The lady stood in line at the grocery store. The associates knew who she was and was giving her a wide berth. Unfortunately, another customer got too close to her in the line. The cashier, who happens to be my wife, attempted to give him a silent signal with her mask-covered face. It didn’t work, and the lady finally found another target for her hate. And thus, unfolded the same weekly tirade at the grocery store. This lady is in a perpetual state of anger and doesn’t care who feels her wrath.
The easiest solution is to return hate with hate. If it were me, I would make a game of it and flood her with more sarcasm than she could handle. But is that the right course of action? Does this improve the situation, or is it only a severe case of pettiness? I know what I would do, and I also know what I should do. Sadly, would and should are not the same thing. In this case, I will have to consider the words of one of the great thinkers in history. What would he do?
What Would Plato Do?
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Our antagonist in this story is angry. She is bitter. I cannot imagine the cause. But pouring gasoline on the fire is not beneficial to anybody. The battle she is fighting may be harder than anything I have imagined. Kindness may not cure her of her problems, but kindness is the answer. Thank you, Plato, for these words of wisdom.
The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.
Yes, it was just one weekend. There will hopefully be more in the future. And though I look at it as a tragedy, it doesn’t even compare to what Dr. Mays stated as the real tragedy: having no goals to reach.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have goals. I probably have more goals than I wish to admit. But what is a goal if it is not planned and executed? A pure fantasy. The bad thing about fantasies is they don’t get us closer to our intended destination. Instead, they consume valuable time. And time, as William Penn once said, is what we want most, but what we use worst.
I know I need to do better. My hope is to reach my goals. If I don’t improve my planning, I run the risk of not seeing them come to fruition.
One of the great joys of my job is the conversations I get to have with co-workers. This week, I had the good fortune to speak with an enterprising associate who spends his time away from work as a personal trainer. As we were talking about some of the things we have learned since our last conversation, he mentioned he was still only on year four of his personal transformation. Now, this personal transformation goes beyond fitness. This is a complete change of mind, body, and soul. After hearing him speak, I fully understand the meaning of “like attracting like.” I couldn’t help but be amazed as I am also several years into my own personal transformation.
This journey has been full of ups and downs. It has not been the easiest road to travel. You can’t plan on overnight success. I set out with a five-year plan. But honestly, I don’t think I will ever come to the end of my quest.
What my friend is looking for, and what I am looking for, is greatness. And the beauty about being great is that our definitions are not the same. We define it on our own terms, pursue it on different paths, and measure it the best we can. We are not competing against each other. We are competing against ourselves. And when the smoke clears, if we continued to run the race, we will be victorious. We will have become great.
No great thing is suddenly created. When I get impatient, let those words be a reminder. When I am feeling down or frustrated, let me not forget. Greatness would not be great if it was given and not earned.
You may even call it pass or fail. I grew up in a world where failure was bad. It was embarrassing. It showed a lack of ability. Nobody wants to fail. And the stigma of failure is often so bad, that to never start at all is a valid temptation.
Why ask the girl on a date? She might say no.
Why try out for the team? You might not make it.
Why sign up for that class? It might be too hard.
In the Army, things didn’t get better. Failure often resulted in an unrelated punishment. Failing at the wrong time could result in your death or the death of your teammates. It was a go or no-go, and well, who wants to be a no-go.
Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights may have been one the more enjoyable books I have read this year. A greenlight means go. Catching all greenlights on the road makes for smooth travelling. This is a warm spring day where nothing can wrong. When you have all greenlights, life is good. As McConaughey puts it:
Catching greenlights is about skill: intent, context, consideration, endurance, anticipation, resilience, speed, and discipline. We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the red lights are in our life, and then change course to hit fewer of them.
Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
Greenlights are good. But taken at face value the above passage would suggest to only look for the easy way. But that is not all that he is saying. He tells us the red and yellow lights are moments to pause, to think, and to reflect. Those lights might be green when looked upon in the rearview mirror of life.
Imagine hitting a red light on the road and thinking the game is over. You have failed to hit all greenlights. Would you stop driving? Would you give up or would wait until the light is green?
It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.
Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
The Opportunity to Fail
That’s right. Failure is an opportunity. It is not always pleasant. At times, the failure can result in consequences unrealized and undesirable. Should that stop us? Nope. If we do the research and then the work, the failure is a chance to learn. It is a chance to evolve as an individual. Give it a try. If you fail, learn. Try again.
In starting your first business or your hundredth, there is a risk that it won’t succeed. There is a reward if it does. What many don’t realize is that the failure also contains a reward. It is called experience, which is not available to those who never try in the first place.
Many of us seek it in some way, shape, or form. The greatest glory is getting knocked on your rear end then getting back up. Getting knocked down is okay only if you rise when you fall.
Some would suggest that money is the root of all evil. And though money in and of itself is neither good nor evil, the lengths that some go to acquire it is indeed evil.
For only 30 pieces of silver, Judas betrayed the Son of God.
Because they were rewarded bonuses based on stock prices, Enron employees manipulated the price of the stock.
Of course, this list could go on ad infinitum, but we will not try to exhaust it.
Your money can’t go with you into the afterlife, but would you be willing to sacrifice something that goes with you into the next world for a little monetary gain today?
I work hard to maintain my body. After all, it is the only one I have in this life. The fitter my body, the more I can do. In fact, like the one with money, there are greater opportunities for those in good health. But also, like money, there are limits. If I am driven purely by vanity, I would go to unethical means to achieve my goals. But this body will only last one lifetime. The spirit and soul may continue into the next life, but the body will return to dust.
You may abandon your own body, but you preserve your honor.
The ronin Musashi was a great warrior who lived by a high standard. He understood that reputation and honor was more important than even his own body. If it were the other way around, there is a good chance that history would have forgotten him. His body is no longer here, but his legacy has lived through the centuries. To be like Musashi, one would do well to live a virtuous life of wisdom, discipline, courage, and justice. To forsake those virtues would be to leave to door open to such vices as greed, gluttony, licentiousness, and cowardliness. These vices if left unchecked would slowly erode a person’s reputation. You would lose your honor, and unfortunately, this would be the legacy you would take with you into your next life.
The music begins. Dancers line up with their partners and begin going through the rehearsed movements. They have heard this song countless times. They have practiced their steps until it became second nature. When the music concludes, everything went according to the script. Everything was perfect.
The wrestler steps onto the mat. Hours of preparation leads up to this moment. Everything that could have been done has been done. The only thing left to do is take on the challenger. The challenger has also prepared for this moment. Here, there is no script. The wrestler has an idea of his opponent’s capabilities, but who really knows what is going to happen when the match begins. All he can do is hope that he can meet the demands of the task at hand. It won’t be perfect. It could be messy. Hopefully, the preparation was sufficient.
We want life to be the dance. We want it to go smooth and unfold exactly as we imagined it. But this is not the case. And if you think about it, this will make for a boring life.
Instead, life is more like wrestling. You train, you prepare, and you hope your efforts were enough to meet the demands thrown at you. You know things rarely go according to the script. In fact, you count on them going off the rails at any moment. A dancer slipping on a wet spot would consider it unlucky. The wrestler expects the wet spot to be there. He expects the obstacle.
The only way to really win in this life is to overcome the obstacles. Train, prepare, and put yourself in the best position possible. The obstacles are coming. This is life. How effectively and quickly you overcome them will determine your success.
The art of living. The true artists in life are like the wrestlers.
Rarely will you ever see their preparations. What looks like grace and style on the stage was developed in the darkness when nobody was looking. They don’t know what obstacles will be thrown at them, but it does not matter. They will meet them head on and do what it takes to get to the next challenge.
In a team setting, the analogy of a chain is often used. If the team is only as good as its weakest link, then it is your job to not be the weak link. In addition, you are also responsible for helping the weak links become stronger. This obviously helps the team.
A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.
This chain analogy is applicable to more than teams. It also holds true on the individual level. If your life is a chain, what are your weak links? In what areas do you have opportunity to become stronger?
Look at your social, professional, and personal life and identify areas that can be improved. If the enemy, both the real and imagined enemies, is looking to exploit your weaknesses, then you should be identifying these areas and securing your defenses.
I have identified several weaknesses in my own life. Some of these, I have known about for some time and have been actively trying to fortify them. Other areas, such as financial investments, are known weaknesses that I have been hesitant to address. Last week, this weakness made itself known when I realized my knowledge and understanding in this area was insufficient. Not wanting to be solely reliant on the advice of the “experts.” I decided to take a deep dive into this subject and become more knowledgeable. I may never become an expert, but at least I will have a better understanding of where to put my money.
What is my goal? Identify the weak links and strengthen them. Why? Because life is after all is a chain.
Have you ever walked down the biography aisle at your local bookstore or library? What you see on those shelves is history and how one person played a part to impact it? These are the lives of extraordinary individuals and an account of their actions.
Actions. Rarely is a biography about something other than action. Nobody gets written about based on what they said they were going to accomplish. Instead, it is all about their actions. And those actions were not a one and done event. No, they were actions built over a lifetime.
Imagine a biography in that bookstore with your name on it. What would be in it? What would the writer say about you? What actions made it into the book? Without a purpose in life and daily steps to achieve that purpose these questions are difficult to answer. But if you want to become great and worthy of a biography someday, just look at the advice of those who had volumes written about them:
The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.
You have to assemble your life yourself, action by action.
When you have your purpose, you must break it down into smaller, manageable chunks that you can work on daily. Make your lists, complete them religiously, and start stacking your wins.
Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
Taking the easy path will never get you closer to your life’s goals. We must sacrifice immediate gratification and keep our eyes on the prize that lay ahead. We must be disciplined.
To make it in the biography section, you must shoot for greatness. You can’t play small in this arena. No, you must go big. The journey is arduous. But for the one that would change the world, that is not a problem. Your actions, your life, will not be in vain.
You have a fixed income in the form of a salary or retirement.
The government continues to print money at an historic rate with the idea that the rich will cover the expenses.
The lower classes continue to ride the free money train. This is much easier than working for roughly the same amount of money.
The value of the dollar continues to go down.
Help Wanted signs keep springing up in shop windows.
It gets harder and harder to spend your money, because you can go to a nearly empty restaurant and have an hour wait due to staffing issues.
Being harder to spend your money may be a good thing as everything now is more expensive compared to the dollar.
I worry about hyperinflation. I am not desperate now, but who is to say I won’t be desperate next year or ten years from now. If my salary/retirement cannot keep up with inflation, how will I be able to provide for myself and my family? How will I buy food and everyday supplies if no one is producing it? There is even the chance that the price of food will get so high that it will be unaffordable.
The economy is in shambles. How far away are we from the next major financial crisis like we had in 2008? How far away are we from the Second Great Depression? How prepared am I to deal with something like that? How prepared are you?
Two people I am close to approached me recently about my thoughts on cryptocurrency. They were invested in it and wanted to know my position. My position? What position? At the time of their asking, I knew nothing about it other than the stories of some get-rich-quick-newly-minted-millionaires. They said I was missing out on a potential opportunity. I let their words sink in.
How many times have I missed out on something because I didn’t know any better? Finances may be one of my biggest weaknesses. When I was younger, I racked up huge amounts of debt because I thought it was free money. How many decades did it take to get that under control? When the internet really started to open to financial opportunities, I was in no position to take advantage of it. I was more eager to consume content than to create it. I was a consumer, a spender. I was not a creator or investor. Big difference! Would I miss the boat on crypto as well? Oh gosh, I have a lot of work to do.
And thus begins the research…
I started with the easiest way to digest the information. I went to YouTube. This, like any other platform for information, is filled with a plethora of experts and an equal plethora of those who deem themselves to be experts. Much of what I saw turned out to be hype and non-information. Some of it, however, was good and coming from people who did the research. If you can sift out the wheat from the chaff, you have a valuable resource.
Next, I went to podcasts. This is not much different than YouTube, except you can find interviews with insiders who develop parts of the ecosystem. If you are interested, I recommend the Unchained Podcast with Laura Shin.
Then I hit the books. Ah yes, this is where I excel. Here, I learned what blockchain and crypto are, its influence, and technical capabilities. Much of this was to gather information on terms, history, and insights on a deeper level. If you are looking for current market trends, this is not the place to go. But if you are looking for foundational knowledge, this might be one of the best resources available.
Lastly, there are the online communities. These are also valuable resources if you can separate the wheat from the chaff.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE, AND I AM NOT AN EXPERT:
One of the most common questions I see in all its poorly written glory is “wen lambo.” What does it mean? When am I going to be able to buy a Lamborghini? There is a large group of investors who think they can put in $100 today and wake up tomorrow with millions. Obviously, there were some who got lucky. That percentage is probably just above winning the lottery. And what happens when they chance upon this windfall? Will they be broke in a year like many of the lottery winners? Here is your official “This is not financial advice” advice:
If you are struggling to pay your rent, don’t put it all in one a high-risk investment that has a once-in-a-lifetime shot at success.
HODL (Hold On for Dear Life)
What is the best way to pursue this investment opportunity? Do the research. Look at the companies, the people running the companies and their backgrounds. Play the long game with money you are willing to lose. Put your money in and let it sit, let it accumulate. Build it like an investment portfolio.
This is what I am really looking for. I don’t care about the Lambos or any other vehicles with low utility. I am looking for freedom and security. I am looking to protect myself from a dollar that is losing value. I want to rest at night knowing that my family is taken care of even in the event of my passing. For me, it is not “wen lambo” but “wen freedom.”
Similarities to Politics
Oh yeah, if you are not careful, following cryptocurrency and blockchain can become like following politics. It can you drive you into an obsessive mania of constantly checking your portfolio. You can go overboard with trying to catch all the latest news. If you allow this to happen, then there is no freedom. Instead, you will be shackling yourself to an unhealthy lifestyle full of stress.
This is my one take from the week. If you are not in the crypto world, hopefully you found the information useful. I am no expert in this world, but I am learning. I am going to give this the same attention and effort that I use for philosophy and health. If you are in this world or considering it, drop me a comment and let me know what you think. -Tony
Cato? Cato, can you hear me? I need to do better in this life. I need to become a better man. Too often, I have given in to my own selfish desires. I have become too attached to my possessions.
Stop! Why bother me with this request. Your heart is in the right place, but you do not have the will to follow me. My discipline is too strict for you. You would not last an hour walking my path.
When you are ready to be my disciple, I will be here waiting for you. Until then, find someone else to assist you. Go seek out the one they call “The Wise.” Go find Gaius Laelius.-Cato
Laelius? Are you there? You came from nothing and built yourself into a great general. Cicero called you “The Wise” and Cato sent me to you. Like you, I came from humble beginnings. But unlike you, I have yet to fulfill my destiny.
Cato sent you? To me? Does he not know my road is also a difficult one to travel? Destiny does not find you. You must find it for yourself. It is the mission of a soldier. You must define it and create a strategy for achieving it. Those you can do yourself. That is the easy part. But you must also execute your plans. That is not so easy, and you are not ready for it. For that takes work. It takes more work than you are currently willing to do. When you are ready to give it your all, to make your objective the driving force in your life, then come back and find me. But until then, go find yourself another who can assist you.-Laelius
Cato’s discipline is too severe. And the discipline of Laelius is only a little less severe. Yet, it is still more than I can handle. Who else is out there?
Fortunately, this list is extensive. It doesn’t even matter if I pull one from history or from one that is still among the living. I can pick one or I can pick several. But the key is to pick somebody I can use as a role model and mentor. If there is not a complete person, that is fine also. I can take the good parts and emulate them to the best of my abilities. The rest, I can discard.
So choose yourself a Cato–or, if Cato seems too severe for you, a Laelius, a man whose character is not quite so strict. Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make crooked straight.