Thursday, August 22, 2019

Notes and What I Learned From Reading "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor" PART 1

  • It should be "simple and modest" p. 69
  • It requires conciseness and objectivity p. 69
  • practice by "deliberately describing events more objectively and in less emotional terms" p. 73
  • "learn to take greater ownership of or responsibility for the catastrophic value judgements that distress us" ... use down-to-earth language ... decatastrophize things p. 73
  • It's not the end for the world ...
  • Will this matter in a few hours, days, weeks, months, or years?
  • Now that you're viewing this as not a catastrophe, what virtues can you use to deal with the situation?  What are some realistic ways to bear and deal with it?
  • Write letters to yourself using this simple language and write about positive opportunities to exercise strength of character p. 76
Cognitive Distancing p.78
  • Write down thoughts concisely when they occur; view them on paper/notebook/whiteboard ... if on a whiteboard, stand on the other side of the room to read/view them
  • Simply recognize your thoughts ... "I notice I am thinking ...."
  • Do the same as above, but refer to the thoughts in the 3rd person
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of the thoughts in a detached manner
  • Tally the times you've had such thoughts
Interesting tid-bit: "Marcus kept a statuette of Rusticus in his personal shrine and offered sacrifices in his memory" p. 86

What Rusticus Taught Marcus p. 87
  • not to be pretentious
  • dress like a normal citizen
  • to be a careful and patient student of philosophy
  • to read attentively instead of skimming
  • not to be swayed too easily by speakers who have a silver tongue
  • side note from Epictetus: show the fruits of philosophy in character and action
"Indeed, those who assume that they have the fewest flaws are often the ones most deeply flawed in the eyes of others." p. 89

Get a Mentor
  • find a suitable mentor in whose wisdom and experience you can genuinely trust p. 90
  • make the effort to acquire an older friend: one known for honesty & plain speaking, who has master the same passions that you need help with, someone who can properly identify your vices and tell your frankly where you're going astray
  • listen patiently to your mentor and take criticisms without irritation

  • "If the real goal for Stoics is wisdom, then sometimes just blurting out the truth isn't enough.  We have to put more effort into communicating with others effectively." p. 92.  On the same page, Robertson mentions Marcus' "impressive ability to resolve conflicts between his friends ... ability to unite all his friends together in harmony ... patient diplomacy and sensitive use of language ... always be tactful and honest."
  • "Stoics like Marcus placed a lot more value on manners and civility than the Cynics did.  The Stoics realized that to communicate wisely, we must phrase things appropriately.  Indeed, according to Epictetus, the most striking characteristic of Socrates was that he never became irritated during an argument.  He was always polite and refrained from speaking harshly even when others insulted him.  He patiently endured much abuse and yet was able to put an end to most quarrels in a calm and rational manner." p. 93
  • Regarding tact in response to criticisms of us, "we should give everyone we meet permission to tell us what our faults are ... and resolve not to be angry with any of them." p. 93 ... we ought to welcome criticism and "turn it to our advantage by making all [people] into our teachers ... and show gratitude ... to those who rebuke us." p. 94  However, we should be wise in discerning good advice (criticism) from bad ... we need to be "scrupulously honest with [our] mentor"
  • our soul should be "naked and simple"
  • we should "never crave anything in life that requires walls or curtains" p. 95

Your Values / Modeling

  • If you don't have a mentor or can't find one, you can use Marcus' example from his Book 1 and write about the values you admire in others ... "write down the virtues exhibited by someone you respect" p. 99 ... this stems from the advice given to Zeno to "take on the color of dead men"
  • Write these values down; think about them often, revise the list, process them again ... visualize these characteristics and traits and you will begin to live them ... this is how you "dye your soul"
  • Another idea is to write down the virtues of a hypothetical sage
Stoic Mindfulness / Prosoche / Daily Routine for Implementing Values
  • after getting feedback from a mentor or after identifying your values, you need to install a personal feedback system of introspection and improvement ... "continually to be self-aware, as if a wise mentor or teacher is observing you.  We call this Stoic mindfulness."  The old Stoics called it prosoche.
  • Morning and evening meditation provide planning opportunities for the day ahead as well as retrospectives for the day that has passed
  • For the morning, ask yourself two questions:
    1. What would the consequences be if you acted as a slave to your passions?
    2. How would your day differ if you acted more rationally, exhibiting wisdom and self-discipline? p. 105
  • For the evening, use guidance from "The Golden Verses"
    • Allow not sleep to close your wearied yes,
    • Until you have reckoned up each daytime deed:
    • "Where did I go wrong?  What did I do?  And what duty's left undone?
    • From first to last review your acts and then
    • Reprove yourself for wretched acts, but rejoice in those done well
  • Sticking to this routine, you will begin to be more mindful during the day
More on Values
  • Consistent reflection on your values helps you find clear direction in your life
  • Additional questions might make your values even clearer:
    • What's ultimately the most important thing in life to you?
    • What do you really want your life to stand for or represent?
    • What do you want to be remembered for after you're dead?
    • What sort of person do you most want to be in life?
    • What sort of character do you want to have?
    • What would you want written on your tombstone? p. 108
  • Writing out lists; side-by-side columns
    1. The things you most desire for yourself in life
    2. The qualities you find most praiseworthy and admirable in other people
  • Contemplate "what would happen if you were to make virtue your number one priority in life?" p. 109

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Stewardship & Sustainability

I love peanut M&M's.  That chocolaty crunch gets me every time.  I pop one in my mouth, crack it down the middle with my teeth; the peanut separates from the chocolate and then I grind the whole thing and savor the taste.  Seeing a jar full of peanut M&M's is also very satisfying.  I can hardly help myself, if I walk in a room and see a jar of those delicious pebbles, I scoop a handful and begin to munch on them!

Years ago, I heard story about a jar of M&M's.  This world-famous rock band toured many, many cities.  As part of their contract with venues, they put a clause in that demanded all brown M&M's be removed.  You're probably thinking, "what the hell??  They must be prima-donnas!"  But there is more to it than that!

Think of it - this huge rock band production has literally tons of equipment that is hauled around from city to city.  Their concert schedule is very tight and there are thousands of things on the list to do in order for them to pull off a successful and safe concert.  The venue host has to be able to meet the demands of the band efficiently and quickly.  So the band produces a contract, provides it to the venue ahead of time.  And this contract is very detailed and if even one demand is not met, such as verifying the weight of the stage will support the band and the equipment, then the band's safety is in danger.  The band doesn't have time to verify the entire contract, but they want to be sure it has been met.  So that put a clause in there that demands brown M&M's be removed from the jar that is in their backroom.  When the band shows up, and sees brown M&M's they know the host has not read the contract! (link)

We live in a world that demands people get shit done!  We have busy lives and in some business and industries, there is a lot of complexity.  People are assigned duties and work and they are expected to GyShiDo!  In a more professional term, this is called stewardship.  You have been given some task; now you must steward it to completion.  If you complete a task, you might be given another one of equal or greater weight.  Once you string together multiple tasks for a consistent amount of time, you will be given more and weightier tasks and responsibilities, with greater complexity and difficulty.  People who show the ability to handle these problems "level up" in life.

In our capitalistic society, we reward people who can sustain their good stewardship.

A kid learns to take care of their body, their clothes, their room, their possessions, their friendships, their grades, their hourly wage job, their middle school and high school courses, and then their college courses.  If they complete the thousands of tasks during those years, they will graduate and most likely find a job and begin their career.  The cycle of stewardship and sustainability continues.  This is how winners are made.

So when you don't feel like cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen or if you don't want to organize your room, just remember you are making bad grooves and habits in your life.  Learn what it takes to get your shit done and then GyShiDo!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 4.13 - To those who talk too readily about their personal affairs

To get right to the point, when it comes to sharing secrets and being vulnerable, Epictetus advises us to hold our cards tight to our chest, until we've determined that we can trust other people and they are virtuous.  Otherwise, just keep quiet.

We are often faced with people who try to gain our confidence who might share very personal information or a secret, in the hopes of getting us to reciprocate.  These are con-men and you need to watch out for them.

"When someone seems to have talked frankly to us about his personal affairs, we are somehow impelled to reveal our own secrets to him in turn, and we regard that as being frankness.This comes about partly because, after hearing our neighbor's confidences, it seems unfair not to reply in kind by giving him a share of our own; and also because we think that we won't give such people the impression of being frank if we keep quiet about our personal affairs." (v. 1-2, p. 275)

If you are going to share your personal affairs and secrets with others, you need to be sure you can trust them.  Otherwise, "it is just as if [you] had a water-tight barrel and [someone else] had one with a hole in it, and [they] came and entrusted [their] wine to [you], for [them] to store it in [your] barrel, and [they] then complained that [you] for [your] part didn't entrust [your] wine to [them]!" (v. 12, p. 276)