Month: April 2019

Reflections, Self development, Stoic advice

The dramatic age


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We live in the era of the fabulous, have you noticed?

Open Instagram and see for yourself. Everyone is having a blast, Red Bull guys doing humanely impossible feats anyone hardly imagine himself doing. Marriages, parties, traveling, and smiling faces everywhere you look. It’s just marvelous, stupendous, glorious.

But not just that, look at the news, they are just as entertaining. The world is moving so quick! Everything seems like a movie right now, so dramatic. It’s really hard not to lose yourself in all these drama play of the fabulous.

And then, there is your life. Feels, weirdly, too normal in comparison to the fabulous lives doesn’t it? Too Quotidian.

“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

With all these buzz going around, it’s hard to stop for a moment and think about your life and who do you want to be in it. We are too distracted.

Ironically, stopping and reflecting about your life is, arguably, one the most important and frequent attentions you have to put in it.

With so many stupendous ways of life being portrayed at you 24/7. It’s hard stop for a moment and think about the things that truly matter to you, not to the dumb masses.

It’s relatively easy to just believe that you want the same things everyone else wants, but deep down, you know this is not true.

Say, would you like to be as extreme as one of the Red Bull guys, but, if you really want that, you have to be aware that the probabilities of dying prematurely are quite high in that career. It’s too easy to see the glory, happiness and amazement in everything. You don’t see however, the struggle and the hardships, which are the things that make anything possible. All of those are not shown on Instagram or Facebook.

More than asking, what do I want out of life, you should ask:

What am I willing to suffer for?

What things are so damn important to me, that I’m really willing to put in the hours, face the inevitable failures and still have the will to keep going?

Those are the questions that are going to give you the chance of actually being something worthy.

But we are too busy daydreaming about the too-easy-to-want-lives of Instagram stars. Too busy to reflect on what you really want for yourself. And if you keep doing this daydreaming long enough, you will end up not really knowing what you want.

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” 
― Seneca the Younger

The oldest advice on earth, know thyself. But how the hell are you going to know yourself if you are more worried about other people than you?

The era of the dramatic

Everything seems to happen in one big, dramatic event. Just like in Hollywood. We are all waiting for the next candidate to step into power and change everything as soon as he gets elected, or at least that’s what they promise (because that is what we want to hear). Or meeting the love of your life one evening and falling in love forever or maybe jumping from an airplane to save the entire world from destruction. One choice, that’s it.

See, that is the problem with Hollywood. A movie has 2 hours or 3 tops to show everything it needs to show. You cannot see years in the movie, you don’t see the day to day life, you don’t see people going to take a pee every now and then, or sitting at their desk’s working for hours on end. Everything is dramatic, it’s always one big thing that changes everything.

I don’t think I have to tell you that that is not real life.

Back in the real world. We wake up, go to the restroom go through our daily routines and end the day, almost every day, with nothing terribly dramatic happening.

Movies are great, I certainly enjoy watching a good movie but the problem begins when you start thinking about your life like how you think about movies. Waiting for some dramatic change to happen.

The reality is that in real life, nothing happens dramatically, nothings happens if you don’t make it happen, absolutely nothing, nada, zero. Life just keeps going without you really participating in it.

But becoming someone you consciously choose to be and acting upon it? Ah, now we are talking, that’s truly worthwhile, but, as Seneca so well put it:

“Non est ad astra mollis e terris via” – “There is no easy way from the earth to the stars” 
― Seneca

Change takes time, lots of it. This reminds me of the tale of the two frogs.

One day, two frogs where humping around when they saw a farm and decided to go exploring. When they got there, they encountered a bucket that smelled great. They decided to get inside of it too see it for themselves. This brother-frogs where milk-lovers and the bucket was full of it! Drinking as much as they could they were now full and sleepy so they decided to get out, but, to their dismay, they realized it was too easy to hop in but now they couldn’t get out. They started to paddle, frantically. After a while, one of the frogs, said to his brother: I’m done, oh brother, there is no way we will ever make it out of here alive. The brother urged him to keep paddling although he wasn’t sure paddling would do anything to change their situation. The brother gave up and let himself sink into the milk, and drown himself. But his brother continued to paddle desperately, with tears in his eyes and after an hour, just when he was about to give up he touched something solid. The milk had become butter! He hopped out, turned back to mourn his brother and thank god for coming out alive and went back to his pond where he became a wise king.

We, just like the frogs need to learn to paddle as well.

In an age were everything seems to be quick and mighty, you need to learn the power of small, consistent, everyday action. Learn to appreciate it and to love it, because it is in those daily actions where you are going to live most of your life and it is in those daily small actions that greatness is slowly but surely brewed.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Becoming who you want to be may seem far away right now, but it’s just a matter of starting and putting in those tiny daily actions that may seem worthless and it just too easy to give up. But glory awaits those that keep going, just like the frog.

Change those happen, gradually, consistently and it is made of all those tiny daily choices you make day to day. Don’t shun them as unimportant because they are not. Everything you do matters. Keep that in mind with everything you set your mind to.

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Business advice, Modern problems, philosophy, Stoic advice

Claim what’s yours Claim your time


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“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

If, I’d ask you, what would you rather be, wise or stupid? poor or rich? healthy or unhealthy? Easy-going or an asshole? What would you say?

I believe it is pretty straight-forward that we all prefer a good life to a lamenting one, and yet, what keeps us from doing it? Why aren’t we all just doing it?

Ignorance is deadly, it is willful stupidity.

With time, it seems that we are the most ignorant. You cannot grab time, touch it, you cannot put it in your wallet either and I think that’s exactly how we act with it, as if it were free and abundant. It isn’t, time is your single most important resource.

I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap — in fact, almost without any value.

Seneca

The thought of not having time can make you frantic. Memento Mori, can certainly make you feel manic. It’s like a person yelling: You fool! There is no time! You are going to die! Don’t you bloody care?! Ah! The end is near!.

I know, it feels like that. But it is not. Memento Mori is a stoic mind puzzle you have to go through and understand. When the stoics say that there is not time, they are not claiming something false or unimportant, all the opposite, they are disturbingly right.

But there is no time to be preoccupied about not having time either, there isn’t time even for that. That is the puzzle, and that is the stoic wisdom as well. How to enjoy something that’s not precisely enjoyable? ah, but that choice, remains in our control my friend, wonderfully so.

No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.

Seneca

Things take time, it’s not so easy as to clicking in your phone and getting the rewards of life, instantaneously.

The rewards of life come with hard work, sweat and sometimes tears. And this you know I’m sure.

Anything worthwhile takes time and effort.

The world we live in

There is something wrong with our “social-digital world” and that is that we only see the rewards of life, constantly, daily. You only see the perfect engagement dinner, the trip to the beach, the smiling faces, you just see the rewards and you don’t see the entirety of life. Naturally, you start craving more and more the rewards and wonder, even subconsciously, why you are not living happily all the freaking time.

But you don’t even want this. Trust me, you don’t want the benefits without the work and it’s just terrible to think that the work and the other parts of life aren’t something to be enjoyed and lived fully.

Reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” 
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


Solving the puzzle

The stoic puzzle: there is no time to concern yourself for not having enough time, so live every day as if it were your last.

Hear this.

You harvest what you sow. Is that easy, and this may be one of the most important advice in life.

You don’t see what you sow immediately, it requires time. Therefore, this may get you thinking: isn’t there enough time?! I must harvest whatever there is then!

But no, because by doing this, you’ve missed the point, the pleasure of living is not in the harvest, but in the whole process. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not able to harvest what you plant, but on the process itself of not wasting your life preoccupied for the harvest, but in living it fully, joy and sadness, work and harvest, pleasure and struggle. It is in the entirety of it, and on how awoke you were to see it the entire time.

The decision remains yours, choose wisely.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” 
― Aldous Huxley, B

Want something else from Stoic Answers? Read: An antidote for the complaint.

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