An interview with Donald J. Robertson about his new graphic novel about Marcus Aurelius called Verissimus. We talk about all kinds of stoic history and the politics of his day.
Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. —Marcus Aurelius Don’t let fear, low self-esteem and the negative voices hold you back from your true destiny. —David Goggins
“When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.” ― Marcus Aurelius
Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. — Epictetus. The hardest thing about any philosophy is being able to apply what you learn in real life. We can read all the books, watch all the videos, follow all the gurus, but until we actually apply what we’ve learned, all of that learning is worthless.
It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. — William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief 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 that the whether the belief or conclusion is correct.
“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A person’s true delight is to do the things they were made for.” —Marcus Aurelius Do you really know what you want? When you think about what you want, does it excite you? Does it scare you? Are you pursuing what you want? In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about why it’s scary to know what you want, and why that’s a good thing.
“So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?” — Marcus Aurelius One of the toughest things in life is to work at a job we don’t like. There are plenty of factors that can lead to job satisfaction. Many of them are outside of our control, but there are some that aren’t, and those are the most important ones because they can lead to true job satisfaction, and maybe to finding your purpose in life.
“Be content to seem what you really are.” — Marcus Aurelius One of the hardest things in our lives is to be completely honest with our selves and with those around us. Why is that? Why do we hide parts of ourselves or lie about how we feel, especially with those we love the most?
“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.” — Marcus Aurelius. Does being a Stoic mean you can be apathetic? Does not reacting mean that you just give up? Because Stoicism is about controlling your response, it can easily seem that you just let things just happen and don’t take action. But to be a true Stoic, you are the opposite of apathetic. You are effective. By taking the time to choose your shot, you don’t waste time or energy on the things you can’t control.
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca Have you ever thought about how much energy and effort we as humans put into seeking comfort and avoiding challenging things? So many things that we spend money on in our lives revolve around making things easier or more comfortable. Part of human evolution has been to seek comfort. We try to make things easier for ourselves. But in doing so, are we robbing ourselves of a chance to grow? In our search for convenience, do we end up weakening ourselves?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt When you find yourself in a challenging situation, how much time do you spend wishing things were different than they are? Do you get stuck in thinking how it’s not fair? What if instead of wanting to things to be other than what they are, we worked with what we have? What kind of change could you have in your life and in the lives of others if you instead focused on what you could do? How much time and frustration would you save yourself? Today I want to talk about how taking action, even if it’s just a small one, can help get you on the path of moving through challenges.
“Reason shows us there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” — Seneca One of the core tenants of Stoicism is to be aware of, and to focus on what we can control and let go of those we can’t. One area that we don’t have control over is what happened in the past. It is not something that can we can change, yet it is one of the hardest things for us to let go of. Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape. Learning how to untangle ourselves from past can bring us so peace and freedom to move more lightly in the present.
“People exist for one another. You can instruct or endure them.” — Marcus Aurelius Everyone has needs. If you are a living, breathing human being, you have needs. Why do we find it so hard to ask for the things that we need? So why do so many of us feel like we’re broken because we have needs? In this week’s episode we talk about neediness as something to be understood, not to be ignored.
”It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” – Marcus Aurelius Deep down, we all harbor insecurities. We feel that we just aren’t as good as we pretend to be, or want to be. Because our ego, our identity, is wrapped up in who we think we are. When something threatens that identity, we can easily get defensive. Our ego tries to maintain the boundaries of who we think we are. This week’s episode is about one of the hardest things for us as human to receive – criticism.
“Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come.” — Seneca One of the hardest things that we have to deal with as humans is anxiety. As humans, we evolved to be constantly aware of threats around us. This is how our brains evolved to keep us alive. That rustling in the bushes could have been a snake or tiger. The adrenaline spike got us ready in flash should we need to fight for our lives or run for safety. Without these traits, humans would not have survived very long. The problem is that we are built to handle threats that don’t exist for most of us.
“Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours.” — Marcus Aurelius When we think about things that we want in our lives, we also need to think about the thing that we already have, and appreciate those things. It’s easy for us to get stuck in the mindset of only focusing on the things that we don’t have in our lives. We focus on what we are lacking as a person and where we consider ourselves as failures. We can get too focused on all the material things that we don’t have and want.
“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 For people who live in a Guess Culture, learning to ask for what we want is particularly challenging. It can feel uncomfortable, produce anxiety, and in some instances can upset the “way things are supposed to be done”. But learning to be a better asker can help improve communication with those around you, and remove a lot of stress from your life.
“Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?” — Marcus Aurelius The Stoics teach us that we’re part of the human community, that we’re here to help and support our fellow humans. None of us can survive just on our own. Even understanding this basic principle, why is it so hard to ask for help?
One thing that fascinates me about humans is our desire to find the easy way to do almost anything. So many of the things that we think of as necessities in our modern lives are simply things that make our lives easier. None of these things are good or bad. They are simply tools to accomplish things in a shorter span of time. But just like everything, it comes with a cost. As we get used to the comfort and ease these tools bring to our lives, it gets easy to become complacent.
How often do we complain about the things that we don’t like about in life? There are so many things to complain about in life. The Pandemic. The government. Politics. Our relationships. Money. Even the weather. We can all find things to complain about. Complaining about something wishes things to be other than they are.
“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.” — Marcus Aurelius Practicing stoicism is not about repressing emotions. It is not about pretending you feel nothing. It’s about understanding how your mind works, so that you can use it to benefit you and those around you. It’s about finding balance and equanimity. It’s recognizing that you have control over what you think, feel, and do. If you are swayed by every little thing other people say, or frustrated by outside events, you will be at the whims of your emotions.
I have a card in my office that I look at from time to time. It says, “Win or learn, then you never lose.” I have it sitting on my desk as a daily reminder that I when I feel like I’m failing at something to remember that I’m really just learning something.
“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 of the core tenants of Stoicism is understanding the things we control and the things we cannot control. Clearly seeing things we do and don’t have control over is a skill that can impact every aspect of our lives. It can help lower our stress and help us make better and faster decisions. It can save us energy by focusing on the important things in our lives and letting go of the rest.
“A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what they value.” – Marcus Aurelius. Every human being is worthy because they exist. You were not put here to live for someone else. You are here to realize your full potential, and if you are living for others, you are not following your path.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius On this podcast I talk a lot about being responsible for for your own actions and thoughts, but what does that really mean? How do you actually accomplish this?
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.” – Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius warned us worrying about the opinion of others is a waste of time. But, if we live with other people and are social animals, shouldn’t we worry about what others think?
“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.” ― Marcus Aurelius Humans are very social creatures. It is our ability to be social and to cooperate in large numbers that has enabled us to create such amazing societies. We usually feel most at home when we’re with others, but there are times when we find ourselves alone. Most of us find it rather uncomfortable. How do we learn to be alone?
“If it is not right, do not do it. If it is not true, do not say it.” — Marcus Aurelius One of the hazards of being alive is the fact that we’re never going to please everyone. We’re going to have people that will not like what we do. People are going to criticize whatever it is we’re doing. And in the 21st century, this is nowhere more apparent than in social media. This weeks episode is about how to be your best online.
“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life” — Marcus Aurelius What could possibly go wrong? One of the biggest mistakes that we as humans make is that we are far too optimistic about how something we’re planning might go. In doing so we often fool ourselves into believing that it will work as planned, and overlook what could go wrong. In this weeks episode, we’ll discuss how we can take steps to avoid the blind spots that can easily derail us.
One of the weirdest things about being a human is how we get comfortable with our habits, and resist change, while at the same time we get bored when things stay the same. In this weeks episode will talk about how to deal with the paradox of change.
“Whoever does wrong, wrongs himself; whoever does injustice, does it to himself, making himself evil.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Hate seems to be at an all time high. In this weeks espisode we discuss if hatred is part of Stoicism.
Why is it hard for us to be vulnerable, especially when it comes to those we care about the most? Partners, children, family, close friends – if these are the people we are the closest to why would be afraid to be ourselves around them? In this weeks episode we’ll talk about vulnerability and the real you.
Do you struggle to live up to your principles? Do feel like when you make a mistake that all your efforts were not worth it? In this weeks episode, we’re going to talk about how to approach mistakes in a much more helpful way.
Dealing with strong emotions in life is something that all of us have to do. But in order for us to actually deal with these different emotions that we have, we need to be sure what we’re actually feeling. We need to expand our emotional vocabulary to give us the words to be able to really identify what it is that we’re feeling and then respond appropriately.
How often do we compare ourselves with others? Why do we get down on ourselves when someone is better than us at something? This weeks episode is about comparison, and how to get past the need to compare ourselves with others, and change the inner critic.
“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig. ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. How often do we look outside of ourselves to know what to do? How often do we doubt ourselves and look to others to find a solution to a problem?
How many great things have never happened because of fear? How many times did you give up on a dream because of fear? This weeks episode, we’re going to talk about fear, what it is, what it does, and how to move past it.
As human beings, we have an amazing gift – the ability to be conscious of our own thinking. How are you taking advantage of this gift? When we are unaware of the thoughts running through our head, we are relinquishing control of our mind to the old habits and patterns that we have created in our lives and letting ourselves run on autopilot. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Marcus Aurelius is...
I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation and how we accomplish the goals that we set out to do. And I think there’s a bit a confusion about motivation and how it helps us get things done. Let’s take a look at the definition of motivation: The state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something And let’s look at the definition of willpower: Control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control. Motivation is the reason why you want to do something. It’s the fuel that gets going. It is not the thing that...
“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” – Epictetus How do we deal with difficulties? Do we see them as challenges or opportunities? As something that is to be suffered through, or something that teaches us who we are? In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about difficult circumstances and how they are the things we should be most grateful for. Show Notes: What does that mean? Aren’t tough challenges supposed to make us stronger?The stoics remind us that circumstances in and of themselves are neutral. They are not good or bad unless we label...
“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” – Seneca Show Notes: – Do you think too much about the future that you are not living in today?– This quote from Seneca hits two...