Weekly Insights and Inspiration for Flying Higher in Endeavors that Make a Difference
What if you did great work? What if you performed at a higher level? What if you served the right people? What if you worked with and learned directly from those who inspire you?
These are the questions I ask myself. I feel guilty asking them. I do, after all, already do work I love as a professional guitarist and teacher. It's meaningful work and I enjoy the people I work with. Why challenge what’s clearly working well enough?
People Like Us Do Things Like This
That's it. If you believe in achieving excellence in any endeavor, including being the best human being you can possibly be, what you've already achieved is never enough. You're always asking yourself, "What else?" or "What's next?"
You think about it. You talk about it. You try things. Eventually "what else" or "what's next" starts to come into focus. And suddenly you find yourself doing that.
For me, it was writing The Stoic Creative Handbook. A work dedicated to helping struggling Creatives become...
Yes, I know you’re terribly busy. So much to do and so little time. There are not enough hours in the day.
Are you buying this BS?
Time is not the issue. It’s taste. Where and how are you spending your most valuable resource? What are you spending time on and with whom?
Is it the important stuff like developing your craft? Creating connection? Sharing value with those who need you to show up and deliver the goods?
Take a minute and reflect on what is important to you and what your good at. Who shares your values and needs your talents? What is the one thing you could do or make that would impact these people?
Go. Do or make that. Do it now.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It shouldn’t be big and complicated. It mustn’t require a long explanation.
Keep it simple. Try it out. Watch the reaction. Listen to the response. Think it over. Iterate. Then try again.
It’s simple. But simple isn’t easy.
Getting your ducks in a row?
Your ship to come in?
The planets to align?
The “right” time?
The ducks will line themselves up. You don’t even own a ship. And, when was the last time you took the time to check on the planets?
Time is everyone’s most valuable resource. You’re never going to have more of it than you do right now. Why are you wasting it?
Every moment of every day is another step toward your ultimate end.
The time is now. Now is the time.
“While we wait for life, life passes.” - Seneca
"Actions Speak Louder Than Words"
At least that's what my mama always told me. But over the years I've decided that this is not such great advice. Sure, we should walk the walk and not just talk the talk, but what are we talking and walking for in the first place?!
"A Man's Character Is His Fate."
These are the translated words of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. He's long been a go-to dispenser-of-wisdom on how to live well. Heraclitus was a major influence on another source of timeless wisdom; the last of the late great Stoic philosophers, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Heraclitus and Marcus both have much to say on human nature and how to navigate the messy milieu that is human interaction. Both came to the conclusion that neither what we say nor what we do is of much significance. What really matters is who we are. In other words (Martin Luther King Jr.'s for instance), what is the "content of our character?" Or as the Stoics would say, our Virtue....
Embracing Stoic Determinism
I was hung up on it for years. I’ve heard popular Stoic advocates like Ryan Holiday express the same reservation. Many who embrace the principles and practices of Modern Stoicism just can’t, or rather won’t, accept that their life is fated.
“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” ― E.B. White
We come to the idea of being above fate honestly. If you’re American, it’s part of your cultural birthright. An inherent tenet of the “American Dream” is the idea of “the self-made man.” Of course, your mileage may vary, but if you were born white, male, and even of modest privilege in the good ol’ USA you’ve likely never questioned the idea that you determine your destiny.
But do you…?
Historically, the image of the self-made man or woman involved “pluck,” or the summoning up of courage or boldness. Pluck was required because if...
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly” — Marcus Aurelius
“You should remember, that you were born to die… ” — Blind Willie McTell
Are You Ready to Die?
How you answer that question depends on more than your age, condition, or situation. Your answer reflects your attitude and position on what it means to live a good life.
“Life is just a pilgrimage from the womb to the tomb.” — Cornel West
Ben Franklin famously stated, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, it is quite possible, even easy, to cheat or even avoid taxation. We can not say the same of death. Upon our exit from the womb, as Cornel West has more eloquently spoken, the only outcome that is assured is that our corpse will become worm food.
The ancient Greeks...
None of us are beyond making a mistake, an unintended slight, a misstep, or a moment of cluelessness that causes injury. Don't dig in, make excuses, whitewash, or feign ignorance. The art of apology can turn things around when done well.
Recognize That You Did Something Wrong
You did it. You know you did it and so does the person to whom you’ve done wrong. Denying, rationalizing, justifying, or otherwise running away or hiding from it is making a tough situation worse and a burdensome obligation harder.
State clearly and concisely what you did to whom you did it.
Take Responsibility for What You Did
There, you did the hard part first. Now it’s time to own it. You did it and you know it was wrong. Congratulations, you’re not a psychopath.
Express Sincere Regret
Don’t do this half-way, don’t hold back, don’t worry about having it accepted. Time to say “I’m sorry,” in the most authentic and compelling way you are capable.
Let’s talk about gratitude. Not the mindless act of saying “Thanks” when someone passes the salt, but the mindful act of acknowledging and truly appreciating the people and situations that make up every moment of our lives.
As I write this, Thanksgiving is a week from today. For many of us here in the states it’s simply a day off and an opportunity to over eat and binge watch football. But it can be a reminder and opportunity to practice real gratitude.
Stoic Gratitude Practice
Marcus Aurelius begins Meditations with such a practice. He thoughtfully lists the wisdom, lessons, and virtues each person in his life taught him. Throughout Meditations, he reminds himself to not be attached to position or things and to embrace and be grateful for having his basic human needs met.
Take a small notebook or open a notebook app on your device and begin and/or end each day by writing down three simple gifts, blessings or mercies. They can be people, situations,...
It’s not a bad idea for creative people, like you and I, to pause from time to time and check our motivation and intention. Why are we practicing and sharing our craft? What’s it for?
Do we want to be noticed? Accepted? Praised? Rewarded?
Uh oh, better check ourselves! This path never ends well because it can’t be sustained! When we chase such things there is never enough. These wants can never be satisfied.
What if all we want is to explore? Expand? Inspire? Challenge?
These are meaningful and worthwhile vocations that will lead to true and sustainable happiness.
Check in with your intention and motivation from time to time and be sure it aligns with your purpose and then, carry on! We need and want what you have to offer!
Keep flying higher!
“The 10,000 Hour Rule” was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. I believe in it. It takes a lot of practice to achieve a level of mastery in any complex task that requires higher cognitive thinking.
Learning a language, becoming a chess master, coding, becoming a professional athlete, playing jazz guitar….
You get the picture.
Practicing with intention 4 hours a day 5 days a week (or 3hours a day everyday), and it takes 10 years to achieve a level of mastery of your craft. A daunting amount of time and effort for most of us! But don’t be dissuaded!
We can achieve a remarkable level of competence in any of these endeavors after just 20 hours of practice. In other words, the journey begins with our first steps. Leaping and leaning into the process is the way we begin any meaningful journey.
Passion may be what compels us to begin a new adventure, but purpose is the only thing that will drive us to...