The truth about money

“Let’s pass over to the really rich – how often the occasions they look just like the poor! When they travel abroad they must restrict their baggage, and when haste is necessary, they dismiss their entourage. And those who are in the army, how few of their possessions they get to keep…”

— Seneca, On Consolation to Helvia, 12. 1.b-2

Today we are reminded that money and material goods will not fix issues that dwell within us. Instead these external devices only change the environment. Be careful not to put those on top of the financial ladder on a pedestal, for they too have many of the same fears and the same insecurities.

I so easily forget this, and focus myself on making more. This then leaves me feeling anxious and worried, like I am not doing enough. And so I start to descend down the rabbit hole. No matter how much have, you will always want more. It will never be enough, unless you define what enough is.

Ambition is good, growth is essential, and desire can be really a powerful tool – just be mindful of the sacrifices that need to be made. As money will not fix you.

Never do anything out of habit

“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.”

— Mosonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5-11

Today’s lives are busy. We are often left rushing from one place to the next, using our latest GPS device to map the easiest and fastest directions. Yet, over the last few years I have found so many people dependent on these tools. So much so that they cannot find a well known establishment them. The have become dependent upon it. Dependent on a tool – but with that tool we have formed a habit, and without the tool we are lost and confused.

The Daily Stoic uses this passage as an example to constantly question procedures we often follow at work, but also throughout our lives. By continuing those processes, never questioning and never adjusting, we leave ourselves open for attack, or missing opportunities that we would otherwise desire. Taking a moment to review and assess, and by always changing and adapting, gives you, your team, and your product or service the opportunity for longer sustainability.

Jocko Willink talks in his latest book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, about the need to disengage, detach, and step back as it often offers a new perspective on how to handle a situation. I think his lesson applies both in good times as well as in bad. I find it easy and almost natural to conduct a self assessment when you are not happy or you feel your life is being put through a grinder. Yet, how about when everything is going well. After you just received that big bonus or obtained the dream job. Habits can keep us locked in and pushing forward, without thought or reason.

The allure of complacency is an enticing one. This is one more reminder to keep constantly pushing at the edges of your comfort zone – both physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Habits are not bad in and of themselves, as they do lead to greater efficiencies, sustainability and discipline. Yet, be careful. Control your habits, and don’t let your habits control you.

What habits do you have in life? How do you find they help? How do they hinder?

Peace is in staying the course

“Tranquility can’t be grasped except by those who have reached an unwavering and firm power of judgement — the rest constantly fall and rise in their decisions, wavering in a state of alternatively rejecting and accepting things. What is the case of this back and forth? It’s because nothing is clear and they rely on those most uncertain guide — common opinion.”

— Seneca, Moral Letters, 95.57b-58a

Euthymia — “Believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction”. [as defined by Seneca according to The Daily Stoic, pg. 23]

This is a nice follow up from the previous meditation on cutting the strings. Self doubt, also known as “the imposter syndrome”, is one of the most influential strings that pull on your mind. It impacts powerful people and regular people alike, holding us all back from our dreams.

It is hard to fight, as it strips us of the very confidence we need to move forward. Yet, all is not lost. Stop and look at all the angles, different perspectives. Find value in the “trying” and not just the completion. You may fail – but did you learn something. If you place value on the learning, then nothing is a setback and no time was lost.

Cut the string that pull your mind

“Understand at last that you have something in you more powerful and divine than what causes the bodily passions and pulls you like a mere puppet. What thoughts now occupy my mind? Is it not fear, suspicion, desire, or something like that?”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.19

When we talk about temptation we are often referring to that surrounding lust or self indulgence. Yet, all of us fight temptations and distractions with a far greater pull, and often they are subtle and difficult to identify. They will appear to us as things that require our attention, and they might, which is why it can be hard to discard them out of hand.

These last few days, I have been struggling to keep myself focused and undistracted. In that, I have not been doing my work, or not all my work anyways. I have been fighting the demons of distraction, as well as insecurities of inadequacy around some personal projects. They pull constantly, and if allowed can pull me from my efforts.

I took some time to assess, and took steps forward once more. So, I see where these strings can halt a lot of progression forward. I hadn’t framed it like that, but if we are not conscious about it they will guide us instead of our own determinations.

Circle of Control

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country — anything with which we might associate.”
— Epictetus, Discourses, 1.22.10

Once again, we return to the concept of what we control and what we don’t. Further refining it, and reiterating on the importance of it. Here we can clearly see where the line is drawn.

Inside the circle: your choices, your thoughts, your will — things that otherwise depend on your moral will.

Outside the circle: your body, your environment, your possessions, your family, and those around you — in essence, those things in which you are associated.

I believe, this is often why stoics get misinterpreted as unemotional. And in fact, some of the attraction is the idea that emotions can be suppressed. And yet, they are not suppressed – they are managed. Emotions are typically the result of a physical response by the body – something outside our control. What we choose to do with those emotions is what is inside our circle of control.

I listen on and off to the news, but find I am less and less interested – especially when things get translated into the social media platforms. While I keep my finger on the pulse so I can make reasoned choices, I ignore much of the social interactions that result. They create divides between friends, they are not within my control, and generally they do not impact my day-to-day life.

However, to completely put my head in the sand and abstain from current events (world or personal) would deny me the ability to make a reasoned choice. Choices ranging from helping a friend move on the weekend to who to vote for in an upcoming election. We make choices every moment of every day, let them be well reasoned and tied to your moral understanding.

Social media has done nothing but expose us. There is no social media, we are social media. They’re empty platforms, we fill it.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, @garyvee

A wise person knows what’s inside their circle of control and what is outside it.” – Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic.