Month: August 2019


How To Be More Assertive

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

Photo by Mika Matin on Unsplash

Being at the cause means that you are an active role in life, a contributor, an actor, a fighter in the ring, the spectated not the spectator. It means to take responsibility for your actions and your desires. Whereas being the effect means that you are a passive entity that is going to be tossed about like the ping pong ball. This is the fundamental difference between the person that is truly living and the passerby of life.

Everything happens at the moment, we remember the past, we predict the future, but every action happens at the level of now. In order for you to become the cause, you need to understand that to be the cause you need to act and to do and to contribute and to talk and to be the spark that makes things happen. All of these things can only happen in the present moment and the only thing that you can really control in the present moment is your behavior. Being at the cause simply means that you are going to take control of your behavior and responsibility for what you want in life. Specifically, you are going to control your behavior in a way that is in harmony with your desires, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, but right now.

Now, let’s talk a bit about those desires and their place in Stoic philosophy.

Desires, the indifferents

The desires can be called indifferents as well. The indifferents are all those things that lie beyond the realm of your control. Such as fortunes and cars, or fame. Money is an indifferent. We can influence our behavior to have more of it but we do not have absolute control in comparison to our attitudes and behavior. Should we disregard it because we cannot control it then?

No, it’s better to have a couple of bucks in the bank than to have none obviously, it’s better to be healthy than sick But nevertheless, none of them are more important than your character. Let me give you an example. 

If someone asked you to give you any amount of money for your son, would you trade him? Let’s assume not, I hope not. 

The point I want to make is that of category, your son is simply not in the same category of money, he is far more valuable, it’s the same with character and virtue. But rather, if they give you the same money for an old chair, well that is different, it’s a different category.

These are the indifferents, there are preferred indifferents, such as health, and there are dispreferred indifferents, such as sickness. It’s better to have one over the other, but in the end, they don’t rule over you, they don’t affect you, in all sense, you affect them because your highest good is character and that is always within your grasp. 

How being the cause works

If you value your character above anything else, you are going to become a cause in the world naturally.

To be the cause you have to own yourself. 

Knowing that there is no higher value than owning yourself, nothing above it. Just like the example of the categories I just gave you, you would not trade anything for your control and your virtue. 

With this knowledge in mind, it’s time to act. What is within your desires that you would prefer? What would you want to get and that you’d stop acting as immortal thinking that you have all the time of the world to do it when in reality you could die today? Go after it now.

Whether you get what you want or not is not the issue here for you to become the cause.

The game consists not in whether you fulfill your desires or not, it consists on whether you are able to become free of them and because of this ‘gained freedom’, stop being afraid already of whether you get them or not and actually get to work on what’s really important, which is your behavior and your focus on the process. 

Self-control, focus on the process and the active pursuit of what you want without being attached to the outcome is winning the game of life. You can do that right now, you don’t need anything else other than what you already have.

You know why? Because you are the cause, not the effect.

a great complement to this read: Why And How To Focus On The Present Moment

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I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions.

Conquering Fears, philosophy

Why And How To Focus On The Present Moment

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“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” ― Abraham Lincoln

If you want to focus on the present moment, first you have to understand why you want to do it and what’s in it for you. Once you understand why you want to do it, you’ll be able to do it easily and without the hassle of having to force yourself to do it by using maybe your breath as an anchor or forced concentration to the point that it becomes a struggle, it needs to be easy and effortless for it to be sustainable in the long term. 

Let’s talk about why. 

Suppose I invite you to climb Kilimanjaro. We begin to plan the trip with 6-month anticipation. You haven’t been to the gym for a while, but you’re going to need it so you run and swim every day for 6 months, man you are ripped and ready to go. You need to buy gear as well, so you buy a badass rain-jacket, boots, trekking poles, ice-ax, satellite watch, and lots of packaged food. It’s going to be exciting, the thrill of our lives. 6-month preparation, awesome. 

We get on the plane and land on Tanzania, hot air on our faces and we get to see the mighty mountain in the distance, challenging us, saying: “come and try if you dare”. The next day we arrive with the guides we booked and they tell us that they are not doing hiking anymore because the helicopter can get us to the top, and plus that, it’s cheaper, so it’s not necessary. WE ARE PISSED. Why the hell won’t they want to hike it?! 

What’s the bloody point of this then? 

Luckily we find another company that guides us hiking it. We suffer from the altitude, you eat something bad on the way up and you have to push yourself harder because you are puking every 100 meters. I lost my water so I had to go for the last couple of miles without water. We make it to the top, we take our glory picture and we get back. IT WAS AWESOME. 

Now, what was the fun part of the trip? Wasn’t it everything? Absolutely. From the 6-months training to the puking in the mountain, that’s a story we will never forget. 

Now, why do you want to live in the present moment? 

Because your life is that mountain. Sure, I lost my water and you puked like crazy, we suffered a lot, but we had a great time, I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

Can you imagine if we had gotten to the helicopter and flown to the top just like that? BORING. It was everything, the training, the hike, the top, the trip, each moment was the end of why we did it. 

Today, when we think about life, we think a lot about ‘goals’. That’s not a bad thing obviously, it is perfectly fine to have goals. But when our life becomes a constant “preparation”, that’s the problem. And almost everyone lives this way, “When I become a doctor or more successful and I get my house and I get married or when I get to know my children, then I’ll be super happy” (just like getting to the top with the helicopter). And then, before you know it, you are in point B(death), wondering why you lived your whole life like that. Yes, it’s stupid.

Dance, walk, smile, wrestle, write, suffer, enjoy

Life is like a journey, sure, you want to get somewhere, that could be the mountain top or getting a Master’s degree, but why would you want to get there are soon as possible? 

Ok, we’ve got the why, what about the how? 

Better illustrated, life is like dancing. When you are dancing, there is no wondering where you are going, you are just dancing. Dancing is its own end. It’s the same with everything else. Dance your way into the present moment, whether you are writing or working, dance the dance of life. 

What about when life really sucks? 

That’s a good question. 

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life is not always shiny and beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. In those times, when all is not as rosy, there is no need not to be at the present moment either, running away is never good. 

Those times are good for wrestling. In wrestling, you have to be attentive, focused. And bear in mind that wrestling is fun as well in a different way. There’s a world of difference whether you see setbacks as calamities or challenges to be overcome. 

Focusing on the present moment requires you to realize that life is like dancing, a journey, or wrestling. It’s not about getting from birth to death as soon as you can, but to enjoy, to suffer, to be happy, to be sad and to look back at the end and smile, knowing that you really lived. 

a great complement to this read: The Hard to Get, at First, Good Life

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

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I’m Ricardo Guaderrama by the way and I’m always open to suggestions and happy to answer any questions.