Better choices

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.

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Rules for living

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.

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By which handle

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.

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Choose two

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?

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Humiliation

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?

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Evening routines

It was one of Seneca’s observations—that nearly everything in life is circular: there’s an opening and a close, a start and a finish. Life, he says, is a collection of large circles enclosing smaller ones. Birth to death. Childhood. A year. A month. “And the smallest circle of all,” he writes, “is the day; even a day has its beginning and its ending, its sunrise and its sunset.”

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/night-time-routine/

In there, among several other great points, is, “going to bed at a set time.” Which it turns out is just about now.

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Where to start

I had a nice dinner conversation the other day wherein someone asked me to send them more information about Stoicism. I went looking for the perfect blog post to share, and couldn’t find one. So this is now it. ;)

There’s like a thousand things I could share. Don’t get snowed under by this stuff; Don’t try to read/do all of this…

The book I suggest starting with is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. This is a good book to just pick up each morning, spend 2 minutes reading, and move on.

If you want to read something which specifically explains Stoicism, I recommend A Guide to the Good Life: The ancient art of Stoic joy by W Irvine. This is an easy read that covers what the ancient Stoics wrote, and how their philosophy can be adapted to modern times.

There’s a good podcast interview with Irvine on a podcast called Philosophy Bites. It’s short episodes (~half hour) where the host and a guest talk about one topic in Philosophy. (There are ~500 episodes.) Irvine’s episode is a great introduction to what is Stoicism.

http://philosophybites.com/2015/06/william-b-irvine-on-living-stoically.html

If you want to read blog posts, my site has a tag for Stoicism. The posts are going to be widely varied, and have lots of links to other things, (as well as all my posts being tagged to lead to other things within my blog.)

You can also dive into some people who sometimes write explicitly about Stoicism but whose work is just generally good to read. Here are links to the corresponding tags on my web site. You can skim/scroll/page through my blog posts to find an interesting place to jump into these other spaces…

David Cain writes a web site, Raptitude.

Leo Babauta writes a web site, Zen Habits.

Enjoy!

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Leadership

People think that leadership is something that just happens. One is anointed a leader. One is promoted to leadership. One is born into leadership. And of course, this is not the case.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/18-things-i-stole-from-some-of-historys-greatest-leaders/

Holiday is most famous for his work raising awareness of the ancient, but still very apropos today, philosophy of Stoicism. (Not to be confused with the very different english word, “stoic.”) But this article is all about leadership. It’s a wonderful survey of guide stars. I’m particularly fond of the idea that a leader doesn’t make things worse.

My bias towards taking action… my urge to make a change to make things better… far too often I make things worse. If my life had an omniscient narrator, there’d be a lot of scenes that start with, “Here Craig forgot a hard won lesson. Despite not having a clear idea how to help, he still put his two cents in.” (Cue slow-motion footage of car crash unfolding. Cut to black. Roll end credits.)

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And speaking of cognitive biases

Confirmation bias is one of my faves. You know, where you suddenly notice all the other cars like yours when you buy one, or spot coincidences from which you draw an [erroneous] causal conclusion. I know right? Screw you cobbled-together-brain! But this coincidence can’t just be a coincidence:

I’ve been reading-around my copy of The Daily Stoic for about 5 years now. Each page of the book is for a specific date. I long-ago got sick of lugging the book around, so I photographed every page, and loaded them into my personal productivity software. For five years, I’ve had annually repeating todos with the day’s image attached. (Yes, it was a few hours of work to set up 365 todo’s, with “recurs every year on the same date,” and an attached image. Yes, it was absolutely worth it.) So every year, on the same date, the same photo of the same page of the Daily Stoic comes up for me to read. (Craig-level crazy: The image for February 29 is attached to the todo for February 28 and I read it every year.) Finally, you need to know that only a small percentage of the Daily Stoic entries quote from Marcus Aurelius’s, Meditations.

Recently, I bought a fresh, hardcover of my favorite translation of Aurelius’s Meditations. (My paperback copy of this same translation is mangled and marked up, and the typography isn’t as spiffy.) I photographed each page, and set it on recurring todos. This was slightly more complicated because it’s not a page-for-each-date. I simply counted the images and made the todo’s recur that often. So each day a page comes up, but it’s not the same page on the same date each year. (There are 139 pages of content, so I’m reading Meditations 2+ times per calendar year.) For added complexity, the modern book is comprised of Aurelius’s 12 original books; Each was a long scroll on which he wrote entries in sequence. What’s on each page of the modern book is simply determined by book layout: It might be Aurelius’s original book 4, entries 11 and 12, or it might have part of an entry continued from the previous page, or an entry which is cut short that runs to the next page. Sure, it’s messy to try to read a book a-page-a-day if it wasn’t designed that way, but it works, and I get to visit Marcus each day.

That’s the setup. Here’s the coincidence…

Today I hit a Daily Stoic entry that quotes Meditations. The page that’s up for reading in my sequence from Meditations, CONTAINS THE QUOTED PASSAGE.

o_O

After looking around suspiciously… “Am I on Candid Camera?” After looking up suspiciously… I decided I better blog about this.

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slip:4a123.

Forget all that

I get it. This might all seem like a bit much. I was intimidated by journaling too. And people, I find, tend to intimidate themselves about it: What’s the best way to do it? What’s the best journal? What time? How much?

Man, forget all that. There’s no right way to do it.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-each-morning/

We all try to share things with others—hey look! Blogging. We share stories, books, images, music, songs, and suggestions, (where to go, what to do, etc.,) hoping, if I can be so generous, that what we share will provide some guidance, enjoyment, hope, or what else we know not. Whether or not the things we share land… whether they stick, have the desired affect, or any positive affect at all… we’ve no way to know that.

But what might happen if we tried to share things with our future selves?

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