The first of this weekend's link posts is from Ryan Holiday with 7 stoic strategies for navigating the workplace. Our favourite is below, but read them all here.
On tough days we might say, "My work is overwhelming," or "My boss is really frustrating." If only we could understand that this is impossible. Someone canât frustrate you, work canât overwhelm you â these are external objects, and they have no access to your mind. Those emotions you feel, as real as they are, come from the inside, not the outside.
The Stoics use the word hypolepsis, which means "taking up" - of perceptions, thoughts, and judgments by our mind. What we assume, what we willingly generate in our mind, thatâs on us. We canât blame other people for making us feel stressed or frustrated any more than we can blame them for our jealousy. The cause is within us. They're just the target.
Read the whole article here
I was watching Master Chef. What a decadent people we humans have become. I watched someone prepare cauliflower for three hours. Slicing it, grilling it, making balls of it in solution and making a powder out of it. They served it four ways with a tiny ball of sheepâs these on top. Whilst it looked good, and was obviously a testament to the technical skills and creativity of the chef, do we really need to mess around with our food?
The answer to this question was made clear for me when the critic who tasted it described it as very clever because when he ate a bit of the cauliflower along with the cheese that exploded in his mouth, he said it tasted like cauliflower cheese - something much less extravagant that could be knocked up in a tenth of the time. If you want to eat something that tastes like cauliflower cheese, then why not just eat that rather than over complicate things?
Unsophisticated is the counter-argument. You are not sophisticated enough to understand the delicate flavours and all of the work involved. You must be unsophisticated if you like to eat actual cauliflower cheese for a tenth of the price.
I feel like money comes first and then seeking a way to waste it. Michelin star restaurants are the epitome of this for me. Why can we not be happy eating plain porridge for every meal? Why must we seek out the most elaborate processes possible for our food to be tampered with before we can enjoy it?
Why must food be exciting at all? It does not need to be anything more Than just fuel for the body if we do not give in to our need for pleasure.
Of course, we do this in every area of life. Spending money and over complicating things to further the perception of ourselves to others. We love to over complicate things as it makes us look clever, indispensable, that we need a bigger team to cope.
What can you try today to live with the scantest of fare, to think from first principals, to simplify? See how it feels.
I used to think that it was just a way to stop people complaining in meetings. To give them an action to sort out whatever they raised as an issue in a team meeting.
Well, it might be, but it is also a great gift for development. If someone cares enough about a subject to raise it as an issue amongst their boss and their peers, then it must be something important to them to change. Allowing them to take responsibility for sorting it out rather than just stepping in to provide an answer is a great way to get someone to grow. It shows that they can take responsibility for everything in their lives and therefore work to change it. It also serves a great purpose to teach them time management. They are not going to have anything taken off their plate, they must find time to do sort the new issue too. Giving someone something they are passionate about is the best way to prioritise and make things quicker as they will have to find a way to make the things they are less interested in, or less important, be done in a faster time to free up space for this new project. If they were not passionate about it and they were just complaining, then this a great lesson too. It is easier to criticise than it is to do. No one is going to sort out shit for you, you are going to need to do it on your own.
Not complaining is a great habit to get in to, although one that I find particularly difficult in our society as we are surrounded by it. All the news is complaining. About something someone has done, something someone has not done or something someone should have done better. There are not many influences around us that teach us to just make the change ourselves in whatever version we can influence. And then to build on it. This is how everything gets done but apparently is not important enough to be taught at school.
The second of this weekend's link posts is some timely advice from Ayodeji Awosika on focussing on what you are rather than what you are not.
Stop letting them distract you.
No watching news this week. Do something that matters instead. Write the draft, lift the weight, call the potential customer, paint the picture, spend time with the loved one, serve the community, love the neighbor, care for yourself, seize the opportunity.
No focusing on what you aren’t. Focus on what you are — capable, resilient, human.
No outrage over the latest scandal. Focus on what you can control — your attitude, your action, your own moral fortitude and example set for others.
Maybe I went a little deep with this one, but what I see today appears to be a classic magic trick…
How does a magician trick you? He misdirects you. He draws your attention to his distraction while the real trick is happening elsewhere.
Don’t let the current climate of society trick you. While you’re focusing on what to be mad about you’re missing out on all the good the world has to offer.
Read the whole article here
Why don't we make the best use of our time? Why is it so easy to procrastinate? To stay in bed for that little bit longer. Even the emperor of Rome struggled with this:
"I have to go to work - as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for - the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?" - Marcus Aurelius
It is funny how nothing much has changed over the years. Even in Ancient Rome, they were worries about excesses. Today, all of us have access to more than the Emperor of Rome.
He did not have electricity, a phone, a TV, a car. He had slaves, but so do we. We just call it capitalism. We have outsourced our lives to technology or cheaper labour - building our phones, preparing our food, connecting across the ether.
Perspective is a needed jolt sometimes. With all the luxuries at your fingertips today, what is really stopping you.
âGet out of bed and do something.
If you want any perspective on life, you have to listen to this podcast immediately. All of it is great, but I am talking about the part from 41:39 to 48:22.
If you don't have time to listen then my summary is below, that surely will not do it justice, but here goes:
Remember that your time on this Earth is fleeting. Thinking about the history of human beings, if it was a 700-page book, you would only be alive for a sentence at most. This is the most exciting time to be alive and most people will not do anything that would make it into that book. There have been so many amazing shifts in technology and communication that it is very unlikely that you will make an impact big enough to hit the 700-page highlight reel of human history.
But you can still make an impact.
To your friends. To your parents. To your children. To your teachers. To your mentees. To your co-workers.
You do not have much time to be alive. Why must we waste any of it?. Each day is fleeting and we must make it our own.
Ideally, when I did the website for our app launch I wanted to remind people they are going to die, but I didn't think this would be well received. Most people think that remembering death is morbid rather than liberating.
I have just bought two coins from dailystoic that have made a prominent place on my desk. Memento Mori, remembering that we are going to die, I find a great daily (and more frequent the reminder the better) to treat people better including myself. I need to treat each hour as every hour ticking away.
Do you really want to waste a precious human life sitting for an hour in a meeting that is going nowhere? That is no use to anyone involved?
What if it was your last hour alive? Well should it be any different to this hour, that all count towards death the same.
I read the following from Seneca today which puts it better than I could:
"But we to whom such corruptible bodies have been allotted, nevertheless set eternity before our eyes, and in our hopes grasp at the utmost space of time to which the life of man can be extended, satisfied with no income and with no influence. What can be more shameless or foolish than this? Nothing is enough for us, though we must die some day, or rather, are already dying; for we stand daily nearer the brink, and every hour of time thrusts us on towards the precipice over which we must fall. See how blind our minds are! What I speak of as in the future is happening at this minute, and a large portion of it has already happened; for it consists of our past lives. But we are mistaken in fearing the last day, seeing that each day, as it passes, counts just as much to the credit of death...
If you are going out drinking. If you are staying in watching Love Island. If you are spending time complaining to someone else.
You are not spending time improving yourself. Surely, this is the only way out of any situation?
Why do anything else? Complaining about others makes you feel worse. Cultivating a habit of seeing the best in people makes you feel better. Assuming everyone else does not know what they are doing makes you take control of your own life.
Assume the best, plan for the worst.
Do your own thing.
Is success cash on a bed? A watch on your wrist? A car in your drive?
If you do not have these then you might think it is? If you have ever tasted a little piece of them, you will know that it is not.
Define success and find that you might already have it. Or at least find that you do not have to chase material things to make you happy.