268 – Creation is the Purpose of Life

What do you think the purpose of life is? Do you ever wonder why we’re here? Today I want to talk about some ideas of what we’re supposed to do with the one life that we have.

So while I normally talk about something that is directly a stoic teaching, I want to veer off in a different direction on something that has been rattling around in my head for a while. I hope you enjoy this weeks departure.

There are a lot of challenges in this life. Probably the hardest is to understand what is our purpose in life. I think from the earliest days of mankind, every human being has wondered, “Why am I here?” Every religion, mystic, philosophy, even science has tried to answer this question, and we still have no conclusive answer. There has been no divine being or alien visit to come down and tell us all why we are alive on this planet.

To be honest, I don’t know either. But the more I think about, the I’ve come to the conclusion that we are here to create.

To Create Is Human

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way."

— Edward de Bono

From the dawn of time, human beings are driven to create. From a purely biological sense, we spend a lot of time and energy making sure that we can survive long enough to make it to adulthood and procreate. Besides breathing, eating, drinking, and sleeping, sex is one of the strongest biological drives we have. From the outset, next to survival, the first biological impulse is to create a new life.

Once we have the basics of life, we set out to create things. We build houses and roads, and towns and cities. When you think about it, all of our jobs are either to create something, to aid in the creation of something, or to help in the maintenance of something that has been created.

From there, we try to understand the world around us. We tell stories and draw things real and imagined. Write sonnets, songs, and symphonies. Build cars, bridges, skyscrapers, and spaceships. If we can imagine it, we try to create it.

It’s our willingness to try things that are silly and even stupid that help us to move forward as a species. It’s this ability to think of things that might be outrageous or ridiculous that lead us to pursue crazy ideas in physics, and other sciences that lead to amazing things. It is our creativity that leads us to try things that at first seem outrageous, but later prove to be incredible breakthroughs and advances for humanity.

Nature is Creation

Nature itself is all about creation. The fact that seeds form trees and plants with the right conditions to create forests and food, such a wide variety of animal and other organic life on this planet. I live in Oregon, where it seems like if there is some kind of land that is not cultivated, nature will fill it in with weeds, ivy, or blackberry bushes.


One of the first things I want to do is redefine what it means to be creative. One of the things that I find most interesting when I talk with people about being creative is that many people consider themselves to be uncreative people. And I think this is wrong. Everyone is creative in their own way. I think we need to redefine creativity from a narrow scope of artistic endeavors to a wider scope of anything that helps improve the world.

Planting and tending a garden is creation. Building out your company’s computer network or developing and inclusive HR policy can be itself a creative act. Being a good parent who raises resilient kids can be a creative act. Being a teacher that helps kids think and become the leaders of the future is a creative act.

Creative Solutions

"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

Creation is not just about creating art, but about creating in everyday life. Ideas to help fix problems in the world are acts in creation. There are a lot of problems in the world, and in order to solve these problems, we need innovative solutions. We won’t be able to address the problems of tomorrow with the same solutions that we have had in the past or present. We’ll have to solve them by thinking in ever more creative ways that build upon or even possibly completely disregard previous knowledge, ideas, and solutions.

Now, the reason I think we should all try to create something artistic is that creating art can help us learn to think of things in different ways. It allows us to shift our perspectives and see things from different viewpoints that we might not have ever considered. It gives us practice of creating things that did not exist before. It stretches our minds to see things that are not obvious, to see details in things that we might have missed before. It helps us meld disparate ideas and technologies that we otherwise might not have tried if we just did things the way they have always been done.

Art and the Self

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."

— Albert Einstein

One of the most important reason why I think we need to create things, and specifically artistically, is that art is about expression of the self. It’s about figuring out who we are through other means. Each story, painting, song, sculpture, or dance is a way to discover something about ourselves. It’s a way to express a deeper part of ourselves, and about our humanity. In a world where so much pressure is put on being productive or creating wealth, taking time out to create in a way that is important for you is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

Each week as I work on my podcast, I change my mind and my thinking just a little bit. As I work through the topic of the week, I learn something about my own view on something. I may even completely reverse my previous thinking on something. The more I work through the process of clarifying my ideas about something, the more expansive my thinking becomes.

This is why, for example, I don’t use AI to write my episodes. The time and energy I put into creating an episode is not just to have an end product, but to stretch my own thinking, to improve my cognitive skills and rational thinking.

The process of creation is just as important as what is created.

Creating something also can bring on tremendously powerful mental states. Often, when we work on something creative, we will hit flow states. When I play piano or when I sing, I will hit these state of almost joy where it feels like everything just works. Where melodies and chords just work. Where my voice just feels like I can hit any note I want, and I could sing for hours. It’s that feeling of something almost being channeled through me from some deeper source.

Internal Resistance

“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."

— Arthur Koestler

Whenever someone works to create something, there is always resistance. This can come in many forms. It can come from the obstacles that we have to overcome when creating something. It can be the self doubt that we have about our own skills or the ideas that we are trying to bring to life. We may worry about the opinions of others and that they will think what we are working on is dumb, a waste of time, or even dangerous. Whenever we attempt a creative act, there will always be something that makes it hard.

But just because we hit that resistance, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it. In fact, in many cases it means that we are on the right path. Each and every week when I sit down to work on my podcast, I find the usual culprits that make working on an episode challenging. Self-doubt, writers block, and distraction being among the usual suspects. Even so, it’s worth it to continue pushing through. Often I just type whatever comes to mind, knowing that even with a long and verbose and unpolished first, second, or third draft, I’ll find some gold that I can share with you.

External Resistance

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

— Ken Robinson

We can see that the urge to stifle creative thought will come from those with power who feel threatened by what those ideas can mean. From artists to writers, and physicists to astronomers, people who think creatively and try to push society forward have met resistance from those who want to keep things as they are. But the universe is not static. It is always in a constant state of change. This is why we should always be willing to question ideas that people like to propose as being absolutes or claim as how things must be.

When I was in the Mormon church there were dictates about what the leaders thought god wanted from us. First and foremost of which was obedience to the leaders of the church. We were often warned of books we shouldn’t read, movies we shouldn’t watch, and even music we shouldn’t listen to.

I remember feeling stifled in that I would feel guilty for wanting to learn and understand things that were considered taboo in the church. Challenging or offering different opinions on things the church set down as doctrine was usually frowned upon and in many cases not tolerated. Anything that went against the dictates of the leadership was seen as a threat to their power.

Throughout humanity, there are always those that will try to stifle art because it is through art that people are inspired to think differently about something. Whether it’s a painting or a song or a movie, anything that can move us emotionally, can change our opinions about the world around us.


Even if you feel you are not particularly creative in an artistic way, being someone that is supportive and helps others in creating can be a way to contribute to the creativeness of the world. All throughout history, great artists and inventors have had patrons who helped support them in their endeavors. These were people who recognized that even though they may not have a particular ability in some area, they were willing support others who did because it would help benefit humanity in the long run.


Another aspect to help move things creatively is to surround yourself with other people who are working on their own creativity. Last month I attended the SHIFT festival in Eastern Oregon that is put on by the Burning Man camp that I belong to. There’s tons of music ranging from rock to EDM to jazz. Performances ranging from circus clowns to aerialist and dancers. There were sculptures and paintings and intricate LED installations. There are theme camps ranging from a tea tent, to a full aerialist big top. It’s really a lot of fun with people coming from all over the Pacific Northwest and neighboring states.

Each year the art just keeps getting more and more amazing, especially some of the LED art pieces. And one night when I was walking back to my tent it occurred to me that with the technology we have in so many areas of our lives, we are able to be more and more creative in all kinds of ways. We’re able to take what others have created, the tools that have been invented, for example new kinds of musical and audio technology, 3D printing, or advances in LEDs, microchips, and code to make each new iteration of art more and more amazing.


Creativity is something that is inherent in all humans. Even in our youngest days of building sandcastles on the beach, building a car with Legos, or drawing the family dog for a school project, humans are inherently creative. I believe that we are driven to create, and that creating is one of the most human things we can do.

So what can you do to be more creative in your life? Is there an instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn or haven’t picked up since you were young? Maybe you’d like to learn to draw? Maybe gardening is more your speed. Whatever it is, I urge you to add to this world and share your creative energy. The world will be better off for it, and so will you.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening.

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Thanks again for listening.


242 – How to Become Another Person

Growing up, many of us feel like we only have a few options in how to live our lives. Like, there is a list of things we need to check off to be happy. Certain  careers that are acceptable. Certain kinds of people we should date and marry. Goals we are expected to obtain in order to live life correctly. Often we get stuck in thinking that we have a few choices in life, and we think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

But how would your life be different if you viewed yourself as something you get to create and to become someone you admire? Are you living the life you want to? If you aren’t, do you know how to create big changes in your life? Today I want to talk about, rather than simply growing and getting better little by little, what if you transformed yourself into something completely different?

We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.

— Seneca

Why does it seem that changes we want to make take far longer than we think they should? Often, we get by just making small and minor adjustments in our lives. We have found a way of living that works for us, and we don’t want to upset things. We are “fat and happy” as they say, and don’t want to upset our comfortable lives. We are stuck playing it safe, rather than just transforming our lives.

But when we think about it, can we ever really consider this growth? To me, this sounds more like maintenance, like we’re keeping an old building running with minor tweaks. For me, this is coasting. This is playing it safe.I think for many of us, there are periods of our lives when we get complacent. We are comfortable, and for many of us, this fine… or is it? What if you get to the end of your life and you see the opportunities you could have taken which would have made a dramatic change in your life and in the lives of others, but because you sought comfort over change you let those opportunities go?

While incremental change is good and helpful, if we want to be greater than we are, we need to change who we are as a person. We have chances all throughout our lives to step up and to become someone far greater than what we are.

I made a prosperous voyage when I was shipwrecked.

— Zeno

Zeno of Citium, a wealthy merchant, was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. On a voyage, he survived a shipwreck where he lost a great fortune. He ended up in Athens, and while trying to figure out what to do next, he was introduced to philosophy at a local bookshop. Zeno, so taken with the description of Socrates in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, asked the bookseller where he might find a philosopher along the same lines as Socrates. Crates of Thebes, the most famous Cynic living at that time in Greece, happened to have been passing by the bookshop. The owner of the bookstore introduced the two and Zeno became a pupil.

While Zeno could have bemoaned his fate, he took the opportunity of a clean slate to make a radical change in his life and become a completely different person. His teachings have resonated throughout history and humanity benefited because of his willingness to turn adversity into a life-changing opportunity.

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

— Marcus Aurelius

Now, the brain’s main job is to keep us safe. If something is not threatening us or dangerous, and we’re comfortable, then it makes it challenging to step up and change. Our ego will create all kinds of resistance, make all kinds of excuses, and even self-sabotage us, because it wants to keep us safe.

The kind of change I’m talking about is changing who you are at a core level, and your ego will certainly feel the fear that comes with this. This is changing your identity. It’s about letting go of who you think you are at this moment, so you can become who you want to be. The tighter you hold on to who you are, and defend who you think you are, the harder it is to become this better and more evolved person.

This type of change takes a willingness to be fearless and step into the challenges so you can learn, and see the obstacles not as things to be avoided, but the very things that strengthen you and make you even more resilient.

It’s a willingness to upset the status quo, and give up the good so you can get to the great.

Doing what you have always done, will only get you more of what you have always gotten.

The kind of change I’m talking about is transformation, not growth. Transformation comes about when we decide we want to be a different person, rather than just trying to be a better version of who we are.

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

– Seneca

Now like Zeno, sometimes changes are thrust upon us through circumstances or the actions of others, and it's important that we find ways to step up and face what life sends our way. But, what if I told you that you could decide to change who you are at any time? That you don’t have to wait until calamity strikes in order to decide to make a big change in your life. You can choose at any time to change who you are, and become a far different person than who you are now.

So why don’t we do this more often? Because we get comfortable. We get stuck. We think life is just supposed to be the way it currently is. We forget we can choose at any time to become someone different. But in order to become an even better person, we have to let go of who we currently are, and that is scary. We have to question our own identity, our own belief systems of what we think is true and who we are, so we can become someone even greater.

But you might be thinking, “Well, the stoics tell us we need to accept life for how it is, what we should learn to be happy with life gives us”, and while this is true, it does not mean they are mutually exclusive. You can be accepting and happy with what life gives you, AND still want to step up and become something greater.

In fact, we need you to be the best version of yourself and contribute to the world in a positive way. We evolve as a species by being willing to step up and not just find comfort and pleasure, but by trying to improve the world for as many people as possible.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

— William James

So how do we make these changes? How do we become this better version of ourselves? This is something I’m still trying to work out, but here’s a few ideas to start with.

First, you need to understand that you are allowed to do anything you want to in your life. When I say this to people, I’m often met with shocked expressions. The idea that we are allowed to choose for ourselves is one of the scariest and most powerful ideas that we can internalize. From birth, so many of us are not taught this lesson. It’s like we’re given a list of a few choices of how we’re supposed to live.

But the thing is, it’s a false choice. You don’t have to choose from that list. You can make your own list. It took me decades to truly understand this.

Whether it’s through our families, our church, our culture, or the media, we are always being given subtle and not so subtle messages about what we are allowed to do with our lives. When I was a church member, I felt like I could only do what were okay with churc h doctrine. I felt so powerless and not in control of my life. Once I left, I realized I was the only one who could decide how I wanted to live.

When I say you can do anything you want, there are a few caveats. We need to remember you are not able to choose or control your circumstances. You are also not able to choose the outcomes or consequences of your choices. Remember, we can only control our thoughts, choices, and actions. Nothing more.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

— Alan Watts

The next step is to spend some time really getting to know who you currently are. I know it sounds funny, because if anyone should know you, it’s you. But the truth is, we all have blindspots, and most of those come from our ego. We will often ignore or change our interpretations of things so we are comfortable with ourselves. We will downplay things that might make us look bad, and put more weight on things that make us look better.

Getting to really know yourself is challenging, because it’s very uncomfortable to take a clear and honest look at yourself. This is where accepting yourself for exactly who you are can make a world of difference. You’ll have to practice letting go of judgments about yourself, and try to be as factual as you can. A good way to help in this area is to ask someone you trust to be honest and blunt with you..

One thing to keep in mind as you work through this process self-knowledge is that your past does not equal your future. Just because you did something in the past or something happened to you in the past does not mean you will be the same in the future. You can decide to let that shit go, and recognize who you were in the past is exactly that – who you were in the past, not who you’re going to be.

Once you’ve taken time to understand and get to know yourself, the next step is to identify who you want to be. What kind of values and attributes does your ideal you have? Are you kind? Thoughtful? Generous? What kinds of behaviors do you have? How are those behaviors and attributes different than who you are now? What kind of thought patterns does this future you have?

I would suggest you take some time to write a future auto biography of this new you. You only need a few pages, but try to create as detailed a portrait of this person and their character as you can. The more details you have, the easier it will be to imagine this future you and act accordingly. Being able to have a clear and in depth profile of this person will give you something to refer to over the next few months as you work to become this future version of you.

Once you’ve taken the time to envision this new you, take some time to think about what you could do to help yourself take action to become this person. When you create a todo list for the day, think about what things this version of yourself would do. Do they get up early? What do they eat? What books would this person read? Try and be as detailed as possible.

Once you embark on this path of becoming the new you, be sure to take time and reflect back at the end of each day. Are the actions you’re taking beneficial? Are your ways of thinking helping you to become this kind of person? Are the people you’re spending your time with helping you along your path or are they hindering you? Are you creating habits that help you along this path of the new you?

There’s a lot that goes into who we think we are and the roles we play in our lives. Often we get stuck in patterns of thinking which hold us back from becoming the person we want to be. Sometimes, rather than just making small incremental changes, we need to change our whole belief system and become another person.

The Stoics teach us the most powerful tool we have is our perspective. This is the lens through which we view the rest of the world, and give meaning to the events in our lives. When we decide to see the world through the perspective of the future version of ourselves, that's when we can make significant progress in a short amount of time.

Be good to yourself.

Be good to others.

And thanks for listening!

I know I’ve put a lot of information in this episode. I actually had writer's block when I started this, but once I got rolling it was hard to keep up with the ideas that kept coming. At some point in the future I’ll take these ideas and put them into a more formalized format, but I hope some of these ideas will spark some big changes in your lives.

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.


234 – Easy Life

Easy Life
Everything is Difficult At First

Do you want your life to be easy? Do you complain, get stressed out, or upset when challenges come up in your life? Today I want to talk about why we should not only accept adversity in our lives, but learn to embrace it.

The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

— Ryan Holiday

One of the things that I notice all the time are ads on Facebook promising some easy hack to get more clients, make more sales, lose weight faster, etc. It seems as if everything can be reduced to some kind of easy hack to be successful. And I’ll admit that I have fallen for some these. I’ve purchased a program that is supposed to teach me the “easy way” to one thing or another, only to find that there usually is no easy being successful at something.

So why do we look for the easy way? Why are we often taken in by promises of easy success? I think it’s pretty obvious because working hard at something is, well, hard. But I want to posit a few ideas on this. While we think it would great to have easy success with something, do we lose something if we have easy success? I want you to consider the idea that if we have an easy success at something, we may be cheating ourselves of some of the most important skills we need.

Think of it this way: Who are we more impressed by? The person that was simply given everything in their life? The ones got their jobs or were admitted into schools, not because of their own merit, but because of their family connections or wealth? Or are we more impressed by those who came up against incredible obstacles and persevered? Which story is going to make a movie that we’d actually want to watch?

One should never wish for life to be easy. It is through adversity that we strengthen our skills, test our mettle, and know what we are capable of.

— Erick Cloward

I’ve often talked about how I love cycling, and for several years, I was obsessed with it. I would ride at least 3 times a week logging around 150-200 miles a week. I found pleasure in tackling the big hills around my home. It wasn’t just that I knew that I would be stronger because of the work I was putting in, it was because I really enjoyed climbing those hills, I loved the feeling of the burn in my legs and feeling my strength as I pushed myself to the summit.

Over the years I’ve come up with excuses as to why I don’t ride like that anymore, but I think it’s really that I convinced myself that it was just too hard do anymore. I’ve felt discouraged that I let myself go, and I know the amount of work it will take to get to that level again. But in doing all that, I forgot the simple idea that I don’t have to be that good again. I just have to remember to love the process, to enjoy the ride, and to savor the burn. If I put the miles in, while I may not ever reach that level again, I’ll certainly improve over where I am now, and certainly improve my health.

The Spartans

The Spartan story of Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae is considered one of the greatest military conflicts in history. Xerxes, the King of Persia and an estimated 180,000 soldiers were held at bay for several days by a significantly smaller Greek army led by Leonidas, one of the kings of Sparta. While they eventually lost due to betrayal from a Spartan traitor, the fighting force of 7000, lead by 300 of Sparta’s elite ranks, they managed to keep the Persians at bay until the rest of the Greek army could assemble, and eventually defeat the Persian forces. Over seven days of battle, the Spartans lost 4000 soldiers but inflicted a loss of 20,000 on the Persians.

There are many reason why this story resonates with us even today. First and foremost is that King Leonidas knew that he was most likely marching to his death. He also knew that in doing so, it was the best chance to buy time for the rest of Greece to mount a defense against the Persians. Second, is that these soldiers had trained long and hard for most of their lives so that when the time came, they would be ready to face their enemies and fight ferociously. They didn’t wish for their lives to be easy, but challenged themselves to become the best of the best. Training amongst the Spartans was considered to be some of the most difficult, which is why the Spartans where extremely successful in their military campaigns.

The willingness of these warriors to push themselves to become the best they could be are part of the reason that we have stoicism and democracy. If the Persians had conquered Greece at that time, its fledgling democratic and philosophical traditions may not have survived.

Good judgment comes from experience. Most experience comes from bad judgment.

— Anonymous

A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study.

— Miyamoto Musashi

When we take on challenges and learn to love the hard parts, we also build the skills that we need to sustain what we’re doing. Think about it this way: What if your goal in life was to become the CEO of a successful tech company like Apple? What would happen if tomorrow you were suddenly given that role? Would you be able to sustain it? Would you have the skills to run a company of that size? Would you have the experience needed to make good judgments about how to run such a company? Unless you had put in the time, you wouldn’t be successful, nor would you be able to ensure the long term success of the company.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

– Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to get better at embracing the hard parts of life? How can we change our mindset to love the burn?

First and foremost is our perspective. If we look at the hard parts as something that is bad or to be avoided, then we’ll never look forward to them, which also makes it more likely that we won’t push through when things are boring, hard, or painful.

Pain and Pleasure

One of the most interesting things about the human mind is that many of the same sensations that we have are considered god or bad based upon our perspective. For example, nervousness and excitement have the same physiological symptoms, yet we consider nervousness to be bad and excitement to be good. In the kink communities, there are plenty of people that find great pleasure in being flogged. Many people enjoy roller coasters or horror movies in which they feel fear and excitement at the same time.

Using these examples, are there hard things that you normally avoid that you could find the pleasure in? Rather than simply tolerating them, can you find ways to love them? If you’ve ever seen a hard core body builder at the gym, you will often see them push themselves to where they feel immense burning in their muscles and yet have the biggest grins on their faces as they push through that pain.

Another way to look at things is to see if you can find pleasure in mastering the boring or basic things. For example, if you are learning how to program a computer, rather than just racing through the practice code, can you take time to see if you can make the code more efficient or elegant? If you’re working on becoming a writer, can you find a clearer or more interesting way to express an idea?

It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.

— Miyamoto Musashi.

Patience and Process

Another thing that trips us up is that we are often impatient. We want success and we want it now. Many of us will spend so much time trying to find shortcuts, that it would have been faster for us to have simply taken the necessary steps in the first place. We can help override this by finding ways to enjoy the journey, to love the process. We can get so focused on the end goal that we miss the scenery and experiences along the way.

Recognize that it’s the journey that will turn you into the person that you will be when you get to the end goal. Recognize that you’re going to suck at whatever it is you want to get better at. Be okay with sucking at something, and enjoy watching yourself go from sucking at something to getting better at it.

So what are you working towards right now in your life that is hard for you? Is there something in it that scares you? Are there things you’re trying to avoid that you know you need to do to get where you want to go? Can you change your perspective to find the pleasure and the excitement in it? The more you can embrace and love the sucky parts, the more you’ll look forward to the challenges, and the more you’ll learn to love the burn.

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

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

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

Find me on instagram or twitter.

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


213 – Think Long

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

— Seneca

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

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

— The Stoic Emperor

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

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

Why is Long-Term Thinking Important?

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

— Seneca

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

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


Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. 

— Seneca

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

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

Getting Started

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

— The Stoic Emperor

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

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

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


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

—David Goggins

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

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

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

Involved Detachment

Learn to detach yourself from the chaos of the battlefield.

—Robert Greene

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

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

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

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

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


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

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