Philosophy

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

– Lucius Seneca

I’m a sucker for a good quote.

I know they can be naff, and I get that the they often only seem poignant because they present broad strokes of wisdom which lack specificity or useful context.

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

 – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

… However, I genuinely do believe that there’s something special about a little perspective altering nugget of wisdom.

My vague quote poison of choice is stoic philosophers – namely Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Seneca.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

 – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’ve written about them before, and I’ll likely do it again. So rather than dive too deeply into why I think these are valuable, I’ll leave you to decide whether they belong on a weeties box, on your facebook wall or etched gently on the inside of your skull for future pondering.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

– Lucius Seneca

If it feels too good to be true, it’s too good to be real.

There’s always a catch and the grass is cut from the same roots.

But that’s okay.

It might not be as good as the person who’s trying to sell it to you says it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Sometimes the things people tell you are life changing are just good enough to change the course of a day.

And a day changed for the better is not insignificant.

Not every deal which is too good to be real is a bad deal.

Just ensure you know what you’re giving away.

Was there a day this week where you went to bed dissatistied with the way you spent it?

How many days was that the case?

If that number is hard to deal with (which at times it most certainly has been for me), one of two things are wrong.

Either the way you’re spending your time isn’t aligned with the stories you want to tell about yourself, or your expectations aren’t in line with what’s reasonable.

This worst is when it’s a combination of the two.

We all deserve to love what we do.

But sometimes loving what we do requires us to work hard at loving it.

We’re at our best when we’re creating.

We create at our best when we’re connected.

We’re most connected when we surround ourselves with brilliant people who care.

And we attract those people by being brilliant ourselves.

Next time you’re wondering what to do, think about what you have to give.

Then give it.

Pursuits are the infinite games we play which involve clear feedback and trackable progress.

Playing slot machines can never be a pursui because there’s no way to get better at it; over time, you’re guaranteed to lose.

However, playing poker could be a pursuit. There are a set of skills involved which can be honed over time with practice.

Pursuits are not habits, but they can involve habitual practice.

Mixed Martial Arts is a pursuit which benefits greatly from a habitual routine.

Pursuits are the goals we set which never end.

They’re the things which over time we wish to master. Which we do for the sake of continuing to do them.

Nobody ever wakes up and realises that they’ve mastered a pursuit.

Mastery is not a destination, it’s a practice.

Peace doesn’t always mean everyone agrees with you or does what you’re comfortable with them doing.

Sometimes peace means walking seperate and opposite paths to those with which your path is incompatible.

It’s the crossing of opposing paths which breeds disdain.

Peace isn’t a lack of disagreement. It’s a lack of conflict.

My four year old cousin was lucky enough to get a remote controlled car today.

It had one of those awkward remotes with a trigger to control the speed and a small wheel to control the steering.

After a bit of back and forth trying to explain how this worked, it became clear that he was not at all interested in the wheel on the remote controller.

He drove the car from one side of the yard to the other, ran over to it pick it up and pointed it the other way to drive it back.

It’s not that he hadn’t seen how it could be used, nor that he didn’t think he was capable of learning how to do so.

It simply wasn’t important to him that the car was able to turn.

He was perfectly happy chasing it up and down the yard in straight lines.

He had no need to optimise his experience despite the fact that everyone around him thought they knew better.

When you’re busy optimising your own experience, the same applies.

There will be people who simply won’t understand the improvements you’re trying to make.

Some might even get frustrated by the fact that you’re so focussed on your steering wheel.

At the end of the day, everyone’s racing their own race.

Don’t waste energy trying to teach those uninterested in turning how to steer.

In his worthwhile book, The Hapiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt argues that the advantage optomists have over pessimists naturally compounds.

It’s true that the world is structured such that the rich tend to get richer as the poor get poorer, but it’s also true that the happy are likely to grow further happier than the sad.

When it comes to dealing with circumstances which are making them unhappy, “optimists expect their efforts to pay off, [so] they go right to work fixing the problem.”

Even when things fail, they have an inherent understanding that things tend to work out for the best.

When things go wrong, optimists naturally seek out the potential benefits buried within misfortune.

The narrative optimists write for themselves then, is one of constantly overcoming adversity.

Pessimists, on the other hand, live in a world with more apparent risk and less confidence to deal with it.

From the pessimist perspective it’s natural to feel trapped within a narrative wrought with hopelessness; one where bearing the consequences of injust circumstances seems more natural than attempting to change them.

Optimists and pessimists can be dealt the exact same adversity and each write opposing translations.

What’s frightening is that the way each retells the events in their own internal narrative has ripple effects on the remainder of their narrative.

Optimists are more likely to grow from adversity because they can antipate rewards for their efforts.

Pessimists are more likely to be enslaved by adversity because they spend more time managing their pain than resolving their adversity.

This doesn’t mean pessimists can’t grow from adversity. It just means they find it more difficult to do so on average.

“The key to growth is not optimism per se, it is the sense making which optimists find easy.”

Optimist, pessimist or anything inbetween, find a way to make sense of adversity. Come to terms with it. Relish it. Grow.

Locational pride declines the more our world becomes connected.

It used to be that you were born here (wherever that might be) and across borders and oceans, some perhaps seemingly in-traversable, lived people who were born elsewhere.

Due to the nature, difficulty, cost and danger associated with travel, elsewhere may have been so far our of your periphery that you wouldn’t have even considered leaving where you were.

Without having access to elsewhere yourself, the only way you could make sense of here and elsewhere is through the stories you’re told. If it so happens that the majority of those stories were told to you by people who were born on the same plot, it’s likely that here sounded pretty good when compared to elsewhere.

We all have a bias towards the place from which we come because it’s the beginning to each of our stories.

What’s changing is how we relate here to elsewhere. In a world where global travel is accessible to the working class and anyone with an internet connection can take a virtual tour of the colosseum, everywhere is beginning to feel like here.

Even the concept of nationalism seems alien to a generation who have grown up knowing that the earth is their back yard.

Promised that if they work hard enough, they can explore it as they please.

Here is no longer the 50km radius around the homestead you were born in.

Here is everywhere.

Which is why national pride is a joke to a growing proportion of the young.

For what right do we have to be proud of our here until every inch of the planet accessible to us is at peace?

There’s truth to Jim Rohn’s notion, “You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with.”

We really are. The things we do, stories we tell and even the food we eat is in many ways determined by the preferences and actions of those closest to us.

Which, in turn, are determined by the preferences and actions of those closest to them, and so on, and so on.

On a macro level, this is how cultures solidify. Unless you’ve got plans to pack up and leave, you don’t have much control over the culture you’re born into.

What you do control is who within that culture you choose to admire; those you wish to emulate, those you respect, and those you grant the gift of your trust.

Trust doesn’t transfer through blood or by law. It can only be earned.

Look around. If there’s someone close to you who you don’t trust with your future – what’s wrong? What needs to change?