Self development

Business advice, Self development

How to think clearly


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“To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.” – Epictetus

download (2)Remember how you feel when you just wake up after a good night sleep?

Many times I arrive home after work and life and everything and I still have the problems, situations, and challenges I’m dealing with in my life at that moment. I decide it’s better to let my sweet sleep handle them and so I just get to bed and forget about them for the day, the next day, bam, solutions, and answers start popping in my head as my brains feel refreshed after a good night sleep.

There are times, however, when my head is fried and I stilhave to use my brains, work and deliver. I know that thinking clearly is paramount to make the right decisions. Just hear old Epictetus:

“It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.”

In the morning, thinking with clearness is easy, but how do you do it when you are stressed, tired and ready to quit?

Navy Seal Eric Greitens describes in his book: Resilience, a method you can use to gain situational awareness and think more clearly whenever and wherever you are.

The method consists of asking a series of 4 questions:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is going on around me/with me?
  3. What am I going to do about it?
  4. How will my decisions affect others around me?

These 4 questions can be as simple or as deep and reflective as you want. Let me give you an example.

  • Why Am I here? I need to get this report done for tomorrow.
  • What is going around me/ with me? I’m extremely hungry and tired, the kids are yelling way too much and it’s hard for me to concentrate around here.
  • What am I going to do about it? I need a quiet place, I’ll ask my wife if she can take care of the kids while I go grab a coffee and something to eat at the coffee shop, I’ll hear some music while I finish my report.
  • How will my decisions affect others around me? My wife wasn’t going to do anything tonight so she’ll be fine, getting the report done will better my relationship with my boss.

Another one

  • Why am I here? I need to do the laundry
  • What is going on around me? There is no soap and there is a lot of clothing.
  • What am I going to do about it? I’ll go to the store to buy soap and get back and do it.
  • How will my decisions affect those around me? Everyone will feel good with clean clothes.

When you are extremely tired, challenges as dumb as the ones I just outlined get difficult. These 4 questions can help you to think clearly at any moment and will provide you with a framework to act.

With time, you’ll begin to use this method even without thinking and thinking clearly will become a habit. Practice it whenever and wherever you can to gain perspective.

I hope it serves you well.

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Self development, Stoic advice

Curiosity


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“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” 
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

A few years ago, a professor I  really admire told me one thing I’ll better never forget. He said that the day your curiosity dies, you could consider yourself dead.

Yeah, you can actually be dead and still breath and appear to be a normal human being.

If I’d told you that I’m going to give you all the money you’d need to buy anything you want for the rest of your life, also every personal quality, like courage or equanimity, everything you thought you’d ever need, right now, would you take it?

There are two kinds of people in this world.

boatThe heroes, the explorers, the adventurers, and the dreaded and despicable, Philistines.

There is just one difference between the two of them, and that is curiosity. 

Let me tell you a little story.

When I was young, in elementary school, I wanted to build a spaceship. I couldn’t picture in my mind the impossibility of the project coming to life, I thought I just needed to make a good plan, gather knowledge, resources and get busy working on it. I mean, if somebody else has done it, why can’t I?

When I encountered my friends and invited them to my darling little project, I was found with two groups, the ones that thought it possible who said why not, and the second group who started laughing and shaming the ones that said why not.

Not caring about the annoying laughter, I gathered the good fellas and we started planning the trip to space. We divided goals and work but unfortunately, we didn’t finish it. One thing I can tell you, we had a terrific time.

Later, in high school, I got my first chemistry class. Around that time, the big questions started roaming through my teenage head and I started to feel immense wonder and curiosity about life, I remember I used to think for the first time: Why the fuck am I here? What is this? Who am I, like really?

One day, during the chemistry class, we started talking about the matter, and what it is made of. We started talking about the body and how the body is made of organs and how every organ is composed of cells, and how every cell is composed of tiny organelles like the mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus.

By that moment, I started questioning myself how far could you go?

My intelligent professor stopped at the organelles of the cell to move to another topic. I 1_am3GIZPbuUdquqevVFQqUgraised my hand and asked him what were the organelles made of, he told me that they were made of even tinier particles named DNA and RNA, amazing. I then asked him what were those things made of, he proceeded to tell me that they were made of atoms, obviously, I asked him what were those things made of and at this point, I could see the anger rising in his face, and he asked me if I was mocking him.

I answered no nervously, and he told me to shut up, literally.

I’ll never forget that moment. His insecurities interfered with my sincere curiosity, what a great man.

I’m older now, I can smell philistines from miles. They are petty and scornful, they irradiate bitterness and negativity, they are pestilent with fear, and they hide in what is “socially acceptable”, they are quite boring, but in the end, they are just scared creatures. They usually tell you why you can’t do something: There is a lot of competition, you are too old, you are too young, you know, the usual uninspiring shit. Do you know of any philistines?

“Why does man accept to live a trivial life? Because of the danger of a full horizon of experience, of course. This is the deeper motivation of philistinism, that it celebrates the triumph over possibility, over freedom. Philistinism knows its real enemy: freedom is dangerous. If you follow it too willingly it threatens to pull you into the air; if you give it up too wholly, you become a prisoner of necessity. The safest thing is to toe the mark of what is socially possible.” 
― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

It’s easier following the norm and what is socially acceptable, it’s easier to kill yourself while still living if you get me. It’s easier to become a copy of a copy of a copy.

oyg9xsvbj9l11Understandable though, there is a reason why the philistines choose this easier road. It’s already established and easy to follow and especially, one it is one in which you will not get lost.

In comparison, the adventurer that follows his curiosity is bound to get lost or hurt and surely,  of being mocked by the Philistines and his dreaded “I told you”.

There is no safe road in life, take the road of the philistine and you’ll be dead inside in a while, take the road of the adventurer and you will get lost and hurt but at least you will live.

The books of history don’t mention any philistine.

The philistines choose to follow the comfort of a normal life. The adventurer chooses challenges and struggles, sweat and dirt.

When a person gets asked, what do you want?

It’s easy to say you want money, great sex and all the usual, what’s harder is to ask yourself what are you willing to suffer for? What challenge is so great and admirable that are you willing to take your chances? What ignites your curiosity the most?

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life.

Really, it’s just a simple decision. The decision to follow even the tiniest spark of curiosity you have within you.

what pain are you willing to sustain? what price are you willing to pay?

When you go out on an adventure, you don’t know what you are going to find, that is why it is an adventure. That is why you become an explorer, but you have to start, meaning is found in the act of discovery, of chasing one’s curiosities. There are going to be terrible monsters of the mind of the world and of the soul, but you will actively look to defeat them and become better for it.

“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

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

Complement this blog post with the power of responsibility. 

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Stoic answers is committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious stoic contemporary thinking. No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the great ancient Stoics and contemporary knowledge, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

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