The most important question to ask yourself

One of the most powerful people in the history of the world. A man who ruled over an empire so vast, that it would take months to get from one end to the other. A man who was loved by his citizens and feared by his enemies.

Marcus Aurelius.

The last of the good emperors.

What did he demand of himself? What did he ask himself throughout his life? In his notebook to himself – the book which eventually became Meditations – he asked:

“Love only whatfalls your way, and what is fated for you. What could suit you more than that?”

Interesting question indeed.

Amor Fati.

Love of fate.

I’ve talked about this elsewhere on the blog. We must love what comes our way, and desire nothing more. This is a way of thinking, a way of acting, a way of life, which is suitable for emperors, slaves, rich men and presidents alike.

Elsewhere in the Roman Empire a man called Epictetus taught similar lessons to his students. Let your mind be unaffected, regardless if you are held a slave or have your freedom.

Thomas Jefferson died with a copy of Meditations on his nightstand and many of the most respected people of our day from Tim Ferriss over Charlie Munger to President Barrack Obama have all confessed to being heavily influenced by stoicism. And no wonder!

The ideas espoused through stoic philosophy are incredibly powerful when applied thoughtfully.

We mustn’t wish for things to be any other way than they are, and we must always strive to make the most of our current situation with the resources we have available.

Keep our focus on what we can do, and apply ourselves to the best of our ability with all we have.

And never forget that one day we will die. Somehow that is a sobering thought. It puts things into perspective. I understand that it is not a pleasant thought, and you might not want to think about it. I get that.

But nevertheless, there is yet to be a person who has survived old age.

With that in mind, making the right decisions about what matters and what doesn’t becomes exponentially easier.

More than anything stoicism is the needle which keeps our moral compass pointing north. We won’t always make the perfect decision, but more often than not we will have a solid framework to make the best decision given the information we have available at any given time.

Stoicism is one of the most powerful thinker-tools available in the world today, and if you haven’t already read letters from a stoic by Seneca that is one of the best and most enjoyable places to start.

What is your favorite line from the Stoics?

Do you have the right stuff?

If you’re a millennial like me, you’ve most likely grown up in a world where our basic needs were cared for.

We didn’t have to hunt our food, and we were pretty certain where our next meals were gonna come from. This has left some (most?) of us with a profound sense of longing and wishing for something more.

Many of us wish that there was somehow more to life than going to work and coming home and watching Netflix. This is not a complaint – it’s an outcry against the hollowness that many of us feel from our daily routines.

The words “There has to be something more than this” echoes in the back of my mind like an almost constant choir of haunting voices.

In my brief career I’ve managed to hold more positions than some people do in a lifetime because of this echo, and I know I’m not alone.

I know that many people feel this emptiness in their hearts and minds, and we all attempt to fill it in different ways – some with social media and TV, others with food and wine and some with exercise. There are people who foster children and yet others fill their hours with work to the exclusion of almost everything else.

When our father’s fathers and their fathers were young men, there was something to fight for.

A country, an ideology, an idea, a belief.

I envy the founding fathers, because they had an idea worth fighting for and an ideology worth dying for. They were willing to sacrifice themselves and die for the freedom we now have.

According to legend, John Adams aspired to be a politician, so that his children might be mathematicians, philosophers and poets.

And here we are.

With all the freedom to become anything that our hearts desire, but that very freedom is crippling.

It is suffocating.

It turns into FOMO.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m not an activist.

I’m not a radical.

What I want is for you to fight for what is yours. I want you to find an occasion to rise to. You have to find a challenge you can meet.

Live up to the ideals that made us who we are.

We must all strive to be better humans. To make a difference. To be bigger than just ourselves. To create something meaningful for others, however small.

That is how we move ourselves and each other forward.

That is how we silence the constant inner chatter.

That is how we show that we are made of the right stuff.

Between a rock and a hard place: why you must indulge your jealousy

Whenever something good happens to other people – especially people we have some sort of relationship to – our immediate reaction is to feel a tinge of hotness in our stomach.

The thought that goes along with it, can range from “oh, shucks I wish it was me” to “how on earth could they promote that motherfucker, he is dumb as a doorknob?!?”

The point is, we all feel jealous from time to time – it’s a very human emotion – and it’s very hard to deal with, truth be told. We’re raised to believe that jealousy is a sin, and that we must avoid it at all costs, but avoiding certain emotions because they’re supposedly not good for us, has all sorts of psychological drawbacks in its own right.

So I’m here to tell you to indulge your jealousy, because in all honesty there are very few people who I genuinely want good things to happen to besides myself.

I don’t think as myself as Satan incarnate, but I am very much human and what I’m getting at, is that being un-jealous is incredibly hard – at least for me – and since you’ve read this far, my guess is you feel the same.

What I want to do is to put the shoe on the other foot, and instead of obsessing over ways not to be jealous, or trying to think of how we can all become better people by wishing well for others, I’m going to encourage you to indulge your jealousy.

It’s okay to not want good things to happen to others.

Feel your anger, your spite and your fury in all it’s magnificence.

But here’s the plot twist: who and what you’re jealous of and why tells you a lot about your deepest, hidden motivations.

I am sorely jealous of most talented non-fiction writers. I’d swap lives with Tim Ferriss, Dan Pink and especially Tim Urban in a heartbeat.

I adore these guys, and I want them to be incredibly successful so that I can continue to enjoy their work, but I also want a career like them.

I’m motivated by the freedom they have, by the creative genius they all possess and I’m jealous of their extraordinary gifts.

Who you’re jealous of, tells the story of your deepest desires, so if you really want to find out what motivates you, find out who makes you the most jealous.

A few things I learned from five years of writing bad rap songs

Things are easy to over complicate. It’s hard to just be in the moment. But when we’re in the moment is when we do our best work. I could easily tell you a story of some famous person who struggled to do his or her best work and then stopped overthinking things and all of the sudden things just clicked.

But that would be too easy.

Too cheap.

So I’m not going to do that.

What I’m going to do instead is to simply tell you my story of writing. I started writing when I was 12, and I was feeling lonely at fat camp. My preferred style of writing was rap music – believe it or not – and as an entirely too white kid from an entirely too white neighborhood, this was a really embarrassing choice. In spite of that I managed to keep it up for the better part of five years, and it taught me a thing or two about myself. One of the things I learned was that I do my very best work when I don’t think too much. I do my best work when I get out of my own way and just go with the flow – literally. If I was an artist I might say something like “I am simply the medium through which the Universe speaks and my main job is to unclog the divine artery.” Thankfully I don’t consider myself enough of an artist to use those words, but you get my drift.

The main point of this post is that we can get a lot of very good work in, if we simply get out of our own way, and this post is a reminder to let your own creativity flow as freely as possible.

Peace.

What My Worst Job Ever Taught Me About Adding Value

Introduction

Not too many years ago I graduated university with a degree in economics. To say that I was stoked, overjoyed and jubilant would be a severe understatement. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and something I will cherish forever. It took a lot of effort to get to that point, and it was well worth it in the end.

A degree in economics, opens the door to most jobs in the public and private sector, which doesn’t require an advanced technical degree, and I think the idea is that since you’ve proven that you can do complicated math, you are ready to become a contributing member of society.

Interviews up the Wazoo… 

I started looking for jobs immediately upon graduating, and I got called into my fair share of interviews. Sadly for me, I was an arrogant young gun-slinger, who figured every company should beg for a chance to hire him, and this was not the most productive of attitudes, which meant I had trouble landing a job. When I finally did land a job, I quit within two days, because the actual job didn’t line up, with what I’d been promised in the interview, and the guy who ran the company and who was my immediate boss was a massive cunt.

Key lesson here – I don’t want to work for someone who I don’t get along with, or at least have some sort of respect for, and I don’t think you should either if you have the choice.

Anyway – there I was, fresh out of school, many interviews in and one job in, and I was already on the hunt for my second job.

… And finally a solid job (sort of)

The next job I went looking for, I decided to be a bit more picky and meticulous in what I wanted in a job – it had to be something more than just a paycheck. I had a few more interviews and in spite of all my good intentions, I jumped at the first opportunity that presented itself.

This time in the banking sector as a business analyst in the operations division of the IT department at one of the largest Danish banks. If you think this sounds vague, you’re not alone. I had literally no idea what I’d be doing, and neither it seemed, did the people who hired me.

So I’m now two jobs into my career after six months, and I’m already looking for a third job. Not the ideal start to a career, but at least it provided me with enough money to buy peanut butter and some decent clothes, which is a good start, however this wasn’t enough to keep me there in the long run, and something soon happened, which sped up my getting out of there.

Crash, bang, boom

This solid start didn’t last long, because I clashed wholeheartedly with the person who was assigned to be my mentor. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if I’m really the problem here, but I also knew that I could get along with almost everyone, except for these two people who I’d started out my career working for.

At any rate, here I am, trying to make the best of a shitty situation, and it turned out, I actually managed to salvage something from it. I made a few solid friendships, gained a number of decent colleagues as soon as I removed myself from the immediate vicinity of my “mentor”.

I feel like I could probably have had a less eventful start to my career, but adversity is a fine teacher, and I learned a number of things from this, chief among them that it is always up to ourselves to change things we are unhappy with.

When I didn’t like my first job, I quit and immediately started looking for a new one. When I didn’t like the tasks or (some of) the people in my next job, I looked for new jobs  within the organization, and managed to find something that was tolerable and stayed there until I could move on to something better.

Full disclosure, I did manage to find something that I really liked in the end. It took a few tries, but it was well worth it, and I want to share that story, but that’s going to be in another post.

Summary of the lessons learned

I learned that it is always up to me to figure out how I can make the most of any given situation – figure out how I can learn as much as possible and forge connections and alliances, that might become worth something down the road.

As long as I make a point to learn something every day, either about my job, about myself or about other people, then every day is valuable. Although it is probably preferable to be well liked by everyone, that’s a pipe dream – and so is having the perfect job, by the way – and it’s never going to happen in real life, so don’t set your sights on it.

What I want from a job, is work that I find engaging more often than not, somewhere I feel I can contribute to making a difference and the work is meaningful, and most importantly that I get along with the majority of my colleagues and hopefully make a friend or two.

What are some of the things you want from your career?

Let me know in the comments section

Laugh, Fuck, Lift Weights, Repeat

There are few areas which are as telling of human behavior as the field of evolutionary biology and psychology. When we use the big historical lens to explain why we behave in certain ways many things become much clearer.

For instance, I’d argue that many – if not most – of the things we do, are attributable to gaining more status in order to find the most attractive mate(s), so that we may give ourselves the best chance at reproducing and passing our genes on to the next generation.

Incidentally, some of the things which we find the most enjoyable, are also some of the things which are good for us, and what I want to leave you with is the idea, that if we look at things in the light of evolution we’ll have a much better idea of what’s good for us and what isn’t.

If you want to know how you can better live in accordance with your true nature, think about how our ancestors lived – sitting around the camp fire, telling stories, laughing, chasing game, either with or without weapons.

Our mind wants our body to move any chance it gets. It wants to tell stories and pass on knowledge to the next generation. It also wants to pass on our genes to the and make sure that as much of our DNA as possible survives – if we have any one purpose that is it – trivial as it may sound.

So go out there and make sure you laugh everyday.

Fuck as much as you can.

Lift some weights.

And repeat.

Early and often,

How You Can Use Fear To Make You Stronger

Ever since I was a kid there have been things which have scared me to no end. The first time I was ever really afraid of dying was when I was 8 years old, playing hockey. I remember it very vividly – I was afraid my hockey stick would break and somehow cause me great injury. Naturally this never happened, because the odds of that ever happening are less than miniscule. It didn’t stop me from being afraid of it however, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been afraid of various events that never transpired.

What I’ve learned from this, is that there are a few ways to handle fear – fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of failure or any number of other fears you might conceive of. You can either succumb to your fears, which means that you let your fears hold you back from doing things, which might be a good idea in the case of crocodile wrestling, but which might not be a good idea, when it comes to asking that girl out. You can also choose to do things in spite of your fear, or you can investigate them and figure out exactly why something scares you, in which case you might learn a thing or two about yourself.

The many faces of fear

All three of these modes of dealing with fear have been useful to me, to some extent – for instance, I was overweight as a child and had to go to fat camp, which has instilled a borderline unhealthy fear of ever becoming overweight again. This, however, has also allowed me to cultivate a few healthy habits in terms of sleep, nutrition and exercise, and has spurred me to educate myself on this subject matter, more than I otherwise would have, and for that reason, I’d argue that this fear has turned out to be a net positive for me.

So fear can actually help you in a variety of ways if you know how to harness it correctly. Fear however, can also be detrimental to your well-being. More than once, I’ve found myself in a rut, because I’ve been afraid of something. For instance, I’ve been afraid to put all my effort into something, because I’ve been afraid of what happened if I failed. The result of this fear is simply that I’ve done work, which has been of poorer quality than I would otherwise have been able to deliver, and there is no benefit to this whatsoever. This is an instance when fear is very clearly and unequivocally holding me back, and I’m sure you can think of instances in your life, when you’ve experienced something similar – because fear is a very human emotion, it happens to the best of us, and the best we can do is simply to recognize it for what it is, and act accordingly.

Action-plan

So what is the best thing we can do, when we recognize that some fear or other is holding us back? One thing I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful is to confront the fear that is impacting my life, and writing down what might happen should it come fruition. For instance, if I put all my effort into my work, and I still fail, I will gain a realistic knowledge of my current skills, and I will obtain an understanding of the areas where I need to improve. As long as I keep in mind that everything in my life is subject to change, and if I apply what I know, I can grow based on the feedback I receive from my work. This is such a powerful strategy, that the very that there is something to be afraid of in this regard seems ludicrous.

When we see fear for what it is – namely a feedback mechanism which allows us to recognize and work on our weaknesses, we become that much stronger, and fear loses its death-grip over us. Keep in mind however, that not all fears are bad, and we must be aware that there are good fears and bad fears. Fears which keep us from acting stupid and fears which keep us from achieving our dreams, and the better we are able to distinguish between the two, the better our lives will be.