Month: October 2018

Business advice, Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Psychology, Self development, Uncategorized

Opportunity cost.


Suddenly, you wake up in the back of a car. You don’t know why you are there and you feel a bit disoriented, the driver drives calmly. You are wearing a dark suit. If this is a kidnap, it’s certainly a really weird one. Five minutes later the car stops at a mausoleum.

The driver opens your door and you ask him where the hell are you, he just smiles at you and points inside the mausoleum. There are trees, green grass and people dressed in black talking and walking inside. Now you are curious about what this is all about. You get down the car, feel the breeze on your cheeks, a bit of cold, and the tightness of your black tie, you loosen it up a bit and start walking inside. This is definitely a funeral, you can hear a young girl weeping silently beside you. Inside, members of your family and friends surround you but nobody notices you are there, you yell and everyone seems oblivious to your screams, what the hell is happening, you hurry to get to the coffin to see whose funeral this is and as you push the people around the coffin, you realize to your dismay, that the person inside the coffin is you.

You are already dead and nobody seems to notice that you are standing there, watching your cold and motionless body. It seems, that the gods granted you the gift of watching your last appearance on earth.

GraveyardThe procession begins and you sit there, watching your family, your friends and the people who knew you.

The time for the speeches come and a member of your family goes up.



What does he say? What are his memories with you? Are they happy? Is he glad he was your kin?

Now, your best buddy.

Now a co-worker.

What do they say? How do you feel? Are you happy? Are you proud?

What did you leave behind?

Ah, the magic of Memento Mori. To put things in perspective, to sweep away what isn’t important and to give place to what really matters, what really matters in the end at least. Death is always near, always walking, sleeping, always at our side but we keep forgetting.

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life 

Opportunity cost

You are always choosing. Even when you think you aren’t choosing, you are choosing not to choose.

Many times, most of the time, you don’t even choose for yourself but you are letting something or someone choose for you. Ignorant, ignorant of your power, you let yourself be guided by other people’s agendas, blind to the opportunities and the possibilities presented for you. Every time you neglect a good opportunity, you incur in a cost, opportunity cost.


By letting the things that are not under your control choose for you.

For example, Facebook or Instagram. Imagine you’ve arrived at your house after a long and arduous day of work, you don’t even think about having dinner, you feed the dog, put pajamas on and get straight down to bed. There are two things on your bedside table, a book you’ve been reading for a month that will make you fall asleep in 10 minutes top, and your phone. You grab your phone and open Instagram, just for a while (you say to yourself), 1 hour later you are still awake scrolling down the endless flow of pictures and memes. The next day you are tired and cranky and find yourself cursing damn Instagram as you open it again.

That right there is slavishness. The decision was made not by what is best for you but by the instant gratification you got out of your phone. That decision has a big opportunity cost as well, the opportunity cost was your proper rest, happiness and productivity for the next day. All that in the simple and non-threatening choice of scrolling down on Instagram, just for a while before sleeping.

1210979-7“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca 

When you choose to do something, you have to be aware that you are spending your most valuable asset, time. We don’t think of time as an asset and that is wrong, very very wrong.

Your life is composed of moments, millions of them. Each and every moment you have control over how you are going to respond to what you are doing, to what happens to you and your dispositions towards it.

The better the choices you make at each moment, the higher the probabilities that you will find yourself smiling at the end, at your funeral.

Making choices, the right ones.

It’s easier to make bad choices than right choices.

At the moment it’s easier to “go with the flow” and let tiredness or laziness or feeling, in general, decide whether you finish your job or not, whether you grasp opportunity, whether you open facebook or a book, whether you go out with your friends and socialize or stay watching Game of Thrones for the 5th time.

It’s easier to fall into slavish choices because they seem to be more palpable in comparison to the better choices which seem far away in the future. Nevertheless, you have to become aware of the opportunity cost at the moment, the opportunities are presented alongside the slavish choices every time, but conscious effort is needed, otherwise, you’ll become blind to them.

Your awareness of the opportunities determines how much of your life is really under your control. A true stoic is aware of the costs of his choices and so makes his decisions accordingly.

Therefore, learning to ask yourself about the opportunity cost of your decisions becomes paramountly important.

Once the decision to make informed choices is made, a universe of possibilities will open. A universe you were blind to before. Open your eyes and see.

The present moment

“But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” 
― Seneca

additional_f105d867a9d07dffb5271c52e342d908e7950e26-8All we have is the present moment.

There is no other place or time where you can make choices or anything else. Just right here, right now. The power to figure out the best course of action is under your full control right now. Not in the past, not in the future, but right now.

It might seem that the little choices in life don’t matter much compared with the years you are going to live. But in reality, they do, first, because you don’t know when you are going to die, it could be tomorrow or in an hour. Second, because every single choice you make determines everything in your life, it’s all connected.

The sad thing would be to be at your funeral and know that you had the power, in your hands, and you chose not to take it, letting slavishness take control and choose to be dead long before your funeral.

Don’t let that happen. Think about how much time is wasted in pettiness, all that time could be used investing in a great life and gratitude instead.

Choose the path of greatness. Choose to see opportunity, open yourself up towards possibility. There is where true control is, in your choices.

“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” 
― Seneca

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism. 

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

Support Stoic Answers

Stoic answers is committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious stoic contemporary thinking. No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the great ancient Stoics and contemporary knowledge, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.


Books, Business advice

Deep work, stoically commented summary.

No Comments

Hello, this is a free sample from the new summary series available for our Patrons! 

Hope it serves you well. If you want to have access to all the other books related to stoic philosophy just go to our Patron page.

Cal Newport.

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

First things first.

Let’s talk about opportunity cost because this term is central in the entire book but, weirdly, it doesn’t mention it at all.

OK, opportunity cost can be defined as the cost you incur in whenever you neglect any activity for another one, for practical matters, usually an activity that could’ve made your life better if you’d had decided to take it,

Some examples:

  • Every time you decide to watch Facebook instead of reading a book. Wisdom opportunity lost.
  • Every time you watch Netflix instead of going to the gym, health opportunity lost.
  • Every time you are bitter and angry at something, enjoyment of life opportunity lost.


“So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not Ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

You are going to spend most of your life working. This is a good thing, work is the source of meaning in our lives, whether it is your 9-5 job or the book that you are writing on your afternoons.

****** A quick note. Maybe you are not happy in your current 9-5 job. That is irrelevant. If you want to find a more fulfilling job, it’s your responsibility to search for something else you enjoy more. There is absolutely no reason not to apply yourself right now.

Work is also your source of income.

There is a specific type of work that has become as rare as a diamond in the modern economy and as a diamond, it has become just as valuable.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive new value, improves your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Some examples of deep work include writing a business plan, writing a book, developing a new program or a new business strategy.

There is an infinite amount of problems in the modern economy, your capacity to learn quickly and solve problems fast will determine your value in the market. If you are distracted all the time you will simply not be able to thrive in the modern economy.

The problem

Some quick facts. We spend on average 60% of work time using networking tools such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, 30% alone on email.

The question here is, what is the opportunity cost of doing so?

People report being as busy as ever and yet, as unproductive as ever, all thanks to this new tools. It’s not just this tools, fundamentally, it can be any distraction you use for not doing your work.

Deep work requires long intervals of time. We are now a generation that is dumbed down in distraction. Immersed in shallow work. 

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Compulsively answering emails, what’s apps or Facebook messages, scrolling down on Instagram.

Distraction is robbing you of opportunity and possibility.

The opportunity

Your capacity to solve hard problems can also grow if you exercise it, you get better and better but you have to put in the work.

Network tools are distracting us from work that requires undivided attention, unbroken concentrations and simultaneously is degrading our capacity to remain focused.

This problem presents us with an unprecedented opportunity as well.

Think about it.

Everyone is engaged and dumbed down on the network tools, just look around you when walking n the street. The opportunity cost of not spending that precious time working and doing something extremely valuable that the economy will value is massive.

The problem presents the opportunity

The opportunity of prioritizing depth. 

Two most valuable skills in our economy.

  • capacity to concentrate.
  • capacity to learn quickly.

These two skills are scarce.

Imagine what would happen if you’d put all the time you waste in a day into deep work hours? how quickly and far would you get on your goals?

Why is deep work so valuable?

The information economy is extremely complex. The capacity to learn quickly is now fundamental. It presents us with incredible opportunities, for example, if you develop a magnificent book, thanks to social media, it is going to become famous in a few weeks. But there is a downside as well, if your work is mediocre, as most people’s work is, it will simply be discarded for the massive amount of higher quality work available on the web.

To succeed you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing—a task that requires depth. Deep work has become a key currency.

The real rewards are reserved not for those who are comfortable using Facebook (a shallow task, easily replicated), but instead for those who are comfortable building the innovative distributed systems that run the service (a decidedly deep task, hard to replicate). 

The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.  Cal Newport

Examples of deep workers include.

  • Carl Jung built “The Tower” in his summer camp, specifically to work for uninterrupted long intervals a day. He developed analytical psychology after this sessions.
  • Michael de Montaigne in his French chateau.
  • Mark Twain, the family had to literally blow a horn to call him for supper.
  • Woody Allen produced, 44 films with 23 academy award nominations, he never owned a computer, he did it all in a German Olympia sm3 manual typewriter.
  • JK Rowling tweet: read: “This is the real me, but you won’t be hearing from me often I am afraid, as pen and paper is my priority at the moment.”


Types of deep work, where do you fit more?