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292 – Interview with Ori Halevy: Comedian and Comedy Writer

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. Share my thoughts and my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from them all within the space of Coffee Break.

This week's episode is an interview with Ori Halevy. Now, Ori is a comedian here in Berlin, where I'm staying at the moment, and last week and a few weeks ago, when I was having a really rough day, I decided to go out for some comedy and caught his show and really enjoyed it. We talked for a bit afterwards and just, he's a really smart guy, very philosophical and a lot of fun.

So I thought it would be fun to sit down and chat with him about life, philosophy, humor, and anything else that came to our minds. So this was done in a coffee shop in Berlin. Unfortunately, it's a little bit noisy and we did have some audio issues, but we did our best to clean this up and hope it sounds good.

You can also watch a video of this on YouTube, on my YouTube channel at Stoic Coffee. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I enjoyed chatting with Ori. Hello everybody. Welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break podcast. This is another live interview that I'm doing here. We're in Berlin.

We're at a nice little coffee shop. We've got our coffee going on here. So, coffee and tea. Cheers. So, this was a Nugetti. A Nugetti? Yeah, basically it's a mocha.

Ori: I like how they invent stupid names for things. Like if it's mocha, it's 3 euros, but if it's a Nugetti, it's 4. 70.

Erick: Exactly. So I'm like, eh, it's all good.

So today I'm with, go ahead and introduce yourself since I always butcher your name.

Ori: My name is Ori Halevy. I'm a comedian in Berlin, in English. Which is a weird choice. Yeah, what else? What should I say about myself?

Erick: Just talk about what you do. You obviously have the comedy show.

Ori: Yeah, I have Epic Comedy Berlin.

That's our comedy brand. We run a bunch of different shows around town. We have I don't know if people know this, but in Berlin there is actually the biggest English comedy scene in Europe. Yeah, we have I like to say we have comedians here from all over the world that couldn't make it in their country.

So they came here. But really it is a very, like, it's amazing seeing people tour everywhere. They're, some of them become a little famous online and stuff like that. And we, so there's a lot of, a bunch of different open mics. We just work with the most experienced comedians that are touring our local.

And we have different formats. So we have like a showcase on Friday at a place called Zosh. It's a very cool jazz club. But then we also have a Monday show which is actually philosophy versus comedy where my partner in crime, Brendan Hickey, he's he's got a master's in philosophy so he brings a real philosophical idea and then we kind of make fun of it.

It's a lot of fun. Check it out, Wise Fools. And and then we have some, so essentially how we built the Knights is just a different ways of working out. So we have a show called Darkest Thoughts where the audience can write us their darkest thoughts and then we have to improvise comedy on it. And we have an open mic called saying the wrong thing.

So we're always kind of like testing the waters of different ideas from philosophical to topical to all that kind of stuff. And that's what I do. Nice. I'm also a writer. I write for TV and movies.

Erick: Excellent. Yeah, I went to the the Wise Fools the other night.

Ori: Oh, yeah. Brendan told me about that. Yeah.

Yeah. What did you think?

Erick: Yeah, it was pretty funny. So, he, he appreciated the fact that he had a, what he called, you know, he's like, oh, so you're the professional. And I'm like, well, I, I like to think so. I've been doing this for seven years, six years now. Wow. So, I think I've learned a little bit about stoicism, where I can speak intelligently about it.

I'm also writing a book on stoicism right now. We're in the negotiation phase. I'm writing some writing samples for them to see if they like it and so far so good So I'm hoping to get a contract.

Ori: Was that the Romans?

Erick: Yes, the Romans. The Romans were like, let's

see if you're ready. It's a big publisher in America.

Like one of the biggest. But it's a small imprint from them and they have a very specific focus on things. And I'm not sure if I'm contractually allowed to say anything yet, but Don't say it. But hopefully it'll come through. And if not, I've got ideas for a whole number of books. And this has also really helped me to kind of hone my writing style a little bit.

For, and theirs is what they call an academic light is the tone of it. So it's, it's academic, but it's supposed to be very approachable. And so, cause at first I had some, I had some funny little quips and stuff in there and they're like, yeah, that's a little too loose for what we want. We need a little bit more academic light.

I'm like, okay, that, that's actually more of what I do anyway in my podcast.

Ori: So it's like academic but palatable.

Erick: Yes. It's not like it's super dry. A while back I was reading you know, to kind of, when, when I first got approached about writing this book, I wanted to make sure that I understood some of the deeper parts of the history of the philosophy and so on, the differences between Stoicism versus some of the Socratic ethnic virtues that came afterwards, like from Aristotle and Plato and stuff like that.

So I was reading a fairly dense academic paper on it, and it was, it was only 18 pages long. Holy crap, it was so hard to read, because it was very Very lawyer esque, in a way, I guess would be the best way to describe it. So philosophers, true, you know, academic philosophers have a way of talking about things.

And they use words that are like, whoosh.

Ori: That's what I feel like. I feel like the whole I don't know if that was, because sometimes they say that the philosophers of the time were kind of comedians. You know, I'm not saying they were trying to make people laugh necessarily, but they were trying to talk to the masses, like, not all of them.

But so there was the academic side, and then there was the more approachable side, I guess. And I think that's gotten lost. I mean, even on me, like, I'm not, I'm not a scholar. You know, I'm I have my own thoughts about things. But then I do feel a lot of this stuff is not approachable at all. And if you try to read it, you know, You're like, what the fuck are you talking, can you just tell me what you're talking, what do you mean?

And then and then when I, like, that's one of the reasons I like the show me and Bender are doing is because he has the master. So he brings it up, and then I'm the stupid, and me and another guy, we're kind of the stupid guys that, that deal with it. But at the same time, I have had these thoughts.

And, and it's, and it's refreshing, and it's interesting where somebody says, Well, someone has actually thought this through, and this is the structure they've created. And I think that's not approachable. Like, even Stoicism itself I don't think most people know what it is.

Erick: Yeah. You know, like And for me, I found, luckily, that Stoicism was the most approachable, even from reading, you know, things that were directly attributed to Epictetus because he never wrote anything down himself, but one of his students wrote it down and said, I tried to write it down as verbatim as absolutely possible.

That's where we get the endocrinia and what was the other one he did? Discourses. From him or from one of his students whereas Seneca we have the direct writings Like he actually sat down and wrote down his stuff and then meditations from Marcus Aurelius But in reading all of them, that's the one I know.

Yeah, and those are pretty approachable So they they did a pretty good job.

Ori: Yeah, but not for today. I feel like

Erick: Yeah, a lot of it is, though, the language that's been handed down over time. It's kind of like, it's kind of like the Bible. You know, you read it and it was written, you know, the King James Version is the most popular English version one.

In, in, in Austria and in most German speaking countries, it's the Luther Bible. It's the one that Martin Luther translated. So we're talking about things that were translated into Old English back in the 1600s. And that's what's, or earlier, and that's what's being used in modern day religions. So, yeah, it makes it a bit less approachable because people aren't going, you know, hey.

So, a lot of it is because the translated language is also very outdated.

Ori: I grew up in Israel and we had, like, we had, like, a class on the Bible. And it's also antiquated Hebrew, you know. And, like, we get it, like, more, I guess, than the translated stuff. But it's still kind of, it's like being a kid and listening to Shakespeare.

It's a weird It's not the language you're talking. It makes it not approachable. Like, I haven't, I gotta admit, I haven't re, like, I haven't re read the Bible, because in class they made it seem so boring. Yeah. That you just don't wanna, you just don't wanna approach it, you know? And I feel like philosophy is like, I saw this this video once of of a guy and he was saying that we've lost a major part of our relief source when, because when we were in tribes, there was the shaman, right?

And the shaman was the thinker, so that guy, he'll figure out the spiritual stuff. And I don't need to think about it at all. He's going to tell me what the gods are thinking today and that's it, I'm not arguing with that at all. If I have any trauma, any problem, I'll just go to heaven. And then it grew into like the bigger religions.

And now, we're in this age where we all think, well not all, but a lot of us are like, either don't believe in religion, or have stepped away from it somewhat, or are complete atheists. And then we have this gaping hole. And a lot, and some people are looking for philosophy, but I don't think philosophy is, I mean now, yeah, you're doing this podcast, there's some people talking about it, et cetera, et cetera.

But I feel like there's so many things that, where we're lost. And we could, if we had this like easily approachable thing, then, then I would just be like, oh, okay, I'm, I'm, you know, this is a fear I had or a thought I had and I didn't really think it through, but somebody's already done that. And it's, I think it's also probably stems from some sort of I don't want to, I don't want anybody to tell me what to do.

Because if you're already not believing in religion, you're like, I don't want, you know. So, you're stepping away from ideas that are already thought through sometimes. But, I just feel like philosophy is like a, it's like a pop culture idea. But not a lot of people really interact with it.

Erick: Yeah, and I fall into that category as well.

So, I took a philosophy class when I was in college, in my twenties. And it went through some of the major philosophies, and it . Even though I was very big into psychology, you know, I'd read like The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and other things like that, because I grew up very, very Mormon, which was a very strict religion.

You were a Mormon? Yeah. Oh my god. That's why I speak German is I went on my mission to Austria. Wow,

Ori: Mormon. You stepped away from Mormonism. I did. Wow, that's a good choice.

Erick: Yes, it has been a really good choice for me. Wow, how long ago was that? About 20 years. 20 years.

Ori: Wow, 20 years not a Mormon. Yeah. And have you seen Book of Mormon?

Erick: I've heard it. I've listened to the musical I used, I started out as a musical theater major in college, so I love musicals. Oh, okay. And so I listened to it. I haven't seen it yet. That's, oh, you should see it. It's just, yeah, it's, when it came to Portland, I, for whatever reason, I didn't go so, but yeah, it's one, I want to see it.

So many of the songs in there, I just laugh my ass off because I'm just like, I could totally relate to 'em because you know, it's about missionaries and all the things in there. I'm just like, oh my God, this is hilarious. Having been in theater. Like the one where the guy is singing about shove it down, like he's gay and he doesn't want to do something.

I was just thinking about that. It was just like, man, I knew, I knew so many kids who were. And some of them didn't, obviously didn't come out.

Ori: In the, in the theater thing? Or were there Mormons that studied with you? Yeah. Wow.

Erick: Yeah, and one of them is he's actually incredibly successful. He didn't come out until later on.

But we all kind of knew. But nobody cared in my high school. We were all, I came from a fairly affluent high school. And, we really didn't care one because he was just an amazing guy. And everybody just adored him. He was just a great person. And so even though most of us had an inkling that he probably was, It was like, we don't want to know.

We didn't ask. Don't ask, don't tell. Because if it did come out, we knew that it would, it would cause problems. Sure. So nobody wanted anybody, nobody really wanted to know because . We, one, we didn't care. And two, it would just cause more trouble than it, it was worth. Sure. Yeah. And so when, when we finally did come out, I sent him a note, this was, you know, years later and I just said, Hey, just wanna let you know.

I'm so glad. Was a physical note. No, no. I, I sent him an an email and I just said, Hey, just wanna let you know, you know, found out about it. You finally coming at it and I'm, and I just wanna say. I love you and support you and I want you to find your happiness and I hope that you find somebody who's worthy of you.

That's cool. And he was just like, thank you so much for your support. That's awesome. And I'm like, you've always been a great person. This doesn't change my opinion of you one iota because you are who you are. Yeah. And he's incredibly successful in the musical theater world. Yeah. And yeah, so I love watching his career rise up, and he's a pretty amazing person.

But, you know, for me it was just always, that was one of the main reasons.

Ori: Becoming more and more gay as it goes along. Starting from Mormonism and becoming the gayest person on the planet.

Erick: So, yeah, but what was, I think a lot of it though was because that was one of the things that, that I, I disliked the church's stand on.

Because, Thank you. , he didn't choose to be this way. Sure. He want, I mean, he would love to be your normal straight person, but he's not. Yeah. And I know that he's not making a choice to be gay like a lot of people think he can. I'm like, no.

Ori: It's just that to me is is that's always like I've, I've I've said like the, the, one of the reasons like Jews support I mean not, you know, secular Jews at least.

The reason why I support gays is because they're the front line at this point. Like, if they go against the gays, we're next. So, we'll support that movement as much as we can. But yeah, I mean, you can see it. Like, it's, it's this idea, which is counter to philosophy in a way, I guess. Or, it's just picking one and, like, saying it.

This idea of, like, there's a certain way to live your life, and if you don't do that, then you're dead. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Erick: Yeah. You know, and yeah, so back to yeah, so back to the whole kind of approachable philosophy thing. Like I said, when I was in college, I took the class and it didn't, it didn't ever really click for me.

It's like, okay, that's kind of cool. It just seemed like it was something that was gonna be way over my head. And so I think that maybe I approached it in a way, like, oh, this is just gonna be way too, too heady for me. I'm not smart enough to understand that. And so when I stumbled into stoicism, because I didn't even know it was a philosophy, I just knew the term stoic, you know, like most people do, like somebody's stoic and they're non emotional.

And Tim Ferriss mentioned on his podcast, he said, there's this book that changed my life. And he, Tim reads a ton. I don't know if you follow his podcast, but he's an interesting guy. But he was just like, this book changed my life. And I was like, okay, if Tim reads that many books, and this is one where he says, this is one of the best books out there and it changed my life.

Okay. Maybe I should give it a read. And the title of it was A Guide to the Good Life, The Art of Stoic J oy. And I thought stoic joy that, okay. There's a little bit of a paradox there, at least in my mind. Okay. That sounds interesting. I got to read this and order the book, read it through the first time.

And there were plenty of moments of like, Oh, Oh, that's pretty good. But I'm like, it didn't really sink in. And so I got the audio book. And then when I was going to and from work every day, I would listen to it for about 20 minutes. And I kept having these lightbulb moments like, Oh my God, Oh, just like, Oh my God.

Okay, that I did, then I've been looking at the world like this and it's really more like this. Or if I look at it like this, things are a lot clearer and make a lot more sense. And so for me, stoicism is such an approachable philosophy because its whole goal is how to live a good life. So while the con and the, when you break down a lot of the concepts, they feel counterintuitive, but they are understandable.

And the principles themselves are fairly simple in many ways, but just like most things, even if it's simple, it doesn't mean it's easy. So it's a simple idea, but like, you know, what do you control? What you can't control, where you can control the way that you think about things, your perspective, your thoughts, so on and the choices you make and the actions you take.

That's it. And you're like, okay, what exactly does that mean? So when you really dig into that, Then you recognize you have to let go of everything else, because you're not in control of that, like you're not even in control of your own body. You get cancer, your knee hurts, whatever, you can control what you do about it, but you can't control your body in the way that you would want to.

You would want to say like, I never want to get cancer, I always want to have a six pack or anything like that. What you can control are the choices you make, like if you eat too many hamburgers, you're going to put on some fat, if you drink too much whiskey, you're going to ruin your liver, those kind of things.

Ori: I just have a joke where I was talking about looking at things from other people's perspective, and I just slowly go, like, from people who are, like, against you. And it just makes your life easier. And then I said, well if you have cancer, look at it from the cancer perspective, you know? He's just like, hey, I'm level four!

And all his friends are like, you're killing it! You know? Like I feel comedy a lot of the times is is that. Like it takes, it takes the approach of like, here are not only dangerous thoughts, but here is a way to like, make them flexible, you know? And and I feel like it helps just deal with life. Like so it's similar in that way because I feel like for me, the problem with, with what, with, with this idea of like accepting that you have no control or letting go is it's not, as you said, it's not a simple thing.

So there has to be some sort of workout, you know, and the workout of the brain, I find other than meditation, stuff like that, it's, it's, it's very hard to do, but I find it to be a very good thing to do on stage. Once I can get into that area, which is, by the way, I feel like a lot of the times Not that people get triggered very much in my, in my shows, but when they get triggered, I feel like a lot of times it's because you're crossing that border in their brain where from control to what they can't control and they're trying to control it.

But it's not even they're trying to control you, they're trying to control their thought, but you just said it out loud and now you can't do that because, oh, my God. So but, but to me if I go on stage and I go here are all the things I can't control and I play with them, I play with the idea of, you know, of, of death and disease and and and how fucked up my brain is and how I don't have control.

And this recent bit I did was like I asked people if they live in the moment. Most people don't, don't say, say nothing like they're not living in the moment. And and I told him, yeah, you're thinking about your videos and your phone right now. But I was saying, like, I have a weird contradiction in my brain where so there's the real world and there's the imaginary world.

And I go like for example, I love doing stand up comedy. So I really appreciate each one of you that is here. But at the same time, I'm heavily disappointed that I am because I was supposed to be in an arena right now with people sucking my dick for autographs, you know, but, but at the same time, this is great.

This is amazing. So just this constant. It's so, it's so weird, and I feel like a lot of things play into it, like this whole manifestation thing, for example. What's your, what's your, what's your stance on manifestation?

Erick: I don't buy into the whole secret thing. What I buy into is that if you are putting your intention out there, and you are focusing on that thing, and you are actually taking action towards that thing, that thing will happen, in one way or another.

But just to go I want to manifest, you know, a new Mercedes Benz. Yeah. And you just sit there and wait for it to come. It's not going to happen. Yeah. But if you go, I want to manifest a Mercedes Benz, and every chance I get, I'm going to do something that's going to move me towards that goal. Yeah. Then, yeah.

Sorry about all the noise. So we, this was the

Ori: Berlin. Yes, Berlin. There's no place in Berlin with no noise. They build the buildings in a way where like, the cold can't come in, but your neighbors talking or having German sex, just no problem at all.

Erick: Yeah. So, I apologize for the noise. I'm going to reduce it as much as I can on the sound, but it makes it more lively.

But yeah.

Ori: But I agree with you. I think that the what's funny to me about Manifesta, so I agree with the idea that, I think Manifestation in general, the idea of like, Seeing a specific future and then trying to get to it that that works. But then there's so much emphasis on this stuff I've seen lately on if you don't have the thing that you want You're not manifesting well enough and I just thought I thought it's like it's a combination of Motivation and procrastination so you're spending all of this energy to go nowhere and this people telling you well you have to do that better

Erick: It reminded me I saw somebody who asked me one time, you know, they're like well But, you know, if you just manifest hard enough, I'm like, well, that's not, I mean, I said, but the way that they talk about it, you're just not doing it good enough.

That's exactly like religion. I mean, that's what I tried. I tried to live all the Mormon things exactly the way I was supposed to, and I was still unhappy.

Ori: Were you like really thinking about that every day?

Erick: And I was, I tried so hard and I was miserable and I just, I, it never worked for me at all of this stuff.

And I'm like, and what was the answer? You just don't have enough faith. Your faith just isn't strong enough. I'm like, my faith is damn strong. I went, I went to Austria for two years and try talking to those people about Jesus Christ. I mean, I'm sitting here talking to people who've been Catholic for ever about, they should join our version of Jesus's church and tell them that their church is wrong.

That takes, that's a lot of hard work. And so I'm like, I'm trying, I'm really trying to do this thing. And so for me, once, what really did it for me was I, after trying so hard and feeling like I was a big failure with this my ex wife left the church and was just like, I'm not going anymore. It doesn't work for me.

And she had joined the church later in life. And then after a few months, she was, you know, she's like, you can go if you want, don't care. But I'm like, I went a couple of times. I'm like, you know, I'd rather be out cycling. I'm an avid cyclist. And so I've got riding on Sundays. And then a few months later, she gave me a book.

It was called Leaving the Saints by this gal named Martha, Martha Beck. She's a big time life coach now. Her father was the chief apologist for the church for 50 years. And he had a PhD, and so he was the master of, like, twisting things around. And so, she wrote a book about her journey of leaving the church.

And I learned a lot about the church's dirty laundry and stuff that they had covered up for a long time. That was documented, was legit, like it was fully researched, fully vetted, so She's like, this is the real deal, I've done all the research on this, and the church even acknowledges these things. And there was enough things in there where I recognized that Joseph Smith was a con man and a pedophile.

And made up the whole thing, and I went, Okay, this was all bullshit. I can leave and I physically felt lighter like I remember I was reading the book and I read that and I was I read some stuff on there and I was just like, I put the book down and I just stood up and I was like, I can leave in good conscience because I tried and it's all bullshit and I felt like this.

You know, there's, I described, you know, there's big statues on Easter Island, you know, the big long nose guys. I felt like I had one of those on my shoulders and I just shaked it off. And I had to look around because I physically felt lighter. Like I was floating off the ground. I'm like, okay, I'm not, I'm not floating.

Okay. It just feels like I'm floating. It was just this giant relief. And I was like, okay,

Ori: well, that's a good lesson on letting go. I guess. Yeah. Do you manage to do that then if you have fears and anxieties or do you work on that also every day?

Erick: I work on a lot. One of the things that I'm working on now is adjusting my career path to work with CTOs and CEOs on developing better leadership through stoic principles You know, adjust your thinking, making decisions in uncertainty, building good teams, building a good culture within a company.

Because if you, if you can do that, then you can be much more successful. Your team will be happier. You will be happier. And it makes your work environment so much more fun to be in and having an example, like something that very simply put a lot of it is a lot of people think that if you're the manager, you're the boss.

That you have to control everything. And that's the worst way to work. And every team that I've been on where the manager came in and was like, Hey, by the way, my job is to serve you. My job is to be here to get everything out of the way so that you can do your job. I hired you because you're smart enough and I will let you do your job.

I'm not going to interfere because I'm too busy doing other things. And I need you to step up and do your job because that's what I hired you for. So a lot of autonomy, clear communication, clear setting of expectations or negotiation of expectations. Just things like that.

Ori: That's kind of like how my parents raised me, by the way.

Yeah. They were like, we trust you, don't do please just, you know, if you stay out late, call us, da da da da da. And it was a sneaky trick. Because at the end of the day, you rebel less. You're like, well, I have all these freedoms, so I guess I should be a little, you know, responsible.

Erick: Yeah, and most people, you give them, you know, as they say, you give them the rope to hang themselves.

If you give people autonomy and you say, hey, I need this done by this time and I need the quality to be like this, be just, be wise about your time and I'll let you do, go do your job. And you don't micromanage people, you trust your people and you, You have the integrity to be trustworthy. So a lot of people think that if they have a sucky team is because they have bad team members.

And sometimes that's the case, but usually it's the leader. Interesting. If the leader is not a good leader, the team is going to, you can have great people on the team and it's going to suck and it's going to fall apart. Yeah, I get that. But if you have a great leader, you can have weak people on the team and they usually will rise to the occasion because they trust that person.

They admire that person. They want to please that person, so they want to do good work because they feel like they're part of that team. And I found that when I was on teams that way, we got so much work done. And I enjoyed going to work. Like I was getting, when I was getting divorced, it was really, it was really hard.

I was just in a bad place mentally, which happens during divorce. And I remember that my manager at the time was this really good Really good?

Ori: Sounds like a, sounds like a, just a time that, you know, passes you by.

Erick: So, but my manager at the time was this really great guy. And I wouldn't apply. We got along really well and he was very trusting and he, he earned my respect.

And a lot of it was because he's like, you're a smart guy. I hired you. Get your work done. Communicate with me every day about what's going on. Just, you know, just let me know what's happening and let's just get this stuff done. And because he trusted me and I learned to respect him a lot. And so I actually work was my safe place because home was really hard right then.

And so going into work was like, I can go into work and I don't have to worry about crap. I don't, I don't, because my job was a good job to go into. It was a, it was a good place for me to be. So mentally I could fall apart at work if I needed to. And my boss was just like, I understand you're going through a rough time.

It's all good. Just keep doing what you're doing. If you need to. Take a long lunch and go for a walk, whatever, just, just take care of yourself. And so that made it so that it was, you know, like if your home life sucked and your work sucked, you just feel like life's just a giant pile of shit. So if you have at least one of those, that's, that's a good place to be, then you can deal with the harder things at home.

And so I think that a lot of people miss that. And so, yeah, so a lot of it for me is transitioning into this coaching of helping CEOs and CTOs of how to develop good leadership. Which therefore, when you lead well, then you can lead good teams, which makes the work environment so much better for everybody else.

Everybody's more productive because they're not just trying to put their time in, they're trying to get stuff done because they have the same vision that you have.

Ori: But then sometimes people don't step up. Like I remember when I do like cause I've been writing for TV and stuff for many years and I like show running teams.

That's that's pretty much my attitude. I'm like look you guys are here for your own reasons and you're creative people This is the show. I'm gonna give you the guidelines and we're gonna work on this together Just do your stuff and some people which are talented and you kind of they want to be there but they're just not stepping up and it's that's where I get I don't micromanage ever but that's where I used to get like frustrated because Because then you have to start asking yourself.

What is the motivation if you don't want to fire them? If you don't want to go to the I'm either firing you or I'm gonna me yell at you or don't want to use any of these tools Then that's always like an issue of like, how do you find what motivates that person? How do you also keep the balance because I feel there's always this balance of like What are the things that will either motivate you versus what are the things that will annoy you or make you want to not do?

The thing that you're yeah. Yeah, that's a tough one. I feel like

Erick: Yeah, but as a good leader trying to actually understand that rather than just going you're doing a bad job Hmm You know, slapping him on the wrist, that doesn't work out very well. But if you go on to him and say, Hey, you know, you have good talents.

What is it? Why aren't these talents coming out? Why am I missing these talents? If you've been a good leader and they respect you, they'll be like, If they're, if they're worth it and they actually do want to succeed at this thing, they'll, they usually will step up to the plate and they'll be like, Oh, you know what?

You're right. I didn't, I've been slacking because X, Y, and Z. And okay, what can we do to overcome X, Y, and Z? I mean, I had a boss who did that with me. I wasn't, I wasn't really pulling my weight with some of the stuff that I was working on. This was 25 years ago. So I was just getting into my career and I was a junior developer and was just, I was, and I know I was slacking.

I look back on it now and I don't necessarily know why I wasn't pulling my weight as well, but because he was very gentle about it and he just said, you know I'm kind of disappointed that you're not not pulling your weight here because I know you can do that What can I do to help you so you can you can get back up to speed like that?

I was like, oh

and part of it was embarrassment for me. I'm like, yeah, okay, you caught me, but then it was also like And I'm not getting a slap on the wrist. You're just saying, Hey, I'm, I'm disappointed in you and I know you can do better. And I was like, yeah, he really means that. And he's going to support me. Oh, okay. So the next time we had a review three months later, he was just like, I'm so proud of you.

This is, you have done so much good work. In fact, you've, you've exceeded what I was hoping you would be able to get done. So I knew you had this in you. Good job. And I was just like, Hey, thanks. And for me, it really helped. Me too.

Ori: A lot of sick people in Berlin though, , .

Erick: And it really helped me to really up my game as far as that goes.

And so I was much more motivated to come into work and I, I really enjoyed working there. The only reason I left that was 'cause we didn't wanna live in Minnesota anymore.

Ori: You know what I found about what I found weird about German ambulances? It seems to me that they have the, the, the, in anywhere I've been to the world, these are the strongest sirens.

This is why we're hearing them. And it seems to me that it's a, it's a combination of wanting to help and show off. You know, and just be like, we gotta get somewhere. But also I'm helping people. Oh my God, look at me. So that's the every time I just like, oh my God, I'm a doctor, , whatever. Anyway, sorry. Yeah, no worries.

I have to comment on it because of course, because you're a comedian and because it interrupted the sound, so I gotta say something. Yeah. Here we go again. Alright.

Erick: There seem to be a lot of those around here, so I dunno if there's,

Ori: That's what I'm saying. They're no, actually, you know what? I think it's actually police, and I'll tell you what, speaking about stoicism, I mean, or, or solutions that are, you know what, what, what I've found that Berlin policemen, policemen do, which I've never seen anywhere. If you do anything out of order that the police has called for so instead of like being very, you know, violent or whatever, getting the guns out, they get ten people on it.

So I, I've seen a drunk guy being kicked out of the bar wanting to come in, surrounded by ten police officers. And the thing is, it just immediately works on your psyche. There is no way that you're misbehaving. It doesn't matter how drunk you are. There is no way you're misbehaving when there's ten police officers around you.

And it solves issues like that. It's amazing. So, every time there's a minor thing, there's like a busload of cops just driving there. And things get solved really easily. Yeah, I'm sure. Also, they're hot, by the way. That's true. That's true. If you see the billboards as well, they're always, they photograph them.

But also, you can just see it. They're hot because that's another psychological trick. That's true. You're, you're, you're going to get less into conflict with people you're attracted to. It's just something they do here.

Erick: Learn America, I guess. Exactly, we don't need to shoot everybody.

Ori: Exactly, just get hot looking people, and a lot of them, that's all you need.

And then the police will get a better reputation.

Erick: Exactly, so.

Ori: But then how is that how is that directly connected to stoicism, would you say, the, what you just said about the leadership role?

Erick: I think a lot of it has to do, I mean, obviously Marcus Aurelius was a fantastic example of leadership about trying to, I mean, he was the most powerful man in the world at that time, and yet he was trying to always improve himself, to be humble.

I mean, he talks about, you know, when you get up in the morning, you're going to deal with people who are greedy, who are selfish, who are ignorant, who are loud, who are, you know, all these things about them. And he's like, and the reason that they're this way is they don't know good from evil, and it's your job to help try and instruct them.

And I was just like, That's a pretty, pretty good statement coming from the emperor who could just say off with your head and they would do it. So he could just be like, yeah, you're annoying me today, you know, go kill this guy. And everybody would be like, okay, you said so, emperor, let's go do this thing.

Ori: Have you ever seen the Tudors, the show, the TV show?

Erick: I watched one or two episodes with my ex partner.

Ori: It's a fantastic, I don't know how it holds up now in terms of the quality of the design and everything. Because it was at the time where, where like, TV dramas were like it was the golden age, but they still didn't have the budget, but I thought was fantastic show and that is the example of the opposite of that leadership.

This guy was so volatile Yeah, and that was what was fascinating about it. It's amazing that I think we don't associate Childish behavior or emotional behavior or all that kind of stuff to leaders, you know, if you look at Trump I guess you can just see it on him But he's the words that is he's saying is I know this is all rooted in very smart strategical No, you're just it's just a big baby.

Yeah, and you just you just want to control everything and it's It's interesting. I get you never look at And it, I think, I think it is hard once you're in a leadership position to not lose yourself in it. Yeah.

Erick: Yeah. Well, like they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And Marcus Aurelius is a fantastic example of not letting that happen.

And so I think stoicism, because, because it focuses on there are only four Except all the slavery. Yeah. Yes, there was, yeah, true. There was slavery, wars, and other things going on. Yeah. I mean, there was only so much he could do.

Ori: But, or realize,

Erick: yeah, but there was also, you know, like the Stoics, they talk about the only good is to develop virtue and that's, you know, courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice.

That's it. Like everything else is neither good nor bad. And Aristotle also believed that wealth, beauty, and health were also virtues that you should aspire to. The Stoics, yeah.

Ori: How do you aspire to beauty?

Erick: I don't know. That's what I was kind of wondering. Either you're pretty or you're not. I mean, yes, you can trim your beard a little more, do your hair or whatever, but, you know.

Ori: I'm big coming from him? Yeah.

Erick: But the Stoics broke with that tradition. They just said no. Like, those are indifference. Like, if you are rich and you don't, you know, you need to do all the virtues because then you could be either rich or poor or whatever. And you're still happy. You could be either in good health or bad health and you're still happy.

You could be beautiful or you could be ugly and you're still happy. It doesn't matter. Those things are, it's nice, they're nice to have. It's nice to be rich, it's nice to be healthy, it's nice to be good looking. But it doesn't, in order to live a virtuous life, you don't have to have those things.

Ori: So there's a, there's a bit of Buddhism there as well I think, no?

Like, um, there was this when we were in India, there was, we had this driver, a Buddhist driver. And he took us to this awful, awful place called Spiti Valley, which, if you go to India, unless you like a lot of rocks everywhere, I wouldn't suggest you go. But he drove us this, it was like a, it was like an eight hour drive or something like that.

And horrible, horrible, like we were suffering the whole way through. And he stopped once, he went to this little outside temple, and he was always smiling, always like, And that's his job. He's just a driver, you know? I mean, not to belittle drivers, but I'm saying his whole job is to just drive from point A to point B.

And then we got to the place we were finally getting to, and he was like, he was going to sleep where the drivers sleep. And we were like, no, no, no, we're going to pay for your room. And he was like, no, I don't want it. I want my thing. And I was like, yeah, I appreciate that. Because, yeah, he found his own way to be happy, and he seemed super happy the whole time.

And that takes real, like, inner discipline to be like This is my thing I like, this is what I'm doing, and I'm not going to sway from the way that I do these things because it might cause me pain probably, which is interesting. I, as I'm an anxious person myself, I have anxiety like my whole life. And I've been dealing with it with different tools and therapy and stuff like that.

I think one of the main things in anxiety also because I have ADHD. So it's like a combination of like my friend calls it. It's like there's, you know, how in creativity they say it's the magic what if, right? But that's also the cursed what if, if you look at it from the anxiety perspective, because everything could be bad, right?

So recently I've broken it down to like are you trying, as you said before, are you trying to make things not happen? Or do you trust yourself, if things happen, you'll be able to handle them? And I think that's a very strong distinction, and there's a problem there, which is, I think, trust. You have to trust yourself enough to know that you could handle them, and have enough willpower to to know that you'll be able to that it doesn't matter that all these what ifs, and They don't matter because you have no control of them and 99 percent of the time they won't happen.

You're just creating imaginary scenarios you don't have to deal with. But then you have to take your brain away from that. Because it's, it's, there's something, first of all, there's something more attractive in negative thought than there is in positive thought. Because in positive thought, you're just, things are good.

You're not thinking a lot. But then all these negative options, they're, they're, they're story time, you know. They're, they're, yay, oh, Netflix. I find that to be like a, a big challenge, like in terms of just pushing, just physically feels like, like you're pushing it to the other side and you're like, Oh, let's keep my focus here.

It's, it's hard to do.

Erick: Yeah. Well, one of the things that, that right along with that, it reminded me when you were talking is that Seneca tells us, like, usually we have anxiety because we're worried about the future or we're stuck in the past. We're worrying about things that we have no control over either way, because most of these things in the future that we think.

Aren't going to happen. And the things in the past, well we can't do anything about them. So, you're borrowing misery either way. So yeah, so the Stoics are very much about, like the Buddhists, being as present as possible. But, they also talk about and I'm sure you've probably read about this, the idea of Primanidātyamālora.

It means premeditated malice, and you sit down in a, in a safe.

Ori: By the way, you're giving me way too much credit for reading and being smart. I'm just telling well, you say the ideas that I've had and possibly overheard and uhhuh and some of it I've read very little. I've read, but these are just thoughts that I,

Erick: well, so the idea of Preme Malorum is that in a safe place.

You,

Ori: I can speak Hebrew and be like ancient Hebrew and be like, oh, look at me. And there you go. You just use those words. .

Erick: What's the idea that you, in a safe place, you sit down and you think about the worst possible scenario. What's the worst that could happen in this situation? So that way you, you get that from spinning around in your head, so you write it down or you talk it out or do something like that, but you take an active approach to it.

One, so that it gets it out of your system. At least, this is the way I view it. Gets it out of your system. But two, so that when you write it down, you can realize, oh, it's not as bad as I think it's going to be. Or, what will I do if that happens? And if it does happen, would I be able to manage that? And you go, oh yeah, if it did happen, I'd be able to manage that.

Like, when I was working for a startup, there was one point where they bounced five of my paychecks in a row. And, I had just gotten divorced, and so I was paying child support and alimony, and so I had 17 to my name for a week one time. Wow. And I had a date, and I, she came over, and I was just like, By the way, I've got 17.

He's like, well, there's a sushi place right up in the corner. Throw in your 17 and I'll cover the rest. I was like, thank you. And we had a great time. And then you were homeless.

Ori: Well, but then later that week. Pulling out of that sushi steak. Yes!

Erick: But I had to ride my bike to work, which was fine with me.

Because I couldn't afford to pay gas and things like that. And it kind of freaked me out for a little bit. But then I was like, okay. What would be the worst that would happen? If, you know, I lost my job, the company went under and I'm like, and it took me a while to find another job because this was back in 2005, 2006.

So the economy was okay, but there was, there were some things starting to shake loose a little bit, but I really thought through that. I'm like, okay, well, what would I do if I lost my job and was not able to find another one? I'm living in a pretty cheap apartment. Okay, let me just think about this. And I went through all the scenarios of what I could do.

You know, I could, I could move back to Salt Lake, where my brother was living at the time. Or I could move back to Minnesota for a while and live with my mom. And, then I would, yeah, I'd miss my kids for a bit. But, you know, it would probably just be for a few months, or maybe six months, something like that, until I got back on my feet.

You know, or if worse came to worse, I could sleep in my car. It's almost summer and that's doable. And I've got a gym membership that's super cheap. It costs me 49 bucks a year. It was a deal I bought way back when, and I just now pay 49 a year so I can go shower every day at the gym. Not a big deal. So I was like, okay, I can do this.

I could figure this out, you know? And, and so I just.

Ori: Heroin is pretty cheap

Erick: now. There you go. I went through all these scenarios like that and what it, it did a number of things for me. One, it reassured me that I would be able to survive. That this was not the bottom of the barrel. Like I could, I would be okay one way or the other.

And second, it also released the grip that money had on me. Because I realized that money wasn't that important. I mean, yes, it's important, but that I could survive on very little. Yeah. And I could make things stretch. And that I had community that I could reach out to, to help support me if I needed to.

And it was like, okay. And so that, by going through that, and then later on when I found out about it, I found out about stoicism. I went, Oh, that's, I've done this before in a very important time in my life. And yes, this is incredibly helpful and it relieved a lot of that anxiety for me.

Ori: I agree. I know that tool and I use it occasionally.

I always forget like in my mind is so I have so many things running around my mind that I, that there, there are tools that I hang onto that help me through time. And then there's tools like that, that when I use and they're, they're good. Yeah. And then I forget to use them again. So that's a good reminder.

Erick: Yeah, well often times it's because life's going along well. And so, while it's going well, and then you don't use it for a couple of months, and suddenly like, things get rough, and you're like, oh crap, what do I do now? And I have to do that periodically, because I'm just starting this whole change in my career.

And there are times when I'm like super anxious about it, and I look at my bank account and go, okay. I've got money, I can last for a while, but I need to start bringing in money. You could always use more on

Ori: Patreon, huh? This room is costing money.

Erick: Exactly, but things like that where I go, I go, you know, I need to, I need to start getting out there, I need to start doing these things, I'm doing all the planning right now, and figuring out, you know, what is it that I'm going to teach, how am I going to help these people, how do I make sure that I communicate my message in a way that they understand this is really important.

And thinking about how to do that because my, my, like one example that I found, I'm taking a course right now on how to basically create a mastermind and, or like a hybrid type of mastermind slash course and bring people into those kinds of things. It's expensive, but it's really incredible for me because it changes my mindset dramatically.

So my career for the most part has been me. being brought problems and bringing the tools that I have to bear to solve those. So I have, I know how to program all of these computers. I know how to do all of these things. I have a lot of domain knowledge in certain areas, but I have all these tools that I know how to apply to problems that people bring to me.

I'm not really good at going out and figuring out this is the problem this domain is having. and, and chunking it down in a way that, or communicating it into a way, this is your problem. I will help you solve that. Mm-Hmm. I tried creating startups on my own for a while back 'cause I was in tech or with other people, and I wasn't really good at being the person to go, Hey, what's the problem we're gonna solve?

I would be like, Ooh, there's this cool technology. You can do all this really cool stuff and we can do all these things with it. What should we build with it? I,

Ori: Hmm.

Erick: Hmm. So I needed somebody to bring a problem to me, and then I could help them solve that. So now it's going out and figuring out what people's problems are, asking them and understanding that, getting in their mindset, and then communicating that to them.

So that's been a big shift for me, and now I'm starting to be able to see that. And it was something that I wasn't very good at before. Like, I knew my own personal problems. Like, that's why Stoicism, my podcast, does well, because it's mostly, Crap, this is a problem I'm dealing with. Well, how do I deal with it?

So I go to Stoicism. I write it all out. Do a lot of thinking about it and bring all of it together to bear on my own problems and then I just share those with other people. And so that's basically how my podcast has worked. But to go out of where my problems are and to help find other people's problems and show them, Hey, you've got a problem here.

Let me help you with that. That's something that's new for me. And so it's something I'm learning.

Ori: What kind of problems are you looking for? I mean, we're talking about their problems, talking about life problems, talking about tech problems, what are you talking about?

Erick: Mostly life problems. This is again, the leadership thing.

It's like, what are the problems that the leaders are really running into? You know, and I'm going, well, you, you have all these tools and they'll help you to be a better leader. Okay. But what's the problem that they have that they need to be a better leader or how do you explain to them? Okay. You think you're a good leader, but you, you actually have this problem and I'm here to help you solve this problem.

And.

Ori: Not a bad reality show as well.

Erick: Yeah. So, like I said, I'm better when people just bring me a problem and go, Hey, I've got a problem and I've got, cool, I've got all these tools that I can bring to bear and help you solve them.

Ori: If I can tell you as a, as a comedian, it's like First of all, I've been, I think my whole life just wanting to be an artist and a writer, et cetera, et cetera.

And then I do morning pages and I just go through my own psyche and, And then As I've become a comedian, like I've been doing it for over 10 years now, it's like there is this thing where you sit at home, you take something and then you bring it out. And then they laugh when they identify, when they don't laugh, when they don't identify.

And then you slowly like start this process of like this circular process where where you start to identify, but there is the, for me the laughter is a key. So you're just like, I bring something out and then I see where they are. And that a lot of times echoes to me what's happening. How much of what I'm going through is actually echoing through everyone.

And there's also this everyone thing because as a comedian you're trying to get the room. So there's going to be one or two people who are never going to be with you because they're, you know, But it's fine. But I hate them. But but you see, that's, that's, that's identification thing. So, that echoes a lot of the times what you see other people's problems are.

So just even generic tools can come of that that can help you. Assess what, what the problem is. Like if you tell, if you tell, if you, let's say, if you go to do a corporate gig and you want to laugh at certain people, you'll see, you're going to see who they're going to tell you, you can and cannot, for example, or you say something about the boss, cause you don't care and everybody's like, and you're like, oh, okay, this guy's a narcissist.

But also there's just this echoing thing where I like to use that. Like. There's a risk to it. The risk is you're going to bomb. The risk is you're going to be the guy who said it and nobody is identifying with it. And it becomes a risk once you divulge the fact that you are flawed individual. Like I have a bit about being insecure.

I say like I'm an insecure person. A lot of the time. So I said, this is an audience. And I go, a lot of times I feel maybe I'm not smart enough, not funny enough. I'm not attractive enough, but I also know that I'm better than all of you. So I don't know how that works in one way. And they're laughing and they're offended at the same time.

And I see that they're laughing and I go like, and some of you are thinking, I'm better than you. And we have the same problem. You see, this is, this is exactly what's happening here. So it's that's one of the reasons I love comedy. It's, it's, it's exactly that because you don't feel alone in your own little, I don't know, something there about echoing about identifying the problems that are there because the more you're able to touch those things, the more it resonates through, through the room and you see that everybody has like similar issues.

But I think to me, like what you said before about don't put your mind in the future. Don't put your mind in the past. Yeah. Those are very clear instructions, but they've, maybe because of the repetitiveness of them, have become vague. So what I try to do is, if I like what you said now, the tool of like saying, alright, just write down.

I try to find within the veins of within the, within those I'm looking for a word that escaped me. Never mind. Within, within that field of saying don't look in the past, I'm trying to, to go, what's the muscle? What's the muscle of not looking in the past? How do I strengthen that muscle? And then how do I talk about that?

And how do I remind myself while I'm talking about it? So I just, I had a, a set yesterday where I was saying I've been having a panic attack for four days or five days. Because of the thing that happened to me, and I'm aware of it and I'm functioning, you know? And so I just started talking about it and just to getting all this stuff out.

When does anxiety come from? And wow, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And just kind of, and, and everybody like identified with it and, and just letting it out just made me feel better and just making fun of myself. Mm-Hmm. for, for for being afraid of imaginary scenarios. Yeah. It's, it's ridiculous.

Yeah. You know?

Erick: Well, and that's, that's a good way I think of being present is. And a way to practice presence when you're getting stuck in the past is to vent it out like that. And that's why it's important to have community. And that's why, I mean, that's why oftentimes it's always the joke of, you know, when your partner, your female partner comes to you and it's just like, throws all these things out on you as a guy.

Our, our first instinct is we got to fix it because that's how we've been. Most of us have been raised. We got to fix the thing. Our only value comes from what we can do, you know? And so the first thing that, you know, any good. Marriage coach will tell you is ask if she wants it solved or if she wants you to listen.

And I mean you should listen anyway. Obviously. Practice active.

Ori: It'll be harder to solve if you don't listen.

Erick: Exactly. But you know, often times we just need to vent about the thing. And so for me often times my writing is that way. Writing an episode is that way because I'm struggling with something. I'll just sit down and be like err, err, err.

And go through and then I get done with it and go, ugh. Okay, it's not such a big thing. I took all of that and I put it out of my head and sometimes my journals are just that way, I'm just like I'm feeling anxious today and I just write about what's going on in my head and just getting it out of my head somehow deflates some of that energy that it has.

And it takes it, by putting it down there, it makes it a little more real so I can actually look at it. So it's not just spitting around in my head and ruminating on that. So that's really helpful, like you were talking about doing morning pages. That's kind of what this is sometimes. And for me, I find that by letting it out, it, it pulls you into the present and takes something from the past.

But you're talking about it with your friend, with yourself, whatever, right now. And it's. For me, that's a way of a bit of grounding as well. Also meditation is something that I do from time to time. That's very helpful.

Ori: Yeah. Meditation really helps. Yeah.

Erick: And for me, a lot of the main, the reason why meditation helped me become much more present minded.

I did this exercise about three years ago where I meditated for 60 minutes for 60 days in a row every day. And it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Sure. And I got it from um, what's his name? Totally blanking on his name. He's a VC. I don't remember. That's some other point.

But he had done that. One of his mentors is like, Hey, you really need to do this. And he's like, why? And he's like, because I'm telling you, you need to do this. I know you trust me on this. And he's like, okay, I'll do that. And he did it. And he was like, after that 60 days, It was like my base level of anxiety dropped dramatically.

Like by doing that, I became so much more aware of how my mind thought. So I can be aware of my own thinking at any time, far better than I have been before. Because, but also just that 60 minutes for 60 days. allowed my brain to process all of the backlog of things that had just been spinning in the back.

And it finally brought them to the front. And I could notice them be like, Oh, that's an interesting thought. I haven't thought about that for a while. And this thing, and it was like, he was able to just kind of work through and get rid of all of these things. So I did that. And I found that after that, that I was better able to look at my own thinking at any moment and realize all the stuff going along.

Yeah. All the clutter that was happening. And so I can just. Kind of stick my head up and go, okay, that's going on. That's going on. Hmm. Wow. There's a lot of things spinning around in here. Just be aware of it. And just that basic awareness then helped me in many ways. To, to recognize what was going on and what was causing some of that feeling, because our emotions are caused by our thinking, you know, worrying about something.

It's going to cause some anxiety, but if you're aware of it, it's easier to do something about it. Yeah. For me, I have this little practice that I do. I call it nudging, which is very simple. It's not edging, but nudging. And it's rather than trying to just change my mood on a dime, like I'm feeling anxious.

I don't want to feel anxious. So I'm going to try and do everything I can to get over here because our minds aren't very good at shifting that quickly. Except for emergency situations, you know, car's going to hit you. You're suddenly forgetting, forget about being anxious. And you're going to be like, Oh, you're going to be terrified.

So. But I found for me

Ori: If you get hit by a car, you're like, I might be gay. No, you're not.

Erick: Exactly. But I found for me, what it did was, what the idea of nudging is, is that I think, I think about something that generally makes me happy. Like I think about my kids. Or I think about the meal I had last night.

Just something a little bit happier. And I just kind of, just meditate on that just for a minute or two. And just, you know, And it just kind of like, or, you know, and I just kind of make myself just kind of relax a little bit and smile a little bit just to nudge my mood in the direction. And I think of it as kind of like if you take a, if you've ever been in a canoe, it doesn't take much to just shift a few degrees and go that direction and you are going to end up in a completely different side of the shore than if you kept going where you're going.

So that little nudge just kind of moves me in the right direction.

Ori: I, in the morning I do now when I wake up, I do, first of all, I I, I try to practice Transcendental Meditation I try to do it every day. I don't succeed, but I try. It is really helpful. It does reduce your anxiety, but what I'm starting to do every day when I wake up is I just sit, like, lay there for, like, a few minutes, and I think about that this is gonna be a great day.

Just, just I saw this comedian talking about it, but but he was talking about it from a different angle, but I like the idea of, like You kind of have to gaslight yourself. You kind of have to gaslight yourself. You kind of have to gaslight yourself. You kind of have to be like, it's going to be a great day.

And then, you know, why is it going to be a great day? Because my life is pretty good. This is pretty good, that is pretty good. If anything happens, I can deal with it. But you don't have to get in, like, especially in the morning, before everything kicks in. Because in a few minutes, everything is going to kick in.

You have a little bit already, the computer is starting to bring up all the stuff. You just sit there for a second, and you go, you This is going to be a great day because the sun is shining, my wife is here, and I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna, you know what, this is going well, that is going well. And then you wake up and I found this to be like important where the first thing you say in the morning, right?

If you're with someone, if you're with a spouse or whatever. First, it's like, just do it in a very, like bring yourself to a place before you get out of bed where you can say good morning in a positive way. And I find that to be super important because a lot of the times I go, like, if I don't do that, I have this like, Oh, I'm saying the same words in the morning or she's saying, and I'm like, no, like I'm here.

I'm having, there's a goal to this. And I'm, I'm spreading positivity now. I'm like, hey, good morning, like, how's your morning? She's like, yeah, and we're already starting on some, some good footing. Yeah. You know, and you don't have to keep it up the whole day. It's just, just the beginning of it. Yeah. And I find that it has a huge effect on my happiness level.

Erick: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, basically that's, that's kind of, same idea. Yeah, just that, just reminding yourself about something to be grateful for. Yeah.

Ori: Yeah, for sure. I also do like, in the shower, I do like eight things I'm, I'm grateful for every day. That works.

Erick: Well, and that's the one thing I really like about stoicism is it's it's about just trying to practice things every day to have a better life.

And, and because they, the principles are, like I said, they're fairly simple, doing them well takes work, but you can do even just doing a little bit every day can bring such great benefits to your life. And I'd say you don't have to be perfect at it by any means, but if you're, it's never about perfection because perfection is.

I mean, again, there's no, there's no real way to define what perfection is. It's always just, are you moving in a good direction? And I think that that's, that's the answer.

Ori: Tell you what I think the problem with stoicism is, is branding wise. So I have a friend and he, for many years, he's like, oh, I'm a stoic.

And I, I don't, I didn't like that. I didn't like that. I'm a stoic. I'm like, what are you, a fucking Jedi? Like, you're not, just like, oh, I don't, I don't like it. There's something about it. And also, he's like, he's like this type of person, of course. He's like So I didn't know what that meant and then also he's like this type of person that sometimes he pushes things in So I'm just like the minute someone says I'm anything I'm already getting like critical about it, you know But so I think the and all this Marcus Aurelius, it's like it just sounds like gladiator, you know I'm a stoic, I have swords.

It's just that it's just bad branding, you know And I think that first of all saying I'm practicing stoicism I think is way better. Yeah You Okay. Because it's, because it's exactly what you just said, which is every day I'm doing something to try and get my life better and it's along the lines of Stoicism.

Yeah. So that's the thing. This is a big difference. You know? And yeah, and I would ask like, what would you, for someone who wants to start trying to practice Stoicism, what would you say first steps, first good steps would be? Just out of interest.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for me, one of the biggest things.

And it's one of the hardest things, is again, understanding what you can control. And being able to look at that very clearly, and to stop trying to control things you can't. Because that's

Ori: So what would be the tools to, to, to focus on that, for example?

Erick: Well, I think a lot of it is What, is thinking about what are the things that we try to control the most in our lives that we don't have control over.

And usually that's other people. That's the biggest thing most of us try to control that we can't. We want to control what other people think about us. We want to control our reputation. We want people to like us. We want all, you know, we want this person to think we're great. We don't want our partners to be mad at us.

And rather than actually trying to communicate with them, we get mad at them and saying, stop being mad at me. And we get more and more angry with them. And for me, stoicism has been super helpful because I recognize the reason why I was angry about a lot of things or was easily set off by a lot of things.

It was because I was trying to control them. I was trying to use anger to control these things around me. 'cause that's what my dad, that's what my dad did. And so that was my example. And so it was, it was kind of hardwired in that way from, from years of abuse of when anything didn't go the way he wanted to.

We, you know, immediately got angry and hit us and, and things like that. And so it's, it was really hard with him because when he was good. Things were great. He was funny. He was kind. He was smart. He was generous. When things were bad. Ooh It's rough. Yeah, it was kind of like living with an alcoholic, but he didn't drink alcohol I mean I almost wish he did because then he could come home and go whoop.

Dad's on one tonight Let's you know, you can see the bottles or smell the booze and and the other thing Yeah, he was a closet bisexual and in the Mormon Church

Ori: Wow Harsh. Yeah, that's exactly the problem with these kind of things. Yeah. This is the way the world, no, it doesn't because why? Because you can do other things.

Yes. It's obvious. I don't ever get that about people who like are like preaching God. It's like if God is everything, why is not the possibility of everything also God, like why this? Exactly. It's just very, I don't think, I don't think people really believe in it. It's just one structure.

Erick: Yeah, exactly. And I think that I think it was Krishnamurti, I think was the author.

He has this book called the last freedom and really in the last freedom is really that You as a person need to realize you can do anything you want in this life. You have the choice to do anything that you want now You can't control the consequences for your choices, but you have the right to choose to live exactly the way you want You're not happy in your marriage.

You can leave You do not have to stay You do not have to make that choice. You do not have to work the job your parents want you to, or society wants you to. You can be a bum and live on the street. You have that choice. There are consequences with those choices. But you have that ability. And that's really hard for a lot of people to internalize.

Like, no, no, no, we can't all just do what we want. Like, yes you can. It can cause massive disorder in a lot of different ways in society and other things like that. So you have to think about what are the consequences of me doing exactly what I want to do or anything that I want to do. But you're allowed to do that.

Ori: I think it's safeguards people from making decisions that exactly that they don't want to deal with the consequences of, which is, I think it's not just because they want to do those things. They just don't want to think those things through. It's scary to think for a second about about anything.

About, like, what would happen if I was to Like, for example, even like things that we're already doing. I have this whole bit I'm working on with politicians and stuff like that. Everybody complains about them. What would you do if they disappeared? Would you do their job? Do you even know what they're doing?

They are the wolves, we are the sheep, because we've elected them to be the wolves. We want to sit here, you know, we just want to go, Netflix. That's what we want to do, you know. But, but, the point of it is, like, we don't even want to know. It's the same thing why we're angry with vegans. Because vegans are telling us things that we know that we don't want to know.

But if the book says eating meat is fine, then I don't have to listen to the voices in my head talking about morality at all. Because the book says this is moral, and I want to think about it. Because I know on some level it's not moral, it doesn't sit well with what I perceive morality to be. But I'm an amoral person in those respects, but I don't want to admit it to myself.

Yeah. And that solves that entire problem. Yeah. And I feel like a lot of kind of rules do that for people, and there's comfort in that. There's comfort in that.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I had somebody ask me one time on, or they posted a thing on Reddit saying, What's the difference between Stoicism and a religion?

And I said, all right, I'll take that on that, let me explain what it is. Stoicism is a bunch of tools and principles that are just applied in any situation in life. It's not dogma. It's not telling you, you have to do this and this and this and this is saying, if you want to live a happier life, you want to feel like a better person, a moral person and be able to weather these things that are really hard.

Here's some tools you can use to do it. Yeah. Try them, see if they work. And I said, so there's no, you, there's no, there's no prescriptive law.

Ori: It's not, you can't be gay because Marcus Aurelius said you cannot be gay. Exactly.

Erick: I said there's no prescriptive things of like you have to do these things in order to be a stoic.

It's, it's a, It's not declarative. It's, it's this kind of like, here's the idea. Here's some ideas. If you follow these ideas, you're just going to find that you're going to be happier if you live this way. If you practice courage, if you practice wisdom, if you practice self discipline, if you practice justice, which to me, justice is how do you treat other people, try to treat other people?

Well, that's what justice to me says about is how do you interact with your fellow man? And it's so stoicism is just like, just try these things and see if they make you happier.

Ori: Let's go back to the example that you gave. I agree with you that you cannot control other people, but you can try and influence what people think of you.

Sure, absolutely. But within that realm, there is a whole level of debate with yourself. How much am I being myself? How much am I skewing towards the other person? How much does even the other person like it when I suck up to them? Or if I'm being myself, am I being too aloof? Am I being too, like you know?

And those are also hard tools to it's very hard to look at yourself from the outside and realize who you are and what you're doing. Yeah, yeah. Also, some people really like you and some people really don't. Yeah, and that's okay. That's really annoying. Yeah. Because you can't get any clear data from this.

Erick: Exactly. Well, like my, I was with my brother this last weekend in Frankfurt and, We've always had, we've been, we're, we've always been close, but also had some, you know, and we're brothers, you know, it's just kind of how it is. Just as we've gotten older and wiser, and I, there were always things that he would say where I'd just be like, man, he, because he doesn't have a filter, he doesn't have much of a filter.

Like, if he thinks it, it comes out of his mouth. And when I was younger, you know, I was much more trying to be the good Mormon and do all the righteous things. And he was the one who was like, ah, brah, you know. doing whatever he wanted. And I would always be like, oh, you're a bad person. And yeah, I was very judgy.

And I know that. But it was funny. He was, he was talking, he was telling me some story and he was, he was helping somebody out with something, but he was still giving them shit about things. And, and they go, you know what? You're a likable asshole. And he's like, yep, that's pretty much what I am. I just laughed.

I'm like, you know, but he's more than willing to just admit and he goes, yeah, I'm kind of a son of a bitch sometimes. And I'm okay with that. Not everybody, I'm not everybody's cup of tea, but, but his, he's got friends who are so like loyal to him because he is exactly who he is and he rubs people the wrong way. There's some people who do not like him because he's a lovable asshole and but he knows that yeah And he's accepted himself for who he is like that and I can have a lot of respect for that and we had a great time and really connected and for me a lot of that judginess that I used to have when I was younger I don't have anymore because I've worked on letting go of that And, and also he's softened up as he's gotten wiser, as he's gotten older about things.

And he's less judgy about things too. And so we were able to get him together and we had a great time. And it was, it was really a lot of fun. But I love the way you put that. It's just like, you're a real likable asshole. Like, yeah, there's nothing wrong with being that.

Ori: I feel I mean, I feel that way sometimes.

But I don't think I'm I think I'm an asshole. I think I'm, I used to be way more blunt about things. You know? I think moving to Europe has really changed my perception, but it's not just that. It's just that you work in TV and there's like a level of like, I have my authenticity, but also I'm aware that I might be wrong.

And at the same time I have to get along with all these people that I wouldn't necessarily hang out with and yet I don't want to betray myself. So it's always this kind of weird, I think recently what I've realized is I have, if I want to say something. I, I will say it because I have this I have this compulsion, I cannot not say what I perceive to be true.

But, I've learned to be nice in the way that I say it. Be polite, not nice, like, you know, so Be kind. Be kind, yeah. Yeah. Don't, like, I, I attempt not to create suffering. But at the same time speaking of Buddhist stuff, so at the same time I want to be authentic. I want to be real. It's not that, Oh, this person must know my opinion about them.

That's not the issue. But the issue is like, if there is an opinion I want to express, not necessarily about the person, but generally then I would like to express it because I feel like I'm entitled to it, but I feel like this is who I am and this is what I see in this, what I would like to do. And, and yeah, and I try to wrap it in such a way that my point will come across.

I don't feel On the inside that I oppressed myself on one hand and on the other hand that I didn't really cause any harm or pain unless The situation calls for some conflict. So recently I'm trying to get better at actually at conflict and realizing the conflict is not the worst thing in the world.

It's pretty good actually. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes it's necessary. Exactly. So I'm, I'm trying to get better at that, ironically from Israel, but, which I think probably is, is part of the problems anyway. But but yeah, there is, there is this for me, there's this constant. And, and when people look at me on the side, I think, for example on stage I'm likable, I think I'm I think people identify with me, like I, I'm very, I'm very, like I talk about a lot of dark stuff, but I will say it in a way that will include people rather than exclude, I'm trying, I'm not trying to shock anybody, I'm not trying to say something dark, I'm like, I look at it from a perspective of exactly what we've talked about, like, There's dark shit in the world.

This is just life, and let's, if we don't make fun of it, we don't bring light to the situation, then we're just gonna suffer. So that's what I'm trying to do, but I also come from that attitude. Of like, I'm not gonna try and shock you with saying words, I'm just, and And I do have some tension over I mean, it becomes more precise and professional when it's on stage, Cause then I'm like What did I say that where I lost them over here?

So I'm not gonna not say what the point of what I wanted to say But I will find a different way of saying it so it'll be palatable because my goal is to have a conversation.

Erick: Yeah Well, it's like for me. I I the way that I kind of see that is I try to practice radical candor as much as possible. And to me, candor is a little bit different than just being honest.

Okay. Because you can, you can be honest and tell the truth and everything like that. But candor is like, can I be candid for a minute here? It's very different than just saying, well, I assume you were being, you know, can I be honest here? It's like, well, haven't you been honest? Haven't you been telling? You know,

Ori: What's the difference between candid and honest?

Erick: To me, honesty is that everything you're saying is factually true. Candor is what's behind the scenes. It's pulling the curtain open and going, Okay, this is what you see, that's being honest. Let me show you what's really going on. It's much more vulnerable. It's much more about saying, This is what I've been really thinking.

This is what's really going on. Even though what I told you was true, there was a veneer on it. There was, there was a polish to it. Candor is like, here's more of the raw stuff. And so for me, candor is, is like a deeper step of honesty is kind of the way that I see it. But with can, but with everything, you kind of need to make sure you understand the opposite and the positive opposite.

And for me, the opposite of candor and the positive way is discretion. And so if you practice radical candor with people, you also have to have discretion and that's tact. That's knowing sometimes you don't need to say it, or sometimes you How you say it is important and you, you land it gently and go, by the way, I just need to tell you, you're a total asshole, but I love you anyway.

You know? And so it's, it's kind of the same thing. And so I, I, I try to think about that when I, when I deal with people, it's like, I want to tell you the truth. I want to be the, I want to show you the vulnerable truth, not just I'm telling you the truth, but I'm showing you the truth. Showing you something that's a little bit deeper than that.

This is the vulnerable thing of things, but also trying to use discretion at the same time.

Ori: Interesting. Can I be candid? Absolutely. I'm trying to get some basic tools to get into stoicism, because I like the idea. I like the, I like what I'm hearing about it. I don't, I think I understand, like it's a bit like geography.

Like, I know where major areas are, I think, I think. But I don't think I have the the stepping stones. Like what you just said, for example, about other people. Okay, I'm thinking about it. Or certain things we discussed. I'm like, yeah, I do that. But then I don't see the stepping stones towards getting into it, for example.

Just starting off in it.

Erick: I actually did an episode about three weeks ago called Beginning Stoicism where I Oh, just listen to that. Yeah. So that, that right there I think is a good place to start.

Ori: Should have listened to that episode then. Exactly. Waste everybody's time.

Erick: Exactly. But, I think a lot of it is, well, like you said earlier, it's a lot of, to me, I consider Stoicism as kind of Greco Roman Buddhism.

There are a lot of crossover because they came to the same conclusions, just understanding human behavior and, but a little bit less woo, if you will, and a little more rationality of things. And so the idea is that, you know, we're human beings, we have rationality, that's what makes us human. Homo sapiens as opposed to just being some other primate, is that we have the ability to, to, at least to a certain extent, think rationally as best we can.

Another thing that is really big on stoicism that I try to help people understand is that your perception of something is what causes the feelings that you have. It causes your distress. And they even say that in there. It's not the thing that bothers you, it's your perception of it. The way that you think about the situation bothers you.

Like you talked about this guy, your driver, he thought of his place where he crashed as his most comfortable place. It was his happy place. So when you look at it and go, God, that must be really uncomfortable. Why is he going to do that? And he looks at it and he's like, this is my comfy place. And he's all happy to be there.

Sleep in his car. Exactly. So for him, his perception on it was, this is my comfortable little, little safe space. Other people look at it and go, Oh, that would be terrible. I want my hotel bed. And then you need something much more than that. And so really your perception on almost anything can change how you are, how you feel about it and what you do about it.

Ori: So you change your own perception of things.

Erick: Yeah. That you choose your perception or you, at least you're aware of your perception. It's like, what am I thinking about this? That's, that's, what's the story that I'm telling myself about this situation. Like if somebody came up to you on the street, a simple thing of perception you had two people who are trying to get to work and they missed the bus.

One guy gets mad and he's flipping the bus driver off and he's all sorts of pissed off about it, you know, because he missed the bus and the bus driver continued on. And we've all had situations like that. His coworker is standing there and he just looks at it and you're like, eh, okay, whatever. Just smiles about it, goes to stand on the bench and starts looking around.

He's like, well, it's kind of a nice day today. And this is. Okay, and he's like, you know, hey, that's 15 more minutes. I get to chill out before I get to work. Hmm same situation And and so there you understand that it was they're just they're different perceptions on what it really meant. Yeah You know and people are like no no, but these things that happened to me They're the reason why I'm upset or because this person said this thing to me That's why I'm upset and it's like no it's because the story that you tell yourself about the situation about what the other person said.

That's what's making you upset.

Ori: But then what's the line between authenticity and perception? Because if you can change your perception of most anything, which I agree you can do and should do sometimes then how do you know that you're remaining authentic to yourself?

Erick: It's not about necessarily having to change your perception, because you can keep it.

It's about recognizing what your perception is. And recognizing that the way that you're thinking about that might be the thing that's causing you the distress that you don't want to feel. It's like you could be the cause of your own problem. Somebody said something mean about you and you're all worked up and upset about it.

Why? You're the one who's telling yourself this awful story about what they said. If you said, if it was some stranger who said something to you and you didn't really care, or it was somebody that you thought was an asshole and you didn't care about what it, they could say the exact same thing, and the story you would tell yourself is, Pfft, he's an asshole, I don't care.

It's only because you gave it weight.

Ori: So you have to look if your perception serves you or not.

Erick: Exactly. Because it could be that your perception is fine. That person said that awful thing, and I feel upset about that, and I want to feel upset about that.

Ori: You see, that's where anxiety kicks in a lot of times.

Because anxiety will hold on to the perception and say, Well, this perception has saved us many a times. You should never change this perception. Which is like, this is like how you know the brain is somewhat of a computer. Yeah. It's like, here are these files you shouldn't touch, and these ones. That's, that's true.

And I feel like in comedy there's somebody I met this woman once and she said she went to clowning school. And she asked her, like, if you have to tell me one thing that's really valuable from that. And she said, in comedy you don't, in clowning, you don't only have to agree to be the floor man, you have to enjoy it.

And that really spoke to me. You know, I was walking with my wife in Köln, which is a city in Germany. Just for the Americans. No. So I was walking there and I was and I was walking down the street and I farted. And two guys behind me laughed. Right, and my wife was kind of feeling a bit embarrassed about it.

And I was like, you know what, my job is to make people laugh. It doesn't matter if I'm on stage or off. I'm happy that they laughed at my fart. So, and it really changed, like, and that's something actively, like, I don't mind, and I think, by the way, it's a pretty powerful tool, not just for comedians, but generally, like, one of the things which I fundamentally disagree with is if people laugh at me, that means I'm weak.

I think that's, that's, that's a, that's a very common perception, by the way. And and once you change that, once, like, on stage, it doesn't matter what they're laughing at. Like, I'm instinctually funny in certain ways. And if my goal is to make you laugh, because I think you'll feel better, I'll feel better.

It doesn't matter if you're laughing at me or with me. Everybody's making this really, like, especially in comedy, this really important distinction. You're laughing at me or with me. I'm like, what does it matter? They're laughing. People are having a good time. It doesn't matter at all. And, And you can't control it anyway.

Yeah, and you can't control it anyway. And you shouldn't attempt to try. I mean, you can, you can, you can guide the laughter. You can try and play with it. But This whole concept, I feel like this is another thing when people are Connecting laughter to disrespect, which I think is an awful thing to do because you basically said I think John Cleese was saying something about that There's a difference between being respectful and pompous Like if you're not be if you if you if they can't laugh at you, you're being you're a dictator You're being pompous.

You're saying like I am you cannot touch me like you're over serious And I feel like that probably stems from, I don't know, I'm not a psychologist, but it probably stems from childhood when we couldn't handle it. Where somebody was laughing at you and you thought, oh shit, I'm in social danger right now.

I'm being demoted.

Erick: Yeah, I had a hard time with that because my last name is Cloward and I used to get called coward all the time. And the kids would laugh at it and I would feel so hurt and so offended and I had a hard time with sarcasm growing up because I got picked on quite a bit. Because I was a little bit smaller, and also because of my name and stuff like that.

And so my ex wife was, she was fairly sarcastic, and it was hard for me, and she was trying to play. Her sarcasm wasn't mean, it was her play, but for me, all sarcasm was hurtful. Yeah. Because, also because my dad would use sarcasm as a hurtful thing. It was never a funny, playful thing. And my ex wife was, you know, her sarcasm was trying to be play, and it wasn't until like two years after we were divorced, where I finally like I was reading an article about something like that and I was like, Oh, I never stopped.

Oh, geez. I always felt attacked when she was being sarcastic. She was trying to play with things. She was trying to make, you know, some kind of witticism or something. Yeah, like a, you know, She was trying to play with things and I was so serious and so Defensive all the time because I've grown up being very defensive all the time because the church is always telling you you're a bad person My dad is always telling me.

I'm a bad person Kids are teasing me. So I always felt like I was this bad person I was super defensive about a lot of things and it wasn't I guess that went two years later. I'm like she was trying to play

Ori: I'm gonna be here with it. First of all, I had this image of you and like if you need a if you need a You Image for your podcast, you just have like a yourself and kinda like a, I don't know what the body language is, but something like, but you have an S for stoicism, like , like a shitty superman.

You know what I mean? Like you're dealing with it not because of your bra and your, but you're dealing with it the way through stoicism. Yeah. Astro Pues you want, there you go. That's not bad. Yeah, exactly. But what was I saying? Ah, when I got here so Israel, we don't really have banter. We have, we laugh at each other, we laugh a lot, like, in Israel, because Jews, you know, we deal with tragedy through laughter, but we don't have banter.

We don't, we don't pick at each other. And when I came here and I met all these British people and the Irish people and Australians and everybody's like, you know, I felt attacked in the beginning. I didn't understand what was going on. People being critical of me, what's happening. I And and because I hang out with comics a lot, then somebody made it clear to me at some point, I think it was Brendan actually, my partner from the shows, Epic Comedy Berlin, check him out online, I've got a website.

So, he he told me that, he was like, well you're being a little bitch essentially. So I was like, ah, okay, they're doing something else. And then I asked him, what is banter? And then I realized what banter is, I was like, ah, okay. And there is this one comic in the scene here, he's he's a young comic and his name is Eunice.

He's a funny guy, but when I started getting into this banter thing and started to shit at people as well, la, la, la, la, la, he was, he's such a guy that you can tell him anything and he's just like, ha, ha, he laughs at himself. He takes it, he's, he's, he finds it funny. And then he laughs at himself. And you're like, this is the best punching bag I've ever had.

But also, he's enjoying it. So, and it also kind of like, there's a limit. Of how much you can do it. Because you're like, alright. But at the same time, it's fun because this guy's enjoying the situation. And then, even if he's not that good yet at punching you back, It creates this nice feeling for everybody.

And I realized, yeah, that's what you need to do. You need to kind of accept the fact that you're a piece of shit like everybody else. And allow them to point that out. And also not take it very seriously. Like, there's something about comedy. It's like, you're ugly, right? Nobody means that you're ugly, but you are also ugly.

Everybody's also all of these things. Yeah. And and that's, I think like, if you grab on to that idea, then you start to get fucked up. If you're like, oh, am I ugly? You go home and you're like, ah. Just let it go. Just let it be. Or am I dumb? Yes, you're also, but it doesn't matter.

Erick: Yeah, and that's where, again, he had a great perspective on things.

His perspective was anybody can make fun of him and he could choose to be offended or not. Yeah. And he chose he wouldn't be offended. He would laugh along with them because there's a little bit of truth in it and that's okay.

Ori: Yeah. Yeah. It's sadly now he's dead. No, he's not. He's not. But I hope if he hears this, he'll laugh at this.

Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting.

Erick: Yeah. So, yeah, I, I really appreciate our conversation on this. I've been enjoying looking at stoicism like through the comedic lens of things and just being able to laugh at the ridiculousness of life and, and the episode, well, the episode that I had a couple of weeks ago, it was, you know talking stoicism It was inspired because of, I came to your comedy show.

Oh no. I was having a crappy day, I was just in this, this kind of sour mood and I couldn't shake it. For whatever reason, I was just having a really rough time, and I was trying to work on the podcast episode for that week. It was a Sunday, and I was just like, not able to shake this mood. And so, I'm like, you know what, let's just go out for the evening.

So I looked on Meetup, saw the comedy show, and I'm like, comedy, there we go, that's what I need. And Just going to that and laughing for two hours. And I sat next to this really cool German couple that had just been walking by. Oh. And Who's the other comedian? I forgot his name. Partik. Partik. He just said, Hey, we've got a comedy show in English and you know, it's 7:30 and so they're like, Oh, okay.

Ori: Yeah. And so

That's fun.

Erick: So they were like, Oh, okay. And you know, they were really nice and we didn't, yeah, we're like, okay, they might come back. And they, they, they showed up and I sat next to him. That's amazing when people do that. Yeah. We sat next to him and we were all laughing.

We were having a great time and I chatted with him for quite a while and we were all just, I mean, it was a small crowd. I think there were only like 10 people. Yeah. Yeah. But it was a great crowd. Everybody was having so much fun. We were all laughing and filling the room and you guys were great. And it just set my mood for that whole week.

The next week just felt so much better and so much lighter. And it just, just squashed that sour mood. And so I had to write that episode. I'm like, this is what I'm going to do. And wrote that episode and it was pretty well received. And I really liked it because I'm just like, you know, stoicism. Everybody always thinks it's all so serious and all this stuff.

And I'm pretty serious on there because I'm trying to talk about how to approach hard things in your life. Yeah. But here's another way to approach hard things in your life. Learn to laugh about them.

Ori: I gotta say, for me, when I go to the show and I do the same, like, I perform, I feel the same way, like, I just saw today Facebook likes to remind you how old you are, so it's like, seven years ago you've written this, and I was like and I literally wrote today, like, seven years ago today, I had a really shitty day, but then I had a great show, and the show trumped the day.

And I really feel that that's that works, like it works both ways because comedy is, is, my dad was a doctor and he's dead. Which is, I like, I wrote a joke after this saying, well that means he's a bad doctor. It's the one thing you're not supposed to do. Anyway, so the so what he used to say is like, any patient that'll come into his to, to his practice, And is smiling, will 100 percent of the time get over anything that he has, any problem they have quicker than people who are not.

And when he used to call me he used to ask me, are you, I can't, he used to say on the phone, I can't hear you smiling. And I have on my phone every day at 5. 30 I have a reminder to smile. And the show that I'm doing, the hour that I'm practicing, where you came was our little lab where we're practicing our, like, longer sets.

So I called it, for now at least, it's called Laughing Matter. Because I do think that it, it just lightens your whole existence. And there's something about also knowing that you're not alone. If, when you're in a room and people are laughing it, it creates this subconscious confirmation that we are kind of similar and which is, which, which I think is beautiful to me and is also why I don't like when people say, Oh, you shouldn't laugh about certain things because that's a saying.

You shouldn't treat certain problems. You go to the doctor and say, No, I'm sorry. I'm not going to touch your asshole. Sorry about that. We don't do that here. It smells, you know, it's not popular thing to do. So no, you should go everywhere and laugh about everything. Because what you're trying to do unless you're an asshole, but then that's not funny being like a real asshole That's not funny But if you if you're really trying to get in in in somewhere that's dark and deep Then that will make you feel lighter about yourself.

And I think it's always good to laugh yourself Always good to laugh with others And you can also laugh at others. One of the things that I, that I I mean, there's a border there between being an asshole and being exactly like, like comedians are shitting on each other, you know? It's like, I was thinking about it.

Why do I love stupid reality shows? Me and my wife, we watch Temptation Island. We love that show. It's such a good show. And there was no one there, at least from Season 2, but also Season 1, but let's say, that has not understood what the format is, why they're there, and what the benefit of everybody involved is.

But, it is so much fun for them. They get the Instagram followers and the money. We get to judge other people and go, Look at their relationship, it sucks. And, and the producers get to go, Oh, I like this money that comes in from royalties. That's, that's what everybody gets to do. And that's fine, and that's fine.

And I think that I think that we should allow comedy to seep into as much, as many parts of our lives as possible.

Erick: Agreed. Agreed. Like the, like the old philosopher said, you should be seeking eudaimonia, which means a good spirit.

Ori: I like that. Probably had to do with wine.

Erick: Yeah. Sometimes wine does put you in a good spirit.

A good spirit for a good spirit.

Ori: And also, even though this is something I've been working with recently, there is a level of like apologetic ness, but it's not real. It's not real. So the standards people have, which I feel like it's, this is not to say that I am a com as a comic, don't want always to be better and the best comedic 'cause that's absolutely what I want.

But I also feel like it was just even not comedy shows just left. From just anything. Like we have weird standards about our own fun. You know what I mean? Like, oh, I'm not gonna laugh at it. Why? Like, there's, this is a new bit I'm just, I'm working on where I go like, I go like, why is that even there? And then I do something stupid.

I go like, And on some level, As the kid inside you knows that's hilarious. There's something hilarious about it. There's something funny about stupid shit that there's no reason to laugh at. But we're just sitting there going, now say something political. Because we've created this barrier between what it is okay to laugh at as adults, and what it is to laugh at as children.

And I think that barrier needs to slowly dissipate. Because that's what you want. That's what really, when you go to comedy, that's what you want, really. So, of course, it's my job as a comedian to get you there, but it's also helpful if you let go a little bit. You know, which is, I think, why people take certain drugs, probably.

But, that's what I'm saying, that there is, if I had to say two things, it's one, it's those things. Like, let comedy seep into anything, and also, just let, just laugh at stupid shit. Cause why the fuck not?

Erick: Yeah. And life is just full of it, and so you can either, Amor fati means to love your fate. So you, meaning, love your fate.

Fate. So it means that life's just gonna throw stuff at you. Life is gonna happen. And you can love it or hate it, but life doesn't care. The universe doesn't care. It does not give a shit. So you can hate it all you want, and the universe is like, So what? Still gonna dish it out at you. And so you can either just go, Okay, I love this.

And what better way to learn to love something than to be able to laugh?

Ori: Yeah, that's a normal thing. I feel like after this podcast, you're going to get letters and people saying, I like the thing, but gay people are still not okay in my book.

Erick: Oh, I'm sorry. I occasionally get some stuff like that. Like I wrote, I did one about talking about understanding your privilege in life.

You know, because it took me a long time to understand all the things that I just got because I was a white male in a Christian culture in the richest nation in the world. Okay. And, you know, had good high schools, all of these things, middle class, all these things that I got that I did nothing for, I just happened to get by virtue of my birth.

And I just talked about it, just saying, hey, there's nothing wrong with having privileges. Just know that you have them, understand them, and so you don't judge other people because they're not like you, because they didn't get the same things that you got. And do what you can to help those who don't.

That's it. You know, I wasn't, wasn't super preachy, I was just saying, understand your situation, understand that you got lucky, or maybe you didn't get lucky, but you probably got luckier than somebody else. Because there's always somebody lower than you who got worse things. And I got a couple of emails on that, how dare you, and you know, and you're going off on this political woke agenda and all this stuff, and I said, that's not it at all, you missed the whole point.

Plus, you're not being very stoic if you're writing into me being so nasty because something offended you, you chose to be offended. Sure. Sure. And then the other one was, I mentioned during the middle of the pandemic, there was one where I was talking in my podcast and I said, you know, with this going on, if you go out and you are, you know, not wearing a mask and you aren't getting a vaccine, your behavior is being selfish because you're not taking into account how you're affecting other people.

Sure. So I got some nasty emails about that. Of course. Same kind of thing.

Ori: Anything that's political, people will will, will, will respond immediately from there, especially Americans. Yeah. From there. No, this is the left and this is the right, and if you said this and I'm actually from there, just shut up.

Erick: Yep. Well. I think it's getting time for us to wrap this up, because I know you have some plans for the evening, and my MacBook is just about to run out of power, so

Ori: Look at that. It's a good time. Even the MacBook is like, shut the fuck up.

Erick: No, it's been a great conversation, so I've really enjoyed having you on here, thank you.

Ori: Thank you, thank you so much, and thanks for coming to the comedy show as well.

Erick: Yeah, yeah, it was a lot of fun. Like I said, it really reset my mood, and the last couple weeks have just been better just because of that. I don't know what I was so sour about, or what it was bothering me, but I remember waking up Monday and it just felt better.

Ori: Well, glad to hear that, man. That's, when you say that, it fills me up with joy.

Erick: Yeah. All right, so that's it. Yeah for today's show. I really appreciate already being on here and thank you for having me Yeah, thank you. So and don't forget to laugh because life is a joke.

Ori: Are you gonna have my Instagram on there?

Erick: Yeah. Yeah, I will put some ways to contact Ori In the show notes of the podcast episodes to make sure you follow him on Instagram. It'd be really great.

Ori: Either Epic Comedy Berlin or big old Jew with a D. Yep Thank you very much. Yeah, I really thoroughly enjoyed

Erick: Yeah. Me too, man. Yeah. All right. Bye, everybody.

Bye. And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. I hope that you enjoyed this conversation with Ori Halevy, and make sure that you follow him on social media at Big Old Jew and Epic Berlin Comedy Show. As always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening.


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

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Categories
Transformation

291 – Finding Your Genius: Flipping Your Flaws Into Features

Do you think that you have strengths and weaknesses? What if I told you that you don’t? Today I want to talk about how strengths and weaknesses are all a matter of perspective and context.

"Strive for excellence, not perfection, because we often find excellence in our imperfections."

—Harriet Braiker

Attributes, Characteristics, and Context

We all have things about us that we think of as strengths and weaknesses. Maybe it’s certain abilities or behaviors that we have that we’re proud of and others that we’d rather put in a shoebox and hide in the attic and hope that nobody will find them, especially ourselves. But what if we’re wrong about thinking of ourselves this way? What if it’s the way that we perceive these things that cause us so much self-doubt and anxiety?

The other day I was listening to a podcast interview with Simon Sink, and he said something that really hit me like running into a brick wall. He said:

“I hate the conversation about what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses because everything requires context. You don’t have strengths or weaknesses, you have characteristics and attributes. And in the right context, those are strengths, and in the wrong context, in the wrong environment, those are weaknesses. Always. So it’s better to know who you are and look for environments where those things are advantages.”

And while this is something that I’ve always known, but either I was just in the right mindset, or just the way that Simon put it, or probably both, made me stop the video and think about that idea for a minute. What if we’ve been going about this all wrong? What if rather than looking at your so called weaknesses as that, weaknesses, and just started viewing them as something more neutral that is helpful in one context but not in another?

Simon then later give an example about how if he had to work on a project alone, he would either create something of very low quality or the stress it would cause would take a toll on his health because he works better in teams. He knows that he functions far better surrounded by people that are able to help him because that’s one of his attributes—leading and working with a team.

Shifting Perspective

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

— Marcus Aurelius

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

— Albert Einstein

The Stoics teach us a crucial lesson about perception. They tell us that the quality of our lives is determined not by what happens to us but by how we choose to see it. In other words, our strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin; In every weakness, there lies a strength.

So, let's apply this wisdom to our own traits, shall we? Let’s turn the lens and view our characteristics in a new light, discovering how what we see as vulnerabilities might actually be veiled virtues. Let’s take some common characteristics and attributes that some of us have and reframe them to see where these traits might be just the thing to help us find success and find little more happiness by just being ourselves.

The Overthinker

Let’s say that you have a tendency to to overthink things. Maybe your mind spins like a hamster on a wheel and you find yourself going down rabbit holes when you get focused on an idea. While this may cause some frustration, distraction, and sleepless nights, in contexts that require detailed planning and foresight, the ability to think of all possible outcomes becomes a gift that helps avoid possible pitfalls and see opportunities that we might have missed. Overthinkers are the ones that leave no stone unturned and help us chart the optimal path forward.

The Introvert

"There is a great strength in being silent and listening; this is where the roots of empathetic leadership grow."

— Susan Cain

Often, introversion is seen as a social setback, but what if I told you it’s actually your stealthy strength? In a world that can’t stop talking, the quiet among us are the Olympic-grade listeners. Stoicism urges us to value the power of listening—a skill that’s absolutely golden in relationships, counseling, and leadership. While everyone else is trying to be heard, you’re absorbing, understanding, and, ultimately, wielding the power of knowledge.

Introversion is often mistaken as a barrier to leadership and dynamism, but it actually holds within it the seeds of empathetic leadership. Introverts, with their preference for deep thought and meaningful one-on-one connections, can be uniquely positioned to lead with empathy, understanding, and a keen ear for listening. In an age where leadership is evolving beyond the loud and charismatic, the introverted leader builds teams that feel seen, heard, and valued.

The Risk-Averse

Playing it safe is often frowned upon, especially in our “go big or go home” culture. But let’s turn the tables and look at it through a more Stoic perspective. The risk-averse individual, those who prefer the known paths to the potential perils of uncharted territory. While often criticized for a lack of boldness, their cautious approach makes them the conscientious conservators of our world. They’re the master of calculated risks, and their cautious approach gives them the ability to foresee and mitigate risks, to plan with thoroughness and care.

In situations that demand thorough risk assessment—like financial investments, legal strategies, or safety protocols—this so-called weakness becomes the cornerstone of wisdom. Where others gamble, the risk-averse navigate with a map and a compass, turning potential pitfalls into well-navigated journeys. It is not the boldness of the steps we take, but the soundness of the path we choose that ensures our progress.

The Stubborn

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stubbornness gets a bad rap, often seen as the refusal to be flexible. Yet, under a different light, this so-called stubborn streak can be a laser-focused determination. When channeled correctly, it becomes the relentless drive needed to bring projects across the finish line or to stand firm in one’s values against peer pressure. An unwillingness to quit when things are tough, and having the strength to persevere can be the thing that helps you succeed when others other abandon ship. When others dither or flip-flop, being a stubborn yet principled person can help you be the lighthouse, guiding ships with unwavering conviction.

The Daydreamer

Caught daydreaming again? Instead of scolding yourself for not having both feet on the ground, consider this: Some of the greatest inventions and artworks were born from minds that dared to drift. Stoicism teaches us the value of perspective, and the daydreamer’s perspective is one that reaches beyond the immediate horizon. In roles that demand creativity and innovation, the daydreamer is king. While others see what is, the daydreamer sees what could be, painting the canvas of the future with strokes of imagination.

The Procrastinator

Next up, procrastination – the thief of time, or so they say. I certainly fall into the category of being a procrastinator, and find it challenging to get things done early even though I know it would be lot less stressful. I get distracted easily, because I’m so interested and curious about so many things. Yet, what if I told you that the habitual dawdler is actually a creative strategist in disguise? Procrastination can be the brain’s way of allowing ideas to marinate, leading to bursts of innovation and creativity. When the deadline looms, I often pull out solutions that a more time-efficient approach might never have uncovered. Here, the eleventh-hour rush becomes a crucible for brilliance.

Embracing Who You Are

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."

— Chinese Proverb

So, how do we apply this Stoic reframing, turning perceived weaknesses into strengths? It starts with a shift in perception. Instead of labeling our traits as inherently good or bad, we view them as tools in our kit, each with its moment to shine.

1. Context Is Key: Before you judge a trait as a weakness, ask, “In what context might this be a strength?” This is where the virtue of wisdom comes into play. Think of your traits as tools that need to be used in the right situation. Remember, a spoon might seem like a weak choice for cutting steak—until you’re served soup.

2. Balance Your Portfolio: Just like a savvy investor diversifies their portfolio, diversify your traits. Lean into your strengths, but don’t shy away from those so-called weaknesses. They’re your hidden assets.

3. Reframe Your Narrative: Stoicism teaches us the power of our internal narrative. Change yours to highlight the positive aspects of your traits. “I’m not shy; I’m a master listener.” See? Sounds cooler already.

4. Experiment and Observe: Life’s the lab, and you’re the scientist. Experiment with leaning into your different traits in various contexts. Observe the outcomes. You might be surprised at what you discover.

5. Vive la Différence: Appreciate your differences and don’t compare yourself with others. We all have different traits that make us better at some things than others. We need the differences to make a more complete, interesting, and dynamic world. If we were all exactly the same, the world would be a very uninteresting place.

6. Embrace Growth: Finally, remember that growth is a Stoic’s game. Your traits aren’t set in stone. They’re malleable, capable of being honed into sharper, stronger versions of themselves.

Conclusion

In the grand tapestry of our life, each thread—each trait and characteristic—plays a role in the larger pattern. What we perceive as weaknesses are often strengths waiting for their moment in the spotlight, asking for a change in perspective and a bit of Stoic wisdom to shine.

So, the next time you catch yourself bemoaning a personal flaw, remember the Stoic. With a bit of context, creativity, and a shift in perspective, you can turn that flaw into your signature strength and most prized asset. After all, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not about the cards you’re dealt; it’s about how you play the hand.


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

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Categories
Interviews

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 https://marktuitert.nl

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 stoic.coffee. 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 stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
entrepreneurship

283 – Interview With Gavan Wilhite

Hello friends! This weeks episode is an interview with Gavan Wilhite. Gavin is a longtime listener of my podcast and he contacted me a few months ago to chat about some things. We had a great conversation. He's a serial entrepreneur and he's got his fingers in a lot of different pies. We talked about entrepreneurship, about making an impact on the world and doing the things that we can do with the tools that we have.

We also touch on how stoicism is a powerful tool if you are running your own business and how that helps you to be a much better leader, because I think that as we can see from the throughout history, the good leaders all seem to display stoic principles in their lives.

Gavan is a smart, compassionate, and just an all around great guy. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. (Sorry there’s no transcript. The transcription service I use really messed the whole thing up and I haven’t gotten it cleaned up.)


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 stoic.coffee 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, LinkedIn, and 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.

Categories
self-improvement

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

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

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

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

Achievement

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

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

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

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

Process vs. Outcome

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

—Epictetus

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

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

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

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

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

Man on the Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheating

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

— David Goggins

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

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

Failing

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

— Ken Poirot

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

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

Set Worthy Goals

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

— Seneca

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

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

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

Excellence

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

— Epictetus

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

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

Conclusion

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


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
self

263 – No Self

Photographer: 919039361464473

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

Who Am “I”?

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

― Epictetus

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

—Epictetus

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

The reason that I’m talking about this idea is that this morning I stumbled on an article (https://bigthink.com/the-well/eastern-philosophy-neuroscience-no-self) that claims that the self as most of us think about it does not exist. At first, I was skeptical, but as you well know, I’m always curious to take in other perspectives and if there is something useful that I can add to my world view. The author, Chris Niebauer is a neuropsychologist, and he does a pretty job of convincing me that there might not be a “self” in the way that we know it.

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

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

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

Split Brain

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

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

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

No-Self

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

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

I Am Who I Think I Am

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

— 2NU2

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

We Are What We Do

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
Anger

255 – The WISER Model

How well do you manage your emotions? Do you feel like you’re on top of things or do you feel like you let situations get under your skin? Today I want to talk about a model I came across that can be a useful tool for managing your emotions, and handling situations like a stoic.

"Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it."

— Seneca

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, is a longitudinal study that was started in 1938. Researchers followed the same cohort for more than eighty years to gather information about quality of life. Every few years the participants were interview and subjected to a physical to track both mental and physical health.

The Good Life, a book by Robert Waldinger & Marc Schulz based on the data from the Harvard study, and were able two important conclusions:

First, was that those who handled the emotions better by facing them head on and not trying to repress or ignore them, generally reported a higher quality of life and better memories of the past.

Second, it is incredibly challenging for people to change their emotional responses. They found that it didn’t come down to willpower or intelligence, but rather their awareness of their coping patterns.

In studying those that managed their emotions in a healthy fashion, they found that there was a similar pattern amongst them. They call this the WISER model, and I’m going to explain it here.

Watch

When a strong emotion comes along, the first thing we need to do is engage our awareness. Usually our first reaction is based on an impulse and not a clear understanding of the full situation. When we give ourselves some space to get curious and just observe what’s going on, and see how we’re feeling, we can get a fuller picture of what’s really happening.

Waldinger and Schulz write, “Thoughtful observation can round out our initial impressions, expand our view of a situation, and press the pause button to prevent a potentially harmful reflexive response.”

Interpret

"It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgments concerning them."

— Epictetus

Once we have some more information, we need to interpret what we learned from observation. Often, situations are ambiguous and we jump to all sorts of conclusions. By asking what assumptions we made about the situation, we can quickly see were we misinterpreted what someone said or meant, or see what meaning we gave to something.

Select

The Select stage is where we make a choice of what we want to do about the situation. This step should be a thoughtful and deliberate choice, and not reactive or impulsive. This is where we try to slow things down so that we can make choices that are inline with our values, and that have a better long term outcome.

"The key,” according to Waldinger and Schulz, “is to try to slow things down where you can, zoom in, and move from a fully automatic response to a more considered and purposeful response that aligns with who you are and what you are seeking to accomplish.”

Engage

Once you have made a choice, it’s time to put it into action. This part is can be challenging because it may mean that you have put yourself in an uncomfortable but necessary situation. But if you have taken the time to make a deliberate choice, this will be easier to do than if you are acting reflexively and will have better outcome than just ignoring the situation.

Reflect

"The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control."

— Epictetus

The last step is to reflect on how things went. Did our plan work out as expected? Why or why not? What could we have done that might have been more effective? Taking the time to think about how things went helps inform us of how we can better handle things in the future. Even if we handle a situation well, this is a good step to take because it helps us to reinforce our good choices, as well as find even more room for improvement.

Conclusion

Dealing with strong emotions in the heat of the moment is not easy, and is something that we all need to work on. For me, I really like having an acronym that helps me walk through a useful process. When we’re struggling in the moment, it’s always helpful to have another tool at the ready. So go out and be a little Wiser.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
Responsibility

245 – Whining or Winning

Do you think that life is fair? Do you think it’s unfair? Are others “winning” when you are not? Today I want to talk about how fall into a pretty bad way of thinking that reduces our ability to take responsibility for ourselves, and blame our unhappiness on the world outside of us.

Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.

— Teddy Roosevelt

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

— Epictetus

From time to time, I like to hop on the stoicism sub reddit and participate in discussions. I really appreciate is that most people are pretty thoughtful and respectful, and I often learn something new or see things in a new light.

But there’s a kind of post that I see on there from time to time which I find is pretty sad. It is usually some who is upset that they are not getting all the things in life they think they deserve. They complain that the job sucks or they’re struggling with school and the teachers are mean and out to get them. Or they’re afraid to talk to someone they’re find attractive and are upset that they can’t get a date. They talk about how how they tried to be stoic, but they still aren’t getting what they deserve. They complain that other people still treat them poorly even though they are trying to be stoic. There is often a lot of blaming of others for their misfortune and lashing out at the world in general.

So today’s episode is going to be a little bit of a rant, but I hope that you can bear with me.

Fairness

Don't be overheard complaining…Not even to yourself.

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around in this world is this:

We are entitled to nothing in life. We deserve nothing in this world.

Now, I’m sure that might be upsetting to those of us who think that life should be fair. I’ll give you a hint:

Life is not fair and never will be.

How could it be? There is nothing in the universe that would be able to enforce some external rule of fairness. And if we tried to create a society of absolute fairness, who would be given the task of deciding what is fair?

You?

Me?

As much as I’d like to think that I could be a good arbiter of fairness, I know that because of my own biases and personal failings, I could make a system that I think would be fair that plenty of others would disagree on. We could never get everyone to agree on what the definition of fairness is. As much as we might wish it, fairness is not something intrinsic in the universe. It is not a natural law like gravity. It is something that we have to create on our own as a society.

Interestingly enough, I think this is proven out because one of the core virtues of Stoicism is that of Justice. What that means to me is that we need to help bring justice to the world because it is not already a natural or intrinsic part of the world.

What’s ironic is that most people I see complain about the fact that world isn’t fair, are those that want the world to bend in a way that benefits them. If this were to happen, wouldn’t that make it so that world was again unfair because it benefits them and not someone else?

Character

Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

— Epictetus

Another part of this post that I wanted to talk about is the idea that if you act virtuously then everything will work out for you exactly the way that you want it. That people around you will change who they are simply because you are trying to be a good person. That because you “act” like a good person, then everything will simply come to you because you deserve it. This is never going to be the case.

Let me spell it out clearly for you:

You don’t deserve anything.

Just because you want or think you deserve something doesn’t matter. You can think that all you want. Just because you are nice doesn’t mean that you should get to date someone you find attractive. Just because you act virtuous doesn’t mean that other people will be nice to you or not try to take advantage of you. Or that good things won’t happen to bad people (of course who are you to decide if they are bad people?).

The reason that you act virtuously is not so that others will change for you. It is so that you act in a way that you feel good about. That you are living a life that you are proud of. Life will happen to you regardless of your character. Having a good character does not mean that everything will go your way.

In fact, I would argue that you if you think that you deserve something because you think you have good character, you probably don’t. I think that someone with good character would recognize that they don’t deserve anything by just thinking that they are a good person. You cultivate virtue, and build your character because it’s something you want. You want to be a good person not so that you get something or you earn something. You cultivate virtue because that’s kind of person that you want to be.

Doing The Work

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.

— Steve Maraboli

Another common thread I notice is that most of their complaints are based on the outcomes they want. They complain about how they are are not getting the things they want. Rather than looking at what they are doing and finding where it doesn’t work and making changes to trying to figure out why things aren’t working, they are blaming others for why they are failing.

When you get something without having to work for it, you miss out on the lessons you need to learn in order to handle the success that you have. If you haven’t learned to be a charming, fun, or interesting person and you happen to land a date with someone you’re attracted to, why should they stick around? You haven’t given them any reason to do so. Have you put in the work to be a good partner? What do you bring to the table that would make them want to date you? What about their preferences and free will? Just as you wouldn’t want to date someone that you’re not interested in, why should they be forced to?

What they are asking for is all the reward without the work. If you get a college diploma, but you didn’t earn it and do the work, what happens when you get hired and after a few weeks your manager realizes that you don’t have the skills to do your job?

Doing the work is how you gain the skills to be good at what you do.

Doing the work is how you are able to maintain what you earn.

Let’s say that you want to be a firefighter. Maybe someday you’d like to be a leader of a fire fighting squad. And let’s say that on the your first day on the job, they just give you that position. Would you be very good at it? Would you know what to do to safely put out a fire and help those in danger and keep your team safe?

No you wouldn’t. In fact, if you were simply given that position without the experience or training, then you would be a bigger danger to yourself and those around you. It is only through putting in the work that you learn how to safely and effectively fight a fire and lead a team.

Closing Thoughts

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

— Dalai Lama XIV

You are responsible for the results of your life. If you want to be successful in life, study successful people. You’ll find those that are truly successful are those that take responsibility for their actions. They don’t blame others for why they are failing. Recognize the things that are blocking your path and figure out how to work around them. When you put the work in, you gain the skills to overcome any obstacle in your path. In my experience, when you stop complaining and take a good look in the mirror, you see that that the biggest blocker to your success is you.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
Transformation

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 stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
Thinking

231 – A Model of Thinking

A Model of Thinking
Photographer: 919039361464473

The stoics teach us that we have control over a few things – our thoughts, our choices, and our actions. In short, our will. So is there a way that we can get better with our thinking, and improve our outcomes? Today I want to talk about a model that can help us be more aware of how our thinking impacts us, and with that awareness, improve our lives.

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

—Marcus Aurelius

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

Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important things that the stoics teach us is that our thinking, one of the only things that we have control over, is one of the most important things in determining whether we are successful in accomplishing the things we want to in life, and ultimately what determines our happiness. Because we can only experience life through our own subjective experience, we are the ones that ultimately determine how we judge what happens to us, and what meaning we give to those things.

A simple example of this is how the same thing can happen to different people, with wildly different outcomes simply because of the perspective a person has on something. For example, in study after study, people who suffered traumatic injuries such as losing limb or severe burns report that the initial impact of the injury can certainly cause depressions, anxiety, and other issues. But over time, most people end up reporting that their level of happiness returns to basically where it was before the accident. If they were happy before, they generally are happy afterwards. If they were depressed, they generally fall back into their same way of being.

There have also been studies on how people who have a sudden windfall of wealth through inheritance, the lottery, or some other channel, report that even with all this sudden good luck, after a few weeks or months the shine wears off and they are as happy or unhappy as they were before coming into wealth. Often when we get exactly what we want – a raise, a new car, or something else that we thought would bring us happiness, we find that it is only temporary.

So why is it that even when we change our circumstances to something that we are sure will make us happy, we often end up right back where we were? Because no matter what the circumstances are, we are still the same people. We still have the same way of thinking, and how we think, and the meaning that we give to things have a far greater impact on us than the circumstances themselves.

It is not things that upset us, but our opinion of them.

— Epictetus

So how do we get better at improving our thinking? As with most things, it comes down to awareness. If you want to know why you’re getting the results you’re getting, you need to know what you are thinking.

I’ve mentioned one of my favorite life coaches, Brooke Castillo several times on this podcast, and one of the best things that she teaches is what she calls “The Model”. The Model, is basically a simple yet powerful outline of how our minds work. It’s not anything new, and these ideas have been around for millennia, but it’s a nice encapsulation of what the stoics teach, so I’m going to share it with you here.

The first part of the Model are Circumstances. These are what the stoics would label as externals. This includes circumstances and events that happen. It’s simple what life brings your way. When you think of circumstances, they are things that are purely factual. They are things that you could prove in a court of law. Things like, “it is raining”, or “that car is red”, or “I am 50 years old”.

The next part are Thoughts. When you encounter circumstances and events, you have certain thoughts around them. This included both conscious and unconscious thoughts. This is the story that you are telling yourself about these events and circumstances, and what you think they mean. These are not facts, but rather your judgments, opinions, and impressions.

The next part is Emotions. Emotions are caused by your thinking. When you tell yourself a story about the things that are happening, you create emotions. You feel something. That could be anxiety. It could be joy. It could be fear. Whatever you are feeling, it is caused by your thinking.

The next part is Actions. Our actions are driven by our emotions. Emotion comes from the Latin “emovere”, which means to “move out, remove, agitate”. It’s from the same root as motive, motor, move, and momentum. Emotions are the things that get us to make choices, and take action.

The last part of the Model is Results. When we make choices and take action, we get results of some kind.

So how can we use this model in our lives?

If you want to understand how you are dealing with something in your life, you can use the model to help clarify why you are getting the results you have in your life. By filling in the information in each of these sections, you can get a rough but clearer picture of what’s going on.

If you’re in a place where you can sit down, I want you to pull out a blank sheet of paper. I want you to write down these 5 section, and give yourself some space to write next to them:

Circumstances

Thoughts

Emotions

Actions

Results

So let’s take an example and fill out each of these lines. The nice thing is that you can start with any section.

Let’s say that you get into an argument with your significant other at least once a week about the dishes. You get frustrated with them for just leaving the dishes in the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher as you would prefer. Let’s fill in the lines and see how we can be more aware of our thinking. Remember, these can be done in any order. It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together, though for this for this exercise I’ll go in order just to illustrate the ideas.

In the Circumstances line we put, “My partner leaves dishes in the sink”, and “I have asked them to put them in the dishwasher.” That’s it. Those are the only facts in this story.

Let’s fill in the thinking line. “When my partner doesn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher, I feel like they are disrespecting me and they are doing it just to upset me.”

Next let’s fill in the Emotion line. You would write down something like, “I feel frustrated” or “I feel angry”. Remember these are emotions. You can’t put something like, “I feel ignored” because being ignored is an action attributed to the other person, and also, ignored is not an emotion.

In the Action line we would write, “I complain to my partner about dirty dishes being left in the sink.”

Lastly, in the Result line we might put something like, “My partner feels like they are being attacked and storms off”.

Once you have this filled out, you have a little bit more clarity into the situation. You can examine the thoughts you have around the situation. In this example, the thoughts are projecting a motive onto your partner. They may or may not be doing it to purposely upset you, but because of those thoughts, you feel angry, which drives you to complain to your partner, and start up the conflict again. When you are able to change your thinking around the situation, it can change your emotions and actions, which lead to different results.

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

Marcus Aurelius

In short, if your dealing with an issue and want to have some clarity around it, using this simple model is a great way to examine the situation a little more rationally. It’s a framework to start from to help you see where you may have some thinking errors. It can also be used in a positive light. If you are trying to get a certain kind of result, try filling this out and seeing what kind of thinking and actions might help you achieve the results you want.

Think clearly from the ground up. Understand and explain from first principles. Ignore society and politics. Acknowledge what you have. Control your emotions.

Naval Ravikant

Let’s say that you want to meditate for 30 minutes a day, but you find it challenging to do. Put “I want to mediate for 30 minutes a day” in the Results line. In the Actions line, you might put, “I schedule a break at 10 am on my calendar”. In the Emotions line, you might have something like, “I am excited about my 30 minutes”. In the Circumstances you might have, “I have a space in my house with pillows near a window.” And in the Thoughts line? “I know that after each session I feel more relaxed and feel more clear in my thinking.”

The mind is a pretty complex thing, but helping to gain some clarity in our own thinking can really make a world of difference. Using a model like this is a way to help improve our awareness of our thoughts and how that thinking leads to the results we get. And while this model is not all encompassing, it’s a great starting point to gaining insight to the stories we tell ourselves, which drive the actions we take, and the results we get.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee 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.

Categories
Acceptance

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.

Acceptance

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.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

177 – Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

 

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

— Marcus Aurelius

Over the centuries, the term “stoic” evolved from the original meaning of someone that follows the philosophy of Stoicism, to someone who does not show emotions.

When you look up the definition of stoic in the dictionary, it says:

“stoic: Not affected by or showing passion or feeling. Firmly restraining response to pain or distress.”

Stoics are not emotionless automatons. All humans feel emotions. Reading Meditations, Marcus Aurelius seems far from being cold and emotionless.

“If you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Practicing stoicism is not about repressing emotions. It is not about pretending you feel nothing. It’s about understanding how your mind works, so that you can use it to benefit you and those around you. It’s about finding balance and equanimity. It’s recognizing that you have control over what you think, feel, and do. If you are swayed by every little thing other people say, or frustrated by outside events, you will be at the whims of your emotions. Others will easily control and manipulate you.

So why do people equate being stoic with being emotionless? I think it’s because anyone that follows the tenants of stoicism understands that emotions are like the weather. They come and go. They’re in a constant state of flux. Because they understand this, Stoics know that if you sit with uncomfortable emotions for a while, they will eventually change. They will pass.

Whenever you have a thought, you create an emotional state. Some are subtle and others can be powerful, but every single emotion starts from a thought. It could be a very conscious thought you are actively choosing to think about. It could be a non-conscious background thought that you aren’t particularly aware of.

When we’re offended or upset by someone, it says more about us than about the other person. The thoughts that create the emotion are our own, not someone else’s. If you are offended, it’s because you chose to be offended. Your mind creates every emotion you have. If you are the one creating your emotions, you also have the power to change your emotional state. By processing those difficult emotions, you are also taking responsibility for your emotions. You recognize you cause those emotions and you do not blame them on other people or events.

As Brooke Castillo, one of my favorite life coaches, says, “No one can make you feel anything without your permission.”

Other People

Another reason that people think of being stoic as being emotionless is that your reaction is being compared to how other people might react in the same situation. The person making the judgement has their own idea of how someone “should” respond. Because a Stoic does not react how they think someone should, it seems strange. It also means that it is someone else’s opinion, and as we all know, that is something we don’t have control over.

When we get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions we also do not take on other people’s emotions. Now what do I mean by this? When someone is angry or frustrated with us, they may try to use those emotions to control or manipulate us. We may feel it’s up to us to change in order to manage their emotions. It is not. Their emotions are theirs to deal with. It is not up to us to manage their emotional state. When we can learn to separate ourselves from someone else’s frustration or anger, we can act in a way that is calm and wise. We don’t let others control us.

Examples

Let’s look at some examples.

If someone says something rude or offensive to you, is what they said intrinsically offensive? Like if someone said that you looked like a warthog, would that offend you? It is only offensive because of your judgment. It’s only offensive because of the meaning that you give to it. Maybe you think warthogs are awesome and fierce, so you could take it as a compliment.

Another example. Say that you’re feeling down and sad about something. You feel that emotional distress. You may feel depressed. Suddenly someone says something that makes you laugh and suddenly your mood has changed. The feeling may not completely go away, but the intensity lessens. All because what your mind focused on shifted. The power those thoughts had over your mind moments before has faded.

Bad Choices

Succumbing to your emotional reactions can be a detriment to the task you are trying to accomplish. I remember seeing a new report after a particularly devastating earthquake in Haiti. Some aid workers were so disturbed by the devastation, they felt overwhelmed with shock and sadness. And while this is a natural feeling, getting stuck in that sadness made them far less effective than if they recognize they were making the tragedy all about them rather than the people they were there to serve. If they had taken the time to recognize which things are not in their control and focused instead on what they can control, they would have been much more effective.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t shouldn’t feel what you feel. Having empathy and compassion for others is part of what makes us better humans. But learning to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and finding better ways to process them helps you and those around you in the long run.

Know Thyself

I think the most important tool in learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions, is that we need to identify what we’re feeling, and ask why we’re feeling the way we do. Are you angry? Fearful? Ashamed? Why? Often the reason that we feel uncomfortable is that there is truth in what someone said.

Maybe we’re insecure about something. Maybe we acted in a way we’re not proud of and we don’t want to own up to. Maybe there is some true injustice happening, and that’s feeling is a signal for us to step up and take some action.

To be a Stoic is to be striving to be a better you and being willing to stretch yourself when things are hard. It is being willing to develop strength in areas that others won’t. It means developing the mental fortitude to recognize how your emotions are impacting your thinking. It is finding healthier ways to process emotions. Maybe that means you go for a run or a walk when you’re angry. Maybe it means that you give yourself some time to just vent to a friend or even just out loud.

Just remember that an emotion is sensation in your body, and barring certain medical conditions, an emotion can’t physically harm you. It won’t kill you. Emotions are the drivers of our actions, which is why it’s so important to sit with them, especially when they are uncomfortable. Because emotions change and fluctuate so easily, we know that the emotion will subside just by thinking different thoughts. If we can’t sit with uncomfortable emotions, we’re prone to acting out in ways are harmful to ourselves and others.

Any time you have an uncomfortable feeling, don’t run from it. Embrace it and ask what it is trying to tell you. If you don’t understand what you’re feeling, how are you going to know how to respond properly? If you fly off the handle at every minor challenge or lose your cool when things don’t go your way, you’ll be easily derailed. The more you can sit with uncomfortable emotions, the better you will be at handling difficult situations.


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176 – Win Or Learn, Then You Never Lose

Win or Learn, Then you Never Lose

I have a card in my office that I look at from time to time. It says, “Win or learn, then you never lose.” I don’t know how I got this card or where it came from. I love that quote so much I have it sitting on my desk as a daily reminder that I when I feel like I’m failing at something to remember that I’m really just learning something.

Why is it so hard to look at things with this kind of perspective?

Expectations

From the day we start school, they encourage us to get good grades. We’re encouraged to do what teachers expect from us. We learn how we’re measured, tested, quantified. We learn what is considered “good” and “bad”. As we get older, we’re often discouraged from figuring things out, to be curious, and explore, and instead come up with the “right” answers.

This kind of thinking leads us to focus on the outcome, and to only judge what is happening based on what others think is the “correct” outcome. We get so focused on this idea of finding the right answers we miss a lot of chances for growth along the way.

What if you could look at everything that happens to you as something you can learn from? What if you could train your mind to see everything as an opportunity? What if you could resist less, and flow more?

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

—Marcus Aurelius

When we frame our experiences as a place for learning, experimenting, and exploring, we see that the doing, the actual work is important. Every time we make an attempt, we get a little better. We find what might make things a little more efficient, a little more impactful. Even day is a step towards getting where we want to go. Every challenge that we come across is just one more lesson we get to learn. Each step we have to repeat, the better we get at it.

When we focus on the process, we are doing the things that we can control. When we take each challenge as a step in learning, we can refine our process. We may even start with one process, then throw the whole thing out and create a new one all together. When we are willing to be in a constant state of learning, we always win. If we are only looking to win, we miss out on so many parts of the experience.

Let’s look at a real-life example.

When I first started singing in my high school choir, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I loved music. I sang along with songs on the radio. I sang hymns at church. But I was certainly no Frank Sinatra or Placido Domingo. I often sang off pitch. The quality of my voice was thin and a little rough. Sometimes I felt embarrassed because I would sing something quite different from what my fellow tenors were singing. I would end up singing along with the sopranos who usually had the melody.

But as time went along, I kept getting better. Each day I would learn a little more about how to sing. A note that seemed too high the week before was a little easier. As my vocal cords become stronger, I was more accurate in my pitch. As my longs strengthened, I could hold my notes a little longer. The timbre of my voice became smoother and richer.

I also took voice lessons from a great teacher, who helped me build a strong foundation of correct singing. At first, it was scary to stand in front of a single person and sing. Especially someone as good as my teacher. But I knew that if I wanted to get better, having someone help me get to know my voice and how to use it would help me develop the processes I needed to become a better singer. I learned exercises to strengthen my voice. Exercises to get better at hitting the right pitch. I learned to move my mouth, neck, and body to create the sound I wanted. How to breathe to get the most power and control. How to sing delicately while still staying on pitch.

But interestingly enough, I found that the biggest impediment to becoming a better singer was worrying about how good I was in comparison to others. When I would get down on myself about how I didn’t sound as good as some of the others who had been singing for years, I would get nervous and it was like I had almost forgotten all the things I had learned. When I worried about what others thought, I would usually sing far worse than if I didn’t care, and sang because I wanted to sing.

I think that much of my success with singing came because I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was okay with not sounding great when I started off. I remember thinking when I successfully auditioned for the choir that it would be a great way to learn how to sing. The overall outcome I wanted to was to learn to be a better singer, which was something that I had control over. If my goal had been to sing a certain number solos or to have a recording contract, then I probably would have failed because those were things I did not have any control over.

Application

Now that we know this on a cognitive level, how can we apply this in real life? I mean it’s one thing to know it, it’s another to do it.

First, be clear that nothing is a mistake. It is a process. Think of it like an airplane. An airplane is never perfectly on course. In fact, it is off course most of the trip and is constantly making small course corrections along the way. We’re very much the same way. Think of every step in getting to your goal as something to work through. It is there to teach you. It’s a puzzle to be solved.

Second, don’t waste the experience. When you feel you have failed at something, which I think we all do, sit down and write what you learned from that failure. What are the things that you didn’t know before? What are the things you know now? What can you do differently next time?

Third, don’t let the idea of failing stop you. Accept that failing is learning. Accept that you won’t get it right the first time, or even the second or third. In fact, you may never get it right. But if you learn something from it? Well, then you’ve succeeded.

The goals that we set should be guides, stars that help us along the way. But if we only judge our success by whether we achieved the stated goal, then there’s a greater chance we’ll fail. If you set your goal to learn what you can from trying different things and improve based upon your experience, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.

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Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

173 – Change Your Perspective, Change Your World

Change your Perspective, Change Your World

Before I begin today’s episode, I want to let you know that I’ll be discussing an attempted suicide. While I believe in talking about things honestly and directly, I know that this topic can be difficult for some people.

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

– Epictetus

This last week I read a very powerful and moving story about a baseball player name Drew Johnson. Growing up, baseball was one of the most important things in Drew’s life. In his professional career he bounced around in the minor leagues, occasionally being called in to play in the major leagues. But even when he was succeeding, Drew still felt like a failure. Last spring, after years of struggling with his mental health, Drew tried to take his own life, but to his surprise and luck he failed.

After having survived a bullet wound in his head, Drew was surprised to find himself still alive the next day. It had been almost 20 hours. As he sat there thinking about his situation, he held the gun in one hand, and his phone in the other with 911 typed in. He had a choice: he could use the gun to finish what he started, or he could hit the green dial button and call for help. As he weighed his options, Drew suddenly had the will to live. He decided that the fact that he had survived this long meant that he was supposed to stay alive. He had to figure how why, and what he should do with this second chance.

When he called 911, the operator was surprised that he was still alive after 20 hours. The police quickly arrived to check on the situation.  As they waited for the ambulance, an officer asked him why he had tried to kill himself. He said, “Because I hate myself.”

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

– Marcus Aurelius

The next morning when Drew woke up from surgery, he felt gratitude and love: towards his family and friends, the breath in his lungs, even the blanket that was keeping him warm in recovery. The failed attempt had given him a clarity in his life that many people never find. He found a new courage of being as honest as possible to everyone in his life. He tells them how much he loves them. When he struggles he talks about his emotions instead of keeping them hidden. He makes the most of his second chance.

Drew takes responsibility for himself and his actions. He doesn’t blame others for his choices. When his parents asked what they could have done to stop him from trying to kill himself, he said, “Nothing. It was my responsibility, not yours.” When asked how they could have missed the signs, he said “Because I worked hard to hide my sadness.”

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

– Marcus Aurelius

It’s taken months of steady work for Drew to recover. There are good and bad days, but he’s grateful for them all. And what was amazing to me is to see how once Drew’s perspective on himself and his life changed, how he was better able to handle the circumstances of his life. In fact, his life in many ways should be harder than before. He lost his right eye to the bullet that entered his head. He has scars on his face from the many surgeries.

For some, such challenges and pain would weigh them down, and possibly make them withdraw even further. Drew found that by opening up and being vulnerable and asking for help, he has built a strong network of support for himself. This has also helped members of his family to open up and share their own struggles that they were ashamed to admit and to seek help as well. His relationships with his family and his girlfriend are closer than they have ever been. To him, every day is a good day to be alive.

When Drew talks about his experience, he doesn’t glorify what happened, but recognizes what he learned from it. He embraces his fate. “I was supposed to go through that. I’m supposed to help people get through battles that don’t seem winnable. It was completely supposed to happen. There’s no other answer. It doesn’t make any sense. It was supposed to happen. I’m free now. I shot myself, but I killed my ego.”

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

– Marcus Aurelius

In the last episode, I talked about how to be responsible for our own emotions and actions. We do this by making active choices in our lives. We may not like our options. We may not have many options. But we always have the ability to make a choice.  When we can recognize this, and actively choose, we are taking control of our lives. If we don’t actively choose, then we are simply reacting to life. We are allowing ourselves to be acted upon. We are letting ourselves become victims.

Once Drew changed his perspective, he saw the things he had control over and took control of them. He makes a choice each day to be honest with himself and those around him. He chooses not to feel shame or to hide what happened, but instead shares his story in the hope that it can help others who are struggling. He tells himself and others that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. That it’s OK to not be OK.

Most of us will never have to experience something like what Drew went through. But we can learn that how we view ourselves and the challenges in our lives is far more important than the actual circumstances. We can also recognize that when we are struggling, we can reach out for support and help.

Not everyone one that attempts suicide are as lucky as Drew. Sometimes things can feel so painful and overwhelming that suicide feels like the only way out. If you are struggling, please know that there are people everywhere who are willing to help and support you. Reach out to friends or family if you have someone you can trust. You can also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Drew Johnson’s Remarkable Second Act

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Coffee Break

158 – How To Be Alone

How To Be Alone

Humans are very social creatures. It is our ability to be social and to cooperate in large numbers that has enabled us to create such amazing societies. We usually feel most at home when we’re with others, but there are times when we find ourselves alone. Most of us find it rather uncomfortable. How do we learn to be alone?

A friend of mine who went through a recent breakup asked me how to deal with living alone. And while I gave him a few suggestions, I thought that it was big enough question that I want to address it further.

When I went through my divorce I found that the hardest change in my life was learning how to live alone again. I had my kids part-time, but I found that on the evenings after I dropped them off, the quiet of my apartment was just too much to bear. I would go to the mall or the grocery store or a karaoke bar just to fight off the dreaded loneliness that was so apparent after having my kids for a few days. On the days that I’d forget and just go home, I’d feel so heartbreakingly alone I would end up in tears on my couch. It took some time to learn how to be alone again. I was used to the hum and the noise of my family and found comfort in the rhythms of dinner, bath, and story time with the kiddos.

Alone in my apartment, I worked on making friends with the quiet. I let myself feel the sadness at the ending of my marriage. I cried at missing story time with my kids. Sometimes it would sneak up on me, leaving me feeling like I had just gotten the wind knocked out of me. I would still find myself trying to distract myself from my feelings. I read books, watched movies, and played guitar, but I got better at just being okay with feeling like shit sometimes.

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

― Seneca

When we learn how to be alone, we learn that loneliness is not the enemy. It is just a reminder that we like being around other people. Because we are social creatures, it’s built into us to want to be with others. Often the hardest part about being alone is the stories our minds tell us about why were alone: “I’m not good enough.” Or “People don’t want to be around me.” Or “I deserve to be alone.” I think this is where a lot of our loneliness comes from. Our mind is trying to make sense of why we’re alone, so it starts finding reasons to support it. Because we don’t like hearing these things and the feelings they create, we try to distract ourselves. T.V., drinking, drugs, overeating, and Facebook are just a few of the ways to distract ourselves from the constant dialogue in our heads.

If you can sit with the quiet you can start to hear the thoughts that are constantly humming in the background. At first, it may be uncomfortable. You may feel all sort of uncomfortable feelings because of the negative chatter that goes on in your head. When you take the time to listen to and get to really know yourself, you can learn to like yourself. What’s great about it is that if you don’t like the company you’re in, you can change. You can work on becoming the person you want to be. You can become someone that you like. That you can change yourself is one of the most important things the Stoics taught.

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.”

― Marcus Aurelius

When you learn to be okay with being alone, you develop a stronger sense of who you are. In my case, learning to have my own sense of autonomy was something I needed to develop. I had relied on my ex-wife for a lot of things. I had relied on my church as well. Now that I was no longer married and no longer Mormon, I had to reinvent myself. My identity that I had held for so long was not really who I was anymore. I had to decide the kind of life that I wanted to live. I had to create the person I wanted to be.

When you can be comfortable with the quiet, you can find being alone as a refuge from the noisiness of the world. With all the technology we have that keeps us so connected, sometimes you need to disconnect and turn off all the noise and chatter just to hear yourself think. You can put down your phone, turn off Netflix, and just listen to the quiet. With no pressure or rush to be anywhere, you can learn to be more comfortable with yourself. Rather than reacting to one distraction after another, you can listen to, and get to really know yourself. You might be surprised what you learn about the one person you should know better than anyone else.

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147 – Look Within

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

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

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Epictetus

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

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

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

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