“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius
I woke up with this idea in my head, hunt, or be hunted. That short sentence is simple and effective enough for you to remember throughout your day. What it means: if you don’t confront the things that are bugging you, those things are going to continue bugging you, increasingly so.
The idea got implanted in my brain one day at work. There is a particularly annoying person that I have to deal with on a daily basis. One day, an incident happened. Nothing too big, just a deadline that wasn’t met, but man, she got furious. Things began to get personal. It’s funny how something so stupid and unimportant on the grand scale (not even grand) of things can give you so much stress. The job was done and delivered after two incredibly stressful hours and a damaged relationship.
What did I learn? Well, a couple of things.
#1 Theory is nothing without practice
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius
All the while I was stressed with the deadline, the unfinished work, and the annoying lady poking at me with a stick, I kept remembering this quote.
I failed terribly to be honest. I did not collapse, but I couldn’t stay cool either.
Read all you want, you will learn nothing unless you find and put yourself in situations that demand you to practice what you’ve read.
#2 You’re not really focusing on what you can control, on your values
Nothing is more liberating than living by your values.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
― Marcus Aurelius
When you live by your values and what you find important, you already know what you need to do, and because of this, you can say fuck you to everything else and stand by that decision. Your values and the actions that spring from those values are within your control, so nobody decides if you can live by them or not, only you. They are your solid ground, everything else is shaky and unreliable.
With work, for example, I believe that it is important to do things with quality. Now, if I know that I haven’t been doing things with quality, and therefore, things don’t work or meet expectations because of my lack of applied value, then I have to own the mistake and do what I can (another value, responsibility).
If, however, I have been applying my quality value, and for some reason, things don’t go according to plan, I will still not stumble, I’ll handle things as they come. Because that’s another value of mine, responding to the situation, instead of reacting to it. To hunt, instead of being hunted.
With my little Stoic test/challenge at work, I failed in this regard. I didn’t put my values (the only things I can control, and that give meaning to my life) above my fears of being fired, the other person’s anger, and the situation itself.
This is what I mean with ‘hunt, or be hunted’. Life will throw situations at you that will put you to the test. Situations that will show where are you standing, within yourself and your values (virtue, you might say), or outside yourself.
If you stand by yourself, that is, you live by your values and you disregard everything else, you’ll stand on a golden, unbreachable, tower. You’ll also be a source of light and meaning to other people.
This type of man:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
You cannot hunt if you don’t stand by yourself and your values. If you stand outside, with the externals, if you care more about the opinions than doing what you know is right and rational, if you care more about things going one way or another, you’ll give way for those things, those situations, those people, and those opinions to decide what your fate is and what your life will mean, you’ll give way for others to define you instead of you defining yourself.
Don’t let that happen.
Hunt, or be hunted.
Thanks for reading,
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