Tim Ferriss

Letters from a Stoic (book 4 of 26)

Letters from a Stoic (book 4 of 26)

February 25, 2018
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in Tip

Letters from a StoicTim Ferriss talks about it a lot.
My brother read it this summer when we met up at mom’s place.
And I got it in the fall, when picking up a few books from an online bookstore, so when the reading challenge of 2018 crystallized in my mind, including Letters from a Stoic by Seneca was an easy choice.

It’s amazing that this book is made up of letters written almost two thousand years ago, and here I sit, reading them. Two thousand (!) years later. That is mind-blowing. Aside from that, there are parts of the book that really resonate with me, and other parts I struggle with. I do like the Stoic drive to “learn in order to be a better human”, but at the same time, the prescriptiveness of the Stoic way of living jars with my fairly recent understanding that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for you.

But how can I object to advice such as this on reading:
“You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find lasting place in your mind.”

Or thoughts such as this on friendship:
“But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.”

And trust (in my naivety I do go for the first one, perhaps that’s why I like this line?):
“Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behavior).”

And this, taken from a longer conversation on traveling, which I find to be of extraordinary value today, what with the migration issues we are facing, which I believe will only get worse. Unless, that is, we heed Seneca’s words:
“Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there. We ought not, therefore, give over our hearts for good to any one part of the world. We should live with the conviction: ‘I wasn’t born for one particular corner; the whole world’s my home country.'”

As I flip through this book that I just finished reading this morning, I gaze upon page after page of my scribbles in the margins, marking a passage here, a phrase there, a sentence or two and quote after quote, and I realize, here’s a book I want to re-read soon, at least once more. Makes me understand what Ferriss is talking about, when he says about Letters from a Stoic that “I’ve read it dozens of times, and I loved it so much that I turned it into The Tao of Seneca, a three-volume set of audiobooks. If you prefer a written version of the Tao of Seneca, you can find it here for free.

Throughout the letters, Seneca is clear on one thing above all else, coming back to it again and again, and that is how philosophy, the love of wisdom, is to be put to practical use:
“What we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and nobel-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application – not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech – and learn them so well that words becomes works.”

This cuts to the core of one of my pet peeves concerning the self-help genre, which is that many people don’t seem willing to do the work. Reading book after book, without actually trying it on for size. Somehow believing that just reading it, will make whatever the book is talking about come true? Laziness? An unwillingness to step outside both comfort and possibly safety zones? To use Senecas words, reading, but not applying the advice. And that will not make a change in how life is perceived, not in the least. And to finish off where I started this post, how will I ever know if what works for you (or the Stoics), might work for me, unless I try it?

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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What is your egg?

January 27, 2016
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in Tip

One thing at a time. It makes sense. And it is a way to be gentle to yourself. Let yourself work on one thing at a time. Even though the urge to take on this, and that, and just a wee bit of this other thing as well, is strong within. And it might work. For sure. It depends on you to a large extent, and to your reasons for doing it. Or perhaps, better stated: it depends upon where the urge comes from. If it’s a sensible and logical conclusion, you’ve decided to stop drinking, smoking, eating too much, start to exercise and cook better food, and only drink green smoothies for breakfast and, and, and… Or if it’s actually something that you know to do. Something that is coming through you, with the quiet wisdom of Mind behind it.

Tim Ferriss talks about an egg. When people approach him, asking for help to get their life together (health, food, exercise and such), he has them start with an egg. You want to change your diet, get healthier, move more, sleep better? Start with an egg. Regardless of what your breakfast routine may look like, if it’s non-existent, or consists of sugar-coated cereal and low-fat milk, or is actually quite sensible. Start with an egg. That’s it. Add an egg. Simple. Boil it. Poach it. Whatever. Just add an egg to your breakfast.

The simple beauty of this is that regardless of what else you do, that egg will be beneficial. You will notice a shift. In endurance. Stamina. Ability to focus. It will help, in all those areas. Perhaps just a wee bit, but if you pay attention, you will spot the difference.

And once you’ve added that egg, noticed the benefits, and gotten into the routine to have your morning egg, then you can add another egg. Only this egg doesn’t have to be an actual egg. It can be a metaphorical egg. Pick one thing you can add, that will work in the same way as the breakfast egg. One tiny thing, as easy as an egg, that will benefit you, in some way.

Perhaps add a 15 minute walk to work? Or a five-minute meditation practice right before going to bed? Smiling at people you meet?

It doesn’t really matter. But add. Don’t subtract. At least not now. It’s so much harder to subtract than to add. Adding feels generous, there’s a sense of abundance to it. Subtracting on the other hand, means depriving yourself of something, actively thinking in negative terms (don’t do this, avoid that), and it’s actually hard on the brain to grasp.

Don’t think about the blue elephant wearing red smiling trunks, sitting up in the tree.

Yeah right. I’m definitely picturing that in my mind now. And you know why? Because the brain doesn’t register the ”don’t”. We picture the elephant, we can’t picture NOT picturing the elephant. So if nothing else – perhaps you can add the egg of talking in positives. Of framing your wishes, your dreams and desires, in positives. Avoid the negative words, the not’s, and observe what happens.

I’ve added eggs to my life. Sometimes an egg at a time, and sometimes enough to make an omelette. Some of these I have a long history with, some are newer.
*Having yoghurt and fresh fruit for lunch.
*My morning green smoothie.
*Headspace meditation before getting up in the morning
*Doing my Seven exercise before getting dressed.
*Getting myself a coach, whom I meet with regularly.
*Smiling at people I meet, regardless if I know them or not.whatsyouregg
*Taking active part in a MasterMind-group every third week, just to name a few…

Guess what? They are all beneficial. And, even more importantly, I am sticking with them. I enjoy them, I benefit from them, my life is better because of them. Sometimes I forget the odd egg here or there, but fairly quickly I pick up the habit again, whatever it is. Because I matter. My wellbeing is the most important thing for me. If I am well, living a rich life, taking care of my health both mentally and physically, it means I can be there for you. And I want to be there for you. That’s another reason why I am sticking to my eggs. It benefits me. And those around me.

In time, your eggs will automatically have the effect of ousting the bad eggs in your life, so to speak. So. If you could add a (metaphorical) egg to your life, what would it be?

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