Thursday 18 September 2014

What is it that it is in your nature to do?

Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do. Marcus Aurelius
We can overthink things. After completing the recent blog post about getting up and doing what it is in your nature to do I spent hours thinking about what that was. Was there a big task I should accomplish? Books? Politics? Public speaking? Inventions? Fruit growing? Was some big thing the task that was in my nature to do?
     Nothing earth shattering came to mind. I suspect that is the same for most people. So I thought about what I do each day. I get up and write. I may make bread first thing. I get kids ready for school and to their bus. I go to work. After work I may jog, cook, watch TV, read, attend meetings, clean up my shed, mow the lawn. I do what it is in my nature to do each day and it changes somewhat from day to day depending on what needs doing. And this is right. I am fortunate that I always have something to do. The task that I should do is always apparent. I am lucky.
     Knowing what it is you have to do and doing it is not difficult so long as you do not try to overthink it as I did recently. If there is a big task to which you should devote most of your time that will be apparent. Otherwise it will just be a series of smaller tasks – tasks related to your job, to looking after your family, looking after your home, meeting friends or just relaxing. If what you are doing does not feel right, do something that does feel right.

     Only you can answer the question in your own mind about what the next most important task is for you to do. Sometimes it will be to relax. We all need downtime. And if you spend too much time relaxing then something else will become the most important task for you to do. So long as you let your nature decide what it is you should do, you will be happy with your life.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Do what is in your nature

"Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do." Marcus Aurelius
     My recent contemplation of stoicism has led inevitably to a consideration of nihilism. Stoicism tells us that anything over which we do not have complete control is irrelevant – that is everything apart from our own virtues and vices. So anything done by other people is irrelevant. That is nearly everything that most people are concerned about. While following a stoical lifestyle increases your serenity and decreases stress, you inevitably wonder if it leaves enough in life to keep it interesting.
     Nihilism is a short step beyond that. You wonder if anything is relevant at all. Our own virtues and vices are only of interest to us and so what do they matter in the great scheme of things? Is anything you do of any relevance? After you go all that you are and have done will return to dust. Shortly after that your kids and grandkids will return to dust and with them your memory. Therefore you wonder if anything is worth worrying about at all.
     The Galaxy Song from the end of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life comes to mind.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
 As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.
     So what is the meaning of your life or anyone else’s? It has been said that I think too much and I feel I may well be overthinking this point. Many people commit suicide. Maybe some of them overthink life and come to the same conclusion.
     What do less intelligent creature than humans do? Cows graze, chew the cud, rest on the grass and walk slowly to the milking parlour. Your dog will at times run around life a mad lunatic maybe chasing rabbits. He will scrounge for food and at times lie resting in the sun. Creatures do what it is in their nature to do. This is a good guidance to what you should do.
     I thought of all the great things done by so many people in the past. Much of this work has served to make the world a much more liveable place. There are great works of engineering, of art, of literature, of business. These works make the world better. In some cases the creators are remembered well. In others their memory is their work. If all these people had not done what they did the world would be a lesser place.
     The key to life comes back again to the words of the philosopher king, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – Get up every morning as early as you can and do what it is your nature to do. This could be anything, but by doing whatever is in your nature it will make you happier and more content with life and ultimately will make the world a better place.
     But the question that many people need an answer is what is it in your nature to do? Ask yourself what feels right? When I wake up this morning what do I feel I should be doing? You probably already do it for at least some time. One tip I read recently from a blog writer called Robert D is that you always know what you should do next. Ask yourself hypothetically what you should do next if you didn’t know what to do. Think about it for 15 seconds. You will answer the question and you should do that next. The 2 most important questions are 1. What is important right now? 2. What is important immediately after that?
     Again do not overthink it. This task is what is in your nature to do next.
     You might need to think a bit deeper if you need a better direction in life. But again you need to ask yourself what is in your nature to do. Ignore for a minute all those drudging tasks you feel you have to do. What gives you a buzz? What are you good at? Think for minute …
     Thought of it? … Think on… Whatever it is feels right. Now there are other things you have to do. Think about ways of not spending so much time doing these tasks so you have more time to do what is in your nature. If you are fortunate it will be something that other people will pay you to do. I read recently in another blog by Mike Figliuolo’s that to plan your career you should identify the tasks on the Venn diagram intersection of the sets ‘the things you enjoy’, ‘the things you are good at’, ‘the things people will pay you to do’. Anything in this intersection should make a good career. There is a good possibility that you will be able to make a good living if your can do something well and with great enthusiasm.
     But if you are having difficulty identifying something in the sweet spot, do not despair. There may be nothing that people are willing to pay you for that falls into the other 2 categories. But some people have achieved great things without means. We all know of penniless artists and authors who were only discovered after their deaths. But they could not have made their great works if it were not in their nature.
     For your own happiness you need to do what is in your nature – things you enjoy and are good at. You need to have faith that you will survive. Our basic needs are quite meagre if you are willing to give up luxuries. You may be fortunate enough to live in a country with a welfare blanket. You may be supported by your spouse or family. You should go for it. Do not feel guilty. You are doing what is in your nature. It may be in the nature of these others to support you doing it. If you are producing good work, I suspect these others enjoy supporting you.
     So now ignore all the responsibilities you feel are holding you back. Ask yourself again ‘what is it that it is my nature to do?’. Identify it. Once you decide to do it, you will think of ways to hand the responsibilities to someone else. If you want do something you will find a way. If you don’t want to do something you will find an excuse.

     A quote by Hugh Hefner ‘Life is too short to be living someone else’s dream’.

Friday 5 September 2014

It’s hard to p!$$ you off if your don’t give a S&!+

I remember well something said to me years ago by a laid-back friend – ‘It is hard to piss off a man who doesn’t give a shit’. I made the point in Survive your Camp that when you are in a difficult life situation you have to let stuff go. Use apathy as a defense.
     But this has application to your life in general. The Buddha said that all unhappiness is caused by attachment. This could be attachment to possessions, to your job or avocations, or to people. Life is easier if you are not so attached.
     Many people become quite disheartened when their comfortable life changes for the worse. They suffer bereavement, divorce or a loss of a job. You should be thankful for the good things you have, but realize that they are not permanent either. This realization will make their inevitable loss to you less painful.
     This is an underlying ethos of stoicism. Stoics classify everything as either good, bad or indifferent. The only things that are good are virtues. You should work on improving these. The four cardinal virtues, from ancient Greek philosophy are prudence, justice, temperance (or restraint) and courage (or fortitude). The seven heavenly virtues of Christianity are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
     The only bad things are vices. The vices that mirror the virtues in Greek Philosophy are rashness, injustice, intemperance and cowardice. A fuller list of vices is the seven deadly sins of medieval Christianity - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The seven virtues above are opposites of these. You should work at eliminating them.
     Everything else is indifferent. Everything external to you, i.e. outside your total control, should be indifferent to how you feel. There are preferred indifferents, rejected indifferents and genuinely indifferent indifferents. It is important to neither be excessively pleased about the preferred or upset about the rejected indifferent events. If they are outside your control you have no reason to feel excessively pleased or displeased about them.
     Obviously it is preferred to have a job, wealth, friends and a family. You would rather not have illness, poverty or enemies. But it is important to neither be too attached to the former nor too upset about the latter. Anything outside your control should not affect how you feel about yourself.
     If you can maintain a stoical acceptance of the good and bad things that happen in your life you will have much more control over your happiness. If something is upsetting you ask yourself is it a result of your vice? If not don’t let it bother you. If you are overjoyed at an event ask yourself is it due to your own virtue? If not you should restrain your joy. Something that is the result of an action by another can easily be taken away.
     You will have a much happier life if you learn to not give a shit about good things or bad things. Chill! Be cool like Zeno.

(Illustration of Zeno from