Tag Archives: wisdom

6/1/2020 – Why Violence?

In a conversation with someone I care deeply about over the weekend, the question was asked: “Why do they need to use violence to get their point across?”

It’s a question I’ve seen countless people asking on social media in the last week. I’ve heard people demanding answers in heated discussions. I’ve seen various forms of it, including dismissive versions like “how does stealing TVs solve racism?” 

It’s a great question, and a valid one. Because no, the single act of stealing a TV does not end racism in America. If that is your argument, congratulations, you can have that point. 

But you’ve also missed the larger point altogether.

Have you ever been bullied? I mean truly, mercilessly, repeatedly bullied. Over and over by the same jerk, and there was nothing you could do about it. I have. I was bullied a lot as a kid. A lot.

I couldn’t escape it. Everything I did was always wrong, was always pointed out to me. I felt stupid, I felt small, I was defenseless. I lost all confidence. I questioned myself in everything I did. It grew to affect me in ways that were totally unrelated to the acts of bullying I endured. I couldn’t talk to girls and had trouble making friends. I felt no value in myself at all, so why would they? I lost motivation in almost everything, and I started giving up. I stopped trying to play baseball (which i loved), i stopped getting good grades and gave up on getting into a good college. I had no hope. I became isolated. I had no allies to help or defend me.

When I wasn’t being bullied mentally and emotionally, I was being physically bullied. So why didn’t I fight back? Isn’t that what they say? If someone bullies you, fight back. So why not fight back? Because I was tiny, and I didn’t know how to fight. I didn’t start growing as an adolescent until a couple months before graduating high school.  I didn’t have a prayer of being able to defend myself. I was so scared. It was easier to give up, or comply, no matter how wrong the bully was, so that the torment would end quicker, than it was to fight back. 


When you are repeatedly and intensely bullied, the thing you begin to feel is “hopeless.” Especially when you have no one supporting you. Hopeless. It’s a dark feeling, and one that many people never truly feel in their lives. 

But one day, I’d had enough. After years of the abuse, I didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t take it. I reached my end. I picked the fight, over something so trivial and stupid, I don’t even remember what it was. In that isolated moment, I was in the wrong. AndI knew I was going to lose, but I didn’t care. 

The feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, depression, and helplessness… for a minute, they all faded, and for the first time, I felt something else, something very, very different. For a minute, they were all replaced by raw, uncontained rage. I blacked out. I don’t even remember very much about the next few minutes.

I got my ass kicked. Soundly. I was no match for the size and skill advantage of the bully, and it wasn’t long before a break in the fighting caused me to get up, dust myself off, and then run away. There was no question that I had lost the fight, completely and totally. That night, all the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness returned, and I cried myself to sleep.

But something had changed. I had used violence for the first time in my defense, and I was confused by it. For a few brief moments, I hadn’t felt worthless. This was confusing to me, because I grew up going to church and being taught that violence was always wrong. But now, something about it felt… different. It didn’t feel good, but it also didn’t feel as bad as I’d been taught it was. There was an allure to it now, it felt tempting. It felt productive. I felt alive.

I look back over the last 19 years of my life since that night, and i have regrets about using anger and violence to solve my problems. It set a dangerous precedent for me that has become one of my biggest struggles (mainly anger, not as much violence), one that I’ve only begun to truly control and deal with in the last year or two.

But something else happened that night. It was the beginning of the end of the bully. I may have lost the fight, but the spell of control and power was broken. Word got out that I had stood up to the bully, and others began to rebel as well. I never allowed that power to be wielded over me again, and it wasn’t long before the bully was powerless and alone for a change, as no one would even talk to the bully, eventually. The bully became depressed. 

But why do I share this story? Because it’s the same thing that is happening in America right now. Black people have been bullied, in ways that white people can’t possibly comprehend, for hundreds of years, and they have run out of rational ways to react to it. The bullying is still happening, often on full display of the public (but exponentially more commonly in very subtle ways that you can’t see unless it is happening to you), and the reaction is emotional, it’s physical, and at the moment, it is violent. Sure, there are some people stealing TVs and breaking windows and escalating the aggression, but that in no way diminishes the point that protesters are trying to make. 

They have tried to enact change in every other way possible, and none of it has worked.

I am not promoting the burning of buildings and looting of stores.

But would you criticize me for using violence to stand up to my bully? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. Do I regret it? Yes, a little. Would I use violence today to stand up to my bully? Honestly, probably not, when I think about it. But did things change for me? Yes they did, in many ways. So it is a difficult conundrum for me to consider.

So during the madness occurring on the streets of our cities right now, when you ask “Why do they have to use violence to get their point across?”  
I will answer your question with the same question directed back at you:
“Why do they have to use violence to get their point across?”

5/25/2020 – Memorial

“Show me that the good life doesn’t consist in its length, but in its use, and that it is possible – no, entirely too common — for a person who has had a long life to have lived too little.” ~ Seneca

In a country that notoriously doesn’t take enough time off work to stop and take a breath, I’m thankful that we have a holiday that begs us to stop and remember the warriors who have fallen in service of it. In addition to a mindfulness of gratitude, I think every fallen soldier would also want us to take a moment to contemplate if we are making the most of the gift of their sacrifice.

And so for today, I leave you with a simple question: Are you making the most of it? Do you wake up with an excited vigor for what you are working towards? Do you experience the periodic moment in the middle of your day where you suddenly realize “this is my life, and I love it”?  Or even better, do you have projects or goals in front of you that make you even a little nervous about? That frenetic energy that comes from staring at an obstacle course ahead, but knowing that the only thing you can do is run straight at it and embrace the challenge.

Do you have any of these things in your life right now? Even in the margins, in small fragments? If not, ask yourself why?  And the key word in that sentence is yourself. That’s not a situational question, It’s not a question of “why haven’t any of these things found me?”  No, it’s a question of why you haven’t put yourself into a place to find it.

Inspiration is always available. You just have to reach up and grab it. The easiest way to find it is to force yourself to do something new.

And if you do have these things in your life, consider yourself fortunate. Contemplate them today, call out why and how you are grateful for them. If it is a person that grants you this joy and motivation, make sure you tell them today.

If you do have these feelings, these motivations, these joys, then enjoy today with the confidence and hope that you are living life the way those who sacrificed for us would prefer. You are earning it.

5/18/2020 – …From tribe and fire

Rather than relay to you what my focus is for the week, I want to share someone else’s words. I have only 2 requests: Read it, and then read it again. On the 2nd read-through, go slow and imagine each bit of imagery provided, as separate moments in a life. Then think about them all strung together, like lights on a string across your backyard patio at dusk.

Small Kindnesses
     By Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”


If you feel like it, please share with me your thoughts after reading this. How does it make you feel? How does it make you want to interact with the world around you?

Go out and do that this week.

5/11/2020 – What if _?

“If we ever do want to become wise, it comes from the questioning and from humility – not, as many would like to think, from certainty, mistrust, and arrogance.    ~ Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic

Why are we so bad at “uncertainty?” Why does lacking a definitive answer make humans so uncomfortable? Why are we unable to be patient and wait for clarity to come to us?

Why, instead, do we manufacture our own certainty? Why are we unable to accept that what we don’t know is not a reflection upon our own value and character as a human? Why do we rush so quickly to premature judgment?

Why are we afraid to say “i don’t know”?

What if, instead of reacting immediately to every scary thing or suspicious thought we are introduced to, we simply didn’t do anything? What if we just decided to sit on those thoughts for a bit? What if we didn’t expend so much energy hammering away on the keyboard? What if we didn’t re-share that video that raises a lot of “important” questions that “everyone needs to see”? 

What if we didn’t allow our nervous, insecure thoughts to control our brains? What if instead we looked for healthy ways to empower our brains to control our thoughts. What if we slowed down?

What if we were able to take an honest look at what we do know, and what we don’t know? And what if we could find a way to accept those 2 things, regardless of how little control it causes us to realize we actually have over everything?

What if we just paused, and waited for the answers to catch up to us? Would we miss that time? 

Or do we instead know for certain that the way we are reacting quickly to things now is definitely the best way? Does it feel like the best way? Are we definitely accomplishing more? Are we winning? Are we proving to everyone that we definitely know more than the next guy? Do we feel better now?

What if we tried something different?

5/4/2020 – True Freedom

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal freedom. Not the type of “personal freedom” you see fueling facebook arguments and public demonstrations on capitol building front lawns. I mean the type of freedom that allows one to feel content and beholden to no one, and how to achieve it.

On the surface, “true freedom” sounds quite simple: being able to do whatever the hell you want. But that’s not quite it, is it? I think it is necessary to analyze a little deeper, which leads to thinking about needs versus wants. Put more simply: True freedom is having everything you need.

But what do you really need? Have you ever really thought about this? An earnest examination is not so simple. Do you need that extra outfit you’ve been eyeing online and can’t wait to buy? Do you need the new model iphone? Do you need that promotion at work? That new gadget or car? Why? Will it really make your life finally achieve that elusive balance you’ve been seeking?

If you’re a little uncomfortable with this line of thinking, it’s okay. I am too. It goes against everything most of us are taught as children. “If you work hard enough, you can have anything you want” is a thing we hear a lot in America. Forgetting about whether or not it’s accurate, is that a healthy way to think?

Throughout civilization’s greatest thinkers, this has been a common point of contemplation, and thus, there is no shortage of clever quotes to point us in the direction of wisdom and learnings of those who came before us. From Socrates (“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”) to Thoreau (quote above), from Gandhi (“Live simply so that others may simply live.”) to Fight Club (“the things you own, end up owning you). The human race is seemingly surrounded by cautionary wisdom that we can’t be bothered with. We can’t help ourselves, the allure of excess is too great. 

The encouraging side of this dissonance however, is that it actually starts to feel really good when you figure out how to start telling yourself “no.” When you begin stripping the unnecessary from your life, it can almost become enjoyable, and the more uncompromising you become with yourself, the more attractive it all becomes. This is something I’ve been learning these last couple months.

I’ll cap this with an example that I read recently in my “the Daily Stoic” book, by Ryan Holiday.

“The late fashion photographer Bill Cunningham occasionally declined to invoice magazines for his work. When a young upstart asked him why that was, Cunningham’s response was epic: “if you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.””
That’s the most punk rock thing I’ve ever heard. That’s true freedom.

4/27/2020 – Little Things

While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things. ~Saint Francis de Sales

Reading these words felt like a gentle slap across the face. I really, really needed to hear them in a way that should have been more obvious to me.

For the majority of my life, I’ve always sought out those “big moments”, whether it be the crucial play of the game in sports or grand romantic gestures for a love interest (which usually only took place in my imagination instead of reality). Unfortunately the side effect of this type of movie magic romanticizing was that I often found myself bored with the everyday moments, the little things. They just don’t capture the imagination quite as dramatically, do they?

Last week I took a break from writing. If I’m honest… I just didn’t feel like it. I sat down a couple times and stared at the keyboard endlessly before ultimately giving up, again and again. Coming off a couple tough weeks, I was lacking the creative inspiration. And when paired with the lack of momentum of habit, there just wasn’t anything there. So I gave myself a break. I decided that if it wasn’t going to be authentic, I wasn’t going to do it.

One of the other problems with this “seeking the big moment” approach is that, by default, I am constantly putting myself under the pressure to one-up myself in a way that can become unhealthy. Not to say that reaching higher is bad, it isn’t, but there is an intelligent balance to be struck, and I’m not always very good at finding it. 

So lately, I’ve been trying to find more quotidian things to mindfully appreciate and enjoy. It almost feels uninteresting to write about them, but I suppose that is kinda the point, if I’m serious about learning this concept. Some of these simple things have been making my own coffee (I buy my beans from local roasters i really like and I use a Moka Express to pull espresso shots), or riding my bicycle (which i haven’t done regularly since childhood), or building playlists on Spotify and channeling my inner high school kid making mixtapes.

Yesterday I woke up and made myself a beautiful cup of coffee. I took my time to grind the beans extra fine for the espresso I desired and spent a whole minute just appreciating the aroma of the fresh grind, taking note of the differences and similarities between scent and taste, and the gift to appreciate as I began brewing with my Moka Express, I added a little oat milk to make a cortado and then slowly enjoyed the complex flavors of such a remarkably simple beverage.

Not long after that, I was on the road, muscling my way through a 20 mile ride (which isn’t impressive to serious riders, but I’m just getting back into this!). I took particular pleasure to feel the wind in my face and the burn of my lungs and legs as i pushed myself faster and harder along the bike path. I stopped at the halfway point at a park and laid down in the grass, soaking up sunlight, imagination drifting along with the clouds in the sky as I listened to my American Southwest-themed playlist. I imagined I was a cowboy resting alongside my old horse in the middle of a long journey in search of some wistfully unknown adventure. It was a silly little fiction in my mind, but I let it float along until it ran out of energy. I then practiced a breathing exercise for 10 minutes before hopping back on the bike and finishing the ride.

It was an incredibly simple day filled with numerous little things. And yet, when I was finished and laying in my bed that night, it felt like one of the greatest days I’d had in a very long time.

4/6/2020 – This will all make sense someday

“Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason.” 

~ Epictetus, Discourses

About 4 weeks ago, this quote was a featured topic of the day in my “The Daily Stoic” readings. I knew it was a good reminder, so I wrote it down, but I didn’t realize that it would still be sticking in my brain over a month later, due to drastically different circumstances.

It’s a funny and simple reminder that I want to pass on to you today. Obviously everything is such a strange upside down world we are all living in right now, and the surreal, sobering reality of it is impossible to avoid anymore. And with that, reasoning with yourself that someday you’ll be able to look back on all this and say “…and that’s why that all had to happen” with a degree of awareness and wisdom is comforting to me.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday and I mentioned wistfully how badly I wanted to go camping up in the mountains and get away from all this. He replied matter-of-factly with a “yeah but it’s cold up there at night right now.”  It ended the topic pretty quickly.

Understandably, I was simply dreaming of better days, and there’s nothing wrong with that, even if it isn’t very productive at the moment. But my friend’s response also put things in perspective in a real, yet helpful way. The point is that while it’s okay to dream, it’s also useful to keep some small measure of reality nearby. Would a camping escape solve all my world’s problems right now?  Not if I was freezing to death.

And so it is with that semi-humorous reminder that I look at our present situation and remind myself that it won’t be so long before I’m looking back on this time of pestilence and isolation with a sense of greater understanding and perspective. I encourage you to see it this way as well.

3/30/2020 – Retraining the Mind in these uncertain times

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

~ Wayne W. Dyer

Last week I really tried to scrutinize what my normal routine had been for the first 2.5 months of this year, before it was derailed by the coronavirus’ impact on our normal way of life, and examine what could be improved and adapted to this new lifestyle we are all suddenly living. It was a good exercise, and one I’m not certain I’m finished with yet. In fact, I think this is a good thing to do every few months, in order to constantly check your direction to make sure you’re sailing on the correct course.

Lately I’d been understandably feeling a little demotivated and out of sorts. The current state of things had made it much harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel of work I usually find myself in, and the unexpected obstacles seemed almost insurmountable to me reaching even my short term goals. I didn’t have a plan for any of this. It was the perfect time to take a step back and reevaluate.

While I can’t say that I’ve “figured it out,” I can say that I’m slowly identifying small changes I can make to help me regain my previous momentum, but also more importantly, help me slightly alter my mental perspective. More specifically, rather than solely focusing on the output and outcome of just work, I see that it may be even more important for me to be focusing on the state of my mind and it’s comfort level, both in and outside my work.

There is probably a deeper dive somewhere in here about mental health and stress management, etc. but I want to keep this fairly surface-level and action oriented for the purpose of this writing. I’ll leave the rest of that other stuff to doctors and scientists. But the thing I’m after here is trying to ratchet up the acuity with which I direct at my own state of mind by reverse engineering the things my mind takes in and puts out, and evaluating how I can better manipulate those things to achieve a more satisfied, peaceful state of mind. Especially in these crazy times we’re living in right now.

For example: It can start as simply as examining the measure of success of a thing. Previously, my measure of success may have been the creation of a plan or document, or a completed contract, or a closed sale, etc.  Notice a theme there? All of those things indicate some level of finality, something I cannot easily achieve in the current state of business. Under my old way of thinking of success, my inability to achieve any of these milestones would cause me to feel a sense of failure in my work, which would in turn add to the sense of futility or lack of direction I had been feeling in recent weeks.

Conversely, in my current state of action, instead of focusing the measure of success on something that can be defined by finality, I’ve begun shifting my source of satisfaction to the quality of work I’ve put in. Instead of just “checking boxes” off a to-do list, I’m focusing more on how that box gets checked, and afterward my brain is deriving a sense of satisfaction from that, rather than a sense of incompletion. I guess this could be more simply wrapped up as a “quality, not quantity” approach, but it feels different to me, mentally. I don’t think it’s as simple as switching lanes, I think it takes genuine mindfulness to appreciate the difference, instead of just going on auto-pilot.

Following that same line, I’ve also decided to start meditating every day. This is something I’ve attempted to do before, but have not always gotten the same amount of value that everyone else around me seemingly gets. By default, I may be one of the lucky few that doesn’t easily get overwhelmed by my thoughts, or consumed with anxiety, so the sense of peace that should come with attempting to calm the mind isn’t usually as pronounced for me, unfortunately. However, with the amount of “waiting” that seems to exist within any meaningful business action currently, I see the value in taking the time to exercise this discipline with that time, instead of planning too far ahead. 

My hope is that I will learn something additional and unexpected while I commit just 5 minutes a day to attempting to quiet the mind and let everything else talk for a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, retraining my brain a little to focus on more important internal successes instead of quantifiable external successes might grant me something more valuable and more peaceful in the long run.

3/16/2020 – The Loudest Voice in the Room

The last week has been quite the wild ride, no? But instead of the crazy roller coaster ride that takes you up and down and all around, this is more the kind of roller coaster that just takes you straight down.

I didn’t really know what to write this morning (which is why I’m late sending this out). Coronavirus panic and concern has been unavoidable. There isn’t a social media platform or news outlet that isn’t completely plastered with news, advice, statistics, and general content related to this global pandemic that has suddenly gripped the entire world and awakened us to a new reality. You just can’t seem to get away from it, and it is becoming obvious: Things are going to be different now.

I spent some time yesterday reflecting back on just how surreal this whole thing has been over the last couple months. Particularly in the last week, the havoc has been remarkable. Financial markets have been decimated (my stock portfolio is basically toast), the travel industry reeling, the service industry and all its employees suddenly not sure how bills will be paid, all sports industries canceled indefinitely (it seems in retrospect that this component seemed to suddenly wake americans up better than anything else. Leagues like the NBA should be commended for such quick movement, while other organizations like, say, our President and his team, should be ashamed for their incompetent, and even reluctant inability to take action.), and so much more have all been thrown into a dreadful uncertainty of what the foreseeable future looks like. It really is a crazy thing we are going through right now. A true black swan event. Something that I certainly have not seen in my entire life, and in fact the successful investor Warren Buffet even said it took him 89 years to see something like this happen. It is unprecedented.

As I’ve watched and read and listened to people talk about and dissect this worldwide crisis that is playing out before us, I’ve paid close attention to people’s response mechanisms with a passively observant curiosity. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it until yesterday, as I reflected back upon the last week. Two things struck me:

Firstly, I was struck by how little we still know, and how that is currently affecting us as a people. Not that the scientific community “doesn’t know anything,” quite the opposite (in fact, if you’re looking for a really good central resource, check out this Google Doc my friend Marcus put together, pulling info mainly from Johns Hopkins, instead of the conjecture being passed around on Facebook). I’m more referring to the eventual outcomes of the disease and this “containment phase” we must endure, and the fallout of the economy and residual effects to communities worldwide. It is strange that such a faceless villain can wreak so much disruption, and leave us with such a heavy sense of unease and uncertainty.

And that leads me to the second thing that has stuck out to me: our behavior in that unease. Through conversations with friends, silent observation on social media, and the rest of the cacophony sounding off on the subject, 2 response patterns seem to emerge the most obviously:

  1. Defiance and denial. This behavior is marked by those who minimize the danger and refuse to adjust behavior. Things like “We’re all gonna get it anyways” and “It’s no different than the Flu,” and similar statements are frequently expressed.
  2. Total panic, overwhelming stress. Doomsday prepping, irrationally buying toilet paper, getting worked up to the point of exhaustion, are all common for this behavioral response.

Obviously neither of these are healthy, nor are they responsible. Neither of these behaviors are well informed, well researched, or well balanced strategies. But they seem to be the loudest. It begs the question:  Why do we rush to assess judgment in uncertainty?

I’m sure there is a psychological explanation available in this somewhere, that people have an instinctual need to comfort themselves in confidence during crisis, even if it is constructed from a false sense of security. But I’m no psychologist, so I’ll spare the speculation.

But there’s a less obvious third behavior that remains patiently silent. Waiting, watching, collecting information, self-educating, this person doesn’t make declarative or ignorant proclamations on social media or amongst friends. In contrast, they cautiously prepare while also maintaining a cool head by not allowing emotion to get the best of them.

Unfortunately this third person doesn’t use the soapbox approach by trumpeting their thoughts outward, so they get drowned out by the other two response types. It is the unfortunate reality of modern life, and it often feels like there is a severe lack of reasonable thought out there. 

So how do we address this? How do we find a way to bring more reasonable thought to the forefront and fade ignorant behaviors to the background?

In times like these, I think it is important to take an honest accounting of our own behaviors and assess. In the last few weeks, if you’ve behaved like one of the first two behaviors, don’t feel any shame, just change your behavior. It’s not even a difficult change:  If you’re not an expert, just quiet your desire to speak up, and make room for those who actually are experts. It’s that simple. Don’t contribute to confusion, panic, or ignorance.

And if you are someone who has been patiently observing and educating yourself, keeping quiet, keep doing what you’re doing. And perhaps try your best to gently let others know what they are doing or saying is not really helpful in as peaceful a communicative effort as possible. Be an example of patient confidence in a world of chaos. Show people a better way.

As a species, we need to get better at living with uncertainty. We don’t have to immediately possess the answer to everything. Arrogant confidence is not a strength, it’s a weakness.  It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” it’s okay to acknowledge gaps in understanding or skill, in fact it is crucial to success. It is imperative we learn how to shut up and wait.

We’re going to eventually get the answers and the security we seek, and we’re going to get through this together. We just need to maintain composure, be patient, and make room for wisdom to be the loudest voice in the room.  And no, that wasn’t a social distancing joke ;-p

2/24/2020 – And Remove All Doubt  

There’s an old saying I’ve been thinking about recently. It is often incorrectly attributed to Abe Lincoln or Mark Twain, but the actual author is unknown. It goes like…

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”

~ unknown

In my readings on Stoicism lately, a quote with a similar meaning from Cato the Younger was the focal topic (though not quite as humorous). I have been trying to meditate or use these words as a mantra as much as possible. It has a slightly different angle, but similar purpose. Here are those words:

“I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.”

~ Cato the Younger

Anyone who knows me well has undoubtedly seen me dig my heels in on something at some point, and if i’m being honest, such moments will not be included in my lifetime highlight reel. My opinionated nature is something that can embarrass me or get me into trouble from time to time. But those passions have also led me to some of the most satisfying moments in my life as well, as the commitment and effort driven by my passion makes the victory that much sweeter in the end when the path isn’t easy.

As I’ve begun lately to commit to the effort of self improvement, finding a more graceful middle ground of these two extremes without dimming the fire has been at the forefront of my mind. Over the last month, I have focused simply on shutting my mouth and listening more, but that is only part of the equation.

In another recent reading from “The Daily Stoic,” the topic was “You don’t always have to have an opinion,” and the central idea was learning the discipline not to give control to your opinions, particularly negative ones. This is accomplished simply by observing an idea, acknowledging its existence without assigning it any personal meaning. It is a strange exercise, and one that goes against every modern human instinct, but it is surprisingly beneficial, as it allows one to collect more information and learn more than is possible when one quickly wades into battle with an opinion.

But when combined with Cato’s words above, it has proved to be a powerful combination of self-analysis and evaluation of my words and how I use them. When I combine the importance of delaying the selection of my opinion with the evaluation of whether or not I am *actually* changing anything by speaking the words in my head, a sobering humility is the first result. This discipline forces you to place an actual value on your thoughts, and to censor yourself if that value is not greater than the value of silence.

But there are also other unexpected outcomes. You begin to really listen a lot more. And you begin to collect much more information. You suddenly have more space to analyze the words of others, and you are often able to pull out truer motivations than what others’ words are even directly conveying on their own. 

Another outcome is the leveling up of one’s contributions. The self-regulation of one’s contribution sharpens ideas to a point where only the best efforts are offered, enhancing the efficiency and output of the quality of work at hand. Everyone benefits from this practice, in multiple ways.

In today’s world of always-on, extremely loud, and overly aggressive in-your-face opining on display at every social media platform or publication available, this discipline may be more valuable now than ever before in our history. And while I may only be at the beginning of this practice, I know this work is worth the effort, even if I fail often. 

Or, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote as advice to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald: 

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

May we all be so eloquent, so as not to remove all doubt.