There are countless instances where I’m reminded that “tomorrow” is not a given. I pay attention to those, and do my best to do it now. To say— Thank you. I appreciate you. I appreciate what you did there. I appreciate you’re taking the time to… You get the gist.
For me, I’ve tried to take from this experience a relatively simple lesson: I tell people how I feel about them when I have the chance.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/this-is-why-you-cant-wait-until-later/
There are only two things which seem to work for me: Plain old discipline, and regular, high-intensity exercise. Make a plan. Work the plan. Follow through. I don’t have to finish it all. (That used to be a huge problem too.) Each day, make a plan. And yes, some days the plan is, “today there’s no plan just follow your nose.” Where the mental freedom to believe that’s a good plan is banked during the days with a more plan-looking plan. The exercise acts as a baseline reset.
The result? An inevitable sense of disappointment. A sense that other people are doing better than us. We feel guilt. We feel pressure. We think “Oh, if only I had more money, or a better job, or lived in France where the child care benefits were different, if I had more custody, then things would be good…”
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/all-time-is-quality-time/
Slowly, daily, my false sense of urgency ratchets up. It’s not healthy, but going out and doing something high intensity resets my personal brand of insanity. Every time I’m in the worst of moods, all I have to do is head out and just start running like I hate myself. (This is rare, but frequent enough that it’s useful to have a strategy ready.) I can go just a couple minutes running like I stole something, and then my crazy-brain starts bargaining… okay, uh, if we can just slow down a bit, I promise to stop acting crazy. I’m pretty sure that’s not the best way to deal with things, but it’s definitely a coping strategy that works well. And the side effects are awesome.
Clear communication is a sign of understanding. Understanding the idea to be communicated is necessary, but not sufficient, for clear communication. I think in language (I point this out because I wonder if some people don’t think in language) and that leads me to word-smithing. I’m often searching for just the right word or phrase, and then delighted with myself if I find it. Having such labels for larger ideas is a check-point for myself, internally, that I actually have understanding.
Gregory Hays, one of Marcus Aurelius’s best translators, writes in his introduction to Meditations, “If he had to be identified with a particular school, [Stoicism] is surely the one he would have chosen. Yet I suspect that if asked what it was that he studied, his answer would not have been ‘Stoicism’ but simply ‘philosophy.’”
He then notes that in the ancient world, “philosophy” was not perceived the way it is today. It played a much different role. “It was not merely a subject to write or argue about,” Hays writes, “but one that was expected to provide a ‘design for living’—a set of rules to live one’s life by.”
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/19-rules-for-a-better-life-from-marcus-aurelius/
Just because I have a label for something—Stoicism in this case—doesn’t mean I label myself as that. The obvious reason is that my label has a lot of other context attached (in my mind) and chances are little to none that any of that context is present for another person. Labels are useful as shorthand, but only if we have the shared understanding.
Life is short. There are ends—things I have done which others can observe. There are the means I’ve chosen to those ends. And then there’s justification. I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) to explain everything—and frankly no one wants to hear that much from me (or from anyone.) I just find it interesting when I discover something I do (or say or think) for which I’ve not really thought through the labels… thought through the justification.
The Stoics believed that, in the end, it’s not about what we do, it’s about who we are when we do it. They believed that anything you do well is noble, no matter how humble or impressive, as long as it’s the right thing. That greatness is up to you—it’s what you bring to everything you do.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/discipline-is-destiny-25-habits-that-will-guarantee-you-success/
Depending on where you are on your own journey, this could be the greatest 25-item list you’ve ever seen, or it could be 24 items of hogwash. How great is that? For me, it’s the one about being kind to oneself which I need most to let sink in farther. Every absolute rule, every simple guideline, and every pithy virtue becomes problematic when taken to the extreme. It’s almost as if
*gasp* life is complicated, and I’m a complex person.
I feel like I’m living in the negative. My life isn’t a passing timeline of “this is nice” punctuated with some stuff that qualifies as work, chores, and maintency-things. Instead, I feel like any time I’m in a span of “this is nice”, I’m on borrowed time. It’s is always “this is nice, but…” followed by something I feel I should be doing just as soon as I’m done loafing. It’s as if my personal demon is relaxing, just out of sight at the bar as I loaf here on the veranda, but still dutifully keeping track of exactly how long I’ve been loafing. I continuously feel like things will go better for me (in the way mobsters would say that) if I choose to stop loafing rather than waiting to see how long I can get away with it. That’s not healthy and thus my awareness of the need for self-kindness.
The Stoics would agree that the world can be ugly and awful and disappointing. They would just remind us that what we control is what we do about this. We control what difference we try to make. We control whether it makes us bitter or makes us better—whether we complain or just get to work.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/why-i-pick-up-trash-at-the-beach/
My grasp is failing. My ability to keep track of this, and make a plan for organizing that, is waning. Each year I more quickly become frustrated at unforeseen twists and foreseen complexities. Believing I’m successfully juggling just two things, I’m surprised to discover one has already hit the floor. I’ve moved beyond having a to-do list long enough that many items are below the fold; the regularity of adding items near the top means the items below the fold will never get done. Instead, I have multiple systems piled up in sedimentary fashion. Entire segments of my life, which I thought were integral to my identity, have fallen below the fold.
And every day my life gets better. I wish I’d learned the lesson sooner.
On your deathbed, you would do anything, pay anything for one more ordinary evening. For one more car ride to school with your children. For one more juicy peach. For one more hour on a park bench. Yet here you are, experiencing any number of those things, and rushing through it. Or brushing it off. Or complaining about it because it’s hot or there is traffic or because of some alert that just popped up on your phone. Or planning some special thing in the future as if that’s what will make you happy. You can’t add more at the end of your life…but you can not waste what’s in front of you right now.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/35-lessons-35-years-old/
This blog started initially as a place for me to post a eulogy, and then it grew to serve many more purposes. It’s now solidly a way for me to reflect, and to work with the garage door up. Discovery, reflection, and efficacy are pretty frickin’ important to me and keeping up with the ‘ol bloggin’ forces me to keep up with daily discovery and reflection. I’ve a bunch of other processes beyond this blog.
It’s a rare post where I both have a point and state it explicitly: Whether you go off to Holiday’s article and follow that thread, follow my links in this email or this post, or my series teaching daily reflection matters not. It only matters that you take time to reflect.
If you find yourself wanting to speed up the reading process on a particular book, you may want to ask yourself, “Is this book any good?”
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/13-reading-strategies/
Long-time readers will be well aware of my self-diagnosed problem with books. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about reading about books, but this list by Holiday made me think about a few things in a new light. Yes, of course; It’s a post by Holiday so it’s going to have some ancient Stoic philosophers in it. Schopenhauer had a sublime lament about time for reading. Holiday’s strategies won’t help you there. There’ll preserve some of your reading time for, well, more reading. But I still think the hardest part about reading is making it a priority. (Recall: “I don’t have time to…” is bullshit.)
In the military they speak of sleep discipline–meaning it’s something you have to be good at, you have to be conscious of, something you can’t let slip. We only have so much energy for our work, for our relationships, for ourselves. A smart person knows this and guards it carefully. A smart person knows that getting their 7-8 hours of sleep every night does not negatively affect their output, it contributes crucially to their best work.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/go-to-sleep/
Sleep. sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep. Sleep? Sleep!
Know that old trope about if you could go back and tell yourself something, or send yourself a letter? …and most people—including me!—say something like: No I wouldn’t because I’d not be who I am now without those mistakes! Yeah no ima take that back. Note to past self: Yo! Go the f*<k to sleep.
And maybe… just sayin’ spitballin’ here… try gettin’ up early if you really want to jump back on whatever it is you think it’s worth staying up for tonight… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ what do I know.
But then [Seneca] gives the real reason: “The body should be treated more rigorously that it may not be disobedient to the mind.” I think about that every morning just before I crank the knob. Who is in charge? The courageous side of me or the cowardly side? The side that doesn’t flinch at discomfort or the side that desires to always be comfortable? The side that does the hard thing or the side that takes the easy way?
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/do-something-that-scares-you-every-day/
This made me think. Usually, I share others’ writing because I thought highly of it. In this case, I’m hesitant to say this, however: I’ve never thought my body was in charge.
Certainly(!) I have reflexes and bodily functions or urges which my mind has no control over. Certainly flinching (under cold water for example) is something you can learn to reduce. I’ve always thought of my mind as the one who’s not always the best captain of the ship. I don’t need to train to put my mind in charge of my body.
Recently I hurt my back. The story begins with my doing some truly pathetic, free-weight exercises to strengthen my back. I over did it. Then I ate poorly and wound up bloated and a few pounds heavier. Then I went rock climbing and worked on a problem (a challenging combination of moves and skills, in an easy to access location rather than 2 hours up some mountain, so one can spend time with it) that involved maximum–strength pulling with my arms while pushing with my legs. Boink! Ow, my back. I managed to calmly pack my 20 pounds of things into my pack, walk back to the car and drive myself 3 hours home. There were a myriad of things that could have set me off in the moment, on the drive, and in the coming days: acute pain, inability to sleep well, the inability to reach my feet or wipe my butt, the fact that I did it all to myself while trying to improve my body, drivers on the highways and people who tried to talk to me, the overall setback, … so many things. But instead, I was reasonable with everyone. I did what I could do, rested and recovered. A week later—just as I knew I would be—I’m back to where I was before I picked up the free-weights. Ready to try again at improving myself (and planning an even more gradual start.)
So I’m inclined to say: My mind is clearly in charge, even under duress.
What I was thinking about, in that first sentence here, was if I have trained to put my mind in charge, that means there’s room for more training.
And Stoicism, it could be said, is a philosophy about how to make better choices. This is what we see in a book like Meditations. We see Marcus Aurelius journaling, working to get better at choosing. Choosing the right things to value, the right things to think, the right things to focus on, the right response to a difficult situation.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/8-choices-that-will-make-your-life-better/
One of the first things you learn about philosophy is that the word means “the love of truth.” It’s the sort of clever thing a much younger version of myself would have bludgeoned others with. “See me study philosophy!” I long ago learned to set aside such cleverness.
Fortunately I learned that philosophy—at least, the sort I’m interested in—is about self-improvement. The proof of my work shows in myself… in my actions and the way I think, and is noticeable to those who care to pay attention. (I’m not suggesting that everyone should pay attention to me.) Surprisingly, at the deeper level of self-improvement, reminding myself that “philosophy” means “the love of truth”, has returned to being a great thing to trot out regularly… as a reminder to myself.
Stoicism, in theory, is a philosophy. As a practice, it is a set of rules to live by. The Stoics believed that life was complicated—more importantly, that it was exhausting. So to create rules was to help ensure that we stay on the right path, that we don’t let the complexity and the nuance of each individual scenario allow us to compromise on the big, high standards we know we hold.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/12-rules-for-life/
This is an enormous post. Normally something of this size would be twelve, separate posts. It’s nice to be able to leisurely read through this. I’ve gotten enormous return on my investment of time from these rules. I often remind myself, however, that these are aspirational. These are the ideals for which I’m striving. They are not the reef upon which I’m planning on smashing the ship through strict adherence.
It’s easy to think negative thoughts and to get stuck into a pattern with them. But forcing myself to take the time not only to think about something good, but write that thought down longhand was a kind of rewiring of my own opinions. It became easier to see that while there certainly was plenty to be upset about, there was also plenty to be thankful for. Epictetus said that every situation has two handles; which was I going to decide to hold onto? The anger, or the appreciation?
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/gratitude-is-a-daily-practice/
The idea that there are two handles to every impression is a blazing reminder that impressions are neither inherently good nor bad. It is our own reasoned choice which adds that evaluation.
Life is about tradeoffs. When we know what to say no to, and we know why, we can say yes with comfort and confidence to the things that matter. To the things that last. Work, family, scene. You can have two if you say no to one. If you can’t, you’ll have none.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/work-family-scene/
The words “work”, “family”, and “scene” are of course maleable. I’d argue there’s a fourth—”self” or “health” would be the word I’d choose—and the admonition should be expanded to, “choose any three.” None the less, there something that feels to me very true about it being necessary, in the way the gravity is necessary to obey, about picking two of those three. There was a time when I chose work and scene. It was interesting, for a while. It wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. What’s your list, and which are you choosing?
There is no change, no attempt, no reach that does not look strange to someone. There’s almost no accomplishment that is possible without calling some attention on yourself. To gamble on yourself is to risk failure. To do it in public is to risk humiliation.
~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/life-happens-in-public-get-used-to-it/
I believe I’ve developed a healthy level of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to trying things with a risk of failure. I think this is one—possibly the only—upside to having terrible self-talk. I’ve told my self horribly critical things so many times… and then had that criticism proven to not be the case so many times… well, now I just try things.
Except for people’s names. I’m developing a phobia around saying people’s names. It just feels like the least I could do, when having a conversation with someone who I need to introduce to others… the least I could do is say their name correctly. Perfectly, even, on the first try. …in their native language’s proper pronunciation. What could possible go wrong?