“Understand that their life is their business and yours is your own?”
The foundation of a free country is that your freedom to swing you fist ends where someone else’s nose begins. That is, someone else is free to do what they like until it interferes with your physical body and space. This saying can work as a great personal philosophy as well.But living that way will require two important assumptions. First, you ought to live your own life in such a way that it doesn’t negatively impose on others. Second, you have to open-minded and accepting enough to let others do the same.Can you do that? Even when you really, really disagree with the choices they’re making? Can you understand that their life is their business and yours is your own? And that you’ve got plenty to wrestle with yourself without bothering anyone else?
“Stepping up and helping is a service that leaders provide to the world.”
Have you ever heard someone else repeat one of your ideas as though it was their own? Did you ever notice a younger sibling or relative mimic your behavior, perhaps the way you dress or the music you listen to? Maybe you moved into a new neighborhood and a bunch of hipsters followed. When we are young and inexperienced, we can react negatively to these situations. Stop copying me! I was here first!As we mature, we start to see them in a different light. We understand that stepping up and helping is a service that leaders provide to the world. It’s our duty to do this—in big situations and small ones. If we expect to be leaders, we must see that thankless service comes with the job. We must do what leaders do—not for the credit, not for the thanks, not for the recognition. It’s our duty.
The goodness inside you is like a small flame, and you are its keeper. It’s your job, today and every day, to make sure that it has enough fuel, that it doesn’t get obstructed or snuffed out.Every person has their own version of the flame and is responsible for it, just as you are. If they all fail, the world will be much darker—that is something you don’t control. But so long as your flame flickers, there will be some light in the world.
A long To-Do list seems intimidating and burdensome—all these things we have to do in the course of a day or a week. But a Get To Do list sounds like a privilege—all the things we’re excited about the opportunity to experience. This isn’t just semantic playing. It is a central facet of the philosopher’s worldview.Today, don’t try to impose your will on the world. Instead see yourself as fortunate to receive and respond to the will in the world.Stuck in traffic? A few wonderful minutes to relax and sit. Your car broke down after idling for so long? Ah, what a nice nudge to take a long walk the rest of the way. A swerving car driven by a distracted, cell-phone-wielding idiot nearly hit you as you were walking and soaked you head to toe with muddy water? What a reminder about how precarious our existence is and how silly it is to get u...read more
Today things will happen that will be contrary to your plans. If not today, then certainly tomorrow. As a result of these obstacles, you will not be able to do what you planned. This is not as bad as it seems, because your mind is infinitely elastic and adaptable. You have the power to use the Stoic exercise of turning obstacles upside down, which takes one negative circumstance and uses it as an opportunity to practice an unintended virtue or form of excellence.If something prevents you from getting to your destination on time, then this is a chance to practice patience.If an employee makes an expensive mistake, this is a chance to teach a valuable lesson.If a computer glitch erases your work, it’s a chance to start over with a clean slate.If someone hurts you, it’s a chance to practice forgiveness.If something is hard, it is a chance to get stronger.Try this line of thinking and see whether there is a situation in which one could not find some virtue to practice or derive some benefit. There isn’t one. Every impediment can advance action in some form or another.
Sometimes our habits get stuck in a bad pattern that pushes us further from our natural, healthy selves.
Viktor Frankl, the brilliant psychologist and Holocaust survivor, cured patients suffering from phobias or neurotic habits using a method he called “paradoxical intention.” Let’s say a patient couldn’t sleep. The standard therapy would have been something obvious, like relaxation techniques. Frankl instead encouraged the patient to try not to fall asleep. He found that shifting focus off the problem deflected the patient’s obsessive attention away from it and allowed them to eventually sleep normally.Fans of the TV show Seinfeld might remember an episode called the “The Opposite” where George Costanza magically improves his life by doing the opposite of whatever he’d normally do. “If every instinct you have is wrong,” Jerry says to him, “then the opposite would have to be right.” The larger point is that sometimes our instincts or habits get stuck in a bad pattern that pushes us further from our natural, healthy selves.Now you shouldn’t immediately toss out everything in your life—some stuff is working. But what if you explored opposites today? What if you broke the pattern?
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Yet that’s exactly what most people do. They tell themselves: Today, I won’t get angry. Today, I won’t gorge myself. But they don’t actually do anything differently. They try the same routine and hop it will work this time. Hope is not a strategy!Failure is a part of life we have little choice over. Learning from failure, on the other hand, is optional. We have to choose to learn. We must consciously opt to do things differently—to tweak and change until we actually get the result we’re after. But that’s hard.Sticking with the same unsuccessful pattern is easy. It doesn’t take any thought or any additional effort, which is probably why most people do it.
“The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we might listen more and talk less.” —DiogenesAmerican author, Robert Greene considers it a law of power: Always Say Less Than Necessary.We talk because we think it’s helping, whereas in reality it’s making things hard for us. If our spouse or friend is venting, we want to tell them what they should do. In fact, all they actually want us to do is hear them. In other situations, the world is trying to give us feedback or input, but we try to talk ourselves out of the problem—only to make it worse.So today, will you be part of the problem or part of the solution? Will you hear the wisdom of the world or drown it out with more noise?
Plans, as the boxer Mike Tyson pointed out, last only until you’re punched in the face.
It would be nice if someone could show us exactly what to do in every situation. Indeed, this is what we spend a good portion of our lives doing: preparing for this, studying for that. Saving for or anticipating some arbitrary point in the future. But plans, as the boxer Mike Tyson pointed out, last only until you’re punched in the face.Some do not seek to have the answer for every question or a plan for every contingency. Yet they’re also not worried. Why? Because they have confidence that they’ll be able to adapt and change with the circumstances. Instead of looking for instruction, they cultivate skills like creativity, independence, self-confidence, ingenuity, and the ability to problem solve. In this way, they are resilient instead of rigid. We can practice the same.Today, we will focus on the strategic rather than the tactical. We’ll remind ourselves that it’s better to be taught than simply given, and better to be flexible than to stick to a script.
Just because you’ve begun down one path doesn’t mean you’re committed to it forever.
In The Dip, Seth Godin draws an interesting analogy of people you see in line at the supermarket. One gets in a short line and sticks to it no matter how slow it is or how much faster the others seem to be going. Another changes lines repeatedly based on whatever he thinks might save a few seconds. And a third switches only once—when it’s clear her line is delayed and there is a clear alternative—and then continues with her day. He’s urging you to ask: Which type are you?Seems Seth is advising us to be this third type. Just because you’ve begun down one path doesn’t mean you’re committed to it forever, especially if that path turns out to be flawed or impeded. At that same time, this is not an excuse to be flighty or incessantly noncommittal. It takes courage to decider to do things differently and to make a change, as well as discipline and awareness to know that the notion of “Oh, but this looks even better” is a temptation that cannot be endlessly indulged either.