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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!


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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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Categories
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!


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

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Categories
self-improvement

299 – Imposter Syndrome: Who do you Think You Are?

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Do you often feel like you’re just faking your way through life? Today I want to talk about how Stoicism can help you overcome imposter syndrome and live a more authentic life.

“Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.”

—Marcus Aurelius

We all have times in our lives when we feel like just faking our way through the day. We often have this nagging feeling that we’re “just not good enough”, even when we achieve some success. Imposter syndrome, the persistent feeling of being a fraud despite evident success, is a common struggle among many of us, especially high achievers. Stoic philosophy, with its timeless wisdom, offers profound insights and practical strategies to overcome this debilitating mindset. By applying Stoic principles, we can cultivate a more resilient and confident self-perception.

In my own life, imposter syndrome is something that I’ve struggled with. For example, early on in making this podcast, I often felt like I was an imposter because while I understood a lot of the Stoic principles I was discussing, I didn’t feel like I lived them very well. But one of the things I’ve learned over the last 8 years of studying Stoicism is that the Stoic taught and wrote about these ideas not because they were bragging about how perfect they were, but it was also their way of working through these ideas for themselves. It was their way of reminding themselves of the way that they wanted to live their lives. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations were his personal thoughts and reminders for himself so that he could work through the challenges in his own life. Creating this podcast has been very much the same. I do it so that I can help others and so that I can constantly work through my own struggles. I’ve joked with friends that this podcast is my “public therapy”.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome manifests itself as a fear of being exposed as incompetent or unworthy, regardless of our achievements or external validation. This fear often leads to anxiety, self-doubt, and a constant sense of inadequacy. By applying the principles of Stoicism, we can develop our own inner strength and equanimity, which can help counter these feelings.

Principle 1: Focus on What You Can Control

One of the core tenets of Stoicism is the dichotomy of control, as articulated by Epictetus in his Enchiridion:

"Some things are up to us and some things are not."

Imposter syndrome thrives on focusing on what we cannot control—other people's opinions, the outcome of our efforts, and external recognition. By shifting our focus to what we can control—our thoughts, actions, and responses—we can reduce anxiety and build confidence. For example, instead of worrying about whether others perceive us as competent, we can concentrate on doing our best work and continuously improving our skills. As Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”

Principle 2: Embrace Your Humanity

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, reminds us in his "Meditations":

“Do not be disgusted, discouraged, or dissatisfied if you do not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when you have failed, return again, and be content if the greater part of what you do is consistent with man's nature.”

Here Marcus is reminding us of the importance of accepting our imperfections and shortcomings, and focusing on our actions. Imposter syndrome often stems from an unrealistic expectation of perfection. By recognizing that everyone, including ourselves, has flaws and makes mistakes, we can alleviate the pressure to be flawless and instead strive to be our best selves.

Principle 3: Reframe Your Perspective

Stoicism teaches us to reframe our thoughts and perceptions. Seneca, another prominent Stoic philosopher, said:

"We suffer more in imagination than in reality."

The Stoics taught that negative emotions were created from misperceptions or incorrect judgements about an external events and circumstances. When we experience imposter syndrome, we often exaggerate our perceived shortcomings and failures, and get stuck in ruminating on them. Often times, even when do achieve success, we let perfectionism get in the way and look for all the ways that we should have done it better. By practicing cognitive reframing, we can rationally challenge these distorted thoughts and view them more objectively. For instance, instead of thinking, "I don't deserve my success because I cold have done it better,” we can reframe it to, "I have worked hard to achieve my goals, and I continue to learn and grow."

Principle 4: Practice Self-Reflection and Acceptance

Self-reflection is a vital Stoic practice. Marcus Aurelius advises:

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

I think that the biggest creator of imposter syndrome is that often we really don’t know ourselves. We may think things like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not worthy enough.” But what does that really mean? Good enough for what? And who decides if we’re worthy enough?

So what keeps us from really getting to know ourselves? Fear. We’re too afraid of looking at the things that we don’t like about ourselves because it’s scary. But until we are willing to face that darker and less likable parts of ourselves, then we’ll be constantly running away from them.

In episode 218 Accept Yourself, I talked about how I had to really take a deep look at why I thought I was not a very good person. I felt like I needed to have validation from my long term partner in order to feel better about myself. When she was upset with me, I felt awful about myself. My sense of self, and my self esteem were so tied up with what I thought she thought about me, that I made us both miserable. We would get into arguments because I would try to change her opinion about me so that I could feel better about myself.

As Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “Things do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; so our perturbations come only from our inner opinions.” It is the opinion about ourselves that causes us the most distress, and what we think about ourselves is something that we can control.

Regular self-reflection helps us identify irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns that fuel imposter syndrome. By journaling our thoughts and experiences, we can gain clarity and perspective, recognizing our achievements and progress.

One journaling practice that I recommended in episode 218 is to write down everything that you don’t like about yourself, and practice accepting those things about yourself. I know that it may sound counterintuitive, but until you’re willing to face up to negative opinions you hold about yourself, they will continue to drag you down. And to be honest, I think you’ll be surprised at how trivial most of those things really are, and you’ll recognize that most of the things on your list are probably on the lists of those closest to you. But more than anything, it’s a way to be honest with yourself, own up to the things that scare you, and accept yourself for exactly who you are.

Principle 5: Cultivate Inner Resilience

Stoicism emphasizes resilience in the face of adversity. Marcus Aurelius encourages us to build inner strength:

“Remember, too, on every occasion that leads you to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.”

Imposter syndrome can trigger intense emotional responses, but Stoic resilience teaches us to manage these emotions and remain steadfast. By practicing mindfulness and being aware of our own thinking, we are better able to regulate our emotions, and we can respond to self-doubt with calm and rationality, rather than letting it overwhelm us.

When we do suffer setbacks, then we can look for the opportunity that comes from it. How we respond to a failure is place for growth to become something even greater. If everything worked out exactly as we wanted all the time, then life wouldn’t be very interesting. When we have challenges and the risk of failure then it makes it all the more rewarding when we succeed. As Seneca wrote, “A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.”

Principle 6: Seek Wisdom and Support

The Stoics valued wisdom and learning from others. Seneca wrote:

"Associate with people who are likely to improve you."

Seeking guidance from mentors, colleagues, or trusted friends can provide valuable perspectives and encouragement. Sharing our struggles with imposter syndrome can also help us realize that we are not alone and that others have faced and overcome similar challenges. Also, by understanding that you don’t have to be perfect, and accepting the areas where you are weak gives you insight into knowing when to ask for help.

Principle 7: Live with Integrity

Living according to our values and principles is a cornerstone of Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius urges us:

"If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it."

By aligning our actions with our values, we can develop a sense of integrity and authenticity. This alignment helps us build self-respect and reduces the likelihood of feeling like an imposter. When we act in accordance with our principles, we can take pride in our efforts and trust in our capabilities.

Conclusion

Imposter syndrome is a pervasive issue that can undermine our confidence and well-being. However, by applying Stoic principles, we can cultivate a more resilient and grounded mindset. Focusing on what we can control, embracing our humanity, reframing our perspectives, practicing self-reflection, cultivating inner resilience, seeking wisdom and support, and living with integrity are powerful strategies to overcome imposter syndrome. By integrating these Stoic teachings into our daily lives, we can navigate challenges with greater confidence and grace, ultimately leading a more fulfilling and authentic life.


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Future

298 – A Map is Good, A Compass is Better

Do you struggle because you can’t handle when things don’t go according to plan? Today I want to talk about how having a plan is important, but having an inner compass to guide you can help you be more adaptable, make decisions under uncertainty, and forge a path when things don’t work out as planned.

“What then can guide a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the soul within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without a purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy.”

—Marcus Aurelius

A while back, I was reading Mark Tuitert’s book The Stoic Mindset and getting ready to interview him for my podcast. There is a line in the book that I really liked: "A map is good. A compass is better.” It was one of those lines that jumped out and made me stop and think for a minute. The more I thought I about it, the more it made realize that this is why Stoicism is so powerful. It’s not just a set of steps that you follow to happiness, but a set of principles and tools that help us deal with challenges in all situations in life.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with creating a plan or a map to help us accomplish what we want. We need to know where we going or what we’re trying to accomplish, and not thinking through the best way to get there is well, foolish. But a map can only get us so far.

The Inner Compass

Stoicism teaches the importance of focusing on what is within our control. As Epictetus stated, "Some things are in our control and others not." This fundamental distinction underpins why we should prefer a compass over a map. Maps detail external environments and plans, and are only as useful as the accuracy and permanence of their content, which are outside our control and prone to change. In contrast, when we are guided by our inner compass of virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation, we remain steadfast regardless of external conditions.

Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic emperor, relied heavily on this internal compass. His writings in Meditations serve not as a map of his empire, but as reflections on how to maintain his composure, virtue, and rational judgment amidst the chaos of life and governing. For instance, he advises, "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

Practicality and Adaptability

The Stoics valued adaptability, a trait inherent in the use of a compass. As Seneca wrote, "Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant," teaching us that those guided by their internal virtues can navigate life's unpredictability with greater ease and grace. When maps fail—when plans go awry due to unexpected events—it is the compass that provides the means to recalibrate and forge a new path.

This adaptability is particularly relevant today, where our careers and personal lives are often subject to rapid and unpredictable changes. The Stoic practice of premeditatio malorum, which involves visualizing potential adversities, prepares us to use our inner compass in any situation, helping us to be resilient and giving us the ability to thrive under changing and difficult circumstances. By focusing on the things you can control, you reduce the impact that external circumstances and events have on you.

In my own life, I’ve come to realize that the plan that I was taught as a child of what it meant to have a good life was like many others. Graduate from high school, get a college degree, find a job, get married, buy a house, have a few kids, and work towards retirement. If I measured my success in life by this map, then I have failed pretty dramatically. The plan that I had for my life has turned out far different than what I expected, and has been far harder and more rewarding than what I could have imagined.

Even in the last few months in upending my life and moving to Amsterdam and changing careers, nothing has gone exactly to plan. I was hoping to find a place to settle in after a few months, but even now I’m dealing with the challenges with grace, having lived in 4 different places in 4 months. There are times when I feel anxious about my career change into leadership coaching and wonder how I’m going to be as successful as I want. But through it all, I’ve leaned heavily into my Stoic principles to help me navigate through the setbacks by recognizing that all of these challenges are opportunities to grow. I’m learning to be patient and pushing forward each time something doesn’t come through. I’ve been reaching out to others for help and guidance and I’m finding other opportunities that I couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Developing Your Inner Compass

So how does developing virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and discipline help you navigate when your map fails? Think of a map as the outline of what you’re trying to do. Maybe this is a personal goal, such as getting back into shape or starting your own company. Maybe it’s a career goal you’re working on such as completing a project or learning a new skill. Having a roadmap is essential for knowing where you’re going and some idea of how to get there.

But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Do you give up because your map of how to get there wasn’t exactly right? By applying the virtues of Stoicism as your compass you’re able to calmly evaluate what went wrong, come up with alternatives, and keep going. If you miss some days in your workout due to illness or injury, you take time and recover properly and get back to it as soon as possible. If you miss a deadline or run into a seemingly insurmountable problem at work, you take a step back, evaluate where you are, come up with other solutions to work around the roadblocks in your way.

Let’s take the example of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism. Zeno was a merchant who lost everything when he survived a shipwreck and ended up in Athens. He wasn’t sure what his next steps were, so he spent time at a local bookshop where he stumbled on the biography of Socrates by Xenophon. He was so taken with the character and description of Socrates that he found a teacher and threw himself into studying philosophy, and later developed Stoicism based on what he learned from his studies. Rather than bemoaning his loss, he adapted and found a new and more fulfilling direction in his life. He later reflected, “I made a prosperous voyage when I was shipwrecked.”

Inner Compass and Decision Making

Another important aspect about developing an inner compass of virtue is that it helps you make decisions about how you do things. Maybe the path your on brings up choices that would have you do things that aren’t ethical or legal in order to reach your goals. If you have developed a strong moral compass, you face up to and take responsibility for your behavior and actions. You don’t have to debate whether or not you should take questionable actions. You do the right thing even at the cost of your career because you’d rather maintain the integrity of your character than compromise your principles. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “It can only harm you if it harms your character.”

Benefit to Society

For Stoics, the moral compass does not merely direct personal choices; it also aligns with universal ethical principles. Standing up for your principles is not always an easy thing to do, but doing so not only benefits you, it can benefit society as a whole. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in captivity, only to forgive his captors and work for peace upon his release. When he finished his time as president, he left office and ensured a peaceful transfer of power rather than trying to stay in office. He recognized that his example of how government should operate was far more important than his own enrichment or glory.

Conclusion

Through the Stoic lens, an inner compass proves superior to a map. While the map—our plans and external knowledge—can inform us and offer a possible path, it is the compass—our internal virtues and moral judgment—that truly guides us to live not just successful, but virtuous lives. As we navigate the complex landscapes of modern existence, nurturing our internal compass becomes essential, ensuring that we remain steadfast in our principles and adaptable in our methods. When the maps and plans that we have for our lives fail us, having a strong inner compass gives us the resilience to navigate the detours, and to do so with patience and courage.


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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
Coffee Break

295 – How to Lead Like a Stoic Emperor: The Timeless Wisdom of Marcus Aurelius

Does it often feel like leaders, both in our work places and in politics, seem to be lacking? Have you ever had the good fortune of working with a great leader? Today I want to talk about the leadership style of Marcus Aurelius, and what we can learn from one of the greatest and most principled leaders of all time.

"What we do now echoes in eternity."

—Marcus Aurelius

In an era defined by rapid technological advancement, environmental crises, and global interconnectedness, Marcus Aurelius' Stoic principles offer a grounding force. The challenges faced by leaders today may seem worlds apart from those of a Roman emperor, yet the essence of leadership—guiding others through uncertainty, making tough decisions with moral courage, and inspiring collective action towards a common goal—remains unchanged. Marcus, who led Rome from 161 to 180 AD, was not just an emperor in title but a philosopher in practice, embodying the Stoic ideals in his reign and personal writings.

From a young age, Marcus Aurelius was a serious student of philosophy. Being from an aristocratic family, he was schooled at home from a number of notable teachers. Diognetus, a painting master, was very influential on young Marcus, and apparently introduced him to philosophy. At the urging of Diognetus, Marcus took on the sparse dress of a philosopher and slept on the floor until his mother convinced him to at least sleep on a simple bed. It was from this early introduction to philosophy that Marcus developed his moral center, which would guide him through the challenges of being the most powerful man in the world.

Marcus Aurelius navigated his empire through war, plague, and the complexities of ancient politics with a leadership style rooted in Stoicism, with an emphasis on rationality, virtue, and emotional resilience. His personal writings in "Meditations," provide a window into his soul and a blueprint for effective leadership that is still relevant today.

Lead with Virtue and Integrity

"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."

—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius believed that the cornerstone of effective leadership was personal virtue and integrity. For him, a leader's primary duty was to be morally upright and just, and to ensure the welfare of those he governed. In keeping with Stoic teachings, Marcus felt that one should develop good character in order to be a just leader. By developing the Stoic virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance a leader was more likely to make choices for the greater good, and avoid the temptations of self enrichment and excess that often befell those who had ruled with so much power.

Leaders should lead by example. Those who walk the walk, not just talk the talk, are respected for their character. Their example cultivates a culture of trust and respect by demonstrating the values they wish to instill in their organizations, such as honesty, responsibility, and compassion. In case after case, when there is corruption within an organization, it is often due a culture that is permissive of cutting corners and questionable business practices which emanates from the example of those in positions of power. Organizations with a culture of high standards and where ethical leadership is the norm, practices like this are quickly rooted out or are never considered in the first place.

Emotional Resilience

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

—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoic emperor taught that we cannot control external events, only our reactions to them. He faced adversity with a calm demeanor and a clear mind, embodying the Stoic ideal of equanimity. Stoicism teaches the value of emotional control in facing life's challenges. Marcus Aurelius exemplified this through his calm demeanor amidst the trials of his reign, including military invasions, the plague, political betrayals, and the deaths of several of his children. His approach underscores the importance of emotional intelligence—maintaining composure in crisis, managing stress, and making decisions unclouded by panic or passion.

A Stoic leader focuses on their actions and reactions, understanding that external events are often beyond their control. This means concentrating on personal effort, ethics, and how one responds to challenges, rather than fretting over outcomes. Good leaders invest their energy wisely, focusing on actionable steps and maintaining integrity in their endeavors.

Throughout my long career in IT, I have seen leaders of all stripes. For me, the ones that were least effective and the least respected were those that were unable to maintain control of their emotions. Leadership is often stressful and most plans never go off without setbacks or issues. A leader who cannot manage themself, will not be able to effectively manage others. Being able to take things in stride and bring a team together to solve them is the hallmark of a good leader.

Leadership as Service

“What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius saw leadership not as a path to power but as a form of service to the greater good. "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane," he remarked, highlighting the leader's duty to pursue justice and the common good over popularity or personal gain. For Marcus Aurelius, leadership was not an avenue for glory or domination but a means to serve and uplift others. He saw himself as part of a larger whole, emphasizing the importance of working for the common benefit.

Leaders whose main focus is on serving those around them are able to rally their employees and supporters around their vision, and inspire them to work together to achieve great things. When people feel supported, they are willing to go above and beyond in supporting their leaders in return.

In my own experience I have had the good fortune to have a few examples of excellent service oriented leaders. Early in my career I was working for a large logistics company and a new team was put in place to support and develop its financial applications. The manager of this team, Krishna, was a very kind and compassionate leader who was adept at supporting his team.

In our first team meeting he said, “My job is to serve you and to get anything that is blocking your work out of the way. If you need anything, like better hardware or software, or if others are asking for your time on things that are out of scope or not part of the project, please let me know so I can take care of it. My job is to help you do your job.” This was the first time I’d ever heard a leader speak this way, and over the next year and half, he proved that he was as good as his word, and we had the highest performing team in the company. His example made an impression on me that I still remember over 20 years later.

Openness to Criticism

“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

Far too often we see those in power, whether in politics or at work, are not open to anything that might put them in a bad light. With brittle egos, they worry more about what others think rather than examining what is being said to see if there is any truth in it. Not being open to criticism, they create an environment where those who point out their flaws are punished. Marcus Aurelius teaches us that rather than complaining about or shutting down criticism leveled against us, we should welcome it and see if we can find any truth in it so that we can expand our awareness of ourselves.

A leader who is able to look at criticism objectively and put their egos aside, is better able to examine themself from a different perspective. Since we are only able to view the world from our own perspective, having other perspectives can help us find the chinks in our armor, and to consider ideas that we never would have come up with on our own.

Cultivate Self-Awareness

A key takeaway from Marcus Arelius’ "Meditations" is the practice of regular self-reflection. Marcus Aurelius constantly questioned his actions, motives, and emotions, striving for self-improvement, a habit that enabled him to lead with wisdom and humility. Through his own thoughtful writings and seeking out the input of trusted mentors, Marcus was very aware of his shortcomings. This awareness and a commitment to growth allowed him to serve his subjects well, and become known as one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire.

We all have weaknesses and failings, and as a leader these are often more on display. Leaders who have the self awareness and the courage to grow are more likely to own up to and take responsibility for their mistakes. This leads to more trust with those under their stewardship, and helps create a culture of responsibility where mistakes, rather than being something to cover up, are opportunities to improve.

Obstacles as Opportunities

The Stoic view of obstacles as opportunities for growth is particularly relevant in today's fast-paced and often unpredictable world. Leaders can reframe challenges as chances to innovate, learn, and strengthen their teams, just as Marcus Aurelius turned the trials of his reign into lessons in resilience and virtue.

Marcus Aurelius himself faced numerous challenges without losing his philosophical center. Modern leaders can apply this mindset by viewing difficulties as chances to innovate, strengthen teamwork, and develop resilience. It’s about leveraging the inherent lessons in every setback to build a more robust, adaptable leadership approach.

Conclusion

Marcus Aurelius’ reign and writings offer timeless insights into the art of leadership. His Stoic philosophy, with its emphasis on virtue, reason, and the common good, provides a profound framework for leading in any era. His example teaches us that effective leadership is not about the position of power one holds but about the strength of one’s character. By embodying virtues of integrity, resilience, and service, leaders can navigate the complexities of the modern world with wisdom and grace, inspiring those around them to do the same. In a sense, to lead like a Stoic emperor is to recognize that the true realm over which we govern is not the external world but the internal one—from which all true leadership emanates.


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Categories
Kindness

294 – The Ripple Effect of Small Acts of Kindness: A Stoic Perspective

Does the world seem more divided and angry? Does it feel like it’s hard to trust others in our society? Today I want to talk about how the small things we do can have a bigger impact than you think.

"Kindness is mankind's greatest delight."

— Marcus Aurelius

Often times we get stuck in thinking that the world is a mess. Since our minds are attuned to spotting negative things so it can keep up safe, watching the news or seeing what’s happening in our feeds on social media can easily make the world seem pretty grim. If we’re not careful it’s easy to become anxious and pessimistic about humanity.

The significance of small acts of kindness stands as a beacon, illuminating the path toward a more compassionate society. Today I want to explore how seemingly insignificant gestures acquire profound importance, offering a roadmap for individual and collective betterment, and how small actions can impact others, ourselves, and society as a whole.

The Stoic Foundation of Kindness

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stoicism emphasizes virtue, wisdom, and the pursuit of the common good as the foundations of a fulfilled life. Marcus Aurelius, once penned, "What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee”, underscoring the Stoic belief in the interconnectedness of all individuals and the importance of contributing positively to the community. In the context of kindness, Stoicism posits that even the smallest gestures of goodwill ripple through the social fabric, benefiting the whole.

Humanities greatest strength is that we can work together to accomplish amazing things. While many attribute our intellect as the reason that we have come to dominate the world, it’s out ability to work together in large groups that is truly our defining characteristic.

The Power of Small Acts

The other day I stumbled down a rabbit hole on Quora about small acts of kindness. As I read through each of the posts of seemingly small acts, I found myself tearing up and smiling at the generosity of strangers, often in situations where they didn’t need to be. From buying some hungry teenagers a box of tacos at Taco Bell, to paying for gas for an elderly woman who only had $3 in change, to a former math teacher on the subway helping a father relearn fractions so he in turn could help his son who was struggling in school, the kindness of strangers is alive and well.

Trust is a the glue that builds strong communities. Since most of us live in cities and larger communities, it’s not possible to know everyone, so we need to be able to trust others. Small acts of kindness are manifestations of our inherent capacity for empathy and compassion. These small acts, where you show kindness in situation where you don’t need to, increase trust in society. Where there is more trust, we feel safer, and our outlook on the world improves. Such gestures may seem trivial, yet their cumulative effect can transform communities and, by extension, societies.

Everyday Kindness

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

— Mother Teresa

Stoicism teaches us to focus on what is within our control—our actions and attitudes. Acts of kindness, no matter how small, are within everyone's grasp. Epictetus remarked, "It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” which means that we choose how we want to interact with the world. By consciously deciding to perform acts of kindness, we assert control over our lives and contribute in positive way by helping others where we may have nothing to gain.

The Impact on the Giver and the Receiver

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

— Seneca

From a Stoic viewpoint, the benefits of kindness are twofold: they enhance the well-being of the receiver and enrich the character of the giver. We become better people by practicing kindness. Because practicing kindness is a choice, it is an exercise of will to find moments where we can be kind, and to step up and take action rather than just going on about our day. Stoicism encourages us to seek out opportunities for kindness as a means of self-improvement and as a way to contribute to the greater good.

One of the most interesting things that I’ve learned in this life is that when you learn to be kind to others and less selfish, you are happier overall. Usually people are selfish because they feel like they are not getting something they think they deserve or need in order to be happy. I know for me when I was younger I was definitely a more selfish person and this was certainly the case. Practicing small acts of kindness helps you to overcome your selfish tendencies. You do good things to others not because they deserve them or because you’re expecting anything in return, but because you want to give them.

The Neuroscience of Kindness

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

— Aesop

Modern neuroscience supports the Stoic perspective on kindness, showing that acts of generosity and compassion activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. These findings suggest that kindness is not just morally commendable but also beneficial to our psychological and physical health.

There have been plenty of studies that also show the fastest way to improve our own sense of wellbeing is to do something kind for someone else. We actually get a small burst of dopamine when we do something kind, even if it is a small act. If you’re feeling a little down, doing something kind for someone else is a simple yet effective way to improve your mood.

Kindness in Action

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

— Epictetus

The world abounds with instances where small acts of kindness have led to significant impacts. Consider when Princess Diana shook the hand of a man with AIDS. At the time, there was a lot of misinformation about AIDS, and her simple act of kindness help to change the view of the world towards those who had contacted the disease. Or the chain reaction set off by a single act of kindness in a coffee shop in Pennsylvania, where patrons paid for the orders of those behind them for hours. Minor gestures can inspire, motivate, and spread joy beyond their immediate context.

In my own life, I’m currently living in Airbnbs in Amsterdam until I find a permanent place. A few weeks ago, I had a short trip scheduled for Berlin and didn’t want to take all of my stuff with me, and there was no way that I would be able to take my bike with me. The host at one of my Airbnbs was kind enough to let me leave some of my stuff and my bike at his place while I was away. It wasn’t a big deal for him since he had plenty of storage space, but for me it was incredibly helpful to not have to find somewhere to store everything while I was away.

Cultivating Kindness

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

— The Dalai Lama

So how can we get better about showing more kindness in our lives?

Incorporating kindness into daily life does not require grand gestures. It begins with a conscious effort to recognize the humanity in others and to act on this recognition in even the smallest ways. This could be as simple as listening attentively, offering a word of encouragement, or expressing gratitude.

To get better at practicing kindness in out lives, we need to become more aware. It’s far too easy to go about our day focused on just ourselves and not engage with others. By working to cultivate an attitude of kindness, you can develop an awareness of how you show up in the world and look for small ways to practice kindness. Whether that’s opening the door for someone else, buying a coffee for a stranger, or giving a stranger a compliment, we can all do small things to make others lives just little easier.

Another exercise you can do is to practice reflective journaling. Each day, take some time reflect on acts of kindness you observed, received, or performed. This practice, rooted in Stoic reflection, encourages mindfulness of kindness as a daily practice by keeping it top of mind.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to take the time to just listen to someone else. There’s a lot of loneliness out in the world. Because we spend so much time online, we often forget to connect with others in real life. Make a conscious effort to listen more attentively to others can help them feel seen and connected and I think that we could all do with a little more of that.

Speaking of being online, practicing kindness in this world does not stop when you’re on your phone. When you’re online and you feel tempted to post a snarky or rude comment on someones post, take the time to think about how this might impact others. Does it help or hurt them? What would this say about you? Take the time to find a way to lift others and you’ll find yourself in a better mood knowing that you made an active choice to do good in the world.

Conclusion

In a world that often emphasizes the grandiose, it is the small, everyday acts of kindness that weave the fabric of a compassionate society. The cumulative effect of widespread acts of kindness can lead to a more empathetic and cohesive society. By fostering an environment where kindness is valued and practiced, we can counteract divisiveness and isolation, creating communities that thrive on mutual support and understanding.

In the spirit of Stoicism, small acts of kindness are not merely altruistic gestures but a fundamental component of a virtuous life. They serve as a testament to our capacity for goodness and our potential to effect change in the world around us. As Marcus Aurelius reminded us, "The best way to avenge yourself is to not be like that." By choosing kindness, we rebel against cynicism and apathy, embracing a philosophy that nurtures our collective humanity.


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Perspective

293 – Perspective is Reality

Are you aware of how your perspective influences how you see reality? Today I want to talk about how the Stoics teach us that our perspective shapes our reality.

“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.

— Anias Nin

Perception and Reality

Our reality is not an objective construct; it is a subjective experience shaped by our individual perceptions. These perceptions are the lens through which we view the world, influenced by our beliefs, past experiences, and emotional states. This lens filters every experience, interaction, and decision we make, often without our conscious awareness. Our perceptions profoundly shape our reality, molding our experiences, choices, and interactions with the world. Stoicism holds that our perceptions—how we see the world—play a critical role in our emotional and psychological state.

The Plank

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

— Shakespeare (Hamlet)

The other day I stumbled on a perfect example of how our perceptions can impact us in a very literal way. There’s an interesting bunch of videos on YouTube about Richie’s Plank Experience. What this is, is a simple VR game where you take an elevator to the 15th floor of a virtual building. Once the elevator opens, you step out onto a plank that is about 12 inches wide, which is about 30 centimeters for those not in the US. The goal of the game is pretty simple. You walk out to the end of the plank and eat some virtual donuts. Then you can either jump off and fall to the ground, or turn around and go back to the elevator.

There are several videos of this on YouTube, but the one that I watched, took place on the streets of London where they asked passersby to try the game. What was fascinating was that even though people knew they were safe on a street in the middle of London, they still felt the same fear as if they were actually on a plank 15 stories high. Each person talked about how scary it was, how their hearts were racing, and one person even had his legs shaking with fear. There was one person though, who was able to override this fear better than the others, and was even skipping across the plank.

I found this so fascinating. Even though they rationally knew it was just a game, most of them couldn’t get their bodies to relax. They still felt like they were in danger. In a very literal sense, they put on a new lens that changed their perception of the world, and their unconscious and their bodies reacted to these perceptions.

Influencing Opinions

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

— Henry David Thoreau

Our opinions are a direct outcome of our perceptions. For instance, two individuals can witness the same event and have entirely different interpretations based on their personal biases and past experiences. For example, in politics, where perceptions are heavily influenced by ideology, this leads to divergent opinions on the same issues. A conservative might view a tax increase as a burden on economic freedom, while a liberal might see it as a necessary step towards social equity. Here, their political ideologies, acting as a perceptual lens, shape their opinions of the same policy proposal.

Shaping Choices

Our choices, from the mundane to the life-changing, are also deeply influenced by our perceptions. Consider the decision to change careers. To someone with a growth mindset—a belief in the potential for personal development and improvement—a career change is an opportunity for advancement and learning. To someone with a fixed mindset, the same decision might seem fraught with risk and uncertainty, and as a sign of failure in their current path. The Stoics would argue that by shifting our perception to see the opportunity in the challenge, we can make choices that align with our true values and aspirations.

Interactions with the World

"Mankind are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate."

— Marcus Aurelius

How we interact with the world and others is a reflection of our internal perceptions. For example, if we perceive the world as hostile and uncaring, we may approach others with suspicion and reserve, potentially leading to isolation and loneliness. Conversely, viewing the world as a place of opportunity and kindness can lead us to form meaningful connections and engage with life more fully. Marcus Aurelius, another Stoic philosopher, emphasized the importance of perceiving the interconnectedness of all things and acting in harmony with this understanding for the betterment of oneself and society.

The Placebo Effect

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality."

— Seneca

Our minds are powerful things and our perceptions of something can have real impacts in surprising ways. For example, the placebo effect is a powerful demonstration of how perception can alter our physical reality. Patients given a placebo, a treatment with no therapeutic effect, often experience an improvement in their condition simply because they believe they are receiving a real treatment. In many studies, patients were given were sugar pills and found relief from their symptoms. This phenomenon illustrates the capacity of the mind, guided by perception, to influence the body.

Social Media and Perception

Social media platforms are modern examples of how perceptions can be manipulated and, in turn, shape reality. Algorithms curate content that aligns with our existing beliefs and perceptions, reinforcing our worldviews and often creating echo chambers. This can intensify political polarization, as users are rarely exposed to opposing viewpoints, leading to a more divided reality based on perceived differences rather than actual ones. Because social media is also only selected slices of life, we only see what others are willing to share, which are usually just the highlights. We get a distorted view of who other people are, and what their lives are really like. Because of this, we make judgments about them based on very limited information.

Awareness of Perceptions

"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them."

—Epictetus

So why do we want to be aware of the perceptions that we have about the world around us?

Because those perceptions can either be the wind our sails that propel us forward to accomplish the things we set out to do, or they can be the millstone that keeps us not only stuck where we are, but often are the very thing that sink our ship even before it gets out of the harbor. The Stoics teach us that our perceptions are one of the only things that we have control over, and therefore can have the largest impact on our wellbeing and happiness.

By developing the awareness of the perceptions we have, we are able to recognize our own limiting believes and biases, and learn to see when they are holding us back. We can also choose to change our perceptions into something that keeps us open to possibilities, seeing the world in a more positive light, and let slights, insults, and frustrations slide off of us like water off a duck.

Stoic Mindfulness

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

— Marcus Aurelius

How do we get better at managing our perceptions so they help us navigate the world in a happier and more productive way?

The Stoics offer a remedy to the potential distortions caused by our perceptions: the practice of mindfulness and the discipline of questioning our automatic interpretations of events. By becoming aware of how our perceptions shape our reality and actively challenging them, we can align our perceptions more closely with objective reality, or at least a more constructive subjective reality.

When something happens to us, we have what the Stoic call an “impression”, meaning, we observe what happens to us. We take these impressions and make a judgement about it, and that judgment leads us to take some action, usually driven by some emotion. But the Stoics recommend that we take a moment and try to see these impressions at their most basic level.

Did someone say something you thought was offensive? If we break this down to its most basic elements, what really happened was that someone made some sounds with their mouth, we interpreted what they said by thinking about those sounds, and we made a judgment about what those sounds meant. Recognizing your own judgments about what the other person said gives you the space to choose what you want to do about it. This is what Marcus Aurelius mean when he said, “Choose not to be harmed and you won’t be.”

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any feelings surrounding the things that happen to you. If you partner breaks up with you, it hurts, and it’s okay to feel hurt. There is nothing wrong with feeling those uncomfortable or negative emotions. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the relationship and to feel the loss of the future that you thought you would have. What’s important is that you are aware of those feelings and your perceptions, so that even if you feel the hurt, you make choices not from the hurt, but from your rationality, principles, and values. Rather than lashing out from of hurt or spite, you can act with honor and compassion and make the situation easier on both parties. As Seneca said, “The consequences of anger are often far worse than the thing that caused the anger.”

Higher View

Another way to shift our perspective is to take what the Stoics call “the higher view”. What this means is that the more we can zoom out from our current perspective and look at situation from a much higher view. For example, if you can imagine viewing your current situation from 30,000 feet. Think about how small you look. Think about all the other people in your neighborhood, your city, and even the world and all the things they are working on and struggling with at the same moment. It gives you a perspective on how small you are and how small the things you are worried about are. But it also gives a perspective on the interconnectedness of us all.

This is actually a documented phenomenon called the “overview effect”. Astronauts who spend time in space often talk about how their whole perspective on life shifts when they see the Earth, the “pale blue dot” as Carl Sagan, a prominent physicist would call it. This literal change in perspective, changes how they view the rest of the world. Seeing the Earth and its thin layer of atmosphere, they see how fragile, tiny, and almost insignificant our planet seems in the vastness of space. They often gain a feeling of connectedness with the rest of humanity, a sense of compassion for all inhabits of the world, and a great sadness at the conflicts and struggles that plague us as a species.

Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant who spent several days in space, saw the planet through the context of her profession. She wrote, “It felt unifying, but it also made me think of healthcare disparities in a different way. How can someone born on that side of the globe have a completely different prognosis from someone born over here? I could see the nations all at once, and it felt more unfair than ever, the ugliness that existed within all of that beauty.”

Conclusion

Our perceptions are not merely passive windows to the world but active constructors of our reality. They shape our opinions, influence our choices, and dictate how we interact with the world. Stoicism teaches us the importance of examining and, when necessary, adjusting our perceptions to live a more fulfilling and less disturbed life. By understanding the power of perception, we can begin to see not just the world as it appears to be, but as it could be, through a lens of compassion, reason, and openness to change.


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laughter

292 – Interview with Ori Halevy: Comedian and Comedy Writer

Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: Yeah, I have Epic Comedy Berlin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. What did you think?

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

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

Ori: Was that the Romans?

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: So it's like academic but palatable.

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

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

And they use words that are like, whoosh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was like, oh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then the police will get a better reputation.

Erick: Exactly, so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: But, or realize,

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

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

Ori: How do you aspire to beauty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's, it's hard to do.

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

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

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

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

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

You,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: Heroin is pretty cheap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And.

Ori: Not a bad reality show as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. You know?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: Yeah. Meditation really helps. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So. But I found for me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just starting off in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: So you change your own perception of things.

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

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

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

That's what's making you upset.

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

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

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

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

It's only because you gave it weight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm being demoted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting.

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

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

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

Ori: Yeah. And so

That's fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A good spirit for a good spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ori: Are you gonna have my Instagram on there?

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

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

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

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


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Categories
Transformation

291 – Finding Your Genius: Flipping Your Flaws Into Features

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

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

—Harriet Braiker

Attributes, Characteristics, and Context

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

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

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

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

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

Shifting Perspective

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

— Marcus Aurelius

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

— Albert Einstein

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

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

The Overthinker

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

The Introvert

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

— Susan Cain

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

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

The Risk-Averse

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

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

The Stubborn

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

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

The Daydreamer

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

The Procrastinator

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

Embracing Who You Are

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

— Chinese Proverb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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

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Thanks again for listening.

Categories
humor

290 – Laughing With The Stoics: Finding Humor on the Path to Virtue

Do you think that Stoics are too serious and all business? Do you think that if you adopt Stoic principles that you can’t have fun? Today I want to talk about humor and some of the misconceptions of Stoicism.

“It’s better for us to laugh at life than to cry over it.”

— Seneca

When you picture a Stoic, you might imagine someone with the emotional range of a sloth, but surprise! The Stoics weren't the ancient world's equivalent of grumpy cat. They actually had quite a bit to say about living "according to nature," and let's be real, what's more natural than snorting milk out of your nose from laughing too hard? Exactly.

So, how does humor fit into Stoicism?

The Stoics often talked about achieving eudaimonia, also translated as ‘good spirit’, which for the Stoics is about reducing negative emotions, and cultivating positive emotions. Since we are emotional creatures, we aren’t expected to not have emotions, and for me, having a good laugh certainly helps me get closer to having a ‘good spirit’.

Absurdity of Life

Because stoicism is about trying to see the world for exactly what it is, we can laugh at the absurdities of life. Seneca was all about chuckling at life's curveballs when he said, "Fortune is like that drunk friend who tries to help but ends up knocking over the lamp." Life is unpredictable, so why not have a laugh when things go sideways?

When you think about it, this is what Amor Fati is all about. It’s about not just accepting everything that happens in life, but loving everything that comes our way, and what better way is there to love everything that comes your way when you find humor in even the darkest times?

When we take things too seriously, we often get stuck ruminating and stressing out over things that are small or even imagined. When we get stuck in this mindset, our thinking becomes more narrow as response to stress, which it makes it hard for us to make better decisions. In these situations, often times the best thing we can do is laugh about it. Lightening our mood helps us relax which in turn helps us think more positively and be more open to possibilities.

The Stoics recognized that joy is not the same thing as being frivolous. They understood that joy is part of a well-rounded life. The Stoics themselves practiced self-deprecating humor in order to not take themselves or life too seriously. Epictetus was known to have a very dry and ironic wit. You can totally picture Epictetus cracking a smile and reminding us that just because we're after virtue, doesn't mean we can't enjoy a good meme. When talking about death, he once said, “I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.”

It was reported that Chrysippus literally died from laughing at the sight of his intoxicated donkey trying to eat figs. Marcus Aurelius, the emperor of Rome, once cracked, "I get up in the morning because the universe isn't done with me; also, someone has to feed the ducks." Keeping yourself grounded with a little self-mockery is very much in line with Stoic principles.

Keep Perspective

Laughter helps us to keep things in perspective. When we are in good spirits, we are better able to see things as they are, or imagine how they could be. When things don’t go the way we want, we’re better able to roll with things, focus on what went right, and move forward in a more positive direction. When we are stressed or pessimistic, then we’re more likely to catastrophize, only see the downsides, and wallow in why things didn’t work out.

Seneca gives us some good instruction on keeping a humorous outlook when comparing the serious and sullen Heraclitus the more cheerful Democritus. He wrote:

“We ought therefore to bring ourselves into such a state of mind that all the vices of the vulgar may not appear hateful to us, but merely ridiculous, and we should imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus. The latter of these, whenever he appeared in public, used to weep, the former to laugh: the one thought all human doings to be follies, the other thought them to be miseries. We must take a higher view of all things, and bear with them more easily: it better becomes a man to laugh at life than to lament over it. Add to this that he who laughs at the human race deserves better of it than he who mourns for it, for the former leaves it some good hopes of improvement, while the latter stupidly weeps over what he has given up all hopes of mending.”

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When comes to health, laughter is truly good medicine. With the pace of the modern world, we’re all under a lot of stress, which is detrimental to our long term health. Since stress hormones, those released for our ‘fight or flight’ instincts are meant to get us out of short term danger, such as escaping from a saber toothed tiger, we’re not meant to operate under this type of duress for long periods.

Exposure to these hormones over longer periods increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, depression and many other illnesses. Laughter, as it turns out, helps counteract many of these problems by relieving stress, increasing oxygen intake, and releasing healthy chemicals into our bloodstream.

Strengthening Social Bonds

The Stoics stress that it’s important for us to build community and be a productive member of society. Laughter is something that brings people together and helps to strengthen social bonds. Sharing a good laugh with family and friends or even strangers can help us form better social connections.

At a very simplistic level, when we laugh with others, we relax around them and are better able to just be ourselves. It feels like the other person ‘gets us’. We associate good feelings with them. Our memories of them are positive, which means it’s more likely we’ll want to spend time with them, or be willing to help them out when they need it.

For example, even though I had a difficult relationship with my father, some of my fondest memories of him are when he shared funny stories or we watched a movie that had us rolling on the floor. I can still remember his deep belly laugh and when he’d have to take off his glasses because he had tears in his eyes.

When we can see the lighter side of life, we are also better able to be compassionate to other people and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. When we’re stressed or pessimistic, we’re more likely to place blame on them when things aren’t working out.

Wisdom in Humor

There are many ways to learn and often humor is the best way to communicate wisdom. The best teachers I had growing up were usually those that could make learning fun or add some humor into their lessons. A bit of humor in the class often made the difference between really enjoying a class or just getting through it.

Sometimes, the truth is so blunt, it hurts. But wrap that truth in a joke, and it becomes wisdom you can approach with a smile. Some of the best comedians share hard truths about life with humor that otherwise would be uncomfortable. By shining a light on hard things with humor, we’re more willing to look at things that we might otherwise would have avoided. By making us laugh, they open us up to seeing things from different perspectives that we may not have considered before.

Resilience

When we can learn to laugh about the hard things in life, we become more resilient. When the going gets tough, rather than letting it drag us down, we’re able to make something good of a tough situation. With a shift in perspective, what may have seemed like a frustrating situation, can be turned into something more neutral or even a funny story to share with friends later.

Learning to laugh at life also helps us in embracing imperfection. Nobody's perfect and Stoics get that. A well-timed joke about our own blunders reminds us to accept our flaws. I can imagine that if Marcus Aurelius had social media, he'd probably tweet, "Messed up today. #JustEmperorThings."

Looking at the Bright Side of Life

So how can you get better about looking at life from a more humorous perspective?

A big thing for me is to just watch some good comedy. Last Sunday night I was working on some business ideas and was finding myself stressing out about it. I found that my thinking was narrowed and it was really hard to generate ideas. Then I would get even more frustrated because I couldn’t seem to get out of this downward spiral.

So I went to a comedy show. It was small show but the crowd was really fun and the comedians were great. Some of the topics broached were dark, but still funny. I also made friends with the couple sitting next to me. Two hours of laughing reset my mood and started the week off with a much better outlook.

Since the Stoics are big on having awareness of what you are thinking, pay attention to when you’re getting critical towards someone or something else. Approach the situation like a comedy writer. Can you stop and see if you can find something funny about the situation? Can you laugh at yourself for getting too serious about something? I found that if I think about how I could turn it into a funny story to tell someone later can help to lighten my mood.

But with this said, be careful not to take things too far. Humor can be a great coping mechanism, but it can also be used to avoid having difficult conversations or dealing with challenging situations. Also, laughing at the expense of others is one way to burn bridges rather than building them.

The Stoics teach us to practice temperance, so make sure that you use humor at the right time and in the right doses. Trying to be funny at the wrong time can backfire and may cause more harm. Life isn’t all doom and gloom, but it’s not a laugh-fest either. Finding that sweet spot between levity and seriousness can help you strike the right balance in any situation.

Like they say, know your audience.

Conclusion

In essence, Stoicism with a dash of humor isn't just palatable; it's downright enjoyable. It turns out, you can pursue virtue and still have room for a good laugh. So next time you're pondering the Stoic virtues, remember to lighten up and let humor be your companion on the path to eudaemonia.


Hello friends! Thanks for listening. Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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

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

Find me on instagram, twitter, or threads

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

Categories
Interviews

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

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

You can also watch the interview on YouTube.

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy this interview with Mark Tuitert.

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

So hopefully this will go well.

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

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

Mark: My name is Mark Tuitert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it really entail? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erick: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's the coal. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was very, very tortured soul. And so,

Mark: yeah, so you broke the cycle.

Erick: Definitely broke the cycle.

Mark: Yeah, that's great, man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erick: his stable boy, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: imagine where they are in life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: let go, that's sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: We miss the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've been really enjoying this. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a small example. 

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

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

So, okay. Now I know the story. 

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

So go ahead. Yeah. 

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

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

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

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

And thank you for being here in the Netherlands. 

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

And thanks again for listening.

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

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

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


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stoicism

288 – Starting Stoicism

Are you new to Stoicism and want to know where to get started in learning about it and how to apply it in your life? Then this episode is for you.

One of the things that I appreciate about Stoicism is that it’s very practical philosophy, and there are a lot of ideas and principles that have stood the test of time because they work in helping you live a good life. There are also misconceptions about what stoicism is and what it isn’t so today I’m going to walk you through the basics of what stoicism is, and how you can start applying it in your life immediately.

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that originated in Athens, Greece, then moved into Rome as it gained popularity. It was founded by Zeno of Citium, a merchant who found himself in Athens after surviving a shipwreck. While trying to figure out what to do next, he frequented a bookseller in Athens. He came across the writings of Xenophone, a Greek historian and military strategist, and in them read about Socrates. He was so inspired be what he read, that he asked the bookseller where he could find someone like Socrates to teach him philosophy. At that moment, Crates of Thebes, a Cynic philosopher, just happened to be passing the shop. The bookseller pointed to Crates and told Zeno that Crates was such a man, and Zeno became his student.

As Zeno began to learn more about Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the other philosophies, he began to develop his own ideas about how to apply philosophy and live a good life. One of the main points about Stoicism is that it’s primary goal is not to answer the big questions about life such as why we exist and where we go when we die, but rather how to have a good and peaceful life by living a life of virtue. It’s a practical philosophy that can be applied in all aspect of life.

Control

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

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the first and most important teachings of Stoicism is that we need to understand what we have control over and what we do not have control over. The reason why this is so important is that most of our stress and frustration in life comes from trying to control things that we do not have any control over. When we focus on the things we can control, we’re able to make progress, and gain a sense of peace in our lives.

When we try to control what we can’t, we waste a lot of time and energy without making much progress. We can find ourselves getting angry, upset, or depressed because we’re trying to control something we can’t control, or often because we’re trying to control someone else or their behavior. On the flip side, when we don’t take control of the things that we do have control over, then we allow ourselves to become victims, and miss opportunities to create real change in our lives.

So that begs the question: What do we actually have control over? The Stoics teach us that the only thing we really have control over is our thinking, and our choices. In short, our will. Everything else is outside of our control. We don’t have control over nature, other people, or even our own bodies.

For example, you can’t control the weather, what other people think of you, or if you get cancer. They are are just things that happen, and not things you have any control over. What you do have control over is how you respond to the things that happen. You can choose to wear a raincoat when it rains. You can choose not to let what others think about you bother you. You can follow your doctors instructions in treating an illness. All you have control over are the choices you make about how you want to respond.

Suggested Episode: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Judgments

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

—Marcus Aurelius

Another reason that the Stoics teach us that we have control over our thinking is because the way that we think influences how we feel and how we respond to the things that happen to us. The emotions that we feel are caused by the thoughts we think, or the judgments we make, about the things that happen to us. Whether we feel calm or distressed in a situation is caused by what we think about the situation.

For example, let’s say you have two people heading to the same office, and they both miss the bus for work. The first person gets upset and yells at the bus. Whereas the second person shakes it off, laughs about it, and sits down on the bench and waits calmly for the next bus. Why does one person handle the situation angrily when the other is able to relax and go on with the day? Shouldn’t they both act the same since they both missed the bus?

It’s because of their thinking. In the first case, the angry bus rider is thinking how unfair it is that he missed is bus. He fumes about the fact that he’s going to be late, and is in a rotten mood for hours afterwards. Whereas the second rider sees that there is nothing that he can do about it, and that stewing over it will do him little good, so he lets it go, and enjoys the extra time he has waiting for the next bus. Same situation, just different thinking.

Suggested Episode: Drop Your Opinions, Live Your Principles

Emotions

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.“

— Epictetus

“Who does not admit that all the emotions flow as it were from a certain natural source? We are endowed by Nature with an interest in our own well-being; but this very interest, when overindulged, becomes a vice.”

— Seneca

One of the biggest misconceptions about Stoicism is that it’s about repressing your emotions and that Stoics don’t feel anything. But this is far from the case. Stoics have strong emotions just like everyone else. The difference is that they have practiced not letting their emotions overrun their thinking. They practice taking a moment to understand the thinking that led to the strong emotions. They also understand that emotions are transitory, meaning that they may feel strong or even overwhelming in the moment, but that over time they will fade and change.

The difference is that a Stoic recognizes that one of the main reasons that we experience negative emotions is because of our judgements about something. That the reason we’re upset or angry is not because of thing itself, but because of the meaning that we give to something, and that if we can be aware of our judgments then we change how we think about something. We can also decide that something is not worth spending time thinking about and let it go. We can also choose not to have an opinion about something.

For example, we often think that when we get angry at someone, it is the fault of the other person that we are angry. But the Stoics teach us that it’s not the other person that makes us angry, but our own thoughts that cause our anger. It’s the judgment that we made, the meaning that our minds give to what the other person did or said that causes us to feel angry.

Now I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is wrong. If someone says something offensive, then surely it must be the fault of the other person that you’re angry. But this is not the case. It’s your judgement about what they said that leads to you feeling angry. In a purely objective sense, the other person simply spoke some words, and we are the ones that gave those words meaning. If you decided that you don’t care about what someone said, then you can let it go.

To drive the point a little further, imagine if the other person said something offensive but spoke it in a language that you didn’t understand, would you still be offended? You probably wouldn’t because you don’t know what they actually said. Your mind wouldn’t have anything to judge so there would be nothing to find offensive.

Suggested Episode: Stoics and Emotions

Virtues

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.”

—Marcus Aurelius

One of the core tenants of Stoicism is that in order to live a good life, we need to follow the four cardinal virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance, which often translated as Moderation or Discipline.

But why these four virtues?

Let’s go over each of them briefly.

Wisdom can be defined as the practical application of knowledge and experience. It’s not enough to just know a lot, it’s important that we know how to apply it. Also, we don’t just gain wisdom through reading or studying, but by experiencing life.

Courage is the willingness to take action, even if we know we might fail. We need courage to gain wisdom because it takes courage to practice self awareness and see where we fall short, and have willingness to see where we are ignorant.

Temperance means moderation or discipline. With all things, we need to know how much is too little and how much is too much. By practicing temperance, we learn how to govern ourselves.

Justice, in a broader sense, can also be thought of as how we treat other people. When we treat others fairly, and advocate for justice in the world, we help make the world a better place.

The virtues are self reenforcing, like legs on a stool. We need to have courage to help us be self aware enough to experience life and gain wisdom. We also need courage to make the hard choices to become more disciplined. Temperance and wisdom are necessary for being courageous because too much courage can make us foolhardy and make bad choices, and not enough courage can mean that we fail to act.

By practicing discipline, gaining wisdom, and developing courage, we stand up for what we believe in and advocate for justice. By cultivating these virtues, we aren’t just meant to be good people, but we are meant to do good in the world.

Suggested Episode: A Courageous Mind

Obstacles

“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

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

― Marcus Aurelius

Another core teaching of the Stoics is that the challenges that we find in our lives are not simply obstacles that are preventing us from getting what we want, but that they are the way to getting what we want. They are the things that help us to learn and to get stronger. If you simply got everything that you ever wanted and never had to struggle for it, would you ever learn how to accomplish anything?

Think about it this way. If you went to the gym and paid someone else to lift weights for you, would get any stronger? Would you put on any muscle?

No.

What’s more rewarding for you? Working hard, overcoming obstacles, and gaining skills and achieving your goal, or just being handed the prize you seek by a parent?

What’s more interesting to watch, an athlete or a performer who has put in countless hours of work and preparation, overcome all kinds of obstacles and developed their skills, or a someone just being given a role or position because they were well connected?

When I was about 12 years old, I spent many hours babysitting the neighbors kids and doing yard work so I could buy myself a stereo system. I had it for many years and every time I used it, I always felt a sense of pride because I knew that I had worked hard and saved up my money to get it. It was mine because I had worked hard to earn it.

Suggested Episode: Easy Life

Integrity

“It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you — inside or out.”

—Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics were big on living a life of integrity, meaning that you do the right thing in all situations. That you would live your principles not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. That you would do the right thing even when no one else would know if you didn’t. Your character matters and you do good always, not because of how others perceive you, but because when you are good and act with integrity, you feel good.

We all are faced with situations where we could get away with something that would benefit us. But the thing is, you would know that you did something against your principles. You will have to live with that. You will have to live with the knowledge that you did something that soiled your character. Whether it’s tossing garbage out of a car window, cheating on a test, or covering up mistakes at work, even if you never get caught, you would still know that you didn’t live up to your best self, and that you actively made the choice not to do so.

Suggested Episode: Show Up

Application

So how can you learn to apply Stoic principles in your own life?

First off, become familiar with Stoic teachings and principles. This podcast is a good place to start, and I’ve included links into the show notes for episodes that dive a little deeper into the ideas and principles that I’ve talked about.

Some books that I recommend include A Guide to the Good Life: The Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and most of Ryan Holiday’s books are good places to start. I especially like The Obstacle is the Way and found it to be very useful in reframing how I view challenges in my life.

I think that taking time each morning thinking about the things I’ve talked about today, and examining how you can apply them in your life can be very helpful. Starting off the day considering these ideas can help you keep them top of mind so that when situations arise you can find ways to apply them.

Each evening, take some time to consider how your day went. Did you handle a situation poorly that day? What can you do next time to handle it better? This kind of reflection each evening also helps you become more self aware and help reenforce where you succeeded or failed during the day and how you can handle things in the future.

And as I always do, I recommend taking some time each day to meditate and to write in your journal as they are good ways to develop self awareness. Since the Stoics stress that it’s important to manage how you think about things, journaling and meditation are both excellent ways to become aware of your own thinking. You don’t need to meditate for hours or write long essays in your journal. Just a few minutes to pay attention to you thoughts, or jot them down on paper can be exceptionally revealing.

Conclusion

More than anything, applying these principles take consistency. While the principles and ideas are pretty simple and logical, their application takes time and practice. Just because you learned something does not mean that you’re going to be great at applying it in your life immediately. But if you are consistently studying, thinking about, and consciously trying to apply these ideas in your life, you’ll start to see changes in your life for the better. Often, you’ll simply notice when you handled a situation poorly, then you’ll consider ways that you can handle that better in the future. Awareness, and the courage to practice that awareness are the first and most important steps to becoming a better version of yourself.

Before you know it, you’ll become a Stoic.


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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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Categories
death

286 – Remember Death

How often do you think about your death? Do you go through your life just ignoring it and thinking that it’s always a long way off? Today I want to talk about why considering your death each day can make your life richer, fuller, and happier.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think."

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important things that the Stoics teach is to be aware of death, that we too will die one day. The term the Stoics use is Memento Mori, remember death. The Stoics want us to remember that every day could be our last so that we use the time we have the best we can.

Memento Mori is not about being morbid or macabre, but rather appreciating the fact that we are alive at this moment, and that we need to savor each moment we have because it could be our last. It means that instead of wishing for things to be different, we should accept things as they are and appreciate them. It also means that we should look for things to be grateful for right now. We need to find contentment now rather than waiting for it to come to us in the future after some event or accomplishment.

Mortality

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go."

— Mary Oliver

Memento Mori is there to remind us that we need to face reality. We need to accept that we will all die one day, and as much as we might want to ignore that fact, it is not something that we can escape. The sooner we come to terms with our own mortality, the less we fear death, and the better we can live in the present.

One day, when I was about 40, I had just gotten out of the shower and was trimming my beard. As I was looking at my face in the mirror and I noticed the wrinkles on my face standing out a bit more. I remember having this rush of fear and anxiety about how I was getting older, and that I would die one day. I realized that I had never put too much thought into the fact that I would die. Like most people, I just went about my daily life as if death was something I could just ignore. I realized that I needed to face my own mortality because it was something that would come whether I liked it or not.

Over the next few months, I would occasionally take some time and think about my death. I thought a lot about what it might be like after I leave this life. I thought about some of the things that I wanted to accomplish before I left this world. I worked on getting comfortable with the fact that I would have to face my death at some point. The more comfortable I got with death, the less fear I had about dying. This is not to say that I’m looking forward to it or seeking it out, but it no longer causes me the anxiety I felt when I was first confronting my own mortality.

Live Now

"Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time."

— Seneca

"The trouble is, you think you have time."

— Buddha

So why is it important that we learn to face up to our own mortality?

Remembering death sharpens our senses. It helps us to be more present in our daily lives because we can spend less time living for the future because it’s possible that we might not have one. When we recognize that all the plans and goals that we have may never come to pass, we learn to not let our happiness be dependent on things that we’ll accomplish or get in the future.

Facing up to your death helps you live more urgently. Memento Mori helps to prioritize the things that matter and the things that don’t. It reminds that we shouldn’t put off the things we want to do but try to do them as soon as we can. We often live with the idea that we’ll get to it someday, as if we had all the time in the world. The Stoics tell us to get busy with the business of living. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.

Will it Matter?

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

— Steve Jobs

When we take the time to remember death, we can develop a bigger and more helpful perspective about life. For example, if we ask ourselves, will this matter in 100 years? 1000 years? Things that may seem important in the moment, can seem trivial in the long run. The minor inconveniences that annoy and distress us in our daily lives can be laughed off when we think about them in a long enough timeframe because everything you do will probably not even be remembered in 100 years, and probably not even in 5 or 10 years.

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius says, “Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were either received into the same generative principle of the universe, or they were both dispersed into atoms.” In talking about this, he’s reminds us that regardless of the greatness of your achievements, we all meet the same fate. And even though Alexander was a great conquer, what good does that do him now? Is he still able to enjoy the glory of his conquests?

How You Live

"It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time."

— Samuel Johnson

So if that’s the case and it seems like nothing really matters, why should we try to do anything good? Why should we try to accomplish anything in this life?

It’s not that you have to accomplish great things in order for your life to mean something. Not everyone was meant to accomplish something that will be remembered. And that’s okay. Because how you live your life matters. Like I talked about in last weeks podcast, Ambition or Contentment, living a good life is not about all the accomplishments you achieve, it’s about the process of living. It’s about enjoying the journey and everything that comes your way. It’s about doing good things in the world, even if they are small acts.

Gratitude of Living

"It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had."

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

An important part of Memento Mori, is that it teaches us to practice gratitude for the the everyday things in life. Remember, it’s not the grand gestures and huge accomplishments that make life good. It’s all the little things. A good cup of coffee, a great conversation with a friend, listening to a beautiful piece of music, watching a sunset, or even just appreciating that you are alive and you get to experience all these things. Appreciating the little things, the small joys of life is an easy way to help you feel more alive with just small shift in your perspective.

Contemplate Your Death

"Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

— Mary Oliver, from the poem "The Summer Day"

A practice to you can use to help you appreciate life more is to imagine what it would be like if you died. Think about all the things that you would miss. Spending time with your friends and family. Watching your favorite film. Eating dinner at your favorite restaurant. Imagine that you will never get to experience these things again. When you think about how much you’ll miss them, you’ll appreciate them even more the next you get to enjoy them.

There’s a great example of this in the film Fight Club. There’s a scene where Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, pulls a gun on a convenience store clerk, Raymond, and threatens him with it. He takes his wallet and he sees that Raymond has an expired community college id. He asks him what he studied and what he wanted to become. Raymond tells him he wanted to become a veterinarian, but that there was too much schooling involved. Tyler then takes Raymond’s drivers license and tells him he’s going to check up on him and that if he’s not on his way to becoming a veterinarian in the next six weeks that he’s going to kill him.

He then tells Raymond to run.

Throughout the whole incident, Edward Norton’s character is trying to get Tyler to stop. After Raymond runs for his life, he asks Tyler why he did it. Tyler says, “Tomorrow morning will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than anything you and I have ever tasted.”

Now I don’t recommend that you go out and threaten someone with gun to help them face their fear of death. The scene in the movie was meant to be extreme to prove a point – that once you face your death, it breaks you out of the spell of your ordinary life, and you appreciate life in a more present and fearless way.

Conclusion

"For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one."

— Kahlil Gibran

We will all die one day, and this is one thing that none of us can escape. Many of us ignore this and live our lives as if we had all the time in the world. By practicing Memento Mori, you stop putting off things until tomorrow. You let go of things that do not matter because they don’t really matter in the long run. You are more present in your life because you appreciate the fact that you are alive and breathing and you get to experience and the great and small joys of life. Take a little time each day to think about your death, because the more you are willing to face up to your mortality, the more alive you can feel each day.


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Categories
Purpose

285 – Ambition or Contentment

One of the key aspects of stoicism is to be content with what we have. So how does this balance with ambition? If you are content, does that mean that you shouldn’t be striving to accomplish your goals? Today I want to talk about how stoicism can help you accomplish your goals while still finding contentment in your daily life.

"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."

— Seneca

One question that I get from time to time is how do balance ambition with the stoic teaching of contentment? Meaning, if we’re supposed to be content with how our life is and accept it for exactly what it is, how do you work hard and achieve the goals you want to accomplish in your life?

This is an interesting paradox to consider, because it seems like they are in opposition of one another. If you are content with what you have, does that mean that you become apathetic? If you are striving to accomplish your goals, does that mean that you are discontent with what you have?

Contentment

"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens."

— Epictetus

First, let’s dig into the definitions for each of these things. What does it mean to be content? Does it mean that you simply accept life as it is? Does it mean that you’re docile and just let life happen?

Often people think that contentment means that we are happy with life as it is and don’t want things to change. But that’s the thing, life will change. As soon as we are content with life as it is at a particular moment, things change. We can’t just be content with life as it is in one static moment because that moment will not last. We need to learn to be content with life as an ever changing process. We need to learn to flow with life as it comes.

Contentment comes from an acceptance and appreciation of what is, of all things in your life whether you consider them positive or negative.

Finding contentment means that we accept life and all its changes and recognize that we have the power to choose how we want to view the events that happen. It means that you choose your perspective and outlook and you don’t let external events and circumstances be the driver of your mood.

Ambition

“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

Now let’s talk about ambition. Let’s go with the definition that ambition means that you have specific goals that you are striving to accomplish. It could be that you want excel in your career or you are trying to master a skill. Maybe you want to improve yourself in some way. Does mean that you aren’t content with the way things are?

Where ambition leads to discontent is when we become dependent on the outcome. When we set our happiness upon achieving our goal is where we find the conflict with stoicism. The problem is not that you are discontent with the way things are and are trying to change them. The problem is when we focus on the outcome of our striving, then we set ourselves up for several kinds of unhappiness.

The first is that when we set our happiness on achieving the goal, then it is likely that we won’t be happy while we are striving for our goals because it is still out of our reach. We have decided that we can’t be happy until we get what we want, and you’ve given away your control. You’ve placed your sense of well being outside of yourself. Since the stoics remind us to focus on what you can control, you can only control your perspective and the choices that you make in the present moment.

Another pitfall of setting our happiness on the outcome is what happens if we fail to reach our goal? What if we give it everything we have and still fail? If your happiness is outcome dependent then you are allowing your happiness be dependent on something outside of your control.

Another problem with being dependent on the outcome is that when we actually achieve our goal, then we are often happy for a time, but then we find that happiness fades. Our level of happiness fades to the level it was before we achieved our goal. This is known as the hedonic treadmill. We work hard to get the bonus or the new house only to find that after a while we are just as happy or unhappy as we were before.

Process

"Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well."

— Epictetus

So how do avoid the pitfalls of striving for our ambitions? How do we find contentment without becoming complacent?

When we learn to focus on the process of what we are doing, then we are able to find contentment in it. We work on being happy with our growth and how we are doing something rather than just achieving something. We find joy in learning how to master something. We find contentment in our own improvement, know matter how small.

What about external validation? Again, if we are intrinsically motivated, if we are motivated by our comparison with ourselves rather than needing the validation of others, then we can find contentment. The only person we should competing with is ourselves. Are we better than we were yesterday? Have we made progress?

Now does this mean that if we ignore external validation and comparisons that we’ll achieve our goals?

No.

You could still work really hard on something, enjoy the process, and still not get what you want. But what you will have is control over your happiness. It will not be as dependent on what others think.

The outcome will be what it will be, but your happiness is not affected by the outcome. Because you cannot control the outcome, you can fail, and still be content because you enjoyed the process and did your best. You may not get that promotion. You may not win the race. But your self worth, your contentment will not be dependent on those things.

Another thing to consider is that we can’t develop our virtues of Justice, Wisdom, Temperance, and Courage without engaging with other people. All of these are things that we improve while we work on other things. You don’t gain wisdom by just sitting in your room reading books. You may get knowledge by doing that, but unless you interact with others it’s just knowledge.

The same goes with Courage, Justice, and Temperance. Unless you are busy with life and trying to be useful in the world, you are unable to develop these virtues. How would you know if you have courage if you are never tested? How do you develop temperance without challenges? It is by getting out into the world and trying to better ourselves in all that we do that we improves these virtues, and thereby improve the world.

As an example, say that you wanted to become a leader at your company. In doing so, you’ll have to learn how to work well with others. You’ll need to have wisdom of how to manage other people. You’ll need to learn to be fair with others, and to manage your own moods when things don’t go as planned. By putting yourself out there and trying to achieve your own goals, you’ll have to improve yourself, and in doing so you can make your work environment a much better place for yourself and those you work with. And one of the byproducts of focusing and doing the best you can with each situation as it arises, the more likely you are to succeed.

Enjoy the Present

"Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life."

— Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to be better about being content while we work towards our goals?

First and foremost, as I’ve mentioned several times in this podcast, we can focus on the How. We do our best to grow and learn when we learn to enjoy the process of doing. When we do this, we let go of the outcome determining whether we are successful or not.

Does this mean that we will be successful?

No.

You can do everything perfectly and still not succeed. That is not a reflection on your character or whether or not you’re a good person or even whether you deserve the outcome you want. An important part of finding contentment in any situation is that you control the things you can and you let go of the things outside of your control.

You can train for decades for the Olympics, be the best in your sport, perform the best you can, and still not win a medal simply because someone else was a little better or conditions where not in your favor. How well someone else does, the decisions a judge makes, and other external factors are all outside of your control.

You can work hard at your job, put in more hours than your peers, and still get passed over for a promotion. You can study for months on end and still fail a test. And you can still find contentment if you don’t let the outcome determine your happiness.

Non-Striving

"True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future."

— Seneca

I think the best way to think about this comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a former professor of medicine and author of several books including Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. He has been instrumental in bringing mindfulness and meditation into the West, and one of his key ideas is to life a life of non-striving. What he means by non-striving is that rather than constantly trying to strive and push for what you want, if you can develop and attitude of setting out in a direction and taking things as they come, you can approach things in a much more relaxed and positive way.

When you cultivate this way of looking at your life, because you’re not focused on the the outcome of what you’re working on, you are able to deal with any setbacks and challenges as they arise. They are considered part of the process of getting where you want and not things that are stopping you. You are also able to be present and focus at the task at hand, rather than being stuck focused on the future.

In the past I’ve used the example of kayaking on a river. When you’re out on the river, you know the direction you’re going, and you know that you’re going to come across rapids and eddies and other challenges along the way. If you can learn to flow and work with the currents and focus on getting through one challenge after another then you’re more likely to reach your destination and enjoy the ride along the way.

Now does this mean that if you are feeling discontented with where you are, that you are failing?

Not at all. We are emotional beings. We feel emotions even when we have worked hard to master them. Sometimes we feel unsettled for good reasons. The thing is, we need to understand WHY we feel this way. Sometimes we feel discontent because there is an injustice that we see in the world, or we are in a situation such as an unhealthy relationship or a high stress work environment. This could be a deeper signal that we need to change something.

When we feel this way, again, the most important thing we can do is to understand what we can control. Are there things that we can do to improve these situations? What actions can we take? While some things can be improved by changing our mindset around them, there are times when we need to take more drastic actions such as leaving a relationship or finding another job.

Personally, even though I’ve studied stoicism for over 6 years, I still struggle with feeling anxious and discontent with the way things are in my life. Just because I understand these principles doesn’t mean that they are easy to implement. I have to work at it every day because my natural inclination is to get focused on how things will been the future, and about how it will feel once I accomplish the things I’ve set out to do. It takes effort to remind myself to be present and enjoy where I am and what I’m doing and to let the future take care of itself.

Conclusion

We all have goals that we want to achieve in our lives. We have ambitions to be good at something and improve ourselves. When we achieve those goals we have certain sense of satisfaction that may las for a few hours to a few months. But the more that we can be in the present and be content where we are, we can have a sense of satisfaction that becomes part of our everyday lives.

It’s not a choice of being content OR achieving your goals, it’s about being content with where you are on your journey. When you focus your energy and your talents on mastering where you are, you can find contentment at any moment. You can enjoy walking the path. If all you’re focused on is the outcome, then you’re trying to control something that you can’t. Do your best, and let the chips fall where they will.


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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Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Q & A

284 – Q & A – Daily Life, God, Difficult People, and Politics

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 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 going to be a little bit different. I've been traveling quite a bit. I am now in Amsterdam. And so I put a post out on social media a couple of weeks ago. I guess about a week or so ago, that I'm going to do a question and answer episode. This is the first time I've done this, but I thought it might be interesting to give it a go.

So, I had some people on social media ask me some questions, I also asked some of my friends for their questions about Stoicism and just kind of about life and philosophy in general, and we'll see how this goes.

So the first question that I got was: What are some common mistakes people make when trying to practice Stoicism, and how can I avoid them?

So, the first mistake that most people think about stoicism is that stoicism is about repressing your emotions. That it's not showing any emotions when you are dealing with something that you're struggling with. And this is really not the case. Stoicism is about emotional awareness. It's about making sure that you are in touch with your emotions in a way that allows you to manage them better.

That you have control over your emotions and yourself rather than letting your emotions control you and this comes with, really working on your awareness about yourself awareness about the way that you think. The way that your emotions come because of the things that you think because remember when you are struggling with an emotion. Emotions are created by the thinking that you have, and that your thoughts are the things that lead to emotions and it also can create a feedback loop because emotions can impact your thinking.

So for example, if someone says something that you consider to be rude, it's your opinion of what they said that makes it rude. It's your opinion that causes the emotions that you feel about what they said. And by recognizing that it's your opinion that is causing the emotions, you get to choose how you let those emotions impact you and the actions that you take.

So that for me is probably. One of the most common mistakes that people make it when they start to practice stoicism, you're not cutting off emotions. You're just becoming more aware of them so that you can actually do something about them and manage them rather than having them control you.

So the next question is: How did you discover stoicism or what made you start studying it?

So, I first heard about Stoicism from Tim Ferriss. He mentioned the book, The Guide to the Good Life: The Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine. And he said it was a book that changed his life. And Tim reads lots of books, makes lots of recommendations. And for me, when Tim says, hey, this is a book that changed my life, it caught my attention.

And I also was curious about the title. Or the subtitle, The Art of Stoic Joy. Because to me, I only knew stoic as somebody who is, you know, very rigid and very emotionless. And so stoic joy was something that I liked the contradiction, so I thought I'd give it a read. So I got the book, and I read through it, and there were a lot of good ideas in it, but it didn't quite click the first time.

And I knew that there was something more to it, because as I listened to Tim's podcast, I would hear again and again, hey, you know, talking about stoicism, talking about stoicism. So I got the audio book and for about two or three months, I listened to it on the way to and from work. It was like a 15 minute commute.

And I kept having a lot of these aha moments every time I would be listening to it. And it was at that point that it really started to click for me. And I just kept having these moments where I'd be like, wow, that is an amazing idea. I never thought of that. I never knew that the world worked this way.

So at that point, I bought the daily journal that Ryan Holiday has, and this was back in 2017. And just at the beginning of 2018, so I could write it in the new year. And I started journaling, and my New Year's resolution was to start a podcast. And I wasn't sure what I wanted to start a podcast on, I had all kinds of ideas.

And I figured since I was learning about Stoicism, I would just do a podcast on Stoicism and it was supposed to be just a practice podcast. I would just practice making a podcast and I would talk about Stoicism because I needed a topic to talk about. And then things kind of took off and here we are today.

Next question is: What is the best way to practice Stoicism on a daily basis?

I think there are a lot of ways that you can practice Stoicism, but there are a few things that I've always found helpful and I know it's going to sound like I'm repeating the same thing, but these are all things that. It'll allow you to practice Stoicism on a daily basis.

I think that reading something from the Stoics such as Meditations or writings by Epictetus and Seneca or Rufus Masonius are always, always something good to add to your day. If it's, if Stoicism is just something that you're getting into, Ryan Holiday's books are also a great way to get a good introduction if you find the ancient text a little bit hard to follow. I think there are lots of great books out there that can be incredibly helpful. And I even like to mix in things by like Buddhist writers like Thich Nhat Hanh.

Now, another thing that I talk about a lot is meditation. And even though I've kind of fallen off the wagon with this and have not been practicing it every day like I used to, gaining that awareness of your own mind is incredibly helpful for emotional awareness and emotional management.

So a few years ago, I challenged myself to meditate for 60 minutes a day for 60 days in a row. And it was challenging. It was something that was very, very hard. And I found that usually the first half hour to 40 minutes, my brain was just kind of like randomly firing off thoughts and thinking about all kinds of things.

And then the last, you know, 20 – 25 minutes would be where I kind of find some peace and I could watch my thinking in a much more relaxed way. But I found that doing that exercise really helped me to have an overall ability to manage my thinking better. So it, it kind of did a big reset. Like my brain worked through a bunch of stuff and so my anxiety levels overall are much lower. And I find that when I need to, when I'm feeling anxious about something, I can just stop, take a deep breath and I'm able to manage my thoughts quite a bit better.

And so it's something that I'm working on getting back into every day. Probably do it a bit shorter than that, but if you can, I highly recommend doing that exercise. It's hard. It's very, very hard, but I found that from that point on, I was a lot more in control of how I could think about things. Another thing to understand about meditation is it doesn't mean that you just have to sit quietly in a room for 30, 60 minutes, whatever.

It can be just walking out in nature and paying attention to your thinking. It can be just taking a moment on the bus and just pay attention to your thinking. And just taking some time, even just 10 minutes a day to just sit down and allow yourself to be bored and to pay attention to your thoughts. And the goal of meditation, at least for me, is to not necessarily relax, but to become much more aware of what my brain is doing, what my brain is thinking of. And it's a, it's a very valuable skill because it's hard to manage your thinking if you're not aware of what you're actually thinking.

And the last way that I recommend, again, these are all simple tools that everybody talks about. So for me, I find that sitting down and writing in my journal is a good way to get everything that's kind of stirring around in my head. It's also a meditative practice for me.

So sometimes when I'm feeling anxious about things or I'm unclear about what I need to get done in my life, I just sit down and do a brain dump. And just whatever comes to my mind, I just start writing it down. And it takes what's spinning around in my head and puts it down on paper so one, it's easier to see and two, it's much easier just to be able to organize those types of thoughts.

So if meditation isn't your thing, maybe try journaling. I think that either of those two practices will really help you to become aware of your own thinking, which is a big part of how you can practice stoicism in your daily life much better.

So the next question I got is an interesting one, but I think I'll, I'll address it. And the question is: Is “God” a pronoun, the name of an all powerful man, or is “god” an ancient word meaning the totality of an infinite universe, and why?

So, this is an interesting question, and not something that is really particularly answered by Stoicism, so this is just my opinion on it, and, for me, I would tend to fall on the second option.

So, I think that god is just a way to try and explain why there is something rather than nothing. And because this is such a mysterious area, people from the beginning of time have tried to understand where we came from, why we're here, and where do we go when we die. And the truth is, we don't know.

I mean, we do know that there has to be something at the beginning. There has to be something that created everything that exists. There is some kind of force, a creative force that exists, otherwise there would be nothing. But to assume that it's some old guy with a beard or to ascribe or assume that we know what this person wants us to do or believe is not something that I just, that I can’t follow.

I mean, we tend to anthropomorphize things that we don't understand. And throughout history, people have claimed to know what this all powerful being wants us to do. And usually it's what that person wants us to do.

So the next question: How can I develop a stoic mindset when it comes to dealing with difficult people or situations?

I think the most important thing you can do is to not take anything personally, even if it is. When you can put some distance between you and what the other person is saying or doing, then it gives you choices. And if you're constantly being reactive to what someone else says or does, then you're not the one that's in control.

They are.

So one of the easier ways to do this is when you can recognize that what the other person is saying or doing is just their perspective. It's just their opinion. Just because someone said something doesn't mean that it's the truth. And if it is the truth, well, you should be open to it. You should be open to taking in things that are factual, even if they are uncomfortable.

I think the bigger part of this is that if someone can get you easily stirred up, well, that's your problem and not theirs. Yes, they may be an asshole and they may say stupid or mean things, but it's your opinion of what they're saying that gets you stirred up. It's the thoughts in your mind that create the emotions you feel, and those emotions drive your actions.

If you can simply take in the things that they are saying is just that, that they are words that are coming out of their mouths, then you can be curious about what they are saying and think about it. And honestly, I think that being curious about what others are saying And why they are saying it is one of the fastest ways to not let others get under your skin.

An example of this where I failed recently was when I was a podcast guest just a couple of weeks ago. Now, the podcast host was a pretty hardcore Catholic who had some very hardline views on some things that I disagreed with, and I found myself getting very defensive and things got a little bit heated.

It was still civil, but I was definitely riled up. And I was not really trying to understand his point of view or to be curious about why he believed the things that he did. And after the interview, I had some time to sit and think about how I didn't live up to my stoic ideals. I realized that I hadn't been curious, but I just wanted to prove that I was right, or at the very least prove that he was wrong.

And it was certainly a learning space for me, because I want to be curious. I want to try and understand others, even if I don't agree with them. And while I feel like I failed, I also feel like I learned something for the next time I talk with someone like him.

Next question: Who would Marcus Aurelius vote for?

Oh boy, this is going to be a thorny one, which is why I saved it for last. I'm assuming that the person who asked it is referring to the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And right now politics in the U. S. and in plenty of other countries is very divisive. But let's not fool ourselves.

Divisive politics is nothing new in the world. It just feels very amplified because of social media and the fact that we have so much more news available to us that we didn't have until the last 25 years or so. So let's walk through this and think about how we should choose our elected leaders. When we think about Marcus Aurelius and how he tried to govern, we see a leader who was unselfish, who was principled, he was thoughtful and patient.

He tried to be a leader who served those that he governed. He did his best to govern in a way that benefited as many people as possible, not just those who were on his side. He was not there for his own enrichment or glory. In fact, he sold items from the palace to help pay debts that needed to be paid.

He didn't live lavishly, but he lived plainly in order to focus on the job of running the empire. He was faithful to his wife, even though there were rumors that his wife had had affairs outside of their marriage. A good example of him trying to live up to his stoic principles was when Marcus was emperor, there was an attempted coup by Avidius Cassius, who was actually a trusted friend and a loyal general to the emperor.

And this betrayal was a major test of Marcus Aurelius stoic principles. Because he was faced with a very difficult situation that could have led to a lot of anger and revenge. However, Marcus demonstrated his commitment to Stoic principles by showing mercy and forgiveness to Cassius instead of seeking retribution. Which would have been the normal thing for most other emperors at that time.

So with that said, you have to ask yourself, which of the people running for office is doing their best to live up to these principles? Which one is trying to serve the whole nation and not just those that follow him? Which one speaks out about trying to find ways to bring us together and find things that we have in common rather than trying to create divisions between us?

If you look at what each of them actually says and does, and not just what you hear on partisan news channels, then I think you'll find a pretty clear distinction between them. The question is, are you willing to seek out that information, or are you just sticking to the news channels that say the things that you like to hear? Have you picked a side?

Now, I'm sure a lot of you were disappointed that I didn't directly choose a side, but I think that's part of the problem. There are no sides. I think a big problem is that politics has turned into nothing more than rooting for a side like you would for a football game. And people want their side to win.

I want the person who will be the best leader for all of us to win. I want the person that is doing their best to serve all of us. Not just someone who is seeking power for their own glory and to pour down favors onto those that they consider to be loyal to them. So when you look at the candidates, there's a few things I want you to think about.

Do you filter everything that happens from one party through a negative bias? Do you look at the politicians for the things that they do and actually say or do you gloss over it and simply follow it because it's your side? Now understanding your own perspective on it can be very, very helpful because then you can look at somebody for the things that they actually do and the things they actually say and see if it lines up with you.

I mean, personally, there are people on both sides of the political aisle because in the U. S. that's pretty much what we have is two sides, that when they do something good, when they put in legislation, when they say things that try to bring us together, I support that. I don't have a side that I choose and go, yep, I'm just going to follow this one blindly.

I will criticize people on the political party that I generally follow when they do things that are really stupid or when they do things that aren't helpful. And I'll do things such as when there's somebody on the other side who does good things, I'll praise them and support them because I think that it's not about which side.

It's about how do we govern in a way that is beneficial to the most people. And while we may disagree on that, we need to be able to come together and actually talk about that and be willing to listen to people and understand their point of view. And I think that's the hardest thing, is that we get stuck in this way of thinking that other people think just like us.

And if we don't understand where someone is coming from and what their values are, what's important to them, they may choose a candidate who is just saying the things that they want to hear. Even if that candidate isn't standing up for the principles that we truly believe in.

Now the Stoics have four virtues, and I think that that's probably one of the best places to start to pick out a political candidate, and the four virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. Is the political candidate you're looking at wise? Do they take in science? Do they take in learning? Do they take in experience and try to apply it in a way that, again, helps the most people? Are they courageous and willing to stand up for their beliefs and their principles even when they're getting knocked down pretty hard for those things?

Are they in search of justice or are they looking out for vengeance or revenge? And lastly, are they moderate? Are they willing to listen to people on both sides? Are they willing to have the self discipline for themselves to not let their baser emotions, their baser impulses come out and lash out angrily at their opponents, but that they do their best to reach across and try to treat their opponents with respect and compassion and try to govern and not just rule? And I think that's really probably one of the best things that you can filter any political candidate for.

So that's the end of this week's episode. Like I said, this is something new that I'm trying out. If you have any questions that you want to send to me, I will probably do another episode like this and hopefully you will have some good questions for me to answer about stoicism, about how to look at the world through a stoic perspective, how to apply stoicism in your daily life.

I think there are a lot of things you can do and the more detailed the question, the more I appreciate it. I'd really like to get some good ideas generated through this. So I'd appreciate it if you'd send me your questions. 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.

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

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

Categories
entrepreneurship

283 – Interview With Gavan Wilhite

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

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

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


Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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

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

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

Categories
Transformation

282 – Timeless Principles For Handling a Changing World

Far too often we’re focused on the things that change in this world and in our lives. But what are the things that don’t change? Today I want to talk about things we can build on that can help us through the ever flowing tide of changes that happen in our lives.

"Everything is in a state of flux, and nothing remains the same. So be prepared for change, and embrace it as a natural part of life."

— Marcus Aurelius

What Doesn’t Change?

The other day I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast and he was interviewing Morgan Housel, a personal finance expert who just finished up his book called Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes. In the interview, Morgan tells a story about how a CEO was chatting with Warren Buffet, arguably the greatest investor of all time. The CEO was asking him back in 2009 if America would be able to recover from the financial crisis.

Warren turned to the CEO and asked him, “Do you know what the best selling candy bar was in 1962?”

The CEO responded, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers. Do you know what the best selling candy bar is right now?”

The CEO responded again, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers.”

Now, this story is emblematic of Warren Buffet’s investing philosophy: find the things that don’t change and invest in those. Far too often investors are betting on what they think will change in the future. Because there are so many factors in our lives and the world that impact how things will turn out, humans are not great at predicting the future.

The reason this story struck me is because this is very much how I view stoicism. Stoicism for me is about focusing on the things that don’t change, so that you can handle the things that do. Stoicism is not a set of rigid prescriptions that you need to follow. It is not dependent on a charismatic leader handing down dictates of how you should live. It is based on tested and timeless principles and ideas that have lasted through the ages and can be applied to every aspect of your life.

So today, I want to go over some of the principles that I find useful in my own life, and hope that you can find them as useful as I do.

Understanding What is Within Our Control

"The only thing we can control is our own actions."

— Epictetus

In our daily lives, we encounter situations that are beyond our control, like traffic jams, bad weather, or the actions of other people. Because they are outside of our control, the more we try to control them, the more we stress out and create unnecessary anxiety. Instead of fretting over these, Stoicism teaches us to focus on our reactions to the things that are outside of our control.

For instance, we can use the time in a traffic jam to listen to a podcast or audiobook, turning a frustrating situation into a productive one. We can enjoy and appreciate the storms or heat waves that nature brings our way. We can improve our communication skills and our patience when others make choices that impact our lives in a negative way.

Accepting Change as Inevitable

“Change is the only constant in life."

— Heraclitus

Change, whether it's in a job, relationship, or environment, is inevitable. The more we try to resist change, the harder we make things on ourselves. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not and we have the choice to embrace it or resist it. If we look at change as the thing that makes life interesting and worth living, then we stop fearing it, and embrace it.

Seeking Growth Over Comfort

“What stands in the way becomes the way."

— Marcus Aurelius

Challenges are not roadblocks, but pathways to personal growth. If there were no challenges in your life, you would never grow. The way to get better at something is working through it. Avoiding challenges doesn’t teach you how to get better at something. If you are constantly avoiding anything that is challenging or uncomfortable, then you are passing up opportunities to grow. This is why courage is one of the foundational stoic virtues because it take courage to forsake comfort and seek growth.

Practicing Gratitude

"It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

— Seneca

Much of our unhappiness comes from our feelings of what we think is lacking in our lives. We think that by changing our circumstances we’ll be happier. We often think about how much happier we’ll be when we get the house or the car or the new gadget that we want. Our whole consumer culture and the marketing behind it is based on making you believe that your life will be so much better if you go out and acquire all these new and shiny things.

But the thing is, our our circumstances and possessions don’t change who we are as a person. Sure, some circumstances are more comfortable than others, but we can’t always change our circumstance, and our possessions are mere objects and in the longer arch of our lives we are simply borrowing them since we can’t take them with us when die. When we learn to be grateful with whatever we have and whatever our life situation is, then we are able to feel content with our lives at any moment.

As an example, I recently got rid of most of my possessions and sold my house. I gave away most of my possessions to friends and others and I’m currently traveling and living out of two suitcases and a backpack. My level of happiness is very much the same as it was when I owned a house and had lots of stuff. I do feel a greater sense of freedom not having all those possessions, but I still worry about many of the same things in my life that I did before. Having more or less possessions hasn’t changed me as a person.

Embracing the Present Moment

"The present is all we have; live it fully."

— Marcus Aurelius

When we worry to much about the future or the past then we are missing living in the present moment. The past is already gone and cannot be changed. The future is unknowable and will more likely be nothing like what we thought it would be. When we worry too much about the future, we create anxiety over things that may not even happen. If we dwell too much on the past, we live in regret about things that we can’t do anything about.

This has been especially important for me to practice over the last few weeks. Like I said, I sold my house and I’m traveling and trying to figure out what to do next in my life. Other than plans to head over to Europe and see what kinds of opportunities I can make for myself, I don’t have a clear idea of what my future will be. It’s very exciting, but when I dwell too much on trying to figure out what my ultimate direction and goals should be, I get anxious and a bit stressed about it. When I focus on relaxing and enjoying where I am and what I’m doing in the present moment, I keep myself in a better mindset knowing that I don’t have to have it all planned out. I know that I can handle whatever comes up, when it comes up.

Cultivating Inner Resilience

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

— Marcus Aurelius

Life will invariably present challenges, but our inner response to these challenges is key. Cultivating a resilient mindset helps us bounce back from setbacks. Having this kind of inner resilience helps you to take in challenging and frustrating setbacks with calmness and a clear mind. You’re able to step up and take action rather than fretting or losing you cool. When things go wrong, you’re able to roll with the punches and make the best of any situation.

For instance, if you fail to achieve a goal, instead of being harsh on yourself, analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and prepare to try again with a stronger, more informed approach.

Practicing Compassion and Understanding

"Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself."

— Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism teaches the importance of empathy and understanding towards others. When dealing with difficult people, try to understand their perspectives and circumstances. Far too often we’re quick to rush to judgements or make assumptions about others intentions. And even if others have bad intentions towards you, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat them poorly.

Part of living a principled life is to live your principles not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. This could mean being patient with a friend who is struggling, offering help instead of criticism, or simply listening without judgment. Practicing compassion not only aids in personal peace but also fosters a positive environment around you.

Conclusion

The world is constantly changing and it often feels like the pace of change is increasing. It’s easy to feel anxious about the overwhelming flow of information and bad news. This is why it’s important to anchor yourself to principles that stay the same over time. Since it’s very challenging to accurately predict what impact changes will bring, the more we are grounded in the things that don’t change, the better we’ll be able to handle the things that do.


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Categories
self-care

281 – Self Discipline is Self Care

What do you think of when you hear the term “self-care”? Do you think of indulgences like triple chocolate ice cream or a bottle of wine? When you think of self-discipline, do you think of depriving yourself of the things you enjoy? Today I want dig a little deeper and think about what self-care really means and why it’s important for us to take time out and pay some attention to ourselves.

“The mind must be given relaxation. It will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced to produce a crop year after year, so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind.”

— Seneca

The Stress of Life

Life can be very stressful. There are so many things that we need to take care of. Between work, family, school, social life, hobbies and other activities there are a lot of things vying for our time and attention. Add to that the complexity of modern life, societal stress and political divisiveness, life can often feel overwhelming. We often feel burned out and feel like we don’t have the energy to work on anything else outside of work, or family.

When we get into this kind of rut, life can often feel like we’re just stuck in the same loop day after day. We never feel like we really have time to work on some of the goals outside of work that we might want to accomplish. This is often why so many people get home from work and all they want to do is just chill out and watch Netflix then head to bed. Others end up distracting themselves with video games, social media, as well alcohol or other substances to help distract them in hopes of reducing their stress.

Over the past few years though it’s become part of the zeitgeist to recognize burnout and to work on self-care. As people find that they aren’t handling the stresses of modern life very well, they’re finding ways to be deliberate about carving out downtime and activities that help them relax and rejuvenate.

Overindulgence

Often people use self-care as an excuse to overindulge or to do things that aren’t necessarily good for them, and might even have the opposite effect. It’s even become popular on social media for people to post about how they’re indulging in something and calling it “self-care”. Drinking too much, eating unhealthy foods, binge eating, or buying things you don’t need are all habits that people justify with the term “self-care”. The problem with these habits is that they only bring short term pleasure. They don’t provide the rest and rejuvenation that is truly need. They also don’t address underlying issues and often cause long term problems.

Self-Care is Self-Discipline

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."

— Eleanor Brownn

So, I want to propose the idea that self-care is more than just indulging ourselves in things that make us feel better in the moment, but rather that self-care is when we do what is good for us in the long term. It’s about taking care of ourselves so that we are better equipped to handle the other more demanding parts of our lives. It’s about knowing when and how to rest and recover so that we can push hard when we need to while avoiding burnout.

A prime example of understanding why rest is so important is when you’re building muscle. When you lift weights you’re actually breaking down your muscles, and your body then rebuilds the muscles. Your body needs a certain amount of stress in order to get stronger, but it’s in the rest periods between workouts that your body rebuilds the muscles. Life is very much the same way. We need stressors and challenges to grow, but we also need to rest so that can face those challenges at our best.

Know Thyself

Self-awareness is the start of any change in your life. It takes time and effort not only to be self-aware but also to actually do something about the things that you learn about yourself through that awareness. You need to understand why you do the things you do. Are you drinking too much to avoid some emotional pain? Are you playing hours of video games each night to stave off loneliness? If you’re unaware of your own thoughts, motivations, habits, and behaviors, you are unable to change. You cannot change from a place of ignorance.

The reason self-awareness is a core part of self-care is that in order to choose things that help you to take care of yourself, you need to know yourself. It’s not just about knowing what to avoid, but about understanding the things that you should pursue. You need to know what is actually helpful for you so you can live your life in a way that helps you thrive. Self-awareness is the first step to developing self-discipline.

Self-Discipline

Developing self-discipline is a form of self-care because it helps you prioritize your own needs, values, and goals. Self-discipline is not about denying yourself pleasure or forcing yourself to do things you don't want to do. It's about making choices that are aligned with your long-term well-being and goals. It’s about making choices that you know are in your best interest.

When you exercise self-discipline, you're showing yourself that you care about yourself and your future. Self-discipline is built on several of the core stoic virtues. You need wisdom to know what things you should do that will help you in the long run. It takes courage to be willing to do those things. Lastly, it take moderation to know when to push yourself and when to pull back.

For example, when you overeat or eat unhealthy food for extended periods of time your body will not work at its best. When your digestive system is not working well, it causes low energy levels, gastrointestinal distress, as well as diminishing your cognitive abilities. While the exact mechanisms behind this link to cognitive functioning are still being investigated, researchers believe that the gut microbiome plays a role in cognitive function through its impact on the immune system, neurotransmitter production, and overall inflammation in the body. Because your body is the vehicle through which you experience the world, the better your body functions the more you are able to enjoy your life.

Think Long

How many times have you done something impulsive in the moment only to later regret it? I know that I have made plenty of bad decisions when I was tired, stressed out, or not feeling well. Practicing self-discipline and doing the things that help your physical and mental health in the long run leads to a more balanced and fulfilling life. The better you feel overall, the more likely it is that you’ll make clearheaded decisions that benefit you in the long-term and help you avoid impulsive or short-sighted decisions that can cause regret or distress later on.

Make Proactive Choices

“You must learn to be gentle with yourself and to take time to renew your strength, both physically and mentally.”

—Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to help improve our self-discipline and take better care of ourselves? How can we truly practice self-care?

Self-care means that we actively take a role in improving our mental and physical health, not just avoiding things that don’t serve us. For example, this year I have worked really hard to improve my health. While I’ve cut down on drinking alcohol and avoid things with high amounts of sugar, I’ve also changed my diet to include a lot more fruits and vegetables. I’ve worked with my doctor on some outstanding health issues, and have been working with my chiropractor on some old injuries. I workout several times a week and walk or hike on the other days. I also make sure that I get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Now understand that doing pleasurable things like taking a bubble bath or enjoying a glass of wine can be self-care. Resting and enjoying things that we like is rejuvenating. It really comes down to making choices that will benefit us in the long term. Sometimes that means choosing what is good for us rather than what brings us immediate pleasure. For example, making sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour rather than staying up late playing video games.

Say No

“If you are tired, rest. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have been working hard and need to recharge.”

— Epictetus

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept."

— Anna Taylor

Often we get overwhelmed because we try to fulfill all kinds of expectations that others have for us. Often that is due to our culture or family. Expectations of how we’re supposed to behave, think, and live our lives. Whether that’s demands at work that are unreasonable, expectations from our families or friends, or even pressures from society as whole, learning to say no and setting boundaries is one of the most important things that we can do to take care of ourselves.

This can be really challenging at times because we often feel selfish when we don’t uphold the expectations of others, but doing so helps you to show up in the world as your best self. We have limited amounts of time and energy so learning to be protective of them is important to maintain your mental and physical health.

Big Decisions

This can also mean that we question the choices that we’re making in our lives overall. If our job is constantly leaving us drained and stressed out, maybe we need to reconsider our career choice or look for a position that is better suited for us and improves the quality of our lives. By understanding our motivations behind our career choice, and knowing what we truly want, we can make choices that suit us better and help us live happier lives. Getting your mental and physical health in order can help you make better life decisions. When you don’t feel like you’re in survival mode, you’re more likely to make good long term choices.

Conclusion

Some times we think of self-discipline as something that is not pleasant and at times means that we miss out on the good things in life. But really it’s about choosing to do what is good for you rather than what is just pleasurable. It’s about choosing to prioritize your physical and mental health so that you can live your best life. It doesn’t mean forgoing pleasure, but just being intentional with your choices. Practicing self-discipline can help you maintain healthy habits, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep, which are all important aspects of self-care. Practicing self-discipline is the best way to truly practice self-care.


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
self-improvement

280 – Interview with Author Ryan Bush

This weeks episode is an interview with Ryan Bush. Ryan is the Author of several books including Designing The Mind and Become Who You Are. He takes a design approach to structuring your thinking to help you approach your life in a more logical and rational way. I really enjoyed our conversation and hope you will as well. The following is a transcript of our conversation.

Interview with Ryan Bush

Erick: Hello friends, my name is Eric Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take an aspect of Stoicism and break it down to its most important points. I talk about my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from it all within the space of a coffee break.

Now this week's episode is a little bit different. This is an interview episode. So I spoke this week with Ryan A. Bush. Ryan A. Bush is the author of the book, Designing the Mind, and also of the upcoming book, Become Who You Are. I had a very interesting conversation with Ryan. We talked about all kinds of things, like how the mind works, how to change how you think about things, and also how self esteem and lower self esteem can be actually a good thing to help you recognize when you are.

in a space where you need to re evaluate who you are. I also talked about depression and what that means and what depression can teach us. So I hope that you enjoyed this conversation. I really enjoyed my time with Ryan and here we go. Welcome Ryan. Welcome to the podcast. So, um, I received a, I guess an email from your partner a couple of weeks ago about doing actually a couple of months ago when I was able to get this organized and thank you for allowing me to push it off from last time.

That was the day they were doing the inspection on the house. And so, it's, it's one of those things where they, they don't, you don't schedule an inspection, they schedule you for an inspection, and you go, yes, sir. Okay. Um, so, I pretty much didn't, I didn't have much of a choice on it, so thanks for being flexible about that.

I really appreciate it.

Ryan: Yeah, no problem. And, and thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk with you.

Erick: So, I'll do the intro. Uh, for this and, uh, kind of talk about your books and stuff like that. Um, but the one book that we have, that we've been discussing, or at least I've been reading and was sent to me by you, was Become Who You Are.

Um, so we're going to discuss, obviously that's, I think will be the main point of discussion today. Um, but before we get started, uh, go ahead and tell us a bit about yourself. Yeah,

Ryan: so I'm the founder of Designing the Mind. My first book is a book of the same name, Designing the Mind, The Principles of Psychitecture.

And so I kind of write books and programs and products all centered around psychological growth, self mastery, wisdom, drawing from a lot of ancient philosophy like Stoicism and also modern psychology. Um, and then, uh, you know, my formal background, I guess, is in product design. So I've worked with a number of startups designing physical products and, and, uh, software and that kind of thing.

Um, but I've kind of brought a lot of that design thinking and mindset to, uh, psychological design or what I call psychitecture. So that's kind of how things started out. And then, uh, this new book, Become Who You Are sort of started coming into view a few years ago, uh, based on. Both a lot of years of research and some of my own experiences that kind of, um, you know, put some new things into perspective, clicks, clicked a few puzzle pieces in place about why happiness works the way it does and, uh, connected in with a lot of, a lot of these philosophical and psychological perspectives.

So I'm excited to get it out there and share it.

Erick: Very nice. So one of the things I did notice about it is that, um, there's definitely, definitely kind of an architectural feel to this. Um, I think you're a bit like me in that you have a very strong analytical side, but also a highly creative side at the same time, which makes an interesting balance.

And that's, that's why software development for me, when I fell into it actually worked surprisingly well because I was always good at math. And, but I was also big into music and so I found that throughout my career, if I found somebody who was good at math and a good musician, they were more than likely going to be a good programmer.

It was kind of those things because you need that analytical side of being able to organize things you need to understand variables, you need to understand logic, but then you need to be able to understand abstract thinking in a way that if you're too literal, software development can be incredibly challenging.

Ryan: Yeah, you know, that's, that's one of the reasons I kind of have taken the path that I have, because I thought about, you know, going into academia based on my interest in philosophy and psychology. And I ended up deciding now that that gets the analytical part, but it doesn't really get the creative part.

Uh, and I really need both to thrive. And so that led me into product design, but it's also sort of led me beyond there. Uh, to a way I could integrate those kind of philosophical, intellectual interests with the design thinking. And so my work is very visual, typically I use, uh, visual metaphors to explain ideas and create a lot of illustrations for it.

And in this one, I'll go ahead and say that the core visual, uh, centerpiece of the book is this, uh, sort of dimensional framework that I use to talk about our. Wellbeing. And so you can imagine, uh, there's like a chessboard sitting in front of you. And it's, you know, basically a two dimensional thing where you've got this, the, the X axis, which is, uh, pleasure and pain, where you're trying to navigate your life, maximizing pleasure in the moment, minimizing pain.

And then you've got the y axis, which sort of refers to loss and gain. Um, and so, basically what I argue is this is the map that we naturally use to navigate our lives. We try to maximize pleasure, but sometimes we'll sacrifice pleasure and go through some pain in order to experience more long term gain.

And that, um, sometimes serves us well, and other times we end up getting what we wanted and saying, oh, this doesn't really make me any happier. right? People win the lottery and they say, Oh, this didn't really change anything for me. Uh, or even something terrible. Seemingly they lose their legs and they end up adapting very quickly and saying they're just as happy as they were before.

Um, so, so why is it that we're following this map that seems to be good, uh, for navigating our lives? And it keeps kind of, uh, surprising us at important times. I kind of go back to. the Stoics in, in talking about this because the Stoics made this very important distinction, I think is often neglected in a lot of modern Stoic work.

Uh, we talk about how, you know, you, you don't have to worry about the things you can't control and that's very therapeutic. But we don't talk as much about this virtue concept that was really at the heart of the, the Stoic work. Um, I mean, really, they argued that all of these external circumstances in our lives are indifferent.

They don't actually improve our lives, and we mistakenly believe that they do. Um, and so they create this distinction, and they say virtue is what actually matters. And, and while my virtue theory differs in some smaller ways from that of the Stoics. Ultimately, it's that same core distinction between virtue and what is indifferent to us that's really at the center point of my philosophy.

And so if you imagine taking that two dimensional chessboard and extruding mountains and valleys out of it, so that now it's like a three dimensional topographical chessboard. Essentially, what I argue is that virtue or even, you know, admirability, since virtue kind of has this outdated, preachy connotation today, if you think about the kind of actions that make you proud of who you are, that you would admire in someone else, this is essentially what I argue is the third dimension.

This is what moves you higher up in the mountains of virtue or lower in the valleys of virtue. And this is what's actually pulling the strings of our happiness. When we think that it's, you know, the pleasure and gain that, that sort of describes our lives on paper, uh, or our lives on paper, uh, it's actually not even Closely related to that.

It's all about how well we're able to bring out our unique personal virtues and embody the person that we would most admire through our actions that we actually get happier or less happy. And I actually extend this all the way down to clinical depression, uh, and sort of a sliding mood scale and up to eudaimonia or that peak mental state that the Stoics and other Greek thinkers wrote about.

Yeah, there was one thing I did

Erick: notice in there and I kind of circling back on something you said that oftentimes in modern stoicism, they do focus just on, you know, avoiding, it's a lot of avoidance as opposed to what you're talking about is we're not just supposed to avoid these things and, you know, avoid trying to worry about the things, you know, that we don't have control over.

We try to avoid all, you know, Yeah. Rather than just doing that, it's like, how do you, how do you step forward and actually be, be proactive in those regards? Um, so the Ariete, you know, also is that same idea that don't just avoid vice, practice virtue. And, you know, yeah, and I think that that's been very interesting.

And that's one of the things that, um, I know from my podcast, you know, I, I. I try to imbue that a lot as well and talk with people about, you know, Hey, you actually have to be proactive in your thing. You know, you can't just be like, Hey, okay, I don't, I don't feel pain. So I'm happy. Well, it's like, yes, you don't feel pain.

So that, that makes you feel happy. You might have some pleasures that does make you feel a little bit happy, but when you get asked, when you get out there and you actually do something and you're productive in your life, um, there was one guy, I I'm blanking on his name, but there was an essay that I read and it said, The purpose of life is not to be successful.

The purpose of life is to be useful. And it talked about how people, some of the most oppressive things that happen to people are the things they have the hardest time with, they're like when they lose a job because they don't feel like they are useful in the world anymore. And that, that almost more than divorce, almost more than almost anything else can, can drive people to actually commit suicide, you know, at higher rates.

And I thought that was really, really fascinating. It was like, I had never really thought of that, but he just talked about like, everybody wants to feel useful. And yeah. And I know that. That for me, when I do something, uh, and when I do something well, when I, you know, I finally get up and go, okay, I don't really feel like working out, but then I do the workout.

I always feel great afterwards. And it's like, ah, you know, you feel all the muscles strained and, and they're sore afterwards. There's such a, a stronger sense of accomplishment from doing that than like, oh, you know, I slept well. And, and. And not doing something or at least avoiding pain. Um, Yeah, but yeah, so go ahead, go ahead.

Ryan: Well, just, just kind of going off of that, I think the useful, uh, successful distinction is really valuable. I think, you know, if you think about certain activities, like, uh, you know, sitting around a pool, playing video games, uh, you know, getting high, a lot of these things are pleasurable, but I kind of argue that, um, they don't really require any of your personal.

virtues to do. You can, you can, you know, stream a show without having any personal strengths. And this is why when we get through a day of doing this kind of thing, we don't actually feel good about ourselves, even though it felt good at the time. And if we spend a whole year doing, you know, nothing that that's useful and that requires any, any kind of personal strength to do.

Uh, then that we don't end up reflecting back on that as a good year. And I think the same can go for our lives. We don't want to live a whole life that we look back on and say, I don't really admire anything that I did, even though, you know, it maybe felt good at the time. I think, uh, part of what you're talking about with the.

you know, the Stoics and avoiding things that are painful. I actually, um, this is a little more speculative, but I talk about, uh, eudaimonia and equanimity, which are both these sort of mental states that the Stoics talk about. And I have speculated that Eudaimonia corresponds to serotonin in our brains, and equanimity corresponds to a lack of cortisol.

Or in other words, you know, when we use a lot of these stoic principles to reduce these negative emotions, we're lowering our cortisol and creating a stable state of low cortisol. And similarly, when we do things that we are actually proud of, that demonstrate our virtues and sort of exercise our greatest strengths, we're elevating and stabilizing serotonin levels.

Uh, I know how complex neuroscience is, but this is sort of the, the way I've come to map this out in my mind. And so there are two different states that I think are both important for achieving, you know, the optimal mental, um, state. But I think it is, uh, a mistake to just focus on eliminating negative emotion and not creating this really positive state of mental health.

Yeah, I really like

Erick: that. For me, the image when you were talking about that is kind of like, uh, the, uh, the lack of cortisol would be, you know, building a good foundation or having a net underneath you. Like that's your, that's your thing that keeps you from sliding down too far. But then the, uh, I guess the serotonin, you know, is kind of the thing that boosts you up, which helps you move out and actually continue forward in your life.

So yeah, I really like that. I like that idea on that. Um, so one of the ideas, so I did write down a few things when I was working on that, um, would you say that, uh, this was an interesting idea and I want you to speak more on this was that the idea that when you hit a depressive state or some low self esteem, that it's a regulator for social behavior.

I thought that was a really fascinating idea. And I, I never, never thought of it phrased that way, but it reminded me of. And as I thought through that, I thought, you know, when I was in high school or middle school, especially because I think those are some of the roughest times where your self esteem, you know, is careening all over the place.

Like, yeah, John, who's the most popular guy in school said, Hey dude, what's up? And oh my God. He actually noticed that I exist. Oh my gosh. Or, you know, or Jill, you know, the cute girl that she had a crush on says, you know, hi to you as you're walking to class and, you know, you're through the, through the moon.

And then, you know, somebody gives you a dirty look at lunch and you're like, Oh my gosh, I'm like the worst person in the world. And that bouncing around. But, um, but I'd never thought anyone, I always thought of, I never really understood why that was the case. And when you talked about it as a regulator for social behavior, I was like, Hmm, I got to think about that for a bit.

So is that something that I, I made some notes in the book, so I'll have to go back and look at that. And was that something that they've done testing on or is that just kind of more your theory of how you came up with that? I mean, I find it fascinating. So yeah, so a

Ryan: few things the other day I was, um, I was watching a show that.

Uh, you know, I had a character who overheard some other people saying some really good things about her and she got this huge smile and like was clearly very excited about this. And it sort of caused me to reflect once again, like this is such a foundational part of human psychology that we don't even take note of it most of the time that we pay attention to and care very much about our personal esteem and worth.

It's like just such a given that we rarely examine it and say, why is that actually true? We could imagine a human race that didn't actually care what anyone thought about them or what they thought about themselves and just focused on, you know, what they were doing in their external environment. But humans care very deeply about ourselves and our worth and anything that indicates that worth in terms of, you know, the people around us and our tribe.

And so, yeah, that question of why. So, so there's a thinker. Uh, named Mark Leary, who is a evolutionary psychologist, and he proposed a theory called sociometer theory, which says that, uh, basically self esteem is not something in our brain that is malfunctioning when it's low. It's, it's designed, if you will, by evolution to correspond to something, to be either low or high, based on whether it will produce, uh, adaptive behaviors or not.

Um, and so, essentially the, Self esteem is sort of like a simulator for social esteem in our brains. That's what it's built to be. It's like the fuel gauge Whereas self social esteem is the fuel tank It's meant to indicate to us how we're doing in this arena that matters a lot in terms of our reproductive success and survival and so essentially your Self esteem goes up when your brain gets evidence that you are a person who is Likely to be approved of and it goes down when your brain is not seeing that evidence or it sees contrary evidence to that and This I think can take into account You know what people say to our face or what they indicate through their body language But a big part of it is simply our brain observing our own actions, right?

And so it's looking and saying do I admire the things that I am bringing out through my behaviors if I'm Going to the gym and working out if I'm doing, you know, really creative work Right, whatever it is, if I'm really funny, that's sending a signal to my own brain that I do have these traits that humans tend to value, and so I'm likely to be approved of, and what your brain does, I think, is it regulates your mood according to, uh, what it finds, and this is the part where I'm sort of building on these existing theories and combining it with others.

Uh, I think this whole self esteem system is a mood regulator meant to induce behaviors that would be adaptive, uh, or at least would have been adaptive for our ancestors in a very different world. And so, you know, when we are in a really good mood, that makes us want to take behaviors that put us out there.

It makes us, you know, really energized. It makes us want to, uh, be really socially active and put ourselves on display. Play and take advantage of social opportunities, uh, to sort of show off these strengths when we're in a really bad mood, particularly when we're like clinically depressed, it makes us want to withdraw, stay away from other people.

It makes us really socially risk averse when we are in social situations. Basically avoid doing anything that might offend someone or, you know, interpret everyone's. Reactions towards you in a very defensive way so that you don't damage your social standing Based on the place that you're at mentally and the the virtues you're able to bring out and so I'm essentially combining these different theories and ideas about welling well being to suggest that there is this Mood state in our mind that goes all the way down to depression and all the way up to something very close to eudaimonia Based on what this self esteem mechanism, I call it the self appraisal system, is finding about us and our behaviors.

Erick: Yeah, and I, I find that it's, it's, for me, it's fascinating because it's, the whole thing is such a, an interesting balance, because it's, it's a combination of what we think other people think of us, is our self esteem, not truly what other people think of us. And so, which definitely fits in that stoic idea of, it's not, you know, it's not what happens that upsets you, it's how you perceive what happens upsets you.

And it's that same idea, so I think it fits perfectly in with that. Um, but I think it's interesting that So it's interesting because it definitely fits with that and I think as you get older usually, not always, because I've seen plenty of people who are, you know, I'm 51, I see plenty of people my age who are still very insecure about a lot of things, but I find as you get older, you can, you Through experience, you get a bit more wisdom to be able to judge those things a bit better and not to care what other people think.

And yeah, so it's that it's that really fine balance. It's like you, you're judging yourself based upon what you would think other people would think of you and that's where your self esteem comes from, but you shouldn't care what other people think of you. And so it's a, it's a fascinating balance. Um, but I think part of it, at least for me, what's happened is as I've gotten older, I've been able to be wiser about those things.

And so I can say. You know what? This is a value that I think is important. This is a virtue that I think is important. I'm going to live this and this is the way I'm going to live it. And if people don't like it, you know, screw them. It doesn't matter because this is something that I know through my all my years of experience, I know this is a good virtue.

And I know that this is something that is worth holding on to and if people are going to complain about it, oh well, it, it doesn't, you know, it just rolls right off of me because I see that as being an admirable virtue, even if other people around me don't see it as an admirable virtue. So when I read that, it definitely clicked for me.

I'm like, oh yeah, this makes sense. And it was, It was very much what I thought to begin with, but this was just a kind of like clarifying it a little bit more, a little more fine grained thing, rather than just saying, Oh yeah, this is generally where it is. It's like, let's pull that apart and let's look at each little pieces.

And I was like, that, that's, that's a really fascinating idea. So I really appreciate that.

Ryan: Yeah, no, and you get a big, you know, important point. Yes, it is what you think other people would think about you, but it's also with preference toward your particular values and the values of those whose value you value most.

I mean, it gets kind of complicated, but when you remember the person you're most trying to appeal to is yourself. It's someone identical to you with your own unique. Uh, set of values. And so really that's the ultimate metric. I find the same thing that, that as you get older, you get, uh, you know, more secure in these things.

And I think a big part of that is you learn some people are just, uh, different. Some people are not going to like you because they have different values from you. It's really only when you aren't living according to your own values, uh, that you've got a problem. And this, this was kind of the problem I struggled with back in 2020 is that.

Um, you know, these, I, I was facing kind of some social ostracism from people. I was cut off from a lot of social domains for obvious reasons during the pandemic. Uh, so all the signal my brain was getting is that I really wasn't living up to, you know, my own values. And in some ways I really wasn't. I, you know, at my work, I had sort of shifted out of the roles that I normally, um, you know, thrive in.

And so I was in a place where I was, I was doing things every day that I wasn't particularly good at. I was questioning my interpersonal virtues and, uh, had reason to, you know, so I was, I was wrestling with a lot of these things. And I think other people who have experienced periods of depression will say the same thing.

It's like, it's, it's a, it's an identity. grappling issue. A lot of people think it's just a like serotonin deficiency, uh, chemical imbalance. I think it, it really only makes sense to look at depression in terms of our identity and our beliefs about ourselves. And this is what we find in cognitive behavioral therapy as well, which is, you know, deeply influenced by stoicism.

Erick: Yeah, very much so. I like that idea of, uh, I guess you could say in a way depression is almost an identity crisis. Interesting. And yeah, that's that kind of pulled it out for me. One of the other things I also appreciated was that, you know, you, you talk and actually, now that I'm looking at some of the notes that I wrote in here, I was talking about being useful.

You're like, you know, you say our status isn't determined by dominance is determined by contribution. And I found that to be really, really helpful because, um, I think one of the things that people forget is like, you know, you shouldn't care what other people think of you, but that doesn't mean you don't care about other people.

And there's oftentimes there's that disconnect. And I've, um, I was on a stoic Facebook group, um, of pretty popular one. I won't say what it was because I haven't done much on it lately because I was really, it was really surprising to me to watch some people take stoicism and use it as a way to justify really shitty behavior.

Uh, this one guy was with a couple of people actually piled on and we're using it to justify racism, saying that the reason why black people weren't as successful as white people were because they just were. You know, too lazy and didn't take responsibility for themselves and it was all their fault. And I was just like, okay, so slavery and subjugation of people based on their color of skin has absolutely nothing to do with why they are, you know, they struggle in society in ways that you don't have to, you know, it's like, so I tried reasoning with him and it was just like, nope, he would have none of it.

And it floored me how somebody could use stoicism to do those types of things. Oh

Ryan: yeah, people will use these, uh, these pure philosophies as a way to do all kinds of, I was just talking to someone about like the, the Mick mindfulness and like the Mick stoicism, the sort of modern corporatization of these, uh, philosophies, you know, they're, you know, well known thinkers who are basically treating stoicism as a tool to achieve more external success.

For example, um, When really that's exactly what the Stoics said doesn't actually matter to your happiness. So, um, no, that, that's horrible that people are making that kind of argument. That's not even worth, uh, really paying attention to, I think. Yeah.

Erick: And I think it really came down to because it was like, It came with this idea of if you are unsuccessful in your life, it's your fault and that's it rather than going that's not what stoicism about stoicism is about recognizing what you do have control over and taking control of that.

And if you don't have control over these things, there's nothing you can do to change that. But it's it's being able to recognize what you actually have control over and taking those steps to do that. And if somebody has opportunities or somebody has things that they can do and they refuse to do them or.

And or they just go, well, I, I'll never, you know, I can't be successful because of X, Y, and Z. And it's like, well, but you still have opportunities, A, B and C, why aren't you doing those? And they're just like, they're so focused on the things they can't do. And it's like, well, you know, when you don't take action on the things that you can do, you make yourself a victim.

Now, if they said something like that, like, Hey, this person had this opportunity. Um, but they decided that they would rather do something else and they didn't take that opportunity and then they complained they weren't successful. That's you know, then I think you might have a coach and argument, but it was just fascinating to me the way that people can twist things around.

Ryan: Um, yeah, it's worth noting that there have been a lot of. People who have managed to thrive in very difficult, uh, situations with the help of stoicism. I mean, Epictetus was a slave, uh, and then, you know, you got people like Viktor Frankl, who I recently re read, who employs a lot of the same, you know, mental techniques and mindsets, and who comes out of it saying, you know, life really isn't about the absence of pain or, uh, you know, pleasure or gain or whatever, you can find meaning or happiness even in really difficult struggles.

And I think that's an important thing to keep in mind, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you can control everything and find a way to be successful in your circumstances no matter what. It's that you can find ways to exercise your virtues in spite of, you know, all the things you can't control.

Erick: Exactly. I definitely agree with that. Um, so one of the things that you said in here that I, I underline this because I thought this was really interesting. Um, and I think this is, this spoke incredibly well for me because I was, I'm a recovering people pleaser. So I grew up in. Mormon Church, and you know, my dad was pretty violent growing up at random times, and so there was always this need to be on the lookout to do and say the right thing so that I didn't get in trouble, whatever that was.

And the right thing wasn't the truthful thing, it was the what is going to make sure that I don't get in trouble in this situation thing. Um. Right. And I really like this. I want you to speak a little bit more to this. And you say, other people will affect your self esteem to the extent that you agree with them.

Mm hmm. That to me, I just was like, oh, hmm. Because again, like you were saying earlier, that it's, what we're doing is we're trying to judge, we're self judging ourselves on what we think other people think of us. And so it's that interesting balance. But I, I found that. I think the tricky part for me, and this is what this kind of why this checked a box for me, was that oftentimes when I would be in an argument with somebody, um, especially in, like, in, you know, personal relationship, um, because I'd been such a people pleaser, there was often when somebody was upset with me.

I felt like I was in the wrong simply because the other person was mad at me rather than going, they can be mad at me and I can still be right. It was as soon as they were mad at me, like, oh crap, I did something wrong. I need to fix this thing. I'm the one who's always in the wrong. So I always assumed that I was the one who was doing something wrong in the situation, no matter what.

And so I guess, how do you find that you balance that? Or is, is that not an issue for you? No. So,

Ryan: so here's what I sort of argue to that point. Um, I say kind of imagine that you overheard a group of people talking about you. Um, and it's a group of people who, you know, aren't necessarily good at things that you care about, um, or, you know, pretend to be good at.

So for me, if a group of like professional basketball players, https: otter. ai That I am a basketball, right? Uh, I would I would have a chuckle at that, but it wouldn't hurt my self esteem because that's not something I pretend to be To be good at it's not these are not people that I admire most and um, you know They're not criticizing something.

I really pride myself on uh, but you can imagine people, you know who you do really admire, um, and where you take pride in the thing that you do. Uh, if they're talking shit about you and they're saying you're no good at this thing, that guy's a joke, right? That is going to really hurt. I mean, that could affect your self esteem long term hearing something like that.

And so it just shows how much it is about your own self approval at the end of the day. And other people's approval sort of is just an indicator of that for you. Um, but I do think it's important to note, and you hinted at this earlier, Um, you know, it's not about, uh, status in the sense that we're sort of used to talking about.

When someone says social status, you think about like a ranked hierarchy, um, like a linear thing, like who's higher status, me or this other person. And it amazes me to that, that people still sort of compare human, Uh, social arrangements to this because we're so much more complex in this way. Uh, we don't just have linear rankings.

We can approve of people in one way, but not in another way. We have these, uh, you know, multitudinal evaluations of one another. They're far more complex and, and very often it does relate to Um, how we contribute to the lives of others, you know, we admire people who are generous because, uh, they're contributing that to help someone else who needs it.

We admire people who are creative because they're creating work that goes out and impacts, uh, other people. And so I think it is right to think about social status or social esteem or whatever, as the ways that you contribute to your tribe or, you know, to humanity or whatever. And, um, and asking yourself, how do I.

How do I contribute to this? And what would I most admire in terms of another person's contribution? Making your decisions around that instead of asking just what does this one person want me to do? I think, um, that focus on your own admiration, your own values. And I think there are good exercises for really mapping this out.

Uh, I think that can counter some of the people pleasing. tendencies. If you've already mapped out, these are the things that I care about. These are the things I don't care so much about. I think, I think you can weaken that desire to please everyone. And you can say, well, I've already mapped out right here.

The P the person I will most want to please. And that's me. And so, um, yeah, trying, trying to just live according to those values, I think is the key. Yeah.

Erick: And for me, my, my biggest struggle, like I said, was often that whoever, whether it was next partner or whatever, um, Oftentimes, they would, like I said, they would be mad at me.

And so I would assume I did something wrong. So I couldn't look at it objectively because I was like, oh crap, I'm in the wrong no matter what. And so I couldn't look at it and go, wait, no, no, I w I was handling myself. Well, I'm okay with this. And so for me, learning to, to get that sense of judgment has been challenging.

And kind of like I've had to. Had to be better about setting some boundaries on situations and go, you know what? I'm not, or even just say, I'm not sure here. I'm just going to walk away from this because I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing. I'm not sure if I'm acting the way that I want to, or if I, if I have the right to be upset, you know, oftentimes I didn't feel like I did because growing up, I was on the receiving end of most of that.

I didn't have the right to get upset and stand up to the things that I thought were unfair because if I did, right. And I pushed back then oftentimes I got beat up. So it was like, yeah,

Ryan: go ahead. Yeah. I, I, uh, luckily didn't have that challenge growing up, but I did have a lot of, um, you know, social difficulties, particularly starting in middle school that, um, I think, you know, I don't know if it made me a people pleaser, but it definitely made me.

insecure in, um, my social presentation and gave me a lot of anxiety around that stuff. And so I think, uh, one of the keys comes down to like CBT and the cognitive restructuring processes there, because a lot of us do have some really distorted. beliefs. I think the modern world in particular is conducive to a lot of these distorted beliefs.

And so going in and finding that distortion, like, Oh, someone's mad at me. I must have done something wrong, writing that out and, and actually examining it and saying, is this actually a balanced view? Or can I improve it or, you know, assuming that everyone around you thinks you're weird and, and, you know, doesn't, doesn't respect you is one that I, you know, once struggled with going in and mapping that out and saying, Oh, that's mind reading.

That's a well known fallacy that creates this type of emotion. Can I make a correction and improvement to that belief? Um, and this is one of the. Those really, really important exercises I think everyone should be starting doing in kindergarten, you know? Agreed.

Erick: Um, so curious kind of your take on this. I know that, um, I would say that most of us, at least, at least people like me, and I would assume you just, you know, we're very much in the question ourselves, question reality, question things going on around us, um, making sure and looking for those ways to improve and to become, uh, I guess, uh, just better people overall and to work through those things.

Um, but it feels in our, at least our political climate here in the States is that there's this massive, you know, divide between the two political sides. And it seems like, but it's really hard because, uh, There's, there's almost a false equivalency of like, well, each side is just as bad as the other, you know, and, but it seems like there's nobody trying to, trying to articulate this in a way that, it's like I had the thought, the thought and the idea of it trying to actually articulate it seems a bit challenging, um, I guess my question is, How do we, is there a way to help those who, who in, I guess, in my purview are kind of blind to these things and they don't, you know, they're so sure of their point of view that they don't take that time to question and they don't have that ability.

I mean, I guess. I guess it does fall a little bit into Dunning Kruger effect, a lot of confirmation bias and things like that going on. Um, do you see a way that you could somehow inspire people or help bring them along in those ways and find ways to reach out and communicate? Because it often feels like, um, And this is something I've noticed because my politics are, I'm center left, you know, compared to, compared to where I was, you know, you know, 20 years ago, because I grew up Mormon and you're pretty much conservative from birth, you're Mormon, um, but I would consider myself to be center left, but it feels, but to a lot of people on the right, they would think that I'm basically almost a communist at this point because it feels like they've moved so far to the right that I'm You know, I've saved, my politics have stayed pretty much where they are.

And so I find it very challenging to talk with people like that because there's this sense of, of an unwillingness of this is the truth and this is my truth and fuck you for not believing what I believe in. And so, so I guess in your travels, in your experience of working on books and talking with people about these things, are there ways that you've found that you've been able to kind of bridge some of those gaps?

Ryan: Yeah, this is a real challenge. I will say first that I've got, um, I've got this online community or currently, currently online, hoping to get it offline as well before long, um, but it's called Mindform and, uh, we've created a culture that's very much centered around not, you know, taking these polarizing political stances, uh, really, you know, if we talk about politics, we're sort of talking about metapolitical perspectives and we're looking at how to Uh, improve our mental systems for examining these issues and it's, it's been a really successful experiment in creating an environment where you're not incentivized to, you know, pick this really heated, strong, often oversimplified stance and just turn everyone else into the enemy.

So I do think this is something that can be done culturally, but I will say. Uh, the internet's very much not conducive to it overall, and it's very hard to maintain that mindset. Um, I think we've had kind of a similar arc in that I grew up, I went to a Christian school initially, um, so I had kind of conservative Christian views.

I went to college. I was, you know, getting exposed to more like libertarian perspectives. Then I started having more libertarian leanings. Then I went to another school in a very creative program that was very much left leaning. And I started having more left leaning perspectives. And then I started to notice a pattern.

Oh, look, my, my political views somehow adapt to my social environment and find a way to do that. And I started. examining what's really going on in my head when I find myself attaching to political views. I remember at one point I was on the Wikipedia page for like libertarian socialism, which apparently is a thing and not an oxymoron, but um, I, I was looking at it and I was kind of paying attention at the same time to what was going through my own head.

And I'd already latched onto this term and the way it would sort of fit onto my identity. before I even started reading the article. Like, I didn't know what it was, and I was already thinking about myself, you know, telling people at dinner parties, I'm a libertarian socialist, or something. Like, uh, so much of the way we choose our political views is this very tribal, social, emotional thing.

We really don't reason our way into them. We use reason later to build up arguments that we can use to defend them. But ultimately, it very often is, uh, this emotional thing. And so, I I'm always trying to remind myself of this fact that other people arrive at their views through different social emotional pathways.

They seem just as, you know, real and true to them as my views do to me. And I try to, try to take a step back and there, there are a number of sort of exercises I tell people to do. I encourage people to, you know, write down your political beliefs and your levels of certainty of all of them, and then map out your motivations to hold those beliefs.

Because very often, our biases are motivational in nature. We want to believe certain things, and that's why we continue to selectively interpret the evidence and all this stuff. So if you actually map out how badly do I want to believe in this view, if you can get yourself to cultivate like an equal and opposite desire, uh, not to believe it to the point where you have no preference one way or the other, then you're actually in a position to evaluate.

evidence, uh, you know, accordingly. I will just add to that, that, uh, political views are particularly complicated and that they typically require prediction of unprecedented complex systems. Uh, I think when it comes to what is true of the world now, uh, we're in a much better position and we have much better Uh, systems like science and, and expert consensus to decide, but when it comes to prediction, none of us really know what's going to happen.

So we should always lower our certainty in these matters. Um, in general, I think lowering your certainty and actually mapping out this is what percent sure I am instead of just saying I'm on this team, right? I think, I think all of these are good exercises. I really recommend the book, the scout mindset, which talks about.

Adopting this healthier relationship to our views, trying to actually figure out what's true and what's most accurate instead of just picking a team and trying to defend it later.

Erick: Yeah, and I think that's, that's kind of how my, uh, politics or political view on a lot of things, uh, evolved. So like I said, grew up Mormon, very conservative, you know, just because, and it was in the eighties with Reagan, you know, we're all like, yeah, we're all for Reagan.

I had no idea what that meant. It was just, my parents voted for Reagan. So of course I, you know, um, but I served a mission in Austria, which is very socialist democratic society. And really saw a very different side of life. I saw lots of people who had much less than I had. Uh, most people didn't live in homes.

They lived in apartments, condos, whatever. Um, but on the whole, we're much happier than most of the Americans that I knew. And here I am trying to come over here and teach them this way of life, you know, you, you accept this version of Jesus Christ gospel, then you will be happy and it felt very hypocritical because they seemed much happier than I was at the time.

So here I'm trying to tell them this, um, but I found that I found that I appreciated their time. Their way of living much more than I than I did my own and it was, you know, you didn't see anybody. You saw people who were poor, but you never saw homeless because everybody was given a place to stay and everybody had enough money for food.

So you didn't have beggars out there because everybody had enough. They were just taken care of. It was just part of society. It was the social contract they had with everybody. And I found that to be much more appealing than the homelessness that we see here in the United States. And, you know, for them, it, it also, by doing that, it helped reduce their crime rates, it helped reduce, uh, death rates, it reduced their hospital bills of having to take homeless people in, and so on.

And so, just the, The betterment of society was much more important to them than holding on to their money, which I find we find here in the States, you know, the first thing people do when you talk about homeless programs is they complain about, I don't want to spend my money on these people. They don't deserve it.

It's like, well, they deserve it because they're human beings. And that was the appreciation that the thing that I appreciate over in Austria was they just said, well, they're humans. We take care of them. It doesn't matter if they deserve it or not. They deserve it because they are human beings living in our society.

So that's why they deserve it. And I appreciate that approach much more. It was a much more expansive view of what, what humanity was. It wasn't just my, like you said, it wasn't tribal at all. It was like, well, everybody's part of my tribe. So let's make sure that we can take care of everybody.

Ryan: Yeah, the couple challenges, um, one is that getting people to, uh, understand that idea that someone doesn't have to earn their right to, um, you know, you don't have to earn a certain amount of points in order to just be able to survive in this world and meet your basic needs.

Uh, that requires a certain level of wisdom and empathy that not everyone's going to have. And so how do you get that idea across to, um, those who just can't wrap their heads around that? Another is simply that we. We have economic systems and really their global economic systems that are centered entirely around maximizing capital and profit and, you know, maximizing human well being is really secondary in terms of the system, right?

And so, uh, what do we do when we've, we've built a machine that's, You know, bigger and more powerful than any of us that is really not designed around human well being and really that's a distant second concern to it. Um, I, I don't know the answer. I, I have, I follow a lot of thinkers who are. Working on that, but it's, it's probably the hardest, most important question that humans can be asking right now.

Uh, and it's just, it's such complexity that we're dealing with that, um, yeah, it's hard to even envision the solution to it. What's most amazing to me is that you do have these, uh, other countries that seem to be doing it. What is it about their culture that has enabled them in some ways to resist the incentives of the economic systems, go against that to a certain degree?

Um, and how do you shape culture in that direction? Yeah, yeah,

Erick: that's a very, it's a very difficult problem. Um, like I said, for me, it was helpful because I lived in a society that was built around those principles. And so I saw firsthand how helpful it was. And how much more useful that was. And then, you know, then coming back to the states and then seeing the exact opposite of that.

And so for me it was, uh, it was direct exposure, which made it much easier. Um, and so in a way I, you know, that was kind of a shortcut for me. And what was interesting is because of that, because I went on a mission Austria because I was exposed to this very different way of, of living, um, that was kind of the beginning of the end.

of me being in the Mormon church and being a conservative. And I just found that over time, um, because of that, that I was much more about evidence based approaches, what is going to work best, not ideological approaches. Um, so I was, you know, even when I was in college going to Salt Lake Community College, you know, I was listening, it was during the, uh, the Bush Gore election and everything that I kept hearing from Gore just aligned Well, with my, my way of thinking, evidence based approaches, talking about climate change, other things like that.

And it was very scientific based and yes, he was kind of a policy wonk. And that's what I appreciated about him is he was a very smart guy and he thought long and hard about a lot of these hard problems. And was really working hard to have evidence based solutions of things. And so I guess that's just kind of how I've always approached it.

And I, so for me, once I found stoicism, it was kind of like that, it just, that idea of philosophy was like, you know, question everything, question yourself, make sure that you try to think rationally. Um. You know, understand what's in your control and what's not. I mean, just all of these things, just like, oh my gosh, this is an amazing, uh, an amazing, uh, framework for me to view the world from where it just made sense.

Um, I kind of describe it also, there are times when I almost feel like Neo in the matrix. It's like when something happens, I can take a step back and I can look at it and go, oh, okay, this is what I thought was happening. But just having that moment and going. this is more what really happened behind the scenes.

This is why this person probably said this thing. I didn't have to sit and guess and go, why is this person upset at me? I'm like, oh, they're upset because they probably think this. And then I can approach it in a very rational sort of way. You know, it's like, I see why the bullets are flying. I can see the code of the agents and that kind of thing.

And I can actually do something much more effective about that. And yeah. And it was really, really fascinating and it, it felt like it opened up a lot of the world to me and took away a bunch of blind spots that I had because of the culture that I grew up in, which was, you know, which ascribed why, uh, which ascribed motives to people that I didn't think were fair.

Um, you know, people do these things because they're evil. Or people do these things because they're bad people, you know, very simplistic motives of why, why people do things and people are much more complicated than that. And for me, stoicism was a way to, to filter that and understand more of that complexity in their behaviors.

Even though they are simple tools, they're very There's a lot of nuance and semantics that go along with that, even though some people are like, well, these are very rigid tools and it's like, no, they're not, they're, they're clear principles, but they, but because they are principle based, that leaves a lot of room for you to be able to work off the principles.

It's not a, here's the answer is here's the principle, and I think a lot of people, a lot of people get, get those two mixed up, you know, because they're used to being given answers. They're used to being spoon fed, which is why a lot of people like religion.

Ryan: Right. Yeah. No, I, um, I definitely think you should read my first book, Designing the Mind, because it's very much that, uh, that kind of Neo and the Matrix kind of mindset of stepping back and looking at the code that your own mind is running and examining and saying, how can I reprogram it?

How can I change this emotional algorithm or this, you know, belief, this bias? Um, that's kind of the whole theme of it is this changing the software of your mind and Um, and I've personally used that same comparison to the matrix and talking about these tools mindfulness these different ways of actually examining your own mind, and, and in some ways how it takes you out of what evolutions have kind of built your brain to do, which was just to accept all of your thoughts as reality and not actually question any of them.

Um, yeah, in terms of the, uh, the societal stuff, I think that, you know, the other, of course, another challenge you have is that, um, everybody would say they're You know, adopting evidence based approaches to their beliefs, uh, a lot of people are getting fed, you know, deliberate misinformation, uh, and they don't have the critical thinking faculties to really know the difference.

And so we're, we're still dealing with this big system that, um, yeah, the, the problem remains when we talk about the evidence and, and stuff. Cause, um, yeah, it's, it's just not a priority of our, school systems or our culture to teach people how to think better. Uh, scientific literacy is, is extremely low, not just in knowing, uh, you know, what science says, but also just knowing the systems of how science operates and the reasons why we should generally trust scientific consensus instead of, uh, trusting some random guy who said all the scientists are wrong.

Right. I mean, uh, so I think it is. It is an educational thing, but it's, it's even bigger than that. And that, um, you know, our, our education systems aren't really oriented toward building the best humans, the best thinkers, the best citizens, uh, either. And so, uh, you know, I'm trying to, in, in, uh, in the biggest way I can, but ultimately.

I think a, a relatively small way to, uh, teach people how to improve their minds and make that a core focus, trying to create a new institution that actually is centered around creating people who are better at thinking, regulating their emotions, behaviors. Uh, that, that's, uh, the future I hope to achieve with MindForm.

So, um, yeah, it's very much a mission

Erick: of mine. So what would you say is, has been your most, uh, most influential thing that you've You've come across that helped kind of guide you towards this. Is there any particular book any particular thinker?

Ryan: Yeah, there's a ton. I would say I got a few over here that have been very influential in their own ways.

I've got meditations, of course The Tao Te Ching. I got Nietzsche. I also have Maslow. I love Maslow's work and feel like he's underrated as the you know, the pyramid of human motivations when he really was just this brilliant visionary of kind of the future of human health. And so, uh, I love his work.

I've got, um, got a reading list on Goodreads under designing the mind that has about 400, maybe 500 books now that have been really influential for me. And, and, uh, Ranging from, you know, ancient philosophy to evolutionary psychology to, you know, neuroscience, right? But, um, yeah, there've been, there've been a lot of really influential thinkers and I'm, I'm citing a good chunk of them in the 400 or so references in this new book.

Erick: Excellent. Excellent. Uh, one I would definitely recommend if it's not on your list is the Finite and Infinite Games by James Carr. It's,

Ryan: yeah, I actually quoted in the new book. I don't know if you've gotten that far yet, but, uh, it is a really good one.

Erick: Yeah. That one for me was, um, so I ran into it because I was at, uh, the World Domination Summit, which was a conference that was put on up here for a number of years by Chris Gillibeau.

Uh, author, world traveler. Yeah, I know him. And, uh, I was in line at one time for something we were going into, and I was standing next to a guy named Chris Adam, um, and we just got on the topic of books and I asked him, I'm like, so what is, what is the Most influential book. What is the book that you would recommend to somebody that would, is just like, this is a book everybody should read.

And that was the book he recommended. He's just like, this book changed my life. It changed the way that I viewed the world, changed the way that I just viewed everything. And you know, he was so passionate about it. I'm like, okay, I just pulled out my phone, ordered it on Amazon right then. And I'm like, okay, it's ordered.

And I got it. And it's just like, yeah, it's one of those things. You read a chapter, which is maybe only two or three pages and you get done, you're just Yeah, think about that for a while. My brain hurts just from that, those few pages. So that was definitely one for me. Um, and so I recommend that onto other people, but yeah, it's definitely a heavy meta book, even though it's, I think it's maybe a hundred pages long.

It's, it's amazing how just dense that thing is.

Ryan: Yeah. I love it. And I feel like it relates, um, to what I'm writing about in this book too. I mean, this idea that. The things that we sort of set our hearts on, the particular goals or outcomes or accomplishments or possessions that we want, um, really don't deliver.

Those are like finite games where I want to get to this thing and then I'll be happy. Anytime you're saying that, you're wrong. You're never going to be happy when you get that thing, right? But you can create games for your life that are ongoing processes that actually will make you happy. So it's not ever the thing that you get to that delivers.

It's the process of getting to engage and do the thing. Um, so, so for me, this process of Uh, you know, building out, designing the mind and writing my, my books, I remind myself regularly. It's not, uh, it's not hitting the New York times or giving a Ted talk or that finite thing that my brain wants to tell me will actually make me happy.

It's what I'm already doing right now on a daily basis. And I'll never be happier by, you know, accomplishing that future thing than I am right now. So I need to enjoy the process in itself and make sure I'm building it into my life. Right.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah. That's something that has taken me a bit, uh, to kind of adapt that same approach to things and recognize that, that, yeah, it's not the, it's not the end game.

That's the important thing. It's not the getting or the winning or whatever it is. It's how you're playing it because if you're not having fun playing it, if you're miserable doing it, you know, you really need to rethink why you're doing it. Yes. There may be something that you need to get and so you're, you have to slog through it because it, you know, it's going to be that thing that will propel you on.

If you're looking at that as, as going to be your source of happiness, you know, and they've shown that the hedonic treadmill, so, you know, yeah, I, I got a 50, 000 raise at work. Yay. I'm so happy. Then, you know, a few months later, you're, you're back where you were before. I mean, yeah, you might be able to buy more stuff, but your happiness level definitely has not really increased or stated at an appreciative level.

Yeah. Yeah. So I find that to be very, very true.

Ryan: Well, and what people get wrong about the hedonic treadmill, they often say things like you can't actually make yourself happy Because anything you do that makes you happier, right? You still stay on that treadmill, right? Well, that's not true at all. And that's what I try to get across with this dimensional model It's that there's a certain nature of things that are not going to bring you happiness that are going to keep you on that treadmill.

But there are other things that very much can make you happier. Uh, they can take you all the way from severe depression to being deeply fulfilled and satisfied in your life. Uh, but, but looking past those decoys of, of your external gains and saying, uh, you know, how can I exercise more of my personal virtues on a regular basis?

That's what gets you off the treadmill and onto the escalator, if you will.

Erick: Yeah, very much so. But, and I, I really liked your, at first when I was reading in there, kind of back when we were talking earlier about the admirability kind of index, if you want to call it that. At first I was like, well, I don't know, because that, that, that seems like you, you're looking at ways to be admired from things.

And then the more that I thought about it, I was like, well, no, it's actually, it's got a good point there. Because if you. If you emulate somebody that you admire, so if you look at somebody and you're like, oh my gosh, this person is great and you emulate that person and you start becoming kind of like that, not like, not in a creepy sort of, you know, single white female sort of way, but in the, the, uh, in the way that this is a role model, this is somebody that I want to be like, and the more you become like that person, the more you like yourself.

Because of that because you're you are becoming somebody that you admire and I really like the way that you said that I'm like, yeah, I think that's very true because I know for me oftentimes when I was younger when I would get called out on bad behavior on things, you know, I get angry that somebody was calling me out on that, you know, and as I got older, I recognized that the reason I was angry about that was because they were holding a mirror up to my, up to me and showing me that I was somebody that I didn't like.

Yeah. And I was like, Oh, okay. So I'm not really mad at them. I'm mad at me, but I'm mad at them for showing me who I really,

yeah, but as you get older, you get wiser about that and you're able to approach that in a way where you're actually able to step up and go, okay, I'm not acting in a way that I'm proud of. Um, that was one thing my last partner taught me a lot. We talked a lot about that. It's like that idea of integrity that you walk the walk and you talk the talk, you don't just say, yeah, this is who I am and then do something completely different.

And so that if you say this is who I am and you acting that exact way and somebody doesn't like it, somebody gets mad at you, somebody hates you, whatever. That's okay. As long as you are living your principles, it doesn't matter. Yeah. It can be as mad or as furious as they want, as long as you're okay with who you are.

And that, that's a hard thing for some people. It's like, well, what if you're a sociopath or what if you're a complete asshole to people? Well, if you're okay with being an asshole to people, then, you know, I, you're not going to have a lot of friends. But if that's who you want to be, then be that person.

That's okay. Yeah. You know, as long as you're not harming others, that's, that's really the only thing to, to kind of look at, at least, you know, from that perspective. And it's, it's a hard thing to accept because some people will be okay with being assholes. But the thing is, is usually those people aren't very happy.

And they, you know, because they aren't maximizing those virtues and you know, the people that I knew who were often the most abrasive and the most rude over time, you know, they come back years, you know, you run into them later on when they've kind of changed some things in their life and they're like, yeah, it was because I was, I acted this way because this is who I was at the time.

These are the things that were going on in my life. I didn't like that. Even though I acted like I was fine and that was totally okay with me, over time they recognized, yeah, the reason why I was so angry at this was, you know, like in my case, sometimes I'd be an asshole to people because, like I said, they were reflecting a mirror of my bad behavior and I didn't like that.

Ryan: Yeah. And this, um, you know, this topic of integrity, it's one of the most, Like one of my favorite parts of this system, because I think humans have always recognized on some level that there is some kind of natural punishment reward system, uh, for our actions. And so you have, you know, Christianity saying, Oh, it's that there's a God who's going to judge you and determine your afterlife.

You've got Buddhism saying there's a karmic cycle of rebirth and you have to pay attention to karma in order to, you know, do this. And so they invented these external. systems that make it so integrity matters to us. Well, I suspect there is an internal system that makes it so it already does matter. We don't need an external judge or a karmic cycle.

The system's already built into our heads. And if we do something Uh, to try to get away with it because we think no one's going to watch if we take the, the wallet instead of returning it when we find it. Um, someone is watching, someone is finding out, it's the most important person who can find out and it's you.

And so there, there is a real selfish reason to live with integrity and to do the quote right thing even if no one's watching because the most important person is always watching. Yeah.

Erick: Yeah. Um, this reminds me, uh, back in the, I think it was the late nineties. Uh, no, it was, yeah, late nineties, early 2000 when the whole Enron thing was going on.

And I remember, um, I was driving along in my car and I was listening to NPR and they were talking about that and they talked about how. Uh, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling had, even though they already had tens of millions of dollars at this time, you know, they basically from being, from running the company and, and all kinds of bonuses and all kinds of things they had done, they ended up stealing from the pensions of their employees.

I mean, they were, it's like, they've already got tens of millions of dollars. And so they go and plunder this to pull even more money out. And, and, you know, I was thinking about that. I'm like, how could you be such an awful person that you already have so much and yet it's not enough. I'm like, what kind of a hole do you have inside of you that you could do that?

And not even that it just, you know, no conscience about that at all. You could just be that way. I'm like, I'm like, I feel sorry for them. I really did at that moment. It was a. Wow, if you are so empty that you have to behave this way, what kind of a person are you? What, what, what does that say about, and you, you are the person you have to live with.

And so I'm like, wow, that must be miserable being that person. Yeah,

Ryan: well, and unfortunately, I, I think this is kind of how we're wired to be in some ways, uh, you know, our brain wants us to just do the thing that will get us more now. And so we got these chemicals that, that reward us for just doing that in the short term.

Um, and I think in some ways, wisdom is about learning to. Resist the urges of your own biology and, and, and resist doing the thing that you want now, because you, you learn more about how it affects you in the long term. It, it doesn't help either that, um, again, getting back to what we're saying about society, that we've got Systems that reward being as selfish as you can, I mean, there are CEOs who truly can't choose to do the right thing, even if they want to, they can't choose to benefit their actual customers well being as much as they could, because it would be, it would be putting it secondary to.

Profitability and their board of directors would say you're not serving the shareholders get out. We'll hire a new CEO. So, you know, this is not only built into our biology, but it's built into our society. And so there's a lot working against us and actually living the way that will make us the happiest and, you know, help serve others as much as possible in the process.

But I do think there's a bigger reward than you could possibly get from these gains to be had from going against the grain and doing what is actually. the virtuous thing to do.

Erick: Yeah, I think it was, it was the Marcus Raelish that said, as long as it doesn't harm your character, it can never harm you or something along those same lines.

Yeah. And yeah, and, and that's very true. And as you get older, you recognize that. And, uh, at least I, at least I have, I can't say that everybody has, cause I've met plenty of people who are older who I'm like, Yeah, how have you gotten to this age and yet you are, my teenage, you know, my, my kids, one is still a teenager, but, my, my kids are more mature, more thoughtful than you are, how, I,

Ryan: Yeah, it is amazing and it's one of the things I'm trying to do is I feel like people don't have a map for this And so they'll they'll read a quote like that Marcus Aurelius one and they'll say oh, yeah, that's good I should try to remember that more and they instantly forget it or they'll you know Have a moment of wisdom or enlightenment and then they continue on with their lives and five minutes later.

It's gone And so I'm trying to actually replace the map that most people are navigating their lives with and giving them a visual representation and saying, look, this is how it actually works. Burn this into your brain and don't forget it. Right.

Erick: Yeah. And I think for me, that's part of why the podcast, you know, it seems the podcast has been so good for me is because it has been that thing that has allowed me to really dig into a lot of these ideas in a way that I never did before.

Um, so, which is part of why, like when AI came along, everybody's like, Oh, you can use it to write your podcast episodes and all this stuff. I'm like, no. They're like, well, why not? Then you can get them done faster. You could do more episodes. I'm like, that's not the point. Right. Right. Right. The point of the episodes is it's an exercise for me to sit down and really consider these topics and I have to work for it.

I mean, I, in a way I kind of stress out a little bit for every episode because I know I'm going to have to sit down and write for at least a day. You know, anywhere from six to 10 hours of just writing and thinking and putting these ideas together. But that's that exercise that my brain needs to be able to really process these ideas.

And that's why I've been able to make a lot of progress in my own life is because every week I sit down and write something on this, on a topic. I would say probably about 70 percent of the episodes are based on something that I was struggling with at the time. And I was just like, okay, I'm really struggling with this.

Let me sit down and write about this so that I can understand this, so that I can actually make some good decisions and work through some of these things. Um, others have just been fascinating ideas or things that I heard in another podcast or I read in a book or, or whatever. And then I was like, Oh, that's a really good idea.

That's something that again, I want to explore. So I dig deeper into that. I explored a bit more and then try to broaden that out and, and bring some real meat to that and hand it off to my listeners and be like, Hey, here's an idea. Here's something that you can do. Um, and so I, I do some of that heavy lifting for my listeners, which I don't have a problem with, you know, but it was interesting for me, like I said, when AI came along and everybody's like, Oh, you should use it to do this.

I'm like, you're missing the whole point. This is me building my brain. Yeah,

Ryan: no, AI is yet another layer that's going to complicate this for us because it's getting to a point where it can, uh, eliminate the need for a lot of these human virtues. Um, and that is going to, I, I predict hurt the well being of a lot of people if, if they don't actually feel the need to demonstrate these strengths themselves and they can just outsource it all.

Well, you're not doing the thing that, your own brain needs to see you doing essentially. Um, and so that's one complexity of, you know, the emerging like exponential tech we're facing. Uh, but I also would say that a big part of that too makes me think about what's lost through, um, you know, the decline of, of like traditional religion and that kind of thing.

Having a place where you go every week, in this case, Church that reminds you of your values and the things that you care about most. Most of us don't have a secular equivalent to that. And so, you know, we have to deliberately design something into our lives that will remind us of our own values and what's most important to us or else we'll gradually have society rub off on us and turn us and our goals into whatever, you know, we're, we're socially rewarded for whatever society tells us we're supposed to care about.

Um, so we, we really need something like that and most of us don't

Erick: have it. Yeah, that's interesting. It reminds me of, uh, Rainn Wilson. Uh, he was, he played Dwight in the office. Yeah, yeah. Uh, just wrote a book a while back called Soul Boom and he talked about that. And basically his, it's about, uh, In a way, it's almost like if I were to create a secular ish religion for a renewal of community in America or in the world, this is what I would do.

And it's a book along those lines. And he grew up Baha'i, which is a very interesting faith, which is, I don't know if you know much about it, but basically what they do is they take They take the religious texts from most of the major religions and they pull the pieces out that they feel are good and important.

So it's, it's almost a cherry pick, hodgepodge kind of religion, but it was just like, based on what are the wisest things that we can find in all of these religions? You know, they, they have bits from the Quran, they have, you know, from the Bible and other things like that. So it's not just a purely Christianity based religion, which is what we tend to find in the U.

S. Um, so I thought that was a really interesting approach and But I really appreciate kind of his his spin on that of like, hey, we need we need kind of a spiritual thing We need something where we're consistently looking at building community where we're where like you said We're reminding ourselves of our virtues and our values on a weekly or daily basis because if we don't take that time Then we just start falling into the default, which is, you know, mainstream society and that's not always the best way and, and, and now with having so many influences, there's not even really a single one.

I mean, back when I was a little kid, we had, you know, four or five TV channels. That was it, you know, it was like we had ABC, NBC, CBS, and then I think Fox came around and we had PBS and that was it for a long time. And so because of that, there was a mainstream culture that most people could agree upon. So even if you weren't religious or even religious in your community.

You still, you know, your neighbors probably watched at least one of the same TV shows that you did. So you guys could talk about that. So you had something in common. There was kind of an agreed upon reality that we have. And now with so much choice, we almost, it's almost gone the opposite. There's, it's really hard for people to kind of agree on reality at this point.

And I found that, I found that really interesting that. With, well, I think it's great because we have so much diversity. We have so much choice. We have so much interest, but in a way that has fractured us as well. And so there's, there's not a lot we can agree upon, even just in our entertainment and being able to sit down with the neighbor.

Hey, Joe, did you see, you know, the show last week? Yeah, that was really funny when so and so did that. And you could actually have a conversation with somebody, you know, he might be a Democrat, you might be a Republican, but you found somewhere that you had a common ground and we don't really even have that anymore.

So, yeah.

Ryan: Yeah, no, um, I've, I've been thinking a lot about this because we're doing like mythology month in, uh, in Mindform right now. So we're reading some Joseph Campbell and we're looking at, uh, religions, how religions actually evolved in the first place or, you know, what their origin is. And specifically the function of religion, which is an interesting idea for a lot of people who think they're just kind of fictional belief systems that they would have a function.

But I think there's a very important. Psychological function that they address and it's kind of unfortunate that all the options we have right now are are kind of, you know, clearly outdated, you know, not really scientifically accurate versions of this technology. It's like kind of like the fact that most of the automobile functions we are options we have today are all gas powered and so they're putting out harmful fossil fuels.

We need an electric vehicle version of religion in some ways, and that's a big part of what I'm. trying to do is, is, uh, you know, through all my work, it's not, uh, complete by any means, but I want to create a comprehensive system that can serve as a religion or a, you know, modern practical philosophy, similar to Stoicism and Buddhism.

But, um, you know, really, thought out on the level it needs to be in order to guide not only individuals to a good life, but a society that's facing, you know, unprecedented, exponential times, um, to help us navigate to a good, healthy society. And so, uh, That, that's, uh, one of the more ambitious ways of framing what I'm trying to do in my work in the longterm.

Erick: Yeah, that's definitely an ambitious goal. I'm not sure if I yet know what my, my vision on that is. I, I started the podcast as just a way to, to kind of work through these ideas on my own and to share them with other people. So I, you know, I, my first, I think 50 episodes were just done on my iPhone.

Because even though I had all this audio equipment, because it was too intimidating to sit down and actually record my voice and do all the editing and everything. So Anchor was an app that was on the iPhone. Then they got bought by Spotify and then shut down, uh, or kind of folded into Spotify, but. I could just record it on my phone, do a light edit and then put it out there.

And it was just because I'm like, I'm reading these ideas. I'm trying to understand these ideas. I want to create a podcast just as a, as a test in a way of like, you know, a practice. I mean, the podcast was really just me practicing making a podcast. I had no idea it was actually going to take off. And then suddenly next thing I know, I have like 10, 000 downloads.

And I was like, Wait, people are actually interested in what I have to say, you know, right. Okay. So, yeah. And then I found, you know, but it originally was just a practice for me to, to kind of work through these ideas and to understand them, um, in a, in a deeper way of rather than just, well, I read about that.

That's kind of cool. Okay. But when you read about it and you have to teach it to somebody, you definitely learn a lot more. And so I found that was, that was really helpful for me.

Ryan: Yeah. Well, and, and I think it's similar with me in many ways, my work is something I'm, I'm doing for me. I mean, you know, ever since I left my like traditional religion, I've felt like I need to build a new one for myself because I think there are important functions that it serves in our minds.

And I, you know, I felt that when I left that being able to you know, go through something difficult and tell yourself like, Oh, it's a part of God's plan. Like this is, um, you know, everything happens for a reason. That's very comforting. There are a lot of these emotions, um, that, that religions provide tools for.

Um, and, and one of the biggest ones is just a general compass for navigating your life. Like you said, there's so many. Influences competing for our attention and telling us to live our lives in different ways, it can be impossible to navigate if you don't have some central compass that tells you which way is up.

And so I have gradually constructed my own version of that, but then I'm, I'm, to use the car analogy, I'm like the DIY car enthusiast who built my own car. You know, most people aren't going to do that. And so as we build our own. People like you and me, I think, need to find a way to mass manufacture them so other people have better options too.

Erick: Yeah, that's an interesting metaphor. Yeah, I definitely like that. So do you find that you miss the spiritual side of things, the mystical side of religion, or is that something that never really worked

Ryan: for you? No, I don't think, um, I don't think you actually need beliefs in, um, you know, the supernatural in order for these things to work.

I think you just need to go through and address all the things that, you know, maybe religion was once addressing. Right. I mean, I'm very comfortable with my own mortality now, for example, um, but I think. I think work has to be done to get to that place. And so it, you know, believing that, that you're not really going to die and there's an afterlife that you're going to get to enjoy for eternity.

That's one solution to the, uh, problem of mortality. Another one is to confront it, you know, philosophically and, and understand it to the point where you're no longer afraid of it. So I think there are lots of secular solutions that don't require these kind of, um, you know, really out there beliefs. I think we can.

Believe in the very awe inspiring world that we really do live in and that science tells us You know we can understand in a lot of ways But I think we need to integrate these beliefs with the philosophical ideas that can you know create the right? Psychological functions for us. I do think there's certainly something to be said for like spiritual experiences and I think Uh, you know, things like psychedelics and mindfulness can give you some of these peak experiences that get you out of your normal way of thinking.

And some would argue this is how religions originated, is through like psychedelic rituals and stuff. So, uh, I think this is an important part of it. I think that that kind of spiritual experiences, uh, can be a really, uh, powerful thing, but I don't think it needs to be done in the context of these specific, like monotheistic beliefs or, or anything like that.

Erick: Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. I, I've thought long and hard about the kind of the place of religion in there. And I think that it's been interesting this, the different things that I read for me, kind of the, the one idea that I kind of glommed onto is that oftentimes religion, at least in its early days, was kind of in the place of science.

It was just trying to explain the world as best it can. And so, you know, that's, you know, thunder is this amazing thing. How does that happen? Well, there's gotta be some type of being up there that's creating thunder and lightning. And this is what's going on, you know, rather than understanding that it's just, you know, you have a cold front and a hot front coming together.

And as these molecules smash into each other, they create friction. And therefore we get to thunder and lightning coming from that. So, yeah. Yeah.

Ryan: And you really can't fall to them for that long ago, grasping for answers to these questions. And so it's not, it's not a problem that they built religions around these.

outdated ideas. The problem is that we haven't innovated since we have a better understanding. Religious innovation sounds like an oxymoron to a lot of people, but I don't think it, uh, I don't think it has to

Erick: be. Well, it's, it's kind of learning to update the map. You know, we had a map before that was okay, and it was, you know, simple line drawings from getting us from point A to point B, but now we have a much more Complex map.

And we have, you know, different layers of topography that we can, are able to see. And if we don't update that map, then we're doing ourselves a disservice. You know, we still might be able to navigate at least okay, but we can do so much better and we can know where we're going and have a much richer way of viewing it.

If we have a much more integrated map, at least that's kind of the way that I, I look at it. So it's been an interesting evolution for me too. Leaving the church was a, was a big thing. Was there, so in my case, it was, it was definitely a big thing. It took quite some time to get there. I didn't leave until I was in my early 30s.

What was it for you that, that was kind of the kicker? The big thing,

Ryan: um, it was, it was pretty shortly after I left my, you know, Christian school and went to college for me. Um, I think it, it really gets to that, what I was saying about politics, being like socially emotional in origin. If everyone around you has a certain.

Um, you know, belief system, not only are you more likely to sort of inherit it from them, but you also end up having, uh, you know, hidden motivations that, that reward you for sticking with it. I mean, uh, if all your friends have a certain worldview and if you changing worldviews would alienate them, um, particularly if, if more in your life has been designed around it, if, if your life partner has that worldview, if you're, if a part of your career and your work is to.

Uh, in some ways serve that worldview, right? You've got a lot of motivation Not to question that worldview and not to switch to something else And so in many ways I had fewer motivations now that I was off at a different school making different friends To stick with that old view and now I had more motivations as I was coming to pride myself Uh in being a critical thinker And I got to a point where my identity as a critical thinker kind of outweighed my identity as a Christian.

And, and then I was no longer so motivated to maintain my old beliefs. And then I could sort of examine the evidence and say, Oh, well, of course this doesn't make the most sense. I think that's the conclusion you come to when you don't have those motivations. So it speaks to the importance of really taking an inventory of your, Motivated beliefs and saying what, you know, would it be so bad if I believe something different and then, uh, really examining the evidence without any preference one way or the other.

Erick: Yeah, I think that and that's, that's a hard thing to do. I know for me, um, what it really came down to was just. I learned a bunch of stuff about Joseph Smith and the history of the church that I recognized as no, that's just wrong. That's just what they were doing there is wrong. There's no, and was, uh, was fake, you know, like he said he could read Egyptian.

Well, he couldn't, you know, and he translated this whole scroll. And then they found the scroll, you know, in the sixties and were like, Hey, we found the scroll that shows one of the scrolls that Joseph Smith translated and now that we can actually read Egyptian because we have the Rosetta Stone, let's, let's send it off and get it translated.

And it came back and they went, well, this isn't what it says. And we're like, yeah, that's exactly what it said. You know, we've done this, this is very similar to thousands of other scrolls that we've found. And the church was like, Oh, well, nevermind. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see here. And I found out about it.

you know, around 2004, 2005. And it was just suddenly like, wait a second. So if it was just like a house of cards, it's like, well, if, if he lied about that and that was like one of the foundational things in the church, that foundation thing, just that comes apart. So everything else falls apart. And so I just, so for me, it was just like this whole giant transformation in a very short amount of time, because it was suddenly like, I was able to see truth that had been hidden from me for, you know, decades.

And yeah. So, for me, it was, it was a very different approach in that it wasn't that I had a different identity. It was just simply that I recognized that this was fake, that I had been, you know, it was just a fraud. And so I couldn't, because of my own moral compass, I couldn't believe in something that was fake.

And so I couldn't believe in this anymore. Mm hmm, and there was just no it didn't didn't have much to do with God or Jesus or any of that It was simply that I had been lied to for decades and so if I've been lied to then that means this whole thing was fake and I've been told this was the Unvarnished absolute truth for my whole life.

And so then I recognized well if this isn't if I could be fooled like that What else could I be fooled by? So that's me, I looked at other religions, went, well, it's just the same thing, that you're just as fooled because there's so many holes in all of these things. And so I just, I pretty much walked away from it at that point.

Ryan: Well, I would just say there are a lot of people who make similar realizations, uh, about the evidence and about the rationality of it. And they end up going in a different direction and saying, oh, well, it's not supposed to be rational. It's about faith. Faith isn't rational. Um, you know, your, your love for.

Uh, God or whatever needs to surpass your like rational questioning or whatever and so that's why I say it goes back to motivations and identity because the fact that you were able to listen to that evidence you were finding speaks to the fact that you weren't so deeply motivated to continue believing it that you found some reasoning to, to push away what you were finding.

Um, I mean, I know of people who, you know, recently have like converted to these. worldviews for what to me seems obviously because there is something about their, their former worldview that wasn't serving them emotionally in the way it needed to. Uh, but to them, they've got all these like really out there, like philosophical arguments that able to trick their own brain into thinking it makes sense.

I mean, you see this in a lot of thinkers who are arguing, um, for these views today, um, that they just have to come up with something smart enough to trick their own brain and then they can believe it. And so you can always find a way to believe what you want to believe. Um, but if you have You know enough confidence that you'll be okay without those beliefs and you'll still be happy and you know You won't be without friends and without all these other things then you can really look at it a little more carefully and say oh this was You know, this was a lie.

This really isn't true. There's not evidence for this I know for me one of those was just thinking about the fact that or having it pointed out to me that like yeah It makes sense that I was a Christian because I was born in You know Southeast United States If I was born in, you know, the Middle East, for example, I'd be a Muslim and I would be just as confident in it as I am in this.

And so, uh, taking a step back and looking at it sociologically, uh, I think for me it was, was one of the things that helped it click. But I think it, it was important that my identity wasn't too attached to that former belief system. Yeah.

Erick: No, I can, I can definitely see that. And yeah, and I, I've thought about that as well as like, you know, when people are like, no, this is, you know, I'm a good fearing Christian and that's the only true religion.

And it's like, well, if you were born in the Middle East or you were born in India, you wouldn't be a Christian. You'd be something completely different. So if you're where you were born and who you were born to has more to do with your religious preference than almost anything. You know, most people don't, most people don't get to a certain age and go, okay, now I'm going to choose a religion.

Most people just inherit the religions they were given by their, their culture or their parents. And, you know, getting people to see that sometimes is really, really challenging. Because people would be like, no, no, but this was, I was born, but then they rationalize it by saying, well, I was born into this family because I was chosen by God.

And so he put me in a family that. that had this religion because he wanted me to have the truth because I'm one of his chosen people. And it's interesting that the logical or illogical loops that people have of, or hoops that they jump through to, to justify certain things like that.

Ryan: And the same goes for politics too.

I mean, people, everybody talks about the importance of like becoming informed and they, they talk about this process, like it's some kind of reliable. Uh, thing that you need to go through, but the truth is like whether you become informed and lean right at the end of it or become informed and lean left at the end of it is pretty much determined by your, you know, location and your social ties.

Like, you know, there's no reliable result of this thing called becoming informed. When you decide to do it, it just means you're going to take whatever beliefs you already. Have some attachment to or want to believe in and you're going to build up your confidence and your kind of emotional outrage And some of your like talking points and arguments around those things and so it's um You know I have to question the idea that we all have this duty to become informed and then you know vote according to it because you Might as well say we have a duty to flip a coin And then vote according to that if it's not a really reliable process, then we haven't really developed a system for leading people to more accurate political views.

And we need to be thinking, how can we build something more like science that really will lead you to a more accurate worldview instead of this, uh, politics that I think is still in the dark ages in terms of how we form these, uh, beliefs and, and latch onto them.

Erick: Yeah. Something you said back there really struck with me as well, because I was reading a while back this, they were doing a study where people, I can't remember what kind of like bias, whatever they call it, but people believe that if people on the other side are exposed to the right information, then they will make the same choice as them, you know, and, and, but then, then they're flabbergasted when, um, Yeah.

Somebody, you know, well, yeah, I read the evidence and I'm still on, I'm on this side and they're like, but I read the same evidence. I'm on that side and it, it does have to do a lot with our biases. Like you said, in our, our social standing of things and, and our social groups and stuff like that. So I found that very, very interesting and I'm sure that there's plenty of beliefs and ideas that I hold on to because of where I live.

I'm up in Portland, Oregon and stuff like that. You know, it's a very liberal place, very open, um, and so most of my friend group is very much along with that. But I, I find it interesting how everybody has this belief of like, well, if they're just exposed to the truth and they'll believe the same as me. Um, I had a buddy of mine years ago who, who, you know, pinged me on telegram and went down this dark thing of all of these wild conspiracy theories of things.

And he's like, I worked in Washington DC. I know all of these things. And I was just like, Okay, well, give me your sources and he'd be like, do the research you'll and you'll, you know, inform yourself. And I'm like, well, what are your sources? And he'd be like, go do the research. I'm like, okay, I want to know what your sources are so that we can be on the same page.

And he couldn't offer me any reliable resources. I mean, they were these really fringe wacko websites. And I was just like, dude, give me something that's legit, that has some science behind it, that, that shows me what's really going on. And he just getting, kept getting more and more frustrated that I just didn't take his word for it.

I didn't go down the same rabbit holes that he did. And I was just like, I'm willing to entertain anything, but you got to give me something reliable. And we finally reached the point where he just basically rage quit and then blocked me. So I was like, okay, sorry. I was just asking questions. You know, I, I'm not saying you're wrong.

I'm just saying. I'm not going to take your word for it. I need real, solid evidence and solid proof from legitimate sources that can be verified. And he couldn't give me any of that, and so he just got mad.

Ryan: Yeah, and not only will, will uh, exposing people to the evidence for your view not change their mind, it'll actually cement them further into their existing beliefs, the backfire effect.

So if you try to prove someone wrong, you'll just make them more convinced that they're right. Um, and so that's really, uh, tricky, but something, um, something you said too, I want to kind of circle it back a little bit because, um, talking about the way our beliefs, our political views relate to our identity, um, Sam Harris, like the author, podcaster, he did a study, uh, with a number of other, um, contributors like, uh, long time ago, you know, shortly after I think he got his PhD that found that the default mode network in our brain Is active when we think about our political beliefs.

Um, now for some background on that, the default mode network is the part of the brain that is, or the network in the brain that is active pretty much anytime we're not engaged in another activity. Um, so it's always sort of running unless we start doing something else. And what we found. Is that it's also active when you have people do, uh, self referential mental activities.

If you ask them to think about themselves, or their social standing, their value, their moral values, Um, or, you know, fantasize about something involving themselves, they, um, That part of the brain will be active too. And so, um, we also find that when people have been meditating for a long time, their default mode network is less active.

They have less self referential thoughts. Uh, if you do psychedelics, it disrupts connectivity in this network. And so, all this leads me to conclude that this system in the brain that I've Talked about that's sort of behind our self esteem. That's regulating our mood is approximately located in this default mode network.

And so the political thing kind of demonstrates that a big part of why we have the views we have, whether political or religious, is fundamentally not about truth. It's not about seeing more clearly. It's about reinforcing our identity. And that's why we get defensive and latch on even more when we get attacked, because it's an attack of us as far as our brains are concerned.

Um, but this is, you know, it's also further evidence for this claim I make about self esteem that that we do have this default mode network that is constantly running in our head. It's the central component and I think it is taking in these virtues that we demonstrate and it's regulating our serotonin and other chemicals accordingly and basically determining our mood and whether that's going to take us down into depression eudaimonia.

No,

Erick: very well said. Yeah. Like I said, uh, that, that idea of that low self esteem as a regulator for social behavior and stuff like that was, yeah, that idea really like popped for me. I'm just like, Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Okay. So rather than looking at it as this bad thing, look at it as a moment of reflection and a way to be able to go your, like I said, you said it was kind of a protective mechanism.

Like don't get out and be social because you might do something that will make things worse. So take some time, figure out, and can you, yeah. Right. The ship a little bit, or can you steer towards something that, that will make you admirable in your own eyes. So therefore you start to build up your self esteem.

Um, and I thought that was, that for me, I think was the biggest thing that I got out of the book so far that just really like cemented that, that thought. And then that helps you as well, to be able to look at, at what aspects of your identity you hold on to too tightly or that you identify with too tightly like politics and stuff like that, that when somebody, you know, disagrees with you, that you get defensive about that.

And so then you're able to start looking at that and go, does this really matter? And is it really that important or do I really care that much about it? Does it really mean what I think it means about me? Um, and I think, I think understanding that system can be incredibly helpful for people to be able to evaluate things more clearly and make conscious choices and reach that point where I was talking about it earlier of that integrity of being able to know, know what it is you truly believe and being able to say that and being able to actually follow that and not giving a crap what anybody else thinks about it, because.

You've, uh, you've thought through these things, you've expressed what's truly there, and you're comfortable with being exactly who you are and you, and because it is somebody that you admire. And I think that that's been something that. That, that fits really, for me, that kind of makes that picture just a little bit sharper of that idea that I had before.

Sorry, I really appreciate you writing about that and putting those things in there. Um, is it, I know we're coming up on almost two hours here, so, uh, is there anything that kind of last thing that you want to discuss, you want to get out there that, that you want people to know that, that I guess. Yeah, kind of a last 10 minutes.

What's, what is something that you think we should bring up that has been brought up?

Ryan: Good question. We've covered a lot of ground here. Um, I would just say on, on that last. point you made. Um, it would be nice if this, uh, if this theory does turn out to be true, if only for the fact that it would validate a lot of these ideas that, uh, thinkers were saying a very long time ago that the Stoics have argued.

Um, it's very easy to Look at someone who is writing thousands of years ago who was saying, you know, virtue is really what matters to your happiness and say, like, that's a nice idea, you know, that's very quaint. It's a good little fairy tale to keep in mind, but if there really is a mechanism in our brain that works this way, it'd be very cool to be able to say the Stoics were really right about our psychology and there is a You know, a very good reason to live according to these basic principles, um, and it's not just to be, you know, to do the right thing according to some old guys, it's, it's because, uh, your happiness really does work this way, and so, that's, uh, that's the theory at least, so, um, you know, we'll have to wait a few decades of research to see if it holds up, but, uh, I'm excited to get it out there and be having more discussions like this.

Um, as far as kind of closing, I'm Things go I do want to offer your listeners a couple of free books if you go to https://designingthemind.org/becoming. You can join the email list you can get the psychotics toolkit and the book of self mastery, which is kind of a quote compilation and commentary And, uh, the new book should be available for pre order very, very soon and, uh, should come out late February for the official release.

So be sure to look, uh, look out for that. All right.

Erick: Yeah, I appreciate it. So like I said, I'm about halfway through this book. I'm going to finish it, uh, because they, like I said, there are enough of those like light bulb moments that I keep having going, Oh, okay. And for me, I guess what's helpful is that like I was saying earlier, there's a lot of ideas that aren't new to me, but it helps clarify them.

It, it, you know, it's, it's kind of like a microscope on, on, okay, this was an idea or, uh, that I already had. And this kind of zooms in on it and, and breaks it apart and digs a little bit deeper into it. So it's, for me, it's kind of like a deep dive into a lot of ideas. And, but also, like I said, some, some newer ways of looking at things are like, Oh, okay.

And to kind of to your point of, uh, of, you know, trying to back these up and, you know, maybe this is the way that our brains really work and so on. Um, it reminds me of something that Derek Seavers talked about with Tim Ferriss a while back. And I mentioned this in my last week's podcast was there are plenty of times where things can be not true, but are useful.

And so, for me, I look at this and go, even if this is not true, it's incredibly useful and it's effective. And so, I think more than anything, that's what Stoicism has been for me, and that's what some of the even Buddhist ideas have been for me, is even if they're not true, they're very useful and they're very effective.

So, I will believe and hold on to them because when they, when I do follow them, they make my life a lot better understanding what I can and can't control has made my life so much better because I stopped trying to control all these things that I'm just going to waste time on doing so, even if it's not true, even if there are them.

You know, there is nothing that I really do control, and that we are really just kind of automatons, which is a theory that a lot of people have, that the way our bodies and brains are programmed, we have no real free will, we just do what we do based upon all these things. Even if that's true, the illusion of free will is still worth it to me, so I'm going to believe that I have free will so that I can continue to try to do things right.

I'm not just going to go, oh, well, this is just how I am, and not do anything with it. So You've,

Ryan: uh You've opened a couple of very big philosophical cans of worms at the close of two hours. So I will propose, uh, that we, uh, you know, once you finish the book, I would, uh, be happy to have another one of these.

We can, uh, dig into some of that if you want, but, uh, sure. No, I, yeah. Yeah. Cause I really enjoyed it. So. Great, uh, good stuff and great conversation.

Erick: Well, thank you. I'm, I'm still learning the kind of the ropes of, of interviewing. I know that oftentimes I don't ask as many questions as I should. I, I, and I interject kind of my own story.

So I'm trying to get better about that. So for me, that's great. That's a good thing. Well, for me, this is helpful because I'm trying to be better about asking questions of people because I know that I, I have plenty of ideas and I share them all the time. And my podcast is me, it's a one way conversation.

So two way conversations are something that I'm working on trying to be better about. So I appreciate you coming on my podcast. Uh, this is a good practice for me, not just practice, but it's a good thing for me because I really want to expose people to. Um, ideas that aren't just my own. And that's why I try to try to bring these on here.

I know some people don't like it when I have the interviews and I'm like, eh, you need more than just my voice. There's plenty of great information out there. So I'm trying to help surface that information for the people that I listen to. So I really appreciate, appreciate you guys contacting me and getting on my podcast and yeah, uh, let's, let's look at probably doing something in a few months after the book comes out.

I'd really enjoy that.

Ryan: Sounds great. And I appreciate you having me. It was great. All

Erick: right. All right. So that was our conversation with Ryan Bush. Um, I really appreciate you guys listening to it and make sure you go to his website. Uh, go ahead and throw the, uh, website out there one more time,

Ryan: http://designingthemind.org/becoming.

Erick: All right. And I will make sure that I put that in the show notes, uh, so that you can reach that. And the name of the book that will be coming out soon is becoming who you are, or I'm sorry, become who you are. Can they pre order that on Amazon yet?

Ryan: Or. Probably by the time this airs, they will be able to so go find it.

Amazon Barnes and Noble. All

Erick: Right. Sounds good All right. Thanks again, Ryan, and it was great chatting with you and we'll talk with you later.

Thanks, Erick

And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. I hope that you enjoyed this conversation that I had with Ryan I really enjoyed talking through a lot of these ideas with him And I hope that the some of the ideas we talked about can be useful and helpful for you again in the show I will make sure to put the information about his book and his website in the show notes And as always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening.


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Categories
Perspective

279 – Not True But Useful

Can you hold beliefs that are not true, but are useful? know that I talk a lot on here about trying to get as close to the truth as possible. But are there times when it is useful to believe something even if you’re not sure of it yourself?

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

— Marcus Aurelius

A few weeks ago I was listening to Derek Sivers who was a guest on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. They talked about a few ideas that I found very interesting and fit right along with stoicism and how our perspectives can shape how we view the world.

The overarching idea is called “Useful, Not True”, in that our perspective on something doesn’t have to be true, as long as it’s useful. In a way it’s a bit about self-deception, which is a little ironic after last weeks episode about how to be a little better about knowing when you are being lied to, and how to be little more honest. But self-deception is something that we all do, and as long as you are aware of what you are doing, there are times when you can believe something that may not be true, but is still useful.

Derek listed off a few ideas and I want to discuss each of them here. You can also find them here: https://tim.blog/2023/04/23/derek-sivers-transcript/

"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them."

— Epictetus

1. Almost nothing is objectively true.

Things in the physical world are generally things that can be considered objectively true. It is not something that you have to believe in. It is something that is true no matter what anyones opinion is about it. Things like, my water bottle is made of metal and plastic, the sun is a giant flaming ball of gas, and I am speaking right now are things that are objectively true.

Now, on the other side of that there are lots of things that people treat as if they are true, but are not.

Some examples of thing that are not true:

  • My country is the greatest.
  • Family is everything.
  • AI is the future.
  • That person is offensive.
  • I would be more successful if I were smarter or better looking.

All of these things are just beliefs or opinions that we hold. They are not objectively true.

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

— Seneca

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

— Marcus Aurelius

2. Beliefs are placebos. You’ve got to believe whatever works for you.

This is what the stoics mean talk about the importance of our perspectives. It is our perspective on something that informs how we will feel and act. Let’s say for example that there is a traffic jam. One person might think the traffic jam is bad and get pissed off and angry about it and feel like the universe is getting in their way. Another might see it as some time to relax on a busy day, and sing along with the songs on the radio. Which belief is true? Neither. Either belief is just as valid, but most people would agree that the second one is certainly more useful.

Any time you say, “I believe…” whatever comes after that is something that is not true. Unless it is something that is evidence based or objectively true, it is simply our perspective. For example, I would never say that I believe in my water bottle because it objectively exists.

So why would we believe in something, even if we know that it is not objectively true? Because it can be something that helps you be better and accomplish something in the world. For example, Fred Rogers who created and starred in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood believed that kindness was the most important virtue in the world and that we should all be kind to one another.

Was he wrong in believing this because it is not objectively true? I don’t think so. Even though I can’t prove that we should all be kind to each other as an objectively true thing, I choose to believe it because I feel better when I’m kind to someone, and when others are kind to me.

Another example of believing in something that cannot be proven but is useful is believing in an afterlife. For some people, they have a belief in an afterlife because to think that there is nothing after this life is something that is terrifying for them. While I have no idea what happens after we die, I can understand why people want to believe there is something after we die. If that’s something that keeps you going and lessens the distress in your life, then I think it can be useful, even if it’s not true or knowable.

A prime example of how you can choose a belief that works for you is from Zeno of Citium, the founder of stoicism. He washed up in Athens after his ship was lost at sea and he lost all of his cargo. While trying to figure out what to do next, he spent some time at a bookshop. He was so taken by the teachings of Socrates that he asked the book seller where he could find someone like him to teach him philosophy. The bookseller pointed out Crates the Cynic who just happened to be passing by and Zeno became his pupil. He later said, “Now that I've suffered shipwreck, I'm on a good journey." Zeno’s perspective shows that fortune or misfortune is simply a perspective, an opinion.

Probably one of the most relatable ideas behind this sports superstitions. There are athletes that have beliefs that certain things are lucky and other things are not. It could be a lucky pair of sock, a mantra, a talisman of some kind, or having to get up on a certain side of the bed on game day. If it’s something that works for you and isn’t harmful, use it. Often, something like this is helpful for focusing your mind. There is nothing wrong with believing in things like this, but just understand that it is something that you are choosing to believe in. When it stops working you can let it go.

“You are not affected by reality itself but by your interpretation of reality. A change of perspective changes everything.”

—@TheAncientSage (twitter)

3. Rules and norms are arbitrary games that can be changed.

There are all kinds of rules that become part of our culture that are treated as how things are supposed to be. Some of these rules include the idea that in order to live a happy life we need to go to college, get married, have kids, and get a job. Or, that to be considered successful, you to have a lot of money, a big house, and a nice car. Or that in order to be successful you have to hustle all the time.

In short, any rule that comes from the expectations or the opinions of others is one that you don’t have to follow. As long as you don’t break the law, the rules are bendable and can often be ignored. You choose what works for you.

Religions are great examples of things that are taught as if they are true, but are not. They set up a system of rules that they think that everyone needs to live by in order to please some deity and keep people in line. I grew up believing that the Mormon church was the only true church and that everyone else’s beliefs were wrong. I believed that I had to marry someone else who was Mormon, or I was betraying my faith. I believed that if I left the Mormon church that I would go to hell because only bad people left the “true” church. Because of these beliefs, I was unhappy for a long part of my life, and didn’t see any way out of it.

Once I realized these was just a belief and not the truth, I left. Once I left, nothing awful happened to me. In fact my life got much better. I was mentally healthier because I was making choices in my life that worked for me, not because some old conservative guys in Salt Lake City said I should behave a certain way.

With that said, we need to keep in mind that while norms and rules can evolve, many have developed for practical reasons. We should be thoughtful about breaking rules, and consider their original purpose and potential consequences. Sweeping dismissals of all norms may cause problems. Be smart about what rules you choose to follow and those you disregard.

“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

4. Refuse ideology. You need to accept ideas individually.

No organization or ideology is 100% true and therefore should not just be swallowed whole. Even stoicism. There are some religious aspects to stoicism that I don’t follow. In many of the stoic texts, they refer to believing in god as a core aspect of stoicism. I don’t believe in god, but I find that there are so many good parts of stoicism that are so helpful that it doesn’t really matter.

Does this make me a lesser stoic? Maybe. But I’m not a follower of stoicism for others to judge how good or bad I am at it. Having grown up in a very dogmatic religion, I don’t take any ideology as a whole. I take the ideas that help me live a better life and do my best to apply them. If something doesn’t work for me, I do my best to try and understand it, see if I need to adjust what I’m doing, and if it still doesn’t fit me, I let it go.

This mindset also keeps me open to all kinds of ideas from other sources. I find that there are a lot of ideas in Buddhism that are very useful. Some of them are a little “woo woo”, and I may not believe in the metaphysical aspects of them, but I can still use them if they are useful.

Probably the most obvious idealogical organizations are religions. The biggest problem with most religions is that they have a whole set of beliefs and expect you to believe all of them. They don’t like it when you pick and choose which things to believe in and which not.

I certainly saw this growing up and found that there were plenty parts of the Mormon religion that I disagreed with and had really hard time believing. While there are some aspects of the church that I think are laudable, their views on the role of women in society and homosexuality were ones that I just never really agreed with.

When I got older and learned about the history of of Joseph Smith, I started poking holes in the ideology. I found out that he had made up the text of the Book of Mormon, that he couldn’t translate Egyptian like he had claimed, and that he would send men out on missions and marry their wives. I finally reached a point where I realized that it wasn’t true. It was made up by someone who took advantage of others for money and sex. From that point on I decided that I would never follow any ideology without examining each piece and use what works for me.

Conclusion

There is very little in this world that is objectively true. The stoics remind us this a lot when they remind us that our perspective informs how we judge reality. We are the ones that choose what we think reality is. There are a lot of beliefs in this world that we just take on as being true, even if they aren’t. It’s important to learn to objectively look at what you believe and decide if it’s helpful. There are also time where we can’t objectively prove something is true, but it’s still helpful to believe it. But, be aware that beliefs that contradict evidence are unlikely to be helpful long-term. When we look at things through a balanced, evidence-based perspective that incorporates objective truths along with our subjective viewpoint is likely to yield the most accurate and useful understanding of reality.


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
wisdom

278 – The Truth About Lying

Do you lie? Do you believe that everyone lies? Why are some lies acceptable? Why should we allow people to lie without repercussions? Today I want to talk about the different kinds of lies and deceptions, and what we can do to be a bit more honest, and a little more aware when others are trying to deceive us.

“We tell lies, yet it is easy to show that lying is immoral.”

— Epictetus

Why do we lie?

For most people, we lie because it gets us what we want. When we lie, it implies that we either want to gain something by deceit, or that we know what is best for the person and have the right to impose our will on them.

Sometimes we lie because it greases the social wheels and avoids conflict. Like when we tell someone that their hair looks great even when it doesn’t, it’s because we don’t want the other person to feel bad. We’re keeping the social situation from getting uncomfortable or awkward. When someone asks how we are doing and we say we’re doing fine, even when aren’t, it’s because we don’t really want to talk about it.

In other cases we lie to avoid punishment or to somehow avoid the consequences of telling the truth. In my own life, I often lied to my father to avoid getting beaten because of something that he disapproved of. I would lie at church so that I didn’t get in trouble with the bishop. In either case, telling the truth was something that was not rewarded, so like any self-preserving person I would simply tell them what I thought they wanted to hear.

Sometimes we lie to inflate our importance and impress others. We may embellish a story that we tell to others to get them to like us or think more highly of us. We may make our accomplishments on our resume sound more impressive than they really are so that we can get that job that we want.

Sometimes we lie to manipulate or control others. By deceiving others we may get them to do what we want. We see this in political rallies all the time. There are some politicians who will simply say what they think others will want to hear even if they know they aren’t true. Whether that’s demonizing others with differing politics or those that are weaker or have no political power, they say things that will get others riled up because when people are upset about something they’re easier to control.

We Want to Believe

“Liars are the cause of all the sins and crimes in the world.”

— Epictetus

So why do we fall for lies? Why do we believe some people even when they don’t have the facts on their side?

For the most part, we fall for lies because as humans we want to believe other people. Society runs smoother and generally works better when we assume that others are telling the truth. The benefits of believing that others are communicating honestly outweighs the cost of being deceived from time to time. Also, most lies that people tell are usually inconsequential and cause little or no harm.

Because we generally believe others, or at least want to believe others, it makes us particularly gullible, and targets for those who are good at deceiving others. Timothy Levine, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of Duped: Truth-default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception writes:

“People are typically honest unless they have a specific reason to communicate deceptively, and people tend to believe others unless suspicion, skepticism, or doubt is actively triggered”.

Another big problem is that we all like to think that we are able to know when people are lying to us. But in study after study, we’re not that good it. We tend to believe people that sound confident and self-assured, even if they are misleading us.

One of the most interesting aspects of deception is when we look at it through the lens of the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone overestimates their knowledge and abilities in an area, but lack the metacognition to recognize their own incompetence. They will speak with strong opinions as if they’re an expert, yet they really know very little.

When it comes to deception, this has an effect on both sides. Because we tend to trust others when starting out, when someone speaks confidently we tend to believe them. And on the receiving end, because we think we are experts at knowing when people lie to us, we overestimate our own ability to know when others lie to us.

Future Liars… um… Leaders

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.

— Plato

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

— H. L. Mencken

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking talked about how she was in an information session for prospective Harvard Business School students. They were told that they should “speak with conviction…even if you believe something only 55%, say it as if your believe it 100%”.

Think on that for a moment. These are MBA students at one of the top business schools in the world. These are future managers and leaders of companies. Rather than working with data to come to conclusions that are sound and well founded, with exceptions clarified and doubts well-aired so that they can prepare for them, they are instructed to lie in order to get people to follow them. It’s as if their being trained to emulate the Dunning-Kruger effect.

One high profile case of this includes Elizabeth Holmes who defrauded investors of hundreds of millions of dollars with her biotech startup Theranos. Her ability to project confidence and believe in the product that her company was selling even though she knew it didn’t work got some of the biggest inventors in Silicon Valley to put money into her company.

Sam Bankman-Fried, who was the founder of FTX, which at one point was one of the largest crypto trading firms was so convincing about his abilities that he defrauded investors and traders out of billions of dollars. When FTX fell apart, the effect rippled through the crypto markets and even into the larger financial sector.

Confirmation Bias

“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

— Noel Coward

Often times we believe others because it’s something that we want to believe. Confirmation bias is when we tend to look for evidence that something we want to believe is true and ignore contradictory evidence. This happens because we want to believe things that align with our opinions or fears. The more evidence we find that supports our ideas, the better we feel about ourselves. We gain confidence in ourselves because we feel like our opinions are correct. It soothes the ego, and bolsters the identity that we have of ourselves. In other words, we like to feel like we are right.

Confirmation bias is also a cognitive shortcut. It’s often a way to deal with ambiguous situations or ones where we don’t have enough information. We latch onto an idea because we need some clarity, and search for anything that confirms our idea so that we’ll be able to move forward. If we remain in doubt for too long or wait until we have enough information we might get stuck and not take any action at all.

Look in the Mirror

“My philosophy means keeping that vital spark within you free from damage and degradation, using it to transcend pain and pleasure, doing everything with a purpose, avoiding lies and hypocrisy, not relying on another person's actions or failings. To accept everything that comes, and everything that is given, as coming from that same spiritual source.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“This is an era of universal hyperbole. Every day delivers a new banality disguised as an emergency. Distrust your first reactions. Begin with the assumption that you are overreacting. Conserve your emotional energies for your real concerns.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

So how do we make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of deceiving others? How can we get better about being truthful ourselves so that we don’t spread misinformation?

Most of us think that we’re honest and that we don’t lie to others. But if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we all lie and deceive to some extent. We may not even notice it. We might not be directly honest with someone or we will omit things because we don’t want to hurt their feelings, or we’re afraid that they will get mad at what we have to say. We also need to be aware of when we are not taking responsibility for ourselves. We may obfuscate or omit details so that we shift blame or lessen the consequences of our actions.

I think within each situation we need to act according to our principles. We also need to think about what we are trying to accomplish. Just because something is true and you are trying to be honest doesn’t mean that it needs to be brought up. Sometimes there are things that just don’t need to be said because they are are not important to the conversation.

But, with that said, it is not an excuse to not have difficult conversations. Sometimes, candor is exactly what is needed so that there can be clear communication and mutual understanding. In both situations it comes down to thinking about handling yourself according to your principles. Are you treating the other person with kindness? When you are speaking candidly, are you using it as a way to belittle or manipulate the other person? There are ways to be candid and yet show discretion and still hold to your principles.

Be willing to recognize that you could be wrong. Just because you hold an opinion about something doesn’t mean that it is correct, or that it even matters. When you get new information, be willing and open to changing your opinion. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind. In fact, the more you are willing to change your mind, the easier it is to grow.

You can also ask yourself if you even need to have an opinion about this thing. Does it matter if you have an opinion about it? Does holding that opinion make you more or less compassionate to others? Does it help you to be kinder to everyone around you? If it doesn’t then maybe you need to reexamine your opinion, and maybe even get rid if it.

Lately, ask yourself is it possible that the opposite is true? Be willing to look at something that you believe strongly in and try to hold the opposite opinion and see things from a different point of view. Taking the time to make sure that you can see the world from a different perspective can help you to see the world in a better light.

Honestly

“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.”

— Denis Diderot

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

— Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to be more aware of when we’re being lied to?

A lot of why we believe people who lie to us is that they are often telling us the things that we want to hear. They are things that already align with our point of view or opinions. They feed our ego. We need to be willing to be skeptical about our own beliefs. We need to be willing to adjust our opinions. We need to be like a scientist and work with the best information that we have, and change our opinions and our point of view when we get new data.

Like most things, I think that we need to be clear about what our principles are. When we are clear about our principles, then it doesn’t matter who we are listening to or what they are saying because if it doesn’t align with our principles we can disregard it, or at the very least examine it dispassionately.

When we get too attached to who is saying something, then we often lose our objective point of view. It doesn’t matter what political party, gender, race, or any other difference that someone has, we should view what they have to say with how well it aligns with our principles, regardless of who they are. When we stick to our principles, then the message matters more than the messenger.

Watch your emotions. If you are getting really emotional about something, there’s a good chance you’re being manipulated. People who are masters of deception will play off your emotions as much as they can. When you are feeling a strong emotion about something, it’s easier override your rational thinking, and you’re more likely to make impulsive and irrational decisions. Learning to be dispassionate when you need to be can help you to take a step back and objectively look at what others are trying to convince you of.

Trust but verify. Next, verify from the most reputable sources you can find. Look at the track record of the places you get your information from. How often have they been wrong in the past? How often to they present opinions as facts? Part of the reason that we have institutions and agencies in our governments is so that they carry on the practices and procedures that help us move forward as a society. Often people who are trying to deceive us will attack those very institutions to further their own agendas.

Opinion vs facts. Be careful when someone states their opinion about something as a fact. We see this on news channels all the time, especially when it comes to politics. When someone states something as being true that sounds like an opinion, challenge them. Ask them for the facts to back up the things that they are saying. Often simply asking for the data or where they got their information from will expose that they either made it up, or they will actually get you the information that you requested.

This happened to me a few years ago when a friend contacted me and was trying to convince me of some pretty far fetched conspiracy theories. I told him that I’d need to see some real data from some reliable sources. He kept telling me to “do my own research” and I would “find the truth”. I kept politely asking him for his sources so that we could be on the same page. When he couldn’t offer me any reputable resources he just got more and more upset till he finally got so angry that he blocked me.

When it comes to political arguments, a good sign that the person you’re listening to is trying to deceive you or convince you of something that probably isn’t good for society is when they demonize or dehumanize others. Blaming others for what’s wrong in your life or the world is a typical tactic of demagogues. If someone can’t convince you of something using rational arguments and clear data and has to resort to tearing down others to try and win you over to their side, that should be a good indicator that someone is trying to manipulate you.

Conclusion

There’s lots of BS in the world. It’s been even said that we live in a post truth world because there is so much disinformation online. People hold onto their opinions so tightly that we can’t even agree on the basic facts of what’s going on to the point where it’s hard to know what the truth is.

The best way to handle ourselves in this chaotic environment is to make sure that we verify our information from reputable sources. We need to be aware when someone is trying to manipulate us through our emotions. We can filter what we hear through the lens of our principles so that we are not too attached to the opinions of any particular person or group. We can take the time to be a little skeptical of everything we hear. And most importantly we should be willing to question our own opinions, and change them when necessary because in doing so, we can grow and move a little closer to the truth.


Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community!

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

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

Find me on instagram, threads, 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

277 – Embracing the Unexpected: How to Handle Life’s Plot Twists Like a Stoic

Do you fear the unexpected? Do you stress out when life throws you a curveball? Today I want to talk about how to handle, appreciate, and even look forward to the unexpected events that life brings your way.

“All greatness comes from suffering.”

— Naval Ravikant

Unexpected

Life is full of surprises. When we think that we’ve got things figured out and that things are going our way, something or someone pops up and throws a monkey wrench into our day to day that disrupts our lives and sends us spinning. Things like getting laid off, getting in a car accident, or even a critical diagnosis are all parts of daily life that we think will never happen to us, until they do.

When these things happen to us we may get angry or stressed out, or feel like life is unfair. But the thing is, the unexpected challenges that happen often end up being the best things to happen to us. They might send our lives in a completely different direction. We might meet others who impact our life in a deep way. We could even discover our life’s purpose. The challenge is that it’s hard to see any of this when you’re in the middle of it. It is only through hindsight that we can go back and see the connections of the events that lead us to where we end up.

Lessons

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

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

There are those that think that the universe or god is sending you what you need to learn. That the challenges that happen in your life are happening because you need it. I don’t hold to this idea. Mainly, because it assumes some sort of intelligence that is making choices for what you need to learn in life.

If this were the case, if every struggle that came someone’s way was a lesson for them, it would be given to them in a way that they would have taken the opportunity to learn and grow from it. I have seen time after time in the lives of people I know, and even in my own life, that when hard things come along, the lessons are more often than not just ignored.

For me, I see that the challenges that come up in our lives are opportunities for us to take or reject. It is always our choice how we want to deal with them. The universe is indifferent. We can love the things that come our way, or hate them, but it doesn’t change that the fact that we have these challenges. The only thing that we can control about the unexpected things that happen to us is our attitude about them and how we want to deal with them.

Control

“I’m not a coward I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was I would pass
Look at the tested and think there but for the grace go I
Might be a coward
I'm afraid of what I might find out”

— Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The main reason why the unexpected is so uncomfortable is that it feels like a loss of control. Because it was not what we’re were expecting, it’s most likely something that we haven’t prepared for, so it can disrupt our sense of stability and security.

It can be hard to let go of the way things were before the unexpected event occurred. We are comfortable with how things are and find ourselves resisting the changes that we have to make. Unexpected events force us out of our comfort zone.

Often, it can be difficult to adjust to a new situation or circumstance. It can even reach the point where it  feels overwhelming and stressful. We may not have the skills we need to navigate some unexpected events. We feel out of our depth and unsure of what to do.

Because we had expectations of how we thought things should be, when unexpected events happen, it can cause us to feel uncertain about the future. We get stuck in the idea that tomorrow will be the same as today.

But nothing in life stays the same. Nothing is certain. Life is change.

Wars, disasters, illness, accidents, losing a job, and breakups are just a few unexpected things that we have no control over. These things are life changing and in the moment, the uncertainty can feel overwhelming.

But this is when we need to remember the only things we can control is our perspective on the events that happen in our lives, and how we want to respond to them. In short, our will. To hate the unexpected is to hate life because in truth, everything that happens is unexpected.

Positives

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” 

—M. Scott Peck

So what are the positive side of unexpected things that happen to us?

They can shake things up and lead to new opportunities or experiences. Often our lives are just going along and we fall into ruts or are stagnating. We may not seek out the things that we need to grow. We may be always seeking comfort or safety. The unexpectedness of life is the thing that gives us a chance to step up to challenges and see what we’re made of. It calls upon us to step out of our comfort zone, to change our perspective, and try new things.

Often times, the unexpected and challenging things that happen to us are the things that help us find our life’s purpose. For me, a great example of courage in the face of the unexpected is Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 15, she survived an assassination attempt from the Taliban because she was advocating for education girls in her region of Afghanistan. Rather than letting her life threatening injuries scare her from her mission, she used what happened to her as a way to draw attention to the treatment of girls in her country. Through this terrible event, she found her life purpose.

Unexpected challenges can help us appreciate the good things in our lives that we may have taken for granted. As humans we get used to the routine of daily life. We get used to things being a certain way. When things get shaken up, we may find appreciation for the things in our lives, or we may even recognize that we just put up with things because that’s just how they have been. When life is shaken up a little, we may reevaluate things and get rid of things that don’t serve us, but we wouldn’t have even noticed that if our life hadn’t been knocked out of balance.

“The path to success will leave you callused, bruised, and very tired. It will also leave you empowered.” 

— David Goggins

The unexpected can challenge us to grow and develop new skills or perspectives. If we never had unexpected challenges pop up in out lives, then we would never gain new skills. Without challenges outside of our comfort zones and realms of expertise, we’ll never learn how to deal with anything new. If everything stays the same as it is, we never develop a new perspective on life, and honestly, we’d get bored.

The unexpected can foster resilience and adaptability. Learning to deal with the unexpected helps us to roll with the things that life sends our way. It helps us to develop courage to face things that are uncomfortable or scary. If we’re only dealing with predictable problems then we lose our flexibility and adaptability. Life gets pretty boring if nothing changes.

“Why does he smile when misfortune strikes? He knows it is an opportunity to cultivate virtue. Death, loss, decline. These things come for us all. Facing pain is how we make ready. Adversity sharpens the blade of will. Greet the test gladly. Endure.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

The unexpected can provide a sense of adventure and excitement. Life is change. Even when you think things are stable, they are always changing, we just aren’t noticing it. It is dealing with change that makes life interesting. If we never had anything unexpected and everything went according to plan and stayed the same, life would be incredibly boring and we’d fail to grow. We’d stay in our comfort zones and never have anything exciting or interesting happen in our lives.

When you think about it, the best movies and books are about everyday people who have something unexpected or interesting happen to them. We get to see how they try and fail and get up and try again while dealing with the with the twists and turns that happen in their lives. The best jokes are the ones you hear with an unexpected punchline. The best songs are often the ones with unexpected or dissonant notes. If everything was predictable, then it would be extremely boring. There would be no reason to watch or listen or read anything.

Dealing With the Unexpected

“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.”

— Seneca

So how do we deal with the unexpected? How can we take steps to manage things in ways that we not only get through them, but thrive because of them?

First and foremost, take a deep breath. Getting yourself into a space where you can look at things rationally and calmly will help you keep your mind open to more options and better decision making. Panicking never helps, and will most likely make things worse. When you panic, you’re driven by fear, and you start catastrophizing everything around you. Keeping calm helps you weigh your options better, and help you choose what is best for you in the long run.

“It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it.”

— Seneca

Next is acceptance. When we practice amor fati, and we love our fate, then we are able to welcome the unexpected. We accept that life is never going to go exactly like we think it should. We take each unexpected thing that happens, and see what opportunities are being given to us. It may not feel like an opportunity at the time. In fact it may feel like the worst thing that has ever happened. But sitting around bemoaning how things are not as you would like them to be, wastes time in dealing with things are they are.

By practicing acceptance, we also let go of the things that we can’t control. We stop wishing that things were otherwise, and focus on what we can control. We shift our perspective to help us see things in a way that is more advantageous to us. We look for the choices in front of us and take actions to move ourselves in the right direction.

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are. 

— Marcus Aurelius

Once we’ve gotten ourselves into a more rational and calm mindset, we can prioritize and problem solve. We can look at the most important parts of the problems we’re facing, and focus on what you can do in the moment to deal with the situation. Sometimes the situation is about triage, meaning it’s something that we have to respond to quickly. Sometimes we have time to reflect on the choices we have in front of us. The important thing is to calmly assess our options and begin to take action.

Another important part of dealing with the unexpected is to lean on your support system. Reach out to those you trust for support and perspective. You don’t have to solve everything on your own. Often times when we’re stressed or panicked, having a reassuring friend can be the thing that helps ground you, especially if they are not directly involved. Take advantage of the fact that they have some distance from the problem so they may see things a little more clearly.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. It's okay to feel overwhelmed or upset, so don't be too hard on yourself. Life is going to throw you curveballs, and many of the unexpected things you’ll have to deal with, happen through no fault of your own. Do the best you can, and recognize that you might make mistakes. The goal isn’t perfection, but to make the best choices you can, learn from your mistakes, and try again.

Expect the Unexpected

“This is why we need to envisage every possibility and to strengthen the spirit to deal with the things which may conceivably come about. Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. Misfortune may snatch you away from your country… If we do not want to be overwhelmed and struck numb by rare events as if they were unprecedented ones; fortune needs envisaging in a thoroughly comprehensive way.”

— Seneca

The last idea that I want to talk about is something that I’ve mentioned many times on my podcast. It’s the practice of premeditatio malorum, which means “premeditated malice”. This is when you take some time to consider the worst things that could happen in a situation so that you can prepare for them. Now, this is not the same thing as catastrophizing, but rather you do this when you are in a good mental space, and you dispassionately consider what you would do if certain things happen. This is what good crisis planners do, which helps them to prepare for as many things as possible.

Conclusion

The unexpected is there to teach us something we didn’t know we needed. The unexpected gives us opportunities that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. We may find a challenging situation which calls on us to rise above what we thought we were capable of. We may meet someone who changes the course of our lives.  Sometimes an unexpected event is the thing that sends our life in a direction that we never could have dreamed of. As much as we want the expected and the routine, the unexpected offers us surprise and joy and pain and anxiety and delight. It’s the spice of life and the thing that makes life interesting.


Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

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

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

Find me on instagram 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

276 – The Zen of Zeno: Exploring the Art of Stoic Patience

Are you a patient person? Do you pay attention in your life or are you just rushing through your day? Today I want to talk about how patience is one of the most important attributes you need to live a full life, and reach your goals.

"A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else."

— Epictetus

Fast

We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re used to getting almost anything we want easily and quickly. When you buy something on amazon, you get it just a day or two. You want to see a movie, listen to that certain song all you have to do is open your phone or your computer. Want a date or to order dinner? There’s an app for that.

But when it comes to personal growth or achieving our goals, often things don’t move that quickly. We may learn something and want to improve ourselves, but we are creatures of habit and changing behaviors and well worn thought patterns is not something we can just decide and change instantly. While I wish it were just as easy opening the menu of an app and choosing a few options, it takes consistency, and to be consistent takes patience.

Patience

“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.”

— Zeno of Citium

Patience is something that needs to be practiced and cultivated. Our world is all about instant gratification and trying to get your attention all day long. They even have a term for it – the attention economy. Your attention is so important that they are willing to do whatever they can to get your attention. The more that apps and advertisements have your attention, the more likely you are to buy whatever it is that they are selling.

Impatience

"Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is 'timing' – it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way."

— Fulton J. Sheen

Impatience is a non-acceptance of reality. When we are impatient, we are expressing our frustration with reality for what it is and wishing that it was something else. We are registering out discontent with the now and want it to be something different than what it is.

When we are patient, we have a strong sense of awareness. We are present where we are. We give the now – where we are, what we are doing, and what we want to accomplish our full attention. If you wonder why the quality of your work is not where you want it to be, notice how much attention you pay to what you are doing.

Years ago I decided that I wanted to learn to play the cello. I got myself a nice cello, hired a teacher, practiced a minimal amount of time each day, and dutifully showed up for my lessons each week. While I made some progress, I felt frustrated because I wasn’t progressing as fast as I thought I should. I assumed that because I already knew a lot about music that my previous skills would help me to be proficient in a short amount of time. But after a year, I quit.

Looking back on it years later, I realized that I was too impatient. I had expectations of where I thought I should be after a certain amount of time. When I didn’t hit those expectations, I found excuses about why I wasn’t making the progress I wanted. Excuses like, “I was just too busy to practice like I needed to”, or “Maybe the cello is just not my thing”. In reality, it was simply that I needed the patience to put the time and attention to my practice to get to the level that I wanted to be at.

Procrastination

Patience is not procrastination. Procrastination is about doing anything other than what you are actually trying to accomplish. It’s about distracting yourself from the task at hand, because there is some feeling of discomfort attached to what you are trying to get done. Patience is the opposite of procrastination. Patience is about taking your time with what you are doing so you give it your full and undivided attention. Patience is about sitting with the uncomfortable so that you can accomplish what you set out to do.

Falling Behind

"Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time."

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of the reason why many of us struggle with patience is that we feel like we are falling behind. In each culture there are often markers of what means to be successful. We may see others around us making some kinds of achievements and feel like there is something wrong with us when we aren’t as successful as our peers. We may have also created expectations around ourselves and where we should be, and if we’re not there we start to feel like we are failing. We begin to feel stress, which ultimately leads to us not getting things done on time, or at the level that we know we can.

Do it Well

When we choose patience over rushing, then we do whatever it is we are working on better. Whether we are washing dishes, weeding the garden, or coding an application, when we choose to be mindful and give it our attention, the quality will almost always be better. When we take our time to do something well, then we also almost always save time because we aren’t rushing. When we rush we’re prone to do things poorly and make mistakes that slow us down and will often create issues that we will have to fix later.

Focused attention can save us time in the long run.

Patience is Optimism

When we are patient, we are also optimistic. When we choose to put the time and energy into doing whatever we are doing so that it is done right, we have faith that putting focus into our task is worth it. It means that we have decided that our task, whether that’s teaching a child how to play soccer, writing a book, or sweeping the kitchen floor, is worth our time and attention.

Listening is Understanding

“Formulating an opinion is not listening.”

― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Often we don’t have patience when we are reading a book or listening to someone talk. We hurry through the book we are reading. We put the podcast on double speed. When listening to someone we may try to rush ahead and generalize their message, rather than taking the time to really understand the subtleties and nuances. We try to get the information out as fast as we possibly can. But collecting information is not the same as understanding something.

When we rush ahead we miss the subtext, what is hinted at, implied, or said between the lines. We also miss the joy of discovery and play with the material or person we’re listening to. When we seek to understand, we take the time we need. We allow for discovery. We let what we’ve learned sink in. We may even pause to consider what we’ve heard, or go back and reread a paragraph that has something deeper that we may have missed on the first pass.

The internet is full of information, but what is more important than all the information that is out there is we understand what we are consuming in a deeper way. Finding the right book or the key information is good, but unless we internalize it, reflect on it, and understand how to apply it, then it just stays in the realm of knowledge, and never makes its way to wisdom. Wisdom takes patiences.

This is why Socrates asked so many questions. He didn’t just want information, but he wanted to understand the information that he had. Being able to recite all the facts about something does you little good if you do not truly understand what it means and are able to use that information in a wise way.

Attention

“I live my life, I live it slowly. I take my time, I’m in no hurry.”

— Seal

In order for us to pay attention, we need patience. Attention takes times, energy, and effort. But to do anything well, it needs our attention. Good relationships take attention. Raising children takes attention. Creating art, building a business, or developing a new skill, all of these things take attention. Attention is your greatest resource in anything you do.

So often we simply sleepwalk through our lives because we aren’t paying attention. We have a list of things that we need to get done, and we push through those, often on autopilot. We do this all throughout the day with whatever it is we are doing. Going for a run, shopping for groceries, driving the kids to school. We pay so little attention to what we are doing that the day just slips by and the next thing we know we’re brushing our teeth and heading for bed.

Consider how different your life might feel it you gave your life the attention you would give to performing open heart surgery. Rather than mindlessly crossing things off our daily checklist, think of how much more engaged with your life would you be if you gave it focused attention. You would still get all the things done on your checklist, but you would be much more present with each moment. You would have been more immersed in each step of each task. Taking the time to slow down and be present enriches each moment. It gives each moment more weight and focus.

Attention is Love

Growing up, one of the most important people in my life was my grandmother. What I remember most about her is the attention that she gave me when we talked. Whether that was me excitedly telling her all the details of my latest wrestling match or theater performance, or talking about the girls at school, I always felt like what I said mattered to her. I felt like I mattered. She asked questions and never rushed me. I felt loved around her because she didn’t just give me her time, she gave me her attention.

Do you give attention to the people in your life? Are you patient with them? Are you present and attentive with your family and friends or are you too busy scrolling on your phone? Even with the challenging relationship that I had with my father, the things I remember most are not the material things he gave me, but the interesting conversations that we had about things like the cosmos and chaos theory. It was his attention that I wanted.

Thinking Takes Time

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."

— Saint Augustine

Good thinking takes time. When we are rushed or stressed, our ability to think drops dramatically. Our ability to consider and come up with more options is reduced. This is why people in chaotic situations often make terrible decisions. This why soldiers practice in situations that are high stress so that they can slow things down and make good decisions under fire.

Now, most of us don’t need to make decisions under that kind of stress. We usually have time to sit down and think things over. But how often do you take that kind of time? How often do you sit at your desk and just think? Or sit down and write out your thoughts so that you can examine them a bit more rationally? Or maybe go for a walk to consider something? Taking your time to consider something is always a good choice because it allows your mind to consider more options and survey the landscape. You’re often better able to see the whole picture and have a broader view than when you’re rushing into a decision

Practicing Patience

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

— Aristotle

So how do we get better about practicing patience?

Patience is really about mindfulness. It’s about slowing down and taking your time. When you are doing something, be as mindful as you can be. At first, this will not be easy. If your tendency is to rush, you’ll want to get through something rather than experiencing it. Can you slow down? Can you start to notice details? Can you see how thoroughly you can do something? Can you find ways to do each task well and improve how you do it? I think you’ll be surprised at much pleasure you can get just by trying to do each step just a little better.

Limiting Distractions

The more you can limit distractions, the easier it is to be patient. If you’re in a conversation with someone, try putting your phone on airplane mode so that you can give them your full attention. If you’re working on a project make sure that your workspace is clean and organized and that other projects or distractions are out of the way.

For example, when I write a podcast episode, I will often take my laptop out of my office and sit on my front deck to write. Because I can only use the screen on my laptop rather than the large monitors in my office, it is harder to get distracted with other web pages or apps.

Discomfort

"Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears."

— Barbara Johnson

I often talk on this podcast about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is one of the most important skills that you can develop. When you choose to face discomfort head on, you are able to learn to relax when things are challenging. You are able to do what needs to be done even if it is not what you might consider fun or enjoyable. It is about taking control of yourself, and your emotions and pressing forward even when you don’t feel like it.

Being patient can feel uncomfortable. Whether that’s working on a project, creating a piece of art, or trying to make changes in our lives, we want to get things done fast. We fixate on the end goal, and miss out on enjoying the process. When we are patient, we are able to bring mindfulness to the process, and be present rather than just running on autopilot.

When you are working on a project or reading a book, set aside an amount of time where you are only allowed to work on the particular task or nothing at all. By forcing yourself to confront the uncomfortable feelings, you’ll start to develop the capacity to just sit with them. You’ll be able to be okay with with how you feel and not reach for distractions to alleviate the discomfort.

Observations on Boredom

One of the most interesting things that I’ve noticed when I really pay attention to a task that I consider boring like washing dishes or doing yard work is that I will often have random ideas or inspirations that pop up that have nothing to do with what I’m doing. By giving my focus to the task, it seems to take my full conscious attention, which allows my unconscious to work through something else, and give me answers in other areas where I felt stuck.

Conclusion

Time is the most precious resource we have. By learning to slow down and be patient with the time you have, you use it wisely. As I get older, I feel the weight of having less time ahead of me than I have behind me. I want my time to last as long as possible, and I want to use the remaining time I have on this planet to accomplish what I want. I’ve found that the more patient and mindful that I am in my everyday tasks, the days seem to slow down and last longer. And while patience is not about productivity, by practicing patience and attention we actually end up being more productive. Patience helps us to do everything we do at a higher level, and helps us be more present and really experience everything in our lives more fully.


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Categories
Courage

275 – A Courageous Mind

Do you live in fear? Are there things in your life that you are afraid to try? Today I want to talk about why courage is the foundational virtue of stoicism, and how to develop a courageous mind.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear."

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Courage

One of the four virtues of Stoicism is courage. For me, this is the most important virtue. There are a lot of things in this world that cause us fear or anxiety. Most of these things are not things that can actually physically harm us, but still trigger the same physiological response in our body. Courage enables you to face and overcome adversity, which is a prerequisite for living virtuously. It takes courage to practice the three other virtues of wisdom, temperance, and justice because these virtues require you to reign in your ignorance, control your desires, and act against injustice in the world. Without courage, it would be difficult or even impossible to practice these other virtues consistently.

But first, let’s define courage. According to the dictionary, courage is:

“The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.”

When we dig a little deeper we find that courage comes from the Latin word “cor”, which means heart. In one of its earliest forms, courage meant to “speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”. Over time it has changed to its current definition, but I really like the idea that courage in our words and our actions is about what is really in our hearts.

So now that we’ve established a basic definition of courage, let’s talk about why I consider courage to be the foundational virtue, meaning it helps us to live the other 3 virtues.

Wisdom

“To make good decisions, you need wisdom. To gain wisdom, you need experience. You get experience by making bad decisions.”

There are many facets of courage, and if you ever want to read an interesting dialogue on courage, I recommend Plato’s Laches in which Socrates and several other discuss the nature of courage. Within that dialogue they talk about how courage is not just enduring something, but is also about doing so wisely, which I thought was great because it helps to show how the virtues are interconnected.

To gain wisdom in our lives we need to be willing to step up and make choices. If we stand back and don’t take any actions in our lives and we aren’t willing to take risks, then we never gain experience. It is through trying and failing that we learn, and accumulate wisdom in our lives. It takes courage to step up and be willing to fail.

Justice

The universe is not fair in the way that most people think it should be, and justice is not something that is built into the world. This is why justice is one of the 4 virtues. Justice is something that we need to advocate for. It is through our courage that we stand up for fairness, rationality, and the equal application of the law to all that we are able to get closer to having a more just society.

Temperance

It takes courage to moderate ourselves. Whether that is moderating our emotions, how much we eat or drink, or our other desires, it takes courage to reign in the darker parts of ourselves. Courage is the core of self-discipline. It is the thing that helps us make better choices for ourselves.

Courage itself is a moderating virtue. Courage helps us to balance fear, not eliminate it. Fear is a useful emotion, but like all emotions it needs to be managed. If we have too little fear, then we’re likely to be overconfident and reckless. Whereas if we have too much fear, then we are paralyzed and are unable to take action.

The Courageous Mind

“The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.”

— Marcus Aurelius

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear."

— Mark Twain

Next I want to talk about the idea of the “courageous mind”. The courageous mind is one that is able to act according to reason and wisdom, rather than giving in to fear, anger, or other emotions. When you cultivate a courageous mind, then you are able to see and manage the emotions that may arise when you are in challenging or stressful situations. Cultivating the ability to be dispassionate at important moments can help you to make choices that are not only beneficial, but also avoid ones that you may regret later.

The courageous mind is one that is able to remain calm and objective in difficult situations. A courageous mind is one that is able to see the big picture and act accordingly. In this way, courage is not just about being physically brave, but also about being mentally and emotionally brave.

Responsibility

When we develop a courageous mind, we step up and take responsibility for our own actions, rather than blaming others or making excuses. This type of courage is often called "moral courage." It takes moral courage to admit when you are wrong, to apologize when you have made a mistake, and to change your behavior when necessary.

Growing up, it was often hard for me to take responsibility for things because if I made a mistake and it upset my father, there was a good chance that I could get a beating. I got pretty good at coming up with excuses or placing the blame on someone or something else. Once I was out of that environment I started to make active choices to take more responsibility for my actions and my choices.

Integrity

When we develop a courageous mind, we live a life of integrity. This means that we act according to your principles and values, even in the face of persecution. Often, because we are afraid of the opinions of others, we may find it challenging to step up and do what we feel is right. When we have developed courage, we don’t let the opinions of others hold us back when it matters.

Honesty

A courageous mind enables you to be honest with yourself and others, even when it's difficult. One of the hardest things about self improvement is learning to be honest with yourself. Our egos would rather hold on to the self deceptions that we have. We like to think that we are smarter, kinder, or more selfless than we really are. The more honest we are with ourselves, the faster we can make progress because we are actually being aware of our shortcomings and failures, and we can address them head on.

Self-Discipline

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

— Thucydides

Courage is at the core of self-discipline. Courage is what is needed for us to get ourselves to do the things that we want. It takes courage to get up and exercise when we don’t feel like it. It takes courage to limit the amount we drink or cut down on the desserts we like. Courage is what we need to step up and take control of our desires, and not let them control the us.

Boundaries

“Keep company only with people who uplift you.”

— Epictetus

One of the areas where courage is needed the most is when it comes to boundaries. When you change the dynamic in a relationship by setting boundaries, others may not like it and may get upset with you because they want to keep things as they are. Learning how to set and enforce healthy boundaries is something that takes a lot of courage because the other person may put a lot of pressure on you to keep things the same. Sometimes it can even mean the end of a relationship.

This is an area that I’ve struggled with a lot in the past. Often, I would try to set boundaries with others, only to let things slide when the other person would get upset with me. My people pleaser behavior would want to resolve the tension. I would also think that maybe I was doing something wrong because they were upset with me.

When you set a boundary with someone, and you hold to your principles, it can feel scary. It can cause a lot of anxiety. It takes courage to hold to your principles, and the confidence that comes from holding to your principles can help you stand your ground while being polite but firm.

Resilience

“He who does not prevent a feeling of fear is not brave; but he who overcomes fear, is.”

— Seneca

“Don’t let your fears paralyze you into becoming a lesser version of yourself. Eliminate fear by confronting what you’re afraid of.”

— David Goggins

So how do we get better about being more courageous in our lives?

One important thing to keep in mind is that having courage is not the same as having no fear. If you aren’t afraid of something, then you don’t really need courage to step up and do it. When you have courage, you are willing to do what needs to be done in the face of fear.

When we allow fear to control our lives, then we end up living less of a life. We avoid things that are scary, or uncomfortable. We don’t take risks that would benefit us in the long run and help us to live our best lives. We often end up regretting the opportunities we didn’t take.

Developing a courageous mind is something that needs to be practiced. It takes consistently stepping outside your comfort zone and exercising your will. It means that you need to consciously make choices and take actions in spite of fear and anxiety. The more you practice facing up to and pushing through your fear, the easier it becomes. It is courage that helps us to step up, feel the fear, work through the discomfort, and do it anyway.

When we have the courage to face our fears we don’t have to take them all on at once. We can start small and work our way up to bigger challenges. You can step into things that are uncomfortable and get used to them. The more we face our fears, the more resilient we become, and the easier it will be to bounce back from adversity.

Self-Compassion

Another key component to developing courage is self-compassion. When we make mistakes or fall short, the best thing we can do is to treat ourselves kindly. Beating yourself up makes it more likely that you will be less willing to try again. When you treat yourself with compassion, then you’re giving yourself a safe space to try, fail, and try again.

Mindfulness

“Fear is the basis of all suffering. Both desire and anger are manifestations of fear. Fear itself is a creation of your mind. It does not exist independently. Since it is a fabrication, you don’t have to fight it. Just understand it. Understanding is the key to freedom.“

— @TheAncientSage (twitter)

Practicing mindfulness helps us to be more aware of our thoughts and emotions. If we are unaware of what we are feeling, then we tend to led by our emotions rather than our principles or rational thinking. The more we are aware of our thoughts and emotions, the easier it will be to stay calm and rational in the face of fear.

One area of fear that I have is when I fly on an airplane. I know that it is an irrational and visceral fear, but it grips me every time I fly. This last week I flew out to Salt Lake City to visit with friends and family. It was a challenge for me because even though I know that I’m more likely to die driving to the airport than I am in the plane, it still spikes my anxiety. The flight to Salt Lake was so rough that they didn’t even serve drinks. I sat in my seat and did my best to get my body to relax while I listened to music and talked with my neighbor. I have to say, even though it still spiked my anxiety a bit, it was better than the last time I flew. I think that was a results of my mindfulness practices over the years. I hope that it will be even better the next time I fly.

Optimism

“Why does he smile when misfortune strikes? He knows it is an opportunity to cultivate virtue. Death, loss, decline. These things come for us all. Facing pain is how we make ready. Adversity sharpens the blade of will. Greet the test gladly. Endure.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)

Courage is also closely linked to optimism. If you believe that good things are possible, then you’re more likely to take risks and go after the things you want. You’ll be willing to face discomfort and fear because you believe that you’ll be able to push through and achieve your goals. You’ll be more willing to practice self-discipline because you believe that your efforts will pay off. You’ll also be less likely to self sabotage because you’ll be less focused on all the things that could go wrong and more focused on the things that you can do right.

Conclusion

There’s a lot in this world that is challenging, uncomfortable, or scary. It’s easy to fall into a place of negativity and complacency. Developing a courageous mind is a lifelong endeavor and needs to be practiced daily. Cultivating courage is like strengthening a muscle. It is something that needs to be done consciously and mindfully in order to keep fear and anxiety from hijacking our minds. It is something that is necessary for developing and improving our self-discipline. Lastly, courage helps you become more optimistic because you believe that your efforts will be worth it, and you will be able to make the progress you want.