How To Be Cool According To Stoic Philosophy

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are basically two ways you can go about your day, with style, and without style. 

The day will run as smoothly as you want it to. It is not the day or the world that gets agitated, it is you. This is good news because as much as it might seem like, some days, the world is doing everything to make you trip, you’ll always be able to respond back with a wide, maybe even lunatic (haha), smile in your face.

This capacity, the capacity to choose how to respond to the world around you, is the greatest human capacity. The level of control you have about this capacity will determine whether you live your day in style or not. It’s truly an art to be able to own yourself all the time. 

Many things, many people, many situations, will try to own you. They will try to knock you off your cool vibe. But they will only be successful if you let them. You hold the keys. Don’t give them away so easily hey? 

In stoicism, this capacity to remain cool, to remain unscathed (without suffering any injury, damage, or harm.), is called temperance. Temperance is one of the 4 Stoic virtues, along with courage (my favorite), wisdom, and justice. 

Put them together and you’ll be the highest any human being can ever hope to become.

But let’s stick with temperance for now. 

Why does temperance make you so cool? 

Well, because temperance is about cooling down, and remaining cool, in spite of the situation. It’s about living your life and solving your problems, with style. It’s also something you do for yourself and by yourself. Cool does not follow, it acts on his own. Temperance is a decision to trust yourself and your capacity to face or resolve anything that is thrown out you while doing it smoothly. That is why temperance is cool. It’s independence itself. 

Here comes a Seneca’s reprimand of why you’re not cool: 

“Do you know why we have not the power to attain this Stoic ideal? … It is because we are in love with our vices; we uphold them and prefer to make excuses for them rather than shake them off. … The reason is unwillingness, the excuse, inability.” — Seneca

How To Be Cool 

Enter the Stoic Gym of life. You’ll get good at anything if you practice enough. Keeping your cool is no different. 

First Step. From now on, start noticing, in your mind and in your body, every time you feel yourself losing temper, like losing yourself. Those are the moments when you need to practice. But first, you need to be aware of them. Most people are tossed around by other people’s feelings, situations or other.

Second. Begin the practice, Look at the situation as an opportunity to practice your temperance and your rationality, and remain chill. The very best thing you can do is take it with humor and be smart about it. 

You left your keys in the car?! Well done! Time to practice. Watch yourself, see for how long you whine about it, and how rapidly do you bounce back to action and the next step. 

Did you fail your final exam? Talk to the teacher, figure out your possibilities, and get back at it. 

Now, some things are very serious. A loved one may get sick, or something grave can happen. This is time to practice as well. 

Nothing is better appreciated than a person that can keep his cool in the middle of the storm and get us out of it. Be that person. 

Don’t lose your cool. 

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 Not Waste Your Life

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think. — Marcus Aurelius

That’s deep Marcus. 

So, I could die at any moment, what should I do then? How should I act given what could happen at any moment? 

How do I know I’m not wasting my life? 

Marcus is right when he speaks about thinking about death to figure out how we should live. In fact, you are doing it right now, you’re doing it all the time, at least unconsciously, and you’re acting on it. You see, death is our primordial fear and according to Ernest Becker, it defines entirely the ways in which we live our lives. 

“We are gods with anuses.”
Ernest Becker

Take an amoeba and put it on the microscope. Now, pour a drop of a chloride solution on the amoeba’s environment and watch how it shrinks and flees away from it. Just like that, we fear death. Instinctually, we are constantly trying to avoid it. Not only physically, but subjectively as well.

We, the humans, inherited a consciousness that lets us ponder about ourselves, and even ponder about ourselves after we’re dead. We are subjective beings. We are creators. We are gods, with anuses. 

Why the hell do we need to be reminded of our anuses? Because we die. It’s astonishing for a human being to be conscious of being alive, and able to create and imagine in a god-like way, and yet, still die. 

Pulitzer award winner The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker: “ … it reflects the dualism of man’s condition — his self and his body. The anus and its incomprehensible repulsive product represents not only physical determinism and boundness, but the fate as well of all that is physical: decay and death.” Later he states, “To say someone is ‘anal’ means someone is trying extra-hard to protect himself against the accidents of life and danger of death, trying to use the symbols of culture as a sure means of triumph over natural mystery, trying to pass himself off as anything but an animal.”

Trying to pass ourselves as anything but animals?

Immortality projects

Given our fear of death and our constant race from it, we develop a response, immortality projects. An immortality project is the human attempt to create something (a persona, a masterpiece, an enterprise) or join with something (a cause, a philosophy, a party, a religion) in order to defeat death through it. To achieve immortality, in a way.

Our subjectivity allows us to imagine ourselves beyond death. 

This is really interesting and all, but could you tell me how to not to waste my life?! 

OK, onward. 

Ask yourself this question. ‘What is my immortality project?’

Let’s say that your immortality project is religion. If it is, then you just need to follow the rules you’re given and you’ll be rewarded with immortal life. This is the easiest immortality project you can subscribe yourself to, but what happens when you don’t believe in it? Be it Islam or Christianity?

There are other, you could say, “stock” immortality projects that are given to you by society. In my hometown, in northern Mexico, it’s all about family. Grow up, get a good job, marry a ‘good’ girl/boy and you’re done. Personally, I don’t subscribe entirely to it, I believe we are way, way more complex. Not that I don’t want a family someday. But there’s so much more to life!

Another immortality project is consumption and fame. How much power can you achieve here on earth? This immortality project measures your level of success with how much you are able to buy. Many, many people subscribe to this one. It’s easy, work hard, work hard and you’ll be remembered. 

But you’ll not take anything with you when you die. You’ll find yourself wondering if your buying power was really that important. 

Not to say that money isn’t good and that you shouldn’t try to earn it. But it is a good thing, just when it is a tool, not the end in itself. Money, fame, and power are shitty immortality projects. 

So what is it then?! 

Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so does a well-employed life brings a blessed death. Leonardo Da Vinci

Get yourself busy with what is meaningful to you, even if only for an hour a day. Until the majority of your day is filled with meaningful activity

When you think about your death, you think about what you left behind, not what you’re taking with you, that’s impossible. You are unique. There are things within you that only you can do. There are things that only you find important in your own unique way. I know this sounds cheesy as fuck, but it’s the truth. There are things that light your heart and that you’d wish to see happening in the world. Think about those things, important things. 

Why don’t you make them your immortality project? 

It’s fucking hard, obviously. You still need to earn money, and people seldom pay for a mediocre passion. This means that you’ll have to commit to doing it, and doing it, and doing it until you’re able to transform those things into your career. 

But that’s the type of work, even if unpaid, that will give you the feeling of fruitfulness. The feeling that you’re not wasting your life. Even if you do it just for a day, and die, you’ll not have wasted your life. 

Still, don’t forget, you are going to die. So get on it

We measure ourselves by many standards,” wrote William James. “Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life. But deeper than all such things, and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort which we can put forth. . . He who can make none is but a shadow; he who can make much is a hero.” William James, The Principles of Psychology

Thanks for reading, 

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

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