Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letters to a young man 20


Hello my friend. I've been thinking over the questions you sent to me following my last letter, and before the new year is upon us I want to address your concerns. To start with, you understand in theory that sex isn't everything, but your every waking moment is filled with a burning desire you wish to quench. And you wonder what point there is to deny yourself things.

I realize that for a younger man, nature is sometimes your enemy. Every part of your body is primed and on the lookout for opportunities to father offspring. Even if you have no awareness of your body's goal, you no doubt feel the pressure that it brings to you. Your loins may literally lead you, and also cause you to make mistakes.

How often do you see a teenage couple with a stroller at the mall?

As you get older, these passions wane a bit, but they don't disappear. Believe me, age is no panacea for the troubles of life. I know men older than I who are still ruled by their bodies and desires. You can temper yourself as a younger man, I'm just saying it's more difficult, as you well know.  And don't think that I don't have my own struggles now. It gets easier to remain focused, and to step back out of your own fire, but work must be done. The focus must be acquired through action, like honing the edge on a blade.

And so, I realize that my advice to you may have come as a bitter pill. To swallow it may seem to abandon every urge you have. And you'd be right to question me. I never ask you to put what I say into practice without having thought it through. The problem, of course, is that thoughts are slippery like fish, and can easily deceive us.

In many ways, there is nothing to be done. You must plod through your course. However, I know that if you push yourself, even just a little, you will reap the benefits, benefits that I wish I'd earned earlier in life. I never advocated that you deny yourself for some philosophical reason. It's more to do with appetites and how the effect you.

As you start the new year, contemplate one thought:

The thing is not to be successful with women; the thing is to be successful with life.

Yes, I gained your attention long ago with talk of women, and I am forever guilty. Yet I know what you think of and what you desire. I tell you that men everywhere are as concerned with sex the way that a fat man is concerned with food. Or the way that a woman is obsessed with her appearance. In each case, there is some health and benefit to attending to the desire. Yet, crossing that threshold, there is little difference in derangement from the obsession.

Push the plate away when you are no longer hungry. If you cannot tell when you are hungry or not, how do you expect to see anything clearly?

Take care.


My book on stoicism.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Letters to a young man 19


Hello my friend.

You have been going in circles and are disappointed when you reach the place you started from, again and again. There are moments when everything is bright and clear, and then darkness sets in and consumes you. How many times I have found myself in your shoes throughout my life. And now you ask me where you might find the exit.

Men enslave themselves. Everywhere I look I see men who are bound by their needs. Men who would otherwise be free. I ask you a question, because you have been looking for such a long time, and looking in the wrong place:


How much validation will you seek in the warm embrace of women's bodies before you realize that what you're looking for is not to be found there?

The target is easily missed by pointing yourself in the wrong direction. You must exit and turn around.

One day you'll wake up and none of your old concerns will matter anymore. You will have found the exit.

Yes you will say, but where is the exit? You will press me, and chide me because I give you no ticket. I tell you there is no easy exit. You will be tempted to turn and find comfort and solace in the easy distractions. Before you know it, you will be back in the endless loop.

So hear me.

Struggle against your own complacency. Continue to chase after what you seek with women until you have exhausted yourself. You will have success and failure; hope, and despair. And when you reach your lowest moment, you will be faced with a realization that may alarm you.

There is only you. What you're looking for doesn't exist out there.

You will have to accept this. It doesn't mean that you cannot and will not have meaningful and important relationships, with women and other men. That is not the point. When you reach that low point, when you have that realization, you will know what I mean. I mean that what you seek is something you build yourself.

Just being in the gym means nothing, it's what you do while there that counts.

When you accept this you will begin to see the world and your life differently. You will see things that used to attract you differently. You will be repulsed by some of those things. Others will not move you either way. And some things you never found attractive will become so.

As you walk around and no longer seek the old things, you will seek new things. Where you used to start a conversation with someone with the end-all-be-all goal of having sex, you will seek only conversation and connection. You wish to know what makes the other person tick. There is no rush to exchange bodily fluids. You will offer more than you seek to take. And the reaction from those you deal with will be hard to miss.

You will have become the prize. No longer seeking what others have to offer.

You will feel a peace you've never felt. You'll laugh and embrace your contentedness.

And yes, there will be new difficulties and new challenges. An easy life is a life not fully lived.

You will finally look yourself in the mirror and see the man you've wanted to be looking back at you.

Take care.



My book on stoicism.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The wisdom of Michael Byc


I can't for the life of me figure out why Michael Byc's blog isn't blowing up with comments like other bloggers in this neck of the woods.

The guy is wise beyond his years.

The first time I read his blog was like a shot in the arm. I knew I'd happened upon something good. Much like when I first happened upon Donlak's blog.

There are other writers I could add to the list but for brevity's sake I'll stop there for now.

Byc's writing style is unmistakable, it's unique and makes an impact. Read a few of his posts and you'll know what I mean.

I've linked recently to his blog and specific posts, but I want to highlight some of them again.

First, his Alpha Dog Days of Summer series is a great 'boot camp' of sorts for guys starting out. If you want to grow, gain confidence, and want specific tasks to work on day-to-day, read it.

Take it seriously and put in some effort. You have to get out and do things in order to grow and mature.

Another post you should read, and there are many, is Challengers Will Abound. If you want to understand the difference between an alpha man and an arrogant asshole, read it.

I could go on, but you have quite a bit of enjoyable work ahead of you. If you want to start at the beginning of his archive and work forward, start here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The wisdom of Kurt Harris

Many of you are familiar with the new wave of dietary nutrition known as the paleo diet. Many of us have adopted various elements of this new way of thinking about eating and continue to experiment and change what we put in our bodies. This is a good thing, especially if you start from the foundation of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Hopefully you're familiar with Kurt Harris, M.D., who used to have a site called panu but now has a site called Archevore. His blog is also linked in my blogroll under Health and Travel. If you're not familiar with his writing and approach, I highly recommend you check it out. This page is a great place to start.

Today I want to mention another post of his and another aspect to Dr. Harris that had eluded me for a while. He is wise, and also a very cool guy. I have no idea if he would feel comfortable being called a Red Pill guy, or if he would blanch at the thought. I like his style though. He hunts and kills his own food. He speaks his mind, and is unapologetic. I admire his courage in thought and how he approaches things with a no-nonsense and yet not too serious mindset. Easier said than done. I just wish he would blog more. But perhaps he's working on a book, and if so, I will read it.

Anyway, I want to point to a post of his that has some great thought. It's called Therapy versus Life. Here's a quote:
[There's a] huge contingent who think there is a "secret" to health and longevity the way there must be a secret to wealth, early retirement, being happy and finding love. They want to believe none of these worthy things are as hard or elusive as thousands of years of history, if not our own lives, have taught us.

These are the people who buy "The Secret" and books by Tim Ferriss. People who fantasize that life is all about "tricks" and "hacks". Perpetual youth and effortless happiness. Little study or real work required. Everyone can outsource everything and no real value need ever be produced.

...

So I would encourage you to ask yourself, what are you looking for? Do you think there is a "secret"? Are you fantasizing about immortality? Is everything a tweak or a hack or a trick? Do you think every problem in your life can be fixed by changing your diet?

Or do you see life as complex and tragic but sweet and rewarding, and are happy just to stack the odds in your favor with diet and then get on about your other business?

Words of wisdom indeed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Letters to a young man 18

Greetings, my young friend. Our correspondence has been sparse, yet it has been fulfilling. Though there seems little more I can advise you on, the urge to write remains and if on occasion I give you unsolicited advice, I hope you will pardon its arrival, and pause a moment to consider it.

You don't need these letters, certainly. You don't need books, or advice from blogs. I realize that, and I think deep down you do as well. If anything, these letters, books you may buy, and websites you may visit all help to funnel your attention inward, until you find the thing you're most looking for. Unfortunately, they can also serve as a distraction. Like most men, no sooner have you attained what you seek that it slips away, to be replaced by some other thing you search for. This other thing is but another likeness of the underlying thing you seek.

Deep down, within you, all you've ever searched and hope for resides. It doesn't matter how many times I tell you this, until you find it and realize it, these will just be words. Helpful words, perhaps. Yet you must steel your mind against the temptation to put down what you find within in order to pick something else up. This takes time, and practice, and discipline. It won't be easy. It will be damned frustrating. Yet, what else is there to do? Could there be an endeavor more worthy of your time and attention? I think not.

The greatest achievement you may attain is leaving your needs for external things on the side of the road, behind you. How much more one enjoys things when not bound to them in the slavery of need! How much more one suffices on the simple and plain pleasures of life! Those things that most men rush past on the way towards folly, may you appreciate, treasure and cultivate!

Always remember: Down one road lies excuses, failure, and regret. Down the other lies hard work, success, and a bright future.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Letters to a young man 17


Hello my friend. I've been silent for some time, sorting through a number of things, the benefits for my mind being worth the lack of output. I'm writing today to tell you about something that happened to me of late, that I hope will be of some benefit to you.

Recently I was talking with an old friend of mine. He's a good guy, has had a lot of hard knocks in life and is doing the best he can, as are we all. We started talking about what it means to be a man and dealing with women. I brought up several things that I've written to you about before, and it was gratifying to see his eyes widen as things clicked for him. Sharing with friends, having good conversation, and getting their perspective is one of the best parts of life. It had been some time since I'd seen him and it was great to reconnect.

Spending time with your buddies is invaluable. It's important to bond, to let loose, have fun, and just do man stuff. After hours of this, our time was over, and we left. I decided to walk around downtown as it was nice out and I was still buzzing a bit from the stimulating conversation. It occurred to me how great it was that, for me, the time with my friend wasn't the side show of life, but the main event, the main dish. I recalled how I used to leave friends and then feel some kind of lack, and I'd go out looking for something. Something meaning sex with some random girl. I'm not disparaging this, I'm simply recognizing the difference in my perspective and how I felt. I had no such thing on my mind, and walked with a contented smile. A decent looking woman sitting outside smoking across the street was checking me out as I walked. I could feel her eyes on me, and I looked over to confirm. I kept walking, eyes forward. Looked over again and she was smiling at me, likely drunk and looking for sex.

I realized how she was viewing me, and how I viewed her, and what her body language said to me about her. Then I recalled the conversation with my friend, and how I was trying to impress upon him the difference between scarcity and abundance in your frame and view of life. And then I remembered something that I read recently, somewhere on the internet, the location of which I don't remember,


When something's on sale, there's usually a reason.

It occurred to me how many times in my past that I'd really put myself on sale for cheap, and all the times I'd interacted with women who were doing the same thing. If you look at things from this perspective, it can truly open a window on how others perceive you, and shed light on how you perceive them. I dare say it can fundamentally change how you operate if you truly go down the rabbit hole of this experience.

The first and most important thing to sort out is how badly you need things. Whether it's sex, women, praise from peers, whatever it is, address the need. Address the feeling of lack. Remember that the difference between wanting/enjoying a thing and needing it is more than a semantic one.

To walk around content in your experience and to truly appreciate what you have is a blessing. Why do we so often jump out of what we have and into the pool of what we lack? We soil ourselves and burn our feet on the bottom of the pot, when all we need do is climb out of it and sit in the cool breeze. Why do we lower ourselves, throw our wares to the lowest bidder and then feel used because we didn't get what we think we are owed?

We must steel our minds against the disease that's been passed to us, the problem we've been marinated in since our youth, the malaise of thinking that we are not worthy. To walk as a man who loves and respects himself is to nail the coffin shut on this cancer. We have only ourselves to hold accountable for it, though it is tempting to blame others. They may be responsible, society may be responsible, for the laying of that foundation upon which we find ourselves. Yet, it is our responsibility only to smash it to bits, and to lay solid roots of manly virtue and self-respect, into the dirt. And let us remember that virtue often meant to simply use good sense to the ancients. The next time you are on the cusp of offering yourself up at a bargain, think on this.

Farewell for now.



My book on stoicism.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Trick



Looking around, seeing arrogance, confusion, turmoil.

Upright things fall on deaf ears, despite their intention to help those wounded and in pain.

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts." -T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia

So simply put, so elegant. For now, there's nothing else to say.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The wisdom of Xunzi, Part Three


Wisdom

In this third and final post on Xunzi (Part One, Part Two), I want to share his thoughts on what a Great Man is. As many of us strive to improve ourselves, it helps to have some image to hold in our minds as a goal. Xunzi says,
He who has such enlightenment may sit in his room and view the entire area within the four seas, may dwell in the present and yet discourse on distant ages. He has penetrating insight into all beings and understands their true nature, studies the ages of order and disorder and comprehends the principle behind them.

He surveys all heaven and earth, governs all beings, and masters the great principle and all that is in the universe. Broad and vast-who knows the limits of such a man? Brilliant and comprehensive-who knows his virtue? Shadowy and ever changing-who knows his form? His brightness matches the sun and moon; his greatness fills the eight directions. Such is the Great Man. [1]

To be great one need not master others, one need master one's self. One must be unified in one's thinking and focus, for how can one progress when walking two paths? Xunzi's description of the cultivated mind gives much food for thought as we move forward. He says,
The mind may be compared to a pan of water. If you place the pan on a level and do not jar it, then the heavy sediment will settle to the bottom and the clear water will collect on top [...].

But if a faint wind passes over the top of the water, the heavy sediment will be stirred up from the bottom and the clear water will become mingled with it, so that you can no longer get a clear reflection of even a large object.

The mind is the same way.

If you guide it with reason, nourish it with clarity, and do not allow external objects to unbalance it, then it will be capable of determining right and wrong and of resolving doubts.

But if you allow petty external objects to pull it about, so that its proper form becomes altered and its inner balance is upset, then it will not be capable of making even gross distinctions. [1]

Is your mind clear?




Stoic Living for the Modern Soul My book on stoicism.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The wisdom of Xunzi, Part Two


Peace

(Part One Part Three) Beyond the implications of Xunzi's philosophy and wisdom on our society, are the implications it has on our personal development. What does it mean to be a gentleman? Gentleman is used here as the chosen word often selected by those translating Confucian philosophers to mean the highest developed, and most honorable of men. Xunzi, and other Confucians, would argue that this should be the chief aim of men. So what does Xunzi tell us about this path of development, and how do we attain it? Xunzi says,
Learning should never cease. [...] The gentleman is by birth no different from any other man; it is just that he is good at making use of things. [...] [1]

How does a man make use of things? By learning, about ourselves, our world, and our place in it. By cultivating ourselves, we raise ourselves. By doing so, we see farther, and other's can see us more clearly . Time spent in self-reflection and learning is key. Observe yourself every day, and you may learn a lot. Knowing your true motivations for things, whether they be fears, desires, or hope for a certain outcome, can mean the difference in your chosen actions. To act and not know yourself and your true motivations can be disastrous. Xunzi also tells us what may happen when we allow ourselves to stray from our path.
The glory or shame that come to a man are no more than the image of his virtue. Meat when it rots breeds worms; fish that is old and dry brings forth maggots. When a man is careless and lazy and forgets himself, that is when disaster occurs. [1]

I know this from personal experience all too well. So much of my life was spent in this disaster. I strayed from my path, and I paid the price. There's no comparison between myself today and the self I once was. Were I able I'd be tempted to go back in time and ask myself some questions.

How much of your day is spent seeking some meager pleasure or profit? How mean are you in your dealings with other men? Do you fill your heart with sympathy or coldness? To do one is to be a man, to do the other is to be a beast.

Some may ask, "Yes, but how does this help me to get ahead in the world?" A man walking past the door of his home, and trying to climb the fence.

Some will attempt to devalue and mock what they don't understand. Beware, for this is the mark of an uncultivated mind.

At some point your quest for pleasures will run its course. What then? You may be surprised to find that you have much work to do. Yet is learning not a pleasure in itself? And is it not fulfilling to discover how much is offered to you freely when you enrich yourself and stop yearning for things you do not have? I don't say that pleasures will cease, only that they take their proper place, and are thus more fully enjoyed.

How powerful you become simply by cultivating yourself.

I'll delve into Xunzi's description of this power in Part 3, which will be posted tomorrow morning.




Stoic Living for the Modern Soul My book on stoicism.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The wisdom of Xunzi, Part One


War

(Part Two Part Three)

Recently I've been reading quite a bit of Confucian philosophy, namely that of Xunzi. He's somewhat the polar opposite of Mencius, in that he believed that the nature of man is evil, while Mencius believed that the nature of man is good. Regardless of how literally one takes these positions, both philosophers have their place and elucidate many issues. For whatever reason, Xunzi resonates more with me, though I don't necessarily think that the nature of man is pure evil, per se. Perhaps  a better term would be undeveloped, or misguided. 

Either way you slice it up, his philosophy and thinking is as relevant to our times as it was relevant then. Just like Confucius himself, or Seneca, or a number of other writers and thinkers, when reading them we are confronted with the humbling fact that there truly is nothing new under the sun, and that we'd be hard-pressed to contribute anything as worthy as them. And indeed, there have always been serious problems in life, despite our temptation to think that we are the first to be burdened by them. We could all benefit from learning from the wisdom of men like Xunzi.

To begin with, here's a good introduction to part of Xunzi's thought that is particularly relevant to our times:
Much of Xunzi's philosophy is based upon a distinction between what is natural or spontaneous and what is a product of human effort. Xunzi conceived of nature—including human nature—as an unchanging context for human action and organization. In his view, human endeavors succeed or fail because of how they respond to this fixed context—not because of any natural advantages or disadvantages, and especially not because nature rewards the virtuous and punishes the wicked. In particular, he believed that the stability of a society largely depends on its ability to respond to the fact that natural human desires outrun naturally available resources. Central to his defense of the Way that he advocated was the claim that it was uniquely capable of doing this, by strengthening and enriching the state, by providing social and political structures to regulate people's attempts to satisfy their desires, and by fundamentally transforming people's characters. [1]

It should be obvious that we as a society are failing in a number of domains. In particular, it is obvious that we have failed to deal properly with men's desire to profit and have more in the face of limited resources. A society that is so perversely top-heavy, meaning wealth and resources are concentrated at the top, a society in which the majority have no faith or trust in the leadership, is doomed to fail. Xunzi says,
Thus, a king enriches his people, a dictator enriches his soldiers, a state that is barely managing to survive enriches its high officers, and a doomed state enriches only its coffers and stuffs its storehouses. [2]

Sound familiar? He goes on to say,
But if its coffers are heaped up and its storehouses full, while its people are impoverished, this is what is called overflow at the top but dry up at the bottom. Such a state will be unable to protect itself at home and unable to fight its enemies abroad, and its downfall and destruction can be looked for at any moment. [2]

What downfall and destruction means specifically is of course, open to interpretation.

Xunzi believed that societies naturally needed hierarchy, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Though it's a nice idea to have everyone be on the same footing, it doesn't quite work well in reality. However, the difference between how Xunzi envisioned things working and how things work in our society, and in most workplaces, is the fact that the people at the bottom are generally unequal in several important ways. To sum it up, he says,
If a ruler...treats his inferiors and the common people with ordinary lenience and bounty, then he may dwell in safety. ... If a ruler is arrogant and cruel ...and his treatment of the common people is quick to exploit their strength and endanger their lives but slow to reward their labors and accomplishments ...then he will surely face destruction. [2]

It isn't necessary that everyone be equal in station, but treating everyone with dignity and respect leads to better things. Naturally, there are people who add little to society, and there are those who actively take away from it. Xunzi deals with them harshly, and I'll leave it to you to read his thoughts on that. I will continue in Part 2 on a different aspect of Xunzi, that of the development of the self. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow morning.


Stoic Living for the Modern Soul My book on stoicism.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Letters to a young man 16

Hello my friend. Recently you've told me about a woman that you've broken things off with. You seem to have sound reasons for this, and I cannot fault you for your decision. However, as your friend it would be a failing if I didn't share my thoughts with you on the matter. One of the hardest things is to watch a man walk a similar path as you have and see the traps laid before him, often at his own hand, and be unable to do anything about it. Harder still to recognize that there are times when a man must step into those traps to learn. It is, after all, his path. But I am also aware that a man has options, and that he is always able to raise his sails, or lower them; to change his course, as it were. The sea may lower tomorrow and land us, or it may raise and destroy us. We can mostly hope for a passage somewhere between those two extremes. This is the life I seek, and from what you told me, without always meaning to, I can tell that you crave this as well. There are times when we don't know when to sail, if not for asking a well-sailed traveler.

I know the matter with this woman seems to be settled in your mind, and I don't wish to inspire regret in your heart, but rather, to make sure you have turned over every stone that lies there. How sure can any of us be, really? I've written to you recently about seeing around corners, and I know that this is hard to do. Perhaps impossible. Yet, the best way to steel ourselves to this task is to take counsel from those who have been to that precipice before us, and to learn from what happened when they made the leap. We can at least then have an idea what may befall us.

So you have made your choice, and are leaving one path for another. The question you must ask truly ask yourself is: Do I still have one foot on the path I have abandoned?

This question is likely hard to answer, yet it must be asked, notwithstanding. Speaking from my own experience, a man may have some place in his heart, underneath a sea of courage, which holds some constant hope for another way. This is often a flame for a woman, though it can be for a career, city, and so on. What happens to a man when that sea of courage is dried up, or worse, grows too heavy to support itself? It is then that a man may realize what he truly feels deep inside of himself. This is much like a man who has left home only to get close to his destination and realize that he has left something vitally important behind.

What happens when a man returns to an old port? In life there are times when we're not ready, for whatever reasons, to take on a task or opportunity that is good for us in the long-term. When we finally awaken to understand the value of what we missed, it is too late. This has happened to me, and for a long time, the regret was quite acute. Perhaps there was no way to avoid the mishap, and yet, one fact I know is that I had no such wise counsel urging me to take a step back and truly see what was before me. I am here now to urge you to look over what you have and what you are doing.

Look within, take care, and tread lightly.


My book on stoicism.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The art of resting



Recently I've been reflecting on our society's attitude towards rest.  We work too hard, and assume that we must toil, and toil, and toil some more to 'get ahead'. And when we're done with our work, we insist that we 'play hard', whatever that means. We label ourselves (and others) as lazy or weak when they aren't giving 110% at all times (whether at work or play). Our health, work, and relationships all suffer from this lack of rest.

For each step forward you take, for each new lesson learned, pause a moment. Food digests over time, why should it be different for knowledge?

Every task you begin should hold your sole attention and focus. How many hours have I wasted by dividing my attention between two or more tasks?

When you are tired, you should rest. Despite what we may think, our body knows what it needs and is trying to tell us. Hunger is no different.

A man walking around without proper rest is a shadow of his well-rested self. Shadows can't get things done, nor make good impressions.
The next time you feel truly fatigued, don't reach for the coffee; stop a moment and really feel your body. This may not be practical during work, but if at all possible do this; your body is sending you signals for a reason. Taking things a step further, devote one week to being well rested. Go to bed earlier and get a good night's sleep every night. If, like me, you were used to getting less than optimum rest week after week, this will literally be a game changer. Your energy levels, motivation, and focus will all increase.

Many of us don't know how tired we truly are, and haven't a clue how much rest our bodies actually need. Imagine what would happen, eventually, if you never knew you were hungry.

A man without rest is like a tree that never has a break from the sun, withered.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hell

Rushing headlong past every perfect, peaceful moment in search of something we feel we need, and upon finding it feeling the utmost disappointment.

I offer this definition of hell because I think many can relate to this experience. It is, in general, out of step with our ordinary striving in culture to simply exist and appreciate what we have. This sad state of existence is one of the few that is nearly always self-imposed.

No sooner have you been handed the keys to the kingdom that you outstretch your hand, and grasping, drop them.

Dog with two bones.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

200: The garden of earthly delights



This is my 200th post, and April 22nd marks a year of blogging.

The Then

Originally I was going to detail the past, but I've decided to keep this part brief.

I think the most important thing to come out of reading game and related blogs was that I found incentives to get off my ass and to try and change something. Meeting women was a great goal and target. As a man, it means a lot to be able to go after women you want rather than just daydream about it. My development and confidence with women would quickly spread to other areas. It was the spark that re-lit many flames that had been burning quietly in me for some time, and it quickly took over me. I was on my way to true change and development. Whatever people say about game, it is hard to ignore the positive catalyst that it can be, particularly with regards to inner game, and the development of a more positive personal psychology.

The Now, and the Way Forward

I have everything I've ever wanted to have, and I realize that now. I'm learning to better understand the times when I'm not fully appreciating what I have and acting like a brat. I've learned how to control myself in ways I never thought possible, and because of that control I've achieved things I never thought possible, including being in the best shape of my life, and learning how to distinguish a good woman from the hordes of draining succubi out there.

However, at times I stop and realize that I am craving something, that I want something on the horizon that I haven't attained. I'm being pulled about by these desires and by chasing phantoms. I have realized of late that I am the only one who can decide what I want and what I will spend my time on. Yet, it's so easy to be caught up in trying to do what others are doing. Should I be going after more and more women? Should I focus on a good woman that actually helps me to be a better person, and lead a better life? Can I have both? Do I want both? 

Am I really missing out by not having all of the fruits that I see before me? A closer look shows some of that fruit to be something other than what I am seeing at first glance. In some cases, it's unripe, and unfit for my consumption. Instead, I should shepherd that fruit. In some cases, it's unfit for my consumption because it's rotten inside. And sometimes, it's perfect for the picking, and wanting to be picked. You have to look deeper, and sometimes feel the fruit to learn this. But you can learn to do just this, and you should. Know what it is that you're looking at, and desiring, and why. I've come to realize that it only matters what I truly want, and no one else. Let others think of me what they will, it matters not.

There's more to life than chasing endless pleasures. Of course, there's nothing wrong with chasing after pleasures. This isn't some kind of moralistic sermon. Hopefully you will read between the lines. There's a difference between chasing after what you truly want and what others think you should want.

I crave a simple life, a quiet life, a life that is fulfilling. I now know what that is. It is beyond all of the brief pleasures that I've found chasing my own tail.

Some will say that you are missing out if you go after something that they define as "ordinary". Ask yourself:

  • Do you walk the earth in search of new adventures, and new conquests because you truly want them, or because you want to impress your peers? Insecurity

  • Do you feel uneasy being in one place for too long, because you might face the reality of an ordinary life, and you want to be an exception to the rule, to prove that you're special and different? Egoism

  • Do you look down on others whose lives are more simple? What sets you apart that you may mock their desires and "simpler" achievememts? Arrogance

Of course there are many reasons to take the actions we take, but if any of these resonate with you, look deeper. This may seem harsh, but I bring these up because I've been guilty of all three of them at one time or another.

When your desires constantly lead you, you do not lead yourself, and you are controlled by them. I learned this the hard way, and it cost me so much. So much time. So much energy. Time I'll never get back. Energy that could have been spent on other, better, and more fulfilling things. At some point you may realize how much your fears and desires have been controlling your every move. It is a challenge to control yourself, but if you want to be free, you must learn. In so many ways, self-control has been the key in turning my life around. With women, for example, I'd say 80% of my prior problems came from letting my bad impulses get the better of me (e.g., acting out of fear and a mentality of scarcity), whereas now I largely control those bad impulses and act in accordance with my better nature.

There is little worthwhile in living a long time if you have not lived each moment fully. And no life worth living should be untouched by troubles, they are what challenge us and make us grow. There are those that know a truth so simple and obvious that it eludes many of us our whole lives. I've been blessed to meet people who have cast a light on this truth. I'm trying to cast my own light on it for anyone reading. We live in the garden of earthly delights, do with it what you will.

I'll close with a quote.

"The whole race of man, both that which is and that which is to be, is condemned to die. Of all the cities that at any time have held sway over the world, and of all that have been the splendid ornaments of empires not their own, men shall some day ask where they were, and they shall be swept away by destructions of various kinds; some shall be ruined by wars, others shall be wasted away by inactivity and by the kind of peace which ends in sloth, or by that vice which is fraught with destruction even for mighty dynasties, - luxury. All these fertile plains shall be buried out of sight by a sudden overflowing of the sea, or a slipping of the soil, as it settles to lower levels, shall draw them suddenly into a yawning chasm. Why then should I be angry or feel sorrow, if I precede the general destruction by a tiny interval of time?" -Marcus Cato (quoted by Seneca)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Birds



Standing by the window after a late weekend breakfast on Easter Sunday, I couldn't help but notice the small birds gathered outside my window. So busy, each one of them with some task at hand. In that moment I felt a stillness, the world stopped and everything snapped into focus. I've learned to recognize moments like these and to cherish them, to sink my teeth into them like a perfect rib eye, or strawberry freshly plucked; and to savor them.

I used to dislike birds, but I have come to admire them. After all, they fly.

Grounded, I stood there in silence, admiring their toil. A perfect moment uninterrupted by judgment or trying to capture it for eternity.

A blueprint for my life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Letters to a young man 13

Hello my friend. In my last letter I wrote to you about self-control, and of course you correctly pointed out that self-respect was also important. My young friend, I am impressed with this observation and with how far you go in your self-reflection. Truly, to know yourself is a priority for you, and perhaps the most important one a man can have.

I want to talk to you about the element of respect. A man must respect himself before others can respect him. Unless he is good at masking over his lack of self-respect, or a good actor, people will respond unconsciously to this failing and a man will not gain the respect of others. And of course, one must maintain respect.

To achieve and maintain this respect, one must remain in control. To be in control a man must respect himself and have good esteem. Regardless of who he encounters, he must remain in control and respect himself. Not even a beautiful woman should interrupt these two. After all, why would he lower himself for a woman unless he lacked both of these qualities? To keep this self-control a man must always respect himself, and be mindful of it.

If you are walking down the street with a girl that you're seeing steadily, much as you have been lately, when you pass a girl that you are very attracted to, you may look at her, but you don't flirt with her, or look her up in down. In fact, you should break eye contact first, displaying your self-control. Do you notice how she responds to you if you do this? If you pay attention you will see your value go up in her eyes. Others may scoff at this, but you must pay close attention.

In her view, she will see you as a man that does not need her, that has self-control, that is fulfilled. She will respect that you have not turned into a man that will wiggle away from the girl he is with just to try and get in her pants. She will look up to you, and she will see you as a prize to be won. So many are in a rush to get what she has, and in the process give away what they have. Do not follow in their footsteps.

And what if you are walking alone? Nothing is different, I simply want to draw attention to something that many men miss. They will walk with pride in their hearts as they are with a beautiful woman, yet when walking alone, they are empty and their gaze darts to every attractive woman they see. They don't gaze because they appreciate the beauty and contemplate the hunt; they gaze because they are empty and looking for something they need, something have lost, or never had.

The first is being fulfilled, the second is being empty.

If you do the latter, you should ask yourself why that same pride and fulfillment you have when with a woman does not rest solely in your heart. Why are you empty when you walk alone? Fill yourself with the same pride, the same self-respect, the same self-control at all times. Walk as a god among men. This is the difference between what most men have become and how I am trying to teach you to be.

I know that you may ask me if the only reason to have self-respect, self-control, and the respect of a woman is to play some kind of elaborate game to win her attraction. I will counter that it is not. It is simply a by-product of things. And you should always be aware of the esteem in which a woman holds you. Even if you are single, you should never lower yourself. She should look up to you and admire you.

This isn't to say that you should look down on her. The best of all situations is for both people to admire and respect one another, but so many men subjugate themselves to women, putting them on a pedestal and failing to see them for what they are. We all have faults, but to do this to a woman is only possible if you truly lack self-respect, self-esteem, and self-control.

Remember, hold your head up high. Walk with purpose. You're on a mission and your mission is to be the best in, and do your best with, every moment that you have on this earth. It could all end at any time. Live without fear.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Letters to a young man 12

Hello my friend. I've been skirting around saying this outright, in fact I may have said it outright. If so, I'll say it again.

Self-Control is everything. Everything begins with self-control.

Every moment going forward from now is going to have a ton of variability. There may be simply no way to predict what will happen. There is often little that we can control. What we can control, to some degree at least, is ourselves.

To control yourself is power, it is freedom. It can open doors to ways of being that you never thought existed. I've been thinking for a while now that the greater part of dealing with women is learning to control your self-destructive impulses around them. I am convinced of this more and more every day, and I think this is a good thing. I think this is good because, as with all things in life, you are the one thing over which have some control.

You have control over how you respond to crises, as well as to successes. Believe me, I can tell you that you should pay attention to your reactions to both.

You have control over what you eat, what you read, what you think about, what you dream about, what you most want, what you most don't want, and so on. I think you see where I'm going with this.

I've had a lot of time to look back over the last few years and it seems to me that the amount of self-control I've had has been strongly correlated to the amount of happiness and fulfillment in life that I've had.

Begin with yourself. Control yourself. Sometimes it's useful to be spontaneous, bold, fearless. Sometimes it's useful to think before you speak and act. Self-control is the gateway to knowing which is which for you. It's the gateway to being free of fear. Ultimately, it all comes down to you and how you view yourself and your place in your world. The story that you tell yourself. It's always up to you.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Letters to a young man 11

Hello my friend. Every now and then, I have a moment of clarity, or I might say an enlightened moment. In these moments, it's as if I'm hovering above the fray of life, above all the din and distraction and seeing things clearly. Do you have these moments? I suspect that you do.

One such moment came recently when I was at work, a place largely comprised of women. There are men, to be sure, but it's one of those places where the women out number the men. This can be a challenging environment for a man, especially a man who embraces and lives his masculinity. It's tempting at times to let all of your testosterone fly out and fly off the handle, and tell some of these women to simply shut up. Yet, this would not further my cause, nor my situation, as it were. So I have often wondered how I might be shackling myself when I purse my lips and bite my tongue.

And it was in this moment that I mentioned that I had a realization. As men, we should be above the fray of women, and all of their cares. True, we may find ourselves under their thumbs, but have men not always faced this? When there were queens who ruled, were men not subjugated? And if you think how we live and work, surely we do not have it so bad as those before us?

Yet I digress from my main point, which is that as men, we should be above the fray of women. We needn't sink to their levels, their gossip, their cares, their insecurities, we needn't worry ourselves as they do. We have no cause to wrestle in the grime that women love to muck about in. How often do we hear them gossip? How often do they ramble on and on about trivial things? Are we not men? Do we not forge ahead and stand silent in the face of these womanly worries? What need have we to descend to their level? It is they that should aspire to ours, my young friend, and many do aspire. Yet they that are wise women know that we will always be different. They embrace what is good in them and understand the difference between men and women. And so should we.

As you walk about, keep your eyes and ears open. When you see women gather together, notice how they talk with one another. Notice their body language, and unspoken language. See how they compete with one another, how they size one another up, plotting at every turn to undo the others. One mouth issues the praise, and the same mouth later issues the curse. This is the way of women. Let us be men, for we are better than this. I know that women will writhe and grit their teeth and say, "Oh, but I'm not like that!", and indeed some are not. But it is a rare thing my friend, for women must be this way to survive, for they are always dependent on their social standing and situation; without these, she is nothing. As men, we are best when we act with honor, and courage; when we speak truth now as well as later; when we hold ourselves in good esteem and know our faults and weaknesses; when we help our fellow men; when we treat others decently; when we help women who so desperately need our help. In so many ways, to be a man is to rise over the muck of life and to embrace self-control.

Let us value women for their positive characteristics, and let us value ourselves for ours. Let us not sink to what is beneath us.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Letters to a young man 10

Hello my friend. You tell me of your life and your achievements thus far and ask me if you are successful. You tell me of your plans, aspirations, and dreams, and ask me if by the end of it if you'd be successful if you achieved those things. I have an answer for you my young friend. The measure of your life will not be in whether you achieved this or that, or not. You will be the arbiter who decides. One thing I have learned in my life thus far,

Achieving your goals in life, and being happy with yourself, do not always go hand in hand; it's not a given.

We've all seen the keenly successful man adrift in his personal sorrows and drama. The actor who seems to have it all, yet who collides with his own feelings of desperation and failure at every turn. Does he not bear the trappings of success? Does he not have the comforts of the modern world at his disposal, including ready access to pleasures? And what do these do for him?

It's not our access to these things, nor our use of them that make a life worth living, a life of clarity and satisfaction. It's true such a life may be possible in their midst, but those who seek them out blindly should beware. For nowhere is it written in the natural laws that such things will indeed bring you happy. A man may be deemed successful if he triumphs over the world in such a way as to deliver himself to these things (for really he is in their ownership, in their possession), but has he truly triumphed over himself?

Advancing in years a man begins to find wisdom, if he applies himself and learns from all of his mistakes. For all men there will be many of those, that is one constant for all men. Reflect on your mistakes as they are the guideposts you set in the ground on your way. As you find this wisdom, you begin to see how ruling over your own fears and anxieties is a great triumph in life. You will see that controlling yourself in the face of desires which control you is a great triumph in life. Desires that are enjoyed at our will are one thing, but those which lead us around by the nose make us fish on hooks, ready to be pulled in and eaten by those who hold the reel. We must remove the hook, take hold of our own reel and triumph over our destiny.

So my young friend, I leave you to think on these matters as you ponder your life and direction. On some days the road will seem miserable, and not worth continuing. On other days you will feel that life is at your command in every way. There is one constant in all of this, and that is you. Do not expect to always command life in every way. Rather, make it your goal to be in command of yourself, and if you do so you will be one of the few, truly successful men in this world.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letters to a young man 9

Hello my friend. You mentioned how people say that the best things in life are free and in some respects, I suppose that is correct. The air you breathe does not cost you. You did not pay some price to be born and be alive (that we know of), and life is fair in that all will die; none have special favor from Fate on that score. Yet men walk the earth in search of so many things that they consider "free", spending their very selves in these pursuits. We fritter and waste so much time trying to acquire these "free" things, these pleasures and distractions, and as we spend ourselves, so we waste our precious time. And yet, we still look at these pursuits as "free", neglecting what we give up for them. We don't see them as things bought and paid for because we spend no money on them, and yet, how much is your time worth? How much time spent in these pursuits could you spend doing other things? How much energy, how much anxiety will these things require? We must ask ourselves these questions to know the true cost of things.

I don't deny that there are many pleasures a man may attain, and that many are worthwhile. Yet for many of those pursuits, all sustenance is drained from after a time. When compared to the sustenance of friendship, loyalty, trust, and honor, they begin to pale in the long run. The sustenance of these things are an important component of a strong man. Remember,


Weak men and women try to bend the world to match their insecurities; Strong men remain steadfast in their resolve when faced with adversity.

"What is it that makes a strong man?", you've asked me, and I will tell you something in reply. A man honors his commitments, and honors his word. If he cannot do a thing, he will not say that he can. Of course we all make mistakes and in confusion offer a stray commitment, but for a strong man these are a rare thing. Some will say, "Oh look, he can't make up his mind, whether to do the thing or not," but I tell you there are so many who will quickly commit themselves in word, with no intention of actually doing the thing. A man that doesn't answer, "yes I can do that" at every turn is a man of quality, a man that will only tell you that he can do a thing if he can in fact do it. This, of course, is easier said than done, and takes time and experience. Hence why I urge you to weigh out your decisions carefully, to speak only when you have something to say. When you look a man in the eye, he will know that what you say is your mind, and that when you make an oath, you mean it. This is part of what it means to be a strong man.

So I urge you again to look over what you spend your time on. Be careful of the easy things that appear free, for they may entangle you and rob you, dipping their fingers into the pockets for your time and effort. They'll leave you wasted, on the side of the road, with nothing to show for your trouble but more trouble, and without a steady thought to brace yourself against them. Such are the costs of so many things that distract us.

Farewell for now.


My book on stoicism.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Letters to a young man 8

Hello my friend. Words can’t adequately describe how busy I’ve been of late, and I feel that it’s time I write you back, if only to say a few things and to let you know that I’ve gotten your letters. I won’t address all that you’ve written me specifically, but I want to say a few things about what you wrote. For one thing, I’m impressed with your development. The main thing that strikes me is that you are increasingly willing to take risks and to experiment. A man your age should be doing just that. As life throws rejection and surprise at you, you can pause a moment to reflect and learn, then go forth. From what you’ve written me, this is exactly what you’re doing, and this is the age to do it. Remember,



“The greater part of goodness is the will to be good.” –Seneca


I think of this saying often. How lucky we are to have this wisdom preserved for us. I know that you may find your struggles to be fruitless at times, even meaningless. I do not think that it can be any other way. A man must face this and not give up, for it is this kind of challenge that leads a man to integrate his difficulties into his whole, to fully learn from the experience. Only then will he have no need to ruminate about it further.

As a man gets older, he has to reevaluate his earlier self, his decisions and path, everything that has made him who he is. This can be an uncomfortable thing, but it is necessary if you are to leave unprofitable ways behind you, moving forward to be the grown man that you will one day become. I’ve been engaged in this process a lot of late. It is painful to look honestly upon so many mistakes. And yet, almost as soon as the pain appears it dissipates, and this is part of maturity. Letting go of the mistakes, knowing that you alone are in control of your current and future decisions, and being resolved that the old ways have no more use for you; and also being able to see how there was no other way but for you to have made the mistake.

When a tree grows, it may grow a branch too low to the ground; it does not lose all of the other branches because this low branch fails.

This way, this process, can’t be faked, and it can’t be skipped. Life will be an endless loop of repeated failures and miseries until a man takes self-reflection seriously. No man is perfect. No man can count on the Goddess of Fortune, she always has her day, and she is a fickle bitch; but, show me a man that is steadfast, and true to himself, a man that applies himself to his betterment, to being good, and I will be looking upon a happy and contented man.

Apply every effort to taking an honest look at yourself. This skill, above all others will be the difference maker in your life. It will always be with you.

Farewell for now, my young friend.


My book on stoicism.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Good Reads: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Get this book. Don't wait, do it now. Trust me, you won't look at yourself, your world, or the decisions you make the same ever again. While I haven't finished this book, it's already had a profound impact on me. Some of the concepts are familiar to me as I've read some of Kahneman's research, but some are new. Kahneman is a giant in psychology and has the rare distinction of having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. He's one of the pioneers who realized (stumbled upon?) the fact that most agents in economic decision-making are anything but rational.

If I may give the crux of the story of Thinking, Fast and Slow, it is this: Your brain has two systems, System 1, and System 2. System 1 is generally automatic [think deciding if a girl is attractive.] So much of what we do in our day-to-day lives is automatic and System 1, and Kahneman illustrates this quite vividly. System 2 is more focused and concentrated thinking [think multiplying 24 x 17] and generally raises one's blood pressure and dialates one's pupils. One of the most fascinating things to me is how lazy our minds are. That's not meant as a criticism, much of the laziness of our minds is evolutionarily advantageous. Perhaps efficient is a better adjective. Yet, with the shortcuts come errors, and we make so many of them. One that I find particularly fascinating is that, when presented with a difficult problem to solve, System 1 will sometimes solve an easier problem and yet convince itself that it solved the more difficult one. And we do this so often that it's disquieting.

The more tired or depleted we are, the harder it is to engage System 2 in critical thinking. System 1 is happy to take over and go with its best guess. Sometimes, in fact often, this is fine. You don't need to think critically in many situations. Yet, in other situations, it can be disastrous.

Here are quotes:

"This is a pure System 1 response. She reacted to the threat before she recognized it."

"The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works."

"They were primed to find flaws, and this is exactly what they found."

"We must be inclined to believe it because it has been repeated so often, but let's think it through again."

"Evaluating people as attractive or not is a basic assessment. You do that automatically whether or not you want to, and it influences you."

This book is humbling. I can easily see applications for what I'm learning in many areas of my life. Look for it in your local library or bookstore or you can buy it from Amazon by clicking the image below. Happy reading.