Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Calm down and relax a minute

 We live in a time of social upheaval. What work looks like has changed. What marriages look like has changed. How kids dress has changed. How we understand our history has changed. Our discussion about race is different. Even gender is fluid and up for debate in the modern world.

Taylor Swift’s advice to all of you who are freaking out about this or that is fitting: You need to calm down. You’re not going to stop progress by banning things—it never works. It does the opposite. It draws the people you’re trying to protect more strongly to the thing you’re trying to protect them from. If it succeeds at anything, it’s heaping shame and embarrassment on the people who ignorantly stood athwart history and shouted ‘Stop!’ It certainly doesn’t make a great case for the old values—which do have value—to present them as so fragile that they need protection by any means necessary, including tyranny or cruelty.

Focus on yourself. Mind your own business. Practice some empathy. Try to, you know, understand. Let people figure things out for themselves. Let them break new ground. Let them find themselves.

And while they’re doing that, focus on what you control, like being decent and kind and open-minded.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Leadership is hard at times

good read from today's "Daily Stoic" -
"Harry Truman was a tremendously unpopular president. Just look at the decisions he had to make during his tenure: dropping the Atomic Bomb. Twice. The Berlin Airlift. The Korean War. Desegregating the Armed Forces. Nationalizing steel mills during a labor strike. Firing corrupt IRS officials taking bribes.
As a leader, or as someone aspiring to leadership, it’s important to know this going in: You will not be showered with praise for doing the right thing; you will not be given the benefit of the doubt for making hard, but necessary, choices.
On the contrary, the knaves will twist your words to make a trap for fools. You will be attacked. You will have your motives questioned. You will not be appreciated. Not now, maybe not even until long after you’re gone (like Truman eventually was) or ever (as Marcus Aurelius underrated-ness attests).
But should this stop you? No, it should not. It cannot. Because you must do what is right, what is best. For you and for those who need your leadership.
We do what’s right because it’s right. Because we are the leader. Because it is our duty. The rest doesn’t matter."

Monday, May 23, 2022

Just do it well.

 It doesn’t matter whether you’re a janitor or a junior senator. It doesn’t matter whether you’re negotiating a multi-million dollar deal or negotiating traffic on the way to your unpaid internship. What matters is what you do with this time. What matters is how you manage it.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, it’s possible to live a good life and to be a good Stoic. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Be present

"Do you ever think about what people are going to say after you die? Maybe you think about this a lot—that’s why you work so hard, why you chase success. Because you want a legacy.

The truth is, no matter what you accomplish or who you are, the conversation is mostly going to go like this: “Did you hear that _______ died?” “No,” they’ll say. “How?!” And then they’ll tell them...and that will be it. Because that’s how it goes. Always has, always will.

Your whole life, your whole struggle, the most painful thing you and your family will experience will ultimately be reduced to a trivial exchange between acquaintances. If you happen to go out in some unusual way—a freak accident, sitting on the toilet, whatever—they may even laugh! What can you do about it? Nothing.

The point of this message is to remind you of a critical virtue: Humility. You are not immortal. You are not special. You will not be around to relish your legacy. You will not be able to hang onto your grudges or your possessions. So just let go. Be present. Be good because it’s a good way to be. And be prepared for what happens to all of us, the best and the worst of us."

from the daily stoic

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Chose not to live lonely or narrowly

Of the Stoics, Seneca seems like the one who had the most fun. He’s the one who it’s easiest to picture spending time with friends or mingling at a dinner party (in fact, he was known for his legendary parties with hundreds of guests). Whereas almost all of Marcus’s writing is private and solitary, and Epictetus’s comes to us in the form of lecture notes from his students, a sizable chunk of what survives of Seneca are the letters he wrote to his dear friend Lucilius.

We don’t know too much about Lucilius, except that he was a governor of Sicily and possibly also a writer. Nor do we know much about who the guests at Seneca’s parties were. But from what we do know, we can gather Seneca was social and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom he spent a lot of time.

Which begs the question: How did he choose these friends? We can hope—and expect—that Seneca’s many friendships adhered to the rule he put down to Lucilius in one of those famous letters:

“Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

It’s an impossible thing to know really—even for ourselves—how we came to know most of the people in our lives. But how they stayed in our lives? How our acquaintances evolved into friendships, that should be easier to figure out. And Seneca’s rule is a wonderful guide, because what he’s describing is what friendship is about. A process of mutual improvement, benefit and enjoyment.

We become like the people we spend the most time with…so we should choose wisely. And we should choose widely, because life is too short to live lonely or narrowly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

C'mon man.

 Like you’ve never cut in line, on purpose or on accident.

Like you’ve never done something selfish or spoken with an attitude.
Like you’ve never been jealous or petty or mean.

Of course you have. You’ve done all these things. We all have.

Yet when other people do them, it’s somehow different. It’s a transgression. A violation. That’s why we stew. We plot. We shower them with insults. Because when they do it, it’s intentional, it’s a sign of bad character, it must be stopped.


Remember when we butt up against someone else’s awfulness, to always remember when we ourselves have behaved like that. Marcus writes patiently about considering the motivations of the person responsible, of trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, of considering the crazy possibility that they aren’t irredeemable assholes. Who knows, they may even think they’re doing the right thing!

So whatever it is that’s pissing you off today, let it go. We are all plenty guilty of our own sins and stupidity. Which is why we need to forgive and forget other people’s. We need to give them the same clemency and patience we grant to ourselves (which is to say, basically, an unlimited amount). This is the essence of the Golden Rule. It’s easy to treat others the way you would like to be treated when everything is looking up. It’s when the chips are down that the Golden Rule is hardest to employ, which of course is when it is most important of all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Live to the fullest

 By thinking, by imagining that we’ve just been given a few months to live, we can see immediately what we should stop doing. We realize we don’t have time to waste. And before you know it there is this urgent emergent need to do the things we love in place of the things we hate.

This is the positive side of the memento mori thought exercise: not “What would I stop doing?” but rather “What would I start doing?” How would I spend the limited time I had left? Where would I find meaning and purpose and joy?

The truth is that none of us know whether we will get to it later (of course, the tricky part is that we don’t know that we won’t either). So we must use this as a test. If you knew you were dying, what would you do more of? What would mortality prioritize for you?

Do more of it today. Because you are mortal. You are dying...fast or slow, nobody knows which.