In this post, I shall be outlining events in my personal life that have happened, and how I apply stoic principles and teachings to them. I hope you enjoy my reflections and check back for more.
So this week has been a good week. Sure, the crypto market flash crashed. Sure, the girl I like doesn't seem too keen. Sure, the company I work for hasn't announced pay rises and bonuses. I shattered my phone screen. My sleep quality and duration has been poor (hello fellow INTJ insomniacs if you're reading this). Inflation is not transitory, I've pissed people off, my hustle has been sub par and I felt paralysing fear. Some would argue this was a poor week, but that's not how I view it.
"God give me patience, to reconcile with what I am not able to change. Give me strength to change what I can, and give me wisdom to distinguish one from another" - Marcus Aurelius
But you know what? None of this is worth worrying or lamenting over. Worry in itself is a wasted emotion - it achieves nothing and will only damage you. Most of this is outside my locus of control, which instantly rules it out as my problem. What I cannot control I do not waste time on. They're not my 'problems' to deal with - I leave those problems to those who are more skilled and capable than I am and whose duty it is to face those challenges. I cannot change what happens in those circumstances, only my reaction to it - and if I choose for them to have no power over me, then they have no power over me.
As for the 'problems' that are mine, well, they're not problems - they are opportunities to learn and challenges to be surmounted. It is in how you perceive what is happening that determines the shade of your thoughts.
"Don't hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace" - Epictetus
The crypto market flash crashed? No drama, everyone who has held bitcoin for four years or more has done well from it. It will rise again, the market is trying to teach me patience. If the market does not rise again and bottoms out -then it is only money, a tool and nothing more. Nobody cries over a broken screwdriver. Better for it to be my screwdriver which is languishing unused than someone else's which is being used to build their home, I have spare screwdrivers I can use if my own home falls into disrepair. Welcoming the way things turn out and being in the present moment is a far greater positive than wasting time agonising over what could have been. The opportunity to develop patience is welcomed, I am unharmed.
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" - Seneca
The girl doesn't like me? Out of my control. I do not chase what is not mine and not my fate - I attract what is. What will be will be. What lessons can I draw from this outcome? The need to develop - more patience, more courage and perhaps more moderation. I shall have to observe and find another woman with the qualities and traits I seek - patience.
The tiger doesn't hunt every wild boar it sees, but the one with the right cost/benefit analysis tipped towards benefit after patiently observing and waiting for the right moment to strike.
I shall have to make another approach and leave myself open to rejection - an opportunity to develop more courage, then. Tigers don't fear solitude, they embrace it, they are solo hunters and often against larger prey. The tiger also doesn't just starve to death because it failed in it's hunt one night, it is persistent. Courage, tenacity and use of power at the opportune moment.
What else? Moderation. Perhaps she was too much for me. The fat, lazy tiger doesn't exist, and if it did it would not be the formidable hunter it is. Perhaps I have grown too fat and used to eating well. Perhaps losing a little weight is the key, so to speak - metaphorically and literally - that's moderation. Excess is not a virtue, and I may have been excessive in my desires.
Still, let's not forget that a tiger is still a tiger and not a house cat, nor will it ever be.
Tigers aside, patience, courage, tenacity and moderation are all virtues. Courage and moderation are two of the four cardinal virtues of stoicism - the ones from which all other virtues flow. I see it as a good opportunity to practice and develop them.
As this chapter draws to a close, another one begins, new opportunities are abound. From the teaching of Amor Fati - love of one's fate - I embrace whatever happens and maintain a positive perception.
“One is not rich by what one owns, but more by what one is able to do without with dignity.” - Immanuel Kant
My phone screen is broken? Good. Attachment to material possessions is a vice. That's not to say you or I or anyone else should not enjoy the fruits of their labours, but to become attached to them is a self destructive path - nothing good comes of it and it affects judgement. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to have it repaired, others aren't. Better for it to happen to me than to someone else, I can live without my phone. I can survive and thrive without Instagram.
"We are often more frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality" - Seneca
I felt fear this week too. Fear of the unknown, fear of what may happen if my operation goes wrong. Damage. Blindness. Death. Fear is the enemy of taking action and if left uncontrolled will take hold of you. Meditating on the fear undoubtedly helped, when you consider the worst that can possibly happen then you remove some of its power. Then I researched the best surgeons, listened intently to knowledgeable people and done all I can in reducing risk, taking notes along the way. Forewarned is forearmed, and I booked it up, and the unknown isn't so unknown now after consideration of the absolute worst case scenario and finding what should hopefully be the best care. I'm calling that a net win too, although there is more work to be done. Practicing courage, imagining the worst, finding the best solution and remaining rational is all I can really ask for. The thing we fear is a mere shadow of the damage we do to ourselves by avoiding fear and running from it. Hard times are not made better through fear, only ever worse. Avoidance just increases the size of the problem.
"Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach" - Seneca
I have also had the privilege of passing on the tiny amount I know to a younger man, and in turn for him to pass his knowledge onto me. To keep company with such men energises me, pushes me to accomplish more, to develop my own virtues and - critically - to be better able to articulate my own thoughts. I am eternally grateful for such opportunities - it feels good to cooperate with young talent, to see their growth, and it is truly humbling that they should come to someone as ignorant as me seeking knowledge. As Socrates allegedly said "All I know is that I know nothing" .
I'm trying not to let it inflate my ego, as Ryan Holiday says ego is the enemy, Not letting that happen will surely prove a challenge, I only hope that I am found worthy,
Still, pleasure in pursuit of attaining virtue (in this case developing wisdom) is not a bad thing, and I'd be a liar if I said I don't enjoy our conversations and developing my own knowledge - it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.
"True good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions and good actions.” - Marcus Aurelius
So it has been a fortunate week, and I count my blessings and opportunities. I have had the opportunity to practice some of the four cardinal virtues of stoicism - wisdom, courage, justice and moderation - and the opportunity to further practice them and improve upon my character.
What some would perceive as negative experiences I believe to be positive experiences - opportunities are abundant if you can remain sensitive to them. Ultimately, that's all good and bad really comes down to - your perception. This doesn't discount virtues, and I would do as well as any other person to practice them, I am not perfect and far from it.
I have a roof over my head, gainful employment, food in my belly, reliable infrastructure, quality relationships and interesting opportunities, What right do I have to complain? I hope neither you the reader nor I ever see such weakness of character from me. I shall try to always remain grateful and remember how blessed my life is.
Remember, events only ever hold power over you if you let them, and you can choose not to let them.
As Marcus Aurelius said
"Choose not to be harmed - and you wont feel harmed. Don't feel harmed - and you haven't been"
The work must be done every day - so get up and do it and I shall try to do the same. I hope you have enjoyed my stoic reflections on the past week or so, and have found some utility in how to apply stoic principles into your daily life. Life is short, let's all make the most of it. I shall try and write when I can and when the thoughts flow, and I hope you keep checking back for more content. Amor fati.