May 31

“As in a tilled-field, when ploughed for corn, some flowers are found among it, and yet, though these posies may charm the eye, all this labor was not spent to produce them.”       – Seneca

The path to building a well rounded and full life is filled with more difficulty than ease. there will be more hard times than easy ones, and there will be more days where we want to quit than there will be days where we feel like we are crushing it. There will be more times on this path where we will have to remind ourselves that we have purpose and we have a goal than we probably want to think about.

Still, there will be times where everything comes together and we can see clearly that we are on the right path and we can look back behind us and see just how far we’ve come. Those moments can be thought of as the peaks, the high points on a journey where we have reached the top of one of the many mountains we will have to climb, the clouds part, and we can see the path ahead of us and the one behind us.

This beauty, these wonderful moments where it all comes together are fleeting but we would be wise to hold them close. Keep them in our memory to remind us during the difficult times that we are making progress and we are getting there. It might take our entire lives and frankly, if it doesn’t our goals weren’t grand enough.

May our lives be filled with struggle and may we cherish the moments of beauty along the way.

virtus fortis vocat


May 30

“Even though virtue may afford us pleasure, still we do not seek after virtue on that account: for virtue does not bestow pleasure but bestows pleasure to boot.” – Seneca

This life, especially for those of us who have chosen to constantly strive to become the best people we can in the time that we are afforded, is difficult. It is a constant struggle to make the right decisions, to control our emotions, to discipline our wills, and to do what we can to enjoy the process.

But there is joy along this path as well. There is a joy and a sense of internal peace and calm that is unlike anything we could experience without the discipline and control over ourselves. There is pleasure in remaining calm and detached in a situation that would anger or overwhelm us if we chose to react instead. There is a pleasure in seeing the results of our effort, even small results as we move along the path.

And staying on the path, recognizing that we only really have control over our own actions and thoughts, brings lifts us above the stress and worry that plagued our lives before we started on the path. Reminding ourselves that the external things that happen to us, the way people treat us, the way they act, and the things they say have little to do with us and are outside our control.

Better to focus on the internal, control ourselves, and enjoy the process. There is an immense amount of pleasure to be had when we finally have control over ourselves.

Not that we do it for that. But it is a nice bonus.

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May 29

“You may then, boldly declare the highest good is singleness of mind: for where agreement and unity are, there must be virtues: it is the vices that are at war with one another.” – Seneca

A problem or task so consuming that while we are working at it the rest of the world fades from view. Those moments in life where we look up from what we have been doing and realize that a hours have passed without our realizing it.

Modern day philosophers, sociologists, and self help types call this feeling “flow” and it’s a good term for it. That rapt attentive feeling that pulls us in and holds us on task longer than any other task would be able to.

Not all tasks that lead to “flow” are productive but they do all share similar traits. The most important one seems to be immediate feedback about progress. This is likely why very difficult and slowly achieved goals are so rarely actually achieved.

We can hack this system by changing the feedback. Instead of focusing only on the long term goal, we can break the task down into smaller bite sized achievements. First we have to determine what the long term task is and that is fits with our goal of becoming better people. Then we find the smallest way possible to measure that we are making progress or sticking with that path.

If we do this, at the end of everyday we can look back and see how far we have come. Everyday. This will keep our minds focused on the goal.

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May 28

“If we take all bodily pleasures and external delights and make them our servants, not our masters – then and only then are they of value to our minds.” – Seneca

Pleasure is enjoyable, it is far more pleasant than suffering. It reminds us that life is good, and that all of the hard work we put into building a full life, one worth living, is worth the effort.

But pleasure can also be addicting. It can lead us to act and make choices that maximize our pleasure rather than maximizing our growth and development as individuals.

If we choose to make pleasure something we use to promote our development, as a tool to help us along the path of living a full and well rounded life than we run a much lower risk of becoming slaves to our passions.

Pleasure can be used as a reward. It can remind us of the payoff after a long session of austerity. Maybe we have been limiting our spending and tightening the budget to buy a house, how much pleasure is there in walking in the front door of a home that we own?

Even simple pleasures can be rewarding, maybe we’ve been strict with our diet for several weeks and we are allowing ourselves one day of indulgence. How much better are those treats when we feel that we have earned them?

Pleasure can also be a recharge for our minds. After periods of intense focus when we find our minds starting to flag, it is pleasurable and helpful to distract ourselves with a diversion. This is especially true if the diversion is something that puts us in a rhythm and allows our mind to rest a bit.

So let’s use the things that bring us pleasure to move forward on our path. It will make them all the more enjoyable.

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May 27

“This was why the ancient bade us to lead the highest, not the most pleasurable lives, in order that pleasure might not be the guide but the companion of a right thinking and honorable mind.” – Seneca

The good life, easy street, all of the things we indulge in. These are not what life is about but somehow we find ourselves chasing them. We indulge in the newest technology, in order to share pictures of our latest vacations with all of the people we refer to as friends on social media. We indulge in new cars, bigger homes, and the right clothes to keep up with all of the people we associate with.

Sometimes we even choose to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh, the intoxicants, the fleeting arrangements between consenting adults.

And still we feel directionless, we reach a point in our lives where we struggle to determine what we’ve done, where we are going, how we are going to achieve the dreams we had at the onset.

We knew better all along. We knew that we should have been on a better path but we were afraid of missing out. We were afraid we wouldn’t get the chance to enjoy ourselves along the way. We allowed that fear to push us into giving pleasure the driver’s seat rather than controlling the little bit in this life we have control over. And when we get to where we were headed, we aren’t happy with the destination.

Instead we can stop here. We can step back a little bit, detach from our situation and assess it honestly. We can choose the things we would like to improve on and we can start down that path. There will still be pleasure but on this path we will know that it is fleeting, we will know that we have earned it.

And we will enjoy it all the more.

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May 26

“Some unhappy people are not without pleasure, no, it is because of pleasure itself that they are unhappy.” – Seneca

This. This is the key to the messages that have been passed down within nearly every culture, by nearly every famous philosopher throughout antiquity. The love of pleasure, the love of material things, the allowance we give to external things to have control over us leads to unhappiness. Yes, it can be pleasurable but it is an empty kind of pleasure. The kind that fades quickly and needs to be replenished again and again and again. The kind of pleasure that starts to resemble an addiction.

This addiction can continue, we need more, better things, better more luxurious vacations, just more. Until it consumes us and ruins our happiness.

It shouldn’t be about the pleasure. Yes, somethings are pleasurable and help to make us better people but more often than not, the path to becoming our best selves involves a lot of unpleasant experiences. Some of them would be better classified as suffering.

It is better than to focus on whether or not a thing is going to lead to us becoming the people we want to be. Is it going to help us along that particular path? If the answer is no, we are best to avoid or abstain. If the answer is yes, we are better to do the thing whether the thing is pleasurable or not.

If it happens to be pleasurable, all the better.

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May 25

“Pleasure visits the basest lives but virtue can not coexist with an evil life.” – Seneca

We all want to think we are good people. We all want to continue to be good people. Many of us would like to become even better than we are now. But how would we go about it?

We are what we do repeatedly. As a result being a good person is a practice, not something we are born with or simply part of our personality. Sure, some of us were born with a disposition that makes it easier to be good than the rest of us but we all have it in us to be good people. We just have to practice it. Daily.

So if we want to be good people we have to determine what it is that makes people good. What can we repeatedly do in our own lives to be sure that an evil life would not be possible for us? And once we have those aspects of a good life figured out, we need to put them into action. And we need to be disciplined in our approach to living a good life.

It is important to remember that we are the things we do repeatedly and that the things we do repeatedly are directly related to the thoughts that we think. These are the two things we should have control over. They might even be the only two.

Let’s control them in a manner to make us better people.

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May 24

“If pleasure and virtue were interconnected we would not see some things to be pleasurable and dishonorable and other things to be most honorable indeed, but hard and only to be attained by suffering.” – Seneca

A well rounded and full life is not synonymous with an an easy and pleasurable life. There is an incredible depth to the human condition and we will not have the opportunity to experience it reading about it in books, poolside in the sun, with a cold beverage near us, and bellies full of healthy food.

No. A full life experience is found at the end of a long life of working harder than we want to for longer than we want to. It is found at the end of a life of facing the difficult parts of our own personalities and finding ways to either work with them or to turn them into something better.

There will be pleasure as well. There will be times where we are having such a wonderful time we will forget that we were ever sad, or hurt, or lonely. There will be times where we know what we are doing is wrong and not good for us but it feels good, so we do it anyway. And we might regret it for a bit but we will come to realize that this too is part of the full life.

But most of it, most of the things that will make us into who we are, they are pleasurable in their own way but it is typically a more nuanced pleasure and it is one that we often do not realize until long after the difficult task is finally finished. These are the parts of life where we get to say, “I do not miss that. But I am glad I did it.”

May we all have lives filled with such moments.

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May 23

“A person is happy who in their present circumstances, whatever they may be, is satisfied and on friendly terms with the condition of their own life.” – Seneca

Happiness it would seem is to accept the way life is and to be satisfied that this is the way life is.

We can divorce this idea from the idea of settling for whatever life offers us and look at it instead as simply accepting that wherever we happen to find ourselves in any given aspect or facet of our lives, that is where we are. Whether we like it or not, that is the case. And if we choose to accept it and be satisfied with this reality, it will be easier for us to formulate a clearer plan to change the parts of our lives that we would like to improve on.

By taking inventory of our own lives and accepting that things as they are right now are the way they are right now, we will find it easier to detach a little bit from our current situation and when we do that, paths to improvement make themselves more visible.

Opportunities also make themselves more visible.  Because opportunities that we can take advantage of are going to come to us at a level just a little better than where we are right now. If we are honest with ourselves about where we actually are and are on friendly terms with the condition of our own lives, these will be a lot easier to see.

So let’s make friends with our own situations and then, let’s start looking for ways to improve that situation.

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May 22

“How evil and guilty a slavery the person is forced to serve who is dominated in turn by pleasures and pains, those most untrustworthy and passionate of masters.” – Seneca

It would be easy for us to frame this meditation in terms of addiction or some other bad habit that is painfully obvious to those of us on the outside.

What might be less obvious are the little traps we allow ourselves to fall into. The need to respond to every chime our phones make The trap of typing the website for a social media site into the search bar when we are supposed to be looking something up quickly. The inability to let go of a single criticism spoken to us in anger by a colleague or loved one, even when we know they are wrong.

There are so many more, from the food we eat because it is convenient, the time we waste because we are bored to the time we waste because we are fixated on some minor slight. These moments rob us of our potential but worse than that, we put these moments, these external things in charge of our own well being.

We could and we should do better. We can stay in control of the the things we can control, how we think and how we act, how we choose not to react. By doing this we take control back from these externals and we can focus on making ourselves into who we want to be.

It’s not easy but things that are worth it never really are.

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May 21

“You understand without my mentioning it that an unbroken calm and freedom ensue when we have removed from our lives all of the things which either excite or alarm us.”   – Seneca

It is so easy for us to be bothered by the world around us. We are surrounded by news cycles that run all day everyday. Sensationalism regarding the differences between groups of people and the effect these differences have on our society make it into our news feeds every single day. We are bombarded daily with advertisements about goods and services we have to have and warnings about foods, places, and people we should be avoiding.

Add to this that we are so much busier than we need to be, with all of our contacts constantly at our fingertips, social media just a swipe away. We are never really alone. The outside world is constantly engaging us.

If we have the ability to detach from all of it, even if it is only for a few moments a day, we will realize that we are happier and more peaceful reflecting inward rather than be affected from the outside.

Reflecting inward allows us the opportunity to recognize the things we actually have control over and provides us the means to bring about positive changes in our lives. The feedback is almost instantaneous and will encourage us to continue on this path.

Starting today, when we start to feel that panicked feeling of being overwhelmed by life, let’s all take a moment and turn inward. Take a few breaths and focus on one or two things we can control immediately to bring that feeling under control.

The first thing should always be our attitude.

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May 20

“A happy life must set value upon all of the things which adorn our lives without over-valuing any one of them, and must be able to enjoy the bounty of Fortune without becoming her slave.” – Seneca

We are going to have some good times. Many of us may very well enjoy good fortune most of the time. We are going to have more than we need and we are going to live in comfort most of the time.

But we need to remember not to allow the good things we experience to become the only thing we look to experience in this life. We should hold the good times in high value but we should also remember that we hold these times in such high value because they are rare.

If every day were a good day we would get used to it, we would become a slave the the good times. We would need even better days to feel good about and even worse, we would not be able to weather the hard times as well. We would become weak, and soft. Our ability to detach and see that bad times and good times are the same, they are not in themselves either good or bad, it is just how we choose to see and experience them.

We should be choosing to experience life fully. Good and bad. And we should be grateful for the opportunity.

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May 19

“These good things which people gaze at in wonder, which they crowd around to view, which one points out to another with speechless admiration, are outwardly beautiful, but within they are miseries to those who possess them.” – Seneca

The stuff. All the things we wish we had. All the things we wish we could afford. All the things we want to buy. All the things we rack up credit card debt to possess.

If we take a moment and think about the things we have spent the money on, the things we might even still be paying credit card bills to have possessed before we had the actual means to possess them. Where are they right now? How many times a day do we use them. A week? A month? Was it worth it?

Some of us may even own things that still cost even more in upkeep, a house that is a little bigger than we could afford, maybe we bought the higher end car than our neighbor, a better stereo, the list goes on. These possessions, these things that we needed to have at the time, they become a source of stress. They do in fact become part of our misery, more so than some of the stresses that work, and other responsibilities push on us.

We should instead be focusing on the things that are going to enrich our lives. Focusing on the things in life that make us better. The things that offer to provide us with the best chance at a well rounded life experience. These things are often not the flashy things, they are often not the things others will be impressed by and they are never the easy things. But they are the things that are worth it.

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May 18

“If a person ever allows their mind some breathing space and takes the time to communicate with themselves, what truths they will reveal to themselves after they have been put to the torture of their own introspection.” – Seneca

Detachment and self reflection, two of the most effective skills we can develop are also two of the most difficult to implement and almost impossible skills to master.

Detachment is the ability to step back and look at our situation, at our lives, as if we were separate from them. This allows us to see the bigger picture. By stepping back and giving our brain some breathing room we are able to not only see what is going on in our own lives but also the most important part, the role we are playing in our own situation.

This is where self reflection can become a brutal exercise. When we have stepped back and taken a more objective look around we see the whole picture better. Inevitably, if we are then going to apply even a small amount of self reflection it can be difficult to face the reality that we play a major role in our own frustrations and struggles.

The good news is that this will be the part that we actually have control over, us. we can control how we continue to act, how we choose to see our situation, and the areas we choose to work on improving.

But the beginning of this like the beginning of anything worthwhile, is the most difficult part.

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May 17

“Let us therefore inquire. not what is most commonly done, but what is best for us to do.” – Seneca

Conventional wisdom. Keeping up with the Joneses. Following the herd. If we are going to learn anything from motivational posts on social media, it is that these are all things that we would avoid if we are going to live full lives that have purpose and meaning.

It turns out that these ideas are not only an internet phenomenon. They have been around for millennia, and for good reason.  People as a group tend to settle for what is comfortable, what is easier, and the things that are enjoyable.

We all, deep down, know on some level that these are also the things that are the least likely to help us fulfill our goals of living content, full lives with purpose and meaning. We know that things that are actually going to allow us to grow, to improve, and to find that meaning in our lives are in fact not comfortable, they are not easy and often they are not enjoyable either.

We should choose to be doing the things that we know will make us better at whatever it is we want to improve at. Maybe that means we get up earlier, maybe we add in exercise, cut out certain foods, or maybe we read instead of watching television.

Whatever it is, we should choose to be better.

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May 16

“You may observe this in human life: no one can merely go wrong by themselves, but they must become both the cause and adviser of another’s wrong doing.” – Seneca

Busy. We are all just so busy. But if we took the amount of time we spent on things that weren’t actually productive, how much time do we really spend doing things that need to be done? How often do we find ourselves putting things on our plate that are not going to help our productivity? How often do we find ourselves giving these unimportant tasks to our spouses? Our coworkers? Our children?

This might be the only time we want to start with other people and then slowly work towards fixing a problem in ourselves.

Not only are we guilty of wasting our own time but we are all very likely guilty of wasting someone else’s as well. Probably someone we love. Just think about how many busy work tasks we push onto our spouses, our children, our friends.

As we move through our day today, let’s make a mental note of each of the tasks that we ask others to do. And as we get better of recognizing how much busy work we ask others to pick up we should start to ask ourselves, does this need to be done? Is it something we would do if we were able? Is it going to help the other person as well?

If we can answer yes to all of those questions, fine the task is important. If we answer no to any of them, maybe we should rethink it. We live in a chaotic time, there is always more to put on our plates, we should be careful about how much we place on anyone else’s to-do list.

And once we get good at not pushing busy work onto those around us, we should look inward and start trying to eliminate it in our own lives.

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May 15

“Now nothing gets us into greater troubles than our subservience to common rumor, and our habit of thinking that those things are best that are generally perceived as such.”         – Seneca

We’ve all at least heard the adage, “If everyone jumped off a cliff…” we know how it goes. And not a single one of us is likely going to want to think of ourselves as followers, many of us prefer to think of ourselves as leaders, most if not all of us would prefer to see ourselves as individuals.

If we look at our lives however, we find evidence that we are following the crowd more than we might like to admit to ourselves, we all buy the same things, we read the same books, watch the same shows and in our won communities often have the same politics/religions/beliefs.

And we all subscribe to the same conventional wisdom. If we look a little deeper into many of the commonly held beliefs and the way we understand the world, we are often wrong. Entirely wrong.

So for today, let’s step back from what we know a little bit. Because there is a good chance what we know is not quite as robust as we believe it to be. Let’s approach some of the same things we have been doing daily for a long time now with an attitude that we might have been doing them wrong. Let’s see if we can’t relearn a few things we have known for a really long time.

And let’s see if that approach makes us see things, just a little differently. If it does, maybe it is worth applying this to the rest of our lives.

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May 14

“Everyone wants to live a happy life, but we are dull at perceiving exactly what it is that makes life happy.” – Seneca

Happiness. We are all seeking it in our own way. But are we asking the right questions? A quick search for book about happiness would indicate that while we all want to be happy, most of us have no idea where to start.

If we were to design a basic pattern of happiness what would it include? For our purposes, we will define happiness as a state of well being, contentment, and a generally decent quality of life.

If we look at our current quality of life, most of us will have to concede that it is in fact fairly decent, possibly even downright good. This is especially true when we compare our situation to that of other humans around the globe. In that, most of us have satisfied the requirement for happiness.

But are we content? In most case, we are not. We lose perspective of just how good our lives are and get trapped in the wanting. We get pulled into the idea that somehow external things, outside of our own control hold the keys to our being happy. We could and should instead choose contentment.

For some of us, this is going to be harder than others. We might not be where we actually need to be in order to feel contentment, or perhaps we are simply not ready to change our frame of mind. But we can look at where we are and ask ourselves, what would we need in order to feel content?

And then plan our lives out around the answer to this question.

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May 13

“Pleasure like a kind of bait, is thrown before everything which is really bad and easily lures greedy souls to the hook of destruction.” – Epictetus

The easy path, the immediate gratification, the quick fix, or just going for what feels good instead of what we know is good for us. Having that one more drink that we know is going to interrupt decision making or eating that eating that food that we know we’re not supposed to. Maybe it’s going over the head of one of our co-workers to get that promotion.

Everyday we make little choices choices that define who we are as people. While they may appear to be little choices, when we make them repeatedly they end up deciding who we are. So when we make the choice to give in, to just take the easy path we need to remember that we are choosing who we are.

If we decide that it’s okay to cheat or give in to temptation this one little time we will typically also tell ourselves that we don’t do this all the time. We should take a moment and we should look back on how often we make those little compromise.s or even better, keep it in our mind at all times going forward. We should start tracking these compromises.

We should also keep in mind that with each of these decisions we are building a habit and if we are making two decisions to make the right choice and be stronger everyday and ten decisions to make the wrong choices be a little weaker every day we’re still headed down the path of weakness. We’re still headed towards destruction

Instead we should keep front and center in our mind that we always want to be getting better we always want to be making the stronger decisions and then we should go about the business of making them, every day.

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May 12

“If a person should transgress moderation the things which give the greatest delight would become the things which give the least.” – Epictetus

Hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill is the idea that we get used to our current level of quality of life. This goes for all types of pleasure and hardship, one of the easiest examples to use though it is not as accurate would be thinking about why we need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects after we’ve been doing it for a while. It’s also why when we make a lot of money, when we buy a big house or when we buy a big fancy car that’s really comfortable, why eventually, we get used to those things.

In each case, the opposite is also true. When we deprive ourselves of luxury, when we go without the creature comforts, when we take the path that is going to be more difficult, we also become used to dealing with hardship. We adapt.

But here is the kicker, when we choose to deprive ourselves of the luxuries of life even the small luxuries become that much more enjoyable. If we are disciplined in our diet, even a small treat is a luxury. If we are disciplined in our schedule, a small break can be a time of rest and reflection. If we discipline our bodies, difficult tasks become easier and more enjoyable. And if we discipline our minds and our emotions, time with friends and loved ones becomes far more meaningful.

More than just being more enjoyable because we’ve deprived ourselves of luxury, these things become more enjoyable to us because we know that we have earned them.

May 11

“We should enjoy good fortune while we have it, like the fruits of autumn.” – Epictetus

We all know that good things and bad things are going to happen to us in this life and that all of the good and the bad things that happen have aspects to them that are beyond our control. In most cases good things and bad things are just going to happen to us and how we respond to them is the only part we actually control.

Just as we should not be upset by the bad things that happen to us and we should not look at them as reflections of who we are, we should not be proud of the good things that happen to us. We should not act as if the good things that do come to us were brought about solely by our actions. But that does not mean that we can’t enjoy them while they are here.

More importantly, much like the fruits of autumn, we can store our good fortune for later use. We can do that by determining when good things happen to us whether these good things have an aspect to them that can be set aside for later use. If they can, we should do just that because just like money saving up good fortune can pay for itself more in the long-term then if we just went and spent it right away.

As we move through our day today when we experience pleasant things let’s ask ourselves, ‘is this something that I am able to put off the enjoyment of now and get more out of later?’

If the answer is yes, let’s come back and revisit these during a more difficult time when we might actually get more out of them.

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May 10

“A person is unreasonable who is troubled by the things that happen as the result of nature’s necessity.” – Epictetus

Whether we like it or not, we are headed towards degeneration. Someday, we are going to lose our abilities, someday we will be less strong, less mobile, our skill sets will deteriorate and we will lose some of our basic freedoms. Eventually, we will lose our ability to earn a living and at that point we will be left to try to live off of the wealth that we have been able to gather up to that point. We will depend on that accumulated wealth to sustain us for the rest of our lives and then we will die.

That is a rather bleak to look at our lives, especially the end part of our lives but it is also a realistic way to look at it. Choosing to be upset by these facts, choosing to allow them to get into our minds and affect our daily lives does us no good and in fact probably harms us more than we realize.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be negatively affected by the inevitable, we can train our bodies to maintain our strength and mobility for as long as we are able, we can train our minds to learn new things so that when our abilities starts to fail we can pivot and take up new challenges and exploit new opportunities, and we can train ourselves in resource discipline so that we require less to live and are able to live off less wealth then we would if we continued on our current path.

So yes, we are going to get weaker, we are going to lose abilities, we are going to eventually be stuck with what we have acquired in this life but that does not mean we need to go towards that end resigned to our fate just waiting to die.

No. We can work towards giving ourselves the best opportunity to enjoy the entirety of our lives. It just takes will and discipline

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May 9

“Envy is the antagonist of the fortunate.” – Epictetus

We have so much in this life to feel fortunate about. We have blessings that we fail to recognize as blessings. We have electricity at the touch of a switch, clean water at the turn of a knob, warmth when it is cold, shelter when the weather is disagreeable, and we have access to more food than we probably need. We carry with us the means to access the entire vault of human knowledge, in our pockets!

Still we find ourselves wanting more and better things. Better phones, better cars, better homes, and more toys than people two generations ago would have been able to imagine. And why do we want all of these things? Because they are available and because if other people can have them why can’t we?

For starters, our wanting of things takes our focus away from the things we have. The things we take for granted. And when we take things for granted in our lives we stop being grateful for what we already have. When we stop feeling grateful we start to feel unfulfilled. When we rob ourselves of our ability to feel fulfilled we rob ourselves of our own contentment.

Let’s start giving back to ourselves by remembering the things we should be grateful for and focusing on attaining only the things that will enrich our lives.

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May 8

“The value of knowledge, like that of gold is valued in every place.” – Epictetus

If we would like to find ourselves invaluable at work, home, and in our social circles we would do well to begin that journey by making ourselves more knowledgeable. Our ability to help solve problems that might come up make us valuable to any one with a problem we can help with. The more knowledgeable we choose to make ourselves, the more problems we can find ourselves helping with. The subjects we choose to become more knowledgeable are ultimately individual and up to each of us but if we want to gain valuable knowledge we would be wise to choose subjects we find our friends and coworkers struggling with.

Any gains in knowledge or ability come to us with a big caveat. It is all well and good to learn new things, get better at new skills, and share them with others but it is more important to remain modest. Gaining new knowledge, even important and useful knowledge does not give us a license to go around solving everyone’s problems. First we have to demonstrate competence in areas related to the problems we want to solve, then we wait. We wait until someone seeks our assistance and then we provide it as best we can.

No one likes a know it all, and there is a fine balance between gaining knowledge, being excited to share it, and bombarding our friends and coworkers with pretentious vomit from our newly informed minds.

Let’s look to gain as much knowledge as we can in this life, for its own sake. If we never actually get to use it, at least we have it.

virtus fortis vocat


May 7

“If you wish to live a life free from sorrow, think of what is going to happen as if it has already happened.” – Epictetus

Each of us are going to experience difficulties that are going to be so hard on us that we will question our own ability to get through them. Of these, the loss of a loved one is likely going to be the hardest thing many of us are going to face. Some of these losses can be predicted. For example, most of us with living parents can expect to survive beyond their passing.

While it is not fun to think about anyone dying, especially a loved one, it is helpful to keep in mind that death is an unavoidable part of life. We are all – each of us – going to die. Ignoring it, pretending it isn’t going to happen, or lying to ourselves to believe that not thinking about these things is the same as happiness helps nothing. It’s still coming.

A better but slightly counter intuitive approach is to think about these things as if they have already occurred. Literally, pretend a loved one has already died. What did we wish we had said? Done? Are we happy with the relationship we maintained with them? Did we make them feel how important they were to us while they were living? Even in the best of relationships the answer to those questions is likely to be ‘no.’

By practicing this a few times a week, maybe even a few times a day we give ourselves the opportunity to do something about these relationships before it is too late.

Because death is coming. For all of us.

virtus fortis vocat

May 6

“You ought to choose both physician and friend not the most agreeable, but the most useful.” -Epictetus

That is not to say to us that we should be using our friends anymore than we use our physician, or mechanic, or anyone we have a reciprocal relationship with. If we remember however, that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, we will also remember how important our friend choices are.

We should all be aiming to be better friends. Better friends are the type of people who have friends that know without a doubt that they are valued by them. Our friends should know that we consider them important and that we will go out of our way to make certain that they can feel that. Like a lot of social interactions though, our act of making our friends feel important has to come from a genuine place.

It is easier to be genuine about looking up to our friends if they actually possess traits that we admire about them. It is hard to stay friends with someone we look down on or feel sorry for because we struggle to make them feel important. It is true we could likely find things to admire about just about anyone we encounter in life but if we are early in our journey along this path we should be making choices that are going to lead to success. In the beginning, that is going to mean choosing to associate with the friends that we naturally admire and developing the skill of making sure they know that they are important to us.

As we get better our circle of friends can grow infinitely larger based on our ability to find admirable traits in others.

virtus fortis vocat

May 5

“Whoever is least disposed in mind by calamities, and in act struggles most against them, these are the best people in states and in private life.” – Epictetus

We are all going to face difficult situations and sometimes life is just going to seem like one terrible event after another. It is easy to allow it to overwhelm us. It isn’t difficult to find ourselves feeling as if we are standing on our tippy toes in water up to our chin and the waves are getting a little bigger every minute.

And we all know a few people that just seem to weather every storm life sends them without even breaking stride. It is a safe bet that we have all wished we could share their approach to life. But it’s hard to do when we seem to be taking on water at all times.

There is a simple three step process to training our minds to act like those people we admire in a time of crisis.

Step one is to detach from the situations, or all of the situations. We need to stop fighting against the waves and just hold our breath for a minute. By stepping back from the crisis we create some distance, it helps if we look at our own lives as if they belonged to someone else. What would we encourage this person to do? This will lead right into step two.

Step two is to make a list of things we need to tackle, we should list them in order of importance and we should attack each item on the list without giving a second thought to the issue coming up next. By focusing entirely on one task at a time the forces working against us seem smaller and easier to manage. This reduces our stress and allows us to stay detached.

The third and final step is to repeat the above two steps as often as necessary in order to keep  the things we can control under our control. This is not going to make life easy but then our goal should not be to have an easy life. Our goal should be to have a challenging but fulfilling life.

By stepping back and seeing our problems from the outside and then attacking our problems one at a time, we can have just that.

virtus fortis vocat

May 4

“When our friends are present, we should treat them well. When our friends are absent, we should speak of them well.” – Epictetus

Of course we should treat our friends well, that is how we maintain friendship. But what does that mean to us? We should be truly interested and invested in their lives. They should feel like when they are with us, we are listening and giving them all of our attention. Our most important goal in any friendship should be to be certain that our friends know that we consider them to be important at all times.

But it is when our friends are not around that we can do the most to show them how important they are to us. Speaking well of others when they are not around isn’t just going to make them look good. It will actually change the way people think about them and interact with them. This will make their lives better.

As an aside, it also makes people think better of us. If we share all the good things we can think of about someone every time that person comes up in conversation it makes us look like we care about others and value other people. And we should. This will lead to people being far more open and straightforward with us and far more willing to collaborate with us on just about everything.

So for the rest of this week, let’s try this out. Every time someone comes up in conversation let’s try to mention as many things as we can think of that are good about this person or good things that are happening in their lives. Let’s see if we notice a difference in the way people interact with us by the end of the week.

virtus fortis vocat

May 3

“The necessity of circumstance proves friends and detects enemies.” – Epictetus

We have all heard similar expressions about bad times showing us who our friends really are. What we need to think about in relation to our goal of mastering self control and focusing only on the aspects of life that we have control over, is that our friends choose to remain friends with us and there is little we can do about their decision making.

Instead we should be looking at quotes like these in terms of our own behavior. Would we be the friend or the enemy when the necessity of circumstance starts to sort everyone out? It is likely true that the majority of us would prefer to be the friend.

We become the friend in bad times by remaining truly and genuinely interested in the people we share life with. If we take an interest in the lives of the people we interact with, we can not help but see them as they are, unique and wonderful people.

When these unique and wonderful people are going through hard times, we can’t help but identify with them simply because we have taken a genuine interest in them and their lives. During these times we also have the beautiful gift of detachment, meaning that we can see more of the big picture of what they are going through. This puts us in an excellent position to offer the appropriate amount and type of assistance without making the affected person feel pitied.

When the circumstances arise, let us make the effort to be the friend and not the enemy.

virtus fortis vocat

May 2

“Be careful to leave your children well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” – Epictetus

We have all seen it. The person we knew who had everything given to them, they didn’t seem to understand the value of anything did they? It’s a known fact that one of the best ways to ruin a small business is to pass it down to one of the owner’s children. Why is that? Because it is impossible to understand and appreciate the amount of effort and responsibility required to build and maintain a business or any organization unless a person was involved. Like anything, we see the success but what we don’t see is the work, failure, and persistence that leads to the success.

It serves us and those involved with us better to live an example of being caught up in the process and less about the success. It helps to remember that a huge part of success and failure have more to do with external forces outside of our control than they do with things we can actually affect. Instead, we should focus on getting ourselves better at whatever we are trying to be successful with. We should quietly go about improving our abilities, our perspective, and most importantly our attitude.

With a little luck, our quiet example will be followed by the people in life we most hope to influence.

virtus fortis vocat

May 1

“Chose the best life, because experience will make it pleasant.” – Epictetus

A lot of life happens to us, we affect very little of the on goings of it; even in our careers, families, and social networks. The one thing we have complete control over is ourselves; how we act, how we react, and how we choose to view life. The best life then, is the life in which we have chosen to focus our energy on developing and improving ourselves.

This life is also the most enjoyable for a number of reasons. The first and likely most powerful reason is that it is the life where we are going to enjoy the best results. When we focus on the things we actually control and affect, we get to see much more rapid and impressive results than if we sprinkle in a bunch of effort towards things we do not control and therefore can not affect.

The other reason that this life is more pleasant is that it greatly reduces our stress. When we think about the things in life that stress us out, really keep us up at night in our current situation or recent past, what are they? Often, they are things that we have little to no control over. By learning to let go of these things that we can not control, we remove their ability to cause us stress.

Let’s chose the best life for ourselves and get to working on ourselves.

virtus fortis vocat