Saturday was Women’s Equality Day and it happened to fall just as the controversy about a memo from an employee of Google about female programmers is finally dying down. If the ancient Stoics were here they would have shaken their heads at that entire fiasco. First, they wouldn’t let the scribblings of anyone, let alone some random employee at a tech company, get them so upset. And second, they would have said to that random employee, “What the hell are you so worked up about, man?”
They would have disliked the memo because it tried to argue about averages, as if they mattered in any practical way. The Stoics had no time for that nonsense—they cared about the individual. They would have agreed with Theodore Roosevelt’s point when he was asked about the then controversial movement for women’s suffrage. He said he didn’t understand the big deal, because whatever differences there might have been between genders, it paled between the differences he saw between “men and other men.” Point being: It doesn’t matter what group anyone is a part of—it only matters what they do with their individual capacities and potentials.
The Stoics were shockingly early to the notion of equality of the sexes. As Musonius Rufus put it, “not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.” More important, they believed that everyone and anyone was capable of excellence, regardless of station, origin, or gender. Epictetus was a slave, Marcus was emperor, Cato’s daughter was a woman and so was Seneca’s mother Helvia, who he wrote often about Stoicism—all were expected to rise to their particular occasions and we admire them because they did.
The next time you find yourself drawn into some idiotic debate about racial differences, about gender, about immigration, about identity, resist the mistake of applying labels and make judgements from them. There are brilliant men out there and utterly incompetent ones. There are brilliant women and utterly incompetent ones. (And this is true for every other kind of category.) We are all equal in that way. The only inequality that matters—that we should judge people on—is what they do as an individual.
I have always wondered why I have a crappy night sleep when I go to bed a little tipsy. While I feel like I can fall asleep faster, the net metabolic effect is negative. The liver basically steals resources from the brain to clear the toxins and you do r get the restoration you need.
From fast company:
“Alcohol is a depressant and neurotoxin, which means it slows down the central nervous system’s processes by reducing electrical conductivity in the brain. This means that neurons, which send and receive the electrical signals that cause the release of neurotransmitters, operate more slowly. In fact, if you spent the evening drinking and then went to sleep wearing a heart-rate variability monitor, it would show significantly increased levels of stress for your body while you slept.
That’s thanks to the body’s physiological response when it’s trying to break down a toxin, the liver works harder when it should be resting, leading to a stressed state from which you’ll wake up feeling exhausted. Throughout the night, as the liver uses a higher proportion of the body’s energy than usual, the brain is starved of its usual resources and struggles to recuperate effectively for the next day.”
This is a question Subir’s grandfather used to ask him when he was six years old and he still remembers. I am going to do this with Madison soon.
Offer your child a coin (quarter) ( I may upgrade this to a $5 for inflation) or a pen. Which would they choose?
If they choose the money (which most will to fulfill an immediate desire for candy or some other short-term “need”), say “No, the wrong choice”.
Always choose the pen. With a pen, you can create something, you can write notes for years on college, you can take tests, you can pen a master piece. With the pen, you have long term creativity. With the money you have short term desire fulfillment, then you need more. Always choose long term creativity.
Bulletproof Labs, is working on a new battery of assessments to measure how “Bulletproof” someone is. While “Bulletproof” in many ways is a marketing term which defines a lifestyle brand, the brand seems to be putting some work into quantitive measurements (in the good old hacker vein of “data is good”). Over at Bulletproof Training Institute, they have taken a stab at how to measure “Bulletproof” through a series of self-reported assessments. These are mostly clinical or academic assessments that have been well tested and validated. Bulletproof Labs has implemented digital versions of each of these assessments as part of developing their business. The assessments are here:
Taking all six will take you less than half an hour. Each assessment has a results page and a follow-up email pointing to the underlying research and some advice on what to do if you want to change your score. I look forward to how BP Labs is going to integrate assessments into their business. From my experience after taking over 1,000 of these things of all shapes and sizes, these six assessments give you a pretty good window into how well you are living life. For a quick snapshot, take these six. Contemplate the results. Decide if you want to change anything to move any of these scales in a different direction.
I have been reminded lately of the value of setting a timer when I really want to get something done. Guys like Chris Winfield have been talking about dedicated time blocks (he calls them Pomodoro’s) for some time. I have been setting a timer with Alexa every day while doing Morning Pages. The benefits of a timer include:
Truth. Over many sessions of writing three pages for Morning Pages I know that a focused session without distractions is between 18-20 minutes. So if I set a timer for 20 minutes I should be able to get it done. When the timer goes off before 3 pages it is likely because I indulged in ratholes, picked up my phone, or daydreamed. Without the timer, I can tell myself the story that I did morning pages just fine, but the reality is likely that I took many detours. With the timer, I am far more truthful with myself about my productivity.
Permission to focus. When I am freezing myself in a cryotherapy session, knowing there is a 3-minute timer gives me the permission to endure any pain that comes my way. I tell myself “I can do anything for three minutes!”. And I do. Because I know there is a timer. Try doing Cryo without a timer. 10X more difficult. Same thing with Morning Pages. When I know the timer is on, I say to myself, “this is my 20 minutes to do Morning Pages, any distractions that come up I can deal with after the 20 minutes, I have the rest of the day for the distractions.”
Permission to delay impulses. The flipside of permission to focus is the permission to allow yourself to put off random thoughts that come into my mind. I know this time under the timer is dedicated to one thing. The next time block I have can be for the other things. There is time for all. Unless I never get anything done and then it all stacks up. It seems that sometimes my ego would rather have a very long list of tasks and never get anything done because then it can feel important. It would rather I indulge partially every impulse that comes along. But my human mind, my conscious mind, understands that growth, learning, progress, only come with checking things off the list. With completing one thing and moving on to the next thing. So give yourself permission to delay gratification on certain things so you can gain gratification on the thing you are supposed to do now.
In college, studying philosophy was an excruciating exercise in memorization and focus on minutia between different schools of philosophy. It seemed very dry and very dead. The idea that all of these different schools were trying to get at the same thing; how to live life well and what that means was totally lost on me. That is often a failing of the industrial-academic approach to teaching something. I have found it easier to learn something when I have a practical problem in search of a solution. So it has been lately for me with philosophy and I am glad for that perspective. Here are a few practical real life problems for which I have found solutions in no small part from philosophy and especially Stoic philosophy:
How to be in a crowd and in the spotlight as a natural introvert. (post coming soon)
Ok so spring has arrived and with it my allergies and chronic sinus infections. I had the “Rotar rooter” surgery about 15 years ago which took care of the problem for about 10 years but now they are back with a vengeance. My ENT friend has been helping me but along the traditional path which addresses the symptoms not the cause. My Chronic sinus infections were caused by inflammation from alergies that constricts the airways and encourages bacterial growth. Surgery makes the air ways larger but that just gives the inflammation more room. The inflamation is still there, my immune system is still fighting. I am still loosing energy. This time I decided to deal with the inflammation and called my friend dave asprey who sent me his sinus hack!
I had been using a mechanical neti pot with saline water to irrigate and expell the mucus. While that helped relieve congestion it didn’t do anything for the actual inflammation nor did it get the whole sinus passage down the back of the throat. Daves method adds anti inflammatory and anti bacterial compounds (colilidial Silver, iodine, xylitol) to the mix to kill bacteria and reduce inflamation. And by sucking it up though your nose like a dippy bird and spitting it out your mouth it gets the whole passage. Two days of 3x per day of this method and my sinuses are clear and I can feel the inflamation way down. I can breathe at night. I am canceling the surgery.
Best. Sinus hack. Ever.
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the temporary nature of everything in our lives. Then I found these questions from Echart Tolle today. Whenever you have something in your life that you think is “you” or that you just can’t give up. Ask these questions. Don’t respond immediately with what the ego wants to say to defend itself. Just sit with the questions. Feel the for the answers rather than trying to think through them.
– Do you realize that you will have to let go of Xxxx at some point, perhaps quite soon?
– How much more time do you need before you are ready to let go of it?
– Will you become less if you when you let go of it ?
i have posted this Epicutus quite before but I can remind myself enough of it. How protective are we of our physical security while being quite lax in our mental security. We will let social media or negative thoughts about others overwhelm the consciousness far too often. Distractions pull me into a spiral without much conscious decision. Like internet clicks. Anothe link.
Remember the only thing that you have full control over is your mind. My next decision. Do not cede that freedom lightly. Recognize when you have ceded it and reflect.
I have been doing Morning Pages for almost a two years now. It seems like every week I meet someone else for whom Morning Pages has earned a place in the morning routine. Here are some of my personal hacks that make Morning Pages even better:
On a desk with pen and paper. The point of morning pages is to focus and get the brain/hand connection working. Get the body and mind in sync. And to provide a distraction-free outlet for thoughts and feelings. I have tried using online applications to do morning pages. Bad idea, too many popups and distractions and too easy to indulge the impulse in checking email or facebook or any of the other shiny things that come up during the sitting. The best way to focus at the appropriate pace is to sit at a technology free desk or table with a pen, and college ruled journal.
No electronics within reach. It is tempting to keep the “productivity” tool close to indulging those inspirations which come. But this is focus time. 15-20 minutes. The point is that you have the rest of the day for technology. Leave it all outside your reach.
Set a timer. I have found that daydreaming is the first distraction during morning pages. If I take away the technology enabler of most distraction, I am left with just staring off into space daydreaming. To combat that, setting a timer has been effective because I know that thing is going go off and I want to be done before it does. I use Google Home to set the timer.
Post-it notes. The most common shiny distraction that my monkey mind wants to indulge and get out of Morning Pages are additional to-do items that come up during the sitting. Since it is a creative time, there are frequently things that come up that I want to follow up on or do later. When I used to have my phone next to me, I would put them on the to-do list right then. But about 70% of the time I would get sucked into a rathole of further investigation or googling to flush out something. That would all be enabling delays in Morning Pages. But I didn’t want to lose those items of inspiration, so I now put a pad of post-it notes next to my journal. Inspirational to-do items go there. After the sitting, I take those things over to the computer, if on second thought they still seem worthy, I add them to the to-do lists then.
Feeling word list. Often when writing, I have to describe a feeling. Before I found Byron Katie’s emotions list, I thought there were about three feelings (angry, happy, sad). Now when faced with describing a feeling I start with I am feeling… then read through the entire list of feelings. I write down every word that seems to fit with the feeling. Typically I come up with 10-20 feeling words. And in this process, I have never had the same set of words for two different events. The subtleties of the feelings come out. You get to understand at a visceral level what is going on inside you and how that situation was different from the one yesterday. While the at the top level both may be “angry,” when you read the longer list and notice the differences, you understand the next level of feelings. Critical hack to get to the real issues.
Something to drink. Always have something to drink. I have two things. Usually coffee and water. Or Tea and water. Make full cups, so you don’t get up in the middle and use getting a drink as an excuse to stop morning pages. Making coffee can be a 5-minute distraction. Don’t let the monkey get the control that long.
List of Journal Prompts. I have not had a problem filling three pages recently, but for the first few months, I did. This list of prompts has helped me break through and get going. Just read the list, and after you read through them, the writing will start. One of them will trigger something, and the pen will start moving. As a stand alone exercise I also sometimes just print out the list of prompts and write a sentence or two about each from top to bottom.
Word of the Day at the top of the Page. Every day should have a primary intention for the day. I usually set this word in my Intention/Decision exercise just before Morning Pages. If you don’t do that, just come up with one word for the day. And write it at the top of the first page. Today my word was “Present.” That one word can start a whole page of dialogue. Why did you choose that word? Why today? What was the word yesterday? Why did it change?
Do decision intention worksheet before. A huge part of waking up for me is being intellectually honest with myself. Am I living in line with my intentions? As a habit to track that congruency or synchronicity, I created the http://wp.me/p6JmUh-5sIntention/Decison exercise. I do it before morning pages every day.
Be authentic. Make sure your Morning Pages work is actually in line with your goal/values. Early on in Morning pages, my monkey mind lets me believe three pages of wide ruled writing (160 words per page) was the same as three pages of college ruled writing (250 words per page). Contemplation and Analysis caught that cognitive disconnect. I fixed it. Make sure you are being authentic and not cheating yourself.
Record emotions by moment to moment sensations. While #5 has been a life-saving hack, what it is getting at is DEPTH. Don’t write in your journal “I was scared”. Using #5, I write the 20 other feeling words that are also there and get a much more rich understanding of the emotion. Another technique I borrowed from this guy, is to reproduce emotions by the moment to moment signal and sensory experiences that you went through. The five ways we feel emotions are:
Signals in the body. Temperature, heartbeat, lungs, muscles, nerves, etc.
Signals outside the body. Gestures, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.
Flashes from the past. Not analysis but “bursts of waking dream”
Flashes from the future. More dream bursts, but as premonitions of what might happen. Again, not analytical. (not “being scared was bad”)
Sensual selectivity. What we sense from the world around us, filtered by emotions. (like “the sun burned a hole in my heart”)
I have found these hacks to improve morning pages for me. I hope they do for you as well.