Lessons in Stoicism: The Illusion of Control, and How to Deal with Adversity

Lessons in Stoicism is a book written by John Sellars that introduces the Stoic school of philosophy made famous by Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus in the first and second century AD.

One of the main themes in Stoicism is the idea of control within one’s life. The Stoics asked themselves what they really control. The answer – the only thing we can control is our judgements. Although judgements are only a small part of the mind, the Stoics believed that because we can control our judgements, we are able to control what truly matters for our wellbeing.

So, if our happiness is based on our romantic relationships, career, possessions, appearance, or health, we are leaving our happiness in the control of external forces. Even though we can take actions to aid us to be successful in the categories above, we ultimately cannot control whether a partner loves us, whether a company hires us, whether possessions remain in our possession, and whether the body remains healthy. So make your goal simply to do the best you can.

Another tenet of the Stoic philosophy is how to deal with adversity in one’s life. Stoics believed that adversity is the stimulus that is needed to develop as a person, and that life wasn’t complete without facing any difficulties – that would be the real misfortune! Even so, the Stoics remind us not to seek out adversity and drama for the sake of it, it will happily come naturally in the timeline of our lives.

The Stoic philosophers practiced a technique called the premeditation of future evils. They thought about all the possible bad things that could happen in their lives – the death of a family member, loss of reputation and riches, loss of health etc. This may seem like a negative thing to do, but the Stoics found that when people avoided thinking of these setbacks, they were ill-equipped to deal with the reality of it when the time came. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk frequently thinks about what he would do if he found out his mother had died in a car accident – not only does it prepare for the probable event that his mother will die before him, it realigns him to what is truly important in his life.

Read more about Stoicism in some of Seneca’s most revered essays: On Tranquility of Mind, Consolation to Helvia, and On the Shortness of Life.

A Simple Method to Improve Relationships and Provide Value

It’s much easier said than done, but:

Treat every person you meet as if they are the most important person on Earth.

In today’s society, it feels like narcissism and inflated egos are on the rise. How do we stop that within ourselves? Follow the rule above.

There’s nothing in the world that people need more than self-esteem, the feeling that they’re important, that they’re needed, and that they’re respected. Once you’re able to give them this feeling, they will give back with love, support and loyalty.

Act toward others in the way you’d like them to act towards you.

Treat every person you meet as if they are the most important person on Earth.

Happiness the 80/20 Way

Richard Koch writes in his book The 80/20 Principle some daily and medium-term stratagems for happiness. Unlike money which can be saved and spent later, happiness is experienced in the Now and the more happiness we experience day-to-day sets up us for happiness going forward.

Koch’s Daily Happiness Habits

  1. Exercise
  2. Mental stimulation
  3. Spiritual/artistic stimulation or meditation
  4. Doing something for another person or people
  5. Taking a pleasure break with a friend
  6. Giving yourself a treat
  7. Congratulating yourself on a day’s worthwhile living

Koch’s Medium-term Stratagems for Happiness

  1. Maximize control in your life. This could come in the form of self-employment for example, and usually requires planning and some risk-taking. Those that lack autonomy in life usually end up stressed or bored.
  2. Set attainable goals. Goals that are too easy lead to complacency, and those that are unrealistic lead to demoralization. Attainable goals give us something to stretch to and keep us stimulated. Err on the soft side when setting goals. Remember that hitting goals is good for happiness!
  3. Be flexible. Chance events tend to interfere with expectations, and it’s our job to do the best we can do given the situation. Goals and strategy may change and the more ready we are to take the challenge on, the happier we will be.
  4. Have a close relationship with your partner. Koch reminds us that the happiness of your partner will have a huge bearing on your mood too, and vice versa. In that case, choosing your partner is one of the most important decisions to be made in life – teaming up with an unhappy partner is likely to lead to you being unhappy too. This also highlights your own happiness you bring to the relationship, since it’s just as bad to be bringing your partner’s happiness down too.
  5. Have a few happy friends. Most of your happiness will usually derive from a small number of friends. Make sure you are spending the most time with the friends that give you energy and happiness.
  6. Have a few close professional alliances. You shouldn’t be friends with all your work colleagues, but it makes sense to be close friends with a few of them. Not only could this help with your career, it also increases the pleasure you take from the time you spend at work.
  7. Evolve your ideal lifestyle. An ideal lifestyle is unique to each of us. Consider where you’d need to live and who with, what kind of work you’d be doing, and how much time is allocated to family, socializing and hobbies. An ideal life would be one where we are equally happy at work and outside of work.

The Five Love Languages: Which Do You Speak?

The Five Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman outlining how the key to love that lasts is through identifying your partner’s primary love language and loving them in the way that they respond to.

Chapman writes that when we are in the initial “in love” phase for the first two years or so, we are experiencing a temporary emotional high, and when we come down from that we have to be ready to truly love. One of the main reasons our “emotional love-tank” will be so high in this initial phase is probably because we are using all five of the love languages frequently.

But it turns out that what makes us feel loved differs from person to person. Chapman identifies the five love languages as:

Words of Affirmation

These are verbal compliments and words of appreciation. This can come in the form of writing notes, messages or verbally on the phone and in-person. Tone of voice and eye-contact are also important – it not only matters what you say but how you say it.

Quality Time

This is expressed as going on dates together, quality conversation between the two of you, and times where there are no distractions and you can simply be together.

Receiving Gifts

Receiving a gift translates to the feeling that your partner was thinking of you.

Acts of Service

This is when you do a task such as cooking, taking the bins out, taking the car for an oil change for your partner. Acts of service can be easily identified by requests that your partner makes of you – those are the things you can therefore do to make your partner feel loved. Even if they’re things you don’t really enjoy doing, knowing that it’ll make your partner feel loved should give ample motivation.

Physical Touch

This not only includes sex, but also more subtle touches like a hand on the shoulder, an embrace or hand-holding.

So how do you know which one is your primary love language?

If you are in a relationship, you can ask yourself what it is that your partner fails to do that hurts you the most. You can also think of the way you express your love to your partner – this could be the way you want your partner to love you.

Although it is easy to think it would make sense to choose a partner with the same primary love language, it doesn’t necessarily indicate maximal compatibility. For example, a person who loves receiving gifts may not be very good at giving them. In another case, one person’s version of quality time could be dining out at a fancy restaurant, while for the other it could be going camping and fishing. Chapman describes that there are different dialects of the same love language that exist.

What’s most important is knowing each other’s primary (and secondary) love language, and loving your partner in the way they feel loved. By filling each other’s emotional love-tank, we feel significant, and energized to meet life’s other challenges.

For Tony Robbins’ tips on relationships, click here and here

The Defining Decade: What People In Their Thirties Regret About Their Twenties

Contemporary culture tells us that our twenties aren’t that important. They’re for experimenting, travelling and generally fucking around. But Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade disagrees. As a clinical psychologist that mainly sees clients in their twenties and thirties, Jay wrote The Defining Decade to give readers an insight into how important the twenties can be.

The world is changing. Most people in their twenties are graduating from university to find that getting a graduate job in their field isn’t easy. Competition is higher than ever, and it seems more like it’s who you know rather that what you know that determines whether your applications will be seriously considered. As a result, many people in their twenties end up doing jobs that they’re overqualified for – jobs in bars, coffee shops or retail. Jay’s clients who end up in these positions often feel unhappy and disappointed. Too many of these types of jobs for too long can impact our future finances and career. Wages usually peak in our forties so we could be wasting valuable time to increase our earning power.

Jay recommends that people in their twenties focus on increasing their identity capital – the collection of skills, relationships, and professional resources that we build over our lives. This may be through taking a pay cut to work in a lowly job in a lucrative industry, in order to get your foot in the door and work our way up. A simple way summarizing it as Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad says, is: “Don’t work to earn, work to learn.”

A common problem Jay encounters while speaking to her clients is that they are anxious because they are comparing their situations to other people on social media. They’ll say “All of my friends are getting married and having babies,” when that is statistically very unlikely. The ones that are doing so might even be people they never talk to anyway, but just happen to be friends on Facebook. It’s important to remember that social media is usually a highlight reel, and even so, comparison is not necessary – what’s important is that you are working towards your own goals, not trying to imitate another’s.

There is a huge discrepancy to how people regard dating in their twenties compared to their thirties. People in their twenties tend to partake in the hook-up culture that has become more normalized over the last few decades. They often go into relationships with people that they know for sure that they won’t end up marrying, but they’re okay with it anyway. When people turn thirty, it can switch like a game of musical chairs when the music stops – everyone ends up pairing up with others, even if they may not be entirely compatible. Jay recommends that people in their twenties be more intentional with their dating so that they don’t have to rush or panic when they start to get a little older.

Jay also warns about the dangers of cohabitation with partners. People in their twenties often move in with their partners because of convenience, or to share financial costs. Before too long, they feel like the next stage is marriage, but they might not really be totally compatible for each other. This is what Jay terms “sliding, not deciding”. Jay recommends if partners are to move in together, to have a conversation about how committed they are to each other and where they see their relationship going in the future.

Another gripe that Jay’s clients often talk about is how their relationships with their family aren’t what they hoped or wished for. Maybe they felt neglected, unloved or unsupported. The good news is though, as an adult they can choose a second family through their partner – getting along with your partner’s family can be a large source of well-being and a sense of belonging.

In a study of people in their twenties, they rated that their most important goal in their life was to be a good parent, followed by having a good marriage, and then a good career. So if people know for sure that they want to have children at some point in their lives, they need to know this: Females become half as fertile from their peak in their twenties at age 30, they are only 25% as fertile at age 35, and 12.5% as fertile at age 40. That’s not to say that people in their thirties and forties cannot have children, but the chances of fertility issues or miscarriages are much more common, and it can be devastating. For men, quality of sperm decreases with age too, although it is not quite as drastic.

The biggest takeaway from Jay in The Defining Decade is that we must do the math on our lives. If we are planning on going to law school and becoming a lawyer, and then want to get married and have three kids after, then what age do you have to start law school? The answer most probably is right now!

For a lot of people reading in their late-twenties or early-thirties, the outlook can seem bleak. But it’s much better to know all this now before it really is too late.

Tony Robbins: 3 Simple Tips For Relationships with Men

An intimate relationship usually results from an attraction between a masculine and feminine energy. Today’s post is for those with feminine energy in the relationship, and how to treat their partner with masculine energy.

Men Need to Feel Appreciated

There’s nothing that can make a man feel more proud and empowered than a partner that makes him her hero. He will feel as if he can run through brick walls for her, fight for her and die for her.

Criticism, on the other hand, weakens connection. The man feels weaker, and even if it feels like you are simply “coaching” him, it can distance him and potentially force him to looking for somewhere where he feels more appreciated.

Men Need to Feel Opened Up To

When you’re open, it invites your man to open up too. Often, the only person a man opens up to is his partner, so closing off this line of connection is detrimental to the relationship.

Feminine energy is flowing, intuitive and beautiful for a man to experience and be in the presence of. The radiance of the feminine adds energy, passion and connection to the relationship. Being in your own element is what he loves about you.

Men Don’t Want to Feel Controlled

One of the most difficult, but effective feminine traits is surrender. Men want to take the role of the courageous protector, and don’t like to be told what to do by their partner. Even though they are in a relationship, they want to feel free to pursue their goals and hobbies, and have ownership and control of their own lives. Being controlling is actually counterintuitive and forces your partner away, even though it may be the last thing you want.

Neglecting these actions could eventually lead to the man becoming insecure, less assertive and feeling weak. The loss of masculine energy creates a loss of passion and intimacy – a depolarization that could lead to the end of the relationship.

Click here for Tony Robbins’ tips for relationships with women.

Tony Robbins: 3 Simple Tips For Relationships with Women

An intimate relationship usually results from an attraction between a masculine and feminine energy. Today’s post is for those with masculine energy in the relationship, and how to treat their partner with feminine energy.

A Woman Needs to Feel Seen

Picture the husband stonewalling his wife while he sits on the couch watching sports while she’s trying to communicate something to him. Or a time when she wears something different to impress her partner and he doesn’t notice. Women do not want to feel invisible, especially to their partners.

Be present with your partner and make them feel seen. Look them in the eyes while you are talking to them, and compliment sincerely about their appearance or any positive behavior.

A Woman Needs to Feel Understood

A classic example of men misunderstanding the feminine energy of their partners is during communication of a problem or life situation. Women generally prefer to tune into their feelings, while men favor thinking. So when a women express their problems, they are just looking for someone to empathize with them, and fully understand them. That’s when they can begin to trust their partner, feel more comfortable and share more.

Instead of trying to solve the problem instantly, as most men will automatically do, it’s better to listen actively your partner first to make sure you are on the same page. Usually your female partner will know how to solve the problem deep down, they just want to work it out aloud with someone.

A Woman Needs to Feel Safe

Women have an evolutionary drive to feel safe more than men do. Naturally, they are weaker and more prone to attack, so when a woman feels safe she can then open up and share passion with her lover.

Safety can come in different forms and it’s your job to find out which forms are important to your partner. Physical safety of being there to protect her in potentially dangerous situations, psychological safety of knowing that you will be reliable and adept in decision-making, or possibly even financial safety and knowing that you have the resources to provide for her and any potential children.

If these actions are neglected over a period of time, it’s likely that female with the feminine energy will have to adopt some more masculine traits. If her man isn’t able to make decisions she will have to make them herself. If he isn’t able to listen to her, she may have to close off and try to solve problems by herself. The resulting depolarization is devastating for the relationship – any passion or attraction escapes quickly when the feminine has to take on the masculine role too.

Click here for Tony Robbins’ tips for relationships with men.

Man’s Search For Meaning: What Viktor Frankl Can Teach Us About the Meaning of Life

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who was subjected to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. Once the war ended and he was released, he wrote Man’s Search For Meaning in a nine-day span, describing his experience in the concentration camps and his theory of logotherapy – that meaning was the central motivational force in human beings.

Most of the book describes the conditions that the Jews had to endure in the Nazi concentration camps. I couldn’t help to feel more grateful that I hadn’t ever had to deal with that kind of suffering or torture before. Even as we complain of being locked down in a pandemic, it pales in comparison to the suffering endured in the Nazi concentration camps.

Frankl outlines that meaning is the central motivating force in human beings. The meaning that an individual has doesn’t have to be the same as everybody else’s, and an individual can have multiple meanings for life. The meanings can also change with time and circumstances.

Frankl described three sources of meaning:

The first source of meaning comes from life’s work. Frankl was determined to survive the concentration camp because he believed that he needed to produce academic work on his theory of logotherapy once the war finished. While he was in the concentration camp he was unable pursue that work, so he had to make sure he survived to be able to get back to regular life as an academic and finish his work.

The second source of meaning comes from love. Frankl remembered that when he was on his arduous daily walk to his labour camp during the Second World War, he would picture his wife, the love he had for her, as well as the thought of being able to see her again once the war was over. This was another motivating factor for him to survive the concentration camp.

The third source of meaning comes from suffering. In the concentration camps, Frankl realized that the Nazis could take away everything except for the attitude that he chose to have towards the suffering he was experiencing. Once he added meaning (and sometimes humour) to his suffering, he no longer felt as if he was really suffering. Frankl observed that there was a deadly effect for anyone who lost hope and courage in the concentration camps, as well as those who were overly optimistic about their release dates (to find out eventually that they were not released by the date they had in their mind).

Frankl does note however, that just because meaning can can be found in suffering, you do not need to seek suffering to find meaning (the first and second source of meaning should be the main focus).

In summary, Frankl’s book is a reality check for us. What it also does beautifully is take the pressure off the individual to find their one life’s purpose. We can remember that there can be many purposes, and they change over time. As long as there’s an inkling of meaning in the moment, we might just be okay.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life Rule 10: Be Precise in Your Speech

This chapter was mostly about a hypothetical situation where a woman finds out her husband has been having an affair. Peterson hypothesizes how this could have occurred and what could have been done about it. One of the most important things (I assume) that makes a good relationship is communication. But the communication needs to be a particular way. It cannot be vague, it needs to be precise. It needs to be specified what is bothering the person, and what they want instead. Brushed under the carpet and it’s a long and torturous marriage, no matter how little the annoyance. From that breeds resentment and bitterness.

The dangers of avoiding conflict is put forth thought-provokingly in an example by Nassim Taleb in the book Antifragile. He surprisingly describes that the frequency of military conflict occurring in his native Lebanon is in fact healthy. He explains that as a consequence conflicts occur as small skirmishes as opposed to a less frequent but devastating all-out nuclear war. In the same way this is why forests should be allowed to burn periodically to clear out deadwood and return nutrients to the soil. If forest fires are artificially suppressed, the deadwood accumulates. When a fire eventually starts, the whole forest burns and gets destroyed.

In a marriage, conflicts that should occur that are suppressed can eventually lead to divorce. The wife and/or husband did not have enough courage to bring up issues that would eventually snowball to the point of no return.

I did a personality test recently that deemed a weakness of mine was that I was romantically clueless. I would love to dispute this but I don’t think I have enough evidence to make a case! Therefore this chapter was quite revealing to me in what can make or break a marriage.

Be precise in your speech.