10 Stoic Principles – How to live life to the fullest

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic’s Guide to the Art of Living by Ronald Pies.

Brief Summary:

Ronald Pies is Professor of Psychiatry and Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities at S.U.N.Y Upstate Medical University, N.Y. along with being Editor in Chief of the Psychiatric Times, author of several textbooks, short stories, poems.
Ronald’s book shares with us principles from the ancient Stoics. He utilizes specific quotes and stories from Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius who are three of the founding fathers of Stoicism. The writings of these three men can be difficult to understand, so Ronald does a great job of putting his own thoughts around each of the lessons taught by these men. I like to think of this book a modern-day guide to implementing stoic principles in your life. Today, I share with you the 10 principles I took away from the book.

Principles I learned from the book:

Things do not touch the soul

Think about a time when you have been upset. Ask yourself was it your opinion of those external events that caused you to be upset or the actual event itself. The Stoics would say the former. Others might disagree which is fine. It would be borderline crazy to think that we can indeed control the way we feel, but the Stoics believe that we have much more influence over our emotions then we are led to believe.
When feeling frustrated or upset follow this ancient stoic practice: Ask yourself how important is this issue going to be hundreds of years from now? The answer is probably not very likely. It is only your perception of the problem that makes you feel as if it is important. As referenced in the book Shakespeare once wrote in his play Hamlet “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Don’t be bewildered by appearances

This is the classic line “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The ancient stoics urge us to see beyond and beneath our first impressions of anything. Be careful not to instantly make a judgment. Take a step back. Think it through, and remember that the other person might be dealing with something that might be causing you to misinterpret them.

If you once gain time for thought, you will more easily command yourself

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about something and you realized you were wrong? Happens all the time. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a deep breath, processing the information and then deciding on what to do next.

Death creates meaning

The Stoics saw no difference in “the one who lives longest” and “the one who will die soonest.” Our society thinks in terms longevity, not depth and quality of life which leads us to believe that we have time. It is the reason you think you can start that diet tomorrow, or push that goal back a day or so. The stoics remind themselves of this: Hundreds of thousands of years from now, how big of a difference will it matter whether you lived 20 years or 100 years. People do not remember you for how much time spent, but the impact you made on them. So in short, your time is valuable. Live each day like it is your last.

The art of living resembles wrestling more than dancing

Why would you want to wrestle with life vs. dance with it? Marcus Aurelius teaches that we must always be prepared for whatever comes in our way whether good or bad. As you know, life can be diffucult at times. And what can make it even more difficult is our society’s obsession to praise the winners and quickly forget about the losers. It all comes down to perception. We see the champions dancing at the end, but we never got to witness the wrestling they went through. So, if you want to live a good life follow Marcus’s advice don’t be afraid to wrestle with both the good and bad of every situation.

Focus on what you can control

“Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in doing everything according to the right principles; but when you have failed, return back again – Marcus Aurelius

“If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously…calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure….if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activities according to nature…you will live happily” – Marcus Aurelius

Before you decide to start something, don’t think about failure. Think about everything that is in your control. If you follow through on the parts you control, then you can’t fail. You either are satisfied, or you learn where you can improve.

Live in the here and now

As the Stoics would say, You can’t change the past. You can’t control the future. But you can learn from your past and help dictate a better future by living in the now. This is what a day one mindset is all about. You get an opportunity every morning to reset your life.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must first achieve self-love and self-sufficiency

In our society, we tend to blur the lines between what we want and what we need. According to the ancient Stoics, to truly find happiness in life, we must realize the difference between the two. As Seneca puts it, ” What is my object in making a friend.” Do I need to have a friend, or do I want to have a friend? The difference between the two will determine how you go about a friendship with someone depending if you believe you need or want that friendship.

Remember, someone is always dealing with it worse

Straightforward practice here. When every you feel mad or upset about anything remember that someone is probably dealing with a worse situation.
“Seneca imagines nature saying to us, “ Those things you grumble about are the same for everyone. I can give no one anything any easier. But anyone who likes may make them easier for himself. How? By viewing them equanimity.”
If you can not control or fix it, then don’t worry about it.

Everything has two handles

Marcus Aurelius believed that we control two things: our attitude and behavior. In any situation bad or good you must realize that no one is stopping you from acting with kindness, gratitude, or integrity. You control what you do next. We are always faced with two choices or how the Stoics saw it two handles. You can choose to view the situation as positive, or you can choose to view the situation as negative. You always have a choice one which handle you choose.

How has this book impacted me?

The last few years I have been on a journey to understand what truly makes someone a great leader. I have sifted through many biographies and researched a ton of past and present leaders. The most common theme I found is that they all studied or were very familiar with the ancient philosophy of stoicism. It amazed me. Some of them were natural leaders, and some learned how to be leaders. But at the end of the day they are not any different than you and I. They just simply followed principles like the ones you read above. I am sure as you read them you thought to yourself, “Wow. This is common sense.” I thought the same thing at first. Then, I thought to myself how many of these principles am I actually following on a daily basis. The answer was 0. I decided to change that and try my best to implement as many of them as I could. It has changed the way I think and live my life. I challenge you to truly try to apply one of the principles above. You will be shocked by the results.
Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick; and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us be thankful.” – Ronald Pies

Learn how to become a modern stoic here

All We Got Is Time

As we continue on our journey to reaching our potential, we must remember, it is not about what has happened to you, where you came from, how long you have been here or where you are at today. It’s about what happens next and what you did with what happens to you and how you deal with what you are given. No matter who you are we are all given a time limit the day we were born. We can’t hide or run from it. We must embrace it. We must be ready to take action on every opportunity we get. To help me along the way I utilize these four simple principles as a guide to keep me moving forward.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint

As human we tend to be  A and Z thinkers, we obsess over how to start, and then we dream about what the end result will be. This type of thinking naturally leads us to neglect B thru Y.  From time to time, it will be important to remember “why” you started and where you want to end up, but we must not forget reaching your end goal is always is a process of many small things completed over an extended period of time. It is vital that you give B thru y some love. How do you do this? It is simple.

Instead, break up the task at hand into small pieces. Do what you need to do right now. Accomplish that thing. Then, move on to the next thing.

Never stop moving forward

The most straightforward and easy habit to form is reminding yourself constantly of what you control. Whenever you feel the emotion of anger, frustration, or thought of giving up remind yourself you are in control.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Look at the situation objectively. It is what it is.
  3. Ask yourself what do I control?
  4. How or what do I need to solve this?
  5. Now, move forward.

Embrace failure

Here is the thing, you can never create a plan that can prepare you for trying. You just have to do it. The amount of time you spend talking about your plan vs. actually taking action on your plan will end in you living a life full of regret. The best part about trying is that no matter what it will lead you to two outcomes:

  1. You fail. We learn the task or idea we thought was possible was not.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went wrong here? What am I missing? What can be improved?

  1. You succeed. We learn that the task or idea we thought was possible was.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went right here? How can I improve? How can I maintain it?

Guess What? Life goes on and no matter the outcome you learned. If you failed great. If you succeeded great. At least you know you tried. Remember, nobody ever regrets trying.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions

One of the ancient stoics practices is to remind yourself of this question: how important is this moment or issue hundreds of year from now? The answer is… probably not very important. Sadly, what you do today may or may not have any impact in the future. The fact is time will continue to march forward with or without you.

Depending on how you look at it you might feel the exact opposite of taking action. However,  the stoics posed this question to themselves to make them truly understand who they really were and allow themselves to fully believe in what they were supposed to do. It forced them to ask even more profound questions which can answer the most underlying reasons for why we choose to do anything in our lives: Why are you here? What is the point? What is the purpose? Why wake up today?

These questions are simple, but yet so difficult for people to answer. Why? Most of us are afraid to find the answer.

Good thing it’s day one.

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Today We Are Rich

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence by Tim Sanders.

Brief Summary:

Tim Sanders was an early stage member of Broadcast.com (think Mark Cuban), and he was a former executive at Yahoo! Today, he is an international speaker, consultant, and author. In his book, Tim shares with us his personal story of moving back home to live with his grandmother while he was going through some hardships. While back home, he learns from his grandmother the 7 principles of “confident living.” He shares personal stories about each principal and how they can be used step-by-step to overcome obstacles to become more confident and achieve your full potential.

Things I learned from this book:

Feed the mind

This is one of the easiest things to do but yet so difficult. Tim simply explains that we must reduce or eliminate the things in our lives like social media, news, and friends that gives you negative thoughts. No surprise here, but by doing this it will increase your overall happiness and positivity. Tim was way ahead of his time considering I read this book about 7 years ago which makes social media look like an infant. As we enter 2018, it is more vital than ever to try to eliminate the crap out of your mind. Here are some tips I learned from Tim:

  • Write down everything you read, listen to, and watch. You will be shocked at how much unnecessary crap you are wasting your time with.
  • Once you have seen all the crap, you can start reducing it one by one. For example, cut people out of your life who are negative, and delete friends on social media who are constantly creating drama and creating negative thoughts in your head.
  • Spend your time reading books, editorial pieces from credible authors, and watching credible shows which discuss solutions instead of problems. 
  • Avoid waking up and looking at your email or social media. The first thing you see every morning should be something positive.
  • Keep an ongoing journal in your mind or on paper of successful things that happen and use that as a way to combat negative or self-doubting thoughts.

Move the Conversation Forward

To me, this is an essential skill to have and the #1 principle you must be able to master. I personally took this principle as the idea of how to take a conversation with yourself or someone else and find the good in it. It reminds me of the many times, we get caught up in a conversation and drown ourselves in the problem instead of looking for a solution. I see so many people do this and it creates a downward spiral that leads to taking no action.  

Tips from Tim about how you can continue to move the conversation forward:

When processing the information it comes in four ways, and you should frame every bit of information:

  • Good – Either for you or for someone or something you have an interest in
  • Neutral – No direct effect on you or one of your interests
  • Get Busy – Adversity you need to respond to
  • Bad – A irrevocably negative effect on you or one of your interests

Use Willis Carrier’s (Founder of Carrier – Air Conditioning) advice to move the conversation forward:

  • Define the worst case scenario
  • Accept it as survivable
  • Make a good goal of beating it

Always be Prepared

  1. Become an expert in your craft:

A few easy ways to do this is to read books in your field, network with other individuals in your field and find a mentor or mentor an individual who works within the same industry. How many people do you know do any of those three things? To be honest, I know very few people.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice:

Run through the presentation as it actually will be. Every detail of the presentation should be precisely the same when you are practicing. From the setting to the running through the entire presentation it should all be done as if you were presenting live.

  1. Expect the unexpected:

Something I have learned time and time again is that nothing goes according to plan. We should always prepare for “objections” or potential challenges we will run into and assume the worst case scenario. It is very important especially for sales and business. I know personally that I have fallen into this trap thinking a call would go one way and I was not prepared for the objections that came up. Though my reps don’t like when I seem pessimistic on a deal, I am just trying to prepare for all scenarios so we can win the deal.

How has this book impacted me?

One of the particular ideas expressed in this book, “move the conversation forward”, really moved me. Ever since reading it as a young professional it made me rethink the way I communicate with others and the ways I talk to myself subconsciously. Over the years, I have been trying to understand and learn as much as possible about the human mind and how we can control our thoughts. It has led me to a philosophy called Stoicism that I now consider a big part of my life professionally and personally.  

I read this book twice in my life: once as an early professional, and again as a sales leader. I personally use three of the seven principles discussed in the book every single day and I credit them to a lot of the early success I’ve had in my career. The best part is that the principles can be implemented by anyone and when they are, they can change your life and your career.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Buy “Today We Are Rich” here and check out Tim’s other books, all of which are great. If you are not a book reader but enjoy great content, follow Tim’s blog here: http://timsanders.com/blog/