Month: July 2019

Modern problems, Self development

Are You In Control?


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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

OK, as a Stoic, you know that you have control over your will, over your dispositions and also over your attitude. That’s within you immediate control and no one can take it from you. 

But is that it? Don’t you have a moderate amount of control over your bank account as well, for example?

Absolutely, although it can happen that the bank goes bankrupt or maybe you could live in Venezuela and see how all the value of your Venezuelan bolivars sinks to the floor, hey, anything can happen. But, right now, if you want to go to the store and buy something, you have control over your money, you can buy a coke, a snack or cigarettes. Just like this, you have power and influence over a lot of stuff in your life, the thing is, do you really know the difference between what is and what isn’t, and also, to what extent? Knowing this, would certainly save you a lot of time, wouldn’t it? Here’s why.

For a really, really strange reason, you find yourself in a room filled with sandwiches and rocks. Don’t ask me why. You are the one stuck in the room. After a while, naturally, you begin to feel hungry, so you eat a sandwich. Why didn’t you ate a rock instead? Dumb question, rocks are not meant to be eaten. So, if there were only rocks, would you get mad at the rocks for not being able to satisfy your hunger? Well of course not, they’re just rocks.

This dumb scenario plays just the same in so many aspects of our lives. For example with people. Just as you have a personality and a way of being, everyone else does as well. Some people like football, others hate it, some like to chat and have a drink, others like to read a book and sleep early. But quite often, we get really mad at people for not behaving in the way we want them to behave. Why would you get mad at a rock for not being able to satisfy your hunger? Dumb right? But then, why would you get mad with the early sleeper for not wanting to go out with you? Still dumb?

People just as rocks are different, it doesn’t do to get angry about a rock not being able to satisfy hunger, rather, it’s better to look for a sandwich.

So, you do have control, a lot. But you have to know where that control lies as well. It will depend a lot on your objectives and what you want to achieve. You might not be able to use a rock to feed yourself, but you can use it to build a house or to have fun with it and throw it to a pond. Just the same with everything else, realize where your control is and realize the nature of everything around you so you can act accordingly.

You have control, a lot, but you have to know how to properly use it!

a  great complement to this read: Where are you putting your attention?

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Business advice, Conquering Fears

Are You A Pretender?


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“To be nobody but yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. — e.e. Cummings” 

So, what do you do?

Classic question, isn’t it? Whenever someone asks me this question, I always feel compelled to answer with the thing I’m doing at the time that is giving me money. Right now, to give an example, I’m a mountaineer, before that, I owned a brewery, so I described myself as an entrepreneur. It’s understandable, people have an almost “from fabric” framework in which they fit you into their minds. It’s just too difficult to take the time to actually get know every one they meet really well. So it’s way easier to think of people as doctors, lawyers, bums, cousins, ah, the lovely prejudices.

But as Cummings well remarks, to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you be someone else, is, and will be, the hardest fight of your life.

But Cummings is right, why do our stories need to be constrained to what we do for a living? It’s like having a big label on our foreheads that says I am this, I am that.

Even though human beings are unimaginably complicated.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Think about your father, or a coworker. Are you aware of all their relationships? Everything that makes them sad, happy, angry? Their hobbies? Their Netflix feed? All their secrets? It’s true, we are profound mysteries to each other.

So, who decides who you are? Who is going to tell your story? Yourself? Your diploma? The answer you give to this question has profound consequences on the way you see life itself.

Story Creatures

We are “story” creatures. The world is one big chaos. The information on the world is so vast that you can only hope to process a small part of it. But that is good, because much of that information is irrelevant, at least to you. You only need so much information to make your way in the world and you do so by making up stories. You are a character in other people’s lives as they are characters in yours.

Let me tell you a quick story.

My father has a construction company. One time, he was working in a psychiatric hospital because they needed to built another wing and make some general changes. So one day when he arrived to the hospital as he walked through security and into the hallway that lead to administration, he saw a doctor approaching towards him, in a serious manner but friendly nonetheless. My father had never seen him so he introduced himself and greeted him, the doctor did the same. The doctor began to ask my father about the construction work and telling him that they were going to need a second bathroom on the hallway and another corridor and a lot more things. My father was confused as that was not at all what he had talked about with the administration, so he walked with him for a while. After about half an hour of rambling, another doctor, whom my father knew, came in laughing his ass off. Apparently, the “doctor” my father was speaking to was just a patient that had stolen a coat.

Interesting isn’t it?

If anyone asks you, what do you do? And you respond that you are a drug dealer, trust me, if you have enough conviction, they will believe you. For a story to be true, at least in the head of somebody else, you just need one thing. Belief.

The same is applicable to you of course. You want a new story, create it, edit it yourself. You are not constrained to what society wants you to be, you can decide what your story is going to be all about.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.” 
― Epictetus

In fact, it is of fundamental importance for you to choose your own story and not let it be dictated by other people. Here’s why.

Howard Campbell Jr. is an american spy created by Kurt Vonnegut’s in his book Mother night. In the book, he becomes the voice of the Nazi regime in the radio. Ostensibly, he is praising and inspiring the Reich followers and spreading the Nazi propaganda, but in fact, he is sending coded messages to the allies back to the United States. But, while doing so, he arrives to a dilemma. It seems that his “fake” inspirational messages are motivating and inspiring more the enemy than his labor of assisting the allies. He became, paradoxically, a Nazi supporter without wanting to. The moral of Vonnegut is the following.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”  Kurt Vonnegut

So what are you pretending to be? What is your day like? How much of your story is done by yourself and in how much of it you’ve just kind of fallen into?

The counter story is the one of Don Quixote.

If you want to be a knight, act like a knight

Whatever you decide to be, it’s as simple as beginning, it’s as simple as believing the story you want to create. Please my friend, do so. There are far too many normal jobs out there, craft your own hey?

If you ought to be a writer, write. – Epictetus

a great complement to this read: How to Start

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I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com