Month: May 2019

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Conflict and Truth


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“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.” 
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Have you ever given thought to the complexity of ideas?

It’s not enough to have just a good disposition towards life, although that certainly is the first step that must be taken at the beginning of an examined and philosophical life, adding to that you must also be intelligent in your approach.

Ray Dalio’s company, Bridgewater, thrives on what he calls an “Idea Meritocracy”. This means that the company will be led and decisions are taken based on the most accurate, beneficial and efficient ideas happening in the organization.

But for this idea meritocracy to happen, there must be, quite obviously, a clash of ideas to measure which idea holds best against reality. This there is going to be conflict, a lot of it. The word “conflict” has a bad connotation, it seems it is something to be avoided. But, in an idea meritocracy, it is something that must be sought. Conflict will shine a light on ideas.

Now, it’s not just arguing for the sake of arguing, it’s more complicated than that. Conflict will not work correctly if it’s just an Ego fight to give an example. If two people are arguing about supposedly something but in reality they are just establishing superiority, nothing will be achieved but a winner and a loser and someone seeking revenge afterward.

Truth is what we seek.

So, it’s also more complicated than just having a good disposition.

Why? Because.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” 
Oscar Wilde,

Holding conflict

Don’t you think we are used to avoiding conflict at all costs?

We fear it like the plague. This will not do if we are searching for the truth and to look at things in the face and know them for what they are as Marcus Aurelius quoted.

Whenever we stumble into conflict sometimes it’s easier to just give in to whatever point it is that is being argued, because sometimes, the point may be too small and insignificant to fight for. It may be something we are too lazy to clear out and so we just give in. This instances may not matter in the short term but put them all together and then you have a huge mess.

Assertiveness

Assertiveness is simply defined as the courage to speak your mind and face the consequences. You very well might not be right, in all cases, you could be blatantly wrong. But if you don’t speak up about what you think is right, you will never arrive at the truth because the other person might be assertive when you are not, and vice-versa, but then again, how do you know he or she might be right? He is no different than you.

Truth and progress must be constant work and this requires courage, on both sides. It takes the courage to speak up for what you think is right, but it also takes the courage to admit that you are wrong, which is I’m sure you know, harder.

Conflict, when done right, should be seen as an opportunity, not as something to dread. It simply means that there is something that could be done in a better way or something that should be stopped immediately. Conflict, when well managed, is good.

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” 
― Augustine of Hippo

A great complement to this read: Separation of tasks

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Business advice, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Separation of tasks


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

I’m pretty sure you know by now that no, it is not that bloody simple. The difficulty arises precisely in making the distinction of what’s in our power and what not.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding members of the Vienna’s Psychoanalytic Society as long with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, claimed in his all too controversial at the time “individual psychology” that all problems are really just interpersonal problems.

But, really? Can you really go so far as to claim that every problem is an interpersonal problem?

Example. Let’s say that X person is working for a huge company and just two days ago, he messed up really, really bad. He made the company lose half a million dollars due to a stupid decision he took. He has a huge, huge problem and apparently, on the surface level, the problem is that the company will lose money but deep down, his worries are quite different. When he goes to bed he cannot stop thinking about arriving the next day and having to look everyone in the face, especially his boss, who will be furious. In reality, his problems spring from interpersonal relationships.

Interesting isn’t it? Something to think about. My point here, coming back to the distinction between things that are under our control and things that are not is too clarify it a little more, using Adler’s concept of separation of tasks.

The reason we are often unhappy as Epictetus cleverly claim is that we cannot make this distinction and so we worry about things that shouldn’t even concern us. The separation of tasks is another way of thinking about what you can control and cannot.

In a love relationship, for example, your task is to love, you cannot make the other person love you, or, well, you can, by being lovable yourself first. But the imposition, saying: “she should do this or he should do that”, is wanting to take the other person task.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By separating tasks you can make the distinction of up to which point you can act and up to which point you should concern yourself with. Careful not to use this as an excuse not to do anything, because more than an excuse to not acting and leaving things be, on the contrary, you realize how much more it really is that you can actually do instead of waiting for other people to do whatever. If you are clever enough, you can always find a way in which you can act to come about anything you want, but knowing the distinction of up to which point you can do so is what will give you peace because you’ll know you’ve done your part.

Coming back to all problems being interpersonal problems, this Adlerian methodology comes very useful, because problems stop being problems, the only problem you are left with is with whether you do or you do not do your task and my friend, that’s always under your complete control.

Want to read some more: On life Navigation

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

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