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Don’t Try To Be, Be.


There is a right way and there is a wrong way to act in the world. Bought with respective consequences. 

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

Wrong-way: Appearing and trying.

Correct way: Being and doing from being. 

The difference between these two is the mind frame (mindset), the place where you are coming from. When you are simply trying, you haven’t made a decision yet. You don’t believe you can be whatever you are trying to be or do. The actions you take are coming from a place of insecurity, of permission-seeking attitudes, outcome dependent, and not self-reliant. 

You come from a place where belief is lacking so you conform yourself with at least “appearing good”, again, not depending on yourself making it happen but on the outcomes and the approval. Your concern is in the wrong place. 

When you decide something, you stop “figuring out” how to do it, you just do it. Don’t try to be, be. Don’t appear, be. Focus on your mind-frame, focus on the only thing you can control, yourself.

The Mind-frame

During my university years, my favorite class was geopolitics. The class was as interesting as it was hard. It was the first time a professor asked us to think for ourselves instead of answering directly from the textbook. I loved the class and I still hang with my professor from time to time.

One day in class, I hit a wall hard in my learning journey. The professor asked something and I rose my hand as quickly as I could to answer. At the time, I was deeply concerned about being smart but still was too young and dumb to know better, so naturally, I confused appearing-smart from actually being-smart. 

With my hand up high, I began thinking that I hadn’t really put any attention on the question. In my youthful snobbishness, I thought I could pull it of. 

I could not. 

I answered dumbly with what seemed to me to be a smart answer. Everyone sighed as in “yeah, yeah we all know you are smart” way and I fell silent feeling stupid. But that is what happens when your interests are in appearances and your ego-enhancing and not in the world itself. You become dumb, you focus on the wrong things. While trying to sound smart, I was actually making me dumber. 

You can only be smart if you are willing to look stupid and stop caring about it. You can only be willing to be stupid when you rely on yourself and not on other people’s approval. That’s the path to freedom and real action in the world. 

It’s only a mighty big man that doesn’t care whether the people whom he meets believe that his big; but the smaller the fellow is, the bigger he wants to appear. George Horace Lorimer

Fixed vs Growth

It is the belief of a small mind to believe that his identity is fixed and not evolving and anything but static as everything else in existence. 

Carol S. Dweck debates this in his eye-opening book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The difference between the fixed and the growth mindset. 

The idea is fairly simple. If you have a fixed mindset, you will believe that you are either born being smart or you are born being dumb. Inside this mindset, there is no becoming better, so you focus your attention on trying to appear better. As you know by now, this is the dumb man’s game. 

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
Epictetus

You may look stupid asking. But trust me, in the end. You’re going to be smarter. 

In comparison, a person that has shifted to growth understands that the mind is constantly morphing itself depending on what it is asked to do. He knows that he might not be as smart today, but if he constantly works and focuses on the right things, he will inevitably be smarter tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. 

So why concern about appearing smart when you can actually make yourself smarter? Smart happens at the moment, on the level of being. 

How to apply this yourself.

The shift from fixed to growth begins when you stop relying on others for approval and recognition and you start relying on yourself. When you live for others, you can’t even really know what you would like to know or be. 

Stop searching for recognition and approval and you’ll find out what your genuine interests are.

When you’re on the constant lookout for recognition and approval, you are like a little kid that acts on the “good boy, bad boy” basis. If people approve of you, you feel good and keep doing whatever it is you are doing “good”. When you are “bad”, you do the same thing, only backward. 

Like in my class, my search for approval and recognition was impeding me from growing and knowing more. 

Stop searching for empty treasures. The real treasure lies within you. Stop trying to hear yourself outside yourself. 

person standing in front of body of water

Homework. 

Today, I want you to voluntarily be dumb. Ask every dumb question. Ask, ask and keep asking. Think about the things that you know you could do better but you are too ego-invested to investigate or ask other people. 

Do this until you don’t care if you look dumb or smart. Do this until your only care in the world is your growth. Remember, your growth is the growth of other people as well. 

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

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