scary.

There’s fear of failure, that if we try something that we’re not good at that we could fail and be embarrassed by that failure. We may also feel like we have wasted time when we put energy into something but still fail at it.

Fear of change. When things stay as they are then we feel comfortable and we know what to expect. When we step up to try something new and different, things will change. We may disrupt the way our lives are going, and even if we know in the end it will be better, change is uncomfortable.

Fear of loss of security. Often we are afraid to take risks because we don’t want to be financially insecure. Sometimes the things that we want to pursue mean that we have to change careers or put up funding that may impact our finances.

But with all of these different fears, there is just one thing in common. Each of them is created by a thought in our mind. Fear is generated because we are afraid of something uncomfortable. Whether that’s the disapproval of others or having to live a more meager lifestyle while we pursue what we really want, these are just emotions attached to thoughts based on our perspective. What others think of us can really cause no harm. We can really get by on far less than we are used to if that’s what it takes for us to pursue our dreams.

Back Up Plan

Set aside a certain number of days during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while, “Is this the condition that I feared?”


A good example of giving into fear is that many of us, and I include myself in this group, end up following our back up plan. We give in to our fears and we decide that rather than pursue our dreams and desires, we do something that’s safe. In my case, I got a degree in business and ended up in software development. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being in software and I haven’t had a terrible life from it, but it’s far from acting or singing or writing music which is what I really wanted to do when I graduated from high school.

And the thing is, most of us end up spending just as much time and energy on our back up plans as we would have needed to make our original plans work. I spent just as much time behind the computer as I would have spent running lines or auditioning for musicals if I’d had the courage to follow the path I really wanted.

I’m sure that if you looked at areas where you have shied away from and not taken risks, you’ll find that if you had put in the same amount of energy as you do your day job, you’d probably be quite successful at it.

Memento Mori

You are scared of dying—and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different than being dead?

— Seneca

So how can stoicism help you get better at tasking risks?

The stoics are very big about reminding us of our own mortality. I mean we’re all going to die and that’s something that we all have to accept. Once do accept that, and accept the fact that you could leave life at any moment, you realize that since you only have one life , do your best to live the best life you can. Live the life that you want to live, and not the life that other people what you to live.

Another way to put this in perspective is that do you think anyone is going to remember what you did in 100 years? In 50 years? Probably not. There will come a time in the future where no one will know who you were or what you did. All your contributions, all your pain and suffering will just be things in that past as if they never existed.

And that’s great and sad at the same time. Everything we do is futile but at the same time, doing good things and how we do everything matters. So if you’re going to spend your life doing something that will be gone in the not so distant future, make sure that it’s something futile that you want to do.

Want to do stand up comedy? Get in front of your best friend and try some material out. Then find an open mic. Just start doing it. It won’t matter anyway if no one laughs at your jokes. Over time you’ll make it work.

Want to ask someone out but afraid they might reject you? You’re no worse off than you are now, so just do it.

Want to be a musician? Practice. Then download Garage Band or Audacity and record your stuff and put it on Soundcloud. You’ll find others that like your vibe.

You are here to explore and live a life that is full of joy. You do this by stepping up and trying things. We are better off as a world if you are putting things into the world that bring you joy, because there is a good chance that they will bring someone else joy.

All these things that you are afraid of, everything that stresses you out, when you die, those things will be gone. So none of it really matters. Is that nihilistic? I don’t think so. It’s just a simple recognition of the value of these things by adjusting your perspective. All of these things that you think are so important, are really not in a long enough time line.


Why does he smile when misfortune strikes? He knows it is an opportunity to cultivate virtue. Death, loss, decline. These things come for us all. Facing pain is how we make ready. Adversity sharpens the blade of will. Greet the test gladly. Endure.

—@TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

One of the four stoic virtues, and to me the most important, is that of courage. For me, courage is the key to living a good life. It is the virtue that underpins everything that helps us live a life we are proud of, and to make changes in our lives. Courage is the key to awareness of ourselves in that it helps us to see ourselves as we truly are. Courage is what helps us make that hard choices, to have the hard conversations, and to persevere when things seem bleak.

Courage doesn’t mean that you have to go cliff diving or put yourself in extreme danger. Courage is simply facing up to the things that scare you, looking at why they scare you, and doing them anyway. The more comfortable you get with facing up to small things with courage and resolve, the easier it gets to face up to the bigger fears in your life. Every time you step up and make a courageous choice, you become more virtuous.


So what are some areas in your life where you are afraid? What are some things you want to do in your life but are unwilling to take the risks? What’s on your bucket list that you keep putting off? Learning to take more risks in your life something that you can get better at, one small fear at a time. Taking more risks is also part of what makes life much more fulfilling and exciting, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter. And that’s a good thing.

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.


246 – What do You Deserve?

Last weeks podcast got a quite a few responses and questions. Some of them turned into some back and forth discussions about some of the ideas, so I want to dig into them a little deeper.

The first question was from a listener who asked:

“What if instead of looking at human existence as, "you don't deserve anything", we instead look at it as “you deserve exactly what you receive?”

Now, I understand that "you don't deserve anything" seems kind of harsh, but it is what I meant. When you say that you deserve something, it means that you feel entitled to it, that it is something owed to you, and I truly believe that nothing is owed to you in this life. If life were fair, we would all be born with the same advantages, but we all know we are not.

Think about it from a very basic level. The universe or god doesn’t owe anyone anything, even from they day we’re born. If this were the case, then things like infants dying in childbirth wouldn’t happen. The reason that fewer children die in childbirth now than say 100 years ago, is because we have worked as a society to improve healthcare, as well as the whole process of giving birth.

This did not happen because we wished the universe would let more children survive childbirth. It happened because people over generations took actions to improve healthcare. We decided as a society that it would be better for all of us if more children survived.

Some may think this attitude is cynical, but I think it’s far from it. I think the fact that we have created societies and worked to improve the health of everyone is an amazing achievement of humanity.

In the Bhagavad Gita it says:

"You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working."

(Note, this does not refer to legal obligations. Work here means the work of living, of doing good in the world.)

Nothing is ever owed or guaranteed to you in this life. Live your life in a way that you find honorable not because of some great reward, but rather because you want live honorably and in a way that you're proud of.

So to circle back around let's take what the listener said, "you deserve exactly what you receive". This would mean that if someone got cancer, they somehow deserved it. If someone got screwed over in a business deal, they somehow deserved it. To me, this attaches a moralistic judgment around the person. "They must have done something to deserve it!"

We do this because want to believe that life is fair, and it is not. Life happens, and we want to make sense of it. We see an effect and try to assign a cause, a motivation, a reason for it.

We especially do this to ourselves. When we fail at something like a relationship, we often blame ourselves thinking we deserve what we are getting. We may be in a relationship that is not healthy for us, but we may think it's what deserve so we hold on even though we're miserable, because it's what we think we deserve.

Epictetus warned of this when he said,

"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."

What this means is that when we blame others or ourselves, it is because we had expectations that were not met. If we can understand that, then we can deal with "what is", rather than getting upset about what "should be".

This listener then responded saying that they were leaning towards the idea that the universe gives us was we need to learn. I know that many people feel this way, but that begs the question: who or what determines what we need? Is there some god/universe/intelligence giving us these things for us to learn?

I'm of the mind that life just happens. I think there are plenty of opportunities for us to learn if we decide to take them. Plenty of people do not take them. This is why the stoics were so insistent on understanding the things you have control over – your thoughts, your choices, and your actions. In short, your will.

The only way that you can learn something from an experience is because you choose to do so. Because you give some kind of meaning to an experience that helps you learn from it. This means you have to make an effort and choose to learn and grow. It doesn't just happen.

Two people can go through a car wreck and have two totally different outlooks on what happened. One can come out and think it was the worst thing that ever happened because it almost killed them. The other can see it as a life affirming event that reminded them of the shortness of life so they are grateful for every moment they have left.

Ryan Holiday says:

"The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition."

For me, this means there’s is always the opportunity to learn from any experience, but we have to step up take it. You have to develop a mindset to learn from any challenge that comes your way. That way it doesn't matter what experiences happen to you, you will learn from it. You will take those opportunities where others won't.

Alright, let’s move on to another question. This listener writes:

“Hey Erick, I think the problem is most of us think that when we do good to others, then we will get the same but it doesn't happen and many of us end up being sad. Right now I am in the same situation where I feel I deserve something but as I am not getting it and constantly fail to achieve it. I feel sad. I want to know how can I avoid this mental obstacle and how can I cultivate a habit in long term where this type of mental blocks don't slow my growth or doesn't affect my well being. Also, do you believe in karma. I want to know what are your thoughts and stoic views on it.”

One of the fundamental stoic principles is to recognize what you can and cannot control. To be honest, I think that it is probably the most important principle, and I think that most other principles are built off of this one simple yet powerful idea.

As Wayne Dyer eloquently puts it:

“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That's what the reputation is. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your character."

If you are only nice to others so that they’ll be nice to you, then your actions are really just a way to manipulate others. I mean, I know what it’s like to be around someone that is just being nice to you because they want something. That something might just be for us to like them or because they’re tying to get us to give them something, but nonetheless, it doesn’t feel good when others are trying to manipulate us.

The way that you inoculate yourself againts this kind of unhappiness, is to decide to live the way that you want to live regardless of what others do. Your choices and actions are the only things that you control, so you decide to follow particular principles in your life.

In this case, the principle is that you want to be a kind person, not because of other people, but because it’s the kind of person that you want to be. You cannot control if others will be nice to you. If you’re only nice to others when they’re nice to you, then you are allowing them to control you. You act with kindness regardless of how others act towards you. How they act should not dictate whether or not you live a certain principle.

So, for the second part, do I believe in karma? At it’s origin, karma is a belief in Hinduism and Buddhism that your actions in this life have consequences in the next life. Since I don’t believe in an afterlife or reincarnation, I don’t believe in this definition in karma.

I also don’t believe in karma in the more modern tit-for-tat way that many think about it. For example, many people think of karma as a force that if you do something bad, then something bad will happen to you. I don’t think it’s ever that cut and dry. That would mean there is some unseen external force that is judging what you do, and again, what’s the criteria? Who or what is making those decisions?

What I do believe is that your actions have consequences, though those are often unseen and hard to trace. I believe that what you put out in the world comes back to you. For example, being kind to others doesn’t mean they’ll like you, but if you are mean and angry with others, then there is a good chance they won’t want to be around you.

If you are kind to others, even when they are not kind to you, then you feel good about yourself. How they feel about you doesn’t matter. You are in control of your life because you have made a decision of how you want to live. This spills over into all other areas of your life. I find that when I am kind to others, then I generally am surrounded by others that are kind to me. If they are not, I do my best to still act how I want to, and usually just don’t spend time around them.

The idea of a fair world is a hard one to shake. We think that things should just balance out a certain way, and we are often frustrated when they don’t work out how we think they should. Really, what it comes down to is that we have expectations on things outside of our control, and when those aren’t met, we aren’t happy. When you recognize that you have the power to be the kind of person you want to be in any situation, then you have the opportunity to control the one thing that you can.


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.


245 – Whining or Winning

Do you think that life is fair? Do you think it’s unfair? Are others “winning” when you are not? Today I want to talk about how fall into a pretty bad way of thinking that reduces our ability to take responsibility for ourselves, and blame our unhappiness on the world outside of us.

Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.

— Teddy Roosevelt

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.

— Epictetus

From time to time, I like to hop on the stoicism sub reddit and participate in discussions. I really appreciate is that most people are pretty thoughtful and respectful, and I often learn something new or see things in a new light.

But there’s a kind of post that I see on there from time to time which I find is pretty sad. It is usually some who is upset that they are not getting all the things in life they think they deserve. They complain that the job sucks or they’re struggling with school and the teachers are mean and out to get them. Or they’re afraid to talk to someone they’re find attractive and are upset that they can’t get a date. They talk about how how they tried to be stoic, but they still aren’t getting what they deserve. They complain that other people still treat them poorly even though they are trying to be stoic. There is often a lot of blaming of others for their misfortune and lashing out at the world in general.

So today’s episode is going to be a little bit of a rant, but I hope that you can bear with me.


Don't be overheard complaining…Not even to yourself.

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around in this world is this:

We are entitled to nothing in life. We deserve nothing in this world.

Now, I’m sure that might be upsetting to those of us who think that life should be fair. I’ll give you a hint:

Life is not fair and never will be.

How could it be? There is nothing in the universe that would be able to enforce some external rule of fairness. And if we tried to create a society of absolute fairness, who would be given the task of deciding what is fair?



As much as I’d like to think that I could be a good arbiter of fairness, I know that because of my own biases and personal failings, I could make a system that I think would be fair that plenty of others would disagree on. We could never get everyone to agree on what the definition of fairness is. As much as we might wish it, fairness is not something intrinsic in the universe. It is not a natural law like gravity. It is something that we have to create on our own as a society.

Interestingly enough, I think this is proven out because one of the core virtues of Stoicism is that of Justice. What that means to me is that we need to help bring justice to the world because it is not already a natural or intrinsic part of the world.

What’s ironic is that most people I see complain about the fact that world isn’t fair, are those that want the world to bend in a way that benefits them. If this were to happen, wouldn’t that make it so that world was again unfair because it benefits them and not someone else?


Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

— Epictetus

Another part of this post that I wanted to talk about is the idea that if you act virtuously then everything will work out for you exactly the way that you want it. That people around you will change who they are simply because you are trying to be a good person. That because you “act” like a good person, then everything will simply come to you because you deserve it. This is never going to be the case.

Let me spell it out clearly for you:

You don’t deserve anything.

Just because you want or think you deserve something doesn’t matter. You can think that all you want. Just because you are nice doesn’t mean that you should get to date someone you find attractive. Just because you act virtuous doesn’t mean that other people will be nice to you or not try to take advantage of you. Or that good things won’t happen to bad people (of course who are you to decide if they are bad people?).

The reason that you act virtuously is not so that others will change for you. It is so that you act in a way that you feel good about. That you are living a life that you are proud of. Life will happen to you regardless of your character. Having a good character does not mean that everything will go your way.

In fact, I would argue that you if you think that you deserve something because you think you have good character, you probably don’t. I think that someone with good character would recognize that they don’t deserve anything by just thinking that they are a good person. You cultivate virtue, and build your character because it’s something you want. You want to be a good person not so that you get something or you earn something. You cultivate virtue because that’s kind of person that you want to be.

Doing The Work

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.

— Steve Maraboli

Another common thread I notice is that most of their complaints are based on the outcomes they want. They complain about how they are are not getting the things they want. Rather than looking at what they are doing and finding where it doesn’t work and making changes to trying to figure out why things aren’t working, they are blaming others for why they are failing.

When you get something without having to work for it, you miss out on the lessons you need to learn in order to handle the success that you have. If you haven’t learned to be a charming, fun, or interesting person and you happen to land a date with someone you’re attracted to, why should they stick around? You haven’t given them any reason to do so. Have you put in the work to be a good partner? What do you bring to the table that would make them want to date you? What about their preferences and free will? Just as you wouldn’t want to date someone that you’re not interested in, why should they be forced to?

What they are asking for is all the reward without the work. If you get a college diploma, but you didn’t earn it and do the work, what happens when you get hired and after a few weeks your manager realizes that you don’t have the skills to do your job?

Doing the work is how you gain the skills to be good at what you do.

Doing the work is how you are able to maintain what you earn.

Let’s say that you want to be a firefighter. Maybe someday you’d like to be a leader of a fire fighting squad. And let’s say that on the your first day on the job, they just give you that position. Would you be very good at it? Would you know what to do to safely put out a fire and help those in danger and keep your team safe?

No you wouldn’t. In fact, if you were simply given that position without the experience or training, then you would be a bigger danger to yourself and those around you. It is only through putting in the work that you learn how to safely and effectively fight a fire and lead a team.

Closing Thoughts

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

— Dalai Lama XIV

You are responsible for the results of your life. If you want to be successful in life, study successful people. You’ll find those that are truly successful are those that take responsibility for their actions. They don’t blame others for why they are failing. Recognize the things that are blocking your path and figure out how to work around them. When you put the work in, you gain the skills to overcome any obstacle in your path. In my experience, when you stop complaining and take a good look in the mirror, you see that that the biggest blocker to your success is you.

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.


241 – Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing

Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing
What do you really see?

One of the things we talk about a lot in stoicism is that it’s our perspective on something that causes our distress. So how do we change our perspective on things? Are there tools that we can use to help us view things differently? Today I want to talk about some of the things that get in our way of broadening our perspective, and what tools we can use to help change our perspective.

It is not the things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments about these things.

— Epictetus

Great minds do not always think alike.

— Anonymous.

One of the most important ideas in stoicism is that our perspective is what informs and colors our opinion about things that happen in our lives. Being aware of our own perspective is very challenging because we really only interact with the world through our own point of view and filters.

We have attitudes and biases that we are often not aware of which affect how we interpret the world and how we decide to respond to events and other people. Basically, we act based on our judgments, and our judgments are formed by what we think about a situation.

For example, say that we have two people, Jane and Tony, and they are walking down the street to a coffee shop. They pass by a group of teenagers with skateboards hanging outside a convenience store. Now when Jane sees them, she smiles and remembers how she used to ride a skateboard at that age and how fun it was to hang out with her friends. When Tony sees the same group of kids, he becomes tense and anxious because he remembers some kids in his neighborhood where he grew up that rode skateboards and used to chase him and beat him up. Each of them are seeing the exact same situation, but having completely different emotions about it based on their experience and their thoughts about the group of teenagers.

Reframing is a when we actively work on changing our perspective on something. First, we become aware of our thinking. Second, we question our thinking by looking for evidence, and using logic to prove or disprove our thoughts. Third, we correct errors in our thinking which helps us change what we make something mean.

So why is it important for us to improve our ability to change our perspective of how we view the world? When we learn how shift our perspective on things, then we are better able to see things as they are, and not just act on our first impressions. We need a fuller picture and have a clearer understanding, which helps us make better choices. Sometimes, just getting slightly different perspective on something can completely change how we view something.

One of the clearest examples of how reframing can radically change how we understand something is from the movie, The Sixth Sense. If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, I’m warning you now that I’m going to reveal some big spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch it then come back and finish this episode.

The Sixth Sense opens with psychologist Malcolm Crowe, who is played by Bruce Willis, and his wife Anna, played by Olivia Williams, getting ready to go out to dinner. A patient of Malcolm’s break into their house and ends up shooting Malcolm and then killing himself. After this indecent, the movie introduces us to Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, a frightened and withdrawn boy, who is now a patient of Malcom’s.

As the movie progresses we see that Malcom has been struggling to communicate with his wife and their relationship seems very strained. We also learn that Cole has the ability to see dead people, which is the cause of his fear. Malcolm helps Cole to try and understand how to deal with this ability, and the two begin to form a strong bond. Near the end of the movie, which up to this point has seemed like a relationship between a boy and his therapist, it is finally revealed that Malcolm is actually dead, but didn’t know that he was dead.

When it finally clicked for me that Malcom was dead, it shifted my whole perspective on what the movie was actually about. It was also fascinating how it changed Malcolm’s perspective on who he was, and what was really happening. When I went back and watched it again, it felt like I was watching a completely different movie. Scenes where it seemed like Malcolm was interacting with his wife or with anyone other than Cole, were completely changed knowing that Malcolm was dead, but was unaware of it. It was an extraordinary instance of my perspective shifting with new information.

So what can we do to get better with reframing the world around us so we can make wiser choices? There are a few practices that we can do which can really help change how we view a situation.

One of the first things we can do it to is identify cognitive distortions, which are common patterns of thinking that lead to negative or irrational thoughts. This is very inline with what Seneca meant when he wrote:

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

— Seneca

We see what we believe rather than what we see.

— Alan Watts

Some cognitive distortions include the following:

All-or-Nothing Thinking: This is where we think that things are one way or another, such as good or bad or black or white. This pattern makes it hard to see that there are shades of gray, that there are nuances in every situation, and in every person. It also makes is challenging to see that sometimes both options can be true.

An example of this comes from a listener who asked me how to reconcile self acceptance with self improvement. They felt that if they accepted themselves for who they were, it meant they were giving up on self improvement. But these things are not mutually exclusive. You can accept yourself and all your flaws, AND still want to improve. Just like how you accept a young child for who they are and all the things they are not good at, and want them to grow and improve.

Mind Reading: This is when we think that we know what other people are thinking. We may make assumptions of their opinion of us, or what their motivations or intent are without any evidence. This is something that I have struggled with throughout my life, much of it came from having to stay on my toes around my father. I was constantly guessing what he was thinking so that I could stay safe.

Personalization: This is when we take responsibility for things that are not our fault, or blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. Often, this behavior comes from living in a dysfunctional home. If there is one or more parent that doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and puts the blame on other members of the family, children learn to accept blame for things they haven’t done in order to keep the peace.

Catastrophizing: This is the tendency to exaggerate the significance of negative events, and to expect the worst possible outcome. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. This pattern of thinking can lead people to feel easily overwhelmed because of the emotional weight they put on even minor events. It can also stop us from making progress in challenging situations because it makes them seem far more difficult than they actually are, leading to bad decisions or just outright giving up.

Once you become aware of these distortions, you can challenge them and reframe them into more balanced and realistic thoughts. Writing down your thoughts in a journal and answering questions such as, “Is this thought really true?" or "Is there any evidence to support or contradict this thought?” is one of the best ways to become aware of these kind of patterns and notice how they impact your thinking.

You can also discuss them with someone you trust if you find that more helpful. The point is to find a way to recognize those thoughts and question them in a rational and logic manner so that you can see things for what they really are.

Once you have a handle on what you are thinking and have made the effort to logic through cognitive distortions, you can use what you have learned to change how you view something. For example, rather than assuming that you know what someone is thinking, you recognize that you don’t know until you ask, or they volunteer the information. Rather than taking blame for things that you have no control over, you only take responsibility for your choices and actions, and let go of the rest.

For any of these practices to be effective there is a core skill that we need to develop. For me this one skill is the most important in Stoicism, and that is the skill of mindfulness. Now, I know that sound like a broken record because I talk about mindfulness and meditation a lot. The reason for this is that all other practices and processes we might use to improve ourself are dependent on awareness. If we are unaware of our thoughts, perspectives, and cognitive distortions, then it makes it nearly impossible to change anything.

Until we make the unconscious conscious, we will call it fate and it will rule our lives.

— Carl Jung

I’ve used this quote by Jung many times because it is such an important insight. Even just taking 15 minutes a day to sit and pay attention to you mind and observe your thinking can make a big difference. Remember, mediation is not about zoning out, it is about focusing your attention on your thoughts, your body, and your environment. Just as you would take time to work out to strengthen your body, meditation is taking time to strengthen your mind.

The ability to change and broaden our perspective is probably one of the most important skills that we can develop in our lives. It is also one of the most helpful, since the ability to see things from multiple perspectives gives a more holistic picture of a situation or event. A fuller picture can help you see and understand things you may have missed if you only rely on your own narrow perspective. It can help us understand other people and how they think, and handle situations in a way that is more beneficial to ourselves and those around us.

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.


238 – Show Up

Show Up
Know who you are

How do you show up in the world? Are you acting the way you want to? Are you being the person you want to be? If not, why not? In todays episode, I want to talk about how to live with integrity and be the person you want to be.

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.

—Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important things that we can do in our lives is to live with integrity. Now what do I mean by integrity? The word integrity has several definitions but my favorite is “something that is sound or whole”. It also has the same root as integrated. For me integrity means that you as a person are integrated, that your words match your choices and actions.

How does this kind of integrity show up in our daily lives? When we live with integrity, we live our lives in such a way that we hold to our principles and values even when, or especially when, there is pressure on us to do otherwise. When others would have you bend to what they want, you hold true to the principles that are important for you. It means that you follow those principles when no one else is watching. It means that you are the person that you want to be regardless of what anyone else says or does.

So what are the things that get in our way when we try to live this kind of life?

There are plenty of things that happen our lives that can knock us off our path and make our life challenging. When we hit these circumstances, we often blame them for the problems in our lives. We may use them as excuses to give up. But I think when we do this we’re forgetting that these challenges ARE the thing we’re trying to overcome and work through. These are the things that make us stronger. Wishing these things away or placing blame on why those things outside of us cause us to not be the kind of person we want, is not stepping up and take responsibility for ourselves.

Another thing that can make it challenging for us to live with integrity is when we get caught up in worrying about the opinions of others. If we do things because we want others to like us or praise us, we can lose our sense of who we are. We may do things that we really don’t want to.

When I was in sixth grade, I really wanted to be liked by a bunch of older kids. We wanted to get into the school after hours so that we could get some soft drinks from the vending machines. We hatched a plan where I would climb on top of the school and drop myself into the atrium. The door to the atrium wasn’t closed all the way, so I would be open it and then let the other kids in. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan and I got caught by the janitor and got in trouble the next day with the princip , all because I wanted to be liked by these kids.

I think the last part to living with integrity, is that we often don’t know exactly who we are and what we want. The culture that we live in has a very large influence on what we hold as valuable. In some cultures, being strong and tough is something that is valued. In others it might be beauty or money, or intelligence and kindness. Through our families, schools, media, churches, and community, every one of us is exposed to explicit and subtle messages of what our culture thinks we should value, and what kind of person we should be. These external values and expectations that we are given that have a strong influence on us our whole lives.

So how to we decide how we want to show up in the world? How do we become a more integrated person, a person who lives with integrity?

Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.

— Epictetus

First and foremost, we need to get to know ourselves and what we truly value. This is not an easy process, because we have to learn to be really honest with ourselves. We all have a set of beliefs that we hold on to to try and make sense of the world. When have to question the belief systems that we grew up with, it can be really uncomfortable, and downright unsettling. We may find that many of them aren’t helpful or stand up to scrutiny. It may mean that we have to make disruptive changes in our lives. It may mean cutting out people that are unwilling to support us in our growth.

When I left the Mormon church, it was a slow and drawn out process. I never really felt like it was the right thing for me, but because I had been told my whole life that it was the only truth, it was really hard to even question it in the first place. I reached a point where I felt like I just couldn’t live that way, even if it was true. Over time I finally realized that the real question was not whether I could live it or not, but did I believe it because I thought it was the truth, or did I just believe that because I had been told over and over that it was. Once I was willing to open up and question that belief system, I found that I had only held onto it because it was what was expected of me. I was doing it to please others.

Once we decide to question our belief systems, we nee to expose ourselves to all kinds of different ideas. We need to be willing to consider ideas that at first might feel uncomfortable. We need to be willing to have an open mind and try to consider things from different perspectives. This can include things like reading books on challenging ideas. It may mean having respectful discussions with people you may have differing opinions with. We should be willing to let go of ideas that don’t serve us.

I know for me, a big influence was the time that I spent in Austria. It was so different from the culture I grew up in, and it exposed me to different values, and different ideas that I might not have considered. I met people from all over the world, ate all kinds of different foods, and learned about historical events and places that changed my worldview that probably wouldn’t have happened if I had just stayed in my small part of the world.

If you decide to live by lofty principles, be prepared to be laughed at by others. You may hear snide remarks: “Oh, here comes the philosopher!” or “Why are you so pretentious?” Just ignore those comments. But make sure that you don’t become pretentious. If you stick to your principles, people who make fun of you will eventually come around and may even admire you. However, if you let others influence you to give up what you started, you will be ridiculed twice: firstly, for following these principles, and secondly, for giving them up.

— Epictetus

The last idea I want to talk about of how to live with integrity, is that once we learn who we are, and decide the kind of person we want to be, we need to learn how to ignore what other people think of us. And this, is often really hard because we want to be liked by others. But if other people are not going to like us for who we really are, then they are people we probably don’t want to be around. Also, what others think of us is not under our control, so we need to let it be. If we let what others think of us change how we act, then we are giving control to them. We should be the person that we want to be regardless of what others think of us or wish us to be.

Living with integrity is probably one of the most challenging things you’ll even do in your life. When you live with integrity, you take full responsibility for your emotions, thoughts, and actions. You stay true to who you are no matter what others think of you. You make choices and take actions that align with your character even when it’s hard, and even when no one is watching.

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.


233 – Anxious Future

Anxious Future
Anxious Future

Do you feel like the world is in chaos right now? I know that many of us feel like that. Spend a day on social media and easy to find all kinds of things wrong with the world. Is it that the world is truly more chaotic? Are things really falling apart more so than in the past? Today I want to talk about some of the reasons why so many of us feel like the world is in chaos.

The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable.


It's easy in this modern world to feel anxious. There is always something that we can worry about. But where does this anxiety come from? At a base level, much of our anxiety comes from worrying about the future. We worry about personal issues such as relationships, finances, and work. We worry about global issues such as the cost of food, the price of energy, climate change, political upheaval, and the list goes on. These are all things that can cause us stress and worry, mostly because there is very little, and in some cases, nothing that we can do about them. I think that that the world, the universe, is doing what it has always done and we have a hard time because we expect things to be otherwise.

The news allows you to dedicate massive amounts of energy and attention to things you probably cannot impact while the things you can impact go unaddressed.

—The Stoic Emperor

Another reason why it feels like the world is more chaotic now than in the past is that we’re simply exposed to more of the world. Because of the giant increase in the amount of available news, we don’t just hear about bad news in our local area or even just our country, we find out about bad news all over the world in ways that were not even possible 25 years ago.

Now, this is not to say that we don’t have real problems happening in the world. While there has always been war, famine, natural disasters, now we face so many issues with climate change, and dwindling resources. It can feel hopeless because there is so little that we can impact. This is also not to say that we shouldn't look to and prepare for the future. To put our heads in the sand and ignore the perils of the world is not prudent or wise.

I think that this hopelessness that people feel makes it easy to fall into outrage and self-righteousness when we watch or listen to the news. There's so much wrong in the world the moral superiority we feel feels so good! But when we stop and think about it, what does our moral outrage do? Does is prompt to make any changes? Do we take up a cause and do something about it? In most cases, we don't. We feel good because we're on the "right side" of an issue and forget about it as we move onto the next outrage or distraction.

It is important we recognize that much of the news is simply there to manipulate our emotions and to be sensational, shocking, or salacious. And why is this? Why would people want this? Mostly it comes down to money and power. Anger and outrage are easy to sell. People who are angry are far easier to manipulate than people who are calm, thoughtful, and relaxed. When we understand this, we can be aware of our reactions and choose to spend our emotional energy effectively.

What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.

― Epictetus

What things have you anxious about the future? What can we do to lessen our distress and anxiety? How do we manage our minds so as not to get bogged down and feeling overwhelmed? I find that mostly ignoring the news is very helpful. And it’s not that I don’t want to be informed, it’s just that there is so much clammer and sensationalist garbage that has absolutely no impact on my life. I do my best to find news sources that work hard to bring factual reporting to the front, with open mindedness and supported the latest scientific developments. I try to find the signal of the truth amongst all the noise.

It's not to say that watching the news is bad per se, because it's good to know what is happening in the world. Keeping perspective on what is happening – that the world is always changing – and not fearing it, because much of it is out of our control, allows us to be more accepting of what happens. But just because we accept what is happening doesn’t mean that we should resign ourselves to passivity. It means that we should be cognizant of what we can have an effect on, and do our best to make a positive impact on the world.

We can also practice to do our best to prepare for whatever we can by paying attention to events and imagining the worst that can happen – not as an exercise to stress ourselves out, but so that we are not surprised if these things happen. And I’ve used this myself to help relieve anxiety, because once you’ve already experienced the worst case in your mind, in a sense, you’ve already experienced it. If the worst case does happen, you are much better prepared for it. Usually the worst case doesn’t happen, and in those cases you’re happily surprised with a better outcome.

Another thing we can do is to look around us and see where we really can have an impact on the world. Are there things you can do locally for your community? Can you find ways to volunteer? What action can you take to help make the world a little better rather than just flaming your “opponents” on social media?

When we take the time to focus on what we can control, and focus being in the moment, we can loosen the grip of those anxieties about the future. Keeping ourselves in the present helps us stop worrying about the uncertainty of the future, and focus on the things that we can control – those things in the present.

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.


232 – QTIP

It is our own opinions that disturb us

How often do you take what other people say and do personally? How often do you feel like you have to “fix” someone else’s mood? Today I want to talk about emotional responsibility, and how it can lead a stronger sense of self and keep you from getting pulled into other peoples emotional mayhem.

Not to display anger or other emotions. To be free of passion and yet full of love.

—Marcus Aurelius

The other day I was talking with my therapist about how I feel like I’m dealing with conflict a little better in my life. I was talking about how I was getting better about not trying to control or change other people’s emotions, and how that was very liberating. In doing so I’m able to just let them be annoyed or frustrated or upset with me without having to do anything about it. And she used a great turn of phrase, she said, “QTIP. You quit taking things personally.” I laughed because I’d never heard that before, but it was a great shortcut to keep that idea in mind.

If we seek social status, we give other people power over us: we have to do things calculated to make them admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor.

—William B. Irvine

Why do we find it so hard to just let other people be annoyed? Why do we so often feel like we have to fix how they feel?

For many of us, we confuse trying to fix other people emotions with being nice. We’re raised to find ways to keep the peace, and often that includes us finding ways of placating others or take on other peoples emotions. We may even take the blame for things that we had no control over just to try and keep others happy.

One of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn in my life was how not to taking things personally. If someone is upset with me, I find it very challenging to just let them be upset with me. I usually try to either fix whatever is upsetting them, or I try to change how they are feeling by arguing with them about why they are wrong to be upset with me. And you know, that never really works. When you try to change how someone feels about something, they often get even more upset or resentful because you are invalidating how they feel. You are letting them know that their emotions are not acceptable.

Think about how you feel when you tell someone about how something they did impacted you, and rather than listening and hearing what you have to say, they start trying to argue about why you shouldn’t feel the way you do. Talk about feeling dismissed and invalidated. When someone is upset with you, it is not your job to fix their emotions. You don’t need to change how other people feel. Let them be mad, frustrated, and upset with you. It’s their right to feel what they feel. It is not your place to try and change them. And the thing is, that’s not something you need to take on. It’s not your job to manage their emotions. It’s theirs.

Now many of us this can be challenging. When people are responding to you, often it really has nothing to do with you but more to do with their trauma and baggage. I know that when I’m upset about something, I’ve often reacted in way that later, upon reflection, wasn’t really even related to what the other person did. I reacted to what they said or did in a way that had more to do with my past than what happened in the present.

Our brains are constantly using past data to try and predict future outcomes. If you have lots of bad data from growing up in a dysfunctional family or suffered some kind of trauma or abuse, sometimes your responses aren’t going to be appropriate to the current situation.

For example, because my dad was so unpredictable, when he was annoyed about something it could quickly escalate into something very volatile. So when someone close to me is annoyed, my brain screams “danger!”, and will often overreact. It’s gotten much better, but it has taken tremendous effort to reprogram those responses.

As a recovering “people pleaser”, I often feel like it’s my job to try and fix other people’s moods. A big reason for this is because growing up, I had to be conscientious of my dad’s emotions because if I didn’t, I could end up being beaten. I had to be on guard all the time and find ways to soothe him or make him happy to keep myself safe.

So does this mean that you should just be calloused and not care about how other feel? I mean it’s their emotions to deal with, right? I think there is a fine balance between not taking on other emotions and being an ass. Humans are always trying to subtly and not so subtly manipulate and persuade each other. Most times it’s harmless and often beneficial. But there are those that try to emotionally manipulate others to try and take advantage of them. Blaming others for their moods or for the problems in their lives, throwing tantrums, and guilt tripping are all things that I’ve seen people do to each other, and I’ve done my fare share of it as well.

It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.

—Marcus Aurelius

So how can we get better about not taking on others emotions and not taking things personally? By taking responsibility for your own emotional management, and encouraging others to do so as well. When you are responsible for your emotions, you have a good handle on where those lines are. You don’t take responsibility for emotions and actions that are not yours.

When you take the blame for things that you have no control over, it does little to really solve an issue. This also robs others of the chance to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us need to be clear about what is ours to manage, and was is not.

The other thing is that you can’t fix someone else’s emotions anyway. The stoics teach us pretty clearly that out thinking is what distresses us. If the other person is upset abr something, it’s their perspective on things that is causing their distress, and it’s something they need to figure out. What we can do on our side is support them and do our best to reign in our emotions to help defuse situations whenever possible.

We’ve all been on both sides of arguments where we blame others for how we feel, and have had other blame us for how they’re feeling. Neither of these perspectives do a very good job of helping us manage ourselves and support others. When we practice being a little more dispassionate and to quit taking things personally, the more we’ll be able to be in control of ourselves, and support others in managing their own emotions, which helps create more emotionally balanced relationships, and helps each of us be a little more kind and patient with each other.

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.


207 – Resistance

Like what you hear? Come join us in the Stoic Coffee House and discuss this episode with your fellow stoics!

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

— Epictetus

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

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

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

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

—The Ancient Sage

Should Be vs. Could Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. 

— Eckhart Tolle


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

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

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

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

— Marcus Aurelius


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


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

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


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

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

Coffee Break Control

205 – Two Sides of the Same Coin

Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

— Epictetus

One topic that I revisit on the podcast repeatedly is how important it is to control the things that we can’ and let go of the things that we can’t. For me, this is one of the most important lessons we can learn in our lives. In this episode, I want to talk about how we be more mindful of what we can, and what we cannot control.

What Do You Control?

According to the stoics, we control very little. Mostly, we can control our thoughts and perspective, our choices, and our actions. Everything else is outside of our control. For many people, the idea that we are so small, powerless, and insignificant is an unsettling thought.

Two Sides

I like to think of control as two sides of the same coin. If you are controlling the things that you can, and letting go of the things that you can’t, you are being effective and respecting yourself. You are the master of yourself. If you are trying to control the things that you can’t, like other people, or the circumstances that you are facing, then you are not controlling what you can, and you are wasting time and energy. You can’t control yourself and external things at the same time. You can do one or the other.


Many people are very unsettled because they have so little power in their lives and it makes them very anxious and angry. They want to feel like they have more control. They don’t like the fact that they have so little power in the world to influence things. They feel like their lives are not under their control. The most interesting thing is that most people I’ve met who feel this way ironically choose to blame other people for all the things they are unhappy about. They may blame their partner, their parents, immigrants, the government, the weather, bad luck, the devil,… and the list goes on. Rather than do the hard work of being responsible for themselves, their emotions, their choices, they blame other people.


When we choose not to control the things that we can, we are allowing ourselves to become a victim. When we have options in front of us we could take, but we don’t make a choice or take an action, then we are at least partially responsible for our situation. And I say partially, because we may be in a situation that we don’t like, but may have done nothing to get ourselves there. If we are in a car accident because of someone else’s recklessness, we may have an injury that we are not responsible for, but how we approach our recovery is up to us. We may not recover back to full health because there are things outside of our control, but how we see and act in our lives despite these challenges is always our choice.


So what about things that we don’t have control over? This is where the idea of control dovetails with Amor Fati, that we love our fate, meaning that fate, circumstance, life happens to all of us, whether we like it or not. We don’t have control over what life sends our way. We have control over how we respond. It may be true that you a victim of circumstance, and that you are suffering from something out of your control. Natural disasters, political upheavals, and wars, for example, are all things that have profound impacts on us we have no control over. These things also limit the choices and opportunities that someone may have. I consider myself lucky that I have never had to live through any of these kind of events, which makes me even more empathetic to those that have had to suffer through them. I hope that if I were ever tested with any of these, that I could put stoic teachings into practice.

Other People

One of the most frustrating things we struggle with in life is other people. If other people just acted in the way that we wanted, life would be so much easier! But that’s the thing, it never does, and people don’t always act the way want them to. When we learn to let go of trying to control other people and their thoughts and actions, and focus on showing up in the world how we want to, then we can let go of what other people do or think. We can focus on what we do and think. We can make our choices, and take actions that are inline with our values, regardless of what other people are doing, and we can be the person who we want to be no matter what is happening around us.

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.



Since we have so little that we control, what can we do to maximize our influence? What can we do to be more effective with the things we have control over? I think that much of it comes from mindfulness – that we are in control of, and aware of, our own minds. If we are not paying attention to the thoughts in our minds, it makes it very challenging to understand why we make the choices and take the actions that we do. Meditation and journaling are still two of the best methods for understanding the workings of our own minds.


When we’re in a challenging situation, we need to understand how our mind works, and that we have practiced how we want to respond in any situation. When I was first starting out college, I was enrolled in the musical theater program. I wanted to be an actor and a singer, and a big part of being good at that was rehearsal. When cast in a play, there were weeks of rehearsals in order to perform our best. Sometimes it was very challenging. Long days of school followed by running lines and practicing dance numbers or staging was exhausting. And the thing was, that we certainly did not get it right the first few times. Often, we would have practiced a dance number dozens of times, night after night, to the point where I would almost be annoyed by the music and the dance moves. But as soon as we hit opening night and show started, there was an excitement night after night as the hard work that we put in showed up on stage. And even then, each performance got a little better.

When we take the time to think through and imagine how we want to behave in certain scenarios, it can go a long way towards helping us develop better responses in difficult situations. You can do this in journaling by writing out how we want to act in a given situation that comes up in your life.


One of the best ways for us to exert control over what we have control over is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is a way for us to clearly explain to others, and ourselves, what we will and will not accept. It teaches others how we want to be treated, and it helps us maintain our own inner equanimity. Boundaries are not ultimatums, but are ways to clarify how we wish to be treated, and when others are not willing to respect those boundaries, we have set clear responses of what actions we will take. We may excuse ourselves and leave the situation. We may limit the time that we spend them. We may cut off contact altogether. These are all about communicating what we need and will accept, and following through with those commitments to respect ourselves.


When we are clear about our values, and the kind of person who we want to be, it makes it easier to show up in the world the way we want. When we have decided who we are and are very clear in our mind about who we are, then what other people do and what circumstances we find yourself in matter very little. We are who we want to be; we uphold those values, and stand by our principles, regardless of what others do. If our values and actions change base upon others, then we are not in control of ourself. We are allowing them to control us.


When you are facing a challenging situation, recognizing what you have control over and acting upon those things is not a simple task. It is something that you will probably fail at. I know I do often. But when I take the time to think through the kind of person who I want to be, and imagine and rehearse how I want to handle myself, I usually do a much better job. It really comes down to knowing yourself, recognizing what you can control, and taking actions that align with who you want to be.

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


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.