Imposter syndrome… for the win!

while it is always a good idea to question one’s own work, and to be open to outside criticism, if you are a professional in a given field there probably are good reasons to think you know what you are doing, especially when your work gets repeatedly validated externally.

~ Massimo Pigliucci

One of the things I particularly LIKE is the imposter syndrome aspect of my podcast.

“…wait. wat?”


You see, there’s an entire universe of “perform interview” skills that I don’t have, and I’m loving learning something entirely new. It’s also pretty much orthogonal to my previous life experience — “listen,” had to learn that. “empathize,” had to learn that. Even this weird thing you have to do to imagine everyone who is listening and try to read the minds of people you are imagining… it’s bonkers. I love it.

Your clear conscience

Your clear conscience gives reason to be confident; still, since many external factors have a bearing on the outcome, hope for the best but prepare yourself for the worst. Remember above all to get rid of the commotion. Observe what each thing has inside, and you will learn: there is nothing to fear in your affairs but fear itself.

~ Seneca

What — exactly, specifically — is under your control?

Anger is a temporary madness

This includes people who get angry, which is why Seneca calls anger a “temporary madness.” This class of individuals can certainly be held morally responsible for their actions, since they are perfectly capable of reason, they just don’t use it well.

Once more, louder for those in the back: Stoicism is not about suppressing emotions. It is about [among other things] having appropriate emotional responses.

Practice. Patiently improving.

Too often nowadays Stoicism is brandished as a magic wand, as if one decides to “be” a Stoic and this, ipso facto, guarantees immunity from unhealthy emotions. It doesn’t, and Chrysippus, Seneca, and Epictetus would be astounded that anyone would think so. Stoic training is like training for the Olympics (a metaphor often used by Epictetus): you don’t just decide to be an athlete, start running, and win the race. You have to train, patiently, for years, improving gradually, and suffering setbacks. We are talking real life here, not wishful thinking.

~ Massimo Pigliucci

More and more, as the years go by, I have been peering more closely into the dark corners of the basements of my philosophies, and ideologies.


Notice a subtle point here: Seneca isn’t saying that prosperity is not worth pursuing. It is, after all, a preferred indifferent. But it is preferred only insofar it doesn’t get in the way of conducting a virtuous life, as one gets the sense Lucilius was worrying about insofar his own pursuits were concerned. Which is why his friend reminds him that he is under no obligation at all to live in the fast lane.

Just yesterday, for the first time ever, I considered removing the rear-view mirror from the Jeep. (Instead, I twisted it upwards to view the roof.) Since the Jeep is slow and old, as am I, there is ALWAYS someone tail-gating me. I’ve narrowly avoided accidents, where watching the tail-gater behind me distracted me from the road ahead. I’m so much in the “slow lane”, I am literally being run over. Where, really, are you going?

I strive to be a Stoic

“When cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas. Cynicism means your automatic answer becomes ‘No.’ Cynicism means you presume everything will end in disappointment.”

I am not a Cynic. (…but 10 years ago, I think I was well on my way to becoming one.)

I strive to be a Stoic.

Everyone, (that I’ve ever asked for a definition,) uses the adjective “stoic” to mean: unfeeling, uncaring, showing no emotion. While it’s true that words mean whatever we all agree they mean, in the case of “stoic” that definition is a drastic change of focus from what the Stoics (a group of Philosophers both ancient and modern) are doing and thinking.

Can we back up a layer to find some common ground?

You’d probably be ok with this definition:

“stoic: adj. Of, or relating to, the school of philosophy, Stoicism, founded by Zeno, …”

…but then everyone seems to rush off to this definition of Stoicism:

“[… Zeno,] who taught that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity.”

…and that’s where I disagree.

That’s a poor definition, because Stoics (the Philosophers) do feel, do care and do show emotion. In fact, one of the key points of Stoicism is to feel, care and show emotion in appropriate ways and to appropriate degrees. Stoics grieve, express joy, etc. They also understand the difference between things within and without their control. Described that way, doesn’t Stoicism sound pretty sane?

Now, I am a Philosopher, by definition, because I try to apply Philosophy to my daily life. But, I am not a teacher of Philosophy.

My hope?

That I’ve piqued your interest enough that you’ll go read this “Stoicism 101” about how to use the Stoic Philosophy today, to improve your life:

§1 – The growth mindset

(Part 4 of 26 in ~ Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

“I can’t.” versus “not yet.”

Right out of the gate in the first section… hitting the ground running. This mindset is something that I already find critical. Critical in the sense that I attribute my success –– what success I can be said to have achieved –– to two things: This mindset, and sheer willpower/determination. (spoiler: the later is covered elsewhere in the book.) But I’d already made my own connection to the Stoics’ philosophy, and that’s a very apropos piece of bedrock.

aside: as this is the very beginning of this experiment, I’m going to be making this up as I go along. First bit of framework: I’m not going to quote/include any of Thibault’s book. Pull-quoting is time consuming to do well, and by the time I’m done, I’d have way more of his book “excerpted” here than I’d feel comfortable with. That means, if you really want to follow along, you simply must get a copy of the book yourself and read the original material. It’s easy, and you can thank me later.

I’m looking at this material in the context of: OK. I’ve read it. I understand, but what’s the action item? …or how do I use this as a catalyst?

Lehigh Valley Parkour has a few oddball traditions. One of them is a strong aversion to the word “can’t”. Community members will avoid saying it at all costs. The penalty for using the word is an immediate 5 pushups. Mostly, it’s an honor thing… we take the word “immediately” seriously; mid-run, in a car, in a restaurant, right now. Immediately. On the spot. Why?

Because when you change your words, you change your thinking. “I can’t get up that wall.” becomes, “I am not yet able to scale that wall.” Which is pretty weak sauce, and is still pretty negative. But, we quickly get sick of saying “not yet able”, and start getting creative… “I’d have to be able to jump higher to scale that.” …or run faster, or be stronger, or whatever.


I banned a word and I’ve flipped my thinking around.

Next up: let’s take the idea to class.