Guide your damn elephant

Emotion vs

There was a combination of factors that compelled me to write this post. The first is this quote from Ryan Holiday and it’s from his Daily Stoic email:

“Wisdom – even a tiny bit – is clarity. Clarity is freedom.”

The second factor was what I wrote in my am journal last week:

It really amazes me that the elephant and the rider still apply today. Now that I wrote that down I’m not sure why that amazes me. I guess it amazes me because most people do not recognize what this analogy means. They just go through life riding the elephant. Guide that damn elephant. You guide your car why not guide your elephant.

For whatever reason, I cannot get the analogy of the Elephant and the rider out of my head. We need to rewind the clock to 2010 when I was first introduced to the idea that our emotions and not our logic control almost everything we do. This analogy is from the book called Switch: How to change things when change is hard. The short version is the elephant represents your emotional brain aka your prefrontal cortex. The rider is your logical brain aka the Temporal and Parietal Lobes. That’s about as deep as I’m going to go with brain structures because that’s not my world. What is my world? I get to see people play tricks on themselves every day. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. We all let our elephant guide us. We get angry at the random guy who cuts off on the way to work. We get frustrated with our kids because they won’t do what we ask. There are other ways that our emotions guide us throughout the day.

For example, we justify the extra helping at dinner because we worked out. We justify not working out because we’re too tired from work. These are emotional decisions.

For example, we justify the extra helping at dinner because we worked out. We justify not working out because we’re too tired from work. These are emotional decisions. One last example would be not working out because you haven’t eaten enough. We make excuses for our effort. We should be just looking at things logically. Why don’t we allow logic to guide our decisions? Let’s look at those examples logically for a moment. You tell yourself you can eat more at dinner because you “worked out” that day. Most people burn 300-500 calories during their workouts. An extra helping wipes that out instantly. A few glasses of vino and that workout didn’t happen. There’s no need to justify eating more calories. Eat your dinner and move on.

If we look at the example that you’re too tired to workout because you worked too hard. Really? Don’t kid yourself. Here you go again letting that elephant guide you through your day. Want me to be totally honest? This is exactly why I have a job. Trainers push you when you don’t want to be pushed. Very few people can push themselves when their elephant wants ice cream or beer. When do you let your rider actually take control?

The final example is my favorite because emotionally we feel like we need “fuel” to get through our workout. While for some this is probably true. I doubt many people reading this really needs a full breakfast before their workout.

The final example is my favorite because emotionally we feel like we need “fuel” to get through our workout. While for some this is probably true. I doubt many people reading this really needs a full breakfast before their workout. Why you ask? Our bodies are set up for this kind of work. We have stored sugar in our muscles and liver for a reason. We have enough energy to get you through most workouts. Most of us have more than 800 calories of stored energy ready to go. Is this a fact? I’ll answer that question with a question, is any science really fact? Sorry to digress. I’ve tested this on many occasions. I’ve worked out completely fasted. I do not recommend this for the weak minded. Does it hurt more? Physically not at all. Mentally it’s a whole lot worse. Emotionally I want to quit with every step. That’s the point. Every time I want to quit or faint I just tell myself the energy is there. Soon after that, the workout is over. I do not recommend this for most. It sucks but the mental strength gains are unmatched.

The reason why I love this analogy is because if the elephant can and will do what it wants. When it wants. That’s how our emotions work if we don’t actively control them.

The reason why I love this analogy is because the elephant can and will do what it wants. When it wants. That’s how our emotions work if we don’t actively control them. How can a little rider control such a big animal? You need reigns. You need confidence. You need to believe that going straight forward is the answer. This is where your rider wins and let me tell you. When your rider wins there’s nothing like it. When you feel that moment happen. Remember it. You’ll need that strength again because your elephant never sleeps. Let your logic control your emotions instead of the other way around.

Like this post? Subscribe, comment below and let me know your thoughts! Don’t like this post? Subscribe, comment below and let me know why! Now go work on finding the best you.


Peaks and Valleys – Being a Parent 

“The days are long but the years are short” – Gretchen Rubin

This analogy may make more sense to me because I grew up in the Colorado high country. Parenting to me is like you’ve just spent all day climbing to the top of the mountain. You get to the summit and the view is amazing. It’s the most amazing view you’ve ever seen. You can see miles and miles in all directions. Then you trip and start tumbling down the mountain. You try to stop but before you know it you’re back to the bottom of the mountain. What do you do? You start climbing the next mountain. The view is just as amazing! It’s so incredible and then BAM! You’re falling again… That’s my parenting analogy.

This weekend kicked our collective ass. This time last week we were on our way to urgent care because Willy was really sick. Not sure about you but that’s not the way I imagined spending a Friday night. Come to find out he’s got a double ear infection. Which explains why he was in such a lethargic mood the previous few days. Who wouldn’t be?

Oh, you thought that was the bad part? The tumbling down the mountain part? Nope, not even close. Let’s focus on the view first. Even though we got our ass kicked this past weekend there were a lot of good things. Like learning that a lot of parents go to the urgent care on Friday nights. Not sure why that’s a good thing but anytime I know we’re not alone it makes me feel better. Kaiser has a great staff. No, I’m not kidding, really great staff. The nurses were awesome and so were the doctors. It was amazing to see them in action. I know what you’re saying. Really Dusty, that’s the best view you’ve ever seen? Nope, not at all. That was just like you get to the top of the summit to realize it’s the false summit. For most that is demoralizing. For me, it’s an accomplishment…it’s just not the one we were hoping for. This was our false summit. We got antibiotics and we thought we were good to go. Then Saturday happened. Willy wouldn’t eat from a bottle. Which is almost like tumbling back down to the false summit, but we have an ice ax (that’s another one of my analogies, click here) Luckily, Liz is an RN and I’m a trainer so we know how important hydration is. So, instead of trying to force it with a bottle we just went to feeding him with a syringe. Which is a slow monotonous process just like scaling the last bit of Mt. Everest. It’s never ending. Then we made the summit…

Carson had his first ice skating lesson. This was the first time he’d been on the ice without me. He just walked up and the instructor grabbed her hand and he was off. No tears. No screaming. He just went with it. I was so proud of Carson.  I mean over the moon proud. Maybe the proudest moment since becoming a dad. It was so cool to see him slip and fall and get back up. He had a few really hard falls but he shook them off. I could go on and on. This was my epic view. This was my summit. The rest of the weekend. The climb to the top didn’t matter. Yes, the climb hurt but the pain is temporary.

“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do”. – Matt Walsh

What I should say though is what I learned was more about my own feelings and emotions. The anxiety about the situation, beforehand, was so great that I was sure he was going to kick and scream. I had built it up so much in my head that I was going to have to fight him or bribe him. Nope, that Lil’ dude just went right out there and didn’t cry. Another great proud dad moment. As I always say there are always peaks and valleys as parents. The view from the peaks makes tumbling back down to the valley completely worth it.

Then the trip and fall came. The rest of the week was climbing to the top of the next mountain and tumbling back down. Then climbing up again. We thought Willy didn’t want the bottle because of his ears. Oh, boy were we wrong. Tuesday afternoon we tumbled back down. Willy wouldn’t drink his bottle and really didn’t want actual food. That’s when his school noticed a blister on his tongue. I won’t bore you with the details but sitting back writing this down I feel exhausted. I feel physically and mentally exhausted. This week kicked our collective ass. This week felt like we climbed up more times than I could ever imagine. That view, though. Seeing Willy’s little smile. Seeing Willy turn back into himself was the best view. Seeing him giggle again. That made all the tumbling worth it.

As I always say there are peaks and valleys as parents. The view from the peaks makes tumbling back down to the valley completely worth it.

It’s worth it. It’s always worth it. Like the post? Please subscribe and let me know in the comments. Hate the post? Think I’m crazy? Tell me in the comments.


7 hacks to live in the moment

fullsizeoutput_dc9You may be asking yourself if that photo is real. The answer is yes, that is actually my iPhone and yes, I actually have a folder named that. Why? I found that I was using social media too much and needed a way to slow down my use. Completely stopping the use of these social media apps would truly be the best option, but this day in age we should stay connected. The key is to limit our use around other people. We should be with those people, in person, like the world was meant to be. I’m still guilty as charged for using these apps when I should be in the moment but I’m still working on it. Which is the point, isn’t it? Here are some great quotes that keep me in the moment.

“Forever is composed of nows.”― Emily Dickinson

I would just add that the future is composed of a bunch of nows. So, why not live in this very moment? Are you really reading this or is your mind wandering? You have to recognize your mind wandering before you can change it.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”― Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you ever noticed that maybe we’re so addicted to social media because we can live vicariously through others? Is it that we get to see if the grass is greener on the other side? Shouldn’t we be focused on what’s in front of us right now? Maybe, just maybe, we are actually keeping up with old friends. That’s totally fine and why social media has made the world so much smaller. The problem is we’re doing it when we should be visiting with the people who are actually sitting across the table from us.

“What day is it?” It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. My favorite day,” said Pooh.”― A.A. Milne

I just finished the Tao of Pooh. If you haven’t read it then finish reading this post and go read it. It’s the perfect way to introduce someone to Taoism. In short, Pooh just lives in the moment. That’s all he knows. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s a short, easy read and totally worth your time. You’ll thank me later.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”

Walt Whitman

We’ve all done it before. We chase happiness. We buy the new car or house. We buy the new hottest tech item. I know I do. Does it make us happy? Maybe for a moment but for most people that happiness goes away just as quick. You don’t find happiness. You create happiness by being in the moment right now.

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

Maya Angelou

When was the last time you were truly thankful or grateful? I have a grateful practice that I do every day. It has changed the way my mind is wired. No lie. It has literally changed the way things affect me. Every day I write down four to six things that I’m grateful for and most days they’re the same things. Why do this? When life seems totally against me and my back is against the wall I know I have these things that I’m grateful for and it seems to take away all the anxiety. Don’t believe me? Try it and come back and send me a comment about how it has or hasn’t worked.

“Life is a preparation for the future, and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”

Albert Einstein

Isn’t this one cliche? Although, as I write that I want to delete it, but cliches are usually true. There are a lot of pop songs out there that talk about “live like you were dying”. If you knew tomorrow was it, your last day, what w0uld you do today? Now, that you’ve answered that question, go do it. Stop making excuses.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

Benjamin Franklin

Life is made up of the little moments. Those little moments are the ones we take for granted and usually those are the moments that turn out to be the most important. I stole that from PFM’s retirement speech. Let that sink in and we’ll leave it there. Live in those little moments.

FULL DISCLAIMER: I still work on living in the moment. Each and every day. I still use social media when I should be in the moment but this is more about the effort to limit my use. Try it to see what happens. More than likely those things you were searching for are right under your nose.

Now go become the best you. Like the post? Subscribe. If you don’t like the post tell me why! I’m still working on me.


Do you need a warm bath for your soul?

I began to reflect how completely we forget or ignore our failings, even those that affect the body, which are continually reminding us of their existence, – not to mention those which are more serious in proportion as they are more hidden. – Seneca (Letter #53)

Seneca starts this letter by telling a story about not listening to his gut that told him not to travel by sea. I’m sure we all can identify with not listening to our own intuitions, which in hindsight almost always proves to be a bad idea. In the story, Seneca gets sea sick which reminds him when we ignore our intuitions, we also choose to ignore physical ailments as well. We all preach to not ignore those nagging injuries but what always happens? We bask in our own hypocrisy and we ignore those exact ailments. The good news is for most of us, when we have a nagging injury turn into a severe injury we learn our lesson. We never ignore the little ailments again. We learn to attack every little ache or nagging injury with everything we have it. Did I lose you yet? Did I lose you with Seneca talking about ignoring physical ailments and injuries? To be honest, I almost stopped reading this letter because it almost lost me. Why would Seneca be talking about this? Well I’m glad I kept reading because there was something very profound in this letter and here it is.

Why will no man confess his faults? Because he is still in their grasp; only he who is awake can recount his dream, and similarly a confession of sin is a proof of sound mind. – Seneca (Letter #53)

Just like we do not want to let an injury beat us, we do not want to admit to ourselves that we may have other faults that reside between our ears. Just like those injuries we ignored, we ignore our anxiety or our anger. We let these things fester in our minds before they come bursting out. We’ve all had that happen before. Where we keep our own thoughts deep within our minds. Why don’t we allow these feelings to be fleeting just like the moments that caused them? Think about it. When we get cut off while driving that moment might last less than two seconds but the anger can linger for minutes if not for hours. Why do we let happen? It’s very easy to see when you are ready to see it.

The opposite holds true of diseases of the soul; the worse one is, the less one perceives it. – Seneca (Letter #53)

It’s all about perception. It’s all about developing your perception. Yes, you have to develop your perception. You have to recognize the feelings both psychologically and physically. Have you ever felt your heart race when you were angry or anxious? I know that’s my main way that I can pull myself out of those feelings. I recognize my heart racing and then start to think my way out of those feelings. I’ve written about this before and how I nurtured my perception mostly from my meditation practice. Tim Ferriss likes to call meditation a “warm bath for the mind”. I like to visualize mediation just like that and stoicism has only enhanced its effects on me.  The more I read Seneca’s letters, the more I’ve realized how much better my self-awareness has gotten. How much my own perception has grown. I feel more in control during those moments of anger or anxiety. Stoic quotes have had a similar effect on my mind which I like because they’re like little doses of mental antibiotics. The more reading I do about stoicism the better my perception gets. The more my perception becomes tuned. But why you ask? I’ll let a stoic master answer that for you.

Philosophy wields her own authority; she appoints her own time and does not allow it to be appointed for her. She is not a thing to be followed at odd times, but a subject for daily practice; she is mistress, and she commands our attendance – Seneca (Letter #53)

Have you ever thought of philosophy like this? I know I have never thought of it like this until I started reading and writing about it. The more times I read this letter the more it hit home for me. This letter made me realize that reading and writing of stoicism has had such a similar effect on my self-awareness and perception. Now, let’s turn this on you. Have you meditated before? If you haven’t tried it before now is the time to start. If you have tried it then you probably have been in agreement with me and Tim that meditation feels like “a warm bath for your mind”. So then if we need mediation to be a daily practice then why don’t we read stoicism on a daily basis? Well for some of us that have seen the benefit of reading stoicism, we do read it every day. It doesn’t have to be long winded, like this post. It can be just quick little quotes on Instagram or other social media. Again, to me, stoic quotes are like antibiotics for our mind and soul. If meditation isn’t up your alley, which it wasn’t for me either at first, then I strongly recommend you reading some stoicism. It will literally change your day. Then day after day it will change your self-awareness and maybe even your soul. If you’ve made it this far, great work! Now I’ll leave you with more one quote before you go:

Turn to her, therefore, with all your soul, sit at her feet, cherish her; a great distance will then begin to separate you from other men. You will be far ahead of all mortals, and even the gods will not be far ahead of you. – Seneca (Letter #53)

Other quotes I liked from Letter #53:

The wise man’s life spreads out to him over as large a surface as does all eternity to a god. There is one point in which the sage has an advantage over the god; for a god is freed from terrors by the bounty of nature, the wise man by his own bounty

What a wonderful privilege, to have the weaknesses of a man and the serenity of a god! The power of philosophy to blunt the blows of chance is beyond belief.

No missile can settle in her body; she is well-protected and impenetrable.

There is pain in the foot, and a tingling sensation in the joints; but we still hide the complaint and announce that we have sprained a joint, or else are tired from over-exercise. Then the ailment, uncertain at first, must be given a name; and when it begins to swell the ankles also, and has made both our feet “right” feet,[7] we are bound to confess that we have the gout.

For he whose sleep is light pursues visions during slumber, and sometimes, though asleep, is conscious that he is asleep; but sound slumber annihilates our very dreams and sinks the spirit down so deep that it has no perception of self.

If you were ill, you would stop caring for your personal concerns, and forget your business duties; you would not think highly enough of any client to take active charge of his case during a slight abatement of your sufferings. You would try your hardest to be rid of the illness as soon as possible.

Philosophy wields her own authority; she appoints her own time and does not allow it to be appointed for her. She is not a thing to be followed at odd times, but a subject for daily practice; she is mistress, and she commands our attendance.

Philosophy likewise keeps saying to all occupations: “I do not intend to accept the time which you have left over, but I shall allow you to keep what I myself shall leave.”


When was the last time you lived in the moment?

Bring it to pass that I shall cease trying to escape from death, and that life may cease to escape from me. – Seneca

It’s curious to me how much we talk about time passing. Don’t get me wrong, I talk and think a lot about this. I’m so focused on achieving great things that sometimes I don’t allow myself the freedom to let these things happen over time. I feel that if they are not successful right now then they’ll never be successful. Now obviously this isn’t true and with most things, it takes time to perfect them. It takes days, months, years to make things great or make things successful. So, then that begs the question, what is the rush? That’s something I grapple with in work and life but especially with my creative work. Not very often are things overnight successes and if they are usually the flame is extinguished just as quick as it was lit.

I always like to say that perfection takes time but in the same breath I’ll say that we do not have enough time. So I ask again, what’s the rush? Well, the easiest answer is we do not know when this rat race is going to be over. I’m sure writing those words makes people nervous. That’s why we feel rushed…we do not know when it’s our time and that can freak people out. I’m not sure that my drive comes from trying to cheat death or that I’m running out of time. For me, it’s more about wanting it all now, which is of course very unrealistic. Seneca makes a great point that we don’t want to be so focused on the end that we do not enjoy the journey. The journey that we’re all on is the enjoyable part. That’s the point he’s trying to convey. Live life so much so that we do not want to try to cheat death. This rings even more true for me. Do not worry about the things I’m trying to achieve, don’t worry about how I will achieve them, don’t worry about when I’ll achieve them, but enjoy the process of achieving them.

Now, focus on your life. Does this apply somewhat to your life? I’m sure some parts of it do. Do you worry about not having enough time so much so that you’re not currently enjoying what you’re doing? Let’s face it, as we get older each day is a smaller proportion of our life. Each day seems shorter and shorter.

Infinitely swift is the flight of time, as those see more clearly who are looking backward. For when we are intent on the present, we do not notice it, so gentle is the passage of time’s headlong flight. – Seneca

Did you really read that quote? It’s one of those that builds and means more the more you read it. I journal about this idea on a regular basis. If someone were to read my journal entries they would mostly be bored but one common thing that comes up frequently is the passage of time. It’s amazing to me how fast our children grow and how fast time feels like it flies by. There’s the logical way to look at it and realize that each day is a smaller portion of our life as we get older. Time does feel like it speeds up but why does it feel that way? That’s what Seneca is getting at and if you didn’t the first time I asked you, read it again. The reason time feels like it flies by is because we’re always looking in the rearview mirror instead of the windshield. For example, it’s crazy for me to think that our little William is almost nine months old. When I look back I can’t believe it because it feels like just yesterday that he was born. That’s when the spiral happens. That’s when we start to feel like time is moving too fast and if we do not hurry up then we’ll be left behind. That’s Seneca’s point. Live in the moment. If we do not dwell on the past so much then we can live in the present. Then we see time as it really is. Let’s be honest, we all have the same 24 hours and 365 days the question is how are we spending that time. Think about it for a moment. Are you living in the moment? Are you living in the past? How often are you looking through the rear view mirror instead of the windshield?

Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use, we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little. – Seneca

Now that you have focused on living in the moment, I hope it’s as freeing for you as it for me. This moment right now is all that matters. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with this as well. This is a daily practice. Do you know who is really good at living in the moment? Children. It’s easy for them because they do not know any better. They only know what’s going on in front of them right now. It’s a great place to be let’s be honest with ourselves. The easiest way for us to capture that is to be with our kids all the time. Unfortunately this day in age we cannot do that so this is what I’ll leave you with… When you start feeling anxious about how you’re running out of time or when you start feeling like time is flying by stop yourself. Ask yourself about the moment you’re in right now. That in the very least will pull your head out of the tailspin. That will pull your eyes off of the rear view mirror and focus you on what’s happening right now. That’s when life is at it’s best. When we’re in the moment. I’ll end this post with what I end every daily journal with… Be in the moment.

Here are some other great quotes from Letter #49:

It was but a moment ago that I sat, as a lad, in the school of the philosopher Sotion,[2] but a moment ago that I began to plead in the courts, but a moment ago that I lost the desire to plead, but a moment ago that I lost the ability.

But this point of time, infinitesimal as it is, nature has mocked by making it seem outwardly of longer duration; she has taken one portion thereof and made it infancy, another childhood, another youth, another the gradual slope, so to speak, from youth to old age, and old age itself is still another.

In other years time did not seem to me to go so swiftly; now, it seems fast beyond belief, perhaps, because I feel that the finish-line is moving closer to me, or it may be that I have begun to take heed and reckon up my losses.

Cicero[3] declared that if the number of his days were doubled, he should not have time to read the lyric poets.[4]

Give me the courage to meet hardships; make me calm in the face of the unavoidable.

Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use, we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.


At our birth, nature made us teachable and gave us reason, not perfect, but capable of being perfected.


Are your aspirations noble?

He will place himself beyond the jurisdiction of chance; he will wisely control prosperity; he will lessen adversity and will despise what others hold in admiration. It is the quality of a great soul to scorn great things and to prefer that which is ordinary rather than that which is too great. – Seneca

The name of this letter got me thinking. Well, that’s a lie because if you know me, I’m always thinking. I call them thought experiments, but I digress. Noble aspirations is a great name for a letter from Seneca. We all have aspirations and I’m willing to bet they are all very different. I like to shoot for the stars with my aspirations. If you’re going to dream, why not dream big? Now think about the noble part. It’s great to dream big but what are you willing to give up to reach those aspirations? That’s the key. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be wealthy or famous. There’s nothing wrong inherently with those aspirations. I’d always ask why you want those things but that’s only on the surface. When people want to be famous, because most famous people are also wealthy. I say most because there’s famous and not wealthy. That does exist. Just look at the new or maybe not so new infatuation with reality television. Don’t get me wrong, I indulge. However, I can’t stop wondering what these people gave up to have their lives on television. The obvious answer is they gave up their privacy but we knew that already. The question is, is it worth it? Is it worth being famous but zero privacy? I think we can all agree that is not a noble aspiration. Now if you set out to be great and change the world and fame follows that that is a totally different situation.

This is the case with the soul also; for it is ruined by uncontrolled prosperity, which is used not only to the detriment of others but also to the detriment of itself. – Seneca

What about the aspiration to be wealthy? Let’s define wealthy for now as chasing a monthly or yearly number. Have you ever heard of keeping up with the Jones’? Maybe you’ve heard of this by another name but it does not matter. What matters is the idea behind that saying or cliche. There are people out there that try to keep up with their neighbor or their friends from college. They are in this endless race to the top of something. Who knows what they are after, but we seem to chase them. Another cliche phrase is “the grass is greener on the other side”. I’m sure you’ve heard of that one before. While the grass might be greener on the other side we do not know what problems follow that kind of wealth. That’s the other side of the coin that the chasers never sit back and think about. At this point, I know you’re now thinking about what all these people have given up. That’s the point of noble aspirations. You never want to become prosperous by walking over others.

Think about that for a second. We all have thought about great aspirations. That’s what goals are for. When we were young we all wanted to throw the winning touchdown or score the winning goal. I’m sure some of us have great regrets because we never had those moments. What we need to realize is why we have those great aspirations in the first place. What we never think about is what comes with reaching those great aspirations. I’ve never thought about what it must be like to be recognized everywhere I went because I was famous. Thinking about it for a moment makes me just shiver with the lack of privacy they have to deal with. So, I’m sure you’re asking yourself then what’s the point of having any aspirations? Well, come on now! That’s the whole point of this post. We need to make sure these aspirations are noble.

Pick up the list of the philosophers; that very act will compel you to wake up when you see how many men have been working for your benefit. – Seneca

There is a way for our aspirations to be noble and great all at the same time. Let’s look at wealth again but from a different angle. Let’s wake up. What if you chase security and not a number? What if you chase security for you and your loved ones instead of zeros in your bank account. Yes, they may seem similar but I think we’d all agree that chasing security for your loved ones is pretty darn noble. See what I just did there? All of our aspirations can be noble if we change our mentality and why we’re reaching for those goals. If we change how we’re reaching for our goals then they will be just as noble. Now I believe we are all good and noble at heart. We all want the best for each other. To me, it’s inherent in us…some of us we need to find that deep noble motivation again.

Just as the flame springs straight into the air and cannot be cabined or kept down any more than it can repose in quiet, so our soul is always in motion, and the more ardent it is, the greater its motion and activity. – Seneca

Let’s wrap this up with the idea that no matter what our big goals are, no matter how great they are, as long as they start from a place of virtue and passion then we will know we are going the right direction. There’s always stories of people reaching the pinnacle of their given fields and realizing they may have achieved their goals unethically. We don’t want to be one of those stories. With that said we don’t want to stop dreaming either. We should always be reaching for the stars. The key is not reaching those goals without resetting along the way. Resetting to make sure we are not burning our soul to reach those goals at all costs. Thinking about my own aspirations. The aspirations of security for my family instead of just chasing some lofty number has changed my mentality. It feels better. It feels more virtuous. Think back on your big aspirations. I’m sure you’ve thought about how you could look at them differently. Well at least at this point I hope you’ve looked at them differently. That’s my goal. Be true to your soul. Be excited about where that passion can take you. Dare greatly.

Here are some other quotes from letter #39:

They are the slaves of their pleasures instead of enjoying them; they even love their own ills – and that is the worst ill of all!

Then it is that the height of unhappiness is reached when men are not only attracted, but even pleased, by shameful things, and when there is no longer any room for a cure, now that those things which once were vices have become habits.

You will desire eagerly to be one of them yourself, for this is the most excellent quality that the noble soul has within itself, that it can be roused to honorable things.

It is for this reason that men sink themselves in pleasures, and they cannot do without them when once they have become accustomed to them, and for this reason, they are most wretched because they have reached such a pass that what was once superfluous to them has become indispensable.


Should you trust your intuation?

And finally, the only benefit that solitude confers, – the habit of trusting no man, and of fearing no witnesses, – is lost to the fool; for he betrays himself. – Seneca

This is an interesting letter because it’s very hard to make sense of the point. It’s hard to make sense of what living to oneself means. Let’s be honest, most of the writings from 2300 years ago are hard to understand because of the language used. This type of language is most likely foreign to you and me. That’s actually the intrigue to reading these letters, decoding them and then trying to apply to modern day life. The more and more I read these quotes the more it made sense to me on what Seneca was writing about. What kept popping up in my mind was my tattoo on my right forearm. For those of you who do not know me, it’s two Japanese kanji’s that mean trust and oneself.

I got it when I was eighteen and it’s a reminder to myself that no matter what happens, always trust my gut, trust my first instincts, trust oneself. It’s how I’ve lived my life and it’s never let me down. At first, after reading this letter I thought the tattoo fit perfectly with what Seneca was professing. Then when I tried to make sense of the letter and what the tattoo meant the more lost I became. The internal conflict that I was having was how could this thing that I’ve trusted for so long possibly be incorrect? Then it hit me. These two things can be mutually exclusive. Like most things in life, there is no black and white. Most things in life fall in the gray space between black and white. Going back to the quote and rereading it, I now interpret it differently. If I only trusted myself then it would eventually be a fool’s errand. If I only trusted myself then where would that have gotten me?

At some point in life, we have to not only trust ourselves but we need to trust those around us. I’ve been very fortunate to have many people in my life who have never lead me astray. With that kind of trust in my life, you can understand the point that part of letter #10 and what Seneca is talking about. You have to both trust yourself and trust those you choose to be around you. At some point, you will need that trust in others to help you make the right decision. At the same time, you need your own self-trust to know that’s the right decision. Have you had moments like this in your life? Where you trust your intuition? Where your intuition tells you to trust those closest to you? That’s what he’s getting at. I’m sure there are many moments like this in your life. Then the letter takes a different tone and goes somewhat in a new direction.

They whisper the basest of prayers to heaven; but if anyone listens, they are silent at once. That which they are unwilling for men to know, they communicate to God. Do you not think, then, that some such wholesome advice as this could be given you: “Live among men as if God beheld you; speak with God as if men were listening”? – Seneca

This part I’ve read and reread on what to make of it. What was the point? Then it came to me. The point is shouldn’t we trust those around us like we trust god or whomever you pray too. Think about it. We should trust those around us with our deepest thoughts just like we would trust our prayers. Essentially Seneca is telling us we should act like our purest thoughts. Our actions should match our talk. We’ve discussed that before. Going back to those who we choose to surround ourselves. Those that we trust the most should also agree that our actions follow our thoughts and prayers. This is where the two line up again. Those two things we have to trust to enjoy life to the fullest. We need to trust our own intuition and allow that intuition to lead our actions. Ok great, that’s all well and good. You want to know the fun part? No one will really know if your actions are following your words. Well unless you’ve shared those thoughts with those closest to you. Which you should but that’s not for me or anyone else that for that matter to tell you what to do. Isn’t that the point of philosophy? To show us how we should to act when no one is watching. Do you roll through a stop sign at midnight when no one is around or do you come to a complete stop?

Speak, and live, in this way; see to it that nothing keeps you down. – Seneca

We’ll end with this simple but profound quote. Trust your intuition but not so much that you don’t trust others. Trust those closest to you as long as your intuition agrees. Come to a complete stop when no one is watching. We’re well on our way to being the best us.  

Other thought-provoking quotes from letter #10:

No thoughtless person ought to be left alone; in such cases he only plans folly, and heaps up future dangers for himself or for others; he brings into play his base desires; the mind displays what fear or shame used to repress; it whets his boldness, stirs his passions, and goads his anger.

When persons are in mourning, or fearful about something, we are accustomed to watching them that we may prevent them from making a wrong use of their loneliness.

As for your former prayers, you may dispense the gods from answering them; offer new prayers; pray for a sound mind and for good health, first of soul and then of body.


Would you a hold poisonous snake if it’s stiff in the cold?

In the case of many men their vices being powerless escape notice although as soon as the person in question have become satisfied with their own strength, the vices will be no less daring than those which those have prosperity has already disclosed. – Seneca

What is the most important value to you? Patience? Honor? Is it something broader, for example, do you try to just be a good person? This letter is about values and how your values can change or be exaggerated by your environment. Think about your own vices good or bad. We all have them, so don’t be ashamed to think about them. Are you power hungry at work? Do you like to have a few beers after work every day? Don’t lie to yourself because there’s probably something in your life that you would consider a vice. More than likely you can control those vices. For example, if your vice is having a few beers after work it’s most likely just a few because you have to work tomorrow. What if that didn’t matter? What if you didn’t need to work, would you be drinking until blackout every night? That’s what the point of the quote is. We are all good at keeping those vices under control because something in our environment forces us to keep them under control. The real question, is what happens when that control is gone? The last letter we talked about how finding your norm guides your life. That’s even more important when it comes to our vices. If your norm is to be a good person, more than likely that’s keeping your vices under control, not some external environmental circumstance. Think about what your vices are and why you keep them under control. What happens if that control is gone? Part of this practice of stoicism is understanding that life happens and we should be prepared for anything and everything.

One can hold a poisonous snake if it’s stiff in the cold. The poison is not lacking it is merely numbed to inaction. – Seneca

Did that quote make sense? Read it again. What in your life is that frozen snake waiting to warm up and strike you when you least expect it? You know there’s something. We all have them. For me, there are too many to list. One of mine was drinking. We joke that when you’re from Steamboat you grew up in a drinking town with a skiing problem. That followed most of us through college and still plagues some of us in our adult life. I know you’re thinking “but Dusty you don’t seem like someone who gets drunk every night.” And you’d be correct because I do not, but that has more to do with my job. Being hungover as a personal trainer is quite possibly the most miserable experience that life has to offer. That may be too extreme but you get the point. Let’s say I wasn’t a personal trainer and instead was a ski bum working in some ski town. Then what would the drinking be like? That’s easy for me to know what that would be like because I love beer and love whiskey. If I didn’t have to have my game face on at 6 am who knows how that vice would show it’s ugly face. Get it now? I have that under control because of my job, not because I have it under control. Now with that said I would like to believe that I do have it under control but you never know if that’s my frozen poisonous snake. What’s yours? I know you’ve been thinking about it. What’s your poisonous snake?

The moral of this story is to be careful of your vices, your poisonous snakes, especially when you feel that if your circumstances change so will those vices. Now that you and I are focused on our vices that are under control, what happens when we want to change those? What happens if I just want to stop drinking altogether? You have your vices under control now because of the environment that you created for yourself, but can you give up those vices cold turkey? Can I give up having a few drinks a few days a week? No way could I… wait a minute. Before you freak about quitting cold turkey think about it this way.

Look about you and note the things that drive us mad, which we lose with a flood of tears; you will perceive that it is not the loss that troubles us with reference to these things, but a notion of loss. – Seneca

Does it sum up how you’re feeling? We don’t want to stop cold turkey because we know it’ll be hard. We don’t want to stop because just thinking about it makes us anxious. Thinking about how anxious you’re going to be is what’s stopping you from killing your poisonous snake. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s the thoughts about how scary it would be to stop drinking that stops you before you try. It’s the thoughts like “but I enjoy it” or “it helps me relax”. Those are the thoughts that drive us mad. We all know that not drinking every night or not eating sweets all the time will lead to a better and healthy life. The thinking is getting in the way. And this is coming from the king of overthinking. Now go kill your poisonous snake. Go find a better you. The best you.

Other quotes from letter #42 that I’m pondering:

Very often the things that cost nothing cost us the most heavily; I can show you many objects the quest and acquisition of which have wrested freedom from our hands.

This man that you spoke is still far from the man he professes he has reached and if he knew what it meant to be a good man he would not believe himself as such.

He thinks ill will of evil men but so do evil men.

He will do the same thing as soon as he acquires the same powers.

These men simply do not have the means to show their wickedness.

Give them power equal to their wishes.

“You will have less money.” Yes, and less trouble. “Less influence.” Yes, and less envy.

No one feels that they have been lost, but his mind tells him that it has been so. He that owns himself has lost nothing. But how few men are blessed with ownership of self!


Stop talking and start walking…

Prove your words by your deeds – Seneca

We’ve all heard the phrase “walk the walk don’t just talk the talk.” Well, I’m assuming everyone’s heard that phrase. It really resonates with me because that’s how I run my day to day life. I’ve never wanted to be that guy that just does a bunch of talking and never actually follows through. What’s really amazing is Seneca promoted the same idea. Prove your words with your deeds is just like walking the walk.

Have you ever met someone (or maybe your are that someone) who likes to have big plans; plans that are so big they may never actually happen? We all have trepidation about the ‘what ifs’ and the fear of what could come of our actions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest offender in this thought process. The difference for me, however, is that not many people, if any, get to hear my plans. I am more inclined to keep my ideas to myself. I’m sure you’re wondering why I tend to withhold my thoughts. I keep them to myself in case they never come to fruition, and thus I cannot be accused of having not executed and exhausted my energies. See how that works? It’s like a magic trick, if I don’t tell anyone my plans and they don’t work out, what’s the difference? It removes the fear. The point of this post is that I wanted to prove a point that we all have a tendency to talk the talk and then not walk the walk. We’ve all been there where we preach on about a certain subject but we never practice what we preach.

His life should not be out of harmony with his words and that further, his inner life should be one hue and not be out of harmony with his activities. – Seneca

Ah, there it is. It’s hard to put it into better words than that. That’s exactly what I was just talking about. We have many different levels to practicing what we preach. We have the external talk and walk and then we have the internal talk. Let’s be honest with each other. Well, really why don’t we be honest with ourselves. It’s just you and me. What’s the one thing that you have always wanted to do but never done it? Is it a trip around the world? Is it to purge the world of hate? Throwing a fundraiser for your favorite charity? What is that grand plan that you always tell yourself if the situation was perfect I could do… Why haven’t you done it? Most likely it’s fear and we all know how groundless fears can affect us. This is more about one thing you probably haven’t done with those grand plans. That’s right. You know what I’m going to say. Don’t worry, I know the answer because it’s something I try to do. I actually tell people about my plans. That way they become real. Like I said at the beginning of this post, for me, just telling someone my grand plans makes it real and then I have to follow through with it.

That might be too grand of an example because let’s be honest, we need things to go perfectly and in a perfect environment to happen. So let’s try to apply that quote to everyday life. Let’s use an example that’s close to my heart. As a trainer, people choose to tell us things that they will not even tell their spouses. These moments are the real and raw emotions of our clients. These are the moments that their inner dialogue is becoming external. That’s great, right? That’s exactly what we’re going for. That’s when life changing behaviors can start. Did you see what I did there? I said can start. When people are having those moments where their true emotions and feelings are pouring out, that’s just the start. That might be the first time they have ever vocalized those feelings out loud. Don’t get me wrong, just saying these inner emotions can be difficult, but unfortunately that’s not the hard part. The hard part is having your actions in harmony with those inner emotions. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where the “lifestyle change” starts. Yes, that sounds kind of like therapy, but we’re not therapists, we just get to see people in their most raw moments. Now it’s your turn. Is your inner dialogue in harmony with your activities? If not, then keep working on it. That’s all you can do. If yes, then great job! I’m not sure if I believe you though because in my life there are only a few people who actually exhibit this harmony. Either way here’s your homework.

Pick a single norm to live by and you should regulate your whole life according to this norm. – Seneca

That is what I’ll end this post with. Have you ever thought about living your life by a single norm? A standard that you hold yourself to? It took me a while to figure out what exactly this meant. Mine could be something like, “be nice, it’s easier” or “treat others how you would like to be treated”. What’s your norm that you would like to live by? That’s the key,you might not have it just yet, but that’s where the work begins. Remember, this is a norm that will always be your ground level. This is your default setting that tells you how to conduct every aspect of your life. This is the setting that is in harmony with  your inner dialogue and your external actions. Now go find a better you. The best you.

A few other quotes I’m pondering from letter #20:

Deeds and words should be in accord

What is wisdom? Always desiring the same things and always refusing the same things.

Believe me, your words will be more imposing if you sleep on a cot and wear rags.

In that case, you will not merely be saying them but you will be demonstrating your truth.

To reserve a few days a week that prepares you for real poverty by means of fancied poverty.

Let it be remembered that nature has prescribed very little for us. No man is born rich. Everyman when he first sees light is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning. And yet kingdoms are all too small for us.

Your fears are groundless… Trust me!

“There are more things likely to frighten us then there are to crush us. We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” Seneca

I want to start here with this quote because just writing this is actually me acting on those imaginary fears. It’s amazing that writing or the desire to write or even the desire to publish something scares the crap out of me. So much so that I can become paralyzed and don’t even write. Out of all the letters that Seneca wrote (and to be honest I have not read them all yet), this is the most important one to me because it focuses on groundless fears. Every artist, every writer, every creative creator deals with these groundless fears. And that’s why his quote is so great because we suffered more in the imagination in the reality. I’m using creative work as my example, but I want you to think about things in your life that you are so fearful of that you won’t even do it. I’m sure that something just popped into your head as I bring it up. That’s the way the mind works and I’m sure just thinking about that is causing anxiety. But think about what that fear is…is it a real fear or are you imagining how bad this situation could be? I bet you it’s the latter. That’s how it is for me.

The fear of getting ridiculed and made fun of for my creative work far outweighs the actual criticism that I get when I publish something. That’s why I always say that the hardest part for me is just hitting publish. The hardest part for me isn’t actually writing. For example, I’ve been sitting on this post for five days now and used every excuse in the book to not post this because I’m worried about what others will think. It’s my imagination of what others could say that I’m worried about, not what they will actually say. I’ve learned that once I publish my creative work, whether it be a video or writing, most people only give me positive feedback. When I complete my creative work and I get these positive reviews you would think that it would make it easier. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it easier but this goes to show you how impactful groundless fears can be on our own psyche. It makes you realize how paralyzing groundless fears can be for us.

Let’s take a step back for a second and look at what and where stoicism came from because I’m sure you’re asking yourself what is stoicism. Up until I started listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast all I knew about philosophy was what I learned about Aristotle’s writings and the things that I read in ethics class back in undergrad. I have a feeling that stoicism is as unknown to you as it was to me. So let’s take a little history lesson through where stoicism started.

Stoicism is seen as a philosophy of grim endurance, of carrying on rather than getting over, of tolerating rather than transcending life’s agonies and adversities.- Lary Wallace

It ignores gratitude, too. This is part of the tranquility because it’s what makes the tranquility possible. Stoicism is, as much as anything, a philosophy of gratitude – and a gratitude, moreover, rugged enough to endure anything.- Lary Wallace

I grab these two quotes from the Lary Wallace article about how most people view stoicism is actually incorrect. Most people think stoicism is more like the first quote and I see stoicism more like the second quote (Lary Wallace has a great piece on this here). Because of that, let’s dig into where stoicism came from. Wikipedia says stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early third century BC (Wikipedia, 2016). Let that sink in for a minute. This philosophy, like most philosophy, was created over 2300 years ago. Why does that matter? It matters to me because the same philosophies that are over 2000 years old can be applied to today. These same philosophies, that were written and professed while people were running around in tunics can shape how we act and react today. Let it sink in. Crazy to think about. The more I read about stoicism the more I saw how it could affect my mindset.

That’s where my history lesson stops. I just wanted to paint the picture that all humans have dealt with the same psychological road blocks throughout time. Most of what I like from stoicism comes from the later Roman stoics who had the same focus that I try to do, which is promoting a life in harmony within the universe, over which one has no direct control. (Wikipedia, 2016). Two of those stoics are Seneca and I guy I know most of you have heard of Marcus Aurelius. Yes, that Marcus Aurelius. There’s another mind blowing idea about stoicism, at least for me, a roman emperor who was also a philosopher. How can these writings from Seneca help you today? That’s where the fun begins. I want you to think about something in your life that has you really worried. What came to mind? Are you worried about the economy? Are you worried about your children making it through school?

Try not to be unhappy before the crisis comes since it may be that the dangers  before which you paled as if they were threatening you will never come upon you. They certainly have not yet come. – Seneca

How much of your worrying is groundless? Think about it for a moment. Most of our worries or paranoia is about things that may never happen. We spend so much time thinking about the “what if” this happens or “what if” that happens. That’s why I love the quote above. Why be unhappy or scared of things that may never happen? Think back to that thing you’re worried about. Do you think it will happen? More than likely your answer was “no it won’t happen but it could happen”. That fear could come to fruition. That’s not the part that matters. Not if but when. If you really do not think it will happen then it’s not worth worrying about. Like I said before, for me the writing is easy but the publishing is the hard part. I’m fearful that people will tell me it’s terrible. I fear that people will tell me to quit while I’m ahead. I’m fearful of… Oh nevermind, see even I can catch myself or at least try to before it spirals out of control.

Some thing’s torment us more than they ought. Some things torment us before they ought. And some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. – Seneca

If you’re reading this then I haven’t lost you, but for some people the language of that quote can sound foreign and hard to understand. The way I see it is this: For me, people’s opinions of my work might be ugly enough for me to quit writing. People’s opinions should not matter or affect what I do. People’s opinion should not matter before I publish my work. That’s the what if part. Don’t let the possible negative opinions stop me from writing. Finally, do not let those fears paralyze me or more importantly do not let those opinions affect me.

Now, let’s think about your fears and worries. Think about how you can change your mind around those fears. Think about it another way. This isn’t a glass-half-full attitude. This is more about realizing those fears are most likely tormenting us more than they should, they may be tormenting us before they should and most importantly those worries shouldn’t define us or what we do. Focus on that idea and see how much your day to day thinking changes. Again, this isn’t a glass half full thought process but more of letting things go that shouldn’t affect us at all. I hope forgetting about your groundless fears will help you find a better you. The best you.

More Quotes from Seneca’s Letter #13 that reinforce this idea:

We’re in the habit of exaggerating or imagining or anticipating sorrow.

Trifling in those fears is the most serious.

Well, figure out if these evils derive their strength from their own power or from our own weakness.

Am I tormented without sufficient reason? Do I convert something that is not an evil into something that is evil?

We are tormented by things present. Or by things to come. Or by both.

The fool with all his other faults has this also he is always getting ready to live.