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.

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How To Deal With Any Problem Effectively

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Marcus Aurelius

You have power over your mind. 

‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I know! I’ve read that Marcus phrase a thousand times now!

Sometimes I feel that way when I read these Stoic quotes now easy to find all over the internet. But then I read some new research, and they convey an entirely different meaning. 

For example, our problems. 

Life is full of problems. Every morning you wake up to solve a thousand of them. The first one usually is going to the restroom, or maybe turning the lights on so that you don’t hit your pinky toe with the bed’s leg on your way to the restroom. Life is full of these tiny problems. They are so easy to solve that we don’t even think about them anymore. Same thing with work. Maybe your work offers harder problems that really put you to think, but I’ve heard quite often that a lot of the jobs are just routine. Do this, do that, go home. 

Boring. 

Imagine that you’re playing Tennis with your 5-year old imaginary daughter. Would it be fun? Sure, I guess it would be fun in a fatherly way, but, would it be fun for you? Hell no. It’s too easy. You need to play against someone that offers you a challenge. That’s the magic word: challenge. 

Games are fun when they are hard enough for you to be able to test your abilities. Games are nothing but problems to be solved. Get a ball in a basket while avoiding other people that want to take the ball from you so that they can throw it through another basket. It’s funny when you put it so simply, but that’s it, really. 

Games are problems that require you to solve them, if you add style to the way you go about it, more fun for you. They are also plain fun. You engage in them for the simple reason that they offer you fun. 

Back to Marcus Aurelius. 

“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

Sometimes, when I’m at work, I feel overwhelmed. I’m tired, there’s too much to do, and I’m not in the mood for it. So what do I do? Unconsciously, at least at the beginning, I remember telling myself: ‘OK, there are four important things that need to be done right now, and then I can play Smash Brother’s or read Kurt Vonnegut. I want to sleep by 10:30, so I need to do this in under an hour so I can play or read, will I be able to make it? You bet I will! Let’s finish this shit.’ 

Paradoxically, by doing this, work stops being work, it becomes a challenge and it’s kind of, not terribly, to be plain honest, but definitely more fun.

You can turn any problem into a challenge. It’s all in your mind.

You see, yes, you have power over your mind. But, what kind of power? What can you do with it? 

The one I just told you is a simple one. Turn your problems into challenges and have fun with it. It’s simple and can be applied right now. But what else can you do with the twistings of your perception? Endless stuff, I’m telling you. 

But for now, focus on reframing your reality to see your problems as challenges and say to yourself I’ve got this

Ah, you’re making Marcus Aurelius proud now!

Optimism, the belief that your behavior matters in the midst of a challenge.

Thanks for reading, 

Ricardo Guaderrama

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

Subscribe here

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