Self development

Business advice, philosophy, Psychology, Self development, Stoic advice

The mad lust for wins is getting in your way


“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 
― Epictetus (From Manual 51)

Pretty straightforward isn’t he?

Ah, competition, the very heart of our capitalist societies.

It must be good right? I mean, competition is what drives business to make things better and to make things cheaper as well. It is competition what drives the economy and ourselves in it.

But is it?

There is a theory in business that can help us understand the concept of competition better. “The blue ocean and red ocean strategy”. The premise is that there are two types of competition. The first one, and most common, is the red sea strategy.

A company competing in red seas is going to compete fiercely against his competitors in a game kind of created by bought. They will compete with lower prices, bigger stuff and will always try to do the things the other company is doing slightly better. Fighting for a piece of the limited cake the market has to offer. If you win I lose mentality.

A company competing in the blue oceans. In a vast blue and abundant ocean will compete not against the other companies but instead, it will create a whole different game unique itself. This company will not be concerned with competition as it is not playing the game everyone else is playing, it is playing its own game. This is why you pay 1,000 bucks for an iphone.

We tend to see lives in either of these two axis. Vertical or horizontal.

The vertical and horizontal axis

Thinking vertically

A person playing and thinking in the vertical axis will tend to see people as above or below him. Everything is winning or losing, but what determines whether he loses or wins is not what he is doing particularly, but in how he is doing relative to other people. He may not be great at what he is doing, he might be terrible, but if he is greater than someone, then he is doing good because he is winning, just like the red seas.

This way of thinking inevitably leads to thinking of everyone in your life as competitors. When you think about your friends and think about how one is more successful than you, you no longer think about him as your friend and someone that can help you and aid you but you think of him as your competitor, someone you have to win over. You could even say he even becomes your enemy.

If you are thinking vertically, the world will become a dangerous and perilous place to be in, a place where everyone is out there to get you. Win or lose.

Thinking horizontally

You are pretty unique, and you should unabashedly so. That is one of the main characteristics of the human being, not one human being is the same as the other. Twins may look the same outside but each has its own aspirations and inclinations inside. It is a fundamental human characteristic. This is due to our sexual nature, but that topic’s for another occasion.

The point of the matter is that, just like in the blue oceans, you are perfectly suited to create a game of your own.

When you think horizontally you don’t think about people being above or below you. In a horizontal axis you can go anywhere you want, in fact, you should go anywhere you want.

In this axis your focus is your progress. The focus on becoming your ideal self. A self that no one can even wish to match because no one can be you.

Instead of trying to make something just as good or slightly better as someone else is doing it you will be concentrated in the actual ideal, where progress is limitless. Instead of trying to look good in the eyes of other people, which is the aim of anyone competing, you will actually be doing what’s needed for greatness.

This type of greatness is the greatness Epictetus speaks of.

Realize that people don’t care that much about you

We live our lives thinking that everyone is watching us and thinking about us all the time.

But, honestly, you know deep down that this is not the case. In fact, nobody cares that much. In your movie, you are the star, but you have to realize that everyone is the protagonist of their movies in their own lives. Everyone is too busy thinking about themselves and how they look in the eyes of others to be concerned about how you look or what you are doing with your life.

Once you realize this you will start thinking less about how you look on the eyes of other people and more on how they look at themselves.

This can either be depressing or liberating.

I think it is liberating, it is liberating because you are free to do whatever you want. But one thing is needed, courage, the courage to be disliked. You cannot be really free if you are not willing to be disliked. That is the cost of freedom.

If you let others decide what you need to do with your life, you are not really free. In competition, this is precisely what you are doing, you are striving for other people approval and to see you as the winner. A game you will never win. Better to invent your own game, no one can beat you there.

Why concern yourself with competing and seeing everyone as your enemy when you can concentrate on doing as best as you can with what you have and instead see everyone as potential helpers in your unique adventure?

Realize that you do are in the Olympic Games of your life, but there is only one competitor and that is yourself against yourself.

Get busy living, but more than that, enjoy. No need to have a bad time unnecessarily.

Want to read some more: Distraction and lack of time

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Stoic Paradigms

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“Those who never change their minds, never change anything.”― Winston S. Churchill

paradigm.- a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by a community or a person.

Knowledge and understanding are always evolving, just like everything else.

Today I want to talk about your understanding of stoicism. Stoicism helps anyone in the sense that it functions as a pair of glasses through which you can see reality more accurately.

“I was blind and now I see.”

That’s exactly how I felt the first time I read Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and I have to say that I got hooked like a drug addict. I had never thought about myself or reality in the way the stoics narrated in their different teachings.

It completely changed and replaced my paradigm, my way of thinking, from blaming outside circumstances to working on the only thing I could work really on myself. I thought that my understanding of stoicism was going to be complete after reading Seneca’s and Epictetus’s work. I was blatantly wrong. Obviously.

Stoic, beginning

Maybe you will relate to this. When I first started practicing stoicism, I felt I had to take a serious posture and attitude towards life, soldierly-like. Life was serious and I had to be “realistic” about it, no time for jokes. Hard to think about joking with concepts like:

  • Memento Mori: realize that you are going to die and live each day with that thought in your head.
  • Premeditatio Malorum: Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.”— Seneca

Stoicism can feel pretty negative and terrible when you first start studying it. But, to be honest, I think most of us arrive into stoicism knowing that life is not all roses, it feels very real and it makes absolute sense. Life is not all colors, during life, we are going to suffer a lot.

So, in this sense, stoicism seems to be a kind of painful acceptance to the facts of reality, a kind of surrender to our situation.

But was that all? A serious life without jokes? Certainly not.

Understanding paradigms

Stephen Covey narrates in his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people” with tremendous accuracy how our understanding of stoicism works.

It’s impossible to know reality completely. Understanding the immense complexity of the university is simply impossible. There are many things you don’t know and there are far more other things that you don’t know you don’t know. Therefore, it’s pretty conceited to think that what you know at any given point in your life is how things really are, they are certainly not. Our paradigms are the maps we use to navigate through reality and they are almost always wrong. We can only hope to be less and less wrong with time but know this, perfection is unattainable, and that is good. In fact your maps, your paradigms can be tremendously wrong, to the point of not being able to take you where you want to go.

The same is true with your understanding of Stoicism. There are many ways, paradigms, maps with which you can understand stoicism. Funny hey?

Stoicism, moving forward.

If you keep reading and practicing stoicism, you will stumble into a new and a better understanding of it. This evolving understanding will never stop, just like the quest for perfection never will either. You can only come closer and closer to better truths.

Stoicism can be related to a disgustingly tasting spoonful of medicine. It certainly tastes horrible, but you will feel better afterward, medicine is what the sick need.

“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

You see life, to be fully lived, needs to be seen through better and better glasses. Life will require you to update your views constantly.

Stoicism can feel heavy at first, too much “real, oh too real” information to deal with. But once you accept your reality and situation, you are free again, free to move in the more accurate version of reality you now possess in your hands, without wishful thinking.

Free to love as much as you can, free to laugh as much as you can and adding to all that, prepared for any future adversity you will encounter.

You will meet it with a light heart and a light mind. Look at the eagle, makes it look easy right? That’s the paradigm you want.

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.” ― Epictetus

Want to read some more: Liberty or death

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

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Don’t forget to visit our shop, carefully curated. ShopVisit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.