No and yes

Because we can’t say no—because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, will give us more of what we want, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/how-to-say-no-advice-from-the-worlds-most-powerful-man/

Accepting and rejecting are two sides of the same coin. A lot—I contemplated writing “all”—of my problems came from being unable to intentionally say, “yes,” or being unable to intentionally say, “no.” When completely lacking the skill from either side of this coin, I’m a puppet for others. I’m one of those doormats that says, “WELCOME,” come on in and use me.

But simply developing both of the skills is not enough. I needed to learn to balance the skills; To balance the requirements of life with the pursuits of pleasure, leisure, and creativity. That requires a finer control of these, “yes,” and, “no,” skills.

I occasionally encounter people who speak of, “always saying, ‘yes and…’.” That’s utter nonsense. One can only say once to the pan-handler on the street asking for money, “yes, and take my house.” Or to the myriad of people clamoring for one’s attention online, “yes, and…” scrolling scrolling scrolling and… the whole hour is lost.

The mastery level of, “no,” and, “yes,” is to go beyond reacting to life—figuring out which tool to deploy in this situation—to intentionally using, “no,” and, “yes,” to navigate life.

Distraction, Busyness, Hurrying: No.

Discovery, Reflection, Efficacy: Yes, and…

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blog by a Stoic

Stoicism has long surged in times of difficulty—the decline and fall of Rome, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War, depressions, and periods of strife because it is a philosophy designed for difficult times. It says, in effect, you don’t control these alarming events going on in the world, but you do control how you respond. And in fact is a framework for responding with courage and virtue, and with the good emotions that accompany and sustain them: joy, caution and well-wishing. None of these inspiring figures were guilty of emotionless acquiescence.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/secret-singular-philosophy-todays-politics-desperately-missing/

I’m certainly not going to transform my blog to be entirely about Stoicism. Not because others have already done so—others have, and have done it better than I could—but rather, simply because this blog doesn’t actually have a specific purpose. It’s simply one long stream of consciousness where I’m leaving a breadcrumb trail of my thoughts. That being said…

Stoicism is turning out to be a powerful toolset; an excellent fulcrum for leveraging change in my personal life. Over several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in it, and have read slowly, but steadily. Very recently, I started a morning practice I’ve labeled “philosophical reading.” It’s simply some time set aside in my mornings to read and reflect on philosophy.

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Time management

As addicting as it is, desire is the enemy to proper time management. Poor sleeping habits, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and just plain dissatisfaction are all byproducts of a poorly managed life.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/5-stoic-lessons-on-time-management/

Time management is the only thing—the only major skill critical for leading a good life… Time management is the only thing which no one ever attempted to teach me explicitly. Everything else was covered to some degree: science, religion, morality, philosophy, work ethic, hygiene, sexuality, language, geography, personal finance, and more, depending on how you want to subdivide all the stuff in my head.

Time management isn’t the most critical thing to know. Language and critical thinking are the top two, because with those two and sufficient time you can bootstrap everything else. However, things would be far better for everyone, if the third item on the list of must-have skills to be Human was a basic grasp of Time Management.

For me, I was trying to fix my sleep when it became obvious that I needed to arrange my day around sleeping. That lead immediately to an entirely new need for time management. “I need to be at work by 8,” is not Time Management (with capitals.) I then took a circuitous route discovering the needs and methods of Time Management.

But where do I wish I had actually started? That’s an excellent question. Right around 18 years old, I wish someone had handed me a copy of this tiny book: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by A Bennet.

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Focus your attention

One of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in our hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: “I don’t know.” Or, more provocatively: “I don’t care.” Most of society seems to have taken it as a commandment that one must know about every single current event, watch every episode of every critically acclaimed television series, follow the news religiously, and present themselves to others as an informed and worldly individual.

~ Ryan Holiday from, The Daily Stoic, p39.

Stoicism is a terrific tool. (It’s not about suppressing your emotions.) One of the practices is to pay attention to where your attention is. If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information—this news show, this political argument, this batshit-crazy conspiracy theory, this story, that solicitation, this bit of entertainment, that bit of distraction . . . If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information, then it turns out that it is trivial to not be distracted by things. People think I’m ignoring things, or that I’ve not noticed things. I’m simply choosing where to allocate my attention, (and therefore my time and efforts.) I choose to be in control of where my attention is placed. Only then can I apply it where it will do good.

What in your life can demand your attention? Are you okay with each of things that you just thought of?

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Let the news come

And what better use could you make of that time? A day that could be your last — you want to spend it in worry? In what other area could you make some progress while others might be sitting on the edges of their seat, passively awaiting some fate? Let the news come when it does. Be too busy working to care.

~ Ryan Holiday

Thought experiment

We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do—do it for the right reasons.

~ Ryan Holiday, p24 The Daily Stoic

I sometimes imagine that the things I can choose to do can be placed on an aspirational spectrum. It’s not a linear, ordered list, but rather a thought experiment to do the pair-ordering; for any two things I could do right now, which is higher on the aspirational spectrum?

I could go even farther than just the pair-wise comparing and imagine all the things in my life might be orderable as…

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Fortunately—not a typo—the incessant work of ordering things to pick what to do next is exhausting. It forces me to notice that when I zoom out, I could imagine I’m doing things in the “j” through “q” range…

a b c d e f g h i ( j k l m n o p q ) r s t u v w x y z

I can make things better simply by making some space in my life. If I just drop that “j”-thing entirely I can be comfortable in knowing I’m improving, without having to actively micro-worry about everything all day. Dropping that “j”-thing leaves me with…

a b c d e f g h i j ( k l m n o p q ) r s t u v w x y z

Whereas before my average was between “m” and “n”, just by eliminating something from the lower side, my average moves up. Clearly I can improve my life appreciably by occassionally thinking about all the things I’m doing, and identifying a lower-end thing to drop.

Yes, of course things aren’t really this simple. But it took me a long time to learn the lesson that removing something can produce marked improvement. Some would say that removing is the very definition of how to approach perfection.

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My high horse

The point of this preparation is not to write off everyone in advance. It’s that, maybe, because you’ve prepared for it, you’ll be able to act with patience, forgiveness, and understanding.

~ Ryan Holiday

Recently, someone told me — literally wrote the words, “Why don’t you get down off your high horse and get a sense of humor?”

A bit of context: They had posted a large comment, and an image which I judged to be inappropriate and which I judged added nothing to the conversation at hand. I deleted the image. Below their comment, I added, “Commentary such as this are most welcome; inappropriate, rape-y GIFs are not.” They followed with the high-horse snark, and then a longish stream of discussion by them and others broke out wherein I added nothing further to the episode. Let’s set aside the question of wether my decision to delete the image was warranted or approved by the community after-the-fact.

I found myself thinking about the difference in our behavior…

…and the next morning, I read this quote. (Wow! What an instance of confirmation bias!)

…and that led me to this conclusion:

I have intentionally climbed up onto this high horse. I am intentionally doing my best to demonstrate through my behavior that I hold myself to a high standard.

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How much harder is it?

https://www.librarything.com/work/17943661/book/137049348

How much harder is it to do the right thing when you’re surrounded by people with low standards? How much harder is it to be positive and empathetic inside the negativity bubble of television chatter? How much harder is it to focus on your own issues when you’re distracted with other people’s drama and conflict?

~ Ryan Holiday

I consider myself lucky that I’m surrounded by such a terrific group of people: loving, supporting, listening, encouraging– just so many ‘ings.

Also, I’ve built upon my intial luck (parents, gender, skin color, country of birth, the century, etc) by working hard to seek out people who require me to improve. I don’t particularly like the old adage, “you are the average of your five closest friends,” because it’s so trivial as to be of little help. I prefer…

People are like goals in that they pull (or push, this is a choose-your-own metaphor) you in some direction. Sometimes, one person pulls you in several directions at once. Each person pulls you in “lurches” and “yanks”; The more time you spend with them, the more of a concerted effect they’ll have. Some people you cannot choose (to add or remove them from your life, to change their behavior or innate qualities). So you best think very carefully, and act very intentionally, to choose those whom you can.

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Half-hearted, lazy effort

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-daily-stoic-ryan-holiday/1123659871

As we get older, failure is not so inconsequential anymore. What’s at stake is not some arbitrary grade or intramural sports trophy, but the quality of your life and your abiity to deal with the world around you.

Don’t let that intimidate you, though. You have the best teachers in the world: the wisest philosophers who ever lived. And not only are you capable, the professor is asking for something very simple: just begin the work. The rest follows.

~ Ryan Holiday

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Does free work?

If you don’t understand what all the hubbub is about Google Reader, RSS, free services… here are three bits to get you thinking:

The Customer Is the Product

What if someone invented a service where, instead of having to check all your important blogs, instead of having to check Twitter and Tumblr a million times a day, you could get all the updates in one place? Great idea!

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://medium.com/future-tech-future-market/7b1a7ddb6ffe

Free is so prevalent in our industry not because everyone’s irresponsible, but because it works. … In other industries, this is called predatory pricing, and many forms of it are illegal because they’re so destructive to healthy businesses and the welfare of an economy. But the tech industry is far less regulated, younger, and faster-moving than most industries. We celebrate our ability to do things that are illegal or economically infeasible in other markets with productive-sounding words like “disruption”.

~ Marco Arment from, http://www.marco.org/2013/03/19/free-works

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