Our decisions are rarely based on objective information. And even when we do have ‘good data’, it’s coloured by why, who and how it’s collected. Often our decisions are based on assumptions. We accept something as true, without proof. We make many of these assumptions with a scarcity mindset. We kill good ideas too soon by assuming there is not enough of this or too much of that to make a difference. And pursue bad ones for similar untested reasons.
We can challenge our assumptions by compiling three lists to answer three simple questions:
A. What assumptions am I making?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5&..and so on.
B. What if what I’m assuming is not true?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5&..and so on.
C. How can I test these assumptions?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5&..and so on.
We create a more hopeful set of expectations by calling out the beliefs that are holding us back.
I like this. As I pour through “The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli” my biases are more front of mind. This method is a nice check on some of those.
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after-thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.”
— Keanu Reeves
Strategies for Seizing the Day by Ryan Holiday:
You’re alive right now. In front of you sits just a handful of hours before the day is through. What tomorrow has in store, you cannot know. Piles of problems could be dumped on you. A surprise call from the doctor could change everything. You could wake up with the flu and spend the next week in bed. You could not wake up at all.
This leaves you with a few options for today: You can muddle through, you can worry about all the things that might happen, or you can seize the day–here and now. The right choice is obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The famous Latin phrase carpe diem, or “seize the day,” has stared at us from coffee cups and motivational posters for as long as we’ve been alive. Longer, in fact; it’s from a poem written in 23 B.C. We’ve been struggling to follow this simple anodyne command basically since the beginning of time. It was hard for the ancients, and it’s hard for us.
What is cool, however, is that since right around Horace’s time, smart people–especially the ancient Stoics–have been developing strategies for how to seize the day. They’re not magical solutions, but they do help. They work if you work them. So let’s get to it.
Get up early
Do it now
Put devices away
Don’t try to be perfect
Don’t leave things hanging
Don’t defer your happiness
Demand the best of (and for) yourself
Read the article for all the details. It is worth your time. Here’s a bit from the last part of the article:
Today could be the last day of my life. It could be the last day of your life. It could also be the best day of our lives.
A few years ago, conservative commentators in America began using a term for young college students-mostly liberal-who insisted on #noplatforming speakers they disagreed with: Snowflakes. It was said with both a sneer and well-meaning wisdom because the world just isn’t going to work if you think you can block out or censure everything you find objectionable.
But here’s the problem. It’s totally _hypocritical. Because on all sides of the political debate we have this snowflake tendency. Conservatives freak out now when people question or criticize the president (indeed, the president himself loves to dish it out, but complains constantly about having to take it). You’d be amazed at the number of Donald Trump supporters-the same ones who accuse liberals of Trump Derangement Syndrome-who send in angry notes to DailyStoic.com that illustrate not just their inability to deal with views they disagree with, but also exhibit what ought to be called _Clinton Derangement Syndrome.
Why point this out?
Because the whole aim of Stoicism is to reduce the amount of offense we take from things that are outside our control. Remember, Epictetus says we are complicit when we allow someone to make us angry, when their words produce a disproportionate reaction from us. Intellectually, a philosopher has to be someone who can calmly entertain, consider, and engage with views and ideas different from their own. The notion that you would love listening to a band and then turn them off because they “brought politics into it” is positively infantile, whatever those politics are. Or that you’d turn away from a friend or a parent because they are on their own intellectual or social journey. (Or unsubscribe from a free email you otherwise liked!)
Snowflakes, whether they are on the left or the right, are miserable because they need the world to be a certain way-their way. They are constantly at risk of being upset and disturbed because someone else-someone with views different than their own-has the power to say or do or think for themselves. A Stoic, on the other hand, is open-minded and content to let others live and think as they wish. Not only that, but they relish the opportunity to have their own views challenged, because they know they grow stronger for it.
Don’t be a snowflake. Be a Stoic.
I like this.
I started using the term “snowflake” a long time ago to describe young adults who were ill prepared for the real world, like the twenty-something who wanted to bring his mom to a job interview with me.
Eventually I started using the term to mean anyone, myself included, who lack emotional or intellectual resiliency.
Once it became a common epithet of trolls and the right, I ditched it.
My interest in Stoicism developed independently, but I’m happy to merge the two as Daily Stoic lays out.
In our office, the kitchen exhaust fan blows the smoke from the cooktop–back into the kitchen.
It’s a closed loop, a palliative, a noisy device that doesn’t do much except make you feel like at least you’re trying.
Most of the exhaust fans in our lives are actually part of a closed system. The detritus, pain or actions we share don’t go very far away before they turn around and head back toward us.
(Via Seth Godin)
Marcus Aurelius on not living forever
Marcus Aurelius on not living forever
“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.” – Marcus Aurelius
It is so easy to put off the “urgent but not important” things until tomorrow. I can call my mom tomorrow. I can tell my wife I love her tomorrow. I can spend quality time with my kids tomorrow.
The thing is, tomorrow might never come. Tomorrow, I might not be here. Tomorrow, my wife might not be here. My kids. My mom.
This is true for almost everything of importance in our lives, especially those things we deem “not urgent.” It’s so easy to put off the things that aren’t screaming for our focus.
There are few things you will do that will wind up being more meaningful than intentionally taking time each day to mark off a few of those “important but not urgent” things. Give your spouse a hug and a kiss and whisper that you love them. Give your kids a hug, turn off your cell phone, and spend a couple of hours with them. Call your mom and actually listen. Read that challenging book on your nightstand. Volunteer for that charity.
You won’t regret it.
I saw an article about George Raveling recently in the Daily Stoic newsletter. Raveling – known as Coach Rav to many, has a pretty remarkable history. And an even better life philosophy that fits very nicely with #GiveFirst.
On his website, he has a page titled 23 Life Choices That Are In Your Control. It’s delightful and follows.
> 1. Be YOU, not them.
Solid idea poorly phrased.
> 2. Do more, expect less.
I’m ≠ sure about the message. I think it’s to be net positive, but do more than what or who? Expect less from what or who?.
> 3. Be positive, not negative.
That is, unless negativity is a positive. In Stoicism we talk about negative visualizations, which are valuable. In business, thinking about the worst things that can happen feeds into resiliency.
> 4. Be the solution, not the problem.
I would change this to something like “don’t spend time creating roadblocks”.
> 5. Be a starter, not a stopper.
Throwing a flag on this one. It’s ≠ hard to think of scenarios where stopping is the best thing.
> 6. Question more, believe less.
Trust, but verify.
> 7. Be a somebody, never a nobody.
Be somebody, yes. ≠ “A” somebody
> 8. Love more, hate less.
How is this not a duplicate of #20?
> 9. Give more, take less.
> 10. See more, look less.
> 11. Save more, spend less.
I would add “value more” to this.
> 12. Listen more, talk less.
Assuming your job isn’t talking for a living.
> 13. Walk more, sit less.
The science is inconclusive. Mix things up.
> 14. Read more, watch less.
I prefer “Learn more, mindlessly consume less.”, but better phrased.
> 15. Build more, destroy less.
Nope. Maybe in general, but not always.
> 16. Praise more, criticize less.
Nope. Honest feedback is necessary.
> 17. Clean more, dirty less.
> 18. Live more, do not just exist.
> 19. Be the answer, not the question.
I have no idea what this means.
> 20. Be a lover, not a hater.
I no longer hate Brussels sprouts yet I also do not love them. Instead, I advise making your hate a finite, limited resource. Spend it well. Otherwise, run the gamut from dislike to love without assigning more emotion than is needed.
For example, I fondly remember the Star Trek movies 1-5. The next batch had moments. The reboot put me to sleep – I actually fell asleep every time I tried to watch it. Other people love the new Star Trek. Great for them! I’m obviously not losing sleep over the reboot, but also it has zero impact on me.
I have more important things to deal with than what some mega-corporation does with a massively popular commercial property they own.
But I digress.
> 21. Be a painkiller, not a pain giver.
I disagree with this one. Sometimes the best thing you can do for another person is to tell them a hard truth they chose not to acknowledge.
> 22. Think more, react less.
Assuming one has the luxury of time, this is good.
> 23. Be more uncommon, less common.
I don’t know what this means.
If you just skimmed the list, I encourage you to go back and read it again. To slow down and really savor it, read each line out loud and then ponder what you are doing to make that choice on a daily basis.
There is some useful stuff in here, but don’t expect a treasure trove of insight. I’m poking holes in some of them because they are platitudes too generically bland to be useful in real life. However, the overall ideal is one we all should embrace more often.
Let’s break down this wonderful analogy a little bit.
Dave [Chapelle] sees himself as the baboon, obviously.
The salt represents short-term pleasures – a burst of money and wealth and so on. It sits in the hole and he wants it and reaches in for it.
The television executives are the bushman in this analogy – his bosses at the time, in other words.
The cage is the contract that Chapelle would have to place himself under. His creative choices, his personal freedom, all of that would trap him – but he’d have plenty of salt (short-term pleasures)!
The water is what they both want – long-term security.
Dave makes the astute point that he was the baboon, but he saw the bushman and the cage and he chose to drop the salt. He reached in for some short-term pleasures and rewards, but he saw that if he didn’t let go of it, he was going to wind up in a cage for a very long time. Sure, he might eventually get to the water, but he’d have to be in a cage for a long while to get there and he didn’t want to do that.
So he dropped the salt lump. He walked away from his popular show and the all-encompassing fame and the prospect of wealth to forge a path with a lot more freedom. He’ll get to the water eventually, but on his own terms, without being trapped in a cage.
The video is worth your time as is the entire article.
I stumbled across a Newsweek article about Marcus Aurelius, from 2010, written by author and political commentator Jon Meacham. Meacham won a Pulitzer prize in 2009 for his biography of US president Andrew Jackson.
Meacham’s article, A Case for Optimistic Stoicism, was inspired by the attempted Al Qaeda bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was bound from Amsterdam to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in the US. I wanted to write a little about this article because I think it deserves to be read and because it seems to me that Meacham has actually understood the essence of Stoicism better than many others who have attempted to write about it. Though he’s not a scholar of this particular subject he clearly “gets it” and the Stoic doctrine he gets is one that’s really quite central to the whole philosophy.
… That’s what I would simply describe as a philosophical attitude toward the stark reality of terrorism. One type of folly denies the reality of these threats and buries its head in the sand. Another type of folly accepts them but exaggerates our inability to cope and throws its arms up in the air in despair. What people find so difficult about Stoicism is that it does neither of these foolish things. Stoics like the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius could … calmly accept adversity while nevertheless patiently fighting back against it, even though the odds seemed stacked against them or the battle seemed interminable. Life, as Marcus said, is warfare. It never ends. The good man accepts this, without complaint, and he remains at his post anyway, standing guard against the enemy.
Donald Robertson misses another type of people, those who make political hay out of half measures, hand waving, and pseudoscience substituting for security — a.k.a. Security Theater — instead of taking meaningful if maybe unpopular actions to identify and address risks to mitigate threats.
A worksheet for the moral mathematics of decision-making from America’s original prophet of self-improvement.
When the 29-year-old Charles Darwin made his endearing list of the pros and cons of marriage, he was applying a now common decision-making technique pioneered half a century earlier by another revolutionary mind on the other side of the Atlantic: America’s polymathic Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706–April 17, 1790).
Not since the Stoics had there been so prolific a prophet of self-improvement as Franklin. From the list of thirteen virtues he penned when he was only twenty to his staggering daily routine to his clever trick for disarming haters, he continually devised and applied various psychological frameworks to just about every problem of existence. By middle age, Franklin’s reputation as a formidable sage of practical wisdom rendered him on the receiving end of countless pleas for advice, many of which he generously and thoughtfully obliged.
In the late summer of 1772, Franklin received one such plea from a friend — the English scientist, theologian, and liberal political theorist Joseph Priestley, at the time working as minister of the famed Unitarian church Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds. On Franklin’s recommendation, the Earl of Shelburne had offered the 39-year-old Priestley a lucrative position as his general assistant, tasked with managing his library and educating his children. Priestley was torn — the appointment would grant him financial stability for the first time in his life and would leave ample time for his scientific investigations, but it would require that he relinquish his ministry and move his family to the Earl’s estate near Bath. Unsure how to proceed, he turned to Franklin for help in navigating the high-stakes conundrum.
Rather than telling his friend what to choose, Franklin taught him how to choose. His letter, cited in Steven Johnson’s excellent book Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most (public library), outlined a sort of worksheet for the moral mathematics of decision-making — the first known instance of a pros and cons framework.
In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.
When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.
To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.
And tho’ the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra.
Priestley accepted the position, which proved to be a turning point in the history of science. Less than three years later, in the laboratory the Earl of Shelburne built for him, he went on to conduct the famous experiment in which he focused the sun’s rays on a sample of mercuric oxide through a burning glass and discovered oxygen, O2 — a new kind of air Priestley marveled was “five or six times better than common air for the purpose of respiration, inflammation, and, I believe, every other use of common atmospherical air.”
Complement this particular fragment of the altogether insightful Farsighted with Descartes on the cure for indecision, Milan Kundera on knowing what we really want, Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman on how our intuitions mislead us, and Oliver Burkeman on the psychology of why overplanning and excessive goal-setting limit our happiness and success, then revisit Franklin on the truest source of happiness.
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