Categories
Anger

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

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

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

—Rumi

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

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

And to be honest, I’m not 100% sure.

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

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

Digging Deep

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

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

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

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

Anger is Fear in Action

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

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

Holding Onto Anger

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

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

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

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

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

Acceptance of Externals

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

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

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

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

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

Acceptance of Yourself

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

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

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

Marcus Aurelius said, “If anyone can refute me—show me I'm making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I'll gladly change. It's the truth I'm after, and the truth never harmed anyone.” This means that if the other person was right, there’s no need to get angry about it because it’s the truth. If the other person was wrong, then there’s still no reason to get angry about it because you’re living up to your principles.

Anger in Danger

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

Conclusion

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

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

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


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Categories
Fatherhood

302 – Stoic Fatherhood: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Dads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again for listening!


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

Find out more about the Leadership Mastermind.

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

Categories
Q&A

301 – Q&A Episode: Morning Routines, Mantras, and Quarter Life Crisis

This week I sit down and answer listener questions. I talk about how to apply Stoicism on morning routines, what mantras I use in my life to help keep me in the right mindset, how to detach from abusive people, and advice for managing a quarter life crisis.

 Transcript:

Hello friends. My name is Erick Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take aspects of Stoicism and do my best to break them down to their most important points. I share my thoughts on Stoicism and 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 a question and answer episode. I've got a couple of questions that you sent in to me and I'm going to just Sit down. It's going to be me on the mic, just talking about some of the questions that you asked and do my best to get my Stoic perspective on them and how you might be able to improve some things in your life.

So let's start off with question number one, which was all about morning routines. So the Stoics didn't have any particular morning routine, although Seneca did advise that we take time to journal every single morning, and I'm sure that he did. He was a very prolific writer, writing to his nephew, Lucilius, in the letters of Lucilius.

I think there are 112 or 120 of those. Plus he wrote a number of plays, a bunch of essays, a bunch of treatises. And, so we, we know from that, that he wrote quite often, Marcus Aurelius did talk about, making sure that when you get up in the morning, that you prepare yourself for the day. And so obviously we have Meditations.

We didn't know if he initially wrote them in the morning, but there was a pretty good chance that he did before he started his day to help get his mind focused. So my personal routine is that I get up every morning and I do yoga. So I find that as I get older, making sure that everything is well stretched out, just makes me feel better all throughout the day.

And normally after I do yoga, I will do some weights. Unfortunately, I've had to take some time off because I have stitches in my left hand and I have to wait for the cuts that I have to heal up. So, yeah. But I found that physical exercise in the morning is probably one of the best things you can do. It gets your blood flowing, it gets a good start to your day, and you generally just feel better all throughout the day when you do that.

Some other things you can definitely add into your routine, like I said before, journaling is a big one. I struggle with this sometimes. I forget to write in my journal for a couple of weeks and then I'll get back to it. But I do find that it helps to focus my mind on the day and get some of the, the chatter that is going on a little more under control.

I also think that meditation is incredibly important. And again, I've kind of fallen off on this at different times and then I'll go back to it. But meditating is how you get to really pay attention to the thoughts that are going on in your head. While journaling is, is a good way to do that as well, depending on how you, you kind of operate, but I find that meditation is very powerful. And a few years ago I did a, a morning routine where I got up and I meditated for 60 minutes for 60 days in a row. And it was quite an experience. And I found that. It really changed my brain, for lack of a better term. It kind of rewired how things worked for me.

And I found that I was better able to be aware of my thoughts. Not just when I was meditating, but throughout the day when I felt something was, was frustrating me, or I was feeling anxious about something because I had practiced for 60 days for 60 minutes of just paying attention to all the thoughts going on in my head.

It makes it much easier for me to identify the things that are distressing me and to slowly kind of move those thoughts in a better direction, which helps improve my mood overall. So I think that a morning routine for each person is individual. You need to find what works best for you. But I would recommend, like I said, something athletic in some way, whether that's going out for a short run or a walk in nature or jumping on your Peloton, or if you have a rowing machine, whatever it is, just 20 to 30 minutes.

Every single morning of good exercise is a fantastic thing. And then do something for your mind to get it going. And that's where journaling and meditation come into play. I'm sure there are other possible routines that you can add into it, but, but at the bare minimum, doing at least 20 minutes of each of those things, I think is a great way to jumpstart your day and keep you going.

So let's move on to the next question. Next question is, do I have a daily quote or mantra that helps me to stay on my Stoic path. Hmm. And I thought about this when I read this and I don't necessarily have a particular mantra, but as I've been working on this book for, on Stoicism, that should be coming out in the fourth quarter of 2024, one of the things, the ultimate theme that keeps coming up with the Stoics was this focus on living in accordance to virtue. And what they mean by that is they have four cardinal virtues, which are wisdom, courage, justice, meaning how we treat other people, and temperance, which is roughly translated in different times to mean moderation and self discipline.

And what I like about, that idea and constantly thinking, you know, is this me living according to virtue? Am I living in a way that I feel good about in my life? Am I living with integrity? And that focus on virtue that the Stoics have, the reason why it is so important is because when you live according to virtue, when you are judging every single action that you're doing against: “Is this the right thing to do?”, then you can feel good about anything that you do because you are always living according to your values and principles.

So I think that might be probably my, my mantra, if you will, that helps keep me on that path is living with integrity: “Is this the right thing to do?” There's some others that are always very, very helpful, like Amor Fati, you know, when, when things are, when things are going not in the way that I like and I'm stressing about them.

It's just to remember that “What is this that I am trying to control that I can't control?”, because usually anxiety, stress, anger, those types of things come up because we're trying to control things that we can't. Whether that's things that are just happening to us, you know, external events, natural disasters, those kind of things. Or if it's other people, and I think that most of our, most of our frustrations come with dealing with other people.

And again, those are things that are outside of our control. So for me, just remembering that, you know, I need to love my fate. I need to love everything that happens to me. I need to just relax and kind of go with the flow of things because if it's something that I can't control, then why should I stress about it?

So I think that's another one that's incredibly helpful for me. I know that a lot of people also, for them, memento mori is a big one, because it reminds them that at any moment they could leave this life, and that they should remember death. And some people think that's very morbid, but I've found in most things in Stoicism that there's always two sides to everything, and with Memento Mori, it's not just that you remember death and you could be dead at any moment, you could be dead tomorrow, it's that, while it's important to live really well right now, and to do things in the right way, and to do things in a way that you are proud of, if you also take the longer view of that, it also means that you're going to be dead soon. So why are you stressing about this thing? Because in the long run, in the universe, the, the, the expanse of the cosmos and the timeline of the universe, we're just a tiny blip. We are nothing. We are incredibly small and that's incredibly empowering.

So I have this cartoon that I've found, and I sent it off to my kids because I really, I just thought it was so perfect. And in the first frame it shows this person and they have this sad face on and they're, you know, they look very distressed and it has a, you know, the caption underneath that says, “No one gives a shit.” And then in the second frame, it showed the same person but with more of a happy face on and like with their hands raised up and they were joyous and it's saying, “Nobody gives a shit!”, meaning, well in this case, we are so worried about what other people think and we're so worried that people don't really care about these things, but, you, if we frame it, you know, it's the same thing, just in a different perspective. That in one case, we look at it, oh, nobody really cares about this. But then when we think about it, well, nobody really cares about this.

So we can make mistakes, we can do things wrong, and we can just be free to be who we are. And so I think that learning how to reframe things, and in this case, reframing memento mori, and that this thing that I'm so stressed about in a hundred years, in a thousand years, it's not going to mean anything.

It's not going to be anything that maybe anybody will remember. But then on the flip side of it, how we live each and every day and being present is incredibly important, even though in a thousand years it may not be. But having that two sides on that perspective, I think is also very helpful for me to make sure that I'm, I'm doing things in the right way and that I'm doing things that I'm going to be proud of throughout my life and my career, also, living in the present.

Alright, on to question number three. How do you detach from others who have abused you and are destructive to you? This is a tough one. So, I had a friend of mine recently who we sat down and we chatted because They broke up with their ex a while back and they have a kid together and they're really struggling, or he's really struggling with it because, she's incredibly selfish. And because she's always kind of manipulating him around and she gets angry at him over all kinds of things because she knows that that's a way to control him.

And the reason why it's hard to detach from people who cause these problems for us is that we love them, or at least at one time we loved them and we were close to them. And because their opinion to us and their opinion about us mattered. Because we wanted their approval. Because we wanted them to love us. We wanted them to care about us. And I know this is something that I've struggled with in my life.

My last relationship was tough in many ways. And, I didn't always act in a way that I was proud of. And it wasn't necessarily always because of my partner. We had issues that, that, a lot of them stemmed from problems that I had – the trauma that I grew up with in my life. And so, learning how to have a healthy relationship where I could trust that another person had my best interest at heart was something that I wasn't very good at.

And I didn't really realize a lot of that until later. We kind of reached a place in the relationship where things were just not really repairable and the reason why it's hard to detach from these people is because like I said at one point we did love them. We cared about them very very deeply. But if there's one thing that I've learned in this world is and this may sound incredibly selfish, but it's not, is that the only person who is truly truly looking out for you is you. Everybody in this world is selfish in their own way.

They're looking out for what they think is in their best interest. And you need to make sure that if you're in this kind of dynamic with somebody that continues to manipulate you or harms you in some way or the relationship, maybe they aren't manipulating you. Maybe it's just that…how to put it?

Often times, people act in ways, like I said, that they think is in their best interest. And that's not always in our own best interest. And you can't be the best person that you want to be, if you are constantly feeling like being around another person, being around a certain person, sets you off. And even when you try to be Stoic, it can be very, very challenging, just because we don't just have emotions based upon the thoughts that we have, we have all of this unconscious stuff that's been going on and has built up over years and decades.

And so, oftentimes we get into patterns with people that we don't even recognize. And so, how do you detach from them? I think physical distance obviously is something that is, is important if it's a relationship that's not working out for you. And that sometimes can be challenging because you care about this other person.

And they could be a family member, they could be somebody that, you know, you were a partner with. It could be a kid that you, that you helped raise. But making sure that you take care of yourself is the most important thing because that way you can be the best person you can be and then you can be helpful to others.

But if you constantly feel like you are not being your best self and that anytime you're around this other person, you start to behave in a way that isn't good for you. Taking that space can be incredibly important. And if you are in a place where you're around somebody who's toxic for you, then you need to make sure that you do the things you need to, to step away from that.

And that's kind of what setting boundaries is. So in a physical space, you need to step away and set boundaries physically. And that usually means getting away from that person. In a mental space, it means setting boundaries on that. And setting boundaries is very, very challenging, and it often times upsets the status quo of a relationship.

Because you're stepping in and saying, “Hey, you can't treat me like this anymore. This is how I need to be treated. And if you don't…”, then you let the other person know what your response will be. That may be that if you're around them and they start behaving in a certain way and you've asked them not to, that you get up and leave.

But communicating those boundaries is important. And it doesn't mean though, that the other person will follow them. It's just you simply saying, this is how I need to be treated. And if you're not going to treat me this way, then this is the action I'm going to take, all with the assumption that you cannot change them, and they still have the choice to still act that way or not act that way. That's kind of up to them, because they're not something that you can control. I know that was a little bit rambling, but I hope that was helpful to the person who asked that question.

Okay, my last question. How do you use Stoicism in managing a quarter life crisis?

So I'm kind of at the opposite end of that. I'm at my midlife crisis, if you will. But looking back on where I was when I was 25, I was in college. I was just about to, I think I was in my junior year by that point. Maybe my senior year. And, yeah, it would have been my senior year. And, yeah. Yeah, it's, it's an interesting time. There's a lot of change going on through that.

Because while you're no longer a teenager, you're not being taken care of by your parents anymore, you are expected to be an adult. You're expected to get out there into the world and to find your way. And that's an incredibly turbulent time. Oftentimes you're getting married at that time or finding a more long term relationship.

You're thinking about possibly having kids in the next few years, if that's something that you want. So Stoicism isn't something that is just you, you know, just applicable in only certain times of life. Stoicism is something that is applicable for all stages of life, and I think that the challenges you're going to be dealing with at that point.

You know, like I said, finding a partner, possibly having kids, getting your first job, or your first important job. Stoicism is there for you in all those situations. So I think if you work on making sure that you practice the basics, that you understand what you can and can't control, will help you dramatically.

And again, the only things you really have control over are the way that you think about things, your perspective, your thoughts, your opinions about things, your judgments, your choices that you make, and the actions that you take. And that's it. And I know that that's a really hard thing for a lot of people because it feels like you have no control in your life.

But I like to think of it in the opposite way. If you only have control over those few things, that only gives you a few things to worry about. It allows you to focus on the things that you can actually do something about and let go of all the rest. So, if you get a job and maybe you don't do your best at it and you end up getting fired, okay, what can you do in that situation?

You can just, you know, you can look at the way that you handled yourself at the last job that you had. You can think if there are things that you might do in the next job you would have. Maybe you, maybe you ruffled some feathers. Maybe you didn't put in the time necessary. Maybe your skills weren't up to par.

So those are all things that you can control. You can control how you interact with your coworkers. You can control your skill set. You can control your expertise on things. Maybe you're in the wrong industry. And maybe that's a time for you to reevaluate that and decide that you want to try something else.

The nice thing is, when you're at that age, it's a lot easier to kind of pick up and try different things. So, my oldest kid is 22 and is trying out different jobs and has had several jobs over the last few years trying to figure out what it is that they want to do. And they may not know for another few years, and that's okay.

They decided that that was the route they wanted to take in their life, and I'm very proud of them. My other kid is going to college, because that's what he wants to do. And he's really pushing forward on that, and he's got two more years to go. And I'm really proud of both of them, and they're on very different paths right now.

But they're both good people, and they're both trying to do the best that they can, and explore this world without fear, and recognizing I did my best to teach them Stoic teachings. Unfortunately, I found them later when they were a little bit older, but talking with them through these things and helping them to understand what it is that they have control over and what it is they don't, I think is one of the most important things.

The next big thing, at your age is that as you grow in your career and you make choices about partners and things like that, is that there's going to be plenty of opportunities for you to do things that maybe aren't the best for you and that maybe aren't the best for the world. So I think recognizing that living according to virtue, you know, are you being wise? Are you being kind? Practicing justice in the way that you treat other people?

Doing the right thing all the time and getting into that habit when you're at that age, rather than allowing yourself to do anything that's questionable in your business or in your relationships. You know, being very honest with your partners, not, not cheating on them, I think would be obviously a great place to start, but trying to be as honest and candid with people as you can, I think is also something that's very helpful rather than hiding behind the facade that you have of how you think you're supposed to be in this world.

Take the time in your twenties to discover who you want to be and be that person unapologetically. Be honest, be not just honest, but practice candor. Meaning don't just say that everything I tell you is true, but everything that I tell you is true and is vulnerable. And learning how to be vulnerable like that takes away a lot of fear because if you can learn to be vulnerable with people who care about you and people around you, then you don't feel like you have anything to hide from other people.

And I think that that's, that's why a lot of people, you know, really respond to other people who are authentic and who don't put up a front of what other people want to see all the time, but work hard to just be exactly who they want to be. And if you're not sure about that, that's okay.

Choose some role models. Find some people that, that you look up to and respect. And figure out what it is that you look up to them for, and what it is that you respect about them. What attributes do they have? How do they handle themselves? I think that's a good way to start to develop your character in your 20s, is making sure that you find good role models and good mentors.

I think that would be my best advice. And there are lots of really amazing people out there in this world. And as divided as the world feels right now, and it feels like everything is chaotic, because in many ways it is. But the world has always been a bit chaotic. It's just now we're much more exposed to it.

And we just have a lot more things going on in our lives. So I think figuring out who you want to be at this time in your life is probably one of the most important things. And Stoicism is a great framework to figure out a lot of those things.

So, this is, like I said, this is the Q& A episode. I don't do these very often. Mostly because they become a little unstructured and that's a bit challenging for me. I would much rather…, there's a safety in having a structure of a regular podcast episode that I write out. But I'm trying to get better about just being able to take ideas and sit down and talk about them with you, like I would talk with a friend. So if this feels a bit rambly, this is me testing some things out and trying to find a different way of doing the podcast in some ways, because I want to make it more personable, I guess. I mean, I think it is pretty personal because I'm pretty open about most things in my life.

But going forward, if there are questions that you would like me to answer in episodes, I would really appreciate it if you would comment on this. This will be on a video on YouTube and some, you know, there'll be clips of it on other social media. And you can find me on those platforms and pop me a question.

I would love to hear if there's anything that I can answer with my 52 years of experience, because I've been through a lot. And I've learned a lot. And I've been really working hard to do what I just gave advice to the 25 year old who's struggling with the quarter life crisis, is figure out the kind of person that you want to be and be that person.

And I wish that I'd had that courage back at that age to really do that because I was really living my life for other people all the time. And that was part of being in the Mormon church, because there's a way that you're supposed to live that people want. you to fulfill all of these specific requirements, and it wasn't really what was going on inside. It was much more about, “did everything look a certain way? Did you check all these boxes?” And I was pretty unhappy and I didn't know how to break free of a lot of that. And it's been a long journey for me to get to this point, but I feel like I'm working hard to be the kind of person that I want to be.

And at this point I, I like who I'm becoming. And it's been really quite a journey. And I'm glad that you out there in podcast land have been along this journey with me for the last six years. So this is episode number 301, and it's still amazes me that it's still going after this amount of time. And that's really because of all of the joy that I've gotten in making this, and all the comments and emails and messages that I get from you guys about how this has helped you. And I, that really touches me and it makes it feel like this work that I'm doing of trying to talk with people about these things is really working. And I'd love to hear it from you guys. I know that probably maybe one or two percent of you actually write me messages, but I would love to hear more.

So find me on social media and let me know what you think. Alright, that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. As always, be kind to each other, be kind to yourself, and thanks for listening. I also just want to remind you, like I said before, follow me on social media. If you're watching this on YouTube, go ahead and subscribe to this. You can find me in on Instagram and threads at stoic.coffee and TikTok and Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube at StoicCoffee.

Thanks again for listening!


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Coffee Break

300 – The Importance of Friendship from a Stoic Perspective

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

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

Check out this great video of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman interviewing each other. It's fantastic! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S99iQH2Rvg

Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again for listening!


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Categories
Ask

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

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

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

—John Stuart Mill

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

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

The Importance of Asking Questions

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

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

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

The Stoic Approach to Questions

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

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

Indifferents

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

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

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

Benefits of Asking Better Questions

Better Connections

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

Better Decision Making

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

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

Increased Self-Awareness

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

How to Ask Better Questions

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Examples and Techniques

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


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Categories
other people

296 – How to Handle Frustration

This week'e episode is a bit different. Usually I write up my episodes so I dig deep and give you something really helpful. This week, it's just me and the mic talking about how sometimes people act in ways that are frustrating. They lie, cheat, even steal from you. I talk about how I'm dealing with that in my life at the moment and how I'm using Stoicism to act with integrity, and not let someone else control how I behave, or how I feel.

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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.


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Categories
self-improvement

287 – Interview with Constatin Morun of Unleash Thyself Podcast

Episode Transcript:

Erick: Hello friends, my name is Erick Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. 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.

So this week's episode is an interview with Constantin Morin, and Constantin has a podcast called Unleash Thyself. And Constantin and I had a great conversation a couple of weeks ago and he's just a really warm and very insightful guy and I really enjoyed the conversation with him. We had talked before that as well and I really appreciated his insights into developing the type of person that you want to become and getting over those internal blocks that keep you from.

From reaching your full potential. So his podcast again is, is called Unleash Thyself and I highly recommend it. Like I said, Constantin was, is a great guy and we just had such a wonderful conversation. So I hope that you enjoy this conversation with him and we'll see you at the end of the podcast.

Constantin: Hello. Hello everyone. We have with us today Constantin Morun from the Unleash Thyself podcast.

We're about to have a beautiful conversation around many, many amazing topics that are important in today's day and age and one that's very dear to my heart and for those that are able to see this in video format, I have a sign to my right here that says follow your heart. And what it really means to me is essentially not just following what's in your heart, but starting with knowing what's in there and allowing it to come up.

And I also equal that to finding your why, finding your purpose, finding what it is that you want to be doing and then pursuing it. Like that's the last thing you'll do in your life so that you can ideally find joy, fulfillment, success, abundance, and whatnot. And I know Erick, you and I had a beautiful conversation last week on this topic and so many others.

So I thought, why not start there? Maybe we'll, we'll start with you and say, well, how has your journey led to this point and how are you seeing this idea of potentially following your heart further down? whatever paths you decide to go on.

Erick: Yeah. So the last, uh, year for me has been, wow. I mean, actually, yeah, basically the last two years, but especially this last year has been, uh, massive amounts of changes.

So I'm currently in Florida right now and I don't have a house and I don't have a car and I got rid of most of my possessions. I have some things in my brother's place. Uh, Bicycle, keyboard, guitar, some clothes, old yearbooks, pictures, those kinds of things, but just a few bins over there and. What I have with me is a, a checked baggage, a carry on bag, and my backpack, and that's all that I have, and it feels very freeing to be in this situation.

One of the things that I did find interesting was that even though I've gotten rid of all of this stuff, My level of happiness, levels of anxiety that are part of everyday life haven't changed much from when I did own a house and I did have all of these things. And so I was talking the other day with, uh, so I'm staying with my friend Shana here in Florida, and we're talking to a good friend of hers who is just Went through a really, really nasty divorce and her ex was talking about, she was telling me about how he is always looking for things outside of himself to find his happiness, you know, he bought this new big truck, you know, that he was hoping, you know, so we could be like, I'm, you know, this big manly man kind of thing and all of these things that he does and he's so miserable and he, he tries so hard to have all of these things outside of him to make him happy.

And, you know, he's always, You know, he goes out of his way to make other people unhappy, thinking that by diminishing their happiness, it will make him somehow happier and have control over them. And it was just fascinating because I, you know, as I was talking to this gal and I just mentioned how, you know, the external doesn't necessarily change the internal.

It can be helpful for sure. If you're in a really bad situation, like if you're in a war zone and you get out of a war zone, that can be incredibly healing for sure. But for the most part, so much of our external doesn't change our internal. So I'm just as happy as I was before, I have just as much anxiety about what I'm going to do with my life as I did before, but I definitely feel a bit freer because I don't have all of these things that I have to worry about, and that right there has been, been really, really good for me and very healthy for me, um, but I still, like I said, I still worry about what I'm going to do with my future and where I'm going to go, so I'm.

Yeah. I'll be flying out to Amsterdam next week, which will be very interesting and very exciting. So I'm really looking forward to that. I'm going to move this mic here so I, uh, so I'm really looking forward to that. Um, but I think on, for the most part, uh, yeah, this next few months are going to be very much about discovery and trying to figure out what I can do and what I want to do with my life.

Constantin: Yeah. That's a beautiful spot to be in. If you can be there. And the story you shared from your friend and. the discussion you had that resonated so deeply with me because honestly, that described me a few years back before I really made a decision and said, well, I need to understand why this brings me joy, happiness, fulfillment, because like the person described, I tried all the external things, shiny toys.

Hanging out with the wrong people, doing the wrong activities. And I say wrong because they're wrong for me, not necessarily because they weren't good activities. And the putting down of other people. And what I have found that's very interesting that in all that process, Erick, is that it's usually like what you do to others and how you perceive others.

It's a big reflection of who you are internally. And perhaps in his case was about putting people down so he can feel better about himself. But that also can tell me, and based on what I know now, is that likely he was putting himself down internally. Because I was doing the same thing and I come from a place where like, oh yeah, that makes sense.

That's what I was doing. I was putting myself down. And I thought that's normal, which meant that why would I be doing anything else to other people? To me, that's normal. I'll put you down. I'll make you small because I make myself small all the time. And for me, the biggest catalyst, the biggest change was realizing that I was living a life that pretty much everyone else Painted for me in a way.

They're like, this is what you should do. This is what's gonna bring you, happiness's gonna bring you money. This is what's gonna bring you success, blah blah, blah. Fill in the blanks. And it wasn't until I was like, oh yeah, you know what? That's what happened. I lived someone else's life. Let's actually take a step back.

I want this constant in one. And that process took a while for me. 'cause I wanted it myself. with my own knowledge, following books, following podcasts. And eventually I came to the other side and I said, Oh shit, this is my, this is my passion. This is my, why this is my purpose. And since that day, everything became more clear.

Like in your case, nothing changed overnight. It's still a process. It took me in fact, six months to really do something about it. But then once I took that action, so I went from like awareness, I became aware of what it is because I did the work to action. That's when everything changed. That's when my, I came out of depression and moved on the other side.

That's when I, my anxiety reduced to the point where it's mostly gone now. That's where burnout pretty much. And all of these things start to happen in, in our lives when we align ourselves more with who we are. And that's what I found from my own life, the people I'm fortunate enough to, to coach and mentor and other people in my life that, that I've seen go on similar paths.

And it sounds like you're on the path, Erick, right now where you have left behind the things that you don't need anymore, that don't serve you anymore. And now you get to pave a new path and finding out. What really makes you tick?

Erick: Yeah, for sure. And yeah, it's, it's going to be an interesting path for sure.

There's so many roads and, and things I can take. Uh, as most of you know, I've been in tech for at least my listeners. I've been in tech for 24 years and that was something that I fell into. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to go into. It just more of, I was just stumbled into it, found I was good at it.

And as people kept paying me more and more money to do it, it was like, okay, I'll, I'll keep doing this. And, um, you know, not the worst thing in the world, but by realizing that. It's probably not ever really been my passion. So I wasn't one of these people who came home from work or finished up work and then jumped on a, you know, my own project.

So I jumped on an open source project to work on it. You know, it's just like, I would find it interesting and I would read up on new technologies and I would find those things, but I found that. That it just wasn't, I just wasn't one of those super geeks that loved, you know, sitting down and programming all day.

I mean, I, I did it for work and what I found, yeah, what I found was that I love creating and that was really important. Uh, so having, uh, having a job where I was creative and I always need to be creative with everything I do is really important to me. I need to create things for other people, whether that's podcasts, whether that's writing a screenplay, which I did one time, uh, about 25 years ago.

For competition. I thought I wanted to be a screen player, screenwriter at one time. Uh, I've written music. So in fact, the, the theme for my podcast, if you listen to that piano theme, I wrote that it's actually a much longer composition and I took a piece out of that. So for me, it's, it's all about creating things and what I'm going to create next.

I'm not sure. And, you know, I, I definitely have lots of ideas, which makes it challenging to winnow those down and to, to really pick on those things. And I wish, I guess I don't wish, but for me, it's, it's a place of discovery. And so that's, that's always exciting. I like to explore as I like to discover things.

So I don't have a problem with getting out there trying to discover these things. I know a lot of people want all the answers now and they want to know exactly what they should be doing. And I. Over the last few weeks, I've been struggling with that. I have these moments of, of kind of almost panic or a little bit of anxiety of like, crap, what am I supposed to be doing?

Am I supposed to be working on music? Am I supposed to focus more on my podcast? Am I supposed to write a book? What is it that I need to be doing? And because I don't have an answer for that right now, there's, there's quite a bit of anxiety. And, you know, like text my friends, I'm like, ah, am I making the, making the right choices?

And they're just like, you're on a good path. Just follow this path out and see. Where you can go and where you can get to. And so I sat down last week, I think it was, and read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That's something I like to do every now and then because it reminds me of remembering that you need to follow the path through and do your best in every situation.

And what was, there was something I was reading where, uh, no, it was actually, uh, uh, what's his name? Uh, Josh Terry on, uh, Instagram. I don't know if you've ever seen him. It says his Instagram thing is Josh Terry plays or something like that, but he, he gives inspirational videos. And I really liked one the other day where he said there are two different ways of following a path in this world or of… of finding your purpose in this world. One of them is to have a clear vision of where it is, and then you, you create a plan and you work relentlessly towards that vision. And plenty of people do this, and they, they mold their circumstances themselves around to try and reach that goal. And then there's the other side, which is, excuse me, which is where you live in each moment the very, very best you can, and you make a choice in that moment.

Do I want to go this way, or do I want to go that way? You try one of those, and you see how it fits, you do your best in that situation, and if it works for you, you continue on down that path, if not, you take some steps back, and then you change your path a little bit, and then you try the next thing. And again, but each moment you are trying to live that moment most excellently as possible.

And you said, either one is fine, but knowing how you work with things might be a better thing. It might suit you better. And for me, I recognize that I'm definitely more of the latter. I'm more of that person who gets in, experiences it, tries it, and then see if I like it, see if it works for me. If it doesn't, then take some steps back.

I've never had this grand vision of what my life should be. And I've been a much more of a, an experiencer of life, but it's hard sometimes to recognize that. It's okay to be an experiencer of life. I don't have to have the grand plan, especially in a world where they're always telling you, Oh, you have to plan your goals.

You have to have these big plans to do all of these things. And you have, you know, in order for you to reach your goals, you have to, you know, make smart goals and all of these different things with that. And I think that's true, but I think that not everybody works that way. And I, I, I oftentimes feel like I'm very disorganized in my life because I don't, you know, I'm not a project manager.

I don't plan things out in a big old project, uh, per se. But I'm able to manage things pretty well and get things done. I mean, I, my friend Lisa pointed out that I cleared a six bedroom, 3, 800 square foot house in just a few months when I was selling my house and got rid of all of this stuff that I accumulated for over 13 years.

So it was. You know, it was definitely doable and I'm definitely recently good at planning like that. But I don't feel like I'm a good planner like that because I don't have like a long term vision of like, in five years I'm going to be here, in 10 years I'm going to be doing this. You know, I don't even know what I'm going to be doing in three months.

Constantin: So here's the funny thing though, right? The definition of a planner that you might be using is someone else's definition. And that's what I have found on this journey as well is that we tend to jump on definitions that other people make for things. That's fine, right? Because you got to start somewhere.

But at one point we have to take control and say, well, what's my definition? Do I feel like I am a planner? And like you said, you give good example as to why you are one, maybe you're not one by the standard definition of the definition of those that you have had in your life as people to follow. And that's always interesting to look at because everything can be looked at the same way.

And you talked about this as well, about being okay with the unknown. And one of the biggest fears, if you talk from a psychology point of view, one of the biggest fears that people have in life is the fear of the unknown. And there's a good reason behind it when you look at how we evolved as human beings, right?

Unknown is what could kill you and in many cases it did back in a hundred years plus. So fear of the unknown is something that most people innately afraid of and then that gets built up with our society and whatnot. So it's beautiful to see that when we can be a bit more liberated and say, you know what?

I've been okay till now. I've made it to here. Let's allow some unknown to pour in. It's like, I know I want to. Like in your case, for example, explore music or in my case, explore public speaking, not be so rigid on how that's going to happen because that's when you miss out on opportunities. And that's how I was by the way, because I'm a project manager at heart.

I have the certifications. I had to like, Oh, I want to public speak. This is exactly how it's going to happen. And when you do that, you're essentially, it's almost like you're swimming upstream or you're swimming against a tide. You may get there because you're working really hard, but it's going to cost you.

Meaning your health, your mental health, your emotional health, all those things may come into play and some will not make it. Or you can allow a bit of the unknown to come in and they will show you a path. It's like, oh, if you go left here a bit. It's going to be less current than if you go right, it's going to be even less, right?

So all of a sudden you see opportunities, you see new experiences, new people come into your life to guide you. And then the end goal is like so much more beautiful and that's been very, very hard for me to do. And it sounds like maybe a bit for you also, but for me as someone with a mathematics degree, being analytical.

Trusting in anything other than my brain has been difficult, but once I start doing it, it's so much more liberating and so much more powerful.

Erick: Mm hmm. What's been the most interesting surprise that is, that's come about or opportunity that's come about when you've been less analytical?

Oh, that's a, that's

Constantin: A, that's an amazing question.

And so one of the things that I've come to learn, this is the last six months maybe, is that I've always had an intuitive sense. What it's like, it's not coming from here. It's coming from somewhere below, right from your heart, from your gut. People call it gut feeling, intuition, inspiration. And the more I get out of my head, meaning that I don't jump on a conclusion or use my analytical mind through meditation, through other practices, I have these, I want to call them voices, but inspiration coming up.

And when I listen to it, it seems to be guiding me on a good path. When I don't listen to it, I'm reminded, well, you probably should have listened. And I'll give you a silly example. Over the holidays, I wanted to buy some new couches off of Facebook marketplace. I find some I liked, go to buy. I have a chat with the person, everything seems all right.

And in the past, if I didn't jump on a sale on my Facebook marketplace, they would sell pretty quickly. So we arranged to do a deposit of 50. So not a huge amount. As I sit down at the computer to do the transfer, to put a deposit so I can pick the market the next day, I literally have this gut feeling that something is not right.

Literally, I'm like, this, this seems off. I look at their profile a bit. I see that they have some items listed in literally in Canada and one in the US. And one across from what I was in Canada. I'm like, that's odd. But instead of asking them any questions, I continued to look. I saw a couple more fees that seemed off, but I'm like, you know what?

I really want this couch. I'm just going to send the money. But the entire time I had the feeling that this was off. This is not good. As soon as I send the money and this is the way you, when you send the money, you cannot get it back. You're pretty much. Then I get up. I remember going upstairs. Telling my, my parents, my partner, it's like, you know what, I feel like this was a mistake, but let's sit with it.

And of course the next day comes up, I get ghosted and you know, I never see the coaches. And that's a great prime example where like, I'm just using, I wouldn't even say my analytical mind cause even my analytical mind could have seen this coming, but more like letting emotions to get the best of it.

Cause it's like, Oh, I really want this. Yeah. And not listening to the voice. And I've had that happen a lot more, but now because I'm getting out of my head, meaning that I'm not allowing my head to jump in as much, finding that balance, I get to hear that voice a lot more often. And it may show up as a feeling, it may show up as a something, you know, like a hormonal imbalance maybe.

I don't even know. It's very hard for me to explain, even though I look at it from a psychological and from a, I don't know, let's say science background.

Erick: Yeah. I've had that same thing happen to me before. So I get you. And as soon as I sent the money, it was like, wait a second. That was, ah, yeah, that was a bad idea.

And I knew that I knew that I didn't want it, but I was so excited about the thing that I didn't take that moment to pause and go, how does this feel? Does this feel right? No. Yeah. And that's the

Constantin: thing that people talk about. And it took me a while to really grasp, which they say, you can look at life as things happening to you.

Right? My car broke down. This person broke up with me. This experience was not good or good, whatever you want to label it. Or there's the other side, we can say, this is happening for me, meaning that, okay, I gave the money where I lost it. I could play the victim and be like, Oh, I can't believe I got swindled.

I can't believe these people did this to me. Blah, blah, blah. Right. And you become the victim and you beat yourself up. And there are other things happen there. Or you can say, this happens for me. Meaning it's like, okay, what lessons can I take out of this? What can I learn and why did this happen to me?

And for me, looking back at that, it's like, well, perhaps that lesson in my life came because It reminded me that, hey, you have another way to not just use your analytical mind or your emotions to make decisions. You have another way. It was shown to you. You didn't want to respect that. Well, here's what happens.

So that's a piece of a lesson. The other lesson could be is I don't trust people so easily. Do your due diligence at the very least ask them some questions. Hey, why do you have, you know, three listings all in different places in the world type stuff, right? So that's a big, a big, big, big lesson for me in the last few years.

It's like how you look at life. Are you the victim? So you look on the negative side or are you, is this happening for you and you look on the positive side?

Erick: Absolutely. Yeah. Think of it as a 50 lesson that you learned. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And that was the price you had to pay to learn that lesson.

Yeah. I think that's a much better way to look at it is, yep. I had to pay a price for this, but if I don't learn that lesson, then I wasted my money. Whereas now you, you had that 50 and you gave it away and you learned a good lesson from that. It's like, okay, I can learn something from this. Yeah, that's very, very true.

Yeah, the Stoics are, are very big on making sure that we were able to take that step back and look at things in the, and be able to analyze them that way. But it takes that self awareness, which I think is, is very, very challenging. It takes a lot of work. It also takes a bunch of humility because. It's, it's much easier to play the victim.

It's much easier to be like, Oh, like you said, you know, the world happens. Things happen to you. And I actually did a podcast episode called that to you or for you a while back. And it was all about that. It's like, is life happening to you or is it happening for you? And the thing is, is that life just happens.

And your choice on that, whether it's you decide is good or bad, it's, that's your choice. You can say this was the worst thing that ever happened to me, or you can say this is the best thing that ever happened to me. You can have no opinion on it. You can just be like, this is what's happening to me. And you have to accept it because it is what is happening to you.

But your judgment on that, and how you perceive it, and how you let it affect you, that's always your choice. You know, when something happens Yeah, and that's really hard for a lot of people because they'll be like, Oh, this horrible thing happened to me. That's why I feel this way. And it's like, no, this thing happened to you.

You made a decision that it's a horrible thing. And so you are acting like a horrible thing happened to you. And maybe it was something that was hard. Maybe you were in a car accident and you're in a lot of pain. But the more that you, your perspective on it adds. Even another layer of misery onto it if you do it that way, because I mean, there are plenty of people who have good things happen to them and they're still miserable about it.

I was listening to Tim Ferriss's podcast with Morgan Housel, who's a financial guy. He wrote, he writes about the psychology of finance and stuff like that. And he was talking about, um, back in the 60s, there was an interview with like the richest man at the time. I cannot remember his name at all, uh, cause I'd never heard it before this point, but he saw this documentary on this guy and it, they showed him and he was like the richest man of the world at the time.

And he was one of the most unhappy people that this guy had seen. And, and they asked him, they said, you know, what? You have, you can get anything that you want in life. What, what do you want most in life? It's like, I want to be someone who's happier than me. And he didn't know how to do that. Like he had all of this money, all of these things, but he had this perspective on things that even with all of this money, he was still miserable like that.

Because of his perspective, because of the way he was viewing the world. And it was really, it was really interesting to see that. You know, cause like they say, money simply magnifies who you are. And so if you're a miserable person to begin with, you just often will make you more miserable. Yeah. So you're circumstantial.

I

Constantin: love that. I'll give you an example. I mean, it's happened over the weekend. I'm still pondering over it and I'm curious to see your take on it with a stoic background and what you've gone through life. And this is pretty much on theme right here with like life happening for me, to me, and also reminds me of how it would have reacted in the past.

So, I have a fairly new vehicle, a 2023 GMC Yukon, and in Canada where I live right now, it's been literally snowing in the morning, freezing in the afternoon, raining in the evening. On this particular day, which was this past weekend, I get in the car to go to some, a friend's house and I get in the car and as I begin to drive down the road, I hear some water pouring in the background.

And I'm like, man, I hope that's not inside. And I hope that's on the outside. I didn't pay much attention to it. All of a sudden I stop at a stoplight and water starts pouring through the main console of the car. Inside, all over the dashboard, everything else. Then I see water pouring all over my leather seats in the back and I'm like, wow, I can't believe this is, this is a one year old car.

I have like 10, 000 miles on it. And I remember in the moment I had this biggest aha moment and I'm like, huh? I did the old things that I would normally do is like, I was like, why does it happen to me now? Like I have such a busy week coming up. I don't have time to deal with this. It's the weekend. All those old narratives.

But because I've done a bit of work and I, by a bit of, I mean, quite a bit of work lately, I was like, huh, you know what? Those thoughts are not going to be conducive because I know the path they're going to take me down on. I was able to interrupt them. I was able to put our thoughts in and say, you know what?

It's Saturday. This happened. There's a reason. We'll figure it out later. I have a night, a night with friends coming up. I don't want to ruin that. So all I did is I got to my destination, right? I wasn't thrilled about it, but I was like, whatever. I got out, messaged my friends and said, Hey, I'm going to be 10 minutes late.

I had some paper towel in the car, cleaned up the car. And between walking between what I part and their apartment building, I practiced my tools on how to essentially interrupt those thought patterns and replace them with good ones. And for the rest of the night, I was able to ignore the situation completely, which my old me, I would have turned around and I would have tried to deal with the issue on a Saturday night, been pissed off, called everyone I know to complain about, Look, poor me.

This happened to me. How can this happen? You know, I paid this much money for this card issue. Anyway, down the path. I had a conversation, I had, you know, five hours with my friends, got back down, left, more water was pouring. I'm like, okay, I'll deal with this on Monday. It's not a big deal. Practice my things.

Another moment of realization came up. I was like, Oh, let me call my parents or let me call a couple of friends and tell them what happened. Right? So we can all sulk in the misery and be like, ah, you know, bad GMC or bad this and bad that. And then I realized, you know what? I'm not. Because there's no point in focusing on the negativity.

There's no point in doing that. I'll take care of the problem. Like I always do, right? Looking back, I've taken care of everything I had come up in my life. And then it's going to be a fun story. And the beautiful part for me was that as I started meditating on this and when I got home, right? And the next day I was like, okay, so why did this happen for me?

And then it poured in. It's like, well, it becomes a great story to tell on a podcast like we're doing now. It's the first time I shared this. It can become a great story when I go and public speak about how my old self would react. and lead life and how my new self is doing it. There could be many other reasons that I haven't figured out yet, but we can always look at the positive.

And of course, Monday came, I went to the dealership. They're like, yeah, that's a pretty big issue. We'll take care of it. Come back in a few days. We'll get you in right away and we'll get it fixed. Right. And it took an, what, an hour of my time to get the dealership and back. They'll give me a rental car when I take the car in.

It'll be fine. It's not a big deal. It's just a car. And like you talked earlier about, like, they're just things. They're not gonna really do much other than amplify your situation. And that's been my experience. And when I sat with that, and I still sit with it every day in meditation, the more I do that, the more I realize, wow, if this was five years ago, I don't even know how ballistic I would have went.

Right. Like I would have been aggressive with the people at the dealership, maybe. And I would have been crying at everyone that would listen and it would derail my entire week. Right. Cause then you're in that negative mindset that it's not going to lead you to anything positive because you and I talked about last week, how your thoughts lead to your feelings, lead to your actions, lead to your results.

So my thoughts, all negative, negative feelings, which amplify more negative thoughts. Then my actions are not going to be positive and then my results are going to be exactly what you'd expect.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. No, that's a great story. I, uh, and obviously a great learning example for sure. And one thing you mentioned in there, which I really, uh, I hadn't quite thought about it this way, but that.

You talked about how you didn't want to complain because you didn't want to suck people into the misery and you'd all feel crappy about that. And I'd never quite thought of it that way because oftentimes, you know, you feel like, you know, I need, I need to get this out. I just need to vent about this thing.

And I think that in some cases that is important. You know, when something crappy does happen, you want to be able to just want to go and let that out. Um, But I think that even then you need to be very careful about that. And the Stoics, you know, Marcus Aurelius, he talks in there, it's like, don't ever hear yourself complaining out loud.

Not even, not even in private, you know, and it's that same thing. But I was, but I hadn't, I hadn't quite thought about it yet. It's that whole thing of misery loves company. And a lot of times people will talk about all the miserable things that are happening to them because they want to pull people in.

They want to have that. People would feel sorry for them and they get that attention and stuff like that. And I've known, I've had plenty of friends and relatives and who've done that and it gets exhausting. And I hadn't realized that I hadn't really thought about it like that. So clearly the way you said that, you know, suck them into the misery.

And I was like, Oh, that's really, that's very, very poignant. But I mean, for

Constantin: me, that was a, that was a fairly new realization. I'll be honest, I haven't considered it like that. And then I asked, okay, what would the purpose of me calling be? Other than to perpetuate misery, if it's like you said, if it's to get a second opinion, be like, Hey, what should I do about this?

What happened? There's a different purpose. But I knew in my, in my mind and my heart and my body, that the only reason I would call is to complain and be like, Oh, how could this happen to me? Because I already knew what I was going to do. I mean, I had to take it to the dealership. It's on the warranty.

There's not really like I have 10 choices. I knew what had to be done, which meant I'm not going to call about opinions. I'm not going to call about anything else other than to complain. But there will be situations in which you find yourself or like something bad happens, like you said, and you do need those people in your corner.

But then I guess we have to check ourselves and see, are we calling to really complain or are we calling to say, Hey, this is what happened for me. It's not great. What is your opinion? What can I do? And then you kind of brainstorm back and forth. Yeah.

Erick: And I think that, I think that you can, in some instances with the right person, vent.

Because sometimes you just need to let that frustration out. And, and sometimes I've done that where I'm just like, Ah, this is the thing that's going on. This and this and this and this and this. And, okay, whew, all done. And it's just like, it's letting that energy out. But letting that person know, hey, I need a second to vent here.

This has nothing to do with you. This is not me dragging you down into the suck. This is me just, I need to let this energy out because it's spinning around in my head and once I say it out loud, I get that out. I think that's a very, very different approach because you're not necessarily complaining there.

It's more of like you're almost factually explaining the situation out loud just so you can put your story together in your own mind. And I think that there's, I think that there's a big difference between that, between complaining and venting. And I think that. I think they can be very interesting. I had something similar like that happened to me a while back, not nearly as, as epic as that, but, uh, I, I had scheduled to get my booster vaccine and my flu vaccine for this year and had it all scheduled out.

And before I was going to it, I had a doctor's appointment and then I had an hour in between the doctor's appointment. And when I was supposed to get my vaccine, the vaccine was on the far. It was the only one I could get, and I just wanted to get it done and out of the way. And so I finished up my doctor's appointment, walked to my car, and I couldn't find my car keys.

And I was like, what is going on here? And I look inside and they're sitting on my chair, like great. So I had to call an Uber to come pick me up, take me home, get my spare car key, bring me back. I drove all the way out there. I mean, just barely made it in the nick of time and it was at one o'clock and I said, okay, I'm here for my appointment.

They said, Oh, I'm sorry. The software double booked to you. Somebody's already taken that slot. We don't have vaccine for you today. And like, I was like, and I was so mad. I'm like, what? You expect me to suffer because your system screwed up. This is, and I just stopped right there. Cause I could feel myself getting so heated and I was like,

I'm sorry. I'm, I'm acting out of line. I'm really sorry about that. I know there's nothing you can do about it and I know it's not your fault. Have a good day. And I turned around, I was walking down the aisle and I was just like, and you know, one of the other people at the place was like, Hey, is there anything I can help you with?

And I was like, well, no, because this is what happened. I explained the situation really quick. And she was like, Oh, I'm really sorry about that. That kind of, that sucks that you drove all the way out here for that. And I said, yeah, but I'll just get some chocolate and go home. So I, I got some chocolate, went across the street, grabbed some lunch.

Cause I could tell I was getting really hungry, which makes me a little bit moody and angry. So I was like, okay, and went and did that. But I was. I was very proud of myself because like you said, you know, five years ago, I'd have been snapping out a pull to Karen. I would have been like, let me talk to your manager.

This isn't fair. You know, and I would have tried that and nothing would have happened. And I would have just been angry and pissy and moody that whole day, uh, you know, and it would have ruined my day when I just caught myself and was like, yep, there's nothing you can do about this. You're not doing this to be malicious.

You're not doing this to be mean at all. You're simply doing your job and there's simply the way the cards fall that day. It was like, okay. And so I just let it go and that for me was like, when I reflect on that later that day, I was like, yes, yes. And you know, pat myself on the back because before, because before, like I said, a few years ago, I would have just been, the claws would have come out.

And so it was, but I mean, I was still slightly disappointed with myself because I still did get heated right at first, but I was glad that I was able to pull back quickly enough and be like, Hey, I know this isn't your fault. Have a nice day. I love

Constantin: the story, Erick, and what I like about that is your realization there that you are aware that that's not who you are.

And looking back at myself doing that in the past, even though I realized I'd be like, I'll continue through with it. And you realize you stopped yourself and that's the power of what we're talking about here because with all the work I've done, with what I work with my clients as well on essentially reprogramming.

their mind so you can do stuff like we just said on a consistent basis. It's not that negative thoughts will not come up. I mean, you still live in an environment that has a lot of negative stuff happening. They will come up, but now you have the tools. So first awareness and then the second, the tools to stop that from getting anywhere big, right?

So as you work through this, you know, there was a few months ago now. You, because you celebrate, because you reinforce it with your mind, likely if it happens again, you might not even get to the point where you blurt anything out. You might catch yourself before you even say anything else and you walk away and say, thank you.

You know, it happens. And that's the power of repeating something that you want to instill within you because all those negative reactions like you and I had in the past, I mean, those are not just there all of a sudden. They were things that we repeated all our life or we were shown by others in our life.

So that means that the opposite is true too, which means that if you have a reaction, that means you likely repeat it often, either to yourself or to others, and you can overcome that and put something better in its place.

Erick: Yeah. And it's taken a lot of work because my example was my father and my father was highly reactive and he was very quick tempered and not all the time, but a good portion of the time.

So when something happened in a way that he was unhappy with, it was just. Bam, that temper come out really, really fast and it took, it took a lot, it's taken a lot of work to be very, very cognizant of that. And part of that, I think also is that because we often feel like if we have a good excuse for why we act a certain way, then it excuses that behavior.

And, and so one of the things that stoicism has really helped me with a lot is to actually take responsibility for those things that I do that I, rather than coming up with an excuse for it and being, Oh, it was okay that I acted that way because of X, Y, or Z, I take responsibility for it, which that was the other thing I tried to do here was I said, I'm sorry, I'm, it.

I'm acting out of line, and I shouldn't, you know, I shouldn't be acting this way, and I apologize, and I hope that you have a nice day. I didn't say, oh, you, you screwed up, I can't believe you did this, and, you know, and, and, because I did, I could have used that as an excuse of why I'm allowed to be angry.

But I didn't. I recognized that I needed to take responsibility for my behavior and the way that I was acting and what I was doing. And stoicism has really helped me with that, like I said, because I used to always have excuses. If I had a good excuse, a good rationalization for it, I then I was, I was totally justified.

And that's our ego talking, because what it does is it makes it so that we We feel okay with our behavior. We justify our behavior. And I think the more that we can look at those things and take responsibility for them, then we can, it makes it much easier to improve our behavior. Because if we're actually taking responsibility for it, we want to be sure that we don't continue that behavior.

We want to show that we don't repeat that behavior. And so when we actually step up and take responsibility and say, yep, I, I did that, I don't like that I did that, but I did that because it's, it's reality. It's what actually happened. And so. You know, in this case, yeah, I got heated. I got, I got started a little bit, get a little bit angry and I took responsibility for that.

I got angry and that wasn't very cool of me and I don't want to be that kind of person. So I own that responsibility. I own that, or I, I own that behavior and I'm responsible for my behavior. And so it helps to, it helps to take that away from our egos because we're not trying to soothe our egos and say, Oh, I'm okay.

I was justified in being upset. Yeah,

Constantin: beautiful, beautifully said that. And if you look at both of our stories there, right, something negative happens and everyone has a different definition of negative, right? Both of these situations are cool because they're negative across the board. And then we looked at it and said, okay, what's the lesson in this?

That's the positive side of it, because it doesn't remove the fact that you still had to go somewhere else and spend more time and energy and do that. It doesn't take away the fact that I have to now deal with this issue. We don't know the damages inside. It doesn't take away any of that. It's not about negating the negatives.

It's about not focusing on them, which is what you emphasize so beautifully here as well, because we, I guess, because of culture and how we learned in school, but also our human physiology and evolution, We are prone to focusing on the negative. You and I talked about the negativity bias, which is the idea that anything negative makes it to your brain, to your conscious mind, a lot quicker, either from your memories or from what happens in the environment, because it was a defense mechanism as we evolved to keep you alive.

So you knew about all of this, which is something that we have to work against. That's why it's so hard to actually get a hold of it. And then once you become aware of that, then the next part is you have a choice. Do you want to do something about it because you have the knowledge? Or do you continue to be the way you are?

And I don't believe there's a wrong or a right answer. Some people choose to continue even though they know better. And some say, like you and I in this case, is like, you know what? We know better. Let's take an action. And the action is to, well, feel our feelings as we both, you know, I was angry as well in the moment I felt those feelings, but then I chose to let them go, let go the negative thoughts and move on to the lesson piece.

It's like it happens for me. What's the purpose and the reason they happen in your case? I'll give you like my two cents. It may have happened to teach you, not to teach you, to reinforce the lesson you just knew you learned. How can you learn something if you don't practice it over and over? So if this keeps showing up in your life, it's not that the universe doesn't like it.

It's like, well, let's get you better at dealing with the situation. So in your case, Erick, it could be like, well, you might not even have the outburst. It's going to get to a point where it could be like, you'll be frustrated. You might let. My event, when you get back to the car or in a private space, be like, okay, you know, that's unfortunate.

What can we do about it? So that's, that's, that's beautiful to see.

Erick: So do you think that most people fall into a negativity trap like that or fall into things being negative because they assume that these things shouldn't happen to them as if life should be great all the time. And so when bad things happen, they feel like, like the universe is out to get them, if you will.

That's a

Constantin: great question. I love the question. I'll say a few people might be like that, right? Because, uh, I can only give myself an example because I know myself really well. I've been like that many times in my life because I'll be like, I have a good stretch and then something negative happens like this.

I'm like, but I've been doing everything right. Why, why is this negative thing happening? Like, why is this being thrown my way? Why is this happening to me? Why, you know, like, and we get into that. And some people unfortunately have lives that are a bit tougher and then negative things keep piling up. But here's what I've come to realize.

Once you get yourself into a negative state, you're much more likely to attract more negativity into your life because if you can't appreciate the positives, then why would those be reflected back to you? Is if you look at just from a psychology point of view or from a physiology point of view or anything that's, let's say science based more, right?

Look at what happens. You and I both know the example, I think we talked about this. If you think about a red car, cause you want to buy a red car, when you go out on the street, that's all you're going to see. You're going to see a red car here, a red car here, a red car there. And that's the power of your focus where you put your focus.

That's where your subconscious mind will and with your conscious material will try to make that a reality for you. So if you focus on the negativity and say, I can't believe this is happening to me. I can't believe life is so unfair. I can't believe this, this, and that. You're telling your brain to bring more of that because that's what you're asking.

That's what you're talking about. But if you focus on the positive, that's more of what's going to come back into your life. So to answer your question That's part of it for sure. I have seen it show up in many different ways, right? People have had bad luck their entire life. And then that keeps building up because that's all they can focus on.

Other people have been mistreated and they take the mistreatment as a reflection on who they are versus on who the person doing the mistreatment was. And that was me earlier in my life because I was bullied and then I became the bully a bit. And I'm like, It was never about me to begin with, about what the person was going through.

And then when I was a bully to, let's say, my younger brother for, for a few months before I learned better, it was also because what I was going through, it was nothing else. Yeah, yeah,

Erick: I do find, yeah, and I do find that though, that often when people do get stuck in that negativity, that it seems like their life continues to be negative.

And I don't know if it's that they necessarily have more negative things actually happening or if it's just that they draw attention to those negative things far more than your average person does.

Constantin: Great, great point. And I can see, I can see it's both because So there was, there were studies and there's this paper coming up on this, but I'll tell you a couple that fascinated me.

So there, I don't know which part in the States, there is this beautiful road in the middle of nowhere, simple road. And it has like telephone poles every a hundred or so yards or meters and no trees or anything else. And then there was this stretch of road where there were a lot of accidents and like 80 percent of accidents.

The people that essentially just by on their own, they were hitting the telephone pole, but there's like a hundred yards between them. So like, they were wondering like, how can you hit a telephone pole when like literally you have so much space to like, just not hit anything. And what they've realized is that the people that got in those accidents, they would be like, you know, the car was swerved.

And then we're like, Oh, don't hit the pole. Don't hit the pole. All your mind gets there is like pole, pole, pole. And then that's the direction you're going to go into. And if you think about that, like take an abstract back and say, okay, how do I apply that in our life? If your focus is on the negative, Oh, I hope I'm not going to catch all the red lights on my way to work.

I hope. My manager is not going to be pissed off at me today. Like all those negative focuses that we have, well, that's what you're asking your mind to bring into your existence. And we're not talking about spiritual stuff here. We're talking about how our body works. And obviously if you take it to the spiritual side, that's how manifestation and law of attraction technically works because you put your focus on something and that's what you attract into your life.

And that's what I see when I go to your question or some people will technically have more negative stuff happen because their focus is so much in the negativity that that's all they can see because I, I'm not sure about you, but I have friends in my life that essentially I go to any party, I go to any gathering, all they can talk about is, Oh, this bad thing happened to me and this bad thing happened to me.

And this happened to my mom and this happened to my father. And you're like, wow, that person must have a really unlucky life. And then you realize, wait a second, maybe it's not that, because you know what? I've also had a lot of these things happen in my life, but I chose to focus on the positives. And then there were less of those things happening in my life.

Huh, I wonder if there's something there. Yeah, yeah,

Erick: I can see that very much happening. Yeah. Yeah, well, kind of back to what you said about the telephone poles. Uh, so I actually got my motorcycle license a number of years ago, and mostly because I'm terrified of riding motorcycles, and so I was like, okay, I want to, I want to, I want to do this to get over that fear.

Um, but what I found, what was interesting is they teach you in, in this, like if you're riding on your motorcycle and you see a pothole, you focus on away from the pothole. You don't focus on it, you focus where you want to go because where you're is like where your focus goes, that's where you go. And so that is one of the things that they, they specifically teach, you know, especially on a motorcycle because you, you are carrying.

In a car, it's, you can turn a lot quicker and with a motorcycle, so much of it is momentum so that you stay upright. So you can't turn nearly as fast, otherwise you lay the bike down. And so it's like, look where you want to go. And that was really a very important lesson like that. And I think, yeah, so basically you hit it right on.

Yeah. So people will, when they're sliding off the road, don't hit the telephone pole, don't hit the telephone pole. Bam.

Constantin: Well, there was another study. I don't remember where, this was in Europe somewhere, where they took a class of kids and they told them to run around the class, but avoid hitting any other kids.

And then they took another class and they told them, just run around the class, have fun, do whatever you want. Well, which group do you think had the most collisions?

Erick: Probably the first one.

Constantin: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Because people are like, Oh, I want to make sure I don't hit this, this. Like you said, your focus is on like what to avoid.

And then that's what's going to come into your life. It reminds me of school sometimes, right? I was an A plus student up to the university, then I didn't care as much for school. I still graduated with a math degree. I still did well, but I remember when I was going in and I was afraid of, I cannot fail this test.

I don't want to fail this. Let it not be this, this, and this negative questions, and then they would be on the test. I'll be like, did I manifest that? What happened? Looking back now, I was just focusing on the negatives. Right. And I couldn't allow anything else to show up in my life.

Erick: Exactly. Okay. So we had talked earlier about kind of making the theme about this of, of finding your path, what advice or what are some experiences you want to share along that?

Cause I know that your podcast is about Unleash Thyself, which is very much driven with helping others find their path. So for you, what. I guess what are the top three things that you can put out there that you find are the most helpful for people trying to figure out their path and, and, and to head the direction of that their life should go or that they want their life to go?

Constantin: I love that question, Erick. And um, the way I look at it right now is I looked at how I've done mine and I did a lot of research. I did a lot of studies. It took me months to uncover it. Now the process I've streamlined it and it came down to like three big categories really, which is the uncovering. What it is that your why is your purpose doing a quick inventory where it shows up in your life.

And then for most of us, it doesn't show up much for me. It was like less than 10%, meaning that pretty much one in 10 actions I was taking was not driven. By this why, by this purpose, which meant, of course, I wasn't really happy because that's my why in the end is what drives that happiness, joy, fulfillment, abundance, all of it.

And then once you have that inventory taking action, because we talked all after doing this entire interview and conversation about the importance of action and putting your focus on something, right? But you can't do the last two steps unless you do the first one. So the first one, let's break it down a bit.

The way I see it when it comes to uncovering. your why, your purpose. It starts with who you are after the day, meaning that what I do with my clients and what I do myself as well is I look back at stories of my life. I, I will tell you, Hey, if you came to do this with me, it's like, Hey Erick, bring 10 stories.

Don't think too much about that. Think about stories that are important to you. Maybe the first time you got your first job, maybe summer camp when you were 12 and some cool stuff happened. Maybe, uh, uh, you know, the incident you had that, uh, with the vaccine, right? And the flu shot, that could be a good story.

And the idea is that then you have someone else, a coach, a mentor, a friend that doesn't even know you intimately to really influence you to, to negatively. You, you tell the story and as you go through the story, You allow the other person to ask you questions, not why questions. Why did you do this, Erick?

But more around what questions and how questions to try to get the feelings, to try to get to the bottom of it and showing who Erick actually is or who this person actually is. And what you will see come up from, it's actually phenomenal. For me, when I do this with my clients, it takes about three hours to go through 10 stories because you want to go deep.

You'll see patterns form up and most people will have anywhere between three to seven different patterns to form up. And that will lead you to seeing which one shows up more in these stories because you'll have stories that have nothing to do with each other. In fact, some are. Five years apart, decades apart, one is a school, one is a family.

And all of a sudden you see, whoa, there's a pattern there, there's a pattern here. So that might mean that that's more who I am. And from there you start to work with the person that was helping you do this, facilitate, you find out honing on a statement. Like for me, my statement that I came to, and by the way, this is always evolving because you evolve as a person.

But mine right now is, so actually before I even share mine, there's two pieces to it is what you do and the impact you have with what you do essentially. So mine is to inspire, empower, guide and support individuals. So that's what I do. So that they, so they too can find joy, fulfillment, success, abundance.

in life and their world becomes a better place, right? So that's the impact I'm having on their life specifically. So once I found my why, there's a second element to it. So that's the first part, right? The best, the biggest theme is usually your why. And the idea here is you don't want to be spending too much time on the words.

It's whatever sounds well for you, right? Mine, that's what sounded good to me. To you, it might sound different if that's your theme as well. But keep in mind, that's very genErick, right? You could take that, Erick, someone else can take it. And it's, it doesn't really tell you how you're going to do it, what type of, um, work you're going to do to fulfill that.

You then go to the next part, which is the how. So the other themes, because as I mentioned, there's like usually three to nine teams coming up. The other ones usually become your how, like how you're going to actually execute on this. So if I'm talking about inspiring, that's one of the things I want to do.

It's not that, Oh, I'm going to do a podcast. That's the, what the, how is, what actions do you take on a daily basis or want to, or rather. are taking on a regular basis to execute on your why, right? So maybe it's the way you talk. Maybe it's the way you listen. Maybe it's the way you reach out to people. It could be a million different things.

And you find those themes. It could be anywhere from three to five themes from what I have seen. So three hows. And now what do you have? You have a why, you have a how, or multiple hows. And the last piece is how do you actually, or the what rather, which is. What do you do with that? Meaning how does it show up in your personal life?

How does it show up in your professional life? So for me, it was, Oh, okay. The one of the Watts is the podcast. A second one is social media posts. A third one is how I show up in my personal life. A fourth one is how I show up in my coaching and mentorship practice. A fifth one is how I show up in my corporate life.

I don't know why or how I execute on my, on my, why in my

Erick: house. Can you explain the house a little bit more? I'm, I'm not quite catching that. So, yes. So

Constantin: let's, uh, let me actually, I have a, give me one second. Okay.

I have, uh, one of my journals here in which I, I work on on my own ideas. Other things. So I'll give you some examples from how I brought this down with a couple of clients recently. And, uh, when it comes to the house, let me, let me get to it and we can cut this out from the episode. Um,

because I want to be giving you a great example.

Okay, perfect. So your house, uh, here are a great question. Couple of things. Your house are essentially your strengths. What are you graded and how does it match with your why? Because it's part of your themes. Now this is a big one for me was that this is not necessarily how you want to be, but rather how you show up because we looked at little stories from your past.

So how did you show up in those, in the stories? So how you actually behave is from the themes we discussed. Now, let me give you an example. Um, and I have, I have a few here that we can go into. So let's say a theme comes up that you had that. You know, you are optimistic, right? I'm someone that's always optimistic.

That's one of mine, right? What does optimistic mean for someone? Optimistic means that you're someone that always looks at the glass half full versus half empty. You're someone that always looks at the positive versus a negative, and there's other definitions you can use. Okay. Now that's one of my hows, but it's not really a statement now, is it?

So you want to actually look at it and go a bit deeper into it. So looking at my notes here, where's my optimistic one is about finding the positive in everything. So what does it mean that I make a statement that says, okay, I'm optimistic. How do people see me? Well, I find the positive in everything.

When something is wrong, I look for what's right. That's actually part of mine. Okay. So what does it mean? So now I have an interaction with you or like this, what happened this past weekend, right? Or I have an interaction at work, a project might be derailed. Might be not going well, I could become pessimistic.

Oh, we're going to lose this contract or this is not going to happen. Well, I could look at it and say, you know, I acknowledge that there's negatives, but what's right, what's going well, what's positive in this, why is this happening for me? It's kind of the same thing we were discussing earlier, right? The, another one that I had done with a client early, um, yeah, this was earlier this month.

They, a theme for them that came up is that they, uh, are someone that want to make others feel safe. Okay. Right. And well, then the, the how becomes the idea that you are making others feel safe, secure and heard. So what do you do? You extend trust to others. This is breaking it down further, right? You let people know you have their back.

You allow them to know you're there to support them. You make them aware of the fact that, hey, you're here for their benefit. So if that's me, let's say that's one of my house, that means that every interaction I, I come up with, it could potentially show up in that. I have a conversation with you and I say, Hey, Erick, it doesn't matter.

You know how this conversation go. I have your back. We'll go to the bottom of this. It could be a stranger on the street, right? And it's, it, it frames it a bit. But so what you do then is you have your why, then you have your hows, and then you look at, okay, so how many, how does, how does this how show up in my life?

Am I making others feel safe, seen and heard in my interactions? If that was mine, for example, and I look back at my life. I wasn't doing that. Let's look at the optimistic one because that's mine, so I can speak to it a bit more. So if it's about finding positive in everything. Erick, I was doing quite the opposite.

I was exactly the person that we were talking about earlier. I could not find the positive in anything because, oh my God, this happened again and this happened again. Now, I, I'm excited if I say anything, you know, like let's say 90, 10%, 90 negative, 10 positive. Yup. And here's someone, you know, AmErickan dream, beautiful home, cars, loving dogs, partner, family, great job, yet I'm always miserable.

It doesn't make sense. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And when I found that and one that became the, wait a second. In my earlier years, I was able to find the positive in everything. I was always able to be optimistic. And that came up as a theme in my stories. Why did I unlearn that? Why did I stop doing it?

Because you see the idea of the stories that we look at is that they, it's not about. What happened in the story in the sense of like, Oh, this was the outcome, you got a job, or you lost a big game. It's actually how you acted throughout it. So who you are actually shows up even if you don't realize it.

Yeah. So a comment I have from a client of mine recently when we did Herds, she was like, Wow, I couldn't believe. how much I actually learned about myself in the process of going through the stories because she thought she knew everything about the stories because they're her stories, not mine. Yeah. It's just about like, when you go deeper, you realize, wow, the power of reflection and introspection.

Erick: Yeah. And for, yes, absolutely. I think it's more of the, uh, yeah, so it's like the attributes or the process of, of the thing. It's all

Constantin: the strengths. I call them the strengths. And this is what Simon Sinek is. A lot of this, some of, I mean, a lot of this, a lot of what we talked about comes from Simon Sinek as well.

He talks about, uh, finding your why or start with why rather, and then he has a book on working through it. And that one, parts of it came from that, parts came from my own personal experience and other books I've read. But it's really about. Understanding at the core of who you are, what motivates you, what are your strengths and doing more of that into your life?

Yeah. Okay,

Erick: good. Yeah, that was helpful. I'll

Constantin: give you another one that's, that's mine that maybe will ring more true for you or for the audience to, to connect here. So I told you my why it's about inspiring, empowering, all that stuff. This one is growth mindset. That was the theme that came up for me because you see growth mindset means that you're always willing and open to learn from every situation.

to grow, to, to, to realize that, wait a second, what you know is not the end all be all. You have opportunity to grow. And now when I say growth mindset, that's not really a how, right? I have to convert it into a action. What do I do? And mine was like, I learn from everything and everyone. So that's my how I learn from everything and everyone.

What does it mean that I am open to the ideas and points of views of others? Or everyone I interact with, it doesn't matter if it's the janitor in the office or the CEO of a company, they all have something to teach me. It doesn't matter if I'm driving to a friend's house or I'm having a party, there's something that I can learn from it, right?

Or we have a podcast episode. And that, that was a big one for me when I realized that was the case. So what does, what did it do to me? Well, you see, even though that there was something that I always did, it didn't mean that I was doing it all the time. I was doing it some percentage of the time. This allowed me to have clarity.

And now literally I approach every situation, this conversation with you, Erick, now, now it's like, before I start, I have my own mantras and things I go through. And one of the things is I am open to learning new things. In fact, I can even read it from my mantra here, but. If I can get to my screen up, but essentially it's all about being open to learning, right?

Learning and growing and growing. And that's, those are two of five I have, right? Some people have three, some people have four. I've seen some have six, but usually three to five is. enough to put you on a path and then your life can be guided a bit better. It's not about being rigid and saying, Oh, this needs to happen because realistically you'll have things you need to do in your environment.

They have no control over. So you can do all of these, but you can do some of it. Like in the example, like if let's say optimistic was yours, Erick, and you had the situation come up with your vaccine and you knew that that's who you are. Not just who you want to be, but who you are, then you can approach the situation a bit differently.

Erick: Yeah. And I think that optimism is definitely one that I try to incorporate better. Um, I did actually did a podcast episode a couple of months on that because, because of the background that I have, uh, growing up in a very strict religion and a very dysfunctional family with a lot of trauma. My, my natural tendency as a kid was, was very optimistic.

I was a very happy kid in many ways. So very, you know, And I remember that. I remember feeling like life is wonderful, except when my dad would, you know, lose his shed and, and smack us with his belt. But otherwise life was full of a lot of joy for a lot of time. Then as I got older and got to be a teenager, it was much, it was much harder.

Um, and I remember specifically making a choice when I was younger that I knew people who were truly happy. And I'm like, if they can be happy, I can figure out how to be happy because I'm not happy. And I, I, I can tell that they're not faking it. I'm not, they're not walking around going, yeah, I'm so happy.

Life is great. You know, but they, they honestly were just genuinely happy people. And because they came from good homes, they had good parents who loved them. Their families were strong and supportive. And so for me, I have always had a lifelong quest to get to that point. So because of that goal. I've had to actively choose optimism and it's hard sometimes because my, my history makes it so that I tend to want to be a little bit more on the downside and find that negative and worry about the thing.

What's, when's the other shoe going to drop and that type of situation or that type of outlook. And so I've actively tried to. Make sure that I don't do that or at least move towards a different direction. And oftentimes I do what I call nudging, which is the idea that if you wake up and you're in a bad mood or you're having a tough time about something and you're upset, that I don't try to immediately change my mood.

I don't go, ah, you know, try and, try and will myself into a better mood because that's really challenging to do that. But it's just more of like taking a step back. And kind of nudging my mood into a different direction. It's kind of like if you're on a boat. I mean, it's, it takes a lot of work to turn a boat around when you're sitting on, on a lake.

But it doesn't take a lot of work just to nudge it the right way and keep it going and then slowly turn it the direction you want to go. And it's just micro, and it's just like micro nudges. I mean, you can just micro thing and, you know, yes, it takes long. It's a longer arc to get there. It's not as sudden.

But it's much, much easier and it's a lot less effort and it's, the idea is I don't want to change my mood right now, but I want to make sure that my mood in an hour is a little bit better. And so you slowly kind of nudge it that way and you think, okay, I can choose to be a little bit happier about this.

I can choose to let go of this. I can choose to take a deep breath and let some of this out. I choose to focus on something that's a little bit better. But it's not like an immediate, like, you know, flip a switch because that, that almost seems, uh, you know, sociopathic or something like, Oh, I can just turn my emotion off and there we go.

Constantin: But, Well, yeah, that's, that's funny you mention that because to some of those things it can be like that, but there is also a thing where you want to let your emotions happen and then feel your feelings and then be able to let them go. And you touched on something very important there, which is the power of knowing who you are.

And you said, you know, you're someone that's optimistic. So let's say you go to this exercise, you found, find your why, find those house of strengths. Well, that's the power of knowing who you are. Most of us go through our life without knowing who we really are below the surface, below all this negativity.

So then at least you have the awareness, but can you imagine how you can navigate your life? If you know this, cause you're living, you're living proof, you at least know some of it and you choose the optimist side. Is it not, is it going to happen every time? Not yet, but through practice you can get there.

Because guess what? That negativity that you're talking about, so the reverse, the pessimism and when the shoe, the other shoe is going to drop, that's also a learned behavior. So that means that you can unlearn it and bring something else, something called brain plasticity that some people may be familiar with, right, from psychology.

And this is actually funny enough from a science point of view, it's only fairly recent that they've realized that, wait a second, your brain. Not only can adapt to new situations, but can also change old patterns and beliefs and whatnot. Because in the past, they believed that once you're a certain age, that's it, it's game over.

What you know, you know, and nothing changes. But now science is catching up and saying, you know what, no, you have the power. You have the power to change everything and anything about your situation. It's up to you.

Erick: It takes a lot of work to do that, for sure. Oh, it does. And I think they

Constantin: I guess, for the interest of your, uh listeners.

Some of my listeners may have seen this already or not. But let's talk a bit about the process of interrupting thoughts, right? Because I feel that that's a powerful tool that people can use right now. And as I tell people in my life, as I tell my clients, as I tell people on shows, the feedback I get all the time is like, I can't believe this actually works and it works as fast as it does.

And for that, Erick, let's preface with this. There are five stages, right? So you have the environment. Which is anything outside of you that causes something within you. So like, let's take my example, my car, right? My car is my environment. The negative stuff happens, then what's going to happen? A thought or a belief is going to pop into my mind.

Ah, not this again. Why does this always happen to me? AmErickan cars are useless. You can name it. You can be, that's a belief, right? Or a thought. Yeah. That could be in my mind. That's negative, right? That's going to then go to what? Emotions and feelings. I'm going to start to feel a certain way again, like that.

Why is it always me? The victim is going to come up. You allow that to happen, which is what we, most of us do, then your actions will get impacted. So the actions that night was I'll drive to my friends. I'm going to have a good time. So there's a couple of things that happens in impacts in all me would be like, turn around, cancel the party.

I disappoint my friends. I disappoint myself. I'm going to sit in misery. That's pretty bad action. Right? And then from that action, a result comes, but what would the result be if I turned around and I settled my misery and called people up? I mean, it's not going to be good at all, right? Probably not what I would want.

So that means that in the process, there are five stages. Look at what we can control a hundred percent. My actions, we try really hard, but really they're influenced by. Everything out. Sorry, not my actions, what we have in life is influenced by our actions, right? You can't control your actions fully, you have some control, but if your feelings, emotions are a certain way, then you can't really control that.

Because I remember when I was depressed and suicidal, I wanted to get better. I wanted to do more, but I couldn't, I couldn't take the actions. I couldn't bring myself to, nor could I touch my emotions and feelings. I mean, sometimes you can change it, right? Some external force can come in and can make you happy temporarily.

For example, I always look for escape in food, sex, gambling, gaming. It brought temporary satisfaction or buying a new shiny toy. But again, temporarily, then I'm going to jump the thoughts for a second. We'll go to the environment. What can you control in your environment? You have control over who you choose to hang out with, maybe what job you have, but a lot of stuff in your environment, you have no control over.

Like I'm going to jump in my car and drive. I have no idea what anyone else is going to do on the road. I'm at the mercy of anyone there as a quick example. So then it leaves us with a thought and beliefs, which we know from brain plasticity, we have a hundred percent control over. So that's what we should be focusing.

Yeah. So let's talk about that really quick, but I'll pause to see if you have any questions or you want to add anything in there.

Erick: No, that's exactly the same pattern that I, that I follow and I use. So, um, and that's very much informed by Stoicism because it talks about really the main thing you can control is how you think about something that the misery that you feel in a situation isn't the event itself, but your perspective on that event.

It's how you think about it. So yeah, so I find that to be very true. Um. That if you can focus on how you think about something, not just, and I think there's kind of multiple parts to that. I think that there are the things, the actual subject of your thoughts. So the stuff that you're focusing on is very, very important, but there's also the perspective that you hold about those thoughts, kind of your attitude about those thoughts.

If you want to, for lack of a better term, that if you always, you can look at the same, you can have two people looking at the exact same situation, the exact same facts. If one has more positive outlook on it, they're going to describe it very differently than somebody who has a negative outlook on it, even though it can be the exact same situation.

So your circumstances, your facts, everything can be the same. Their thoughts could be similar, but their attitude, I guess, would be the best way. Like their attitude and their thinking. Can be very important and it's interesting for me when I find people who are extremely negative like that is just that there, it's that perspective on everything.

It's just that they have this dark filter over everything. And so anything that comes in when it could be taken as possibly positive, they find the negative in it. You know, it's, you know, it's kind of like, wow, here's a sunny day, but it's so hot out there. Well, yeah.

Constantin: Okay. I mean, you're right. I mean, like I said, the environment influences all of that.

So if you grew up in a house like that, or some negative things happened to you in your childhood, and all of us have had negative stuff. Some traumas are deeper than others. That's going to shape up your life. So of course. You may have more negative thoughts for you that, like you said, half of those may be positive to me, but for you, that will be negative, which will trigger the entire chain again.

So that's beautiful. Absolutely. A hundred percent.

Erick: And for me, one of the things that was the biggest shift for me, um, was about, I a year and a half, two years ago, um, I had a podcast episode that I'd taken a break from the podcast and I came back and this was kind of my kickoff again for this last stretch for the last two years.

And it was really important for me because what it was about was recognizing that in order to In order to be happy, I had to learn acceptance and there's Stoics talk about that a lot. They have a term called amor fati, which means accept your fate, meaning accept everything that happens to you because it happens and you can either love it or hate it.

Universe doesn't care. It's still going to happen. So acceptance is a big part of them. And I had a situation where I. Somebody that, that I really cared about hurt me very deeply, and I was very, very angry, and I was just, I was absolutely furious at this person, and I recognized that the reason why I was so angry was because their opinion of me mattered so much to me.

That if they, you know, whatever that opinion was, that influenced so heavily on how I thought of myself. And I was like, this is ridiculous. Why do I base my own self esteem on somebody else? Because then it's not self esteem, it's other esteem. And I'm like, this is, this is really interesting. So I did a really deep dive into this whole thought and this whole area because I was like, how do I take that back?

How do I take back my self worth, my self esteem? I've outsourced it, I've outsourced it to somebody else, and it was making me incredibly miserable because anytime this person would be upset with me, I thought I was a horrible person. And so I, I did a lot of reading on different things. I, I studied some young and some Freud, you know, thinking about maybe identity and roles in life and, you know, just trying to.

Trying to figure out how I could take this thing back and why, why it was this way anyway and what I, what I realized was that my opinion of myself was so bad that I needed that validation from somebody else that I thought I was not a very good person and so if I needed somebody to tell me and reassure me that I wasn't a bad person and obviously somebody is.

You can't outsource that to somebody else because sometimes they're going to be mad at you. They're going to be frustrated with you. They're going to be annoyed with you. And so I was like, okay, well, what is it about myself that is so awful that I have to be validated by somebody else? What is so bad?

What is it that I, that is terrible about me that I think I'm such an awful person? And I was like, I really don't know. And so I sat down and I wrote a list of all the things I didn't like about myself. And it's funny because I'll tell that to some people and they'll be like, what, why would you do that?

Why wouldn't you write down all the nice things about you? And I'm like, no, if I'm going to practice self acceptance, I need to go down there and figure out what are all the crappy things about me. And I went through this list and I realized that. It kind of fell into two categories and there were the things that I truly didn't like about myself that attributes and things that I just, I thought were weren't great.

You know that I could be a bit selfish at times, you know, but the other things fell into things that I thought other people didn't like about me. So there weren't even things that I didn't like about me. These were projections that I was putting on other people. Now they're important because that often tells you when you're projecting these things onto other people, that that's really how you feel about yourself.

But I had to, but some of those I could look at and go, Oh, okay, that's just an insecurity. I can, that's something I can dismiss. But by going through that exercise of just writing down everything that I didn't like about myself or that I thought was awful about myself, I realized that most of those things, that all of those things were things that were completely acceptable.

They were problems that everybody else had, they were problems that, that weren't really that far out there and I was not as awful as I thought I was. And that for me was a giant pivot point in my life where I went, okay, I can just, I don't have to love everything about myself. But I can at least accept everything about myself.

I can accept that I can be selfish sometimes. I can accept that, that I get annoyed and frustrated at people. I can get, I can accept that I lose my temper at times, and that I get a bit overheated, and that I'll start yelling because I'm just so frustrated. I can accept those things. Do I like them? No, but they're part of me.

So I'm just accepting reality. And from that point on, it made it a lot easier to work on my thinking and those kind of things because I could take responsibility for. My selfish thoughts. I could take responsibility for my angry thoughts. I could take responsibility for all of those things that our egos like to push off and go, Oh, you're, you're not a bad person.

You're, it tries to protect us from that. But if you can recognize, yeah, it can be selfish sometimes. Okay, when you do something selfish, you can go up to it and go, yeah, I was being selfish there. I can be angry sometimes. I can be jealous. I can be all of these things. If you own that, then it's much easier to take responsibility and accept that.

So it's easier to actually deal with that. You're like, wow, I was kind of, I was being really self centered here and I was being kind of a jerk to mom that day or whoever. And I wasn't, you know, I wasn't acting the best that I could have. But you can own that a lot better and that allows you to deal with those thoughts much, much better.

So for me, that's, that self awareness was a really big turning point in my life.

Constantin: Ah, thank you for sharing that powerful, vulnerable story. I couldn't agree more. And as you were sharing that, you, you came up with two things, like you said, self awareness and acceptance. And it's funny when I talk about integrating your why into your life.

I use a framework I came up with and awareness and acceptance are the first step. If you cannot do that, there's no way you can go to implement anything else. Because now look at what you did. Let's say you discover that you could be a bit selfish. Let's take that one as an example. And selfish has a negative connotation in life, but really it's not because is it selfish for me to take some of my money and invest it in myself, give myself a coach, give myself a course.

Some people will see it as selfish because I could be giving that money to someone else. I could be buying my partner something. It's selfish because it's for you. So there's a definition there. But now, at least, what do you have? Awareness. You can make a choice and say, well, do I agree with this part of me?

You can say, you know what? It's not that bad. You accepted it. You healed it. You allow it to keep. But if you say no, then guess what? You have the power to change. And say, you know what? I'm going to keep an eye out for this. When it comes up, I will interrupt this thought, this belief, replace it with something else.

And maybe in six months, maybe in three weeks, maybe in a year, I won't be selfish anymore. Or whatever the negative aspect of yourself you want to change. And that's, I believe, the biggest power that essentially you're talking about because that allowed you to not be on this path. We will now have choice, but before you may have felt like you didn't have choice because like you, and the example you used is so powerful because I was also seeking validation externally because I was feeling so bad about myself internally without realizing beating myself up that I was just looking externally for all the validation and what does external validation do?

Like it feels great in the moment, right? It makes you feel so good, but it doesn't stick because you don't have self validation. Yeah. If you don't have self validation, then it doesn't matter. Like, I could think that you're the most amazing human being on this planet, Erick. And that's going to stroke your ego.

That's going to make you feel good. But if you don't have the same feeling, tomorrow you'll forget. And I do something that maybe you interpret as me not being happy with you. And like you said, then you go down the spiral where like, Oh, you know, but why does Constantin not like me anymore? What, what, what's going on?

And I've been there myself so many times. Yeah.

Erick: Yeah. It's amazing how, how much we twist and turn and try to become something that we're not because we want that external validation. And I noticed that for me, a lot of that, that That unwillingness to look at myself and to look at the things I didn't like about myself for so long was because I wanted to believe that I was a good person.

And so, I thought that if I looked at these things, it would show me that I was wrong. And so, and So there was an unwillingness to look at that, and when I would do things that I wasn't necessarily happy about, or I would do things that were not in line with who I thought I should be, I could come up with all kinds of rationalizations internally about why I did that thing.

Oh, well, you know, she really upset me, and so she deserved for me to yell at her, all of these things. And we, we rationalize these things to ourself. Because we don't want to believe that we're not a good person. So everybody thinks, I mean, I think most people think they're a pretty good person, but they're afraid that they're not.

And which is where a lot of insecurity comes from. Which, if somebody truly believes that they are a good person and that they are, Then they are comfortable with themselves, then anybody can say anything about them and they just, they can just be like, okay, that's your opinion about that. And okay, it doesn't, it doesn't have that much of an impact.

It's, it's a way of just being able to, it's not even bulletproofing yourself. It's just because you recognize that who you are, your self image can't be moved by what other people think of you. Yes. And that is an incredibly powerful and powerful place to be. And I've worked really hard to get there. And so like sometimes I'll get negative comments on my, you know, Instagram or whatever like that.

And it used to kind of set me off a little bit. And now it's just like, I look at him like, Oh, okay. Interesting opinion. You know, next, next, yeah, next. It's like, I don't have time to deal with and, you know, to spend on. That type of negativity and it's really surprising to me because, you know, my podcast is about stoicism.

It's about, you know, you taking control of your life and being responsible, being compassionate, being kind to other people. And so when I get people who throw trashy things on there, it's just like, are you, are you actually understanding stoicism? Plus you're wasting all of this time throwing this negative energy at me.

Why? You know, it's like,

Constantin: you mentioned it really well earlier, it's like, it's a reflection of who we are inside. Right? So that person might be going through something tough. They have a poor opinion of themselves and they take it out on others. And I know I speak from firsthand experience because I've been there myself in the past.

Not necessarily comments on social media, but comments in relationships and in friendships and even work sometimes, right? Because you're so frustrated at yourself without realizing it and because you have no awareness, right? And especially you don't have acceptance, it's hard to fix anything. Yeah. And before we, we jump off of this topic or um, go anywhere else, let's, let's go back for a second to the thoughts, um, to share this tool with people that they may find beneficial.

And this is why I mentioned to you that I'm using it every day. I'm using all my clients. My mentor is the one that taught me this. I'm using it in my professional life, my personal life, and I've shared it in my podcast as well. So it's like this. You have a thought come up and because like you were saying Erick, you can become aware of these things.

The first step is awareness. So you have a thought come up or a belief. It's about catching yourself and saying, Oh, do I really believe that I'm a procrastinator or I'm stupid? I'm fat? Whatever the case may be. You're like, you know what? That's not something I agree with. I want to interrupt the thoughts so it doesn't come up again or it doesn't turn into a much bigger problem than it impacts my emotions and then my actions and whatnot.

So what I do in that is simply the following. And before I share this, I will ask you a question. I know I asked you this question last week, but play along with me. Okay. Every human being has this scenario where they'll be working on something or they'll be doing something. And then they have a thought come up and they say, Oh, I need to go pick up something from the kitchen.

They get up. They physically move themselves from where they were, maybe on the couch, maybe on the chair and they go to the kitchen and by the time they get there, they forget why they got there to begin with. I'm assuming that happens to you. Yeah. Happens to everyone. That's, and the funny thing is if you look from a physiological point of view, that's a natural reset that we have built into us as humans.

So what happens essentially. Because you physically removed yourself from the place, you interrupted whatever thought patterns you're, you're having, a vacuum got created called the scotoma. And like anything else in nature, when there's a vacuum, it has to get filled up and it got filled up with different thoughts and beliefs.

So by the time you got to where you wanted to go, you forgot where you got there because that was on top of mind. Now if that's automatic, that means we can harness it and make it or put it on manual control. So coming back, I have a thought, let's say I'm ugly. Let's use one that I used in the past. Okay, that's a thought I don't agree with because I already became aware of this in the past.

I accepted the fact that, you know, that's not true. I don't allow, I don't want to entertain this thought or belief, really, because it's a belief. I then want to do, the first step is do something physical. Remove yourself from whatever you're doing. If you're sitting down, just stand up. If you're in with a group of people, And a thought comes up or you're in a meeting, excuse them and say, hey, I need to go use the washroom.

My apologies, I'll be back in 30 seconds, a minute, whatever. You remove yourself. That creates a scatoma. Now, as soon as you do that, what I do is, and for those that are not watching, is essentially I'll be taking a deep breath while putting a big smile on my face.

Big, big smile on my face. And I'll explain in a second what it does. And the next step to that is to celebrate, and you talked about this too. You celebrate that you caught yourself, that I caught the negative thought. So you're celebrating something that actually happened. You're not making stuff up.

You're celebrating the fact that you caught yourself. And the way I do it is I. hit my chest and I say, yes, Constantin, we caught it. While I have a big smile on my face because I just took a deep breath. And what am I doing with all of that? So the deep breath continues to reset, but it also brings in fresh oxygen into your body.

The big smile moves you instantly into a state of happiness, even though you might go back to negativity in a few seconds, doesn't matter. It brings you there. Celebration also enhances the happiness and guess what? It starts to release Dopamine and other good feel hormones in your brain, your brain is gonna go like, what just happened?

Why are we happy? And it's gonna look to find clues. And, and then the next step is to replace the thought with whatever, you know, it's like, Oh, I'm not ugly. I'm beautiful. And here's the proof for it. Right? So what you've done there is interrupted the thought, brought in joy and happiness and all that with it and the good hormones and then replace it with a positive thought.

You do this once, it's not going to have much of an effect other than pull you out of that. potential negative scenario you're about to go in. But you do this multiple times, you start training yourself. There's exercises you can expand from here where you do it on purpose, where you start thinking about negative stuff on purpose and interrupt it.

You're going to see that after a few days, after a few weeks, it's going to become more and more on autopilot to the point where the idea is that It's not like you're not going to have negative thoughts come up. We talked about that. They will come up because your environment is your environment, but you're going to train your brain to be like, nah, that's not what I want to entertain.

I want to go through a good thought and belief. And then that says a train. And for me, what has it done? It allows me to literally, when something bad happens, yes, I can see the negative side of it, but I'm not going to spend hours and days and weeks in it. It's going to be momentary. And I'm like, you to spend time there.

I go here. And that's a strategy that I've seen work with pretty much everyone that's willing to try it. I haven't seen it fail yet. Now, sample size, obviously, it's always a question, but I've seen 100 plus people use this within my own circle and from my mentor as well. It's working. Yeah.

Erick: No, I can definitely see that.

That's, it's very much, it's, it's a bit more intense than what I was talking about with my nudge, which is, you know, just like, Hey, be aware of that. But basically it's, it's, it's a nudge. It's a, it's just a short little exercise to interrupt that, that pattern and, and just move it up in a much more positive light.

So yeah, I can see how that would be very, I can take

Constantin: a whole lot, 10 seconds. That's it. Right. Yeah. It doesn't have to take a long time. Now, obviously if you're at home working from home and you, you have the luxury of taking a bit more time, sure you can, but there's no need for that, right? Just interrupt every time it comes up.

And I was talking to a nurse friend of mine the other weekend, we're having dinner and she's having a harder time because it's winter here in Canada, the winter blues, she's from a warmer country. And she was talking, he's like, what, what do you do? What, how can you overcome this? And I gave her the exercise.

This was in the evening of our dinner. And then the next day she messages me cause she was a skeptic before. He's like, you know what? I've tried it and it actually really works. I have no idea why, but it works. And I'm like, okay, try it and see. And I'm always of the opinion, don't take my word for it. Or don't take Erick's word for it or any expert in the world.

Try it. Do your own research. If it works for you, keep it. If it doesn't, toss it away. Now, of course, don't try it. You know, don't do it halfway there and then toss it out. Try it maybe for a week. Because like I said, it takes you 10 seconds, 15 seconds, right? And it doesn't do anything negative to you. Yep.

Erick: And then on the other side, how you mentioned that there's a, you know, How you often do negative visualization, the Stoics have a term for that is called premeditatio malorum, which means premeditated malice. And so it's, but yeah, it's the idea that, um, if you, if you put yourself in a safe space, you sit down and you think about what's the worst things that can happen, then it makes it much easier to face those things because you've already faced them in your mind, which is incredibly powerful.

And that's a tool that I've used and I stumbled on it accidentally. Um, After my divorce back in 2006, where I was divorced, I was getting divorced. I was working for a startup and they bounced a whole bunch of my checks. And I reached a point where I basically had 17 to last me for a week. So it was really, really tough.

I was riding my bike into work every day. I cycle a lot. So that was fine. So I didn't have to pay for gas, but I was just kind of panicking because I'm like, okay, what happens if I run out of money? And. I went through this whole exercise of like, okay, well, if I wasn't able to get another job, I guess I could move back to Salt Lake, move in with my mom or move back to Minnesota, move in with my mom for a bit, but then I wouldn't be able to see my kids for a while.

That would really suck. But, you know, then I could look for jobs, you know, There were just all kinds of things that I went through of like, how would I handle that situation? And for me, it was really, really helpful because I was like, well, if I needed to, I could live in my car for a bit. You know, I mean, that wouldn't be fun, but I have a gym membership that I can go to the gym and I can, you know, I can take a shower there and you know, I can do all the things that I need to do.

I go into work. Okay, yeah, this, uh, I'll figure this out, but it really took that power of money away from me. That power of that fear of not having enough, it was just like, oh, well, it's just a, it's just a resource. And if I don't have enough of it, okay, I'll have to figure something out, but I can do this.

But it, it changed my attitude towards money, which was helpful. And it took away a lot of fear because it was like, yeah, I could survive even if things got really, really crappy. They didn't get that crappy, but, but it was, it was just a thing that I kind of went through. And I was in a way, I was kind of forced because like I said, the company I was working for was bouncing some checks, found out later on that the president of the company had been, um, embezzling money.

So that's why they were bouncing checks because he was, he was basically pulling money from the coffers. And so, yeah, that turned into a whole messy scenario, but for me, it was, it was, it was very powerful. And I was really glad that happened at that time because it made it so that I was less worried about money overall in my life.

And I was like, I can live on so much less. I can live off of little, I'll be able to, I'll be able to make things happen. And I'm luckily I've never had to since then. And uh, I'm doing okay as far as things go, but uh, yeah, it was, it was a really powerful lesson for me. Exactly.

Constantin: And it's really what, if I understand you correctly, what you did in the scenario as well as essentially realize that nothing holds power over you.

It's your perspective that does, it's your beliefs that do. So if you believe that if you don't get money now, you're going to be broken out on the street, you're going to have that because you're not allowing any other opportunities to show up in your life. What you did is realize, yeah, I mean, I'll always be okay.

Yeah, it's not going to be ideal, but that's temporary. If, if we allow it to be temporary, because what happens in the case, if you don't do what you did or other, because there's many other exercises one can do. You end up in a situation and then you're going to play the victim and not say that you're not a victim, right?

Because, you know, you could be the victim of something, but I'm saying playing it to yourself, meaning that you over emphasize it and all of a sudden it becomes a chain effect where you can't pull yourself out of it. And that's what I was with my depression for the longest time. It's like until I really hit the rock bottom, I couldn't get up because even though certain things were bad, I was so over emphasizing them.

And I wasn't allowing the positivity to shine through.

Erick: Yeah, yeah, that can definitely happen. So I'm glad you were able to pull that out. So

Constantin: yeah, absolutely. And I, funny enough, I had that reflection on that too, a while back now. And I'm like, with the knowledge I have now and the tools I have now, can I see myself?

And I couldn't visualize, I couldn't see a scenario in which I would, not because I'm someone that cannot get depressed because I still have days when I'm not as happy or you know, I still have some thoughts that are not the best in the terms of like, let's say depressive thoughts. But now I have tools where I can get to feel my emotions, which is the one thing I didn't know before, like you actually can feel your emotions, I can feel your feelings.

And then I have tools to pull myself out and say, well, once that happens, there's no point in wallowing in it. How do we change those thoughts and beliefs and move myself over? So that's why one of my mentors says, knowledge is power, right? Then you hear people say, ah, you know, that's not great. It's not true because knowledge is, doesn't give you anything.

And technically it's true because knowledge gives you a choice. So meaning if I have the knowledge now, I still have a choice. I'll do, I use the knowledge. Or do I actually decide to go against the knowledge and that's a choice that anyone can make and you know what's right and wrong. And we talked about that at length.

Erick: Yeah, for sure. All right. Well, we're coming up on an hour, a little over an hour and a half here. Um, is there anything else that you want to bring up before we close out this conversation? Well, I think

Constantin: we touched on so many important points here, Erick. So I want to thank you for your time and energy and everything else that we've shared, the space we've shared.

I think I'm good. How about yourself?

Erick: Yeah, this has been a really great conversation. I've enjoyed what we've talked on. So we're going to cross post this on each of our different podcasts. So if you're listening to it on Constantin's, then you'll be able to find me at stoic. coffee. That's my website is, yes, stoic.

coffee. And go ahead and give a shout out on yours. Yeah,

Constantin: absolutely. And if you guys are watching this on Erick's show, then you can find me at unleashthyself. com. Or you can find us on social media, on YouTube at Unleash Thyself, me personally on LinkedIn under Constantin Morun. And we'll both have these in the show notes as well, respectively.

But yeah, come check out our work. I mean, Erick is doing a fantastic work for those listening on my show and definitely go check out his stuff. All right.

Erick: All right. This has been a great conversation, Constantin. Likewise, Erick.

Constantin: Thank you so much.

Erick: Thank you.

And that's the end of this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed this conversation that I had with Constantin, and I hope that you check out his podcast. Again, that's Unleash Thyself podcast, and I think you could really learn a lot from it. Like I said, Constantin is a very insightful, very thoughtful, very warm person, and I think you could get a lot from that.

As always, be good to yourself, be good to others, and thanks for listening.


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Ask

274 – Interview with Hannah Gaber for the Jew-ish Podcast

Here’s the transcript for this episode. I tried to fix as many trancription errors as possible. 🙂


[00:00:09] 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 an aspect of stoicism and do my best to break it down to its most important points. I talk about my experiences, my successes and my failures and I hope that you can learn something from them and make your life just a little bit better. So this week's episode is an interview that I did with Hannah Gabber. Now, Hannah is the host of a podcast called Jewish and she contacted me because she really liked my episode about askers and guessers. So she comes from an ask culture and I come from a guest culture. And so we sat down, I had a conversation about that. We talked about my life about how I left the church and fell into stoicism and kind of, it's a wide range of conversation. It was a lot of fun. Hannah is really smart. She's very funny and I recommend that you give her a podcast to listen again and that one is called Jewish and I will have a link to it in the show notes I will also have a link to the Askers and Guessers episode, which was episode 181. So you can go back and listen to that and kind of refresh your brain on what it is to live in a ask culture or a guest culture. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it with Hannah.

Erick: Asking doesn't need to be a bludgeon. There doesn't need to be a cudgel that you use against people. And that's what a lot of people have a hard time with directness. They think that it's using it as a weapon because you can be direct and you can still be kind. But some people are just going to be offended no matter what because it is a direct question. But if you can ask any question with a bit of compassion and a bit of kindness wrapped around it and let them know just saying, hey, you know, the reason why I'm asking this is because this is something I really need to understand about us. Otherwise it's going to cause a lot of problems going forward.

[00:02:07] Hannah: Meet Erick Cloward. He's the host of one of my absolute favorite podcasts and very important part of my morning ritual. The stoic coffee break. I discovered the show during the depths of COVID when all of us were searching for something to look towards. I didn't realize it at the time, but he'd been recording for a while and I wasn't that far through his back catalog before I came across his sign off episode. So I finished all the episodes that were available to me and then I unsubscribed, but there really wasn't anything out there like it. So after gosh, probably over a year I decided, forget it. I'll just start from the beginning and listen to all of the episodes again. I went back to the show and there were all these new episodes, I began gobbling up the back catalog and I eventually came across an episode about asking versus guessing cultures. Erick has talked a lot on the show about being raised in Utah and growing up in the Mormon church and his less than always happy family history. But in his short form show, we don't really get to hear a ton about his actual journey out of those places and into the places of exploration and philosophy that he tries to inhabit. Now, when I heard the asking versus guessing cultures episode, just light bulbs going off in all directions. I saw reflections of myself in it. I saw reflections of people I've known over the years of interactions that I maybe didn't really understand in any case. Uh I got cheeky and stalked him on the internet till I found his email. And I reached out and said, hey, I'm nobody. But do you want to come on my show? And in characteristic uh stoic generosity, he was like uh sure. So I present to you Erick Cloward of the Stoic Coffee Break, which I will link in the show notes. Did you find that a lot of people came across the stoic coffee break during the pandemic? Yeah. Um, because you started it before that.

[00:04:05] Erick: Yeah, I started it back in 2018. Uh Actually January 4th 2018, I remember because I, I had made a new year resolution. I was going to start a podcast and I had tried starting one before and it was about music soundtracks because I just, I love music soundtracks, you know. Um, and I, I made an episode or two but it just, it, I didn't like it. It was, didn't sound good. I was just, I sounded terrible in my voice and all the things I was super hyper critical about it. But then I realized that it was going to probably cost quite a bit to actually license the music to be able to play it or because I didn't know anything about, you know, is this commentary covered under fair use or any of those kind of things. So I was just like, I don't want to deal with all that. But yeah, my ex partner made me promise that I would do at least 100 episodes before I quit my podcast.

Hannah: Oh, I love that.

Erick: And because she's just like, you know, I know you when things get tough, you,

[00:05:00] Hannah: the tough get going. Yeah.

[00:05:02] Erick: So I was like, ok, I'll make you that promise. The whole thing was for me, it was like, I don't care if it's good. I just care if I actually do it. And so I just kept putting it out. Um, and then I think after I had like, about six or seven episodes, you know, and they're only like, three or four minutes long, the first, you know, the first chunk of them. Um, I had like 42 listens and I was like, holy crap. That's kind of a lot like 42 people to listen to me. Who are these people?

[00:05:28] Hannah: 42 strangers out there that care what I have to say.

[00:05:31] Erick: Exactly. And then I hit, I hit like 100 then I hit 1000 then I hit 5000 and then it was 10,000. I'm just like, holy crap. I just, it was like, this is just so weird and I actually have a screenshot of like, when it hit 10,000, I actually got it right on 10,000. I was like, yeah, it was just like, no way. Holy crap. That is such a crazy thing!

[00:05:52] Hannah: that's such a crazy feeling. And I'm not gonna lie when I got my, my little email saying, you know, congratulations, you've hit 1000 listens. I was like, that's kind of a milestone, you know, it feels kind of exciting and then I actually just surpassed 2000 listens. So up we go, I guess. I found your podcast mid pandemic. So it was already 2020. And so I'm going through your back catalog. Of course, you were doing it every single day and I cannot imagine what a workload that was once a week is a lot.

[00:06:21] Erick: Um, I mean, I was really burnt out. I was really working a lot on it. I also had a full time job. I had a partner. I had teenagers. So basically, once I hit 137 I changed it to a full time or to a weekly podcast so that I could do more with it. So the 137 like I said, they were generally about five minutes. And then from that point on, uh they've been about 10 to 15 minutes on average, even then I took another break. Um I took some time off and then, um me and my partner had a big blowout at a music festival. Uh that may which it, I mean, it was really good. It, it taught me a really important lesson and I recognized some things and I was like, huh, you know what this is super important. I need to take this lesson that I've learned and share it with other people. So, um so then I was like, ok, you know what I need to get back and making episodes and I joke around to call them my public therapy because usually what you hear on there is something I'm struggling with and going, “How do I get past this thing? Because you know, this is, this is really challenging for me.”

[00:07:31] Hannah: You've talked a lot on the pot about how you were raised Mormon. And did you find at first when you started looking into stoicism, was there a clash? Was it like there were tenets that I know that you had already left and maybe you can take us through that journey. When, when did you start questioning your guessing culture? Because I know that that's a big theme you talked about in the episode that triggered me to reach out to you, growing up in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You talked in that episode about how like one doesn't ask, one guesses, and one leaves it alone. But you had to ask at some point, some pretty fundamental questions to get yourself up and out of that life. And how did that happen for you?

[00:08:18] Erick: At one point. So when I was 17, I almost left the church. Around that time I remember I got another a once in a lifetime thing that had happened to me. I did a lot of theater work with the University of Utah Theater School for Youth, which is one of the premier youth theater programs in the United States. And we got invited to Soviet Russia for an International Youth Theater Festival.

Hannah: What year was this?

Erick: This was 1990 So I was, yeah. So it was still communist and everything at the time. They still had guards on the streets and all that stuff. Yeah. It was pretty wild. But it was, but it was also kind of the peristroyka thing. So, things were opening up just a little bit. And I remember going over there and at that time I, I kind of like, well, I'm not going to be part of the church or whatever. And, um, and I just remember on that trip feeling a bit, feeling a bit in a strange place because I was tired of how I’d been living in Utah, but here I was in this completely foreign culture. And so I felt like I was much more myself at that point and I didn't fit in with the other kids who two of them I actually went to high school with and they came along with or they were part of the troupe. Um And we were in choir and show choir together. So we spent a lot of time together, but they had their little clique with some of the others, with these two other girls. And I was just like, so it was just kind of me and I was like, well, I'm gonna go hang out with these Russian people because they seem really fun. And they were just like, who's this cool American who's talking to us? And they just thought I was like the…

[00:09:53] Hannah: coolest thing if you were, those were the days.

[00:09:55] Erick:. And so, and so I, you know, I, it was really fun and I hung out with them. I hung out with some of the Germans, um, because I had taken some German in high school so I could talk with them a little bit. Even though they spoke really good, they spoke much better English than I did German at the time. Um, but when I came back, I got sucked back into the church because, you know, when you live in Salt Lake, it's your culture, there's not really a lot you can do about that. Um, ended up going on a mission a year later and which actually was probably one of the best things for me. I went to Austria and so I speak fluent German. I lived in a culture that was very, very different than what I've been brought up with. It was a socialist democracy and we've been told that, you know, good old conservative, you know, capitalist democracy is the only way. And I was just like,

Hannah: Especially in the nineties.

Erick: Yeah. And I'm just like, wait a second, these people are a lot happier than most of the Mormons that I know back home. Why I, yeah, I'm not, I'm not buying this. And so for me that was kind of the beginning of the end. Um But the….

[00:10:53] Hannah: funny thing that really backfired on them,

[00:10:56] Erick: It did in a way. But there were a couple of other things that set it up. Um, number one was, believe it or not. Uh, two things happened. There was the first Iraq war in 1990 and our TV broke. So, and my dad, so my dad was like, you know, for whatever reason, didn't buy us a new TV. You know, even though we had, you know, there was no reason not to, but for whatever reason just didn't. So we're like, well crap, America's at war. Oh, my gosh, we're in a war. Oh, my gosh. So we had to listen to the radio and the best news on the radio was NPR. So I'm listening to NPR and I'm going, ok, these people are telling me the truth, this is what's going on. And so I just kind of got used to going there for the news and when I got back from my mission again, that, that habit kind of came because I'm like, you know, here I was a little more internationally schooled at this point because I've been in two years in Austria. So I was much more aware of the wider world than I had been. And so I wanted to keep up with what was going on in the world. And so that was my news source and then I would find, ok, this is what I heard on NPR but then I read in the local papers, this, you know, this other take on something and be like that doesn't, that doesn't quite jive, I don't, their opinion is incredibly biased and they're, they're discounting a lot of these other facts of things and kind of twisting things around. And I noticed that over time and then I would go check out as, you know, the internet was starting to come up right at this time because it was the early nineties. So I go check other news sources and find out NPR was pretty much as neutral as they come. I mean, they were really on, they were very much very high integrity about it. Let's just lay out the facts. And if we're gonna say our opinion, say this is our opinion on this thing rather than just taking their opinion as fact. And so over time, especially climate change was a big thing for me. So I, I was a big Al Gore supporter even though I was Mormon in which, you know, you're basically default Republican at that point.

[00:12:51] Hannah: Were you allowed to tell anyone or was it like, don't bring it up?

[00:12:53] Erick: I didn't really talk too much about politics with, with that. Um I ended up going to a fairly liberal school for my last two years of college and it had been a Presbyterian School before, and then it reorganized and was a non denominational school. It's called Westminster College. And I found that even though I was still on the conservative side because I was Mormon. I was much more, I found that my viewpoints much more aligned with most of the liberal people that I found there, which was quite a bit, it was kind of like a liberal haven because it was a liberal arts, small, liberal arts college. And so I, it was a really good thing for me. Um, and then I did the whole Mormon thing. I, I got married, you know, way too fast. Somebody I didn't know very well. Um, we ended up getting, we were married for 7.5 years, had two kids and she was a good person. Luckily I didn't marry somebody who was an awful person. And so our divorce was pretty amicable and we, and, uh, you know, my kids grew up to be good kids. So I, I always joke around and I'm like my job was to get you to 18.

[00:13:56] Hannah: You're on your own now, buddy.

[00:13:58] Erick: Got you 18 alive. So, um, but my kids are, my kids are good people and I'm very, I, I, I'm just super happy with who they are and, you know, I'm just, just one of those things and they were pretty good kids all the way growing up, um, and just good people and I worked really hard to be a pretty good parent because my dad wasn't. And so I knew what not to do. And so the bar was kind of low of being a good parent basically just don't do what my dad did and I'd probably be all right.

[00:14:28] Hannah: You talk about that a lot in the podcast too. Yeah. Was, was questioning your dad one of those things that would, like, set him off. What was that like?

[00:14:35] Erick: Yeah. Um, it was kind of like living with an alcoholic but there wasn't a bottle, you know, if I'd had a bottle, it would have been easier to come home and know dad's in a shitty mood, you know, keep cool.

[00:14:47] Hannah: You could have explained it away and just

[00:14:50] Erick: avoid it, somehow avoided it because at least I could

[00:14:53] Hannah: have had a flag. I see.

[00:14:54] Erick: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Some kind of signal of like, stay away from dad tonight. But, and it was hard because there, when he wasn't in one of his moods, he was funny, kind, generous, smart. He was very intelligent, very curious about a lot of things. Um, but, you know, living a double life, you know, because I've mentioned it before so he was bisexual and was having sex with men on the side. Yeah. And so that's why, I mean, yeah. So it's like, well, like

[00:15:27] Hannah: what a tortured way to live, especially in such a dogmatic community.

[00:15:32] Erick: And he, he believed in the church, but then he also had this other life and the two conflicted pretty strongly. So. Yeah. So I recognized that. Um,

[00:15:43] Hannah: well, and it sounds like that was one of your big motivations to get away from that, that was that sense of inner conflict too.

[00:15:51] Erick: Well, it was inter conflict because I had, I had never felt like I was ever good enough. So there was always this feeling that no matter how I live, no matter how I tried, I was just never good enough. And so the whole time I was married, I was on and off with the church. So there were a couple of times where I didn't go for a whole year, then I'd finally go back and I give it a try. But then realized that I never felt like I really fit in or belonged or, and it's the whole thing of, of what a lot of religions do, which is, if you can't live like this, it's because your faith isn't strong enough. You. Exactly. And it's kind of like, you know, it's the whole thing, like with the, the secret, you know, you didn't manifest it because your faith wasn't strong enough o manifest it..

[00:16:35] Hannah: You must not have done it. Right. It's like the system is rigged. Right. The whole thing is rigged because if you do it, you can't really ever do it. Right. But then when you do it wrong, it's because of you. It's not because it's an undoable thing.

[00:16:49] Erick: Yeah. And so for me, I never felt like I, I was good enough for the church. And so we reached a point, um, kind of last year of our marriage where she said, you know, hey, I'm not going to be going to church anymore. It just doesn't work for me. I'm, I'm out and you can go if you want. And so I think I went for another couple of weeks and it was just like, you know what, I'd rather be out cycling. So I'd rather be out on my bike and it was just like I made that decision and I felt physically lighter. Like I was, I actually seriously looked around from him just like, am I floating off the ground here? This is a weird feeling. And I always tell people, I'm like, you know, those big statues out on Easter Island and they're like, yeah, I'm like, imagine feeling like you had one of those on your shoulders and you just brushed it off how light you would feel and they're just like, whoa. And I'm like, yeah, it's a heavy load just to get off your shoulders because you realize that this whole belief system that made you feel like you were a terrible person, your whole life that you were unworthy and you could never live up to these standards. You realized it was just all bullshit. And so you didn't have to live the standards anymore.

[00:17:56] Hannah: Tell me where you came up with the concept of the asking versus the guessing culture and like, how would you define each of those?

[00:18:02] Erick: Um It wasn't me who came up with it. It was the… Yeah, it was on meta filter. Um So I, I stumbled on this. Uh I can't even remember how I found this, but um I think I saw a link towards it and then, you know, somebody mentioned it and so I searched for it, found it on this thing called meta filter, which some kind of Q and A thing, I guess, like for, you know, Quora type of thing. And so they kind of came up with that definition of it. And I was just like, as soon as I saw it, I recognized it and I'm like, oh my gosh. Yes, absolutely. 100% understand this. This makes perfect sense to me. And so I just took it and expanded upon it from my own experience. And it's definitely one that I've gotten a lot of people who are like, oh my gosh, you know, I'm a guesser and my, my wife is a guess my friend, Ben from high school actually sent me a note and he's like, ok, so I'm a guesser and my wife is a guesser and we both figured that out. And so we've, we've been able to work together to, to be a little bit more askers in our relationship, which is great. But how do we help our kids be not guessers? And, and so we're talking a bit about that and, and chatting about it and luckily, first and foremost is he doesn't live in Utah anymore. So that helps right there. So he's in California. And so that made a big difference. And I just said really, it's just about the more honest you can be with your wife about everything and anything. It's an example thing for them that it allows them to be open and honest about those kind of things. And one of the things that I appreciate about my ex partner was that she helped me be a much better parent because she was not a guesser, she was an asker, she helped me be such a better parent for that because she, when the kids were, you know, early teens, she would bring up things about sex, try to embarrass the crap out of them by asking them questions about things um to the point where it was no longer taboo. And so they could then ask us anything they wanted to about sex and it was just fine and they reached a point where they would try and embarrass us with saying things about sex and we just like, oh, you guys are so cute. It's like if we told you what you can't embarrass me. Yeah, it's like, yeah, good one, good one guys but not gonna happen. But because of that, it's really comes down to just being an example of that. And the thing is, is that asking doesn't need to be a bludgeon. It doesn't need to be a cudgel that you use against people and that's what a lot of people have a hard time with directness. They think that it's using it as a weapon because you can be direct and you can still be kind and presentation has a bit to do with it. But some people are just going to be offended no matter what, because it is a direct question. But if you can ask any question with a B with a bit of compassion and a bit of kindness wrapped around it and let them know just saying, hey, you know, the reason why I'm asking this is because this is something I really need to understand about us. Otherwise it's going to cause a lot of problems going forward rather than just going, why, you know, why don't you just tell me, you know, there's a very big difference between those two.

[00:21:09] Hannah: I mean, I have found that to be effective in ending interactions.

[00:21:16] Erick: Ending but not connecting…

[00:21:17] Hannah: yeah, that's definitely a skill I had to learn. I think it's really interesting because if I were to guess, I would say that when you read that you immediately connected with the guesser profile. But when I heard your episode, I immediately connected with the asker profile and like I said, it just immediately put so many past experiences into, into perspective for me and it explained immediately for me so much of the discomfort that I must have been causing people without realizing it. And then in turn, of course, that explains some of the reactions that have mystified me like my whole life

[00:21:50] Erick: Yeah. And what it does is for me, I look at this as a and stoicism in general as a kind of a a meta lens you can view the world through. So it's kind of like honestly to me, stoicism is kind of like Neo in The Matrix where he's going along, he's fighting Agent Smith, he's doing all this stuff and suddenly he like he has that moment where bing, he sees the code behind everything and he goes, oh yeah, this is how it all operates. This makes sense. That person is feeling uncomfortable because they're a guesser and I'm an asker and I just ask him this thing which makes them OK. Now I get that and then you can start to piece all of these things together because you have that ability to not just see the situation for what it appears to be, but for what it really is. And that's what for me, stoicism and philosophy is all about. It's that ability to not just to see what's behind the, what's on the surface, but what's behind the facade.

[00:22:50] Hannah: So, you know, being raised in the Mormon church, you say it, you told me it is based on the Bible, right? The Old Testament and New Testament as we know it theoretically. So I'm very curious because in Judaism, it's just so funny because it, it has become, I'm not sure how to say this. It's almost like an apocryphal truth that sometimes people just don't even question or say anything about, I guess in some ways you could even think about it, like, as a positive stereotype that Judaism is seen as just like about asking questions, right? So often you don't even look into, like, why do people say that? Is it just a cultural thing? Is it like uh Jews are so nosy? And it's like, well, yes, but which came first the chicken or the egg. So I of course looked into it. But a lot of the what we would call like the mid rush, which is the commentary on the scripture um or just general commentary, rabbinical commentary is about how in the very first, the very first person who became a Jew, which is, of course, Abraham, his very first thing that he did was to question God. The very first thing that he did was, you know, try to argue for the saving of, of Sodom and Gomorrah. The very first thing that he did was to push back and say, why have you know, well, let me find this quote right here. Shall the judge of earth not do justice? Says Abraham. And then of course, Moses says, why have you brought trouble on these people to God? Like these are the prophets are saying it directly to God being like, just please don't you know why are you doing this? So it's taken as a Jewish value that you always have the right to question and, and perhaps even more deeply than that, you always have the right to question why. And you know, we see this again carried out in our, one of our most important traditions, which is the Pesa Seder, the meal. The four questions is a really important part of the Seder because that's where from the perspective of someone who knows nothing at all and is perfectly innocent. That's the the um simple child, right? Is what they called it when I was growing up. And then you have the wise child who asks the complicated question where it's like we know the basics. But what about this part? And then you have the wicked child who, which I don't think they call it that anymore. I think it's gotten a little gentler in the language. But when I was growing up, it was still a wicked child. And that child was definitely like, why should I care? You know, which, by the way, a lot of people have that attitude. So let's address that too. And then there's the child who doesn't know how to ask for whatever reason. And we must also formulate an answer for that person. And so that's generally taken as a metaphor for like how we should interact with one another when sharing, when sharing anything, we should be cognizant of all of these different ways of approaching the world or the topic at hand and be able to explain whatever it is that we're talking about or the thing that we're doing or the food that we're eating, you know, whatever it is we're trying to share, we should be able to look at it from all of these perspectives and to address them. And I'm really curious then as a biblical religion, how did Mormonism, at least growing up in your specific experience of that culture as being anti questioning? How did it address this type of, you know, existing narrative in the book? Or was it just glossed over? Was it rewritten? How was it, how was it addressed?

[00:26:29] Erick: Um Basically, they have their own kind of interpretations of most things. And so most times in Sunday school, when questions were asked, it was, it was really less about a rigorous interrogation of the idea and much more about trying to twist things around to fit the narrative that they've already put out. And so as long as they kind of fell within what they taught, you know, the leaders of the church and what was in the Sunday school manuals and so on, then it was acceptable. But if you stepped out of those and said, well and try to be contrarian and say no, actually, I think it's a complete opposite of that or I think it's something completely different over here, it was just kind of like people would be like, um, anyway, back on topic over here, you know, there was just very much this whole, there was very little honest, intellectual inquiry on things and it was much more about finding ways to use what was taught to basically almost cherry picking what you see to, to fit the church line. And we see that in a lot of modern Christianity, they'll pull the things they want out of the Bible to fit their world view to fit their political, you know, viewpoint of things. They don't actually look at it and go well, what did God really want from this? What did God really mean from this? You know what in trying to tease out the meaning of things? It was almost the exact opposite. It was saying, see, here's a place where God tells us this thing and, you know, in the, again, cherry picking all of the evidence of things. What I think we miss out on that is there's a great quote from this guy named Ward Farnsworth and he's a uh a dean at a law school down in Texas. And he's written a number of books on stoicism. He has one called the Socratic Method, a handbook. And in that book, it's fantastic because he talks about the importance of questions and he said, asking questions is about applying pressure, applying pressure is good because it makes you think it, it puts pressure on you to grow, it puts pressure on you to come up with something deeper than what is really there. But giving your opinion is the exact opposite. It's release of pressure. Most people talk in opinions because talking in opinions is much easier. They just tell you what they think about it rather than actually questioning what they think about it. And in Judaism, at least from what I've seen and, and my friends who are Jewish that I've talked to about that and even a good friend of mine who wasn't Jewish, but spent a lot of time, you know, talking to Jews and he um he had a phd in Slavic languages and literature. And so he was just like, he's like, he's like in Judaism, like the first thing is you question God, you know, you watch Fiddler on the Roof. Yeah. He was like, you watch Fiddler on the Roof. Tevya is going, you know, why, why all the time? He's like looking up to God going. I, I don't get this. Why are you doing this to me? You know, I don't understand. And so it's never a and whereas a and so I think that I think that Christian culture is very much a guest culture. It's very much about this is what God wants you to do and they lay it out and you, you, you fill yourself with that culture and anything that, that, that pushes against that is something to be avoided, not something to go, “Wait a second, this is a question…” So my ex partner, uh her dad was a pastor in just a, a fairly mainstream uh uh Christian church. Um But she even talked about that how she went on some of the, the youth retreats where they go and do missionary work and, you know, they go and try and talk to people about this stuff. And she was like, it's, it's almost like you are kind of brainwashed into this, this, this culture, this hypnotic way of thinking about things and then where you're not really supposed to question you're just supposed to do and it's, it's, you know, you, you put on this facade of how you're supposed to fit in with all of these things, even if you disagree with it because you're not really supposed to question those things. And asking those hard questions.

[00:30:28] Hannah: Also you need your social circle, right? Like you can't, we're, we're social animals, we need each other. And if that's the air you breathe, I don't know that you would even know that there was any other way to go about it. That was one of the questions that I had for you is if you're growing up in a culture or a version of a religion or a version of a culture that really impresses upon you that not just to like do the quote unquote right thing and like be good at the religion, for example. But even for you to retain your social connections, how do you even get to where you understand, to where you imagine a different way? You know, I, I really liked, especially in this episode. I felt like you really treated the guessing culture as you call it with a lot of compassion. Um I'm sure obviously you having grown up that way, as you describe it, you kind of know what that like psychology is about, what that lived experience is about what that pressure must feel like.

[00:31:28] Erick: There was always a joke within the church. I don't know if they have it in like Jewish circles. But there was always, you know, the people who, who tried to live it as best, they could almost to a, to a fault, you know, they, they call Peter Priesthoods. And then we had Molly Mormons.

[00:31:45] Hannah: We don't, we do not have that. I think maybe Jews are just like, so we're so like, but I mean, now that I was going to say we're so argumentative and then I was going to say contrarian and then I was like, actually all of those are assignations of a qualitative assessment to the questioning. I think, I think you could really, really take that perspective. And one of the things that really struck me was how you remarked upon how people who are in a guessing culture feel that being asked directly is basically conflict and they're super conflict diverse. And that really resonated with me because I'm obviously like a very direct person. I always have been, I would not say that I have not always been a little bit, you know, drawn to conflict or whatever, but especially now, like in life, I certainly feel that just asking directly and getting to the point is how to avoid conflict because it means I know what we're dealing with. I don't need, and I've said this to people that I've dated, I've said it to friends during arguments or whatever. I don't need you to feel any certain kind of way or think any specific thing. I just need to know how you feel. Then we can operate. Now, we know what the data is and we can make some informed decisions. But my experience, so I lived in the South for 10 years. I would say that a lot of cultures in that part of the country, I would say a lot of perhaps more conservative cultures are guessing cultures rather than asking cultures. And so like living in the South for 10 years, I would call that a guessing culture. And it always, it seemed like any time that I spoke in my characteristically direct way, being raised in a culture that just does that it was taken as a conflict and it caused conflict. And I honestly never understood the directness and the openness and the honesty as a source of someone feeling attacked. And you, you really helped me understand that quite a bit. But yeah, I never understood why people would feel attacked by the directness. What do you think? It feels like such a fear based way of being? I mean, what do you think that fear is about?

[00:34:02] Erick: Um the fear is about being different, being homogeneous, meaning fitting in with the culture was far more important than having truth, having understanding, being authentic. It was about fitting in. It was about, you know, I mean, think of middle school, I mean, it really, it's, it's a very good…

[00:34:24] Hannah: Oh god, my stomach. Ok.

[00:34:25] Erick: Yeah, it's a very middle school mentality where fitting in is more important than being, who you truly are standing out is, is one of the worst things that can happen to you when you're in middle school. I mean, unless, unless it's like being a star athlete or something like that,

[00:34:42] Hannah: Unless you're the cool kid who stands out in the way everyone wants to be cool.

[00:34:45] Erick: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But standing out in your weird sort of way and not being like everybody else. Oh. Wow. Those shoes. Wow. Wow. Those are a statement. You know, those type of things, you know, where you don't want to be noticed for being different, you want to be noticed because you're cool, you want to be noticed because you fit in. Those are the things that, that, in a guess culture. It's much more about fitting in than it is about just being yourself and being honest. And so if you call somebody out by being direct. You're basically, you're ruffling their feathers, you're going well. But I don't understand you're saying this. But I, that doesn't make sense to me. And they just kind of look at you like, well, it's just the way it's, it's done and they can't necessarily explain it because they don't want to have to explain it because, you know, like you said, it is very fear based.

[00:35:38] Hannah: Is it like, what if I'm wrong? Is it like, I don't want to be the one to explain it because then what if I'm wrong? What if I give my explanation? And that's not really why everybody else is doing this at all. Do you think it's something like that?

[00:35:48] Erick: I think a lot of them don't know. A lot of them just don't know why it's done that way. It's just done that way. That's the way it's always been done. So we just continue to do it that way. And so when somebody comes up and says, you know, that's a really stupid way to do that and everybody freaks out and everybody's like, oh my gosh, why are you doing this?

[00:36:04] Hannah: Yeah. It's an interesting thing because when you, when you re enacted it just then it gave me all these flashbacks to people and it made me and I always felt really guilty because it sort of made me like, I could feel their panic, you know what I mean? It's like a little bit of like a panic. I'm like, what, why am I, why am I the one don't ask me? I don't know. And I wonder like, one of the other things that you hit on that really resonated is that, that point of being honest. And I think like, it's, it gets a little complex but it really does come down to if you're not saying what you really feel want or need, not only are you not being honest about your feelings, you're also denying the other person the opportunity to not just share that with you, but provide you joy. So it's like if I say to you, hey, do you want to go out to eat here tonight? And it's like, sure that sounds good. But you really hate that place. You're denying me the opportunity of going somewhere you really would like with you or even coming up with something and being like, I present you with an option that you would like. I love you. This is a gesture of happiness and that is so sad. It just makes me so sad.

[00:37:10] Erick: Well, I mean, and to kind of take a slightly less PG turn. I mean, think about it when it comes to sex, for example, if you don't tell your partner what you like, how are they going to give you what you like? But yet how, I mean, when I was married, I didn't know how to talk to my ex-wife about those things because sex had been so shamed based and so filled with shame about having sex and all of this stuff because you're not supposed to have sex before you're married. And it was just this whole raft of guilt and shame that was piled on top of that, that being able to talk with her about those things was not really even possible. So, after I got divorced and then I wasn't, you know, married and I wasn't in the church anymore. It was like, ok, I'm going to change how I do those things. And so, you know, with my partners, I was very open like I like this. What do you like? And, you know, even then some of them, they were like, I had issues talking about it and because

[00:38:08] Hannah: It’s a weird culture we’re in man…

[00:38:09] Erick: and the funny thing was, is that the guessing culture actually was helpful in some ways because I was much more attuned to body language. I was much more attuned to reading things and the reading their emotions about things. And so I could actually please them fairly well because I was much more in tune that way. So it did end up helping me in a bit of a way. But there's no, no, but my, the ones that usually work the best were like, you know, after we enjoyed each other be like, ok,

[00:38:34] Hannah: what worked? Which is so fun by the way, like the post game is like, super fun. I'm very curious how you, was it a, was it a long road to getting comfortable with that kind of thing or was it more like that was always what you wanted and you couldn't do it? And that was the uncomfortable part until you changed your basically cultural surroundings, your internal culture? Like, do you still struggle with being comfortable with some of that stuff?

[00:39:05] Erick: Um As far as like sex goes, that was, it was a bit of both. It was a little bit of like, it took me some to, to change things and one of those things is because you'll laugh at this. But um there was always this implicit thing that women don't like sex. That was, that was in a

[00:39:22] Hannah: I’m sorry, that is so fucking rude. OK. Go ahead. Yeah.

[00:39:25] Erick: OK. But then it occurred to me and this is going to probably, you know, if you have any Mormon listeners probably going to offend them. But they may find this hilarious too.

[00:39:32] Hannah: They're probably offended by now, they're already offended.

[00:39:34] Erick: But what I figured out one time is I was sitting there thinking about this and I'm just like, wait a second, these are basically the most leaders of the church are the stuffy old windbag white guys. And the reason why they don't think that women like sex is because their wives probably don't like sex with sex with them because they suck at it because they're so self absorbed.

[00:39:55] Hannah: Oh my God, that's very perceptive. Yeah, once again, we return to the like, maybe you should be asking yourself some questions.

Erick: Exactly.

Hannah: OK. So in the episode, in your sign off in your fake sign off episode, that scared me that from 2019, that episode was about self advocacy. And the there's such a tie in there to me between these two things because the not saying what you need or not advocating for yourself is similar. I think in the way of like, not, not questioning, not asking or just not communicating directly because it's inherently dishonest. Like you said, it's fundamentally dishonest not to say what you want and then behave as though you're happy when you're not or not speak up when you're unhappy. And like I said, give the other person who cares about you an opportunity to bring you joy, but it's also giving, not only is it giving away your ability to be happy or be made happy by the other person, it also makes that person responsible for your feelings without them knowing it. And that's not fair. And so it's like, oh, I couldn't have known that I was stamping all over something that really mattered to you because because as a people pleaser or you didn't say anything but you've been resenting me this whole time. And it's been my experience that that usually leads to a blow up and those can be incredibly unfixable. They can really damage relationships. You said that you were a recovering people pleaser, I'm sure this is all tied together to growing up in that culture. Is that an experience that you've had? And how did you get to the other side of it?

[00:41:41] Erick: Oh, I wouldn't say that I'm on the other side of it and I still struggle with that a lot because my natural default is to in, in any conversation where they, where it feels like the other person is angry, annoyed, frustrated, whatever my brain immediately goes to, oh shit. What's the right answer? Like not, what is the, what is the actual answer? What is the honest answer? It's like what is the answer that is going to diffuse this situation? And that comes from one with my dad. I always had to figure out what it was he wanted to hear. So I didn't get beat up and two with the church is “What kind of excuse can I, can I come up, can I come up with so that I don't get in trouble with the bishop?” And so those two things compounding, make it very, very challenging to just be honest about something when somebody is frustrated, annoyed, disappointed with me. And it doesn't even, they don't even have to be angry, just they're frustrated and annoyed with me. So my ex partner, that was one of our biggest challenges and, and one of the things that kind of doomed us was that she would feel frustrated and annoyed about something which she has the right to feel and I would immediately try and change how she felt about it because my default reaction was terror. Oh, my God, she's mad. She's frustrated with me. And because in my past that meant that I was either going to be a, in trouble with the church or be in trouble with my dad and possibly get. beat up.

[00:43:10] Hannah: And that was an existential threat like that was a legitimate danger.

[00:43:14] Erick: Yeah, exactly. And so those are my default reactions and it's been a lot of work to try and change those things and incredibly, incredibly challenging to do because it's so hard wired and from when I was a little kid and so it, it takes so much work just to go, I don't need to control their mood. It's not my job. They can be mad as hell as they want me. That's their problem to deal with. And it's going to be ok and it's so hard to, and, you know, it's going to be ok if I say what I honestly think about things and that's incredibly hard. And I feel for people who are in situations like that because that's the, that's the environment I grew up in. And so that's how I was trained if you will. And it's almost like a hardwired system and so becoming aware of that and learning how to take that beat and just be like, “The right answer here is the honest answer. Even if the other person doesn't like it, it's ok because it's the truth.”

[00:44:16] Hannah: There can be no other answer. This is what it is. Yeah. That's really freeing and it's really, but it's, it is also really scary even for, for, for me. Right? Because like at the end of the day, like, even people who are raised in a culture that values that type of, I mean, Jews are often characterized as being brash or rude, which is like, I don't know if you've been to Israel but like not incorrect. But anyway, but that's not Jews, that's Israelis. I would like to say by the way, there is a difference in any case, the being characterized that way. Again, it comes from this really directness. But even for someone like me who's raised in that, like, I still don't want to hurt people that I care about. Like I would love it if the answer that I think you want was the answer. I've just learned personally over my life that like, I can't be anything else. I can't do anything else. I could, you know the the one word that used to haunt me so much, especially as a young woman. Um a young single woman was like, why can't I just be demure? It's never gonna happen. I'm never gonna be a quiet like leaning against the wall being mysterious like there's no mysterious is the last thing I'm ever gonna be. You're always gonna know exactly what I'm thinking about and, and I, I wanted that for myself so badly and I do understand that impulse. I think it's really, really human in the same way that it's like you would stay inside these guessing cultures, even if, like, maybe not necessarily, even if you did know that there was another way because again, the thing that keeps you there is those social is that social netting and you lose everything if you lose that and and nobody really wants to just be alone out in the world. And if you don't know that there's another way to be. And by the way, a whole group of people doing it and enjoying it, how can you know that it's safe? And that also goes back to another point that you raised. I think you were very honest about it now too. And you brought it up in the episode too of like, it's also inherently manipulative to not just say it to not just ask it to not just say, you know what when you did X, it made me feel Y or if I ask you when I did X, did it make you feel Y to skirt the answer or not give the answer. If you want to look at it from the perspective of for example, someone who may have experienced some like narcissistic emotional abuse where it's all about trying to control the situation. It could even be seen as that at the very, very least, even if, what you're trying to do is make somebody feel better, quote unquote. It's still trying to manipulate someone else's feelings and that inherently digs away at their human dignity at their right to have their own lived experience at their right to feel however they want to feel.

[00:47:01] Erick: Yeah, it's ultimately about trying to manipulate the other person

[00:47:04] Hannah: for your own comfort in a lot of ways too.

[00:47:07] Erick: And it's that whole social cohesion of trying to fit in and trying not to, not to uh to rock the boat. I mean, my brother went to his mission on to Japan and they have a saying there it's like the tallest nail gets the hammer. So, and yeah, and then I heard that I went, oh, I see.

[00:47:27] Hannah: So it's just humans. We're the worst.

[00:47:31] Erick: Well, it's just people, people and especially people with a, who have subjected a population or a group to a type of culture because it affords them power. They don't, they want to keep that in play. And that's so you said, you know, it comes from a place of fear and it's because the people in charge have enforced these norms to keep people in fear in order to keep control over them. I mean, that's really what it comes down to

[00:48:00] Hannah: Whether that's a state or a church or a. Yeah, I see. I see what you're saying. Yeah.

[00:48:04] Erick: If one person down there gets this idea, they could spread to a couple of other people and pretty soon you have hundreds or thousands of people with this idea. And so they want to crack down on that and the way to do that is through that kind of social pressure. And so, you know, it's really very much about control and it's really hard to get people to see that because it's, it's kind of like telling a fish about water, you know, that David Foster Wallace, he has a whole essay on that where he talks about, it starts off with the joke is like, you know, older goldfish is swimming along down the stream and he sees two other goldfish and he goes, “Hey, boys, how's the water?” And then one of the goldfish turns the other and says, “What, what's water?” Yeah.

[00:48:49] Hannah: Oh, I love that. That's, that's, that's huge perspective

[00:48:53] Erick: And it's really hard for us to see the everyday assumptions that we make in our lives because we are so close to them. And because we just assume this is the way it is. And that's why traveling, I think, and living in other cultures, especially cultures that are vastly different than your own is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

[00:49:11] Hannah: Amen. So how's it going now? I mean, would you say that you, as you say, you wouldn't say you're on the other side of it. Ok. How do you deal with setting and communicating your boundaries these days? And would you say what has been the outcome or improvement if, if that is the right word in your life of learning to be more of an asker than a guesser and less of a people pleaser. How's that going?

[00:49:42] Erick: I think overall, I think overall pretty good, it's still, I don't have any close romantic relationships right now. And I think that's where it springs up the most. Um, especially because the women I'm attracted to are generally much more, uh, much more intelligent. So they are stronger willed. So my last partner was very strong willed. Had a good understanding of people asked lots of questions. My ex-wife always asked lots of questions, which was challenging because my dad would use questions as a, as a cudgel. He would ask questions to try and get you in line and you had to figure out what was the right answer to that question.

Hannah: It was a, it was a trap.

Erick: It was a trap, yeah. And so which made it really hard for both my ex-wife and my partner and that they would do the same thing but not meaning to try and trap me. But they were trying to ask me questions. And I would be like, oh, and I'd be squirming in my seat and lash out because of that. So it's one of the things that I, I have, I know that I have to work on and continue to work on because the type of women I'm attracted to are the intelligent askers. They are the ones and it's funny they're mostly introverts. Not that they have to be, but generally fairly strong willed and intelligent and they're askers and maybe it's because that's what I need. And so even though it's hard, I still go, ok, I'm gonna do this, even though this is going to be challenging, we are going to have conflict. You know, I put myself in that situation because I think there's that part of me which knows that I will grow from that and I will learn from that. And I mean, I cycle now and it's kind of the same thing, like, you know, I'll go out for a 20-30 mile ride and people are just like, wow, how do you do that? And I'm like, I get on my bike, like, can I peddle.

I just keep going.

[00:51:25] Hannah: Just keep going. Just keep swimming.And they're like, what is water?

[00:51:29] Erick: It's like, and it's hard, but it's, I know that I'm not going to grow in the ways that I want to if I don't push myself like that. And so I think in, you know, my romantic relationships kind of the same way, like I don't want somebody who just is a pushover who doesn't challenge me, who doesn't think who doesn't have those kind of things because I'm not interested in that. I want somebody who's going to be, you know, and going to make me grow.

[00:51:53] Hannah: Would you say that your ability to be in meaningful relationships, whether it's friendships or otherwise has been improved by becoming more of a asker and less of a people pleaser.

[00:52:03] Erick: Oh, absolutely. I'm much more clear about what I want and aside from my ex partner, just because we've, we built up so many of those patterns that when we get around each other, sometimes we push each other's buttons way too easy. I mean, we all know that, you know, it's like good intentions of like, no, no, no, I'm, I'm better than that. I can be better than that. But then we get around each other and

[00:52:27] Hannah: you're doing it before you even notice you're just,..

[00:52:30] Erick: It's like, yeah, it's like your siblings, you know, how to push those buttons really easy. Um But because I'm much more aware of that now going into any kind of relationships I can, you know, I can step up and be like, ok, you know, I'll ask for one, I'll be very clear about this and just be like, you know, this doesn't work for me, whatever it is you're doing here and just being ok with that, but also just being incredibly honest up to the point that they're comfortable. Um

[00:52:57] Hannah: and also accepting that whatever their response is, is going to be their response. I mean, one of the most important things that I ever learned was like, we're not choosing between consequence, no consequence. We're choosing always between consequences.

[00:53:12] Erick: It's like which one are we choosing that there's going to be or not be?

[00:53:16] Hannah: Am I choosing to say this thing that might hurt you? But at least then we know what we're dealing with and we might be able to talk and get past it or am I choosing to never say this thing and end up in a place where it's unresolvable because I'm so far down this, this tunnel of resentment, you don't even know how to unpack all this. You didn't even know this was happening.

[00:53:35] Erick: Yeah. Yeah. And the whole thing is as well is that, that, that's also a filter. You know, you throw it out there and if somebody can't handle that, that's a pretty clear sign that they aren't your person or they aren't somebody that you want to be with

Hannah: Worked for me.

Erick: I mean, I've had, I've had that where there's some people where it's just like, you know, this is who I am and if you can't handle this and this isn't what you want. Fine. That's great. Yeah, I'm not for everybody but I'm especially for me. Somebody once said.

[00:54:04] Hannah: Oh, nice. I like it. Well, on that note, this was amazing. Thank you so much for this. Thanks for listening to Jew Ish. If you like what you hear, please give us a follow and don't forget to tell a friend who might be a little Jew curious. It really is the best way to help people find us. Also, make sure you check out the show notes for a glossary of terms you might have heard in this week's episode. Jew-ish is a Say More production.

[00:54:39] Erick: So that's the end of this week's episode. I hope that you enjoyed the conversation that I had with Hannah and 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
Enemies

259 – Enemies

Do you have enemies? Are there people that you don’t like? Are there people who don’t like you? May there is someone who makes your life more difficult? Today I want to talk about the importance of having people in our lives that challenge us.

“There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.”

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us as social creatures is to deal with our enemies. Now when I use the word enemy in this episode, I mean everyone from people in our social circles that we don’t like, to romantic or business rivals, and everything in between. There are plenty of people that we probably don’t like and plenty that may not like us.

And believe it or not, it’s a good thing to have enemies.

Enemies

“Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it.”

— Tim Fargo

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

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us to do is to be honest with ourselves. Our mind likes to play tricks on us, so we will often change how we remember things so that it put us in a better light. We will change our interpretation of things so that when we make mistakes, that we still come out looking good. We will fudge reality so that we are still the good guy in a story, even if we have done things that, deep down, we know were not things that aligned with our principles.

Our friends will let things slide and often let us get by with not being our best or taking the best course of action. They may be more likely to comfort us and say the things we want to hear. They might not call us out when we backslide or try to weasel out of owning up to our mistakes. If our friends approve of everything we do and let us get away with everything, we would never improve. We should seek out those who tell us when we’re not holding up our principles. We should listen to those who are honest enough to call us out.

This is why having enemies is important. Enemies will not let us forget the things that we have done. When we make mistakes or screw up, they are the first to point them out and call us out when we don’t act according to our principles and values. Our enemies are the ones that challenge us to live up to what we say we will do and call us out when we don’t. They will find our smallest flaws and are not afraid to point them out. This is why our enemies can be our best friends. This can be very frustrating and we might even get angry about it, but it can be the fastest way to see if we are living up to our principles.

The Truth

“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it’s a lie, laugh at it.”

— Epictetus

Recently, I found out that an old friend of mine that I used to be closed to quite dislikes me now. At first I was upset and thought they were being unfair because they disliked me for some of my behavior in past that had nothing to do with them. But as I was talking to a mutual friend they pointed out the fact that I had actually done these things in the past, and rather than complain about them not liking me, I needed to step up and do better.

While I didn’t like to own up to my past behavior, they were not wrong. Some of my behavior in the past wasn’t great. I realized that how they perceived me was not under my control. There is nothing I can to do change the past, nor little I can do to directly change their opinion of me. The only thing I can do is to be the person that I want to be. I have no control over what others think of me, only my choices and the actions I take. If this person dislikes me, and I’m holding to my principles and values, then they are not the kind of person I want to be around.

Hold To Your Principles

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

— Winston Churchill

Now, just because someone is unhappy with something that we do doesn’t mean that they are right and that we need to change to make them happy. There are times when we will do things that others may not like, but it’s the right thing to do.

We need to have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what other people think of us. We need to build our character and follow our principles in such a dedicated manner that the choices we make and the actions we take are aligned with who we want to be. If we constantly change our choices and actions based upon what others might think, then we really need to take a look at ourselves and make sure that we know what our core principles and beliefs are.

When we live by building our character and not worry about what other think of us, we rarely need to apologize for how we act. If someone is upset with us because they don’t like something we have done or said, we should see if we have done something against our principles.If we find that we haven’t lived up to our standards when dealing with other people, we should be quick to apologize.

We don’t apologize because someone is upset with us, but because we have failed to uphold our principles. If someone is upset with us and we have upheld our principles, then there is no need to apologize. We never need to apologize for upholding our principles and doing what we think is the right thing.

Expand Your World

“If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the main reasons why we should listen to those we don’t like is because we don’t have all the answers. When I was in the Mormon church, there was a strong emphasis of not reading or listening to those that disagreed with the teachings of the church. This close-minded way of acting in the world was something that always rubbed me the wrong way.

I mean, why should we be afraid of listening to those who don’t think like we do? Shutting yourself off from ideas don’t support your worldview will actually make you mentally weaker. If your way of viewing the world is so good, then you should be able to listen to new ideas, logically see the mistakes in them, and dismiss them. By engaging with opposing points of view we make our own arguments stronger because our opponents can point out the weaknesses.

By taking the time to listening to ideas we don’t agree with, we may actually find some new ideas that we can use to make our lives better. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. As smart or as great as we think you are, we don’t know the best way to do everything. We thrive as a culture because we have all kinds of new ideas and we challenge old ways of thinking. If it’s a good idea, there’s a good chance that it will stand up to scrutiny. Then we take what works, and do our best spread those ideas.

I mean, that’s what I’m doing with my podcast. I try to take the best ideas that I can find, apply them in my life, and help spread them around to others so that they can use these ideas to improve their lives. Hopefully, they can improve on these ideas so that I can learn and use the new and improved versions. Don’t get so attached to your own ideas such that you think they are the only way something can be done. Doing so means that your ego is in the way.

Defeat Your Enemy

“Your enemies cannot make you hate them, define you, or make you obsessively think about them, only you can do that.”

— Carmine Savastano

One of the most important reasons why we should try to understand our enemies, is because spending energy on hating others makes your life miserable. When we consider someone to be our enemy, we are blaming them for something that is wrong in our lives. We believe that if they would just act a certain way, then everything would be fine. In a sense, we are trying to control something that we do not have control over. Letting go of anger makes your life more positive and focuses your energy on things that are more useful.

Conclusion

“An honorable man is fair even to his enemies; a dishonorable man is unfair even to his friends!”

― Mehmet Murat ildan

If you have someone in your life that you consider an enemy, I want you to think about why. Do they act in a way that you find distasteful? Are they mean or cruel to others? If their behavior is something that goes against your principles, then it may be it’s someone that is not good to have in your life. In that case, use them as an example of what not to be and learn by watching their mistakes.

But, if it is because they make you uncomfortable by pointing out the truth, it may be time to try and build a bridge. Then maybe this person is more of a friend than you might think. This may be someone with enough character to tell you what you need to hear, and an honest enemy is better than a friend who only tells you what you want to hear.


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

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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
Interviews

244 – Interview with John Chancey of Knowledge Brew Supreme

This weeks episode is an interview I did with Dr. John Chancey of the Knowledge Brews Supreme podcast. It was really fun to dive into all kinds of interesting philosophical topics with John. He's sharp, warm, and fun. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed chatting with John.


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
Emotions

243 – All the Feels: How to Ride the Emotional Waves

Are you afraid of your feelings? Do you avoid, numb, or shut down your emotions? How much stress and anxiety do you create trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions? Today I want to talk about the power of emotions, and how to reduce your suffering by feeling your emotions all the way through.

Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life.

— Robert Greene

Emotions are powerful forces in our lives. They are the drivers of the actions we take. Those actions lead to the results get in our lives. The better we are at managing our emotions, the more control we have over our lives, and more likely we are to achieve the things that we want to in our lives.

What are Emotions?

Emotions are complex mental states that are often a result of the interaction between our physical responses to external stimuli and our own thoughts, beliefs, and memories. Physical stimuli such as a perceived threat, pleasant touch, or intense sound can trigger a physiological response in the body, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, or changes in hormone levels. These physiological changes can influence our emotions, as our brain perceives and interprets these physical sensations and maps them to an emotional state. At the same time, our own thoughts, beliefs, and past experiences can shape how we perceive and respond to these stimuli, creating a feedback loop between our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

When we have a strong emotional response to something, it is not just a thought in our minds, but something we also feel in our body. It’s this physical dimension which often makes emotions so scary. Our brains perceive a physical threat, and reacts as if there is the possibility of actual physical harm, even if we know rationally that we’ll be just fine.

Vibrations

If you were to describe what an emotion felt like to an alien, you probably describe it as something like a vibration that you feel in your body. Some of those vibrations feel nice and pleasant, and others feel negative or distressing. But really, it is more or less a vibration that comes as the result of the thoughts in your mind, and the physical circumstances around you.

So why is it important to understand and manage your emotions? I want to propose the idea that most of the suffering in the world comes not from just physical pain and injury, but through emotional pain and anguish. And that suffering is made worse because we try so hard to avoid uncomfortable or painful emotions, and it is this avoidance which causes more suffering than the emotion we’re trying to avoid in the first place.

Feeling our emotions is also just part of being human. When we learn how to actually feel our emotions when they come, and not avoid or suppress them, we get to experience the full range of being human. If we don’t feel sadness or grief, then it also limits our ability to feel happiness and joy. For me, this is part of what the stoics mean when they talk about living according to nature. We all feel emotions, which means they are part of our nature, and repressing or ignoring them is not living in alignment with nature.

Avoidance

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca

One of the interesting things about humans is that we will go out of our way to avoid painful or uncomfortable emotions. And it’s this avoidance which causes us to suffer far longer and deeper than if we just felt the original emotions in the first place. We often cause more damage than the emotions themselves. When we try to avoid the emotions we’re feeling, we will often distract ourselves with activities that either numb what we’re feeling, or keep us focused on something else. Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or porn, are just a few of the things we use for numbing ourselves. We may overindulge in other activities that keep our minds off of feeling the emotions we have. Working extended hours, binge watching Netflix, and even spending too much time in the gym can distract us from processing and feeling emotions we’re uncomfortable with.

Addictions

An inability to regulate emotions can lead to substance abuse as a form of self-medication to manage difficult emotions. Addiction and emotional suppression are often interconnected, as individuals who struggle with emotional regulation and coping may turn to substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors as a means of numbing or avoiding their emotions.

On the other hand, chronic substance abuse can result in further suppression of emotions, as it alters brain chemistry and interferes with a person’s ability to experience and regulate their emotions. This creates a vicious cycle, where substance abuse and emotional suppression reinforce each other, making it difficult for individuals to break the cycle of addiction and regain control over their emotions. Effective addiction treatment often involves addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues, as well as addressing the addiction itself.

Psychosomatic Disorders

Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

Our emotions have such an impact on our bodies that we can suffer what are called psychosomatic disorders. Psychosomatic disorders are physical conditions which are caused or worsened by psychological and emotional factors. They occur when psychological stress or anxiety manifests in physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and fatigue. These disorders are thought to result from the interaction between the mind and the body, where psychological stress can affect the functioning of the nervous and immune systems, leading to physical symptoms.

Examples of psychosomatic disorders include, but are not limited to, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and tension headaches. Treatment usually involves a combination of psychotherapy to address the underlying psychological factors, and medication to manage physical symptoms.

Toxic Masculinity

The unwillingness and inability to just feel the uncomfortable physical sensations in our bodies has caused more suffering in the world than all the wars humanity has ever fought.

One of the ideas I want to explore a little is toxic masculinity, which for me, is one of the most damaging things in our culture. Toxic masculinity is a cultural construct that refers to harmful and restrictive norms associated with masculinity, such as the suppression of emotions, aggression, dominance, and the expectation of being tough and unemotional.

The inability of men to manage or sometimes even to feel their emotions is one of the most damaging behaviors in society. These toxic norms can lead to negative behaviors such as violence, bullying, and the objectification of women, and can result in negative consequences for both men and women. When men are unable to deal with their emotions in healthy ways, those emotions don’t just disappear. In my own experience, the more I try to suppress or ignore how I feel about something, it doesn’t just go away. In fact, it usually feels like it gets worse. It’s very much like a pressure cooker building up steam, until it finally finds a way to release all that energy.

Toxic masculinity contributes to poor mental health and a limited expression of individuality. When you are unable to manage your emotions, then your ability to feel the fullness of being human becomes highly limited. Toxic masculinity is not synonymous with masculinity itself, but rather represents a narrow and harmful definition of it.

I remember one time in college I was having a discussion with some friends about how men really have very few emotional states. At the time, I was of the opinion that men had about 5 emotions: Happy, okay (neutral), anger, fear, and sadness. The reason I thought this way was because my own emotional repertoire was very limited. Because of the emotional toxicity in my own home and the culture I grew up in, the range of emotions I knew how to safely handle was very limited.

When I was married, my ex wife often ask me how I felt about something. When I would respond with just one the 5 emotions I mentioned earlier, she would ask if I felt anything deeper, if I had a broader range of emotions. I would try to dig deeper, but often found that I really didn’t know what I was feeling.

There were two aspects to this. First, I often just shut off emotions I didn’t know how to deal with. This meant that the range of emotions I allowed myself to feel was pretty limited. Second, if there were other feelings outside of happiness, sadness, fear, or anger, I often couldn’t recognize them, and didn’t have the words to express how I felt. This often led to unresolved emotions which would come out in expressions of fear and anger.

Riding the Waves

The more you know about your feelings, the more power you have to direct them.

— John F. Demartini

So how do we get better about feeling our emotions? What can we do to improve our ability to regulate our emotions, rather than try to suppress or avoid them?

We need to become masters of feeling. We need to ride the waves our emotions.

Have you ever watched big wave surfers? They’re pretty amazing to watch. When you see a master surfer out on the ocean and a big wave comes along, they get nervous and excited. Sure, that big wave is scary, but it’s also thrilling, and the more time they put themselves in the path of these waves, the better they get at riding them. And it’s the power and the energy in that wave that makes it exciting to ride.

I like to think of emotions like waves on the ocean and we’re all surfers, and we are not allowed to get out of the ocean. These emotional waves are going to come at you whether you like them or not, which is pretty much how life is.

So you have choice.

When these waves come a long you can try to avoid them. But if you spend your whole life not learning how to deal with your feelings, those waves are still there and will still pull you under and knock you over, especially you’ve never really learned how to handle them.

Or, you can decide to try and get on that wave when it comes along. You’ll get knocked over sometimes and it’ll feel like you’re drowning. Sometimes you’ll get on the board and start riding the wave and make some progress only to fall off and biff it. As you get better at riding the waves of your emotions, you’ll find you’re able to handle even larger waves and come out the other side feeling the thrill of handling yourself in a way that is so much healthier. You’ll even start to look forward to all emotions that come your way because you know you can handle them, and they make life feel so much richer and fuller.

Practical Steps

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

— Kahlil Gibran

The first thing is to recognize that emotions are natural. Every single one of them, so rather than fear them, we should welcome them. We need to recognize that we’re going to have positive and negative emotions, and that we should welcome both of them. We can’t cancel out the dark or negative ones and only accept the positive ones. And the thing is, we want to feel all the emotions in our lives, and not just the positive ones. There are times we want those negative emotions, such as grief, for example, when someone close to you dies, or feeling the heartbreak at the end of a relationship.

Second, we need to recognize that emotions are just a feeling, a physical sensation, a vibration in our body. They can often feel overwhelming and terrible, but that vibration in your body is not going to kill you, even if your mind is trying to convince you otherwise.

Third, is that when we have an emotion, the best thing we can do is to step right up and do our best to embrace it. The more we try to avoid or suppress it, the longer it will hang around. The healthiest and honestly the fastest way to deal with emotions is to feel them. The harder we try to avoid emotions, the longer they stick around. Emotions don’t go away, but will show up in other ways. When we stop resisting, we allow our mind and our body to process how we are feeling, and let it move through us like it’s naturally supposed to.

The last thing to remember is that emotions show up in physical ways, and processing them is a physical act. We need to find physical ways to let them through. I know for me when I’m feeling an incredibly strong emotion, positive or negative, I will often cry when I just let it pass through. It’s what I need to release all that energy, and afterwards I feel so much better. I may feel tired, but I usually feel calm. I feel clean like I’ve just purged a whole bunch of heavy energy which was weighing me down.

Learning how to manage and regulate our emotions is a skill we all have to learn if we want to live our best lives. Emotions are a fabric of our lives, and are not something you can avoid. Try as you might, those waves are going to keep on coming for as long as you’re alive. So you have a choice. Are you going to try and avoid them only to get pulled under gasping for air, or are you going to turn into the wave, ride it like a pro, and feel the fullness of your life?


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!

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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
Perspective

241 – Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing

Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing
What do you really see?

One of the things we talk about a lot in stoicism is that it’s our perspective on something that causes our distress. So how do we change our perspective on things? Are there tools that we can use to help us view things differently? Today I want to talk about some of the things that get in our way of broadening our perspective, and what tools we can use to help change our perspective.

It is not the things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments about these things.

— Epictetus

Great minds do not always think alike.

— Anonymous.

One of the most important ideas in stoicism is that our perspective is what informs and colors our opinion about things that happen in our lives. Being aware of our own perspective is very challenging because we really only interact with the world through our own point of view and filters.

We have attitudes and biases that we are often not aware of which affect how we interpret the world and how we decide to respond to events and other people. Basically, we act based on our judgments, and our judgments are formed by what we think about a situation.

For example, say that we have two people, Jane and Tony, and they are walking down the street to a coffee shop. They pass by a group of teenagers with skateboards hanging outside a convenience store. Now when Jane sees them, she smiles and remembers how she used to ride a skateboard at that age and how fun it was to hang out with her friends. When Tony sees the same group of kids, he becomes tense and anxious because he remembers some kids in his neighborhood where he grew up that rode skateboards and used to chase him and beat him up. Each of them are seeing the exact same situation, but having completely different emotions about it based on their experience and their thoughts about the group of teenagers.

Reframing is a when we actively work on changing our perspective on something. First, we become aware of our thinking. Second, we question our thinking by looking for evidence, and using logic to prove or disprove our thoughts. Third, we correct errors in our thinking which helps us change what we make something mean.

So why is it important for us to improve our ability to change our perspective of how we view the world? When we learn how shift our perspective on things, then we are better able to see things as they are, and not just act on our first impressions. We need a fuller picture and have a clearer understanding, which helps us make better choices. Sometimes, just getting slightly different perspective on something can completely change how we view something.

One of the clearest examples of how reframing can radically change how we understand something is from the movie, The Sixth Sense. If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, I’m warning you now that I’m going to reveal some big spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch it then come back and finish this episode.

The Sixth Sense opens with psychologist Malcolm Crowe, who is played by Bruce Willis, and his wife Anna, played by Olivia Williams, getting ready to go out to dinner. A patient of Malcolm’s break into their house and ends up shooting Malcolm and then killing himself. After this indecent, the movie introduces us to Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, a frightened and withdrawn boy, who is now a patient of Malcom’s.

As the movie progresses we see that Malcom has been struggling to communicate with his wife and their relationship seems very strained. We also learn that Cole has the ability to see dead people, which is the cause of his fear. Malcolm helps Cole to try and understand how to deal with this ability, and the two begin to form a strong bond. Near the end of the movie, which up to this point has seemed like a relationship between a boy and his therapist, it is finally revealed that Malcolm is actually dead, but didn’t know that he was dead.

When it finally clicked for me that Malcom was dead, it shifted my whole perspective on what the movie was actually about. It was also fascinating how it changed Malcolm’s perspective on who he was, and what was really happening. When I went back and watched it again, it felt like I was watching a completely different movie. Scenes where it seemed like Malcolm was interacting with his wife or with anyone other than Cole, were completely changed knowing that Malcolm was dead, but was unaware of it. It was an extraordinary instance of my perspective shifting with new information.

So what can we do to get better with reframing the world around us so we can make wiser choices? There are a few practices that we can do which can really help change how we view a situation.

One of the first things we can do it to is identify cognitive distortions, which are common patterns of thinking that lead to negative or irrational thoughts. This is very inline with what Seneca meant when he wrote:

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca

We see what we believe rather than what we see.

— Alan Watts

Some cognitive distortions include the following:

All-or-Nothing Thinking: This is where we think that things are one way or another, such as good or bad or black or white. This pattern makes it hard to see that there are shades of gray, that there are nuances in every situation, and in every person. It also makes is challenging to see that sometimes both options can be true.

An example of this comes from a listener who asked me how to reconcile self acceptance with self improvement. They felt that if they accepted themselves for who they were, it meant they were giving up on self improvement. But these things are not mutually exclusive. You can accept yourself and all your flaws, AND still want to improve. Just like how you accept a young child for who they are and all the things they are not good at, and want them to grow and improve.

Mind Reading: This is when we think that we know what other people are thinking. We may make assumptions of their opinion of us, or what their motivations or intent are without any evidence. This is something that I have struggled with throughout my life, much of it came from having to stay on my toes around my father. I was constantly guessing what he was thinking so that I could stay safe.

Personalization: This is when we take responsibility for things that are not our fault, or blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. Often, this behavior comes from living in a dysfunctional home. If there is one or more parent that doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and puts the blame on other members of the family, children learn to accept blame for things they haven’t done in order to keep the peace.

Catastrophizing: This is the tendency to exaggerate the significance of negative events, and to expect the worst possible outcome. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. This pattern of thinking can lead people to feel easily overwhelmed because of the emotional weight they put on even minor events. It can also stop us from making progress in challenging situations because it makes them seem far more difficult than they actually are, leading to bad decisions or just outright giving up.

Once you become aware of these distortions, you can challenge them and reframe them into more balanced and realistic thoughts. Writing down your thoughts in a journal and answering questions such as, “Is this thought really true?" or "Is there any evidence to support or contradict this thought?” is one of the best ways to become aware of these kind of patterns and notice how they impact your thinking.

You can also discuss them with someone you trust if you find that more helpful. The point is to find a way to recognize those thoughts and question them in a rational and logic manner so that you can see things for what they really are.

Once you have a handle on what you are thinking and have made the effort to logic through cognitive distortions, you can use what you have learned to change how you view something. For example, rather than assuming that you know what someone is thinking, you recognize that you don’t know until you ask, or they volunteer the information. Rather than taking blame for things that you have no control over, you only take responsibility for your choices and actions, and let go of the rest.

For any of these practices to be effective there is a core skill that we need to develop. For me this one skill is the most important in Stoicism, and that is the skill of mindfulness. Now, I know that sound like a broken record because I talk about mindfulness and meditation a lot. The reason for this is that all other practices and processes we might use to improve ourself are dependent on awareness. If we are unaware of our thoughts, perspectives, and cognitive distortions, then it makes it nearly impossible to change anything.

Until we make the unconscious conscious, we will call it fate and it will rule our lives.

— Carl Jung

I’ve used this quote by Jung many times because it is such an important insight. Even just taking 15 minutes a day to sit and pay attention to you mind and observe your thinking can make a big difference. Remember, mediation is not about zoning out, it is about focusing your attention on your thoughts, your body, and your environment. Just as you would take time to work out to strengthen your body, meditation is taking time to strengthen your mind.

The ability to change and broaden our perspective is probably one of the most important skills that we can develop in our lives. It is also one of the most helpful, since the ability to see things from multiple perspectives gives a more holistic picture of a situation or event. A fuller picture can help you see and understand things you may have missed if you only rely on your own narrow perspective. It can help us understand other people and how they think, and handle situations in a way that is more beneficial to ourselves and those around us.


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

240 – Interview with Trever Yarrish

Interview with Trever Yarrish
Interview with Trever Yarrish

Trever Yarrish is the owner and founder of Zeal Software and The Hiive co-working space. He is also a good friend and one of my favorite people to chat with about stoicism. He's an avid student of stoicism and brings many of the stoic principles and ideas into his companies and his personal life. We sat down and had a chat about life, work, family, and the importance of having a process for managing your mind and emotions.

Books mentioned in the podcast:
The Power of Giving Away Power
Existential Kink


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
wisdom

239 – Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned
The Universe is Change

Hey everyone, this year has been an especially rough year for many of us. I can honestly say it has been for me. I had another episode mostly written but I decided that I wanted to change things up and talk about what I have learned over the past year, and ask you about the most important things you have learned.

The past few years have been quite a ride for the world. With Covid shutting down so many things and altering our way of life in so many ways, we have all been affected in big and small ways. For me, the company I work for shut down our offices and we now all work remote. Since the company I work for is very small, we all decided that it wasn’t worth the risk since if one of us got sick and came into the office, there was a high likelihood that everyone else would catch it as well.

This has been a mixed blessing. I enjoy working from home and having a lot a freedom and flexibility in my work. But, I’m also an extrovert and a very social person. I really enjoy spending time with others. Finding connection with other people is one of the things that feeds my soul, and Covid made that very challenging. Over time, I found myself retreating more and more and reached out less and less to friends. I think I also fell into a bit of depression because of my lack of time with others, as well as struggling with my own self esteem.

I had also stopped the podcast a while before the pandemic, but a year or so in, I decided for my own sanity to restart it so that I could spend some time each week tending to my mental health by working on the podcast. Each episode that I create is more than likely something I’m struggling with at the time I’m working on it. This helped me focus on the shit that I was dealing with, and try to find some ways to effectively deal with them. I call the podcast my public therapy.

But I think this last year has been one of the hardest but also one with some incredible growth. This year I’ve been working through the ending of my primary relationship with my partner of almost 9 years. In many ways I really put off dealing with it, which unfortunately made things much harder. It hasn’t been until the past few months that I felt like I had the strength and the skills to face it head on. It was why I took a break from the podcast at the beginning of last year, under the guise of spending more time working on learning Unreal Engine to change my career path. I felt a lot of shame over my failure to fix the issues in my relationship, and felt like a failure and a hypocrite if I continued the podcast. I mean how could I tell you, my audience, how to improve your lives when mine felt like a disaster?

But as I’ve worked through the ending of that relationship, I’ve learned some things about myself that helped me make some big strides, and I felt it was important to share them with you. I worked through some big blindspots and learned a lot about myself, and finally felt like I had a grasp on some concepts that could really move the needle for anyone who was trying to improve their lives. Many of those became episodes, and I feel like they’ve been some of my best. So now, I’d like to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year.

Lesson One: Failure is just missed expectations.

I often talk a lot about learning from failure on this podcast, and it’s become very popular to talk about being okay with failure. But, to be honest, I think that even though we say it’s okay to fail there’s a part of us that still struggles to accept that. We don’t like failing at things, even if we say it’s okay to fail.

But over the last year, I finally started to make sense of a quote from Epictetus that took me many years to understand:

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

― Epictetus

The reason why this was hard for me to understand is that when something goes wrong or there is some kind of failure, I used to think there was always someone to blame. But what I’ve come to realize is that we only consider something a failure because we have some expectations around it. When we just accept that something happened the way that it did because that’s how all the circumstances and variables lined up, then there is really no one to “blame”.

When we can simply look at something dispassionately as cause and effect, and release any expectations about what we think should happen, we are able to observe, accept, and deal with what is. We learn to deal with reality as best we can, and not be upset that things didn’t happen as we wished they would.

Lesson Two: You are worthy of love because you exist.

Often, I felt like I had to be perfect for someone to love me. I felt like I had to be perfect for me to love and accept myself, and this is simply not the case. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and to accept yourself. And there are several things to consider around this that support my opinion.

First, no one can ever be perfect. There is no absolute standard of what a “perfect” person is. And if there was, who would be the one to set that standard? Why should they be the one to set that standard? You have the ability to set the standards for yourself, and part of that standard, in my opinion, should be how kind and compassionate a person can be with themselves.

Second, people will love you because they choose to do so. You have no control over who loves you. As the stoics have well established we can’t control other people.

Third, the stoics recognized that we are all part of the human family and that we are here to help each other the best we can. If we live a life that is only centered around ourselves, then we have missed some of the best things in life. It’s been shown through many experiments and studies that the best way to create joy in your life is to help other people. So do your best to help others, and let them help you.

Lesson Three: The more you run away from the things that you fear, the more power they have over you.

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca.

Throughout the evolution of mankind, there were plenty of mortal threats that we had to have healthy sense of fear in order to stay safe. For the most part, most of us life in fairly safe places where we rarely have to worry about our physical safety. Most of the things that cause us distress are the thoughts, perceptions, and opinions in our own minds. In other words, we create our own fear. We stress ourselves out. We are the main source of our suffering.

More often than not, when we take the time to examine our own thinking about something, we can see that it is our imagination that is really scaring us. We create the worst case scenario in our minds, and convince ourselves that it is the most likely outcome. Whether that’s a hard conversation with our partner, kids, or friends, or standing up when there is an injustice that we object to, we imagine the worst outcome, and scare ourselves into inaction. We may fail to see that what we consider to be an awful outcome might be a great opportunity.

Lesson Four: You need to be the source of your self esteem.

For a lot of us, especially those who grew up in chaotic and unstable homes, we developed ways to deal with the chaos that, while they were helpful at the time, don’t serve us well in adulthood. Many of us become “people pleasers” in order to stay safe so that we minimize the abuse we suffered from the people closest to us. In my case, this was the unpredictable rage that came from my father. And when I say “people pleaser”, it really isn’t about pleasing the other person. It means that we try to figure out how to keep the other person happy so that we don’t upset the person we look to as our source of love.

When we get into relationships later in life, we will carry these ways of coping with us because it’s what we know. The problem is that if we’re with a partner that has a healthier sense of themselves and how relationships work, these kind of coping skills don’t work. We will try to figure out what we should say or do so this person will love us. We discard our own wants and needs so that this person will still love us. But, to anyone that understands healthy relationships, this is manipulation. We aren’t being honest, we aren’t being our authentic selves. We are trying to be what we think they want to be so that they will stay happy with us and love us.

So lesson number four is that we can’t expect others to be our source of self esteem and healing. We need to be that source for ourselves. To be honest, it is completely unfair that we should expect our partners to be the only source of love for us, and that they should be the ones to fix us. That’s a lot of pressure on anyone. It is also putting our source of self esteem outside of ourselves, so we aren’t in control of it.

When we learn how to accept and love ourselves, we become that source of love for ourselves. We take control of how we feel about ourselves, which means that we can show up in our relationships as a whole person that can accept the love of others, but is not dependent on it. This also means that rather than looking to the other person for what they can give us, we can find healthier ways to give and take in a relationship, rather than just taking.

There are a lot of other lessons that I learned this year, but these are the core ones that stood out to me, especially the lesson of self acceptance. Realizing that by putting that burden on someone else means that it is out of my control was really a life changer. It’s not an easy thing to change your thinking around yourself, and just accept yourself for exactly who you are. There is a lot of pressure to conform to societal ideas of perfection, that no one can ever live up to. There’s a lot of power in accepting yourself for exactly who you are, and extending that to others.

So what lessons have you learned this year? What helped move the needle for you? Are there things that you finally understood that make a big impact on your life? If you’d like to share, please share them on instagram. The account for the podcast is @stoic.coffee. If you’re on twitter, you can find me at @StoicCoffee. I’ll put a post up there about lessons learned in 2022. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned over the last year that really impacted your life.


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

237 – Self Confidence

Self Confidence
Self Confidence

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

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

— Seneca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Zeno of Citium

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

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

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

— John Wooden

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

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

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

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

And this is not an irrational fear.

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

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

— Aristotle

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


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

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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
kind

236 – Nice vs. Kind

Nice v.s Kind
Kindness

Are you a nice person or are you a kind person? Do you know the difference? Today I want to talk about whether it’s better to be nice or kind.

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

— Seneca

I few weeks ago, I stumbled on a discussion on twitter of all place about the difference between being nice and being kind. It was an idea that I had never really thought about, so today I want to look at this idea from a stoic perspective.

I’m sure that most of us at some point when we were kids were told that we needed to be nice to everyone. We may have been scolded for not “being nice” when we said something that upset someone else, as if we had control over how that other person felt. This was often mixed in with being told that we’re being “unkind”, so I think the place to start is to define each of these terms.

The definition of being nice is, “Pleasing and agreeable in nature. Exhibiting courtesy and politeness”, whereas the definition of kind is, “Generous, helpful, and caring about other people”.

In Stoic philosophy, being kind and being nice are often seen as two distinct virtues. Being kind is generally considered to be an essential virtue, and as a fundamental aspect of being a good person. The Stoics believed that the key to living a virtuous life was to cultivate the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation. Being kind falls under the virtue of justice, since it involves treating others fairly and with empathy. On the other hand, being nice is typically seen as a less essential virtue, because it’s often more focused on pleasing others and avoiding conflict.

Since one of the most important things we learn is stoicism is that we cannot control what other people think or feel, we can see that sometimes people will be nice in an attempt to please or manipulate others. They are trying to control or influence how the other person thinks or feels about them.

On the other hand, being kind is very much within our control. Being kind is when we act in such a way that is helpful to others. We aren’t doing something just so that we look good or that others will like us. We are simply living our principles.

Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind?

— Jack Kornfield

If we dig a little deeper in stoic philosophy, the difference between being nice and being kind can also be understood through the the concepts of moral goodness and moral worth. Moral goodness refers to actions that align with virtue whereas moral worth refers to the character of a person.

Being nice can include actions that could be considered virtuous, however, being nice does not necessarily require someone to have a virtuous character. For example, someone may give money to charity simply because it makes them look good, rather than because they genuinely care about the well-being of others. In this sense, being nice is a matter of moral goodness, but not necessarily moral worth.

On the other hand, being kind means having a virtuous character and doing actions that align with virtues. A kind person is someone who consistently demonstrates virtues such as compassion and generosity, not just in their actions, but in their overall disposition and character. Being kind involves both moral goodness and moral worth.

In his letter "On Tranquility of Mind," Seneca wrote, "The first step in a life of wisdom is to establish our moral worth, to make ourselves good men; the second is to become good at what we do." In other words, Seneca believed that in order to live a good life, we must first focus on developing our character and doing virtuous actions.

Similarly, Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one." This quote highlights the importance of not just talking about virtues, but actually practicing and embodying them in our lives.

I’ve noticed that some cultures are often kind, but not always nice. Others tend to be nice, but are not necessarily kind. When I lived in Austria, I found that the people were not always nice, and were often very blunt, but they were very kind and would often go out of their way to help friends and strangers in need. Of course, this is just a generalization because it will vary from person to person.

I think in many ways, being nice is more about the appearance of what you do, and kindness is about doing something because it’s the virtuous thing to do. It’s taking care of someone’s kids when they’re in the hospital and not just sending “thoughts and prayers”.

The last aspect of kindness that I want to touch on is that of self kindness. One of the key principles of Stoicism is that external events are beyond our control, and that our happiness is dependent on our own actions and attitudes. This means that being kind is not just about being nice to others, but also about being kind to ourselves and treating ourselves with the same compassion and understanding that we would show to others. In my own experience, I’ve found that as I’ve learned to be kinder and less judgmental to myself, it makes it easier to be kinder and less judgmental of others. In fact, I’ve found that the people who are often harsh on other people are usually really hard on themselves. By being kind to ourselves, we become less judgmental and kinder to others.

While being nice is often seen as a desirable quality, it is not as essential as being kind. Being kind involves treating others with empathy and fairness, and also involves being kind to ourselves. The difference between being nice and being kind can also be understood through the concepts of moral goodness and moral worth in stoic philosophy. While being nice involves performing actions that align with virtues, being kind involves developing a virtuous character which would drive you towards virtuous actions. In order to live a good life, stoic philosophers emphasized the importance of cultivating virtues in both our actions and our character which is essential for finding happiness and fulfillment.


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. 🙂

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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
philosophy

235 – Interview With Tanner Campbell from The Practical Stoic

Interview with Tanner Campbell
Interview with Tanner Campbell

I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with Tanner Campbel from The Practical Stoic. Tanner is sharp, warm, and kind and I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you enjoy it as well.


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
Challenges

234 – Easy Life

Easy Life
Everything is Difficult At First

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

The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

— Ryan Holiday

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

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

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

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

— Erick Cloward

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

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

The Spartans

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

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

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

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

— Anonymous

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

— Miyamoto Musashi

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

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

– Marcus Aurelius

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

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

Pain and Pleasure

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

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

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

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

— Miyamoto Musashi.

Patience and Process

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

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

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


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at 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
other people

230 – Our Human Contract

Our Human Contract
Ignorance leads to fear…

Is it ever okay to hate someone as a stoic? Is there ever a time to have “righteous anger”? Today I want to talk about anger, hate and violence in our ever more divisive world.

Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.

— Ibn Rushd

Today the world feels like it in chaos. Everything from political violence, war, and ethnic clashes to threats of violence and down right viciousness on social media. Alongside that, the sensationalist news media leading with crime and vilification of those with the “wrong” political opinions. We have politicians excusing and even encouraging violence against one group or another based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or social status.

With all of this going on, it can at times feel like there is justification to be angry at some group or another. There is always someone else to blame as to why things aren’t going the way that you think they should. It’s easy to fall into this trap of declaring that if everyone else just thought and acted the way that you wanted, then everything in the world would be much better.

Anger is such an important topic in the stoic philosophy that it’s in the first sentence of Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations. He says, “Of my grandfather Versus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion.”

So why do the stoics believe that anger and hatred are so paramount that they warn against them so strongly over and over? Because what they call the “temporary madness” of anger can cause us to do things that we would never do when we are calm and relaxed. We limit our capacity to make better decisions, we will underestimate risk, and at times even cause harm to ourselves just to cause injury to the target of our anger.

But most importantly, the stoics teach us that the harm that anger can cause doesn’t just cause damage to those on the receiving end, it also damages our character. It causes us to be ugly on the inside. We alienate those around us. We push people away from us, cause harm to others, and spend time in a dark and hateful place of our own creation. We make really bad decisions that have lasting consequences, often by split second decisions. As Donald Robertson puts it, “Anger allows us to do stupid things faster and with more energy.”

I have, at times when I’ve lost my temper, said some pretty mean and vicious things to people that I genuinely care about, only because I let that temporary madness take over. I felt hurt about something and want them to hurt as much or more than me. As soon as I calm down I truly regret those things that I said, but sadly, they’re out there and the damage has been done. Looking back on my marriage, I know that my anger was certainly a contributing factor to my ex wife asking for a divorce.

The more unjust the hatred, the more stubborn it is.

— Seneca

Have you ever met someone that is angry a lot? How pleasant are they to spend time around? Do you look forward to your time with them or do you make excuses to limit your time with them? I know that I do my best to limit my time around others like this. There were even times when I have been on dates that I fond very attractive, but because of bitterness or anger I was not interested in pursuing any thing further. I would even go so far as to say that hate and anger make a person very ugly inside and out.

One of the saddest things I can think of in my own life are the bittersweet memories of my father and his violent temper. It’s really sad because there were plenty of great things about him. He was funny, kind, smart, and generous, but so many of my memories of him are overshadowed by his anger and the mental toll that it took on me. I’ve spent the last few years working through the trauma caused by his anger, and stoicism has been a big help for me as I’ve worked through these issues.

Whoever does wrong, wrongs himself; Whoever does injustice, does it to himself making himself evil.

— Marcus Aurelius

A few years ago I was in a stoic group on Facebook and was very shocked to see a discussion going on where a few members of the group were using stoicism to try and justify racism. They were posting things like pictures of people living huts in Africa as proof that these people were inferior to them. While I tried patiently to discuss this with them and talk about how stoicism is not compatible with racism, I found it was worthless and gave up on the conversation. Fortunately they were shortly banned from the group.

So can one be a stoic and be racist or misogynistic or bigoted? No. I don’t think you can for several reasons. First, one of the most important things that stoicism teaches us is that there are things we can and cannot control and it’s incumbent on us to determine the difference, and to work on the things we can control and let go of the rest. It’s therefor illogical to hate someone for the color of their skin or their sex or gender or any other factor that they cannot control. Secondly, anger and hatred are called out as some the most important “passions” or negative emotions that we should avoid.

Epictetus also makes it very clear that we are to do good and help all humans, not just those that we like or who are on “our side”:

One cannot pursue one’s own highest good without at the same time necessarily promoting the good of others. A life based on narrow self-interest cannot be esteemed by any honorable measurement. Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings. Our human contract is not with the few people with whom our affairs are most immediately intertwined, nor to the prominent, rich, or well educated, but to all our human brethren.

— Epictetus

You cannot continue to hate someone without repeatedly wasting, on them, some of your precious time and mental energy.

— Mokokoma Mokhonoana

So is there ever a time when anger is justified? Again, I would have to say no. Hate and anger diminish your ability to be rational, and the stoics teach us to use our rational minds over emotions. And the idea that there is justifiable or righteous anger has led to so many atrocities throughout history. Anger is not an easy thing to control. I know that I might think I’m justified in how I feel about something, but even that justified anger can quickly spiral out of control and I end up saying or doing things I regret.

Mobs that start off feeling justified can spiral out of control and end up doing horrendous things to satiate that righteous anger. Throughout history we see that every tyrant, fascist, and dictator has believed in the righteousness of their cause which has caused immense suffering for so many people. Others in feeling that they have the right to be angry about something, have taken out their anger and rage on others in ways that completely destroy their own life and the lives others.

So what can we do to better manage our anger? How can we work on getting rid of hate? The stoics give us many ways to work on anger, but I think the most important is from Epictetus:

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

— Epictetus

It really comes down to our thinking. If we spend our time thinking about how awful the world is, or that we deserve something, or how much we hate another person or group of people, we are the ones creating these feelings inside of us with our own thoughts. It is our choice to focus on hate and anger, or to direct our thinking and opinions in ways that help improve our lives. When you spend your energy on hating others, you create a prison of unhappiness in your own mind. When you put hate and anger out into the world, you don’t just cause damage to the target of your anger, but to your own character, and you bring that anger into the world.

If you hate a person, then you’re defeated by them.

— Confucius

I know that some people feel like they have to prove their strength with anger or violence. But as a simple though experiment, if you see two people arguing and one of them is getting more and more worked up and yelling, while the other is remaining calm, who do think has more control of themselves? Who do you think has the stronger will? Anger is a sign of weakness. Giving into anger and hate is easy. Self control and mental discipline is hard.

As I mentioned earlier, the stoics teach us to identify what we can control, and that the only things we really control are our thoughts, our will, and our choices. You have control over your thoughts. You can change them at any time. When you choose to focus on anger and hate, you are blaming someone or something else for how you feel. You are not taking responsibility for your own thinking and emotions, which is one of the only things you actually do have control over.

As a simple practice, any time you are feeling riled up about something, try to take time out before making any decisions. Before you say those awful things, send that angry text, or post that vicious comment to social media, take a break. Go outside for a walk. Read a book. Play some music and dance. Whatever it is that you do to distract yourself and get your mind to calm down. Once you’ve given yourself some time to cool off, take some time to examine your thoughts that are causing these angry feelings. Then decide if there is a better way to handle the situation. Take the anger out of your text or post. Can you change it to be something purely factual? Is it something that even needs to be communicated at all?

The last and most important thing you can do is to be careful about what you watch, read, and listen to. There is so much hate fueled media out there and the more attention you give it, the more susceptible you are to falling into hate and violence. Extreme political media, conspiracy theories, and anyone that puts out violence and hate are things that bring no value to your life. Anyone that promotes the idea that you should hate one group or another is someone you really should avoid.

There’s a lot of anger in the world right now and it’s easy to get swept up in it. Part of being a stoic is learning how to master your emotions and learn to be dispassionate about things so you can view them rationally, and act in ways to promote the greater good. There is no reason to spend your time and energy on hate. There are so many problems in the world that we need to work on together to help make the world a better place. Don’t be a part of the problem by adding to the hate and violence out into the world.


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.

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Categories
self-improvement

227 – Self Commitment

Self Commitment
Demand the best for yourself!

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

— Marcus Aurelius

How often do you find yourself starting something only to notice a few weeks or months later that you let it fall by the wayside? Today I want to talk about why we have trouble keeping commitments to ourselves, and some ideas about how we can get better about keeping those commitments.

If you’re like me, you are always interested in improving yourself. Maybe that’s cutting down on your drinking or losing weight. Maybe it learning a new skill or starting a new business. There are all kinds of goals and things you want to do to enrich your life. We approach these things with gusto and excitement as we look forward to how much better our lives will be as we implement these changes in our lives.

Fast forward a few weeks or months later and many if not all of those resolutions are just a distant memory. Our good intentions have given way to our default way of life, and we return to the way things were. We may not have even really noticed when it happened. We may have been on track for weeks, only to find a short time later we have dropped our plans as if our resolutions never even existed.

Part of the reason why I wanted to make this episode is because this happened to me recently, and I’m trying to get back on track. I was doing great with meditating every day for at least 30 minutes, but about a month ago I severely sprained my ankle and was in a lot of pain for a while. I was also having trouble sleeping, and found my motivation to keep up with things beyond the basics was pretty low. I subtly used my injury as an excuse to quit my daily practice.

So why does this happen? Why is does it seem so hard to follow through on these commitments we make to ourselves? What is it in our makeup as humans that we get pulled back to the status quo even though we really do want to make lasting changes in our lives?

For much of evolution, humans struggled to have enough to eat. Because food was often hard to come by, survival depended on smart management of energy. Expending energy when you didn’t have to could mean the difference between life and death. Luckily, for must of us, food insecurity is no longer an issue. While we may not be able to afford prime rib every night for dinner, most of us are able to buy healthy food to feed ourselves. But these habits that served humanity over thousands of years are still engrained into us. This is why for most of us our bodies are more interested in sitting down for a show on Netflix than going for a run.

When we try to change something about ourselves, our minds often struggle to adapt to the new changes that we are trying to make in our lives. Our brains work really hard to keep us safe. We’re still alive in our current situation, so our brain will naturally gravitate to what it knows. Losing weight, taking up a new workout, learning a new skill all require effort and work. We may also fail when we try to do these things, so we’ll stick with what we know because it’s safe.

Another challenging aspect in our quest for self improvement is our desire for instant gratification. We get a dopamine hit when we do something that is pleasurable now, and have a harder time imagining the payoff we’ll get in the future. Some examples of short term pleasures that hit that dopamine switch include alcohol, entertainment, drugs, social media, and plenty of foods that are tasty but are not good for us.

There is nothing wrong with some of these short term pleasures in moderation, though one problem with chasing these short term pleasures is that that the effect is also short term. If we constantly chase after these short term pleasures, we also find that each subsequent time usually is less pleasurable than the one preceding. I learned this as a young child when I had my very first piece of cheesecake. I loved it so much that I happily took a second one, only to find that rather than enjoying as much as the first, it had the opposite effect and I started to feel sick to my stomach.

These short term pleasures often have long term consequences. For example, if we eat too much unhealthy food, we put on extra weight. If we spend too much time playing video games we don’t spend time on relationships or hobbies or other things that enrich our lives.

When we don’t keep these commitments to ourselves, there are a few things that happen. We develop a habit of breaking our word to ourselves. Often we’re much better about keep our commitments to others than we are to ourselves. If we were to behave this way towards our friends, we would erode their trust in us. The more we do this to ourselves, the more we erode our trust in ourselves.

We also create inertia that moves us in the wrong direction. We might think to ourselves, “I can’t keep my commitment to eating healthy, so why bother cutting down on alcohol?” This kind of self-sabotage is often the main reason we don’t accomplish the things we really want to. We will often use this setbacks as proof that we just can’t do it.

Doctors won’t make you healthy. Nutritionists won’t make you slim. Teachers won’t make you smart. Gurus won’t make you calm. Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility. Save yourself.

—Naval Ravikant

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?

—Epictetus

So what can we do to help us get better about making the changes we want in our lives and avoid self-sabotage?

It comes down to self discipline. It’s about being able to get yourself to do the things you want to do for you.

Self discipline is the ability to make and keep commitments to yourself.

Self discipline is taking responsibility for your actions and choices, and not blaming them on things outside of yourself.

Now I know that self-discipline kind of gets a bad wrap because we think it’s too hard. And yeah, if we’re not in the habit of keeping commitments to ourselves, it is hard. Often though, it comes down to changing our perspective on things and what we make it mean.

For example, committing to eating healthy food is much easier to do if we look at it with the perspective that we are nourishing our bodies so we feel and think better. It’s much more challenging if we look at it as if we’re being deprived of all this other food that we can’t eat. Having a clear idea of why you’re working on changing something will go a long way towards helping you stay on track.

One of the stoic tools that we have is negative visualization, or premeditato malorum. We make a list of all the things that can go wrong, and how we’ll solve each of them. For example, if your are trying to lose weight and you are following a specific diet, you list all the things that could derail you from eating healthy. Maybe going out to dinner with friends is challenging because you always get dessert, so you decide to find a few restaurants that have healthier options that fit with your diet. Maybe you hate shopping for food, so you have your partner do the shopping or you pay a delivery service to do it for you. Anything that might be an issue, you find a solution to work around it.

Since many of our goals are things that just fall by the wayside, another way that we can help ourselves it by giving ourselves a way out. Yes, that’s right, you decide under what conditions you’ll allow yourself to quit, and commit to yourself that you can only quit if you make a conscious decision to do so. You are not allowed to just let it fall by the wayside. For example if you are trying to lose weight you decide that you will quit the diet you’re on if you follow it successfully for 6 months and you don’t lose any weight. And if you reach that point where you make that conscious choice to quit, you also commit to finding another way to lose the weight you want.

Learning to keep commitments to ourselves is for me, the ultimate expression of self care. It’s about you deciding that you are important enough to keep those commitments to over all else. And the better you are about keeping your word to yourself, the better you are about actually reaching the goals that you set out, and ultimately have the life you want.


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. 🙂

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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
wisdom

226 – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance
It’s the Truth I’m After

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

— Marcus Aurelius

Today I want to talk about one of the most interesting things about humans, the fact that we cling so dearly to our belief systems in face of contradiction evidence, often to our own detriment.

Why do humans resist changing their minds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence? How often have you changed your opinions when presented with new facts? How often have you actually changed your behavior when you learned new information? How often to you rationalize your opinion or simply deny facts because they don’t fit your belief system?

The human mind is a very malleable and flexible thing. It is because of this flexibility that we are able to survive in all kinds of environments and circumstances. Over time and through experience, we develop a belief system of how the world works. Much of this comes from the circumstances we grow up in. The culture around us, the family we are born into, even the physical surroundings can inform and influence our belief system.

A big reason why we have this ability is that the brain is a pretty good prediction machine, but it needs to have principles and ideas to work from. It’s job is taking past experiences and merging it with current information to try and predict what will happen next. It is precisely this ability that helps us to survive.

As a child, it is easy to be more flexible with our thinking, simply because we are inexperienced and don’t have a lot of knowledge. Everything is new to us at some point, so we’re naturally curious because just don’t know. Our brains are looking for more information and experiences in order to make better predictions. We try things and see how they work or don’t work, and adjust our expectations accordingly. With each new bit of information we’re able to make better predictions to help us survive, and ultimately thrive.

But while the human mind is flexible and adaptable, as we age, it takes effort to keep this flexibility of thinking. As we gain more and more knowledge and experience we are usually able to make better predictions of how we think things work. These in turn inform our opinions and judgments and hopefully help us navigate the world in a safe way so that we might live long and prosper. Where we run into trouble is when we decide that we have enough knowledge and information and turn those opinions and judgements into beliefs.

Often though, we are simply given beliefs by those we trust. This includes family, friends, teachers, leaders – anyone that we consider an authority. Many beliefs we pick up are not well tested or thought out. They are just ideas that have been around for a while. Many ideas are tenacious not because they are right, but because they reach a critical mass within a culture or community. Superstitions, religious beliefs, conspiracy theories are prime examples. Pretty much anything that is taken as truth without little to no evidence, site dubious sources, or are not open to exploration with new information can be categorized as beliefs.

A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity that to your convictions. The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts. It’s to revise old views to incorporate new facts. Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.

— Adam Grant

When something becomes a belief, whether from external influences or ones that we have created ourselves from our own experience, it turns into something that we no longer question, but defend from anything that might threaten that belief.

So why do we find it so hard to change our beliefs? What’s in us that we will deny and fight for our belief, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we are wrong? What is the benefit of acting this way?

When we have a deeply engrained belief, and we come upon new information that shows that we could be wrong, we start to feel cognitive dissonance. Basically, when the mind has two or more contradictory beliefs, we start to feel tension as we grapple with the fact that something we thought was true, might not be true.

When we feel this disharmony, we have a number of options that we can take. We can take in the new information, adjust this belief that we have which will in turn change our behavior. We can can rationalize and make excuses for why it doesn’t really apply in this case so that we can hold onto our belief. Or, as what happens in many cases, we ignore or deny the information and go on holding the same belief.

Since our minds want to resolve this tension, it often takes the last option of just ignoring or denying the evidence in front of us is the easiest option. It’s the one that takes the least amount of work, and allows us to simply go on living like we had before. Change takes work and our minds are lazy and want to hold onto the status quo.

Most of us like to think that we’re good about receiving new information and adjusting our opinions and behaviors accordingly. But this is something that we all do, often without even really thinking about it. To illustrate this, I’d like to take an example from daily life. How often have you rationalized eating something that you know is bad for you, but you don’t want to give up? Maybe it’s your favorite ice cream or cookies whatever it is, you can find all kinds of ways to rationalize why you don’t have to give it up. You’ll point out that it has some healthy ingredients or that it’s convince yourself that it’s not that bad. Whereas if you were honest with yourself and truly wanted to eat healthier, you would simply remove it from your diet.

In my own life, it took me decades to let go of my religious beliefs, even though they never felt right to me. I had been told for so long from so many people I loved and trusted, that anytime something would come up that contradicted what I had been taught, I would find some way to rationalize it, or ignore it because I was scared to give up this belief. But once I finally had enough evidence that the church was a fabrication from it’s founder, I could no longer in good conscience stay in the church and so I left.

If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.

— Marcus Aurelius

So how can be better about integrating new information into our way of viewing the world so that we have more informed opinions?

I think the Buddha was on to something when he said that the cause of suffering is attachment, and in this case we get attached to our ideas and beliefs to the point where we feel threatened when something comes along that might disprove them. Our ego identifies with these beliefs, and if we’re wrong we often feel like that means there is something wrong with us. When we can learn to be less attached to these beliefs and develop a mindset of curiosity, then we can take in information without feeling threatened. We can actually seek out information to see if we can prove that our idea is wrong so that we can get closer to the truth much quicker.

This kind of approach is not easy though. It means that we have to become more mindful of our thinking. We need to pay attention to when we’re feeling defensive about something because that is often a signal that we are feeling threatened by something. We also need to notice when we feel fear in our bodies. If we’re not in physical danger but we’re afraid because of what someone is saying, we should probably look closer at why we’re afraid.

While I like to think that I’m good a this, it has taken a lot of effort to not be as reactive and not feel like I have to defend my ideas. I still fail from time to time, and end up feeling defensive and end up in arguments, but I’ve certainly made progress on that front. I’m better about recognizing when I start to feel defensive about things. I pay attention to my body and any physical sensations. I try to ask questions, to help move me into a space of curiosity and learning, and out of that space of having to prove that I’m right.

Developing a mindset of curiosity takes mindfulness, patience, and a willingness to learn over wanting to be right, and is something that can greatly enhance our lives and relationships.


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. 🙂

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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

224 – To You or For You?

To You or For You?
To You or For You?

It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it.

— Seneca

Do you think that life just happens to you? That you are simply a pawn in the game of life? Because there are so many things that we don’t have control over in our lives, it can be easy to fall into this kind of mental trap. The problem is that when adopt this kind of thinking, then we have placed an unhelpful filter through which we view everything that happens in our lives.

While there is plenty of debate within the stoic community as to whether or not stoics are fatalists, meaning they believe that life happens as fate determines, I honestly don’t worry too much about it. If we are simply following out the plan of life that is predetermined for us, then there is really nothing we can do about it. If we aren’t and we actually do have freewill, then we should keep doing our best to live the best life we can.

With that said, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like life just happens to us, and that we have little to no control over anything. And if this is the case, and we have little to no control over out lives, then adjusting our outlook to be of the mind that everything that happens actually happens “for us” and not just “to us” can certainly make the trip much more enjoyable.

So let’s take a look at each of these perspectives.

When we believe that life happens “to us” then there is very little that we can do about it. Everything is just going to happen and we just have to endure it. We feel like victims because we have no control over all these things happening to us. We wish things would happen the way we want them to, and when things don’t go the way that we want we complain about it. We blame our failures on someone or something outside of ourselves. We are simply at the whim of all these external forces.

When we believe that life happens “for us”, the same things may happen, but how we respond to them and how we let them impact us is quite different. We are no longer a victim of circumstance. We look at everything with an eye as to what we can learn from this situation. We find ways to become stronger from what happens to us. We are curious about what is happening, and how we might even be able to enjoy things, even if they are challenging or uncomfortable. There is also no one to “blame” for anything because even if something sucks, if we approach it as something that life is supposed to bring our way, that it really is something for us to learn from.

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

– Epictetus

When we hit setbacks, we don’t look around for someone to blame for it, we recognize that the setback is there for us to learn. Maybe it’s to teach us persistence. Maybe it’s a sign for us to change course. Maybe we missed something along the way and the setback is time for us to evaluate other opportunities.

Let’s take an example that can show the difference between these two perspectives. Let’s say that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone, and you knew that things could get heated. If you were to approach this with a “to me” attitude, you would be frustrated with this person that they are getting angry with you or not listening to your point of view. You might be defensive with them because of all the things they were doing to you. You might even avoid the conversation in the first place.

But if you were to approach them with an “for me” attitude, you would see it as an opportunity. You might see this as a chance for you to practice listening to this person and to hear their concerns. You would see it as an opportunity to craft a solution that suits both of you. You would be more likely to approach it with compassion rather than defensiveness. It would also make it less likely for you to avoid the situation in first place.

So why do we feel like most things happen to us rather than for us? It think there are a number of reasons. First is that quite naturally we don’t have much control over many of the things that life sends our way. I mean the fact that we don’t control where we were born, the color of our skin, or the family that we belong to, we recognize that some of the core parts of our life are just chance. Because we have little control over some of the key aspect of our life, it’s natural to apply this to other areas of our lives.

I think another big reason is that humans are great at taking the path of least resistance and it’s easier to blame what happens on things outside of ourselves. Taking ownership of our lives is a lot of work. It’s something that we all talk about, but to actually step up and so is not something most of us are good at. We’re not really taught to accept responsibility, we’re taught not to fail. I mean think about in school. If you mess up a test or class project, you’re punished for it. You get bad grades and you get in trouble with your parents. We don’t look at those things as signals that you are not understanding something or pointing to areas that you need to work on. And so we do our best to avoid having that failure on us, so we look to find someone or something to blame.

I do want to point out though that this is not the same as the platitude that “everything happens for a reason”. I find this is very popular in religious circles and it always rubbed me wrong because to me it always implied that you were either being rewarded or punished by god for being a good or bad person. People don’t get cancer for a good reason. People don’t get abused by their parents for a reason. That’s just not how life works. Life just happens, and sometimes it sucks and can be pretty damaging, and it’s so much easier to just blame everything that is wrong on something outside of ourselves.

I like to think of “for me” is a much more neutral perspective. Life puts these things out there for me, and I can decide what I want to do with them. I can learn from them, and grow stronger. I can ignore them, and try to find ways avoid them. But if we really want to be in control of our lives, we need to look at challenges not as something that is in our way, but more like an obstacle course that we choose to test ourselves and something that we can improve our skills in overcoming. When we can recognize that life and it’s many challenges are here for us, the better we can get about just facing things head on with curiosity and compassion.


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. 🙂

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
Coffee Break

223 – Changing Others

Changing Others
Epictetus

Living on this planet with other people can be very challenging at times. If you’re like me, sometimes you have a strong difference of opinion with someone, and you end up in an argument and spend a lot of time and energy trying to change the other persons mind. We see this play out on social media as well where people spend a lot of time and energy trying to debate other people to get them to change. Watching this behavior in myself and others, makes me ask the question:

Why do we spend so much time trying to change other people or expecting that other people will change for us?

We know that we cannot change others, but there’s a part of us that wants the world to change for us. Our brain looks for threats and danger outside of ourselves in order to keep us safe. When we’re uncomfortable, it’s challenging to just sit with those things that are uncomfortable so we look for a cause outside of ourselves. Maybe we don’t like what someone else said, or we disagree with their opinion. We think that if the other person would behave or think differently, then we would be happier. Rather than spending our time and energy looking inside and finding what we control in the situation, we try to change what we think is the cause.

The problem is that we misidentify the cause of our distress. We think the cause is someone or something else, but really it comes down to the story that we’re telling ourself. It’s the meaning that we give to what the other person said or did. We take their actions and words and interpret them to suit the narrative that going on in our minds. We spin what they other person says in a negative or positive light depending out our opinion of them.

One of the main reasons that we may try to change other people is that we want others to think like us. Human beings are very social animals and fitting in with others is very important. It’s part of what helps our survival. If there are more people who think like us, then we feel like our worldview is correct, and we feel safer. We feel like we’re part of how the world is supposed to be. When others disagree with us, we may feel like our worldview is under threat, which causes us to feel uncomfortable or even hostile. When it comes to an opinion that we hold very strongly, we may unconsciously feel fear when something comes along and challenges our beliefs. We don’t like the tension and so we try to change the other persons opinion.

I also think as humans we’re all a little lazy, or more to the point, our brains are lazy tries to be efficient. Taking time to figure out where we might be wrong or to figure out the the things we can control takes time and cognitive energy. It also takes energy to actually control the things we can. If we can get someone else to do the work, then we don’t have to. The problem with expecting others to do this kind of work, and to change for us, is that it makes others resentful, and the changes that we need to make don’t happen. Also, in the long run it means a lot more work for us if we expect others to change for us, we have to somehow convince all those other people to change to fit our worldview.

When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.

— Epictetus

So how do we work with this? How can we get better about recognizing and staying in a place where we don’t need to change other people in order for us to feel happy?

I think the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves why it is important that we change this other person? What do we get if they change their mind? What happens if they don’t? What are you making it mean if this person has a different opinion? What’s the story you’re telling yourself?

I think a lot of this behavior comes from insecurity. When we are insecure, we need others to agree with us in order for us to feel okay with ourselves. Our ego needs that validation in order for us to feel okay.

When we are comfortable with ourselves, we don’t need others to agree with us. Just as we wouldn’t argue with someone over whether 1 + 1 = 2, if we are really secure with ourselves, we would not feel threatened over someone disagreeing with us.

Don’t argue with people nor insist on showing them truth. Maybe it is you who needs to change your mind. Even if you are right you only incur resentment by trying to correct others.

—The Ancient Sage (@theAncientSage)

We also need to consider the fact that we might be the one who is wrong. Just because you think something and have an opinion about something does not mean that you are correct and the other person is not. When we take the time to really consider someone else’s opinion, we may find some problems with the opinion that we are holding. We would just realize that we had bad information and could adjust accordingly.

Lastly, we need to recognize that when we expect others to change for us, we give our power away because we are basing our comfort or happiness upon someone else changing for us. When we expect others to change for us, we are placing ourselves in the role of a victim. We’re unhappy and won’t feel happy until someone else changes and does what we want them to. Not a good way to to find equanimity.

Learning to let go of our ego and of our need to have other people think like we do can reduce a lot of stress in our lives. When we can listen to and be curious about other peoples opinions without taking it to mean that we’re wrong if we don’t agree with them. We can expand our worldview while at the same time preserve our equanimity.


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.

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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
philosophy stoicism

217 – Interview With Donald J. Robertson

An interview with Donald J. Robertson about his new graphic novel about Marcus Aurelius called Verissimus. We talk about all kinds of stoic history and the politics of his day.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

216 – Give yourself fully to your endeavors

Photographer: 919039361464473

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant.  
—Marcus Aurelius

Don’t let fear, low self-esteem and the negative voices hold you back from your true destiny. 
—David Goggins

One of the hardest things for me, and I’m sure that many of you fall into the same category, is to know what you want and have the courage to go after it. There are plenty of reason why this happens, and for the most part it comes down to fear, and the two biggest are fear of failure, and fear of disapproval of others. Today I want to talk about some changes I’m making in my life, and how I’m facing these fears.

First, I want to let you know that I’m putting the podcast on indefinite hiatus. While the podcast has been one of the greatest things I’ve created, it’s also helped me realize that I need to stop procrastinating on pursuing the things I really want to do. I need to face those fears, take those risks, and use my time in a way that will make me the happiest.

Sometimes the worst thing is to have something that is moderately successful, but ultimately doesn’t take you where you want to go. It becomes an excuse to hide behind. While the podcast has been successful with over 4 million downloads and 3 million of those downloads in just this year, it is also something that takes up a lot of time and focuses my energy away from the things that I really want to do. It has become an excuse to avoid going for what I really want and avoiding the possibility of failing.

How I Got Here

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

The careers I wanted to go into when I was younger were theater, film, TV, video games, and music. I loved acting and singing and thought that if I could make a living doing any of those, I would have my dream job.

So how did I end up as a software developer? Because I was afraid that wouldn’t be able to make it in the arts. I started out with good intentions and at one point did have what I see now was my favorite job. I had a part-time job at a financial firm making videos and graphics, recording audio, and even making music videos for a rap artist that the owner was supporting. I loved that job, but it was only part time and rather than figure out how to make it in that arena, I got a job in tech and learned how to program. I was afraid so I took the easier path.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a pretty good career as a software developer. It pays well and I’ve been able to support myself and my family. I’m not complaining by any means. But often when we are successful in something, we’re afraid to step onto a different path because we’re afraid of failure. We get so used to being successful, that failing at something, even though we expect it because we’re just starting out, is often too much to bear. This is what has kept me from stepping up and pursuing the things I want. bcause I won’t be nearly as good in other areas as I am in programming, at least not for quite some time.

This happened to me a few years ago when I decided to learn to play cello. I’m a pretty decent pianist and singer, and in my mind, I thought that I should be able to pick up cello pretty easily. When I found that it was far more challenging that I had thought and I was not making the progress I thought I should, I gave it up. That failing at the time was just too much for me. I had become so used to being good in other areas of music that when I failed to live up to my expectations, I couldn’t handle it, and because our minds don’t like failure, rather than changing my expectations and putting in the work to become good, I just decided it wasn’t for me.

Lessons Learned

With all of that said, I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working on this podcast. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how to apply stoicism in my life. I’ve learned that consistency is the key to any success. That putting out work, even if it’s not great is how to learn and get better, and then your work will be great. And even then, you’ll still put stuff out that’s not as good as you want, but you put it out anyway. I’ve said before:

Consistency is the killer of fear.

I’ve learned how to put together a good show with good content. I’ve become a better writer, and learned how to communicate difficult ideas and express them in a way that others can understand. I’ve learned how to dig a little deeper into things and have found that often times the better and more useful answer is counterintuitive and non-obvious.

I’ve learned how to speak better and use my voice to effectively convey my message. I feel more comfortable with being in front of the mic than I ever thought I would. I’ve learned how to record and master and put our episodes that wound up being close to professional level.

Creating this podcast has certainly been a good thing in my life, and I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned and all the support of received from you along the way. But even with all those good things that have come from this journey, we always need to be re-evaluating what we are doing with our lives and make sure that we are on a path that we want to be on. We need to have the courage to step up and take risks for the things that will bring us closer to our true goals. We also need to have the courage to let go of the things that no longer serve us.

What’s Next?

You can accomplish anything if you can: 1) prioritize ruthlessly 2) control your attention. Both of these have become particularly hard in the present age. As such those who can control these two critical factors will rule the world. 
—@TheAncientSage

For the past few years I’ve been dabbling in VR/AR/3D design. I find it exciting and a little scary because it’s not my area of expertise in the world of programming. But the more I dig into it, the more I see the possibilities for using this medium to create films, games, and musical experiences. I’m an artist at heart, and I love creating and exploring and finding ways to bring the things I dream up into existence. I know there’s a lot to learn, and I’ve been working up the courage and resolve to pursue this dream.

But to pursue this dream, I need to focus my time and energy on learning the tools of the trade and adding skills to my toolkit. In order to do this, I need to bring my focus, discipline, and dedication to this new venture, and let go of other distractions or I’ll burn myself out trying to do too much. If I don’t walk this path I’ll feel the same frustration that I’ve felt for much of my life, of knowing what I want, but not having the courage to step up and do what needs to be done.

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

So where does this leave the podcast? I plan on leaving the podcast up with my podcast host. I put a lot of time and energy into it, and I want to leave this out there as others may find them useful and helpful in understanding and applying stoicism in their lives. It’s possible that I may relate a book or an audio course at some point in the future, but for now, I need to focus my energy, time, and talents on becoming on what I’ve titled an “Immersive Experience Creator”.

If you enjoy this podcast and find value in it, I would really appreciate it if you would make a donation on Patreon. I have put thousands of hours of work into this podcast, so just as you would pay for an audio book, donating on Patreon would be helpful in offsetting hosting fees, and help fund my new ventures. You can find the page at https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee

Conclusion

Learning to let go of things that distract us from our path, especially things that are good, is really challenging. This is not a decision that I’ve come to lightly. It’s been filled with all kinds of second-guessing and trying to find ways to keep it going while I work on my other pursuits. But in the end, I realized that if I want to be successful in pursuing my dreams, I have give them my full attention. It has been a wonderful trip to share my thoughts and experiences with you, and I’m so grateful for all your support and wonderful emails. I hope that you have learned something from my experiences and insights, and I hope that when the time comes for you to have to make a hard choice of letting go of something good to go for something better, that you will have the courage to do so.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, please consider give a donation on Patreon at  https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee
You can also swing by the and pick up some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it.

Thanks again for listening.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, please consider give a donation on Patreon at  https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee
You can also swing by the and pick up some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it.

Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

215 – The Space Between

"When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.”
― Marcus Aurelius

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about equanimity and how it may be the most important idea that the stoics came up with. And the more I look into it, the more I see that this is the one of the most important principles, and a foundation for being able to apply the other principles more effectively. We can also see how important this is in other traditions such as Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, also promotes the idea of calming the mind as one of the highest virtues.

So why would this be the case?

I used to think that equanimity was a byproduct of following stoic principles. That if you learned to control what you can, and let go of the rest, then you could find more peace of mind. But the more I dig into it, the more I find it is almost the opposite. The calmer your mind, the easier it is to see what is under your control and what is not. The more you can keep an even keel, the more you can make better decisions under pressure.

Now don't get me wrong, practicing stoic principles can certainly help you have a calmer mind. When you learn to identify what you can't control and let go of those things, it certainly can reduce stress in your life. But if you are constantly feeling stressed, this process is much harder because you're starting out at a disadvantage.

Taking the time to practice mindfulness puts you at an advantage because you're already in a state of mind that is helpful. It's like the difference between preparing for a fight versus just being tossed into the ring at a moment's notice. Equanimity, mindfulness, meditation… all of these should not just be an afterthought, or "nice to have", but should be considered essential tools to your stoic practice.

Stimulus and Response

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. 
—Viktor Frankl

When you are upset, you are likely to sacrifice the wellbeing of tomorrow to appease the hurt feelings of today. Not a good trade. Subject your emotions to a cooling-off period before you allow them to guide major decisions.
—@TheStoicEmperor

One of the most important things that being mindful helps us do is think long term. If we are able to take that space between stimulus and response, and choose our response rather than just react, we are able to choose things that will benefit us better in the long run. If we are constantly in a space of reactivity, we let our emotions override our rationality and often do things that might feed whatever we need in the short term, but can have long term negative consequences. We are also less in command of ourselves and are much more easily controlled by others.

When can learn to take that moment to make a choice rather than react is one of the most powerful things that we can learn to do in our lives. Giving ourselves the power to choose how we respond in any situation is the ultimate expression of self control and power. The fact that we are always looking to make a choice, means that it's more likely we'll respond in a way we are proud of, and that ultimately leads to better outcomes for ourselves and those around us.

Monkey Mind

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. 
— Anonymous

Meditation and mindfulness are not the easiest things to do. Our minds are always on the run. The Buddhist have a great term for this called the "monkey mind". For many of us, when things get quiet, we get anxious and it feels like our minds are spinning even faster. What's really going on is that when you are not focusing on something, you see how busy your mind actually is. There is nothing wrong with this, it just is.

The most important thing that you can do with meditating is not to try and not think about anything, but to become more aware of what you're thinking. Meditation and mindfulness are just practices in awareness with each breath being like an anchor to maintain your state of observation. You take a breath, you notice a thought, you breathe out and just watch where the thought goes. Repeat.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation is intermittent fasting for the mind. Too much sugar leads to a heavy body, and too many distractions lead to a heavy mind. Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit.
— Naval Ravikant

A skilled warrior controls and tames their anger and uses it as fuel when necessary, but never lets it drive their choices and actions. They know that letting anger or fear drive their actions is more dangerous than any enemy they may face. Doing our best to cultivate a mind that is thoughtful, calm, and patient prepares us to be more resilient when we feel anger or fear and want to lash out and say or do impulsive things.

Like most things, it's always challenging to take what we know and turn it into what we do. Turning our daily practice of mindfulness into something that we do as a habit is something we need to practice as often as possible. And the thing is that we will fail, because if we never failed, we would never need to be mindful because we would just be mindful all the time. We will fail in our practice, and then we'll remember to be mindful, which we will do for a while, until we forget, and then remember to be mindful…and repeat.

This never ending cycle becomes part of our practice to be a little better each day. To be a little more present each day. To live up to our ideals a little more closely each day. This is one of those ideas that is obvious, but still not easy to always follow. A good way to help set the stage is making a practice of meditation each morning to or journalling start the day off are always good ways to set the stage for the day. Then it's just about refocusing your awareness throughout the day with being mindful.

So what’s a simple way to practice mindfulness? Think of it like this: Just as a normal meditation practice is all about awareness of your thinking and bringing focus back to your breathing when your mind wanders off, mindfulness is a reoccurring meditation that you do throughout your day, to bring your awareness to your thinking. When you do this, you remind yourself to be as present as possible, to not worry about things from the past, because they cannot be changed, and to not stress about future events because they are unknown and have not yet arrived.

Conclusion

When you can be better about living in the present, which is what mindfulness is all about, you will be more attentive and deliberate about what you are working on. When you are more deliberate, you bring more of your faculties to bear, you do better work, and you make better decisions. When you practice meditation, you deliberately choosing to develop equanimity rather than just hoping that it just happens.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
Also stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

214 – Embody Your Philosophy

Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. 
— Epictetus

Events in life mean nothing if you do not reflect on them in a deep way, and ideas from books are pointless if they have no application to life as you live it. 
— Robert Greene

The hardest thing about any philosophy is being able to apply what you learn in real life. We can read all the books, watch all the videos, follow all the gurus, but until we actually apply what we've learned, all of that learning is worthless.

Developing a practice of reflection and thinking deep about your life experiences and philosophy is a challenging endeavor, because it is often difficult to actually apply what we know. We know what we should and shouldn’t eat, but we struggle to eat a diet that is healthy for us. We know we should work out and keep ourselves in shape, but getting out of bed for the early morning run is not easy when you want that extra bit of of sleep.

So how do we live our philosophy? How do we move past just book learning, and into application of what we have learned? This is something that has been a real challenge for me, so I’m guessing that it’s a challenge for others.

Learning to reflect on what life brings our way, what we can learn from it, and how we can grow from it is something that take effort and thoughtfulness. Connecting what we learn to how we act is always an ongoing process, but unless we figure out how to do that, then our knowledge is wasted, and we continue on as before.

To be honest, I don’t have some perfect way to apply philosophy, but it’s something that I think about every day. Every time I fail to keep an even keel when things are challenging, it’s always a struggle to slow down, breathe, and let go of the feelings that were so strong and overwhelming just moments before. But lately, I’ve been practicing a few ideas to help keep me in a mindset that has been more helpful and more aware.

Acceptance

Peace must be found in the imperfect present.
— The Stoic Emperor

One of the most important things that I’ve been working on is acceptance. Life is never going to be exactly the way that we want. Ever. There will always be something to complain about. There will always be wars, natural disasters, turmoil and chaos somewhere in the world. There will always be something "wrong".

Often, I have found myself feeling irritated or annoyed because things aren't the way that I want them. When we spend time wishing for things to be otherwise, we are refusing to accept reality as it is. Getting into a mindset of accepting things are they are and not as I wish is always a challenge.

The more I practice acceptance of what is, the easier it is to work with what is. Acceptance is not the same as resignation. We don't despair, but we don't also don't see the world through Pollyanna eyes. It's not that we give up trying to find positive elements in our situation, but find peace in the imperfectness of life.

Facing Challenges

Failure and deprivation are the best educators and purifiers. 
—Albert Einstein

If everything is life was easy, there would be little incentive to improve and grow. Facing up to, and overcoming challenges is what brings the greatest pleasure in life. When we are simply given something with no effort on our own, we are robbed of the chance to learn and grow. I know for me, the things that I earned through hard work and persistence always feel more rewarding than things that I was just given.

When we face a great challenge, we get the opportunity to bring all our skills, wits, and wisdom to bear, as well as acquire new strengths and skills. If we are never tested, never challenged, then we stagnate or even atrophy. Muscles and skills that go unused are pretty much worthless unless we actually use and develop them.

Learning to view challenges as the key to growth is hard! We want things to be easy and go our way. I propose that we work on getting better at the meta-skill of seeing challenges as the path to growth not the obstacle. Then we can face any challenge with the right perspective.

Equanimity

The wise man is neither raised up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity; for always he has striven to rely predominantly on himself, and to derive all joy from himself. 
— Seneca

Life is always going to be throwing you curveballs. Sometimes you're ready for them and knock it out of the park. Other times you can be as prepared as possible and you still falter. Still other times, you're caught completely off guard. There's no such thing as getting what you deserve (or not), because the universe doesn't really care. Life happens not as we want, but as it will, and we’re just along for the ride.

If we are wise, we recognize this truth and understand that our happiness should not be dependent on external things. If we attach our happiness to our careers or possessions, what happens when we lose those? You could get fired tomorrow. Your house could burn down. If your self worth, your pride, are wrapped up in those things, you are handing over your control to things outside of yourself.

When we recognize that we have control of our happiness by appreciating the good AND the bad, and recognize that this is just how life is, we are better able to take what happens in stride.

To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.
—Zen proverb

The more we learn about the brain, the we learn that we are constantly bombarded by stimulus, and everything that enters our conscious awareness impacts us, no matter how small. Add in the noise of the modern world and finding some peace of mind is becoming more and more of a challenge. Being calm is not just a matter of will, it's a matter of practice. The more we practice, the stronger our ability to call upon our ability to be calm.

And why is developing the skill of calmness so important? If we are constantly being buffeted about by every stimulus, sensation, or emotion, we are never really in control of ourselves. We are also easily manipulated by those who can arose our anger or fear.

Calmness for me does not necessarily mean quiet. One can practice mindfulness in the middle of chaos, which is one of the most important places to be calm. Equanimity is about the internal calmness, not about what is happening outside of ourselves. We need to be that calm in storm. The quest for equanimity is always an ongoing practice, and one of the most important skills we can develop.

Practice

I think the best way to live your philosophy is to cultivate a mindset or calmness . It’s taking that time each morning to set the mood for your day. Meditation, journal writing, exercise – these are all things that help us to get in the mindset that works to find that equanimity, that balance, that helps us in our daily lives. And when we practice meditating in the morning, it makes it just a little easier to be mindful throughout the day. That mindfulness can be that bit of awareness that we need that buys us those moments between stimulus and response that allows us to choose for ourselves and make wise choices, rather than just reacting.

Conclusion

Developing a useful mindset of equanimity is not something that just happens. It’s something that you have to cultivate and work on each day. It’s something that takes effort and constant reminders. You may remember to be mindful and aware of your thinking and what’s going on around you, only to forget again a few minds later, and have to bring your focus back to being mindful. But each and every time you fail, and remember, and bring your focus back to being mindful, then you have strengthened that mental muscle just a little more. And it’s the thoughts that count.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
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Categories
wisdom

212 – Friction

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Anxieties can only come from your internal judgement.

— Marcus Aurelius

We all have things in our lives that seems to stop us from completing things that we really want to do. Often, these things aren’t even all that big but end up being show stoppers nonetheless. Today I want to talk about why it’s important to pay attention to the things that get in your way, and some possible ways to get around them.

The other day I was listening to the Hidden Brain podcast and they were talking about the idea that we get stopped from doing things by obstacles that we don’t even really notice. We spend a lot of time and energy on adding fuel to our efforts, such as improving our skills, or spending more time or money, but we miss the small and sometimes seemingly trivial things that are really hammering our progress.

So what do I mean by friction? Friction is anything that slows you down from completing your task. Friction is different than an obstacle in that an obstacle is something obvious and very evidently in the way of completing your task. Friction on the other hand is usually something smaller, subtle, and much harder to figure out.

As a simple example of friction, if you’ve ever been ice skating, a zamboni out on the ice is an obstacle. It is something clearly in your path and something that you’ll need to go around. A rough patch of ice is friction, and while it doesn’t stop you it can slow you down and make your time on the ice much slower.

Why is it easier to add fuel than it is to remove friction? Fuel is obvious. Fuel is resources. Whether that’s time, money, effort, it’s the necessary elements that make up whatever it is you’re working on. It’s things that can be added. If you’re trying to send a rocket into space, adding more fuel to lift you out of Earth’s orbit make sense.

Friction on the other hand is usually something small. They’re usually hard to detect, and may time a lot of time. Often we ignore it as well because each one in and of itself may not be a big deal, but cumulatively several small frictions can add up, and have just as much impact as an obstacle. Back on our rocket analogy, this would be like removing every possible bit of weight that you could from your rocket and payload.

Adding More Fuel

Often times when we’re trying to work on or improve something, we do so by adding fuel. This often is the easiest part because we know what we need to add to something. By this I mean we put more effort into it, push harder, or maybe add more resources. But often times, what is foiling our efforts is not that we aren’t putting enough time or energy or money into something, it’s that we aren’t examining the things that are in the way. It’s not that we need more fuel, it’s that we need to remove friction.

Understanding that sometimes adding more fuel sometimes can actually be detrimental was a lesson that I learned while I was training for short course triathlons. A triathlon for those that don’t know, consists of swimming, cycling, and running, and while I’m not a great runner, I found that swimming was probably the most challenging aspect. When I first started out I could do 500m in about 20 minutes. Just on my own I was about get that time down to about 16 minutes, but it didn’t seem to matter how hard I swam, I couldn’t cut any significant amount off that time.

Then I purchased a book on how to improve my swimming technique, and as I read through all the different pointers, there were two small changes that had a giant impact my time. The first one, was that I needed to reduce the amount of drag that I had in the water by changing my stroke just a little more to the center of my body. Basically, reaching right over the top of my head, rather than to the side. This small change help me be more aerodynamic, and flow through the water a little more smoothly.

The second change, which seemed most counter-intuitive, was that I needed to slow down and use less strokes for each lap. At first I thought, this was crazy, but I tried it and bam! I found that by trying to trying to slow down and use less strokes, my strokes became longer, which helped center my body, and more efficient because less movement also created more flow in the water. By shaving off 2-3 strokes per lap in the pool, I dropped my time closer to 10 minutes.

Resistance

In his book, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield talks about the idea of Resistance. Resistance is the opposing force in any creative endeavor, or any endeavor to improve ourselves. To me, Resistance is the mental friction that keeps us from doing our work and accomplishing our task. Whether it’s composing music, writing a novel, starting a company or non-profit, or even just trying to get back in shape, Resistance are the blocks that our minds put into place slow or stop our progress.

Pressfield defines it like this:

Resistance comes arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.

The thing about Resistance is that it happens to everyone. Those people that are most successful know this. They get that is not something to be feared, but understood. They don’t run away from their enemy, but study it, learn it’s tricks, and find ways to counter every move.

The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

— Ryan Holiday

The Path of Least Resistance

Part of why we often make the choices we do is because we tend to follow the path of least resistance. When we come up against a challenge, we tend to choose the easier way through. If you’re walking in the woods, you’re more likely to follow a path that others have already created. When we work on achieving our goals or making personal changes we will also take the path of least resistance, and that’s not always a good thing. If we’re trying to change our diet but we don’t make it easy for ourselves to follow our new plan, then we’re likely going to fall back on old eating habits because they’re much easier and require a lot less work. For example, I know some people who will batch cook meals one night a week so that they have healthy meals every day of the week, rather than trying to come up with some each night that fits into their diet.

Figuring out what is friction in your life is not an easy task. There are so many small things that keep up from stepping up and doing the thing that we want. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence. Maybe it’s a lack of skill. Maybe it’s a thought pattern or anxiety that keeps us from making the first step. Whatever it is, the more we can do to reduce the friction that we have in our lives, the better off we’ll be when we work on pursuing the things that we want.

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

—Marcus Aurelius

Recognition

So how can you tell what items are friction and getting in your way of not accomplishing what you want? Often times it can be found when listing out why you are struggling with something. It usually starts with some something like, “I can’t x because of y”. For example, I have friend that gets anxious driving and parking downtown. In their minds they think, “I can’t meet up with friends downtown because parking is so stressful.” In a case like this doing things like finding a parking garage on a map, taking an Uber, or carpooling with a friend is a way to reduce friction of meeting up with friends.

Perfectionism

I think one of the most pernicious and most obvious forms of friction is perfectionism. It’s the idea that if we can’t produce something that is good enough or follow our plan well enough that we shouldn’t even try. I know that when I sit down to work on music I will often get overwhelmed because I know that most of what I create that session won’t be very good, at least not at first. This is something that even though I’ve created music that I like, such as the theme to this podcast, I still struggle every time I sit down at the piano because of the pressure I put on my self.

Distractions

Often we have things that distract us that keep us accomplishing our tasks. There are plenty of things that are easier to do than to put the work in. Our phones, Netflix, email, the internet, are all distractions that can keep us from working on things that we want. These aren’t bad things but we need to be honest about if we are using them to distract us from working on things that we want. Often these are things that feel productive, like answering emails or reading up on something for work. But are they really? Sometimes we do these things because we feel like we are doing work, but we’re not progressing towards our goals. We’re not moving the needle.

Never let people who choose the path of least resistance steer you away from your chosen path of most resistance.

—David Goggins

Social Costs

Sometimes when embark on changing something in our lives we may find that the social costs are something we don’t want to pay. Sometimes this can be our friends or family might not approve of what we want to do, so we avoid doing it, even if we know that it is good for us or it’s something that we want to do. I’ve read that sometimes people are often sabotaged by partners or family members when they want work on losing weight or getting into shape. Other people may not want the us to change, because it may mean that the relationship will change. For example, if one partner is losing weight the other partner may feel threatened because they don’t want to change their eating habits, or they may feel if their partner loses weight and gets into shape, that they may no longer be attractive to the partner that has changed.

Another big example of where let friction stop us from moving forward is our careers. We will often stay at job that we are unhappy with because the friction of finding another job and leaving is too great. We will stay in a field we don’t like because planning out and learning new set of skills can feel overwhelming. It can often be a simple as the idea of taking the time to update our resume seems like too much work, or setting up an account on a job site feels like too much of a hassle.

Reduce Friction

So how do we reduce friction in our lives? I think the biggest thing that we can do is to simply recognize the friction. Once we recognize it, then we can work on strategies to reduce or eliminate the friction. If we suffer from perfectionism, then we can treat our work or tasks as times of play and curiosity, and reduce the pressure to have some to good to just having something at all. If we are easily distracted, we can work to create a distraction free space. If we’re getting friction from our partners or friends, we have frank conversations with them and ask for their support. We do anything that we can to reduce the friction.

When I started this podcast, I found that a friction point for me was that I felt like I didn’t know how to record voices very well. I had been composing music in Logic Pro, so I could use audio software reasonably well, but using a mic to record my voice and make it sound good seemed so overwhelming that it kept me from doing it. So instead of using my expensive equipment, I used my iPhone for significant portion of the first episodes. Once I felt more comfortable with my process, I moved over to recording in Logic, and continued to improve my skills at mixing and recording my voice.

Conclusion

Each of us is going to have different points of friction for the things that we work on in our lives. Often we don’t even recognize what these things are, and in doing so, we may be missing small things that keep us from accomplishing what we set out to do. We may be trying our hardest and putting in extra effort, but finding that we are still falling short, or even digressing. Recognizing and removing the small things in our way can often have the largest impact.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
Also stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break Control

205 – Two Sides of the Same Coin

Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

— Epictetus

One topic that I revisit on the podcast repeatedly is how important it is to control the things that we can’ and let go of the things that we can’t. For me, this is one of the most important lessons we can learn in our lives. In this episode, I want to talk about how we be more mindful of what we can, and what we cannot control.

What Do You Control?

According to the stoics, we control very little. Mostly, we can control our thoughts and perspective, our choices, and our actions. Everything else is outside of our control. For many people, the idea that we are so small, powerless, and insignificant is an unsettling thought.

Two Sides

I like to think of control as two sides of the same coin. If you are controlling the things that you can, and letting go of the things that you can’t, you are being effective and respecting yourself. You are the master of yourself. If you are trying to control the things that you can’t, like other people, or the circumstances that you are facing, then you are not controlling what you can, and you are wasting time and energy. You can’t control yourself and external things at the same time. You can do one or the other.

Blame

Many people are very unsettled because they have so little power in their lives and it makes them very anxious and angry. They want to feel like they have more control. They don’t like the fact that they have so little power in the world to influence things. They feel like their lives are not under their control. The most interesting thing is that most people I’ve met who feel this way ironically choose to blame other people for all the things they are unhappy about. They may blame their partner, their parents, immigrants, the government, the weather, bad luck, the devil,… and the list goes on. Rather than do the hard work of being responsible for themselves, their emotions, their choices, they blame other people.

Victim

When we choose not to control the things that we can, we are allowing ourselves to become a victim. When we have options in front of us we could take, but we don’t make a choice or take an action, then we are at least partially responsible for our situation. And I say partially, because we may be in a situation that we don’t like, but may have done nothing to get ourselves there. If we are in a car accident because of someone else’s recklessness, we may have an injury that we are not responsible for, but how we approach our recovery is up to us. We may not recover back to full health because there are things outside of our control, but how we see and act in our lives despite these challenges is always our choice.

Fate

So what about things that we don’t have control over? This is where the idea of control dovetails with Amor Fati, that we love our fate, meaning that fate, circumstance, life happens to all of us, whether we like it or not. We don’t have control over what life sends our way. We have control over how we respond. It may be true that you a victim of circumstance, and that you are suffering from something out of your control. Natural disasters, political upheavals, and wars, for example, are all things that have profound impacts on us we have no control over. These things also limit the choices and opportunities that someone may have. I consider myself lucky that I have never had to live through any of these kind of events, which makes me even more empathetic to those that have had to suffer through them. I hope that if I were ever tested with any of these, that I could put stoic teachings into practice.

Other People

One of the most frustrating things we struggle with in life is other people. If other people just acted in the way that we wanted, life would be so much easier! But that’s the thing, it never does, and people don’t always act the way want them to. When we learn to let go of trying to control other people and their thoughts and actions, and focus on showing up in the world how we want to, then we can let go of what other people do or think. We can focus on what we do and think. We can make our choices, and take actions that are inline with our values, regardless of what other people are doing, and we can be the person who we want to be no matter what is happening around us.

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.

—Epictetus

Mindfulness

Since we have so little that we control, what can we do to maximize our influence? What can we do to be more effective with the things we have control over? I think that much of it comes from mindfulness – that we are in control of, and aware of, our own minds. If we are not paying attention to the thoughts in our minds, it makes it very challenging to understand why we make the choices and take the actions that we do. Meditation and journaling are still two of the best methods for understanding the workings of our own minds.

Practice

When we’re in a challenging situation, we need to understand how our mind works, and that we have practiced how we want to respond in any situation. When I was first starting out college, I was enrolled in the musical theater program. I wanted to be an actor and a singer, and a big part of being good at that was rehearsal. When cast in a play, there were weeks of rehearsals in order to perform our best. Sometimes it was very challenging. Long days of school followed by running lines and practicing dance numbers or staging was exhausting. And the thing was, that we certainly did not get it right the first few times. Often, we would have practiced a dance number dozens of times, night after night, to the point where I would almost be annoyed by the music and the dance moves. But as soon as we hit opening night and show started, there was an excitement night after night as the hard work that we put in showed up on stage. And even then, each performance got a little better.

When we take the time to think through and imagine how we want to behave in certain scenarios, it can go a long way towards helping us develop better responses in difficult situations. You can do this in journaling by writing out how we want to act in a given situation that comes up in your life.

Boundaries

One of the best ways for us to exert control over what we have control over is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is a way for us to clearly explain to others, and ourselves, what we will and will not accept. It teaches others how we want to be treated, and it helps us maintain our own inner equanimity. Boundaries are not ultimatums, but are ways to clarify how we wish to be treated, and when others are not willing to respect those boundaries, we have set clear responses of what actions we will take. We may excuse ourselves and leave the situation. We may limit the time that we spend them. We may cut off contact altogether. These are all about communicating what we need and will accept, and following through with those commitments to respect ourselves.

Values

When we are clear about our values, and the kind of person who we want to be, it makes it easier to show up in the world the way we want. When we have decided who we are and are very clear in our mind about who we are, then what other people do and what circumstances we find yourself in matter very little. We are who we want to be; we uphold those values, and stand by our principles, regardless of what others do. If our values and actions change base upon others, then we are not in control of ourself. We are allowing them to control us.

Conclusion

When you are facing a challenging situation, recognizing what you have control over and acting upon those things is not a simple task. It is something that you will probably fail at. I know I do often. But when I take the time to think through the kind of person who I want to be, and imagine and rehearse how I want to handle myself, I usually do a much better job. It really comes down to knowing yourself, recognizing what you can control, and taking actions that align with who you want to be.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast. You'll meet your fellow Stoics, and have a place where you can share your life experiences and what you've learned along the way. Also stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
wisdom

203 – Belief Without Evidence is Wrong

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

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We all like to think that we are wise, that our opinions are well thought out, and that we’re smart enough to spot when we have inconsistent beliefs. Today I want to talk about why believing something without sufficient evidence is wrong, and that idea that how we come to a belief or a conclusion is more important than whether the belief or conclusion is correct.

Wisdom

One of the four virtues of stoicism is Wisdom. Wisdom is not just the acquisition of information, but the skill of properly applying the knowledge that we gain to make better choices and actions. It is our job to learn, to see clearly, and act upon the truth, but even more important than reaching the correct outcome, is having a correct process of learning and discovering the truth.

William K. Clifford was an English mathematician and philosopher in the late 1800s. He wrote a well thought out essay called “The Ethics of Belief”, in which he discusses how it is immoral to believe something without evidence, even if you end up being correct in your belief. But why is it so important to make sure that the process we use to form beliefs is sound? Because if you come to a belief based upon faulty evidence, then you can’t be sure that next time you use the same thinking that you’ll get to the correct outcome. Basically, you may think that you are smart because you got it right, but you didn’t. If you use the same thinking process, you may not be as lucky. Having a correct process helps you to be more consistent and to reach correct or more correct conclusions, more often.

Say, for example, you have a friend who is in the same math class you’re in. Your friend is an average student, and on a big test, they get a perfect score. Shortly after, you hear a rumor that your friend cheated on the test. You have no proof of this, nor do any of the people you talk to have any tangible proof, beyond their own speculation that the only way your friend could have done so well on the test, was to cheat. You decide to accuse your friend of cheating, and report them to the teacher.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes. Let’s say that your friend did not cheat, and after they are cleared of any wrongdoing, you retract what you said and try to make amends. You may have spoiled the friendship because you accused your friend with no actual evidence, other than the rumors spread by others.

Let’s say your friend did cheat, and you feel vindicated because you were correct. But should you? No. You are just as wrong as the first case because you made an accusation with insufficient evidence. It was just by chance that you ended up on the right side. You had no evidence to reason through that your friend had actually cheated. Based on the evidence you had, you made an assumption; you guessed. You had no right to come to the conclusion that your friend had cheated on the test. This is dangerous because once you have been “correct”, you are less likely to question yourself the next time because you guessed correctly this time.

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

— Epictetus

Process Over Outcome

When we reach the correct answer but have an invalid process, we have not learned how to make better decisions, so we actually do ourselves a disservice. If we don’t understand why we’re correct, or at the very least admit that we just got lucky and guessed correctly, then we will never create a framework that helps us to be successful consistently.

For example, often entrepreneurs will get lucky. They’ll have a lucky break that may not have anything to do with them. Perhaps the weather happens to ruin their chief competitor. They’ll attribute their success to something else, such as their own brilliance or the superiority of their product, and are unwilling to attribute it to the luck of circumstance that broke in their favor. They may not really understand the lucky break that helped lead to their success. They think because they were successful once they know how to be successful again.

No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may someday explode into overt action, and leave its stamp upon our character for ever.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

Beliefs Lead to Action

Why is it so important that we don’t hold on to beliefs that are incorrect or based on insufficient evidence? The beliefs that we hold, even illogical ones that we think are just our private beliefs, influence the choices we make and the actions we take in our everyday life, and some that can have pretty serious consequences.

An example of this how beliefs can impact the choices people make can be seen in when we look at vaccines and the pandemic. People have been fed a steady diet of how they should distrust the government, usually by politicians for their own benefit – though I find it disingenuous because these politicians are usually seeking reelection, so they’re the ones running things. This continuous disinformation campaign from politicians, pundits, talk show host, and others with a hidden agenda has eroded trust in the institutions that are in place to help us a society weather such events.

As we’ve seen cases of the Delta variant climbing higher over the past few months, it comes because of this distrust. We see that 98% of those dying from Covid are unvaccinated, and it’s not because the vaccine is not available, but the majority are refusing to get vaccinated because of the distrust they have in the government and its institutions, distrust of science, or distrust of vaccines.

Because of this belief that they hold, evidence that is presented is filtered through this distrust. Experts who have spent their lives in the service of humanity, who have dedicated their careers, are dismissed as unreliable, or even threatened for presenting evidence contrary to this belief.

If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.

— Marcus Aurelius

You Want to Believe

So what are some of the reasons we believe things without sufficient evidence? When we come into this world, we are given a world view, a belief system from our parents, our religion, and our culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We’re taught traditions, beliefs, and stories about how the world is, and it’s how we learn how to function in the world. Where we run into trouble, is that most of us are brought up not to question the world around us. We get in trouble for not simply obeying the rules, and often shamed for asking questions about things we don’t understand.

In my own experience, I was taught that obedience to the church leaders was more important than anything else. I always found the idea of blind faith troubling, because it makes abuse of power very easy, and we have seen this happen time after time. Also, to me it makes a mockery of god. If god just wanted me to just be obedient, why did he give me a mind that wanted to find answers, to question things that seemed illogical, and try to make sense of the world? When I was told to ignore evidence because it went against the teachings of the church, it made me distrust the person teaching it. They were telling me to ignore my own sense of reasoning, logic, and to just take their word for it.

Now, religion is not the only place where we see misguided beliefs that are not questions. There have been plenty of beliefs, ideas, and theories taught in schools or treated as common sense that were taken as fact. There was no proof, but because they have been around so long, were just assumed to be true. For example, for centuries, women have been treated as if they were mentally inferior to men in science, art, literature, music, and many other fields. Because of these ideas, women were denied education, careers, and often treated as second class citizen, all because of a belief that they just were not on the same level as men. This allowed those in charge to point out that there were not a lot of prominent women in as proof that this was true, all the while ignoring the fact that women were denied opportunities to make any contributions, thus creating a self reinforcing belief. It has taken a lot of hard work for our society to move past these ideas, and we still have a long way to go.

On a personal level, we often create beliefs about ourselves because they were things we were told about ourselves, or conclusions we came to through faulty thinking. Maybe we think we’re not very smart or creative because our parent told us so. Maybe we believe we don’t deserve to be treated respectfully, because we’re been treated poorly by others. One that I struggle with from time to time is that I’m not worthy of being loved because I lose my temper. There are plenty of beliefs that we adopt because our brains try to make sense of the world around us.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.

—Epictetus

It’s Okay to be Wrong

So how to do we get better at challenging our beliefs? I think probably the most important aspect is that we need to be willing to be wrong. This is probably the hardest part. When we feel we are right about something, it feels good and we feel confident. We don’t like to be wrong because it feels uncomfortable and scary. So we avoid being wrong at all costs.

And how do try to avoid this? We’ll avoid admitting we’re wrong by discounting evidence that we don’t like. We’ll reinterpret or spin things in a way that shows our position in a more favorable light. We’ll double down on our position. We’ll get angry, which is a way to manipulate others to support our position. We’ll deflect and try to blame others for their shortcomings.

When we get comfortable knowing that we’re going to be wrong a lot, we can avoid a lot of anxiety and stress. We can be humble and think of ourselves as seekers of knowledge, not as the fountain of truth.

I think one of the best ways to start is to get comfortable with this is practice incorporating some of the following phrases into our language.

“In light of new information, I’ve changed my mind.”

“From the evidence provided, it looks like I need to rethink my position.”

“You make good argument. I’ll consider what you said.”

“I never thought of it that way. Thanks. Now I will.”

Once we are willing to be okay with being wrong, then we can take the time to ask more questions about our belief.

Where did I learn this? Who did I learn this from? What are their motivations behind promoting this belief? Understanding the source of this belief can help you be aware of conflicts of interest from others and yourself.

What evidence is available to support this belief? Are there scientifically rigorous studies, or experts in this area, that can help me learn more about it? We don’t suffer from a lack of information in this world. We suffer from a willingness to look objectively at that information and follow where it leads us, even if we don’t like the results.

How does this belief help me? Understanding this can help us see why we might unconsciously hold on to a belief. Often we want to hold on to a belief because it helps us. Maybe we find comfort in it because the alternative is too uncomfortable or scary. Often, just asking this question alone can help us see that a belief does not serve us, and we can work on letting it go.

Conclusion

The beliefs we have about the world guide our choices and actions. Doing our best to put our beliefs through a rigorous process can help us reach better conclusions. And even when we are correct, we should be willing to always work on refining our process of testing our beliefs. It is not enough that we have the correct answer. More important is how we got there.

—-
Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break death Time

202 – Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It

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“While we wait for life, life passes.”

— Seneca

Time is the most important, the most in demand resource that we have in life. Are you spending yours wisely or do you let it go to waste? Today I want to talk about time, and how we can take some steps to be mindful of how we spend it.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

— Seneca

How Much Time?

The most finite resource that each of us has is our time. We can always make more money, but making more time is not something that any of us can do. We only have a finite number of hours in our life, and we don’t even know how many we truly have. Which is all the more reason we should work on spending our time more wisely.

“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yeta we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tightfisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

— Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life,”

Wasting Time

What are the time-suckers in your life? How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend on watching Netflix on a given night? None of these things are bad in and of themselves. I enjoy good movies and art because those are things that I enjoy in this life. Life doesn’t need to be so serious and all about work, but we need to be thoughtful about how we spend our time, just as we should be thoughtful about how we spend our money. For example, I limit my time on Facebook since it such an easy rabbit hole to fall into. I can waste hours just scrolling and trying to stay up on everyone’s posts, soI limit myself to about 15-20 minutes a day to catch up with friends and see what’s happening in their lives.

When I was in college, I saw a talk given by movie critic Micheal Medvid. While I don’t see eye to eye with him on a lot of things, he said something that really stuck with me. He said talked about how at the time the average American watched an average of 28 hours of TV a week. And this was before we had Facebook or Netflix. He talked about the fact that it’s not that there isn’t enough quality media to watch. There’s plenty of good material. It’s that we lose a lot of our lives if we’re immersed in that much TV. We miss family connections. We miss out on living our own lives when we live by proxy of watching someone else’s life, real or fictional.

Intentionality

I want you to ask yourself, “what do I want to accomplish in my life?”. Do you know what that is? When you know that, every choice you make then becomes a simple question: “Does this get me closer to the vision of my life?” When you have a clear filter of what you want, it makes it easier to decide. Be aware though, once you know your purpose, there will be times when you have to pass opportunities that seemed more fun but do not help to fulfill the vision and purpose of your life.

But to be sure, it doesn’t need to be all about work and achieving your vision. I think part of having a good and happy life is to choose things from time to time that enhance your life that have nothing to do with your purpose of life. Watch films just for fun. Read books that are guilty pleasures. Have variety in your life and make sure that you enjoy the pleasures of being human! What it really comes down to is being clear and deliberate about the things that you choose to spend your time on. It comes to making sure that you really think about each “yes” and “no”.

Priority

Multi tasking is not really something we can do as humans, and yet we continue to think that we can do more than one thing at a time. But for me, the question is why? Why would you want to focus on multiple things? When you are not focused on the task at hand, then you are not deeply immersed in what you are doing. You do it less well, take longer to do it, and can easily miss out on some of the more subtle aspects of the task. I know that for me when I’m writing or working on music, the more focused I am, the more I enjoy the work, and the better my work is. I’m able to be more creative, come up with more interesting ideas, and discover concepts that I would have missed if I had not been immersed in my work.

I often hear the term that you have to “set your priorities”. The thing is, you can’t have priorities. Priority means “fact or condition of coming first in importance or requiring immediate attention”, meaning the concept is singular – at any given time, there can only be one priority. You may have a hierarchy of tasks on your todo list, but there can be only one priority at a time.

So what is your priority? This is going to be different for everyone. For some, family is their priority. For others, it may be their work. Others it may be service to a cause. There is nothing that dictates what your priority should be. Each person needs to decide for themselves what is most important for them. And why is important to have your priority figured out at any given moment? Because if you aren’t clear about what you are trying to focus on, it’s very easy to get distracted, and to get off track. If you don’t have a clear vision of where you want to go, then you’ll end up exactly where aim – nowhere.

And the thing is, it’s going to vary for each person. Everyone has different things that are of more or less importance than others. And we need to understand that what we find important is not going to be the same for others. And that’s okay. If everyone had the exact same priority, we’d have a very much less interesting world to live in. Understanding what your priority is at any given moment can help guide you in focusing on the things that are most rewarding.

Core Values

One of the areas that can help you choose what your priority is at any given moment is by understanding your core values. I’ve talked a lot about figuring out what your core values are in order to help you understand what should be at the top of your list. Knowing what is important to you and filtering things through the lens of your core values can help you quickly determine what is worth your time and effort and what you bump off your todo list.

Changes

As you move through the different stages of life, you’ll find that the things that were important to you in your teen years will be far different from those in your twenties. Those things that seemed so important in your twenties will change dramatically in your thirties. Every stage of life is space of learning new things. You’ll have different responsibilities and different things competing for your time. You’ll find that some things you thought were so important when you were in college seem ridiculous when you’ve you look back on them 10 years later. As we learn and grow as people, we’re always going to be changing.

Indecision

When we don’t know what we want to achieve in our lives, we can easily fall into a space of indecision. We get suck on trying to find the “right” path and often find ourselves with many interesting choices and unsure which way to go. I have often struggled with deciding where to focus my time outside of work. For a long time I would go back and forth between my different hobbies, choosing to focus on one for a while and then another. I felt guilty about it for a while, but looking back on how things have evolved in my life over the past few years, I wish that I would have been more gentle with myself and just enjoyed what I was working on. I was so worried about being successful at what I was doing that I didn’t always enjoy it while I was doing it. I can see now that switching back and forth was actually what I needed because, at certain times, I need different things in my life. I also needed to experiment with my different hobbies and see what worked and what was fulfilling. I think that is why I taking a year and a half off from the podcast was actually really helpful for me. It took the pressure off, so when I returned, I returned to it with pleasure because I missed the process of creating episodes and the personal growth that it helped me with.

If you’re in this place of indecision, that’s okay. What I would suggest is that you just do something. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, just do something that seems interesting or fulfilling. You don’t have to be successful at it for it to be a good thing in your life. Focusing on being successful at something can take the enjoyment out of doing something. Not everything has to lead to some accomplishment, and you can always change your mind. Just doing something you truly love for the joy and pleasure of it as part of being human!

Conclusion

Anytime is a good time for us to look at what we’re spending our time on in life. Taking time to be sure that the things we’re spending our time on are moving us forward towards the kind of life we want to have is something we should do on a regular basis. By taking the time to evaluate if the goals that we have line up with our priority and our core values, we can be better at choosing those activities that enhance our lives. We can be sure to use our most precious resource wisely.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Purpose

198 – The Fear of Knowing What You Want

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Do you really know what you want? When you think about what you want, does it excite you? Does it scare you? Are you pursuing what you want? In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about why it’s scary to know what you want, and why that’s a good thing.

“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A person’s true delight is to do the things they were made for.”

—Marcus Aurelius

This week, I got an email from a listener who said she was struggling with being in a career that she felt no passion for but felt like she couldn’t leave for practical reasons, and asked if I could devote some time to this idea. I felt strongly about this because, as I’ve been working on putting things together for the Stoic Coffee community, I’m facing my own fears and doubts. I know it will take a lot of work. It will challenge me in ways that I can’t even imagine. It also creates excitement because of the opportunities that it can open up for me to connect with you, my listeners, and the ideas and things that we can work on together.

The Challenge

We all face the challenge of knowing what we want. There are so many reasons we struggle to know what we want. Why is this so challenging? Because we have been told our whole lives by our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, churches, and society what we’re supposed to want. Taking the time and the effort to know what we want is not something they teach us to do. We just assume that we’ll know what we want.

There are all kinds of forces that influence what we believe and what we feel is acceptable to want. Every culture has lots of biases about what is acceptable. Some cultures hold doctors in high esteem and look down on artists. Others may consider being a farmer is more important than being a banker. There are all kinds of explicit and implicit messages about what we should want and what is unacceptable. But these are things that should not matter. These are things outside of your control. If you are choosing what you want based upon what society or religion or family tell you, then you are choosing based upon the opinions of others.

Religious influences can also have a big impact on what is acceptable. In my case, there was such a big push to get married and have kids, that the thought of becoming a musician or actor was downright scary because I was afraid that I could not provide for a family while working in such unpredictable industries.

With those closest to us, there is a lot of pressure to conform to what they want for us. To go against what they expect is scary, and downright terrifying. Families have an outsized influence on the careers we choose, the people we marry, and the values we hold, which can make it challenging when we know they might disapprove of the things we want.

These are all powerful forces, and to seize the rudder of our ship and chart our own course can feel overwhelming. There are strong currents pulling us all different ways and if we don’t have a clear destination in mind, then we just go where these currents take us. But there is a way that we can figure out where we want to go amidst all the noise and chaos.

We slow down, tune out the noise, and listen.

Listen to what?

Listen to the sound of your breath and the rhythm of your heartbeat. You pay attention to the thoughts in your mind. When you do this, you hear what your mind and heart truly want. You become aware of your actions in everyday life. You notice the things that get you excited and the things that sap your energy.

The truth is most of us know what we want, but to say it out loud is scary… and exciting. Do you know why it is scary AND exciting? Because fear and excitement feel the same. If what you want scares you, that’s great because it means that it’s exciting! It’s thrilling! It means it’s something that you can’t imagine yourself doing, because to imagine yourself doing it feels like betraying everything you were told or believe about yourself.

Will you succeed?

Will you be great?

Who knows?

Does it matter?

No!

What matters is that it’s your dream, and every day you work towards your dream is a day that you feel more alive. Every day you spend working on someone else’s dream is a day that you are not living. Therefore, the stoics implore us with Memento Mori, to consider our mortality so that we can distill what really matters. We can look at each day and the actions we take and ask, “If today were my last day, would I still do this?”

To take that rudder, and steer your course towards your destination, your dream, is to take responsibility for your life. There are all kinds of external forces that don’t want you to follow your dream. You can’t control those, and that’s okay. It means that those are things you can let go of. Just think of how much energy you save because you can let go of trying to control those things! For example, you can let go of worrying about what others think because you have no control over that. What you can control is your mind, your choices, and your actions.

Resistance

When you try to know what you want, your brain will put up all kinds of resistance. You’ll find yourself second guessing yourself. You’ll try to talk yourself out of it because it seems like it’s impossible. This is normal. Your brain is trying to protect you. The fear of pursing your dream and failing is very powerful, and it has stopped plenty of us from stepping up and owning our dream.

The way you work through this resistance is to imagine what it would feel like if you lived in a perfect world where nothing could stand in your way, and that you could easily move past every challenge that presented itself. What would that feel like? What would that look like? Can you see yourself doing it? Imagine it in a as clear a way as possible. I mean like 4k video clear so that every time you think about about it, there is no doubt what your dream looks like. If you leave it vague, it makes it very challenging to get what you want. Things like, “I want to work for myself”, or “I want to work in medicine”, leave things too up in the air. The more clear and detailed you can be, the more likely you are to make plans to go after what you want.

Changes

Knowing what you want is scary because it can lead to big changes in your life. When we truly know what we want, we often bury these desires because if we went after them, it could mean a lot of change in our lives. We will do other things to distract us because we may not be ready to make those changes. For example, if we decide that the career we have doesn’t suit us anymore and we want to go after something else, that can mean a complete change of lifestyle. It may mean that we make a lot less money, and have to downsize the house we live in. It can change our whole circle of friends.

Maybe you want to get married or maybe you want to get divorced. Maybe you want to cut ties with friends or family that are damaging to you. These are all things that you may want, but are afraid to do because it can mean tremendous changes in your life and living situation. But remember, life is always in constant flux and that as much as we might want it, things will never stay exactly as they are. We should be will to not only accept change, but embrace it and guide it in ways that benefit us. Think about it this way. If you want to be a veterinarian, it’s going to take years of schooling and a lot of hard work. But the thing is, that time is going to pass you anyway, and at the end of that time spent in school, you’ll come out doing what you love.

Another reason we may be afraid to go after what we want is because we feel like we are too old to change. I disagree. We can choose to make changes at any age. Albert Schweitzer was an accomplished musician and clergyman in the early 1900s and could have easily spent the rest of his life in comfortable positions in the Lutheran church. At the age of 30 he decided he wanted to be a medical missionary. He went to medical school with little knowledge or aptitude for medicine, and after 7 years of school, he finished with a medical degree and went to serve the people of Gabon, Africa, at his own expense. He would spend the rest of his days working to build a hospital in Gabon, and speaking out against colonialism.

It’s Okay to Know

If you’re struggling with this, the first step of knowing what we want to just to accept that it’s okay to know what we want. We don’t have to do anything about it right now. Just acknowledge it’s what you want. If you are young, it is very possible that you might not know what you want, at least in the long run. That’s okay. Because life is constantly changing, you may want something at one phase in your life and want something completely different later on. Just because you make a choice and go after what you want, does not mean that you can’t change your mind. You can always change your mind. What served you in one part of your life may no longer work for you. Just because you pursue one path in your life does not mean that you have to continue down that for the rest of your life.

Conclusion

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

— Tim Ferriss

Making the choice to pursue what you want is scary, and challenging, and it should be. It means you have to grow and step out of your comfort zone. It also means it’s worth it. Any dream or desire that is worth it will challenge you. You will doubt yourself along the way. You will fail. You will have down days, and days where you want to give up and ask yourself why you ever wanted it in the first place. You will find strength that you never knew you had. You will find allies and helpers and people that show up at just the right time to lend a hand. You may never actually achieve your goal, but living each day pursuing your dream, to go after the things you want, is a day that you have truly lived.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break Control philosophy stoicism

194 – Find Your Why

Find Your Why

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“So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

— Marcus Aurelius

Does your work suck? Is your boss a micromanager worthy of the office? Maybe your co-workers are shallow and spend their time working on the perfect selfie for Instagram? Maybe it’s boring or too challenging? Today we’re going to talk about something that takes up the bulk of our lives, and how we can make it better.

One of the toughest things in life is to work at a job we don’t like. There are plenty of factors that can lead to job satisfaction. Many of them are outside of our control, but there are some that aren’t, and those are the most important ones because they can lead to true job satisfaction, and maybe to finding your purpose in life.

The other day I was listening to an audiobook called Own Your Day by Aubrey Marcus. It’s all about getting yourself into shape both physically and mentally so that you can “own your day”. There was a chapter that was all about how to love the work that you do. He used a term which really resonated with me:

Love the grind.

When you love the grind, you find pleasure in every aspect of what you’re doing, even if it’s tedious, uncomfortable, or even painful. You understand that this is what you signed up for. You understand that it’s the process, it’s the doing that is the thing.

Learning to love the grind is all about appreciating every aspect of your job, even the parts that are not fun. This means that you can even figure out a way to enjoy the boring parts of your job. And I mean it just like that. Take it on as a challenge to make the boring parts not so boring.

Learning to love the grind is also about facing the challenging parts head on. It’s about not fearing the challenge, but thriving on it. People often complain about the hard parts of a job, but the challenging parts are the most interesting parts. That’s where you hone your skills, and where you learn learn to master your body and mind. Any job that does not challenge you is not worth doing. If you are not growing, you are wasting time. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to be running at peak every second of the day. There are aspects to every job that are boring, and that’s expected. Nothing is going to be a thrill-a-minute, and if it were, you’d burn out way too fast.

It’s about learning to love the process, the doing of the work, and not being too focused on the outcome. Sure, you need to keep an eye on your goals and what your working towards so that you can make sure that you are taking the right steps to achieve your outcome. But don’t get too fixed on it, because life throws you curveballs and no outcome is ever guaranteed. You can control your part in the process, but you can’t control that it will end up the way you want. It will be what it will be.

Find Your Why

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

― Viktor E. Frankl

“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

— Marcus Aurelius

When it comes to jobs, I think there are really two kinds. There are the ones that do because we believe in the mission, and it aligns with our purpose, and those that are a means to an end so that we can pursue our purpose outside of work.

Either way, to be successful and to enjoy your work, you must figure out your why.

When people say that you should follow your bliss and do what you love, they are not wrong. But like always, it’s never that simple. What they are really saying is that you need to find that inner loadstar, that fire that gets you up and moving, not look to things outside yourself. Figure out the why not the what. People get stuck on trying to figure out the perfect job and once they know that, they’ll be blissfully happy. Every job, no matter how awesome or glamorous it looks, has its shitty aspects. Want to be a rockstar? There’s a lot of work involved. Lots of practices, lots of touring, lots of rejection and disappointment. You can’t have the glory without the slog.

Now, there are times in our lives when we may work at a job that is not something we love or even like, but it can still feed our why. Sometimes we just have to pay our dues. For example, my oldest kid just got a job at a bakery, and as we were talking about it today, they said they had made up their mind that even if the job sucked, they were excited anyway because they really wanted to learn how to bake and to decorate cakes. They were willing to put up with the crappy parts because they want to gain the skills that could lead to something better. They were willing to pay their dues.

Another example of doing something that may not be our passion, but feeds our why was in an interview with the director Kevin Smith. He was talking about how his dad worked at the post office for his whole career. He didn’t much care for his career, but he did it because his why was that he wanted to have a family and hang out with this wife and kids. He didn’t care what anyone thought about his job. He had his dream of being a father and husband, and the post office was just a means to an end. It was a price he was willing to pay for his dream.

Internal vs External

No matter what, your “why” should be internally motivated. If your motivation is to receive praise or to have the prestige of having a certain position, or do a job you hate just for the money, then your why is going to be really hard to support because it’s outside of your control. Praise, rewards, recognition, bonuses – these are all externals. If you are externally motivated, you don’t have control. You are at the mercy of others.

The reason we get stuck on external motivators is that we are brought up that way. We get praise when we behave or when we get good grades or score a goal or do well at whatever task we do. But when we’re only willing to do something for praise, we are only doing what others want us to do. If we only do things as long as there is some recognition or or reward, then we don’t push through the hard or the boring things that might lead us to improve and master our skills. It also means that we tolerate the shitty parts rather than enjoying the slog.

When we are internally motivated, when we have our why, then we will do whatever it takes to reach our goals, to master our skills. Anything that gets thrown at us just another challenge for us to test our mettle and get stronger. We will put up with the shitty parts of a job because they serve our greater goal. We want it because it’s important to us, not someone else. Don’t give your life and time living for someone else’s dream. Find your “why” and own it.

Owning Your Why Gets You Through the Slog

When I first started this podcast, I really didn’t know what my “why” was. I wanted to learn about stoicism, and I wanted to figure out how to make a podcast. I hoped that learning about stoicism would help me to grow into the person that I want to be, and that making the podcast would teach me the skills to create something interesting. As I’ve worked on this, I figured out that my “why” for creating this podcast, and for creating a community around it is this:

My “why” is to reduce suffering in the world and help people live their best life through learning and applying Stoic principles.

Owning this “why” helps me through the slog.

When I sit down to work on an episode for this podcast, it’s almost always challenging. I’ll have an idea in my head of what I want to express, and sometimes it feels like I have to push hard to get things going. Sometimes I hit that flow where my mind is clear and my fingers fly across the keyboard. Sometimes, I can tell I’m on the edge of something good and finding the right words and phrases to bring the idea from my head to the page so that I can share it you is like is like slogging through a Spartan race course, but I can feel that the gold is at the end of that slog. So I push through. I push through the slog because I know if I push through that resistance, put word next to word, in the end I’ll have created something of value. Some episodes come out great, others are just so-so. But no matter what, it’s always worth it.

Setbacks

Sometimes we get frustrated or struggle with our work. We complain about our the things we don’t like, which can make it easy to focus on the less desirable parts of our work. This can color our entire view of the situation, and rarely leads to a solution, but just making us feel even worse. We can offset this with constructive complaining or venting and getting out the things that you are struggling with. If you’re complaining but have no desire to do anything about it, be honest about it. But recognize that when you complain and take no action, you are not controlling the things that you can, and are allowing yourself to become a victim. If you are letting off steam, and are paying attention to what bothers you, you can take those issues and figure how to fix them. Look at the challenging parts of your jobs not as impediments to your work, but as obstacles to learn from, to grow your skills, and master the challenging parts.

Whatever it is you do for work, find your “why”. Maybe it’s providing for your family or to learn a skill. Maybe it’s because you believe in the mission of what you’re doing. Whatever it is, figure out what that is so that when you hit the slog, when a new challenge comes along, or you’re stuck in the boring part of your work, you won’t slack or complain, but you’ll be the master of yourself, and your work.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Want to be a part of the Stoic Coffee Community? Click here for more info! Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

192 – Self-Sovereign

Self-Sovereign

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“Be content to seem what you really are.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things in our lives is to be completely honest with our selves and with those around us. Why is that? Why do we hide parts of ourselves or lie about how we feel, especially with those we love the most?

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

Belong

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

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

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

My Story

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

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

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

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

Self-Sovereign

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

Actions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your comfort zone is not a good benchmark.“

— Dr. Vassilia Binensztok

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

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

191 – Get Busy With Life’s Purpose

Get Busy With Life’s Purpose

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Does being a Stoic mean you can be apathetic? Does not reacting mean that you just give up? Because Stoicism is about controlling your response, it can easily seem that you just let things just happen and don’t take action. But to be a true Stoic, you are the opposite of apathetic. You are effective. By taking the time to choose your shot, you don’t waste time or energy on the things you can’t control.

Often, we confuse action with actually doing something useful. Because Stoicism is about taking responsibility for ourselves, we need to be smart about the actions we choose. When we take the time to make a deliberate and well thought out choice. We want to be effective, not busy.

“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Apatheia

When we look at the definition of stoic term apatheia, it means “without suffering”, which is like equanimity, or “to be emotionally balanced” and unaffected by negative emotions. It is not the same thing as the modern day English term apathetic, which means void of feeling.

It’s easy to understand why people might use Stoicism as an excuse for apathy. On its surface, it can seem like not being reactive to every little thing in your life is just being out of touch with the world. When you don’t respond in a way that most of the world thinks you should, it can seem like you are disconnected and emotionally unavailable. But a Stoic is not someone that doesn’t feel, rather someone that chooses the act in a way that upholds their principles and chooses their response, even when they have powerful emotions around something.

For example, if someone is struggling, it’s easy enough to say that you aren’t stepping in to help because it’s not something that you can control. This is true because you can’t control other people and their situations. But, given that there is almost always something in every situation that you can control, taking the times to be sure that you are doing what you can to be helpful is something that a Stoic would do.

This can be challenging though, because sometimes not acting is the best course of action. Often the situation is best served by not getting involved. Sometimes the other person does not want you involved in their business. Sometimes it’s simply none of your business.

I think that it’s also easy to become apathetic because you understand how little you control in what happens in your life. You also recognize that the small part you control may not seem like it has a big impact. And if you have so little control, and the things you do make little or no difference, why even try?

Because how you live your life is important. How you carry yourself in the world matters. Because the mannerin which you do your work matters. If you approach the world with the attitude that nothing you do makes any difference in the long run, it’s too easy to fall into nihilism and just give up completely on living. This is a far cry of what Stoicism is about. Remember, life isn’t just about the accomplishments in our lives, it’s about the process. Cliché as it may sound, but it’s the journey that counts.

And honestly, if the world so depended on the things that you did, that could be a bit overwhelming to hold that kind of responsibility. I’m sure that Marcus Aurelius felt this way all the time.

What Can You Do?

So how can you be sure that you are not just using Stoicism as an excuse to be apathetic?

I think we need to look at why we might not take action in a situation. Sometimes, things are just hard and we may not want to do them. We may not have the mental or physical capacity to take on the things that we want. Sometimes we just may not have the skills needed to help. Taking the time to be honest about these aspects can help us take most effect action, or understand that the situation is best served by staying out of it. I think it comes down to knowing yourself, knowing your core values, and being willing to do the hard things when things are difficult.

Another important aspect to be aware of is burnout. I think that it’s easy as Stoics to take on more than we can handle. We want to see the world be a better place, and we want to do good in the world, but we also need to be honest about what we can handle. We also need to be honest about what we want. We only have one life, so we need to be clear about what it is we want to accomplish in our time on this planet. We also need to be clear about what our core values are. We shouldn’t do things because we feel guilty for not doing it. We should do the things that we want to, and do them to our best of our ability. That alone will certainly help make the world a better place.

This does not mean that you need to be a saint and give up all your worldly possessions and go serve the poor, unless that is what you want to do. If that’s what you decide would lead to the more fulfilling life, then you should do that. But don’t do something just because it’s what the world expects from you. Do it because it’s what you expect from you.

Actions

What are some steps you can take to avoid apathy? We can take the time to ask ourselves questions following questions and suss out if we’re just being lazy, or if we being effective.

Do you feel good about the actions that you took?

Are you upholding your core values?

Are you doing the things that you have the ability, capacity, and the willingness to do?

Are you not trying to control the things you can’t?

Are you being effective or are you just being busy?

Living like a Stoic is not about following a rigid dogma. It is about using your rational mind to be the most effective in your life, and the lives of those around you. By taking the time to know yourself, your values, your skills, and being respectful of others agency, you can apply yourself where and how you’ll be most effective, and sometimes that means doing nothing.

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

— Marcus Aurelius


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

189 – What You Are Capable Of

What You Are Capable Of

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“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” 

– Seneca

Have you ever thought about how much energy and effort we as humans put into seeking comfort and avoiding challenging things? So many things that we spend money on in our lives revolve around making things easier or more comfortable. Part of human evolution has been to seek comfort. We try to make things easier for ourselves. But in doing so, are we robbing ourselves of a chance to grow? In our search for convenience, do we end up weakening ourselves?

Pleasure and Discomfort

If you have ever seen the movie Wall-E, you may remember what one of the main things of the story lines is how, in our search for comfort, humanity has become lazy and unable to care for themselves without technology. They are extremely obese, and are unable to walk, or really do anything for themselves. They lay on powered lounge chairs, eat junk food all day, and do nothing but amuse and entertain themselves. Every physical need is taken care of by robots. In their ultimate search for comfort, they have allowed themselves to atrophy and become basically grown up children.

On the flip side of this, if you have ever been to a Spartan Race, you would have seen people purposefully put themselves in hard situations. They seek out challenges. They push themselves to see how much they can take. Trudging through mud pits, scaling rock walls, crawling under barbed wire fences, all in an effort to test themselves to see what they are capable of. It’s pretty intense and inspiring.

So why do we struggle so much with choosing what we know will be good for us? I think we need to understand that most things we do in life are done to avoid discomfort and seek pleasure. If you examine almost anything you do it life, you’ll find that most, if not all, of the things you do fall into these two categories. We stay stuck in  habits because we are unwilling to let go of pleasure or deal with discomfort.

So how do we change this? How do we get to a place where we are willing to forgo pleasure and bear some discomfort?

We change our perspective on what we consider to be pain or pleasure, and a key to this is changing our timeframe.

When we think short term vs. long term, it becomes more clear about what is pleasure and what is discomfort. The thing is, what is considered uncomfortable and pleasurable is often very subjective. We are the ones that judge whether something is a pleasure or a discomfort. What may be very uncomfortable for others, some may look forward to. What some might think is very pleasurable may be annoying for someone else.

For example, some people consider lifting weights to be painful and uncomfortable and avoid going to the gym. Others consider it to be very pleasurable, and invest significant amounts of money and time at the gym. In my opinion lifting weights is uncomfortable, and at times can be painful, and at the same time it also feels really good to work your muscles and to build your strength. The research shows that lifting weights is good for us because of the long term health benefits such as stronger muscles which help the body withstand injury, increased bone density, plus having the strength to do other activities in your life. When we think about this in short vs long term, then we see that short term discomfort leads to long term pleasure.

So what it comes down to, is which perspective do you choose and act upon?

Choices

Years ago, I found out that a close friend of mine was celebrating being sober for 12 years. He said he had been an alcoholic and it had caused a lot of issues in his marriage. At one point his wife him that he had to get his drinking under control or she was leaving. He didn’t really think it was a problem, but started attending AA meetings to appease her. Over the next few months as he heard more and more stories, from other members, he noticed how many of their stories were very close to his own experiences. He started to see how his actions had been causing pain to himself, and to those that loved him. It took a lot of effort, but he was able to stop drinking. He did this because he changed his perspective. He decided that he was willing to give up the temporary pleasure that drinking gave him. He decided the pain he was covering up with alcohol was something that he needed to face head on. Undoing so he gave up short term pleasure and avoidance of discomfort for long term pleasures of more control in his life and improving his marriage.

What Is Your Pleasure?

So when we’re facing challenges what steps can we take in order to be more effective at making better choices? I think first off, have a clear definition of what your pleasure is. Is having a strong body or a particular physical skill your definition of pleasure? Is having a good relationship with your partner or children your pleasure? Whatever it is, then approach each challenge that you have as a way to flex your muscles and improve your skill. Look at the challenge as the pleasure. Imagine what it would feel like if you were a master of it? How much pleasure would that give you?

Learning to flip your idea of what pleasure and pain is very important skill and is very much about perspective. If you can decide that the uncomfortable thing and overcoming challenges and something that gives you pleasure, then when those things come your way, you won’t run away from them, you’ll turn and face them head on, and you’ll know what you’re capable of.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

188 – Do What You Can

Do What You Can

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When you find yourself in a challenging situation, how much time do you spend wishing things were different than they are? Do you get stuck in thinking how it’s not fair? What if instead of wanting to things to be other than what they are, we worked with what we have? What kind of change could you have in your life and in the lives of others if you instead focused on what you could do? How much time and frustration would you save yourself?

Today I want to talk about how taking action, even if it’s just a small one, can help get you on the path of moving through challenges.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

One of my favorite movies and sequels of all times is The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon. One thing I love so much about it is how Jason Bourne is always looking for what he can do. While his character has training that most of us never will go through, what makes Bourne so good at surviving is his ability to improvise. He has trained his mind to approach any situation with an eye for figuring out what he can do with what he has. Whether that’s using something nearby to cause a distraction so he can achieve his objective, or simple stopping to blend in with a crowd, it’s his ability to see and accept things for what they are and not wish they were otherwise, and act on those things that keeps him alive.

Just like professional poker players understand that because you will never get a great hand every time, you do your best to play the hand you’ve been dealt. If you only wait until you have the best hand, you’d probably run out of chips before you got to play that hand anyway. But to be an excellent player, you use your skills of probabilities, reading other players, and misdirection. You don’t just play your cards – you play the situation, the place you’re playing, and the other players.

“Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”

— Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been shaving my head for years, and while I miss my hair mostly for the warmth, I have found that instead of feeling bad about not having the thick blond hair I had growing up, I’ve assembled a nice collection of hats that can be worn in every situation. When I go to a black light party, I have my partner or one of my artist friends draw with black light reactive ink on my head. The reactions I get from the brilliant glowing designs is one of the best parts of my night. I decided long ago that I would simply embrace what nature gave, a nice shiny head, and appreciate all the perks that come with not having to buy myself shampoo for the last 20 years.

I have a friend who lost a leg in a car accident years ago, but she hasn’t let that slow her down. She always out camping and hiking. When she shows up to a fund party or a festival she’ll often have her prosthetic leg that is decked out in LEDs. She could complain about it, but she recognized long ago that it was simply a waste of time.

When it comes to working with less physical things, it can be a bit murkier. Maybe you have a temper, or struggle with depression, or you have a hard time keeping organized. Rather than trying to get rid of these aspects of yourself, or beating yourself up over them, why not learn to just accept it and figure out how to work with it, or around it? If we can look at these and accept these things more like how we view physical challenges, as accepting them as things that just are, and not judge them as good or bad, I think we could make a lot more progress in a shorter amount of time.

I think one of the biggest areas that this shows up is in perfectionism. Because we feel like something has to be perfect, we can’t see it for its beauty of being less than perfect. As a side note, perfection in most cases is not something that can be actually defined or achieved any way. We except far to much of ourselves and expect that we should be able to do it all. That we can have the perfect body, never lose our temper, never miss an appointment, or always say the right thing, but we can’t. So rather than punish ourselves for not being able to do all the things that we think we should, what if we just figured out the best way to work around it?

It all comes down in figuring out the things you can do something about and working with those. If you spend your energy focused on all the things you can’t control, you’ll waste your time, and you won’t make progress. For example, if you have a hard time keeping organized, are there strategies that you can use to help you stay focused and on track? Maybe it’s setting a timer to go off every hour to remind you to check your todo list to be sure you’re on track. Maybe it’s bad enough that you need to hire someone else to help keep your time organized.

When you’re stuck in a situation, stop and think about what you can do. If you hear the words, “I wish…” come out of your mouth, stop for a moment and think about why you wish something was different. Usually a wish is something that you want changed that you have little control over. Then start your next sentence with “I can…” and list off 3 things you can actually do in that situation, even if they are very small things. Jus putting down a few small things you can do in that situation gets the creative juices going about what things you have control over, and actions you can actually take.

This is something that I’m not very good at, but when I do it, it make a difference in helping me to focus on what I can do in a situation. Whether that’s dealing with a difficult situation in a relationship, a problem at work, or really any challenge we have before us, if we ask ourselves 3 things we can do, we start taking control over the things that we actually can do something about.

As an example, I thought about what I can do when I’m frustrated with someone at work. What are three things I can do in that situation?

1. I can take 3 breaths before I say anything

2. I can type up a note and get all my frustrations out of my head

3. I can table the conversation to a later time, when I can approach it more clear headed

Now I know those are not Jason Bourne moves, but thankfully I’m not a former international agent running for my life.

Trying to think creatively when we’re stressed or challenged is not easy, but it’s fact of life. When we can stop wishing things were different, and look at a situation and ask, “What can I do?”, the more likely we are make some headway, and to help get ourselves unstuck.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

186 – Stuck In The Past

Stuck In The Past
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I want you to take a moment and think about the biggest regret in your past. Is there some choice you made that you still kick yourself for? Were there circumstances, such as physical or emotional abuse, that you had no control over? Maybe there was something that you did, or didn’t do, that you still regret? Maybe there was the “one that got away” or you chose this job over that job. Every one of us has regrets about the past.

Today I want to talk about how holding onto the past is something that spoils your present and poisons your future.

“All this hurrying from place to place won’t bring you any relief, for you’re travelling in the company of your own emotions, followed by your troubles all the way”

– Seneca

One of the core tenants of Stoicism is to be aware of, and to focus on what we can control and let go of those we can’t. One area that we don’t have control over is what happened in the past. It is not something that can we can change, yet it is one of the hardest things for us to let go of. Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape. Learning how to untangle ourselves from past can bring us so peace and freedom to move more lightly in the present.

“Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape.”

Why do we hold on to the past?

So much of our identity is wrapped up in the memories of things that happened to us and things we did or didn’t do. Experiences shape how we think the world works and our behavior in all kinds of situations. Our perspective on the past informs us of who we think we are.

As a thought experiment, what would happen if you woke up with no memory of the past? How would you know who you are? Would it change who you are as a person? How would you know what you like, dislike, feared or consider as important? Do you like peanut butter and hate whiskey? Do you appreciate rainy days or do you find them intolerable? If you had no memories of the past, you wouldn’t know what you think about so many things. It is our memories, and the importance that we give them, which inform how we feel about things in the present, and how we decide what we think is important.

Another difficult part of letting go of the past is that because our minds are prediction making machines, we get stuck in the trap of “if only” thinking. We think about how much better our life would be if only we had made a different choice, or if only we had been born into different circumstances. We play back all kinds of alternate scenarios of how we think things should have been. But this kind of thinking hold us hostage to the past, to something that cannot change.

Since you can’t change the past, how to you let go of the past? How to stop painful memories from holding power over your daily life? How do you let yourself out of the prison of your own mind? Since you can’t change your past, the only thing you can change is how you think about it. Your perspective on what those memories is what gives them a positive or negative meaning. By changing your perspective, you change what those memories mean. This is called reframing.

How do we reframe the past?

“Reason shows us there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

— Seneca

By changing the story that we tell ourselves about the past, we can change what it means to us. For example, I grew up in a very chaotic environment. My father was often violent and angry, and there was a lot of fear in our home. Now I could focus on how terrible it was, but what good does that do me? If I spend my time thinking about how awful it was and how I was so afraid of my father, I keep myself in a place of unhappiness. I create my own prison from the memories of something that I cannot change.

But what if I decide to change my perspective? What I focused on how my father was smart, curious, and funny? How he used to make us laugh so hard that we’d be doubled over on the floor? Or how he would talk about fascinating ideas that he had just read about the cosmos, or chaos theory? What if I look at my father with compassion and empathy, and decide that it’s a lesson for me in learning how to forgive others, and how to be loving towards people who have hurt me? By changing what the past means, I can can use those experiences as lessons. I can decide to focus on the good things and reframe the bad things as lessons I can learn from. Holding onto the past and allowing it to impact me negatively, doesn’t change what happened, and it the person it harms the most is myself.

Amor Fati

Now some people may disagree with handling things this way. They may think that doing so minimizes what happened or that we’re denying what happened. This is not the case. The Stoic idea of amor fati, “to love your fate”, means that we need to embrace our past. Because we cannot change the past, the more we resist accepting and acknowledging our past, the more power we give it over our lives. When we acknowledge and accept what happened, we also get to decide what we make it mean. We can make dark memories feel awful, or we can look at them as things that we survived, and how we got through them.

Also, remember that everything that happened to you in the past made you who you are today. Every choice you made, every experience you had was something that you can learn from if you’re willing to look for the lesson. By reframing it, you can look at it as an experience that you survived, and figured out how to get through. Because of the choices you made, you became the person you are today.

One of my favorite examples of where I had a sudden shift in perspective that changed a whole experience, was when I watched The Sixth Sense. If you haven’t seen that movie, this is your spoiler alert. In the movie, Bruce Willis plays a psychiatrist who is trying to help a young boy who is struggling with the fact that he sees dead people. When Bruce Willis’ character finally makes the realization that he is actually one of those dead people, it completely changes the meaning behind almost every moment in the movie. When you watch the movie a second time through with this knowledge, it’s like watching a completely different movie. Just that slight change in perspective changes the whole meaning of the movie.

Life is challenging. None of us are going to have a perfectly carefree life without pain or struggle. If we let every less than perfect moment in our life sour our memories, then we can lock ourselves in a prison of perpetual unhappiness. You are the one that holds the key to that prison. That key is all in your perspective and the stories you tell yourself.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break other people philosophy stoicism

185 – Needy

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Needy

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Transcript:

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 an aspect of stoicism and do my best to break it down into its smaller parts and see how we can apply it in our daily lives. I try to share my experiences, both my successes and my mistakes that hopefully you can learn from them and all within the time of a Coffee break. Today’s episode is called: Neediness.

Marcus Aurelius said:

“People exist for one another, you can instruct or endure them”.

Earlier this week I went to a movie theater. Now I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic so that seems like something odd that I would do because I follow science. I wear my mask and I’ve already got my second dose of the vaccine. But in this case it was a socially distance night at the movie theater. Friend of ours had rented out the theater so we could watch an old seventies kung fu movie and it was really a great time. It was a very small group of us in this whole giant theater, but it was really great to be able to spend time talking to some friends and having that kind of social interaction. And one of the things that I recognized, because I woke up the next morning feeling really happy and rejuvenated, was that one of the things that I need in my life is connecting with other people and being social. I’m an extrovert. So it’s not a big surprise, but I didn’t realize how much I missed it until the pandemic came along and made it so much more difficult to do those kind of things and to spend time with my friends.

So today I want to take a look at needs that we have and look at neediness through the lens of stoicism and how we can keep to our ideals, and understand how neediness is something that shouldn’t be looked down upon, frowned upon, but something needs to be understood. So I know that neediness in our society is something that’s always looked down upon and something to be avoided. And I think this is for a couple of reasons. I think one of them is because if you need something that makes you feel vulnerable, and if you tell somebody about some kind of need that you have, then that puts them in a position to have power over you.

I also think that a lot of this idea comes from the rugged individual society ideas that permeate our society, that we have to somehow make it on our own, that we have to be independent, that we have to forge our own path. And that said, and I think this has done a lot of disservice to us because in doing so, it also has helped reinforce a lot of these gender stereotypes that men have to be strong and unemotional and that if we’re emotional then we’re weak. So men are not able to ask for the things that they need because asking for anything that has to do with emotions is considered weak and that’s very, very frowned upon.

But on the flip side, women are supposed to be emotionally supportive for everyone else around them and to put their own needs on the back burner. And in this case we all get the short shrift, and I think this is something that’s been very damaging to our society. I think what we need to do is kind of re evaluate when we’re feeling needy about something not as a weakness, but as a signal that something is not being fulfilled in our lives.

Epictetus said:

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

For me this is one of the simplest and clearest ways to define what self improvement is. It’s saying: decide the kind of person that you want to be and then do the things to become that person. But I think before you can decide who you want to be, you also need to understand who you are, and understanding your needs is part of understanding who you are.

And the thing is is that we all have needs and we need to be okay with the fact that we have needs and to accept that we’re all vulnerable in plenty of ways and that’s okay. I mean we’re born needy and when we have Children, we don’t go, “oh my gosh, this kid needs food”, you know, we don’t tell them to buck up and to figure it out and go find their own food. No, we take care of them, we help them by satisfying those needs that they have.

I think that in stoicism we need to be careful because oftentimes we can fall into that trap of self denial. We think that because we can go without, then we should go without. And I don’t think this is really a good way to look at things. Yes, in stoicism, part of it is understanding what we can and can’t control, and in this case by identifying the things that we need, we can take actions and steps to take care of the things that we can control and then ask others to help us for the things that we can’t.

Now, in saying all of this, understanding and accepting that you’re needy, because we all are, does not make it so that your needs are somebody else’s problems. It is not an excuse to be selfish. What this is is that clarifying the things that you need and asking for help to get the things that you need and doing your part in fulfilling those needs as well.

Now, what kind of needs am I talking about? Well, they could be almost anything. Me for example, needing other people. There are there are things that we do need from other people. For myself, I need friendship and acceptance. I need that affection that I get from being with my friends.

We may have physical needs that we need to take care of, such as where we decide to live. I live up here in the Pacific Northwest and I love it. This is a fantastic place. And this is some place where I decided that I didn’t need the cold of Minnesota, didn’t need the cold and the strangeness of Utah, but what I did need was to live in a place that was pretty open minded and where the weather was fairly comfortable.

We can also look at our career. What is it that you need in a job for happiness? For example, in any work that I do, I need to be creative, I need to be building or making something because that’s how my brain works. If I have a task that is just strictly too repetitive, it gets really, really boring for me and I find that it’s not a good space for me to be in. What I need is to do very creative work, but I also need to have a lot of structure as well. I need to know what it is that I’m trying to get done and have the support, be able to get done. The things that I need to. So, working in a chaotic environment sometimes can be exceptionally draining for me.

We can also decide what we need in relationships. What kind of things do we need emotionally? What kind of affection do we need from our partners? Are we begin to public displays of affection? Do we need lots of physical touch or do any lots of emotional reassurance?

Understanding these things and being able to not look at them as weaknesses, but as things that help us thrive, gives us the tools and gives us the insight to be able to see that, recognize what we need and then ask for help, getting those needs fulfilled. And the thing is is they’re probably going to be plenty of people who won’t be willing to help you fulfill some of those needs. And that’s okay. That tells you that there’s somebody who’s not going to be able to help you get those needs met. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, if they can be very clear about that, that’s actually a good thing, because you won’t be wasting your time trying to get them to give you something they don’t want to give you.

Learning how to communicate those needs and express them clearly is something that can be very helpful in almost any relationship, so when it comes to identifying your needs, there’s a couple of things you want to keep in mind. Be easy on yourself. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for the things that you need, and wanting the things that you want. You can define what you need by just being honest with yourself. And if you have someone that you can trust, you can also ask them and you can say, “Hey, what areas do I seem to be a little bit needy in?”, and look at that as just a signal. It’s a flag to let you know where something is kind of missing in your life.

I do think it’s important that you take the time to examine your needs and decide if, if this is a need that is helpful for you. Is it something that helps you to grow into the person that you want to be? Or is this something that’s detrimental to you? Just because you want it or feel like you need, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

And then once you have those things sorted out, you can ask others around you to help you get those needs fulfilled. Now when we’re doing all of this, be very careful that you don’t take on other needs unless it’s something that you truly want to. I know there’s some people who get a lot of their needs fulfilled by serving other people and that’s okay. If that’s something that recharges your batteries, then do that thing!

Every single person on this planet has needs and the sooner that we can be honest about what we need, the sooner we can work on getting those needs met in healthy ways. And that’s the end of the Stoic Coffee Break.

Be good to yourselves, be good to others, and thanks for listening.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break ego philosophy stoicism

184 – The Truth Never Harmed Anyone