Tag: philosophy

Ducks in a row

I’ve always been a person to do things wholeheartedly. This was the case when I started writing rap music at the age of 12, it was the case when I got into rowing, it was the case when I got into investing. When something grips my interest, it grips me by the balls and won’t let go.

Balance is not a words I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that either something was worth doing 100% or it wasn’t worth doing at all.

Lately though, I’ve come to a different conclusion. I’ve slowly but surely come to the conclusion that if I want to have all my ducks in a row I need more than a single duck – meaning if I want live a meaningful life, it can’t just be composed of a single thing. It can’t just be one thing one hundred percent and all other things zero percent.

To give you an example I’m familiar with, let’s talk about rowing. In rowing, if you pull too hard it’s actually counterproductive. What you want is a smooth, steady rhythm composed of effort and rest in almost equal measures – I figure that is a very handy analogy for life. At least the life that I want to live.

What’s more, I’ve found the best results in my life when I’ve aimed for balance. Whenever I’ve gone all-in on something I’ve quickly burned out. The fun went out of it. It became too serious. I became too serious.

About it.

And that made all that was good about it not good.

Effort. Rest. Balance. Moderation.

Not all-out power.

Simple. Obvious.

Yet for some reason difficult to grasp.

On What’s Important And How to Say No

The realization that in the history of the human race, no one has ever survived old age is a profound one. Now, this doesn’t mean that we won’t eventually find a cure for ageing, and in my opinion Tim Urban has explained this beautifully. Let’s just for arguments sake however, say that we are not going to live forever, which means that we will someday run out of time in this beautiful world.

That means, that we have to make it very clear to ourselves what’s important to us. What’s going to matter, when we look back on our life? Will it matter what title we have at our company? Or will it matter that we had a lot of fun while we worked, and we got to spend our time with amazing people? Maybe we can do both. But I know which one is more important to me.

When we realize that our time is finite, we also inevitably realize that the extra hour or two we spend working, might not be worth it, if it means missing time with our fiancee, missed snuggles with our cat, a missed workout or whatever might else might be more important to us. Don’t get me wrong – if work is what’s most important to you, then by all means spend all the time you can doing it. I have a close friend who loves his job – and I’m fairly sure he would rather work than not, because it gives him an intense sense of satisfaction, and I still love him all the same.

My point is that our best course of action is to prioritize consciously, so that we don’t end up getting roped into things which we derive no pleasure from. We want to spend our time on the things which brings us the most value. This doesn’t mean skipping out on family get-togethers or only doing things which you want to do, but it does mean that we can say No without feeling bad or guilty. It means that we need to figure out if other people’s opinion are important to us, and if so, why?

Here’s the main point: I can’t decide what’s important for you. I can only decide what I find important and that only applies to me. If I can pass along a single idea from this post it is this:

Decide what is important to you and what is not, and make your best effort to spend your time according to that decision.

Philosophy and The Art of Living Your Best Life

My guess is this post will get very few readers – fewer readers than normal that is – simply because philosophy is a term which invokes such strong associations of people who are too similar to the grad student with the pony tail in Good Will Hunting.

Image result for harvard bar scene

In a word?

Cunt.

Philosophy in its original form has nothing to do with how we’ve come to think of it today – philosophy in its original form has everything to do with the art of living well, the art of living your best life.

Now, there are as many ways to go about living as there are people on this planet – which was about 7.6 billion at the time of this writing – but very few of us give any thought to how we want to live and what constitutes an optimal life.

From an evolutionary standpoint this makes complete and utter sense. Who gives a fuck about how to live? What makes sense to care about is amassing as many resources as possible, so that we can pass our genes on to the next generation as successfully as possible. And this is exactly how most people live.

I do think however, that in order to live our best life, we must consider which principles we want to live according to – and in order to determine which principles are worth adhering to, philosophy comes in handy.

One of the principles I live according to, is that we’re all continually evolving, and I don’t want to set who I am too much in stone, because I believe our minds are too dynamic for that. I believe that in order to be the best we can be, we must be open to new ideas, continually learn and evolve.

Another principle which is important to me, is the idea that time is valuable – not in the sense that time is money – but in the sense that time is the only non-renewable resource in the world, and therefore it makes sense to be careful how we spend it, and with whom.

The final principle I want to mention is that it makes sense for each one of us to think for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to hold a contrarian opinion, just for the sake of it, but I do want to think independently about the things I choose to think about.

This means that if I either don’t have an opinion on a subject, or I have a strong opinion on a subject, because I’ve considered all the available facts and thought about it deeply. Now there is a natural limit to how much deep thinking any one person can do, so my strong opinions are naturally fairly limited.

This also means however, that my opinions are subject to change, when the facts change, because I don’t want to be married to my opinion. I want to be able to change my opinion, when I see evidence that is contrary to that opinion.

On this topic I agree wholeheartedly with Emerson, when he says that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

There are countless other principles to think about and philosophical alleyways to go down, and my aim is to explore a few of them through my writing – and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

Want more time? 2000 year old advice on time management that still works wonders

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

– Seneca

The quality of our life is determined almost exclusively by how we spend our time. If we want to live better lives, we must improve how we spend our time. Simple as that.

If we want to do better and be better, we must become better at consciously deciding how to spend our time, and this goes back to decisions we make about how we work, sleep, rest, how we spend our free time, who we spend our time with and the environments that we place ourselves in.

As Seneca points out in On The Shortness of Life the problem for most of us, is not that we don’t have enough time – it’s that we don’t know how to spend the time that we do have well enough.

If we constantly fritter away our time at work and in our spare time, it’s no wonder we fee overwhelmed.

If we let others encroach on our time instead of guarding it vigilantly, then of course we’re going to feel stressed out, and like we don’t have enough time to do all the things we feel like we have to.

If instead we make a conscious choice of how many hours each day we’ll spend on any given task, then we will have a map of what to do, when to do it, as well as how much time we can afford to ‘waste’ on things like watching cat videos – because shit, cat videos are the bomb. My point is that it’s not about becoming a time-hoarding calendar nazi who only has 12 minutes to drink coffee with their mother every other Wednesday. Instead it’s about being aware of the choices we make, and make sure that we set aside time for our top priorities, and ensure that we figure out a way to do the things which are most important to usIt’s about being aware that if we make better choices about how we spend our time, then we will get better outcomes.

Are you ready to forgive?

I’ve had some weird experiences in my life – I’ve had some ups and some downs, made a few enemies but even more friends. I’ve been an asshole, and I’ve been assholed against.

And you know what? It all passes.

Forgive and forget.

Life goes on.

The quicker we forgive, the quicker we move on. This forgiveness goes for others, but it certainly goes for ourselves. Sometimes it can be hard to forgive ourselves for things we did in the past, but hating ourselves is not going to solve the problem – only diving deeply into the situation with yourself and anyone afflicted will.

Of course there are some wounds which are deeper than others, and they might take longer to forgive, but we must never lose sight of how powerful forgiveness is.

The longer we hold a grudge, the more we suffer – this goes for ourselves as well as for others.

We must ask of ourselves that we forgive. We must demand it.

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.