Conquering Fears, Self development

Work small, work smart


“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing worthwhile is easy, have you noticed? Things require time and effort. That’s nothing new. If I’d ask you, how much time will it take you to:

  • learn to play guitar?
  • speak Chinese?
  • set up a business from zero?

Would you know? I ‘m sure you have at least an idea. It’s funny because we would all love to do so many more things but we don’t, someday we say.

Learning and doing new stuff isn’t as hard as we think it is.

In fact, it is pretty straightforward. If you want to learn Chinese, for example, you could just go to ask Google for a free class of Chinese and start. Here I’ll do it for you:

Learn Chinese for free

I say things are pretty straightforward because there isn’t anything magical or mystical about learning something new or starting a new venture. Things just need time, anyone with full mental faculties can learn anything if they really set their minds to it.

The hard part is the battle you have to undergo with yourself. That’s the hard part. Procrastination is easy, you can tell (lie) to yourself that you can totally do something if you set yourself to do it, you’ll just do it later. And you certainly can, but, when you actually sit down to learn or to plan something, you suddenly become conscious of all the things that you don’t know.

Procrastination lets you think you are smart. True work shows you how utterly dumb you really are and put things in perspective.

The problem with never starting is that you will never know what you are truly capable of doing, you will never hear a song or meet your lovely Chinese wife/husband. Things are hard, but they are hard because you need to rise up to their level, make yourself harder. Hard things show you what you need to learn, they literally show you the way.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” ― Marcus Aurelius

But it will take forever! You might say.

Yes, things take time, obviously. But, the way I see it, time can work for you or against you. If you learn a new language daily, for a year, you will have a year on your side. If you postpone learning the language for a year, you will be a year behind.

Half an hour a day might seem minuscule in comparison to all that it’s needed to do something. But just like the river carved the Grand Canyon into existence, so does tiny, daily consistent action. Let the river flow.

Want one simple formula for bravery? One simple formula for bravery.

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

Subscribe here

Don’t forget to visit our shop, carefully curated. Shop

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

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Self development, Stoic advice


No Comments

“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. 

Subscribe here

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

Support Stoic Answers

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.