Month: October 2018

Self development, Stoic advice

Stoicism and quotes


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Let’s imagine something. Let’s suppose that you are in love with The Lord of the rings b38796464b768a6d6eb6de7e8a9175d1and The Lord of the rings IV is coming up this week (hypothetically speaking). You have been waiting for an entire year for the movie to come out and finally, you are going to watch it on Thursday, amazing.

Thursday comes.

You grab your jacket, grab your keys, start the engine and head to the theater. When you arrive, you buy your favorite chocolate bar, popcorn, and a drink, god everything’s perfect for the night.

The movie begins and suddenly you feel a popcorn banging in your head, you look back and you see nothing. The movie goes for about 10 min and you feel another popcorn banging in your head. You turn back and see a bunch of kids laughing, ok, now you know what’s going on but you’ve been waiting for such a long time to see this movie that you just let it go and hope the kids will choose another target.

Bang! three popcorns and a nut, ouch! the nut actually hurt. The kids are laughing uncontrollably and you have lost a whole scene thinking about those annoying kids throwing popcorn at you.

Bang! Ok, that’s enough, you get up head to the offices and call the cinema personnel, the kids are thrown out of the theater and you watch the remainder of the movie, annoyed, you get home angry and go to sleep cursing those little rats.

Let’s continue imagining.

Now, Imagine Marcus Aurelius sitting in his desk, at the front of the Marcomannic wars MARCUS AURELIOUS HEAD.jpgin what is today modern Serbia, writing his meditations (he wrote most of them during this period), and going through his usual affairs.

Suddenly, a  general calls to the door, Marcus could tell the distress on his voice, he calls him in and notices and can almost smell the pestilence of panic in the general’s face, something is wrong, something’s really, really wrong.

The general tells him that they suffered a terrible defeat, lost thousands of men and the barbarians are crossing the Alps to invade Italy for the first time in centuries. They got ambushed. Marcus takes a big breath, grabs the book he had in his hand just a second ago and reads:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” 
― Marcus Aurelius

There is a plague of motivational quotes everywhere. In the office, hanging on our houses or being used as marketing to sell you something on Pinterest. There are so much, that they get forgotten 10 seconds after we read them.

It’s quite easy to read one and feel motivated, feeling a short dose of good feelings and motivation. This is a wrong use of them.

The exercises recommended in stoic quotes, to give an example, are all but easy.

Take the quote above, for example. If you read it in the morning, before the chaos and the stress of work and life hits you, it’s quite nice. But the quote demands of you to act and to apply its wisdom in the harshest of situations, and that is the moment when you must remember it and actually practice it.

The kids at the theater are just one tiny example of how easy it is to lose your cool and focus on what is under your control. It is precisely in those moments when you are able and must practice stoic wisdom.

Such an innocent example as well. But don’t be naive, life is very creative when it comes to testing your will. Be prepared, always.

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Self development, Stoic advice

Just start, literally.


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“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire” 

― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

When, exactly, is the right time to get after what you want?

Rabbits and lights

additional_f105d867a9d07dffb5271c52e342d908e7950e26-8When I was little, I used to go to the farm with my dad and friends to hunt rabbits, so much fun. We had a huge flat piece of land full of rabbits and coyotes running all over the place. The way you hunted rabbits was the following: We got into the truck, one driver and one co-pilot, two people in the trunk with rifles pointing forward. Then the driver would drive through the esplanade until he discovered a rabbit and then he would flash him with the lights of the truck. The rabbit would freeze and stay still, doing absolutely nothing, just waiting to be shot, you shot and you had rabbit for supper.

To this day, I’m amazed by the rabbit’s freeze. We are so much alike.

The reason  I’m telling you this story is that of the shameful similarity in our lives, when it comes to decision-making, just like the rabbit, we freeze. There are so many things that we can do or be, that just like the rabbit in the lights, we freeze and do absolutely nothing. Just think about all your goals and the time you’ve wasted by not making the decision to do something about them.

Afraid of not taking the right choice. We act like mortals in all that we fear and like immortals in everything we desire. Thinking, stupidly, that we have all the time in the world. Never making the choice to start.

What If I’m wrong? What if I don’t like it? What if I’m not good at it?

You have to be wrong to know what is right

A couple of months ago, I had a girlfriend that kept asking me one question that angered so much, to the point of becoming a problem in the relationship: What do you want out of life?

I hate that question, it forces you to be so specific when life is so vast and complicated. It leaves very little room for experimentation. What did she expect the answer to be? world peace?

A better frame of the question would be: What do you do not want out of life? This question, I can answer, for instance, I can say that I definitely do not want to live in abject poverty, I don’t want to be an asshole and I definitely would not like to leave absolutely nothing to humanity.

Now, this is a start point, I cannot put specifically into words what I want but I have an idea of where I want to go. This “hint”, this small light on the horizon is all I need.

It is all I need because I just need it to guide me. This light is not a specific and closed term such as “I specifically want this and that” but it is an instinct and a post I can follow. I just need to start and discover the way as I’m going through the journey, explore what works and what doesn’t, for me.

If you set specificities, you are going to be disappointed, many times. Life is all but static, it changes, and you change with life as well.

The one thing you can trust is your intuition, this feeling is hardly put into specific words, but you can certainly trust it.

Beware, failing is a necessity. If you don’t fail you are never going to know if something is good or not for you. In the lights of this sense, failure can be seen as a necessity to move forward. By discovering what you do not like you are coming closer to what you do like.

The key is not to be the rabbit. Start, literally, act. If you get even the slightest hint of liking something, then do something about it. It’s better to know that you don’t like it and then proceed to the next thing that to freeze and do nothing like the rabbit just so you know, the rabbit is dead.

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” 
― Seneca,

 

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

Complement this blog post with the power of responsibility. 

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

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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.

$5.00