Stoic notes – part I

In the first 3 months of the year, I read 3.5 books on stoic philosophy. After “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine (Stoicism 101), I made my way through Seneca’s “Letter from a Stoic” and Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.” I read about half of Epictetus’ “Enchiridon” before stopping – it didn’t work for me.

As I was reading these books, I wrote down a series of reflections. On some occasions, they were directly from the books. On others, the books reminded me of a note from elsewhere (often from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits”).

I then synthesized it into 3 themes that represented what stoicism stood for in my mind.

I. Let perspective and joy flow from hyper gratitude
The poor person isn’t the one who has little. It is the one who craves the most.
Spend no time today contemplating what you don’t have. Think instead of the amazing things you do have.. and imagine how bad it might be if those were taken away.

Remember that we’re living a life that our ancestors could only dream of.. and that you dreamt of. There’s magic around us!

Cities and civilizations take years to build and moments to fall. Fortune and nature have their way in the end. Remember the awesome power of luck in your life and don’t underestimate its ability to take what it has given.

“When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind.”

Let molehills be molehills. If it isn’t going to matter in 5 years, don’t let it take much of your attention.

What if we died today? How would that change how we did the small things?

Celebrate the life of those who’ve passed. Don’t let that take away focus from those around you.

II. With perspective, replace negative emotions with grace

Blame is pointless.

Keep a sense of humor – especially when you feel you are insulted or offended or provoked.

Keep counsel in silence when you are angry. Don’t fight fire with fire. Remember the fire department only uses water.

To be able to bear a perceived misfortune is good fortune. Our misfortunes aren’t worth dwelling on. The world will move on without us. Time will move on…

Wish for events to unfold as they’re unfolding – and not as you desire it. And you’ll never feel you don’t have enough. :)

What counts is not the fall. It is the bounce back.

III. Focus on the process by playing the infinite game

Focus on what you control – keep laser focused on process over outcomes.

Macro patience, micro speed. Today matters.

Let our velocity show in the conversations we say yes to and the comments we choose to make. Let it not show in our hurry to get a word in.

Be a light, not a judge. Let your actions speak. We are what we do.

Do not fear mistakes. Fear only the absence of a creative, constructive, and corrective response.

Welcome minor discomforts – cold, hunger, and the pain that comes from stretching mentally or physically.

Spend time with people who help you learn and provide you positive energy.

Treat everyone how you’d treat your bosses.

Spend time in depth. Instead of reaching for a feed, reach for a book.

Meditate/reflect about the day at the end of the day. Think about whether you lived as you intended and about what you learnt.

You never know if a good day is a good day. It’s never as good or bad as it seems. The universe is unfolding as it should.

Don’t chase fame or wealth. Both are fickle and move us further away from tranquility. Focus instead on virtues that matter to you and the game you are playing. Success – as you define it – ensues.

For a few weeks, I read all these notes every morning as a daily reminder. But, this list turned out to be too long. So, I sought to synthesize all of this into 3-5 notes that I could could read and commit to everyday.

I will follow up with that list in tomorrow’s post.