I ran across this quote from Walden yesterday. It is the last line in the book:
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard times. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”
Most people remember Walden for the escape to the woods, throw away busy life theme. But after two years on the pond his conclusion is you are where you are so love it. Don’t escape. Love it as it is. That is very stoic and fits with my experience.
Read this in a blog today: “Asking open-ended questions encourages the person you’re conversing with to think critically and therefore to be more engaging because open-ended questions allow the respondent, not the asker, to control the response.” In my experience, I agree.
My favorite Open Ended questions:
“How did you…”
“In what ways…”
“Tell me about…”
“What’s it like…”
I used some of these on my 4 year old during facetime today. Instead of “how was school?” which tends to get a one word “good” or “bad”. I asked “Tell me about school today?” and got a very long story with drawing, lunch, snacks, dancing, etc.
Ryan Holiday recently mentioned an all but forgotten book from Tolstoy which the author claimed was really his culminating life’s work. A Calendar of Daily Wisdom is Tolstoys attempt to summarize the best advice he had read over his lifetime into a daily inspirational work that could share his version of how to live a good life from authors and thinkers around the world. He quotes from the likes of Kant, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, the Bible, the Koran, and event the Talmud. It is wide ranging and refreshing in how much similarity there are in the core ideas across cultures and time. While a bit heavy on the religious themes and invocation of faith in a higher power, it is clear that the goal of all philosophy and religion is to give is insight to live a good life NOW. I have added reading the days inspiration. From this to my morning routine and I recommend you do too.
Some selected quotes:
One of the key questions we face is whether our lives end after death. Whether we believe in eternity or not determines our actions. Therefore, it is crucial that we determine what is mortal in us, and what is eternal, and that we cherish those things eternal. Most people do exactly the opposite.—After BLAISE PASCAL
It is not the place we occupy which is important, but the direction in which we move.—OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
The only real science is the knowledge of how a person should live his life. And this knowledge is open to everyone. Leo Tolstoy
I just answered the Moral Machine self driving car scenarios and i did it honestly unlike it seems most respondents. This is one of the artifacts of surveys like this. The issue comes down to what reference point are you applying to your answer? When asked “moral dilemmas” most people try to answer what they think others want to hear, they take the “what if my answer were published in the New York Times?” Approach, typically choosing whatever is politically popular today. That is why in this survey the average respondent to the “protect passengers” questions are exactly in the middle. Indifferent. Yet is everyone really indifferent?
To combat this bias I took the purposeful approach of answering the question not as if were some theoretical car with theoretical people. I decided to answer as if it were my car with my family in it and I didn’t know the animals or pedestrians. That is the 99.9% real life scenario. When I buy a self driving car I want it to have variables that I can configure on these kinds of things. And I for one will set it to always protect me and my family. When researchers ask the question this way (your family in the car) they in fact find that there is a significant preference to protect the passengers.
When reading these kinds of survey results. Always ask yourself it the designers considered the frame of reference correctly and if you were in the car with your children would you answer differently
My friend TA McCann just started a new podcast, How to Live to 200. I was one of his first guests. We talk about how I got sucked into the Biohacking world, some of the quantified ways I have gotten younger over the last year, and a few peeks into the crystal ball on upgrades coming down the pipe for the rest of us.
As the father of three daughters, this is a very important one. Disney and Barbie teach girls to fawn for the affection and attention of others and to strive for perfection. The better way is to strive for learning, creativity, resilience, and grit. Lets do that.
This weekend I was with an interesting group of misfits on a short retreat focused on consciousness exploration and insight. There was a lot of time spent identifying negative stories that may no longer serve us going forward. One verbal trick the facilitator used to break negative habits is to replace “but” with “and” in most cases. I found it incredibly liberating and helpful. “But” tends to be an ending, to stop the thoughts, while “and…so” offers the opportunity to continue. Here are some common examples.
“That girl is so amazing, but she will probably not want to talk to me.” End of conversation.
“That girl is so amazing, and she will probably not want to talk to me, so If I am right, I don’t lose anything by trying.” Opportunity opens.
“I want a promotion at work, but I don’t have enough experience to get it.”
“I want a promotion at work, and I don’t have enough experience to get it, so I will Focus on building experience needed for a future promotion.”
“My father was an asshole, but I am sure he did the best he could.” making excuses, a justification for hurt.
“My father was an asshole, and I am sure he did the best he could, so I am going to do the best I can with my children and not dwell on how bad my parents were.” Turn a negative memory into motivation to do better now.
Saturday was Women’s Equality Day and it happened to fall just as the controversy about a memo from an employee of Google about female programmers is finally dying down. If the ancient Stoics were here they would have shaken their heads at that entire fiasco. First, they wouldn’t let the scribblings of anyone, let alone some random employee at a tech company, get them so upset. And second, they would have said to that random employee, “What the hell are you so worked up about, man?”
They would have disliked the memo because it tried to argue about averages, as if they mattered in any practical way. The Stoics had no time for that nonsense—they cared about the individual. They would have agreed with Theodore Roosevelt’s point when he was asked about the then controversial movement for women’s suffrage. He said he didn’t understand the big deal, because whatever differences there might have been between genders, it paled between the differences he saw between “men and other men.” Point being: It doesn’t matter what group anyone is a part of—it only matters what they do with their individual capacities and potentials.
The Stoics were shockingly early to the notion of equality of the sexes. As Musonius Rufus put it, “not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.” More important, they believed that everyone and anyone was capable of excellence, regardless of station, origin, or gender. Epictetus was a slave, Marcus was emperor, Cato’s daughter was a woman and so was Seneca’s mother Helvia, who he wrote often about Stoicism—all were expected to rise to their particular occasions and we admire them because they did.
The next time you find yourself drawn into some idiotic debate about racial differences, about gender, about immigration, about identity, resist the mistake of applying labels and make judgements from them. There are brilliant men out there and utterly incompetent ones. There are brilliant women and utterly incompetent ones. (And this is true for every other kind of category.) We are all equal in that way. The only inequality that matters—that we should judge people on—is what they do as an individual.