How Should You Live Your Life?

“Is it hard?’
Not if you have the right attitudes. It’s having the right attitudes that’s hard.”
Robert M. Pirsig

How? Bloody how?!

I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. I know I’m not alone. I always had an inclination for words and books. But I didn’t conceive that you could study journalism or dedicate yourself to write words the entire day and earn money from it. Hemingway or Emerson felt far away. I didn’t know anyone doing it either. I guess I didn’t saw it possible in my mind

The closest career involving words was called idioms. Supposedly, I would be able to speak German, English, French, Chinese, and my native Spanish (slightly better) by the end of it. I intuitively chose it, for a week. 

After a week, I began to think about money. International business was an option as well and I discovered that I could take the language courses alongside the business career. So I pushed for the safe bet and studied International Business. 

It’s been about 7 years since I graduated. First, I opened a beer brewery. Didn’t really took off. Then I moved to Mexico City and became a mountaineer, amazing experience (still doing it). I’m now a project manager at a translation company, a weird combination of words and business. 

I also write here and read a lot so that I have ideas to write here. This is what I enjoy/ hate the most. It’s hard and I feel insecure about not doing it right. You feel the most insecure about that in which you want to excel the most. But that is normal. Just keep doing it.

It’s hard to do what you like without other people around you doing it. (If you’re into something, and you’re young, find someone doing it right now and ask him how he did it, you need to see your goal possible in your mind first. You don’t have to be young though.)

Another story

A coworker told me that she left her corporate job (well-paid) because she wasn’t happy in it. She wanted to do something in the lines of helping people through human resources or something like it. So she quit her high-paying job many people would kill for. 

Goals. When you’re young, it seems that the most important thing is money. People tell you that you should follow your passion and you call bullshit! I’ve experienced what not having money is like and it sucks. If I have the faintest idea that I’m not going to be able to win money with my passion (in my case, unconsciously, writing) I will leave it aside to do something that does make money. 

Even society tells you this. Constantly. 

The iPhone is not cheap. The SUV is not cheap. In my case, I like rock climbing and I love climbing mountains, do you know how much you have to pay for the equipment? A lot! 

It’s better to become a lawyer or a financial analyst, right? Keep the money flowing?! 

Until it’s not. Until you get the iPhone and the car and everything and you realize that you don’t have any time left to enjoy your riches. Haha, paradoxically poor at the same time. There’s a lot of money in the world, but time? Ah, time is scant. 

You think that money will solve your problems, but then you get it and you realize that you now have existential problems. What a rollercoaster. 

Excellence

What is the goal of virtue, after all, except a life that flows smoothly? — Epictetus

OK. 

Whining about the situation is not going to do any good. You’ve gotten this far and you realize now that not only you have to earn money, but you also need to do something meaningful, else you become rich and depressed. And here comes the question, how should you live your life? 

We tend to think in terms of goals. Achieving this, then that, then that, then that, and then die. But living this way leaves out the actual living. Never here, always striving. 

That will not do. 

And here I want to prescribe the concept of virtue. 

It is commonly said in Stoic philosophy that the highest good or goal is virtue itself. Virtue is best translated as excellence. 

A sword can be excellent, a hammer can be excellent, a human can be excellent.

Virtue, more than a goal, is a characteristic. It could be understood as the way in which you walk. Interesting concept, isn’t it? 

Why not making smooth walking your goal? Stop concentrating so much on getting the things and the position and focus on walking smoothly. Focus on walking with excellence. 

It’s a good thing that you find out something about yourself. Such as my friend and his existential troubles with work. Now she knows that she needs to do something else, not only for herself but for others as well. But it would be wrong to think that the answer lies in that other job position. If you think this way, you’re still not getting it. The answer lies here and now, immediately. Nothing impedes you from acting greatly right at this moment. If you’re relaxing, relax. If you’re working, work. If you’re having an existential crisis because your working at something that you know you shouldn’t be doing, take a breath, make a plan and start working on it. 

You see, excellence is intuitive.

How to live your life? 

Focus on excellence, don’t be too concerned about tomorrow for it will take care of itself. Live as greatly as you can today and keep figuring things out as you go. 

The end of the dance is the dance itself. Dance. 

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
Robert M. Pirsig

Thanks for reading, 

Ricardo Guaderrama

Subscribe and receive the Askesis (practice) e-book for free to further develop your practice of stoicism.

Subscribe here

One thought on “How Should You Live Your Life?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: