289 – Interview with Mark Tuitert: Olympic Gold Medalist Speed Skater and Stoic Author

This week's episode is an interview with Mark Tuitert, an Olympic gold medalist speed skater and Stoic author. We sat down in his home outside of Amsterdam and had a wonderful conversation about discipline, handling stress, forgiving parents, and about his new book The Stoic Mindset. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed the conversation. You can find out more about Mark Tuitert at

You can also watch the interview on YouTube.

Episode Transcript:
Erick: 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 the most important points. I share my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from them all within the space of a coffee break.

This week's episode is an interview with Mark Tuitert. Mark is an Olympic gold medalist speed skater. He's from the Netherlands, which is where I'm living at the moment. And Luckily, his agent contacted me just as I moved here, and I was able to go down to his house and do an interview with him. And he just is working on a book right now called The Stoic Mindset, which should be coming out in the US and Canada and the UK in April.

We sat down, we talked about stoicism, we talked about his Olympic career, and we talked about how he was able to use stoicism to help him overcome a lot of challenges and eventually end up winning a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics. So I had a really great interview with Mark, really enjoyed sitting down and chatting with him.

(I did mangle his name at the beginning of the podcast interview, but since then I've learned how to pronounce it properly.)

I hope you enjoy this interview with Mark Tuitert.

So hello everybody, today is my first live interview for the Stowe Coffee Break podcast. I'm here with Mark Tuitert so we're actually here in the Netherlands. I just happened to be here when we got contacted by him and it, so this worked out. So this is my first time actually doing a live interview and filming it.

So hopefully this will go well.

Mark: Do we actually have a coffee break? Here we go. Or a tea.

Erick: So for me, this is rather exciting because like I said, this is this is all new. And. I guess let's just jump right into it. First off, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself to my audience?

Mark: My name is Mark Tuitert.

I was an Olympic speed skater and speed skating here in Holland is a pretty big sport. So I was a professional athlete between my 18th and well, 34, 34 years old. And after that, I have now my own company, I'm a motivational speaker, I write books mainly also about Stoicism I'm a big and avid fan of the Stoics.

So yeah, for me, I'm a father of two. I love music. I love sports. I love life. But I've had some challenging situations as an athlete, as an Olympic athlete. And I still work for television sometimes I go to the Olympics and do commentary.

Erick: Oh nice nice. So you're your agent sent me over a copy of your latest book. You want to talk a little bit about that?

Mark: Yeah. Sure. Yeah, The Stoic Mindset. Yes I always used a lot of wisdom From philosophy during my sports career. So within my career I I had to deal with a lot of pressure being an Olympic athlete. I missed out on two Olympics actually in 2002 and 2006 by various reasons. We can dive into that later probably.

And that were really challenging times for me. So I had to deal with overtraining with. My parents in a divorce situation with pressure of sports, with pressure of well, the public here in Holland, speed skating is a big sport. So you have a lot of pressure. You can earn money with it, of course, but on the other side, missing two Olympic games was for me a tough situation because I've been training for four years for the one Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City training for four years for the Olympics in 2006 in Turin and I missed out on those.

So for me, I had one chance to train for Vancouver another four years. And during that time I read a lot and I really was intrigued by the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, by the sayings of Seneca, of Epictetus, and I really, during my career as I got older and a little bit wiser, I used these. texts and philosophy, philosophical ideas to yeah, not only be, be a better person or make wiser choices. And that helped me a lot. Leading up to the Olympics in 2010. For me, that was the pinnacle of my career, probably last chance. Mm-Hmm, . I I could start on an Olympic games and two or three weeks right before these games.

I did everything I could within my control to be the best athlete I can be. And I had to dive deep for that in my whole life. And yeah, for me, that was life changing. So, what, what my mindset was right before these Olympic Games, I think was really stoic. I don't judge my parents for what they do.

I don't look at competitors, what they do. I don't worry about the journalists, what they write about me. I only focus on my internal state of mind, my mindset. That's what I call the stoic mindset in my book. And so I, I, I concentrate on my, yeah, my inner voice being. Stable being yeah, being a voice of courage.

So not dealing, not pushing away the fear because you feel fear right before an Olympic Games. Absolutely. Working with it. So not pushing it away. Stoic. Yeah, could be in our English or Dutch language. Pushing feelings away. Not like that at all, but just embracing the fear, embracing the challenge.

And just look at yourself. No, I give everything I have. I can look in the mirror. I know I did everything I could to get here. I'm 29 years old. I was in Vancouver. Probably this is going to be the last chance you get on an Olympic Games. Yeah, absolutely. And that's you're nearing your retirement age as an athlete.

Yeah. So these things for me were Yeah, these thoughts that They were thoughts that kept me grounded and It's not that I didn't aspire to a big goal. I aspired to win Olympic gold, to be the best speed skater I can be. So that's what I wrote a book about. So how can you give everything you have, dream big, reaching your goals, but still detach from the negative emotions resulting you know, with that road leading up to that big goal.

And for me, that helped a lot. And after two, three years ago we had difficult times with my company first energy gum. COVID was happening production wise, things were going the wrong way. So I was really challenged. Yeah, I learned how to deal with this, and I see a lot of people struggling with this, so why don't I write it down in a book so people actually can, yeah, maybe learn something from it.

And it's not like I want to point the finger, but I want to tell my story so people can relate to that. And they don't relate probably to winning an Olympic gold medal, but relate to the journey, relate to the setbacks, dealing with pressure, dealing with Things that are not in your control, dealing with chaos.

That's where I find the beauty in Stoicism. It's like for me, how can you keep standing upright in the storm of life? Like Marcus Aurelius did, like Seneca did, like all these great thinkers and people did who adopted this philosophy. 

Erick: So what was it that first drew you to it? Do you remember how you found Stoicism?

Mark: Yeah. Well, I was always intrigued by history and in, in, in school, I loved history. And the first time I was really challenged by a situation was when I was 19, 20 years old. I was the hotshot talent in speed skating. I signed a big contract. I, well, I was on under the pressure of the Olympics of 2002 coming up.

I did a lot of interviews. My sponsor paid me a fair amount of money so there was a lot of pressure on me, but I still was living at home with my parents who were going through a divorce. So me being the oldest son, I tried to intervene between the two people I love and that didn't work out.

Actually, it, yeah, for me, what happened was I yeah, I, what was sort of a flight into the one thing I thought I could control that was training harder. So for me. I trained harder and harder and harder. I trained seven days a week, 2, 3, 3 times a day. So rest days, or I don't do rest days, you know? Yeah, I just grind.

Wake up early, go to bed late and grind it through. But that's not how you become fit mentally and physically and emotionally. I was wrecked the winter of 2002. I missed out on these Olympic games. I was overtrained. Lying on my bed, I was sick. So I couldn't train that winter. I missed the Olympic Games.

And that was, for me, that was like a sort of an epiphany. Like, how can we fool ourselves like this? How can we think we know how it works, life works, no? If I put the hours in, and of course you have to work hard and put hours in to get somewhere, but we can get blindsided, we can have blinders on, and I had that.

So as I was really fascinated how that worked, like, how can I fool myself? I have to reflect on myself so that this doesn't happen again. I have to learn from this. So I read a lot about overtraining, about how psychology works. But I also read by then when I was 20 years old, beautiful text of Mark Aurelius.

So I read parts of the meditations already. And a beautiful quote of, of Marcus is that the impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. And for me, yeah, that's, that's, that were the first lights of stoicism that I thought, Hey, that's, that's a really, really beautiful way of thinking through setbacks, not as the end of the road, but it's an obstacle in your path and it's up to you to find a new direction in life.

So that's actually my first chapter in my book. That you can use obstacles or setbacks as a signpost. So what does this teach me? How do I deal with this? And from that point on I found a new journey with a new coach. And it went really well within two years. I was a European champion and everything happened.

In the right way, but I still was not there. It's not really, really what stoicism clicked for me was in the years leading up to Vancouver. But I learned through the years it, yeah, it sort of evolved. 

Erick: Yeah. No, I think that I think that over training is probably very common in a lot of sports. So I know that so I used to cycle a lot, not competitively or anything like that, but I used to cycle a lot.

and there'll be times when I'd just be riding, you know. You know, two, 300 miles in a week. And while for Tour de France athletes, that's easy, but I have a full time job and kids and all that kind of stuff. And it was, you know, I basically wore myself out and you reach a point where your body just says, Hey, that's fine that you want to do that, but you can't and learning to step back and go, okay.

And so I think over the years I've worked hard to try and develop that, that attitude of working hard enough. Yeah. And resting enough. Yeah. And that has really made a big difference on that. And finding that, like Stoic teaches, finding that temperance, that moderation. Yeah. And it's that balance of those two that's really going to get us there.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. It's the self discipline, the moderation you have to find. And of course, especially when you're young, you can grind. You have to grind. It's beautiful. There's something, there's beauty in there too. Yeah. To have a big dream and give it all you have. But it's a really thin line in blinding yourself.

So that's what I found is beautiful in stoicism. It's the practical philosophy side of it. Yeah. And we don't philosophize about concepts and abstract things. You can really philosophize and how, how is this helping me to lead a good life and what does it mean to lead a good life? What is that? Absolutely.

Is that winning an Olympic gold medal? A lot of people, a lot of athletes I know. Are under the misconception that if you win the medal, like entrepreneurs, if they sell the company, if you do this, then it's all been worthwhile. So you look back from that gold medal to your career and then you can say it's worth it.

But that's, that's the other way. That's the wrong way of thinking about it. It's a guaranteed failure for yourself. If you look at it like that, if you think of happiness like that, if you think of success like that. So you can still chase that gold medal But I think you really have to reflect on what it means to be successful.

What does it really entail? 

Erick: Yeah, very true. I think that One of the things that for me I actually approached this topic on my podcast last week. It was like, how do you stay content while you're striving for your ambitions?Yeah, and it's I people think of them as you would do one or the other like if I'm content with my life I'm not gonna be ambitious And it's not that, it's that you find contentment on the path, you don't find contentment, it's not an end point, it's not a static state of being, it's while you're journeying along, you find contentment there, while you're heading towards your ambitions, and if you can do that, you enjoy the whole thing all along the way and you're having a great time the whole along the way. 

Mark: And you can have hard times and you can have challenging times. And sometimes you feel sad or you feel lost and that can all be a part of that journey. But that's what life is, right? I find it beautiful in Epictetus or in Stoics.

Accept the reality of life. You know, it's not a dream or something far away. What life entails so it's to accept that and not run away from it, but yeah, don't shy away from that 

Erick: So I wanted to ask you, what are your daily practices in stoicism? What are the things that help you? Each and every day, because in Stoicism, we talk a lot about having practices, about having kind of rituals that we follow to help remind us to live these things and to get us there.

Mark: What are your practices? Well, I'm not like the dead ritual guy that has an agenda and says I'm doing, I'm doing this at six o'clock and then at eight o'clock, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What I really do is before when I wake up and when I go to bed, I take a couple of minutes to reflect. That's it.

Actually, I, I, I make sure I, I, I am thankful for what I encountered that day. Thankful for everything. Also, if it's hurting or it's sadness, I'm thankful for that. And that helps me a lot. So when I go to sleep, like Seneca says, before we go to sleep, we have all encountered fortune or the mistress Fortuna.

And I find that it's a beautiful thing to do when you, right, before you go to sleep, what are you thankful for and what are the things you still have to learn on your path there because we're all prokoptons, right? We're all stoic learners. We're not the saints. We're not the Holy Spirit. We're not God.

We're human beings. So I'm not a natural stoic. I'm an athlete. I want to win gold. I want to beat everybody. I want to challenge myself. I want to go out there. So stoicism for me is like a really a sort of framework. And I use these reflections every day when I wake up and when I go to bed. Also thinking of death, contemplating death memento mori what, what if I look back at the end of my life, hopefully it will, I will be old.

My, my grandmother is a hundred years. She's still. Is alive I hope to reach that age, but if you look back at your life, did you make wise choices? Were you chasing the right things, not the wrong things? Were you in connection with the people around you, the people you love? So, so these reflections help me every day.

Am I doing the right thing? For me to say at the end of this life or even at the end of this day, because you don't know if there's a next one. Are these the choices I want to make? Am I on my own path? Am I leading my own path? For me, stoicism is a sort of way to reflect on that. And that's what I write in my book to the stoic mindset.

It's, I don't embrace stoicism or I don't teach stoicism through my book. Like this is stoicism, like a religion or a dogma – far from it. I think everybody, you can see it as an inspiration and a school of thinking, learning to think better, to look at life in another way. And that's what helps me a lot. So it's up to you.

It's not like we don't have a teacher to put it into practice, but it's not like we don't have a teacher saying, Oh, you can do that. Or you can do that. No, it's for me, it's a relief and a way of expanding my view and and doing it in a non judgmental way. That's what I tell myself every day too. What, what are the things you're judging others about?

What's the judgment you can withhold? What's the reflection you can do on this?

Erick: I think for me kind of , to kind of clarify, or to kind of put a point on that, the way that I've talked about it, and because I've had people ask me, it's like, so what is the difference between this and a religion? Yeah.

And you, you nailed it. It's, it's the dogma. There's no dogma with stoicism. It's about, these are tools, these are mindsets, these are principles. And because they're principles, they're flexible, they're, they allow you to adapt to any situation. You filter it through the principle, you know, is, am I using courage?

Am I being wise? Am I being just? Am I being, 

Mark: Disciplined? And probably you know, right? If you're not making a wise choice, you sometimes you do that and you know, yeah, you know, this is not a wise choice, but I still do it anyway.

Erick: Exactly.

Mark: Okay. But then you cannot fool yourself. Right? 

Erick: Exactly. And, and the thing is, is it's, for some people that's harder. Some people want religion. They want a dogma because it's easier to follow, you know, you know, that's fine, too Yeah, and it's fine if that works for you But I think that I think that that's what attracted stoicism to me was that I grew up Mormon And so I was a very dogmatic religion, and I tried living all of the principles exactly the way they said and I was still unhappy.

I was miserable for so much of my life and so I left the church and that it wasn't until like I said about seven years ago when I finally found stoicism, and it was suddenly like, “Why didn't I know these things growing up these things could have really changed my life?” I learned what I can't control I learned how to change my perspective on so many things 

Mark: and It's freedom of thinking it is way more freedom. It’s funny that stoicism started off and then Christianity came in between and now Stoicism is on the rise again probably and then I think it will be for a couple of thousand years. So it's what suits you and for me too, for me getting rid of the dogmas. So I'm, I'm really also a little bit, there are also people of course who say, Hey, this is not stoic or that's, that's not stoic.

And I find that amusing because this is philosophy. It's not like a set of rules you have to abide to. It's a way of thinking which you want to adopt because it enriches your life and it expands your thinking. Without judging and that's I think the beauty of it. 

Erick: Yeah, I find that funny when somebody says when I I'll look on the reddit Stoicism forum sometimes and answer questions on there from time to time and I do think it's funny when somebody says well That's not stoic.

Yeah, whatever and I'm just like that's are you sure? I mean you're being very judgmental You see according to which stoic exactly you could say I don't think that follows stoic principles very well, and explain why but just to make a judgment, and you be the arbiter of, well that's not stoic. You know, you could say that that behavior doesn't seem to follow the principles, and I think that that's where, where for me, I like kind of having that, like I said, I like having that flexibility, because it allows you to, because life is full of nuance.

It's not black or white, it's not, It's not right or wrong all the time. It's things somewhere in the middle. It's like, for me, my favorite movies are the ones where you kind of like the villain. That there's empathy for the villain because nobody's all bad and nobody's all good. And I like it when people are darker and they're a little messier with things.

Because that's the way life really is. And I think stoicism allows for that messiness in life, and I think that's very important. Oh yes, it does. I think so too. And I think that too many, and I think that that's why it's becoming more and more attractive to people, because life is so complicated.

And I wanted to, I guess that kind of leads into one of my next questions is stoicism in modern life. I mean, how do you think that stoicism can help us with our fast paced technology to the world? 

Mark: Well, I think we, we get distracted a lot by, by phones, by news, by social media posts. People really are getting used to just putting their thoughts and their judgments out there and we have to react.

So it's a reaction. Yeah. Society. We react on reactions. Yeah. So we react, but nobody takes a step back and reflects and think, Hey, why am I doing this? Why is somebody hurting me? Or what do I feel? You know, if on Twitter or X or whatever you call it these days, if somebody reacts and has a vile opinion or about me or I am on television and, and, and somebody.

It hurts me, it really is, I think, why is, what you could do, and I think this is really stoic, like, why does this hurt me this much? Why? Is the opinion of one, one person, of me, valuable? It might be, it might be somebody I respect or somebody gives me feedback in a, but if I respect someone, he gives me feedback in a, in a way I can do something with that, that, that's.

That's what I find valuable, but that wouldn't hurt me actually. Right. So why does it hurt me? Is it my ego? Is it something I want to push back on? And like, well, you this and you that that's the, that's the impulse you have. Right. That's what, what the Stoics teach, teach us is like, okay, the impulse is there.

Of course, if somebody cuts me off in traffic. My first impulse I'm going to do something to you, you know and I think the beauty of stoicism is to take a step back and think about, okay, somebody, do I give this person the power to make me feel like this? Like Epictetus would say, you're complicit.

In the story, if you react, you can also detach from that story, leave your own life and let the impulse flow away and use your thought on why this matters. So for me what really helped me is when I, in 2006, I missed the Olympic games. I was in the final five others in the final six of touring and I was lost.

I did really well in tests. I had a perfect score. I had a great condition. My technique was good. Where I missed out on the Olympics again, because I, I fell in the strangest places during a race, right? In the corners I fall, like out of nothing. I was unstable. So I thought about this again, like not trying to work harder or react, but take a step back and say, where is this coming from?

So I had a mentor, I had a great conversation with a mentor of mine and he really showed me a beautiful thing. He said, okay, what do you, he asked me a question, how, where do you stand you towards your father and mother? Because my father and mother were still fighting each other in the divorce situation.

And I put myself in between them. I was the one, you know trying to fix the situation. And I thought. Also, if I fix the situation, I find rest. And if I find rest, I can become a good athlete. So I have to fix the situation. But I learned to see it the other way around. This is not my situation. This is not my fight.

This is a fight between two people I love, but it's not my fight. I have to step out of this fight and say that. I said, Mom, I'm not your co fighter in this fight. This is you. This is me. I have my own path. And I went to my father and that's where judgment comes in. I was really angry towards my father. So a lot of anger and that's what a Stoics teach us.

And I think the beauty of Stoicism is. You can't get rid of that anger. That anger has got nothing to do with my father. Epictetus would say, we have our, our things that happened to us. I mean my parents divorcing. And then on the other hand, we have these emotions, but there's something in between.

That's your judgment of the situation. So it was my judgment of my father that causes the anger. It's not my father. I would, and it's, we all do this, right? We blame someone for the feeling we blame the person, or we blame the situation and that's totally not stoic. So Epictetus really, I thought that resonated with me.

So I talked with someone and Hey, I know this. This is from Stoicism, it's from Epictetus, right? So I, I thought about this, and I asked him what to do. He said, just call your father up, just do that. And I did that, without judging him. Yeah. It's my judgment, not his. So I asked him questions, and I, that's I think what we should learn to do more often, and that's what the Stoics, and we all learned from Socrates.

Don't think you know this. Don't think you're the right person for this. Don't think your judgment is how the world works. It's your judgment. Yeah. So if you ask a good question and be really honest in your, in you wanting to know the answer. So I, I called my father up and I said, I miss him and let's get into contact with each other again.

So I, I withhold my judgment. Of course, I judge him somewhere for what happened, but I tried to not intervene. Let that judgment intervene between our situation. And even up to this day, I, I, I, now I can say I'm 43 years old. I, that whole judgment is gone. It's gone. Yeah. I love my father for who he is.

And yes, he has his troubles and his dark sides, but Hey, look in the mirror. I don't? So, so for me, it was really, am I a better 20, 30 years older? These reflections. Do I know what it feels like to have not any contact with your sons for six years? No, I don't. So instead of judging him, it's wiser to try to let him into my life again.

Yeah, and my father was there when when I won Olympic gold medal. So it was, that was great and in these four years between 2006 and 2010. I didn't feel any anger, so the anger faded and what made that situation better for me in my life was my life became better because my choices became wiser because they were not fueled by anger.

I could become a better athlete, more relaxed. That sort of paradox, right? The balance, what we talked about. So I was more relaxed I could dive deeper with training, I could work harder and I become a better person, but also a better athlete. And that's, for me, that was the one thing I needed to really get the best outta myself and to become Olympic champion.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah, I can relate to that very well. I had to. A lot of anger towards my father as well. Yeah. So my parents got divorced when I was 20, when I was 20 years old. Yeah, yeah, same age. Yeah, and and when I found out why and found out all the reasons for it, and I was, like I said, I grew up Mormon. I was on my mission in Austria when I found out.

Oh, yeah. And I was, I was very angry. I was. I came home, I tried to talk to my dad a little bit about it. He was very evasive about things. And then unfortunately we never got to really reconcile because he died just a few years after that. So, just completely out of the blue. So, his pancreas just started eating the rest of his organs and he died within 10 days.

But over the years as I've gotten older and wiser, and I've had kids of my own and recognize how challenging that is, learned to really work to forgive him and to understand him because, you know, with the fact that he was dead, all that hate did, all that anger did was hurt me. And so trying to understand him, because he wasn't all bad, there were plenty of things about him that were great.

But when they weren't, it was really awful. And so it was like, about an 80 20 split. Like, 80 percent of the time, he was good. 20%, he was awful. And so I, now I'm at that point in my life where I can look back on that and just appreciate it. The good things.. He was smart. He was funny. He was kind. 

Mark: Yeah.

Yeah. I think, yeah, that's a beautiful way of saying it. And I, that's also what I find fascinating is somebody to, to, to change that perspective. Yep. You don't need the other person. Actually, the person cannot be there anymore. It's your perspective, which you can change. 

Erick: And that was the thing that I learned was that I had to change my perspective about my dad.

And I choose that perspective. It's not that I ignore the bad things he did. He was very abusive when we were growing up. At certain points. But I can still appreciate the good things that he gave us.

Mark: That's what Epictetus says, right? I found it beautiful in his sayings. He said too. It's your parents, you don't get to choose your parents.

That's what's given to you. So you better learn and love what's given to you. They can be challenging, they can be bad, they can do horrible things, but they're your parents. And I always pushed that thought away. People say, hey, it's, it's your father. I say, yeah, well, to hell with that. But it's true. It's like, it's exactly what Epictetus says and what the Stoics, these wise people tell us.

It's like, you can be angry at your neighbor or your brother, or you can wish another father, but that's not the case. This is reality of life. And it's your role as a son to be a good son, to watch your father or to watch your mother and to respect what they've did. You don't know. You don't know where they come from.

They have their burdens. They have their share which, which they take on their shoulders and you don't know what that's like. So you can judge them, but you don't know. 

Erick: Yeah, and the only, and the thing is, is like I said, when you hold on to that, you're the person that gets hurt. You're hurting yourself.

It's that old Confucius saying, like, holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal that you want to throw at somebody. The longer you hold on to it, you're the one that gets burnt. And I was just like, I remember I read that when I was a teenager and I was like, that's an interesting idea. And then as I got older and found stoicism, I'm like, there's the coal again.

There's the coal. 

Mark: Totally get that idea. It's so powerful that you can just. You know, just so you can get rid of these negative emotions. That's, I think, the beauty in the way of thinking in Stoicism is philosophy. 

Erick: Yeah, absolutely. So I want to touch on something that I know is, it's probably one of the hardest topics in your book.

And that's about your mother's suicide. How did that impact you personally? And what was it that, maybe in Stoicism, maybe it was something else that helped you get through that? Because I imagine that was an incredibly hard thing. 

Mark: Yeah, it was really hard. So my mother was severely depressed. The hardest choice I ever had to make in my life in 2010, right before the Olympics was to call my mother up and ask her not to come to Vancouver, just stay home.

And she was there when I first stood in the ice. She was there going with me to training, et cetera, et cetera. So I love my mother but, but for me, there was, I think we all, that's the challenge we all face in life. We have our own path to take. We have to find our own path. And for me, I was heading. I my life where I had to really choose my own path and make hard decisions.

So I called my mother up and said, mom, I love you, but I cannot handle you being there emotionally, physically. So please don't come. And she couldn't handle that trip because she was not in a good way and not in a good position in life. Two years later, she committed suicide. And that's, that's sad. That's, that's terribly sad.

But what for me clicked after that was. And I look at it. It's not, dying is not, for her, of course, dying was a sort of a relief. Because she was in a lot of pain. And I cannot comprehend what it's like to endure that pain. I know people who are depressed. I know people who have thoughts of doing that. And I know, thank God, a lot of people who get through that and enjoy life.

Again, she couldn't. So And she's stubborn. And she has a powerful will. Ha ha! So she really, for her, it was a relief. So the, the, the pain is on us as sons or as and, and that's there, there is no love without pain and, and, and that's what life is like. So it's painful. So. With negative emotions, I, I don't say they're, I'm, I'm not against pain.

If, if it's natural pain, if it's there, it's, it's real, it's okay. It's hurts, but hey, this is life. I don't have to push that back. It's there. So I let that pain come through. And for me, the real pain was not in that moment. She, she died or committed suicide. It was more in the, at the 10 years leading up to that point, she didn't have a life.

Yeah, she was depressed and she couldn't handle it. You know me with my stoic mindset. I'm like just think this different. She couldn't she just couldn't .And we tried. So for me, it was letting go of that and letting go of controlling her life or controlling her decisions. So finding peace in the decision she actually made and not only finding peace in that, but also not wanting to change that.

That's of course, I want her to be there, but for me, I want, that's me, as a son, I want my mother to be there. My oldest daughter was just born. So I'm like, You have your first grandchild and you don't want to be here anymore. And I thought about it and probably it's for her. And she know the, she know how this feels to have a grandchild.

And, and then there's such a disconnect with the way she was feeling for herself. So you, I cannot comprehend that. So for me, what, what I find beautiful in Stoicism is, okay, I have my life. And I want to, the way I can commemorate or honor my mother is to live to the full extent of my life. That's what I can do with the people around me I love, with my brothers, with my children.

And that's what I, that's my mission. I can do that and I can show another way. And I don't get my mother back for that, but my mother lives through me. Her love is still there and that helped me a lot. So death is not something I fear or abolish or abandon from my life. It's there. And I'm gonna be there with my mother and it's gonna be there for me.

But that the only thing I want is to live and go out there in life, not hold back, not hold back on love, not hold back on being pushed back by negative emotions. So let go of these negative emotions, clear space for joy, for zest, for freedom, for living. And and if death comes, then I can look back if I have the chance.

Maybe it's swift, maybe not and say to myself, wow, this is this has been a work of art. That's, yeah, that's how I look at it. 

Erick: Yeah, I hope I hope I can get to that point as well. And right now I'm, like I was telling you earlier, I'm kind of in a state of flux of just finding my, my own path right now.

And I can appreciate what I've, what I've done in my life and accomplished, but I feel like I could do so much more. And sometimes I, I struggle with that because I don't feel like I've done anything great in my life yet. I don't have any, like, I don't have a gold medal that I can look back on, but I can at least look at, you know, I've got two great kids who turned out to be great people.

And I, I, I enjoy being around my kids. They're happy. They have their struggles, but they're just, they're good people. And they grew up, you know, even though my, my ex wife and I divorced when they were pretty young they grew up with two fairly supportive and healthy parents. And that's been That's something that I didn't really get because, you know, my dad, like I said, was very violent.

He was very, very tortured soul. And so,

Mark: yeah, so you broke the cycle.

Erick: Definitely broke the cycle.

Mark: Yeah, that's great, man.

Erick: Yeah, yeah. My sister one time, like, she, her biggest insult is you're just like dad. And there was one time where she saw me and my kids and she's like, You're not like, dad, you're a good father.

Oh, I was like, oh, wow. Thanks. Yeah. So

Mark: I would like to, we, I think a lot of people ask me this question if I, if I give motivational talks here in Holland and, and, and abroad too. A lot of questions, and I talk about this, I talk about the death of my mother. I talk my, about my parents. I, I share deeply personal stories also because I don't want to be a, a taboo or anything around that.

This is what happens in life. So for me, the question I get a lot is if it's hurting me or I feel guilt. And I could let go of that guilt too. So it's also again, Epictetus, you can blame other people. You can blame the situation or you can blame yourself. You cannot, you can also do not do that. Right. Don't blame other people.

Don't blame the situation and don't blame yourself. I did everything I could. I love my mother, but this is her choice. She wanted this. So we better abide to her wish because it's her wish. It's not my, I, my wish is that she would be here also in pain, but don't let her go. So I don't feel guilt in that way.

And like for you, you know, it's not, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I think in modern society too, to be accomplished or be a good person. So of course we also feel guilt or we don't feel enough. And we have to, I think, get rid of that idea of not being enough. Or feeling guilty, of course you can make your, you make your own decisions and you're responsible for these decisions and that can be shitty decisions.

Yes. And you bear responsibility for that. It's not to. To wane off the responsibility. But if you do that and you do it with a intent, well, well intended, yeah. You should think of it every day, like it's a stoic reflection maybe. So where, where I, I don't have to feel guilty because I did what I could.

Did I do this? Did I make the right decision? Yes. Then I don't have to feel guilty. Do I feel accomplished? Maybe not, but me being the best person there is, that's an accomplishment. If we could all do that, raise beautiful children, that's the accomplishment. That's where, and that's great. That's enough. We don't have to add anything to that.

We want to. We want to build legacy. We want to be known until the end of their careers. Like Marcus Aurelius said, like Alexander and 

Erick: his stable boy, 

Mark: you know, they're, they're both buried. You can't see any distinction between their bones. What are you talking about? It's you. It's your own path. And you have to take that path.

Nobody else can do that for you. And that's, I think, the challenge in life that's, that's, that's hard. But that's where I think the purpose lies and the motivation lies and the beauty lies, it's the pain and the beauty, it lies there. And that's the road you follow. It's no, I'm not good enough. It's no guilt.

That's not there. You know, in the, Zeno of Citium, the original founder of stoicism. These were all ideas that were not there. Jealousy. You know, if we can get rid of these human ideas, which function right, they make us win gold medals because like, I have to beat that other guy. So it's not, there's nothing wrong with it.

But it's not good or bad in a, in an ethical sense. It's not a good life. 

Erick: Yeah, it just, it's, it is, it is what it is.

Mark: Yeah, it can be beautiful. It can, it can, I've, I derive a lot of pleasure from it and I love that. But that's another concept of being happy or feeling fulfilled. 

Erick: Yeah. And I think that, that we do sometimes feel that drive, like we have to accomplish something in our life.

And the thing is. We don't, we don't have to accomplish anything. You don't. What we have to do is be a good person. But, often times, when we, 

Mark: And we have to, sorry, but, Go ahead. This is funny, because, You say we have to be a good person, Or you don't have to, You know, these are all also normative thoughts. If we look at Socrates, and his questioning, And his style of questioning, If you're not good enough, Or you have to be a good person, These are, normative thoughts.

You know, when you're looking back at Socrates and what he learns is if you challenge yourself, challenge yourself or others with questions, let's say Socratic questioning. I did courses on that because I find it a beautiful instrument. And Epictetus uses it in his colleges. So you can ask, so, okay, you have to be a good person.

Why? Why is that? That's a question, why do we have to be a good person? 

Erick: Why do you have to be? And also, what defines a good person? 

Mark: What is a good person? Yeah. And why do you have to be Or do you want to be a good person? Why do you want to be a good person? Do you? You can also say, well, I don't feel great about myself, but I have to be a good person.

So I can feel great about myself. I have something like that. You know, it's, it's all, we, we, we make up stories in our mind, of course. Yeah. So the challenge is I think to really challenge these thoughts. So why is this? Stoicism, when it comes down to the four categories the values, you know, the temperance justice.

Courage, wisdom, practical wisdom. If you think through it and you ask yourself these questions, you get down to the core of this. That's what you cannot debate, actually, because that's what, if you think about it, is what a great person or a good person, that's probably what it looks like. 

Erick: Exactly. And for me, what I found fascinating was I've been studying some Socrates lately, because that was something that I found the Stoics and was like, oh, wait a second.

Basically the Stoics took Socrates stuff and this is the conclusions they came to using the Socratic method. Yeah, so basically he gave them the tools and they're like, hey, well, we're gonna refine it a little bit more. What I really liked about that was, like I said, they they used it and then they came to these conclusions.

So it's like, so they distilled down a lot of hard questions for us and answered some of those. But we can still use that same methodology to help answer any other questions for us. And so I've, that's one of, for me, that's been great coming from the stoics and then slowly working back into Socrates and trying to understand those things.

And I wanna get better about using that and think through that more. I, I think I use some of it naturally, but not in a more, in that kind of formal way. Yeah. So that's something I've been reading a book by Ward Farnsworth. He's a professor at the University of Texas, and he's written a couple of books on Stoicism and other philosophy, and he has one that's about the Socratic method, and it's like a practical handbook, and I remember, I was like, so I read part of that, and then I was like, okay.

So, yeah. Got rid of it because I have to sell my house and get rid of all of these things and so I need to go buy the e books so I can finish reading that book. But it was so good and he does such a great job of explaining it, you know, why, the how and everything but in a way that's very approachable.

It's not very dry like a professor, it's actually, you know, he's a good writer and so. . Yeah. 

Mark: That's a great method. It's really, you can learn it and practice it and it's hard to do. Yeah. 'cause you have to put your own judgment out of the situation. 

Erick: Exactly. And that's hard. Exactly. Go well. Well I know what good is.

We'll do you Yeah, of course. This is good. Yeah, exactly. Or why is that , why is it good? 

Mark: And then you, and I think that's a weird stoicism you, if you think about it. And that's, I think the, the, the nature part where the nature part comes in. The ethics, the logic, and the physics. It's. Like this is how nature works.

This is works. This is how life works. This is how the world around us works. And if you call it God or will or et cetera, et cetera, it doesn't really matter. This is, yeah, this is the way we see nature works. So if you use your reasoning. And you use the, the, the, the, the knowledge, you know, about nature and the, the, the, the knowledge that we are social animals, so we connect with other people, learn from other people, can question other people.

I think you derive these ideas from stoicism. If you, if you think of it, well, that's, you come down to this. That's for me, actually, where I. And I ended up with, in Stoicism, it's like, okay, if you follow all these philosophical ideas, you know a little bit about how the world works, how we work as people, then this is what I find most fitting.

Erick: Yeah, it seems to be the most close to, you could say, almost a universal truth. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or a set of universal truths because, one because they're principles so they can be applied and there's a bit of flexibility but also it just seems like the natural end to those questions. Yeah, yeah. Okay, yeah.

And that's, that's what I like about stoicism is that it's not an absolute you have to do these things. It's a. It's, here's the end result. And if you apply this in almost every situation, you will find this works and this is true. True. And, and I haven't found a situation where it hasn't worked. And so for me, that's been, yeah, that's why it's been so life changing for me because it helped me to see so many errors in my own thinking about things and my own reactivity and I used to be, I used to be much more hotheaded.

And now I'm much more calm about things like, like the other day, somebody sent me a really nasty note on Instagram because they didn't like a 60 second video that I put up and they were like, I can't get my time back and swearing at me. And I was like, wow. And at first I was like, you know, I, like you said, I felt that anger and I was just like, well, that's his problem.

Mark: You know, or like the stoics would say if it's his. reasoning So it's funny if, if somebody takes time to react on a message that took 60 seconds and he takes another 60 seconds to react, that's, that's okay. You've thought about this before you reacted like this. That's what, that's what you can define as stupid.

Erick: Exactly. And so I, I just was like, but I felt that little zing of like, and I had to just be like, okay, well, and oftentimes when I do that, I take even one further step back and I'm like, Wow, if somebody feels that way or feels that upset about something so small like that. Yeah, 

Mark: imagine where they are in life.

Erick: Exactly. It almost, it made me feel sorry for them. And I have a little bit of empathy towards them. I'm just like, wow, that's, that's tough. If you're, if you're that upset because I had a 60 second video that you thought was me just rambling because I talk, I was in Florida at the time because I'm talking about the weather in Florida and then I, I, I proceeded to finish my lesson.

It was like, you know, 15 seconds of, Hey, here's the weather like this. It's kind of cool, blah, blah, blah. And then the, you know, the rest of the 60 second video was talking, you know, I think I was like, Hey, I'm going to be doing a Q & A session. Once you dance, you know, go ahead and post some questions here and I'll try and put them in there.

And I was like, wow, if he's that, if he's that upset over that. Wow, I feel, I feel kind of sorry for him. 

Mark: Yeah, I think that's an empathic, empathetic way of looking at a situation. 

Erick: Whereas before I would have been like, you're such a jerk. You're a jerk, no, 

Mark: you're a jerk, no, you're a jerk. 

Erick: Exactly. And so I decided that for me, it has been helpful because this allowed me to get more space in between that. Rather than reacting, I can respond better. And it's, it's definitely helped my life a lot. And I, I like not being reactive like that because I used to be much more reactive because it's how my dad was. That's how I grew up. Things, something upset you. It's just like, 

Mark: Oh yeah, that's how you're probably wired and what you saw around you.

So that's really hard to change, but it gives a lot of freedom to, to feel that, right? That's, there's the freedom or else you become a slave of your upbringing or your father or your, or your, or somebody else who hurts you. And you can, you can be a leader for yourself instead of being a slave to the situation.

Erick: Yeah, and it's been really, really helpful. And I'm not perfect at it. I mean, there's still times when I get upset about things. Then I just have to 

Mark: No, but I don't think Marcus Aurelius was or all these Stoics were. 

Erick: Yeah. And they understood that. And that's, that's what's so great about Stoicism. It's not about perfection.

It's not about that you don't get angry. It's about how you choose to deal with that anger, you know, do you let it just consume you? Do you let it be reactive? Do you give that pause and just let it feel and just take a breath and let it out and then choose your response and there are many ways to do that And you just have to figure out which one's gonna be most effective for you.

Mark: Yeah, it's a misconception Stoicism right that stoic means that there's no anger or there's no I'm a normal guy. I'm not in the ideal situation. I'm not in the ideal situation of course, but of course there is in normal life. I, when I give presentations, that's the first thing I've done. When I talk about my father and I tell my story of being angry, I, I ask the audience who's angry sometimes and all the hands go up, you know, I say, well, good. Welcome in life.

This is what you feel. It's not a, it's a misconception that stoicism or being stoic means that you don't feel that anger. No, it can be there, but we're grownups. We have the ability to reason, so we can make a conscious choice to not give into that anger, but to give, to take distance from it and think about it and react in a different way and let it go.

That's what we as wiser, grown up people could do. That's our capability. That's up to us. 

Erick: Yeah, and that's one of the things on my podcast. I talk a lot about people. I'm like, it's okay to feel all your feelings. Yeah. If you feel sad, okay. There are times where you want to feel sad. I mean, when somebody dies or If you love someone and you have to 

Mark: let go, that's sad.

Erick: Yeah, and you want to grieve. You don't want to not feel those things. No. You want to grieve and you want to feel the full, you know, range of emotions in life. That's what makes life great is that you have all of these. And, and I see that on the Reddit sometime, you know, people will be like, ah, I'm feeling so sad about this thing and I don't want to, you know, how do I get rid of this emotion?

And it's like. You just gotta go through it. Just feel it. The more you resist feeling sad, the more it's gonna come back and get to you. And if you're able to just kind of flow with it, you know, you follow nature. Your nature is, nature is that we are emotional beings. So flow with those emotions.

But, but, what we're talking about is not letting them do, make you, not letting them drive you to do stupid things. 

Mark: No, or not blaming anyone. Oh, you left me and now I feel hurt or sad. It's your fault. No, you're sad because somebody, you have to let somebody go or you don't want to let somebody go or else you wouldn't have felt sad.

So it's up to you. And not to change it, but to accept it. And feel it.

Erick: And accepting that. Absolutely. Accepting your emotions is an incredibly powerful tool. Because you're saying, it's one, it's acknowledging reality. I feel this way. That's reality. And 

Mark: that's the beauty where logic comes in.

And I write it in a chapter five of my book, The Stoic Mindset, it's about amor fati. Hey accept your fate and love it. I think that's a really hard thing, especially if life throws you around or you, you get hurt or you have a terrible disease you have to encounter. And I think it can be really hard.

I have an example of Vivian Mantel. She was an Olympic Paralympic snowboarder and she had a beautiful life. She was a beautiful person. I interviewed her for my podcast. She's here in Holland. She's like. The pinnacle of, of the radiation of positive emotions of beauty, but still she was diagnosed with cancer, which she died from, from two years ago, sadly.

And she knew this, she knows, she knows she was going to die, but she still did all these things in life, which with a positive attitude, she never complained. She was there. She was cared for other people. She was a beautiful person. So that's also what's possible in that situation. So I think the funniest thing is that that's what I find the beauty in Stoicism.

It's in that sense rational because If you have the choice, you, she had like she, there was a doctor and the doctor told her you cannot snowboard anymore and you're going to die. You have cancer. So the logical thing to lead a good life and a fulfilling life is to, and this is terribly hard and I, I, I'm healthy.

So it's for me, it's easy to say, but if I look at her the logical thing to do is the only thing you can do is not only accept that, but also love it. The reality of life. This is my reality right now. And you can come, you can push it away, you can get angry of it, but that hurts you. So the life you have left is not going to be good.

It hurts you. So logically, if you want to lead a good life, the only option you have is to accept it. And if, if, if you want to lead a really good life, love it. Yeah. And that's, that's so hard, but it's logically, it's the only option you have. 

Erick: There was a great article that I just read the other day and you'll love the title of it.

It's called “Welcome to Holland” Oh, yeah, and this woman wrote it and it was about how, kind of the story goes along. It's like so imagine you're planning a trip. You're going to Italy, you were excited. You wanted to go to Italy your whole life. You plan this trip. You've got it all down and you you make all the arrangements, you get off the plane, and the first thing that happens is, you, the stewardess, you know, welcomes you, and goes, “Hello! Welcome to Holland”.

You're like, wait a second, let's just go to Italy. 

Mark: What's going on here? Why is the sun not shining? Where's my pasta? Where's my espresso? 

Erick: So, and then you walk in and you're just like, but all these things I won't see. And, and, the woman who was talking about it, in regards to, sometimes the life that we want, flying to Italy,

it's not the life that we get. We end up in Holland. But if all we do is pine away for Italy and why we didn't get to Italy and life's unfair because we didn't get to go to Italy. Then we miss all the beautiful things about Holland. Yeah. We miss the windmills, we miss the canals, we miss

Mark: We miss the weather.

Erick: It's actually, I mean, I don't mind this weather. It's better. I lived in Minnesota for five years, so this weather is fine. 

Mark: Well, I, I, my holidays I go to Italy because I love, I love Italy. I want to go there too, but I, we're here at the waterfront and it freezes over here. It's beautiful.  

Erick: Absolutely. And that's the thing. It's just like all of the things here. Yes, we don't have, you know, Michelangelo's, but you have Rembrandt's here. You have Van Gogh's. 

Mark: Yeah, we have Amsterdam. It's beautiful. That's what Epictetus is to quote. Do not seek to have events happen to you as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen and all will be well for you.

Exactly. It's just that I could not understand exactly what I mean. This is, yeah, Mark Aurelius said not this is a misfortune, but to bear this worthwily is a good fortune. 

Erick: Yeah, absolutely. And so I, it was just funny that I stumbled on this article just a couple of days ago and I was like, that's so great. And I was like, given that I'm here…

Mark: So that's why you ended up here in Holland. You wanted to be here. 

Erick: I didn't know where I was going. So I just, “Welcome to Holland!” Yeah, it was, it was, it was, but I really like that kind of metaphor about that and I thought it was appropriate for where we are. So just, I guess we'll finish up with a few more questions.

Here's a good one. Advice for aspiring Stoics. So if somebody is interested in Stoicism, what advice would you give? Are there specific books, practices or thought exercises you'd recommend? 

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Well, actually this is the question I got a lot especially during COVID and during presentation.

So the Stoic mindset, I really. I wrote it because it's an introduction into how you can think more stoic and how I deal with that. And there are 10 lessons in the book, which you can follow. So it's really an intro to stoicism. If you want to dive deeper, of course, I would say people yeah, get to the original text of Seneca, of Marcus Aurelius, of Seneca is easy to read.

It's a good intro. Marcus Aurelius. It's not something, you know, the meditations you, you, you probably will read from A to Z within an evening is more, you read it through it and you contemplate and, and Epictetus, it's a little harder to, to, to follow and grasp, especially the whole bundle. So, but it's definitely worthwhile, I think, if you look at the Stoics and think of where they come from and what situation they were in life and it's unfortunate that we don't have all the texts of the early Stoics.

Yeah. And, and if you think of the Greek empire and the Roman empire and the Greek city state, Athens. What happened there? It's a beautiful way where these, these people went through challenges. So, so read them and think about that. What, what does that mean? If you, you know, if you're the emperor of Rome and you encounter not only the loss of children and the betrayal of your best general, but also a pandemic that ravages your empire, how do you deal with that?

How do you keep sane? How do you keep doing the right things? So if you wanted the leadership lessons, start with Marcus Aurelius. If you want to have a friend who gives you some friendly and more worldly advice, go to Seneca. If you want to have a teacher who sometimes is stern and tells you what to do, look for Epictetus.

So that's. Where I would start off with and with practices. Yeah, for me making the distinction between what is up to you or what is not up to you is really powerful. Stephen Covey borrowed it of course from Epictetus and it's beautiful I think because if There's a high pressure situations that that's what I always do.

If I have a hard time, I tell myself, okay, if I have to let someone go or it's a situation I am having trouble with handling or a companion in my company, which, which I have a situation with or a confrontation with it's okay, what's up to me. What's not up to me. It's my internal state. I can do the things for myself in a good manner.

I focus on the right things to do. And I work hard for that, but the reaction of the other person is not up to me. The goal we want to reach as a company is not up to me, especially in COVID you can make a perfect business planning. You can think of products coming your way and then COVID happens and everything goes down the drain.

Every plan you had. So it's not only the output, it's the input you put in. You have to devise a new plan. You have to sit together, et cetera, et cetera. So try to do that. And for me, like I said, at the end of your day. Like Seneca did, try to think of, I think thinking of death, it sounds a little scary or not natural for people to do, but I think that's a liberating thought.

If you think about death, it's for me, it's liberating in life. I write in my book, one of the principles I write about is death makes life more epic. Yeah. Thinking about death, about the end, makes Life more epic because it makes you think about the choices you make. Are these good choices? Do you stand by them?

Do you live a life where you live a life according to your values? Do you live the hardest thing people ask themselves when they die? If they have regrets, the regrets always revolve around that they didn't lead their own life. They led a life what other people wished for them or put upon them. Yeah. So that's powerful stuff.

You should think about that every day, not at the end of your life, but right now. Yeah. 

Erick: I think most people regret the things they didn't do. 

Mark: Yeah, exactly. So live a life with no regrets. And of course, like again, you will have some. You have some. You will do stupid stuff. You're a human being. 

Erick: Yeah. And you may regret the dumb things you did, but I find that the things that I regret the most are the things that I didn't do, or the chances that I didn't take.

You know, I, you know, yes, there's some things that I did and I wish that I hadn't done them because they were tough, but I learned from them. And so I don't necessarily regret them. I, I may not think fondly on them, but I don't necessarily truly regret them. 

Mark: No, but if you see a herd of people doing something and it becomes right, or it becomes, that's why these questions are so powerful.

What is good? You know, is it something we do in the society? Is it, is it the norm? Is this in a society which we follow? Does this, is this your way you really want to live or is this your own path or do you follow a safe path, which everybody will not judge you or everybody won't be mad at you or et cetera, et cetera.

So there are a lot of powerful things working against. We have freedom for us. To reach our full potential and to break through these barriers. To break through the mold and to open up and be free with regards to other people. It's not like, well, I'll do whatever I want and woohoo, freedom. Yeah.

That's not what real freedom is. So what is it? Well, maybe Stoicism has pretty good answers on that. 

Erick: but yeah, I mean, for me, that's kind of why I'm here. It was that it, it was actually kind of scary and there were times I mean there's even, you know, time leading up to here where I just kind of panicked and be like, what am I doing?

And I'm like, well, this is crazy. I'm just coming over 

Mark: You come over to Amsterdam, maybe live here, et cetera. 

Erick: Yeah. And I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just making it up as I go along and trying to find new opportunities and try to see what I'm supposed to do in this life. And so right now it's very much exploring and it's, it's scary at times.

I'm just like, what am I doing here? I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm meeting people. I, you know, I met some people at a meetup last night that were really cool. Just getting out there and trying to make things happen. I mean, I never would have gotten to do this if I hadn't. No. And this has been great.

I've been really enjoying this. 

Mark: So you have to sit with the discomfort. You have to sit with the chaos. You have to. Do not change it, but sit with it. And I think that's I think, yeah, there, there, there's beauty on the other side. If you want to go there and sometimes things happen, you never would have imagined.

Erick: And since I've been here, there've been some days where I'm just like, ah, what am I doing here? I should just go home. It's much more comfortable there. You know, I know all these, I know, I know people, I know how life lives, you know, trying to navigate things here because I don't quite speak Dutch yet, so working on learning that.

I mean, I speak German, so I understand, I understand a lot of it and it's actually made a big difference. I can understand, I can sit in most conversation and understand most of what's going on. 

Mark: And it's funny, you know what, because I have, I'm, I'm going to the world championships in Canada and Calgary for speed skating commentary on television.

And I love Canada. I love going to the Rockies and I thought about, Oh, I have to, maybe I want to go there a couple of days earlier and see it. And I do that because I'm gone from home a long time. And it's such a. It was really, I said, well, if I think about this two days, I really already could have made the choice to go two days earlier.

I don't have to think about it. Just do it and see what I do because I want to do that. So why not? Yeah. There are 10 reasons why you couldn't or shouldn't, et cetera, et cetera. And there's one reason like, let's, I want to do it. Let's just do it and see what happens. Yeah. And that's the thing is you, that's so small.

This is a small example. 

Erick: Yeah. And I mean, I, I know that if I didn't come that I would regret it. And I had a good friend of mine, she kept saying that. She's just like, if you don't go, you will regret it. So just, you're living, you're living a dream that you've wanted to do for quite some time. And that so many people would love to do. And you have this opportunity. You are in, you are in a place where this works for you, so you better go do that. And I'm like. Thank you. 

Mark: Oh, that's great, man. Just kind of resetting my mind. That's kind of funny because I thought, hey, we have a digital conversation, maybe through a podcast, but you're actually here.

So, okay. Now I know the story. 

Erick: Yeah, no, it's been great. All right. I think kind of exhausted most of my questions. Is there anything else that you want to add to it? So go ahead and tell people where they can find you. And anything else you'd like them or you want any socials that kind of thing.

So go ahead. Yeah. 

Mark: You can always find me through Instagram, Twitter LinkedIn, Mark Tuitert. And my surname is T U I T E R T. 

Erick: And I will put that in the show notes for the episode. So if you want to go find him, you can find him. 

Mark: So you can find me here with contact info. I do speaking engagements and my book, the stoic mindset is out in April in the US, Canada, UK.

So I'm really excited to to, to tell my story. I hope. Yeah. But with maybe even if it's one person I can relate to or have an impact on in life and get into contact with stoicism in that way. Yeah. That will be worthwhile for me. So I would love to come over to the U. S., to the UK, to Canada to to deliver my story.

And thank you for being here in the Netherlands. 

Erick: Yeah, and thank you for inviting me into your home. I really appreciate it. Yeah, no problem. This has been really great. So, all right. Thank you. All right. That concludes our interview. Like I said, I'll have a bunch of stuff in the notes for the podcast.

And thanks again for listening.

And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. I hope that you enjoyed this interview with Mark Tuitert. And as always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening.

Hey friends, just wanted to give you a quick reminder. If you aren't following me on social media, you really should. So I do post videos from time to time on Instagram and Threads and X, formerly Twitter. I'm also going to be posting this interview on YouTube and I will be adding more and more video content to YouTube, more long form stuff.

So hop on there and find me. So on instagram and threads, it's On x/twitter, it is @stoiccoffee. As well as on LinkedIn, you can find me there at StoicCoffee. Alright, thanks again for listening. Bye.

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.

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.


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.


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.


237 – Self Confidence

Self Confidence
Self Confidence

Are you confident person? Do you have faith in yourself as person? Are you comfortable with who you are? Today I want to talk about how we often will self sabotage ourselves not because we don’t have the skill or capacity to do something, but because we let self doubt creep in and stop us from sharing our gifts and talents.

To have self-confidence is to trust in one's own abilities and judgement. It is the foundation of success and happiness.

— Seneca

Self-confidence is an essential quality that helps us lead a successful and fulfilling life. It is the foundation of personal growth, and it enables us to face challenges and pursue our goals with determination and resilience. Unfortunately, many people struggle with low self-confidence and feel insecure about their abilities and worth. This can hold them back from reaching their potential and living a fulfilling life.

I think that many of us, and I include myself in this group, feel like we have a lot to give to this world, but we often are afraid to step up and share our gifts. And to be honest, I think the world can use a lot more of our talents and abilities. When we let fear get the better of us, we really miss out on contributing to the world in a positive way.

One of the example of where I really struggle with this is in creating this podcast. Each week I sit down and write and share my thoughts about stoicism and living a good life. The thing is, I really struggle with living these principles myself. There are times when I feel like such an imposter because I fail to live up to the standards I have set for myself. Most of the topics that I share on this podcast come directly from the things I’m struggling with in my own life. I keep doing it because it’s always a time for me to reflect on the things that I’m struggling with and hopefully help inspire others to keep pushing through.

There are several strategies and principles from Stoicism that can help us gain confidence in ourselves and overcome these insecurities. Here are a few key ideas to consider.

Focus on what you can control. One of the central tenets of Stoicism is the idea that we should only concern ourselves with things that are within our control, and let go of those that are outside our control. By focusing on what we can control – such as our own thoughts, attitudes, and actions – we can gain a sense of agency and empowerment that can boost our confidence. When we are able to let go of the things that we can’t control, we are able to use our energy towards things where we can an impact, and let go of the things where we have no impact.

Another key principle of Stoicism that goes hand in hand with control is that of acceptance, or the idea that we should embrace whatever comes our way, whether it is good or bad. This doesn't mean we should simply resign ourselves to our circumstances, but rather that we should learn to accept them and make the most of them. The act of acceptance is really just acknowledging and accepting reality. The more are able to just accept things as they are, and not wish they were something different, the better we can develop a sense of inner peace and resilience that can help us feel more confident and self-assured.

The only thing we have control over is our own thoughts and actions. When we focus on improving ourselves and living according to our values, we gain confidence and inner peace.

– Zeno of Citium

We can practice mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment and accepting things as they are, we can reduce anxiety and cultivate a sense of peace and inner strength. This can help us to approach challenges with a clear mind and the confidence that we can handle whatever comes our way.

When we practice mindfulness and being present, we are also not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. Remember, mindfulness is not zoning out, but it is being as present in your body as you possibly can. It’s about noticing how your body feels and all the sensations of being alive in this moment.

Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do.

— John Wooden

I think the biggest killer of self confidence is its polar opposite, self doubt. Often times we fail simply because we let self doubt creep in. We let that internal voice, our ego, that wants to keep us safe and avoid failure, knock us off our path. This is really one of that saddest things because we often truly have the skills to accomplish our goals, but because there is a risk of failure, our ego is trying to protect us. If we don’t try, then we can’t fail. And the thing is, we going to fail. A lot. We’ll probably fail more times than we succeed, and our culture failure is often seen as one of the worst things you can do.

I know a systems engineer that worked for Nike a few years ago. He was tasked with fixing a server that managed the sales system in their company stores. One time he made a mistake and misconfigured the server and their sales system was down for a few hours. Unfortunately, they were fired. Rather than looking at this as a chance to learn where their systems had some weak points, the management decided that it was more important to punish the person who cause the system failure. This was an opportunity to learn something, but it was squandered because they wanted somewhere to place the blame more than they wanted to find the weak points in their system.

One of the the way that we can learn to accept and even appreciate failure is by developing mental discipline. Mental discipline is the ability to control our thoughts, and by extension our emotions. By practicing techniques such as mindfulness and learning to look at things through multiple perspectives, we can become more aware of negative thought patterns and emotion states that can hold us back and instead cultivate a positive and confident mindset.

Be confident in your own abilities. Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you too.

— Marcus Aurelius

The last point that I want to talk about is one of the most difficult things for many people, myself included. Far too often we let the opinions of others dissuade us from stepping up and becoming the person that we want to be and doing what we want to do. We stop ourselves from being our authentic and true selves because we’re afraid that others may not like us, or even reject us.

And this is not an irrational fear.

Earlier in human history, if you were cast of the tribe, it could mean your death because of lack of food, shelter, and protection. But the thing is, even though it can feel like it’s the end of the world, in our modern society, you can always find somewhere to fit in, and find people that like you for you. But more than anything, if someone doesn’t like who you are when you are being authentically you, then they are not your people. They are not your tribe. Your worthiness as a human and as person does not come from what others think of you. It does not come from your successes or your failures. It is simply there because you are a human being on this planet.

Self-confidence is not something that can be given to you. It must be earned, through hard work and determination.

— Aristotle

We aren’t always confident when we start a task or a project. But the most important thing is that you start it anyway, and gain that confidence along the way. It may take a while to be good at something, and the first step is have confidence that you will get better with each step.

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.


218 – Accept Yourself

One of the hardest things for us to do, though it is one of the most important things we will ever learn, is to accept ourselves for exactly who we are. But when you decide to take this on and make it a priority, it can be one of the most life changing thing you can do.

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”

— Marcus Aurelius

A few months ago, there was an incident that happened between me and someone that I care about very much. This person had hurt me very deeply, and I was not only furious, I was devastated. And even though they apologized it took me quite some time to let go of my anger. This got me thinking…why had this incident hurt so much? Why did the actions of this person have so much sway over me? It took me a while of mulling this over in my mind, until I caught a glimmer of an idea. I realized that my self-esteem was so wrapped up in my partner that if they thought ill of me, or did something that I felt hurt by, it was far more devastating than if it had been one of my friends.

So I decided to take back my self-esteem, since that’s where it should have been in the first place. Taking back your self-esteem when you have spent your whole life living by external validation is not an easy thing. I needed to make a plan, but it seemed impossible. I didn’t know where to begin. So I started reading about some possible areas to begin. I read about the idea of identity and what makes us who we are. I thought about the roles that we take on that we consider part of our identity. I read about the ego and the id. I read some Jung, Freud, and of course Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. All of these things were leading me to the right direction, but I felt like I was still missing something.

One of the first things that I did was to start a daily meditation practice. I had been listening to a podcast with Naval Ravikant where he talked about how about three years ago he started meditating for an hour each day. He said that after 60 days, he found that his level of anxiety in his daily life dropped dramatically, and that since that time, he continues the practice having only missed it maybe a dozen times in those 3 years. He said that it was though taking that time gave his brain the opportunity to sort through and process all the garbage that he had spent years ignoring, and that each time he did the meditation, he found that the first 40 minutes are kind of a mess, and his mind just kind of wanders around thinking about all kinds of random things, but that last 20 minutes are much clearer and relaxed and set the tone for the rest of the day.

So I committed to doing 60 minutes a day for 60 days, and it has been a key component for changing my life in a very dramatic and positive way. Has it been easy? No, it hasn’t. Sitting down and doing my best to pay attention to the fireworks going off in my mind is a challenge. I’ve missed one day, and have had to make do with some 30 minute sessions because I did not have the time for a full hour, but in doing so, I’ve also been kind to myself and recognized that I’m not striving for perfection, but trying to do the best I can, and to be sure to advocate for myself then I need that time and it may push off some other plans.

After a few days of this, I was finding that it was helping, but even so, I got into a fairly big argument with this person. After I cooled down, they asked me why I tried so hard to control how they thought of me. I realized that I was terrified that if they knew who I really was deep down, that they wouldn’t like me. They asked me what was so bad about me that I had to hide it. I paused as I tried to think of what was so bad about me. I said I don’t know, I guess I should figure that out.

So the next day I sat down and I wrote down all the things that I don’t like about myself. Anything that came tow mind, I wrote it down. I had about a dozen things, and as I looked them over, I realized that none of the things on my list were all that bad. In fact, they were things that my friends struggled with. And I thought, if my friends do these things and I still love and accept them, can’t I just do the same for myself?

And then it was like a lighting bolt hit. There was nothing about myself that I could not accept. I didn’t have to love everything about myself, but I could at the very least accept it. This simple exercise shined a light on all the things that I was so afraid to look at about myself. I realized that the fear of those things was far worse than the reality. It was like seeing the scary shadow of a monster only to see once the light is on that it’s just a tree branch outside your window. As Seneca said, “We we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

What I realized is that having grown up in an environment where my self worth and esteem was from external measurements of my church, all my validation and acceptance come from somewhere else, not me. So I took it back. I decided that I was in charge of my self-acceptance and self-esteem.

Kung Fu Panda

Have you seen Kun Fu Panda? It’s one of my all time favorite movies. I’ve watched it a dozen times or so over the years and will probably make it a yearly thing to watch and enjoy it. So what does Kung Fu Panda have to do with getting back your self-esteem? If you haven’t seen it, well there are going to be some spoilers.

The basic premise is that Po, a big fat panda with no real martial arts skill, is chosen as the one that will save the village from Tai Lung, the most notorious villain in all the land. As Po struggles to learn how to fight, he feels like a mistake has been made, that he is not the chosen one. He can’t fight like Tigress or Monkey or any others of the Furious Five who are the most celebrated fighters in the land. But as he learns to accept himself for who he is, a big fat panda, and not a Tigress, Monkey, Snake or any of the other Furious Five, he learns to fight like a big fat panda, and ends up defeating Tai Lung. He discovers that by being himself he is enough.


So why is self acceptance such a powerful tool? All of us want to feel accepted. It feels great when others accept us, so when we can give that gift of acceptance to ourselves, we are giving ourselves what we need. The interesting thing that I’ve found as I’ve talked to other about this simple and powerful tool, is how challenging it is for us to accept ourselves. We make all kinds of excuses of why we can accept others, but not ourselves. Doing so feels like an insurmountable task. And why do we find this so hard to do? Because we believe that we are not worthy of love. We believe that we are too flawed for that kind of acceptance. But I would bet that most of you, if you took the time to write down the things you honestly don’t like about yourself, there is probably nothing so bad that you couldn’t accept it if it was something do that your friends wrote down.

Acceptance is a gift that we give to others all the time, so we already know how to do it. We just need to point it at ourselves. The other reason why self-acceptance is so powerful is that we don’t have to love everything about ourselves, but we can at the very least just accept ourselves for who we are, both the things we like, and the things we don’t.

Write It Down and Think

This week, I want you to sit down and write down all the things you don’t like about yourself. Ever single thing you can think of. The reason I want you to do this is that in order to practice self acceptance, you need to know what it is that you are accepting about yourself. You need the whole picture, both the things you like, and the things you don’t.

After you have done that, I want you to look at those things on your list. I find that most things fall into a few categories: Facts, and opinions. The nice thing about facts is that they are just things that are. They are reality, so not accepting them is to deny reality. If you are 5’7” or weigh 180 lbs, they are facts. You don’t have to like them, but you can accept them because they are reality.

When it comes to opinions about yourself, those are subjective things, and are not things that are imperially true. The most common one is that I find is that we don’t feel good enough, which is such a nebulous statement. What are you not good enough for? What is good enough? Being human? Living? You are a living human so you are good enough to be a human. And since they are opinions and subjective, it is hard to prove them to be true, so simply accept the fact that you have that opinion about yourself.

If there is something on your list that you truly do find unacceptable, then that is something that you can work on accepting. If it is something that you have done in the past, then it is something that cannot be changed and is a fact. Remember, you don’t have to love everything about yourself, but you can accept that it is part of who you are. If it is some attribute about yourself that you don’t like, such as you think you are selfish or needy or judgmental, accept that it is part of who you are at the moment, but it is not who you have to be in the future.

As part of my meditation practice every day, I think deeply about how I can accept myself more wholly. As my mind wanders and I bring my focus back around, I think about just accepting myself for exactly who I am. I would suggest that you take the time to do this every day. I would also challenge you to meditate every day for at least 30 minutes. I know that can seem tough, but really it’s just noticing your thinking, and gently focusing your attention from time to time on something you want to ponder. That’s it. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just give your minds some space to process what’s going on in your life.

For years now, I have been working hard on trying to manage my anger, with varying degrees of success. Since I’ve learned that the core issue that was causing so much of my anger was that I didn’t like myself, learning to accept myself for exactly who I am has changed my life. For so long I was trying so hard to work with the tools I had, but until now I was working on the wrong things. The strides I have made over the last few months have felt gigantic. I still have my bad days when I’m tried or grumpy, but when I fail, I pick myself up, make amends and keep on going. I feel more solid as a person, and I’m finally someone that I really like.

Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

192 – Self-Sovereign


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“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?

We are afraid of rejection. We are afraid of not belonging. We are afraid that if those closest to us really “knew” us, they would no longer love us. The need to fit in and belong is a powerful, almost primal one. Being rejected by your family or society can be one of the most devastating events of a persons life.


For those of us who grew up in a strong religious culture, there is an accepted way of behaving, and anything outside of those roles and rules is frowned upon, and sometimes you can be shunned or excommunicated. I have friends and acquaintances who haven’t spoken to family members for years or decades because they didn’t toe the church line.

For some, being open about their sexuality has gotten them ostracized from organizations that embraced them prior to their coming out. The person hadn’t changed, just the perception of them in the eyes of that group changed.

There are also powerful forces in the media and marketing industry who spend tremendous amounts of time and money figuring out ways to make you feel you are not good enough. The messages are so well crafted and often subtle to where unless you are really paying attention you don’t even notice the influence they have on you. All of this to get you to buy certain things, support certain politicians or causes, or to hold certain beliefs.

My Story

When I was seventeen, I had decided that I no longer wanted to be a part of the Mormon church. I was tired of feeling ashamed because I struggled so hard to behave like a good Mormon. I struggled with the inconstancies in church doctrine and how so many core beliefs conflicted with scientific discoveries, and my own common sense. I felt like there was something truly flawed in who I was as a person. I tried to leave, but because most of my social circles were church related, I got pulled back into it, and struggled for another decade or so to fit in.

It took a lot of a work and support from my ex wife, but I finally left the church in my early thirties. I had finally reached the point where I could no longer pretend to be someone I wasn’t and believe in something that I felt to be patently untrue. When I finally made that decision, I felt like I had just shed 200 pounds. I felt lighter. I felt relief. I felt like I was finally free. It has taken a long time and a lot of work to shed the belief that I was less of a person because I didn’t live up to someone else’s expectations.

More recently I’ve been working on healing a lot of the trauma from the environment I grew up in. I’ve been lucky to find a good therapist who specializes in healing trauma. Re-training how my my brain interprets things has not been easy. It has meant being honest with myself about the things that scare me. It has meant facing up to my fear that maybe deep down I’m not a very good person or that I’m somehow broken. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not true. I’ve had to learn how to accept and love myself, even with all my flaws, or maybe because of them.

Along with that healing has come a better sense of well being. I feel like I am more honest with myself and others. I am the person that I want to be. I ask for what I need and want. I don’t need the approval of others. There are times when I fall back into old habits and patterns. Sometimes the disapproval of others can still kick in that fear of not being good enough, but those episodes are fewer and far between.


“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the biggest truths that I’ve learned through all of this is that when you finally stop apologizing for not living up to the expectation of others, and truly accept yourself for who you are and live your life how feel is best for you, then you are truly free.

This is the truth that is often hidden from us. It scares people who have power over us. When they can no longer control or manipulate you, you may be judged harshly. They may speak ill of you. You may be ostracized or shunned. But when you hold to what you know is true, hold to your core values, and love and accept yourself, then nothing that anyone else has to say matters. You are free. You are what I call “self-sovereign”.

Being a self-sovereign person is challenging. This kind of freedom is scary. You no longer blame anyone else for your feelings and actions. You don’t apologize for not living up to others’ expectations. And you might think that I’m saying you can do whatever you want, and well, I am. Being self-sovereign also means that you own your choices and are honest about your motivations. You are 100% responsible for yourself, and that you accept the consequences for your actions.


So what are some steps you can take to become more self-sovereign in your own life?

I think the first step is to work on self acceptance. To accept that you are worthy of love, just like everyone else. To accept that you are not broken. You are not a mistake. You are just another flawed human, doing the best you can. Accept that it’s okay to make mistakes, and you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

Second, is to understand that doing this kind of work is challenging and uncomfortable, so having a good support system in place will make a big difference. Whether that’s a therapist, a good friend, or some kind of support group, surround yourself with those that encourage you to be your authentic self. They will challenge you to take responsibility for your own actions.

Lastly, to do this kind of work, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone. I found a tweet the other day from a Dr. Vassilia Binensztok, with the twitter handle of @JunoCounseling that I think is very appropriate and pretty much nails it:

“When you’re not used to being confident, confidence feels like arrogance.

When you’re used to being passive, assertiveness feels like aggression.

When you’re not used to getting your needs met, prioritizing yourself feels selfish.

Your comfort zone is not a good benchmark.“

— Dr. Vassilia Binensztok

Being self-sovereign, learning how to be your authentic self and let go other expectations of others is a challenge that we all face. The most courageous thing you can do in your life is to ignore who the world thinks you should be, and to truly, unconditionally be yourself. It is then that you are free.

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.

Coffee Break

152 – Vulnerability and the Real You

Vulnerability and the Real You


Get Uncomfortable With Yourself!

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.

One of the hardest things in this world is to be vulnerable around others. To show people the messy, honest, truest parts of ourselves. And why is this? Why are we often so afraid to be ourselves around those that we consider the closest to us? If these are the most important people in our lives, why do we feel like we need to protect ourselves and not share the deepest, darkest, and most intimate parts of ourselves?

Who do You Think You Are?

“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 opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.”

—Marcus Aurelius

I talked about this quote on here before, with regards to worrying about the opinions of others, but I want to talk more about the opinions of ourselves.

A few weeks ago I was discussing the idea of identity with a good friend of mine. He’s struggling at the moment with figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. Basically, he’s going through a midlife crisis. In talking about letting go of all the expectations that were heaped upon him by his family and church while growing up, he feels a bit lost because he lived with a mask, an identity of who he felt like he was supposed to be for most of his life. Over the last few years, he’s been shedding a lot of those ideas and beliefs, and while he knows who he isn’t, he’s not sure who he is. Just as people who’ve suffered job losses or divorce and other kinds of loss, often find themselves lost as a core piece of their identity is gone. He’s struggling through this difficult process of self-exploration and is finding it both exciting and very scary. Exciting because he’s exploring the world and beginning to choose who he is, but also extremely scary because the identity he has is no longer reflective of who he truly is.

And this idea really struck me, that when we hold on so tightly to an identity of who we think we are, it makes is very difficult to become who we want to become. When we’ve built up an identity, and presented this idea of who we are to the world, then when we find discrepancies with that identity, we try to defend who we think we are. And I think holding onto this identity, the ego, is the root of why being vulnerable is so scary. Because much of this identity is created from the expectations that we think others, especially those that we love, have about us. Whether or not these have been explicitly communicated or not, I think that many of us feel like we’re supposed to behave a certain way and do certain things. We’re afraid if they knew that we aren’t necessarily the person we present to the world, and if they knew how deeply flawed we truly are, they might reject us. They may no longer love us. But the thing is, we judge ourselves more harshly than those around us. We think they notice every flaw, count every mistake, and keep a tally of every fuck up we make. But the truth is, they don’t. Most people are too busy with their own thinking and their own business pay that much attention to someone else. And if they are that kind of person, they aren’t people we want to be around. If their love and acceptance are conditional, they are probably not people that we want to spend time with.

Unapologetically You

“Above all, keep a close watch on this — that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don’t, you’ll be ruined. … You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends … if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had.”

— Epictetus, “Discourses,” 4.2.1; 4-5

What would happen if you were just unapologetically yourself? What if you didn’t hold onto this identity so tightly? This is a scary proposition for sure. I know in my own life, I find it often difficult to admit what I truly think or feel about something for fear of being rejected by friends and loved ones. But we should be open to the idea that being truly ourselves may mean that we need to change our lives. We may need to end friendships. We may get divorced. And that’s scary. That may mean a lot of change. Far too often we hold onto these identities far longer than they are useful, often to the point of damaging ourselves and relationships. I’ve seen friends stay in relationships that were not working for fear of change. I’ve done this myself. But living your life as someone else means that you may get to the end of your life never having really lived.

Brené Brown, a social scientist and researcher, has delved into the area of vulnerability rather deeply, and written several eye-opening books on the sense of shame that we internalize which keep us from loving and being okay with the person that we truly are. It’s this fear of rejection and a sense of shame that others will judge us that makes it so hard for us to share that deeper side of us with those that we love.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

What if we could own our flaws and just recognize them as a fact, that they are simply an attribute of who we are at this moment? How much more confident could we be in our life if we could just accept who we are, warts and all? The first step to being vulnerable is to learn how to love ourselves. I know that sounds all kinds of new-agey, but think that there’s a lot of truth in this. If we don’t like ourselves, then it’s going to be hard for us to accept that others can like us.

Now self-acceptance doesn’t mean that we give ourselves a free pass when we make mistakes, because that is much more about self-delusion and ignoring our mistakes. What I’m proposing is shine a light on our flaws, and own them. When we can do that, we take away the shame of our flaws. Self-love is the shame killer. The more we can accept ourselves, and see ourselves as we truly are, the easier it is to be forgiving and accepting of others.

Get Uncomfortable with Yourself

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

I want you to take some time this week and write down some of the uncomfortable and scary thoughts that you have running around in the back of your mind. Things that you’re afraid that if others knew about you, they may not like you. Things that you’re afraid of addressing because you’re afraid of where those thoughts might take you. And I want you to take some time and just sit with those thoughts, and practice being okay with them. Look at them without judgment, just as facts about you. Admit those truths to yourself, because I think we all lie to ourselves to some degree. We gloss over the uncomfortable parts, the dark parts of us because we want to present this beautiful picture to the world. We’re scared of what others might think about the darker parts of us. We want to look like we have it all together. It’s okay if we don’t. Nobody really does. Everybody has some area of their life where they struggle.

And the thing is, we often find that those things aren’t really so bad once they put down on paper. They are much scarier and darker in our heads. Getting them out and on paper is like shining a light on a shadow. It’s not nearly as big or scary as we made it out to be.

Owning who you are is a very uncomfortable thing. It means that you accept that you are full of flaws, that you aren’t nearly as great want others to think you are, and that you let other people down. It means may mean making choices that shake the very core of who you think you are. It means that those closest to you may not even recognize who you really are. But if they only see the person that you pretend to be, do they really love the real you? Why not give them the chance to know the real you? Why not give yourself the chance to know the real you?


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