Daily Journey – August 2017

Daily Journey is a collection of my thoughts from reading The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.  My objective is to gain greater control of my emotional responses by reading and sharing my thoughts on stoicism with you all everyday over the course of a year.  If you would like to explore these topics with me, and others who are seeking to gain emotional control come over to the Mastery of Skill closed facebook group to join in on the conversation.

Live Skillfully!

-Jon

*****

August 31st : Considering Your Failings Too

Give others the same room to make mistakes that you give yourself. Their mistake probably did not come from a place of malice or devious mischief. And after all, you have likely had a similar problem.
 
By giving others this grace you will help ensure the relationship can grow, and you can both benefit from each others support.

August 30th: When You Feel Lazy

Being “lazy” is a surface level symptom to what is likely a more specific problem. What is the root cause cause behind your laziness. Fatigue, fear, anger, anxiousness?

Don’t just brute force your way through the task at hand.

Address the actual problem so you can get better results in the long run.

August 29th: Want Nothing = Have Everything

Disciplining your desire for “more” is a surefire way to increase your happiness with the things you have.

This isn’t a call to minimalism, it is a call to satisfaction. Throttle back on the drive for more to enjoy what you have and realize it is enough.

August 28th: The Opulent Stoic

The pursuit of happiness is not the same as the pursuit of wealth. You can be rich and miserable, and you can be poor and at peace.

Money is not directly proportional to happiness… but our view of wealth, and luxury can be.
Want to build a treasure trove of happiness and contentment? Sever you perceived ties between spending and happiness.

August 27th: Laugh, or Cry

There seems to always be some humor to be found in any given situation. If you look for the lighter side of things it will help ease the burden of the negative emotions that can overwhelm us during our tragedies and troubles.

When my Father passed away there were moments of deep pain and sorrow, but there were, and still are, moments where I remember something that brings a smile to my face.

Focusing on these moments has helped the most.

August 26th: Seeking Out Shipwrecks

One of the maxims taught in military circles is that leadership development and potential is enhanced when challenges and large problems are encountered early in a career.

The lessons learned and the value systems that are developed by facing these challenges (win or loose) solidifies important character traits needed to lead teams.

Some of the things I have learned from challenges I faced throughout the years:
– Perseverance/grit
– Value of relationships
– Perspective
– Bias Awareness
– Value of action
– Importance of facts
– Necessity of speed
– Fairness and equality
– How to establish trust

We should seek out these challenges throughout our entire lives, because negotiating through them will always make us better.

What have you learned from some of the shipwrecks you have come across in your life?

August 25th: Respect the Past, but be Open to the Future

A lot of the things we do are done because they have worked out well in the past. How we have always done it before can be a good starting point, but we need to remember that just because we have always done it one way doesn’t always mean it is still the right way to do it.

August 24th: Pillage from All Sources

Wisdom can come from just about anywhere. Why be picky about the source? If somones words ring true to you, and you see and feel the value in them, then assimilate them into your life.

Don’t limit your resources by having a closed mind.

August 23rd: It’s in Your Self-Interest

The Stoics practice was to appeal to a person’s self interest directly instead of using abstract concepts like right and wrong to influence changes in behavior. Doing this changes the discussion from an emotional appeal to an appeal to logic/reason. For example:

X,Y and Z are sins, you should stop doing them (emotional appeal).

vs.

Drinking too much is making you unhappy because now you have a hangover.

Not exercising is making you unhappy because you don’t have the strength to take care of your family.

Eating an unhealthy diet is making you unhappy because you are 15 pounds overweight.

Complaining all day is making you miserable because you are focusing too much on the negative and missing the positives

This is a more compelling form of an argument because it directly addresses a person’s own self-interest (which most people are deeply concerned with) with logical consequences
instead of using abstract thinking to come at a problem from the side.

Give it a try.

See if it changes your perspective on the things you want to improve in your life.

August 22nd: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Giving things the proper amount of attention can be challenging. Putting too much energy into things that don’t matter is obviously a waste. The not so obvious trick is learning how to judge the difference between things that matter and things that don’t.  Besides isn’t it all just small stuff anyway.

August 21st: Don’t be Miserable in Advance

This gets me every now and then. When something bad is peeking over the horizon it can start to eat away at me like nothing else.

What’s worse is when that “something bad” is based on assumption, my own pessimism, being cynical, or my own irrational thoughts.

Breaking out of these miserable moods takes focus, friends… and sometimes a run or some extra time at the gym.

What do you do to break free of being miserable in advance?

August 20th: Where it Counts

If people think you are crazy they won’t take you seriously. What we are dealing with on the inside isn’t always best reflected on the outside. This is an area that must be in balance with the world we live in.
 
Slim Shady nailed it “He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready.”
 
Think about someone you know who is over the top externally, is it hard to take them seriously? Being in control of our emotional responses and our outward appearance is an important aspect of how others perceive us.

August 19th: Corralling the Unnecessary

Have you ever felt busy but unproductive?  We  can get caught up in so many little unnecessary thoughts, actions, commitments and conversation that a day can roll by before we even know what happened.   At the end of the day we sit in despair, exhausted but with nothing to show for it.

The first step in corralling these necessary  elements in our lives is to set boundaries between what is truly needed and what is not.  We then need to stand for ourselves and our decisions and not let the whim and whimsy of the world have sway and influence over us.

August 18th: Only Fools Rush In

The saying “Only Fools Rush In” is very closely related to “Choose Your Battles.”  Both involve using your mental and emotional faculties to make a decision about engaging with a problem. There is nothing wrong with avoiding an unwinnable battle, or adjusting a strategy to meet your objective and avoid taking losses.

While the world tries to push and pull your attention, and attempts to insight indignant rage… you decide who, what, when, where, why and how to fight.  Rushing headlong into every problem is wasteful.

August 17th: The Buck Stops Here

You are responsible for your thoughts and actions. If someone within your sphere of influence is not performing the way they should… that is your fault. What are you going to do about it? If you want something to change you have to change your decisions and behaviors first.

August 16th: Anything can be an Advantage

What is your frame of reference for you challanges? What if you looked at them from the perspective of being an advantage instead of a disadvantage? here are some personal examples:

-Hurting my back was an opportunity to learn yoga.

-Having tenants damage a house we own was a chance to use our insurance investment and change our management company.

-Having a heart attack scare got me to eat healthy.

The trick is not simply to be an optimist, but to turn your perceived disadvantage into an advantage or into a motivation to change.

August 15th: The Supreme Court of Your Mind

When we train and prepare our minds correctly, to respond virtuously to the challenges we are confronted with, we will will find it is the best tool we have for any job. The mind must be quick, decisive, dependable, and honest.

How can we sustain our minds if our body is weak, we are mentally slow, and emotionally distracted?

August 14th: This Isn’t for Fun. It’s For Life

Too many things in our lives get viewed as entertainment. Political debates, exercise/training, reading, education… The list can get pretty long. Here’s the truth though, not everything should be done for entertainment. A lot of this should be done, and done right, because it is necessary to build a powerful and fulfilled life.

August 13th: Take Charge and End Your Troubles

Don’t wait for others to lead the way. Get out in front of your problems and engage them. Take charge to gain control.

August 12th: Make the Words Your Own

“Practice what you preach” has got to be one of the oldest adages on the planet. Our actions are more valuable to us then our words. While words can inspire and motivate, being the example for others to follow is also a powerful tool for your own growth and for the growth of those around you.

Be the example others talk about emulating.

August 11th: No Time for Theories, Just Results

This month’s reading in the Daily Stoic continues to slap me in the face. This is something that is easy to get caught up in when we are diagnosing and trying to solve problems. The root cause of a problem is rarely found when whining and complaining about your theories as to “why” the problem exists. Theorizing uselessly is taking away from the potential impact of just doing the work that needs to be done.

August 10th: Perfection is the Enemy of Action

Things will never be perfect. I don’t think I can ever say this enough. The pursuit of perfection can completely derail us from taking action. Sometimes trying to perfect something we are working on feels like progress… but it’s not. We can get caught in an endless cycle of refining what ever it is we are working on, only to find that we missed the opportunity to grab our dream.

Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.com) had one of the best insights I have ever read on this topic. He said “shipping beats perfection.” Getting yourself out into the world will lead to better results than locking yourself up “preparing” for the elusive success you want.

I have found one of the best ways to break this cycle is through relationships. If you are stuck in an endless loop of refining in the pursuit of perfection, one of the best things you can do is look to a trusted partner who can offer assistance in breaking things loose and advancing your efforts.

August 9th: Stick with Just the Facts

We can let our minds distort what is going on in any given situation by letting ourselves get carried away by speculation and worry. Don’t read into the past and make snap judgments based in assumptions. Stick to what you know. What are the facts, and what should you be doing about them?

August 8th: Start Where the World Is.

Getting overly caught up in how things should be is a waste of time. It’s good to have a vision for how things can be in the future, but you have to be grounded in reality and start building your future with the tools and resources you have right now. Get to work.

August 7th: Pragmatic and Principled

These two things are not at odds. You can be pragmatic and principled. You can be sensible and realistic while still holding to your virtues.

August 6th: There is Always More Room to maneuver than you think

I like to think of room to maneuver as “margin.” There is often hidden margin in our day that we can use to more effectively accomplish our goals or overcome challenges.

So where does that margin come from? Sleep for one. Sticking to a schedule so you own your time. Another is Cyber Loafing… and not just with social media. Even at work we can get distracted by the official screen in front of us.

Jealously guard your time and secure the margin you need to maneuver.

August 5th: Silence is Strength

Have you ever felt like you over reached in a conversation? I’m guilty. Just yesterday, I was excitedly chatting away Anna about some new research I had been doing when I noticed she had quietly disengaged from the conversation I was now having with myself. I had bulldozed through the conversation because I wanted to get all my great information out… and because of this I totally missed out on all the awesome insights she would have had along the way.

August 4th: No Blame, Just Focus

I needed this one today. Have you ever had those days where the universe seems to conspire against you instead of for you? When that happens remember to focus on the things within your control and to stop wasting your time and your emotions assigning blame. Get back to work, take control of your time and your emotions and spend them on the things that matter most to you, your family, and your duties.

August 3rd: The Good Life is Anywhere

You are just plain lying to yourself when you claim that things would be better “if only….” Stop doing that! You can be living the good life right now. Its not the situation that needs to change, it is your perception of the situation.

August 2nd: We Can Work Any Way

To overcome the road blocks in your way requires an “I can make it work any way” attitude. What ever you think is severely limiting your growth or success is more than likely just a hiccup that you are giving too much power too.

Stop letting the excuses win. There is always a way to get to work on your goals and plans.

August 1st: Don’t Go Expecting Perfection

Our expectation for perfection is often the first, and hardest hurdle, to getting started. Perfection is a unicorn… it simple does not exist. You can get started right now knowing the first step you take will get you closer to good enough, and once you are good enough you can move on to excellence.

Excellence is not perfection, it is doing the best you can with what you have.

Expect excellence.