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How To Find Your Dream And The Time To Do It


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“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? — Epictetus 

Do you ever feel like you are wasting your time? I think we’ve all had that annoying experience. What are you waiting for then? 

I know, sometimes it’s hard to even know where to start, right? But no worries, I’ve found a great formula to figure that out and get you started. 

First things first. Anxiety about the future, not really knowing about what is to come, about having wasted your life in a meaningless job for years, anxiety about being anxious, will simply not do, trust me. 

What will do is action, taking responsibility for your life, right here, right now. This can easily be achieved if you realize that you will never have another moment like this one, this fleeting moment is never going to come back, so there is no other moment to do anything bu this one. This fact can either make you more anxious, or it can liberate you, as the realization implies that there is no need for anxiety. Anxiety vanishes away with action. 

But how can I make it go away if I don’t even know what I want? 

Fair question. You need to know what do you want so you can start working right? 

In life, there are Cooks and there are Chefs, bought can make great food but there is a difference between them. The Chef operates by creating while the cook operates by copying. What does this mean? Imagine that you are in a kitchen and you are a Cook. In this situation, you would grab the recipe book and get to work on something previously done. Instead, if you were a Chef, you would use the ingredients in the kitchen to make magic. The tomatoes, the potatoes, the garlic, salt, pepper, etc. Through trial and error, you can make something great, something that the cooks will want to copy someday.

Now, being a Chef is not easy of course. It’s way easier to be a cook, you just have to copy the Chef. Now back to you. Where are you a Cook and where are you a Chef in your life? How much of what you’ve done and are doing with your time now based on pre-designed recipes or recipes made by you? This is an extremely important question as there is nobody in the world like yourself. You, my friend, are one and the only kind of a Chef and the world needs those new recipes. 

You can be a Cook with the way you dress, for example, it doesn’t matter that much, but with your contribution to the world? That’s different, you should definitely be the Master Chef there. 

This is a life process of course. But the time to start figuring that out is right now. As in go and grab a pen and start thinking about it. 

What’s really yours?

If you want to dig deeper into this topic I recommend you visit this post from our friends from ‘Wait But Why’, you’ll understand this Cooks and Chefs concepts even better. I’ll wait here for the next part which is time, and how to use it now that you know what you want. 

Time 

Now that you have your plan and you are ready to work, let’s talk about how you’ll actually do it. 

There is plenty of money in the world, a lot. What is terrifyingly scarce is time. Time cannot be bought back, time cannot be stored, it is, with all certainty, the scarcest resource in the world. 

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” 
Seneca

Quite a struggle to deal with time. There never seems to be enough of it. Between your career, your family, your friends, your downtime, it all seems to vanish without you even noticing. 

But there is good news. The good news is that time can be managed. It can be managed to your benefit. If you have never written down where your time goes, man, you’ll be amazed. I warn you it will be a huge shock to know how much of it you are actually wasting. 

Now that you are a Chef in your life and that you know all the things you want to accomplish to squeeze that sweet, sweet nectar of a life well-lived, you need to know how to find the time to do it. 

Think of time as a resource, at every moment, you are using your most valuable resource, more valuable even than gold or diamonds (this is literally true), you are investing it. Do you consider yourself an intelligent investor? 

Fair if you didn’t know where to invest it, wasting it was a given, but now that you have the tools to put your time to work, there are no excuses. 

“What’s measured improves” 
Peter Drucker

If you have a lot of time in your hands, great! It’s time to get to work. But, if you have too little. You are going to have to measure it. With this, I mean that you are literally going to have to grab a small notebook and a pen and measure your daily activities and measure how much time it goes to where. Write how you are feeling as you this as well. You will not have the same levels of energies at 5 AM after a good night rest that after work at 8 PM. 

What’s not measured cannot improve. But if you measure it, and you get to work, you’ll conquer life.

Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself at the end of your life like this:

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.” 
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

By doing this, by writing down your self-made Chef recipes and measuring your day, and understanding yourself, you’ll be able to start cooking. You’ll know the why, the when and how. You’ll certainly make some very bad dishes, of course, but they are going to be your dishes and you’ll get better with time so the Cooks can start copying you. 

Now, let’s get busy cooking shall we?

a great complement to this read: The Pathway to psychological freedom

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

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

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

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The Mindset Shift to Turn Conflict Into Cooperation


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“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.” 
Oscar Wilde

Smart enemies? Why? Isn’t it better if they are dumber?

It depends on what you are looking for.

Every human being, without exception, is going to have to deal with conflict, enemies, hard situations in general, that’s just the way life is. I know it’s not pretty and it’s tough to hear but the sooner you accept this the better, as you’ll be able to deal with it in the best possible way.

Before I show you the mindset shift needed to deal with conflict and the difficult, often annoying people, let me tell you first about the most dangerous, unyielding, and difficult to deal with, hostage-takers.

The world has seen a rise in these situations. They happen every week and they are conflicts that need to be dealt with at the moment as there are lives at hand. So how do they do it?

Harvey Schlossberg is the godfather of effective hostage negotiation. He is an NYPD officer who happened to have a Ph. D. in psychology. He developed a framework to deal with hostage takers and reduce the high death rate of every crisis. Before the framework, the methodology used in a hostage crisis was a force, brute force. The police assumed they were not going to be able to negotiate with crazy people, so almost every hostage crisis ended with people dead. The framework was immediately put to the test and worked. It worked so well that the FBI took it to further investigate on it and it is now taught as a part of their curriculum. Hostage crisis dealing success incremented to 95% and it is still used today in every crisis, including terrorism.

So what is the framework? “Talk to me”.

‘Talk to me’.

Schlossberg’s method consisted of suppressing all weapon use and force. Even when force was being used against the police. He then talked to the hostage-takers until a solution was found.

The core trait the police negotiators needed was unexpected, empathy.

Yes, empathy. The ability to understand, logically and emotionally other people. Terrorists are people as well, as twisted as that sounds, but nevertheless, people.

By focusing on the emotions first and then listening to what they had to say, the negotiators could find a better way to deal with the situation.

Empathy and understanding reduced the death rate to almost zero. Seems nuts? Bear with me

There are two ways you can handle conflict.

The War Metaphor, I win you lose.

The first one is Daniel’s Dennett ‘War Metaphor’.

In the war metaphor, you are going try to win no matter what, there has to be a winner and a loser. This is the most common way of dealing with conflict, shouting and measuring to see who’s got ‘the upper hand’, Machiavellian strategy. This is also the way old school hostage negotiators went for, and it didn’t work, everyone died.

Why doesn’t this work?

Trying to win without taking the other part into account will always finish in chaos. You might win a hand (or a hostage) by using force but bear in mind that you will not always have the upper hand and that revenge is real and will happen when the opportunity arises.

Within this framework, you are fighting for a piece of meat for yourself and the other person, naturally, is going to do the same. You may win a battle, but you will surely lose, as the other person, the war. War leaves casualties, both sides, always.

Schlossberg’s way, empathy.

What do you really want? Think about it. Do you hate someone so much that your sole purpose is just to end him? Anger is a corrosive feeling, trust me, you don’t want to carry it with you.

Every conflict has a solution or at least the best possible solution. It is hard to see when all you can think about is winning against someone else. As long as your aim is to win in a competition, you will hardly be able to even see any solution that fits you or him.

Studies were done in the MRI shows what happens when people indulge in the ‘war metaphor’ and what they show is the part of the brain that uses logic and rationality, literally shuts down.

Essentially, you become an animal, a reptilian trying to get the bigger piece of meat, everything human about you is thrown out the window. So what do you really want?

As a thinking human being, you’d naturally want the best possible outcome, wouldn’t you?

But how do you get there?

Perspective

The first step is changing how you see the conflict and the other person.

The obstacle is the way, there is no way, but trough.

When you think about the other person as your enemy, as your counterpart, you will inevitably fall into the war metaphor, so first, as hard as it sounds, you have to change the way you look at him or her.

Instead of seeing an enemy, you need to see the person as someone that will help you to get out of the problem. Think of him as a difficult ally in a sense, but an ally nevertheless.

This will put you in a state of mind in which you are no longer concentrating on winning, but on finding a solution to move on.

Calm yourself down and address emotion first

I was playing smash brother with my little nephew the other day and I won, all hell broke loose.

Apparently, he doesn’t like losing, at all, so he grabbed the controller and threw it to the TV while screaming and violently shaking, to be honest, it was hilarious.

And that’s the key, it was hilarious.

When a kid gets angry, do you get mad? No right? You know he’s just a kid and he cannot control himself and that’s why he’s screaming. Naturally, you don’t appeal for his rational side, at least first, you don’t tell him: “You lost because you haven’t practiced enough, you should go and practice”.

No, that doesn’t work. First you need to address his emotions, because that is how he works, so a much better way of dealing with him would have been to ask him if he wants to play a game where he is on your team, it worked by the way, and gradually get him to get better so he knows that getting angry is not the way, becoming better instead will increase his odds of winning.

We think we are rational adults that function with a reason but the reality is that sometimes we are little children. Deal with emotion first.

Active listening

‘Talk to me’.

Your greatest ally in conflict resolution is going to be asking questions.

The goal is to get everyone to think straight.

Once emotions are addressed ask questions. Use the Socratic method to actually understand what the other person has in their head so you can take him into a more rational stance where you are no longer trying to beat each other but deciphering a solution to move forward.

What will happen if this is done right is that creativity is going to emerge naturally out of your commitment to finding a resolution and you will no longer be looking to get the biggest piece of meat, but on cooking a bigger cake.

In conclusion

This method works in the worst possible situations in the world. It should work for you as well. Now, think about difficult situations you know you need to have and put them into the framework, see if it works.

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness — all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law — and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

a great complement to this read: The Pathway to psychological freedom

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

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

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