Doing What I Love or Loving What I Do?


I recently had an opportunity to meet up with some old friends from the military at a retirement for a friend.  This friend was doing what he loved, the Air Force was his dream job.  I was envious.  I retired from the military precisely because it was not what I loved.  It was not my “dream job.”  My friend will be moving on to a high-powered corporate management gig, and I started to wonder how he will do outside of his “dream job.”  But then I realized something about my friend.  It wasn’t that he was doing what he loved, it’s because he loves what he’s doing.  My friend is going to love his new gig because he simply has a great attitude about things wherever he goes.  More specifically, he loves making “good things happen to people” (his words).  Fortunately for him, in management (a field used in every industry and calling) it always involves people.

This retirement event was a soul-searching one for me, Continue reading

Take a Breath, Reflect



“Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God.” –Marcus’ Meditations Book 7

In this case, Marcus Aurelius wants to stress to himself that to be simple and modest is best.  As for the things which “lie between virtue and vice,” maybe we really don’t know it all.  Maybe we don’t know the answer.  We all have our judgments of right and wrong, but maybe we should stop judging, at least a little bit.  Sometimes, we might just be better to just breathe…to just “be.”  Don’t judge, like we always do as humans…just exist, take a breath, take several breaths.  Be like the stone at the bottom of the river and let the water flow over you, and just be there and exist…not judging.

Take some time, and just be.

Take some time, and just be.

When you’ve mastered that, then love everything around you (especially “mankind”).  Sometimes this is hard to do, no?  ALL of mankind?  Really, really try.  Don’t hold back.  Love all of mankind.  All that is happening now, is meant to happen.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  It is all under the auspices of the cosmos, our divine existence.

Young or old...

Young or old…

Be good to yourself, be good to those close, be good to those beyond (me, we, they…).

I Kissed my Wife Today (“We” Part 4)


Lately, my wife has had some health issues.  They might not be a big deal, but for all we know they may be something very serious.  There are still more tests and investigations to be done before there is complete clarity and relief.  More than likely, modern medicine will find some health irregularity, and then she’ll be treated and she’ll feel better, but that is only in the short term.  Eventually, either she or I will come face to face with our end on Earth, and the other must face this loss as well.  Eventually, one of us will somehow meet our maker.  The odds are good that someday one of us may receive some news that many are not prepared for, someday some doctor may look us in the eye and say that one of us is dying, and it could be very quickly.

In any case, I began reflecting on my wife’s health.  I  realized that someday she might not be with me.  Nobody likes to think of these things, but the fact of the matter is that those you love may be gone from you, sooner than you want them to be.  You would have thought that reflecting on this might have depressed me.  Quite the contrary, I chose to notice that my wife was with me today, and how lucky I am to have her.  I was filled with gratitude.  Completely filled with gratitude.

With this gratitude welled up inside me, I kissed my wife.  This was no normal kiss.  I really appreciated her, right then and there.  I really, really felt it.  The gratitude that I had was overwhelming.  Why was it so overwhelming?  Why had I forgotten how grateful I should be that she is with me?  I think it is because I had lost my awareness that everything is impermanent (Click here, then here, then here).  My time with her is transitory, just like everything else.

My goal as a Stoic sage is to always know that she is a gift to me.  Every moment, every day I should know that our time here together is limited.  As a result, I should feel grateful and relish every moment with this great gift to me.  A gift that has lasted 20 years so far.  I hope for many, many more years but it is only hope.  How long we remain together is out of our control.

In the meantime, I will appreciate every moment with her.

Merry Christmas…Stoic Style


If life were a race around a track, Christmas seems to be when I get my split time.  Like in a NASCAR race, I find that Christmas is my time to check where I stand in my life.  It is when I pass the pole.  If life is a series of fence posts that I pass on my journey, then Christmas is that familiar landmark, that pink and purple mailbox that I pass that awakens me to the fact that I have made progress…at least progress toward something.

Santa making Stoic progress.

Santa making Stoic progress.

More than any other time, more than my birthday, more than New Year’s day, more than any other day, Christmas time turns me toward reflection.  All of my living loved ones either are with me, or communicate with me.  All of those I have lost, come back to me in my memories as well.  I see all of the change in everyone’s families in their Christmas cards.  I pause to see my children celebrate again, but they are all one year older.

“…nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away…
The innocence slips away”  –Neil Peart (from the song “Time Stands Still” lyricis for the rock band Rush)  See it and hear it, here.

A time for reflection.

A time for reflection. (photo:  Wong Mei Teng)

I observe myself as well.  I can remember my attitude about the Holiday throughout the years, and how it has changed.  I observe how I fit into the grand scheme of others’ lives.  It’s always a little different every year.  Former close friends are more distant, new friends are closer, relationships are rekindled from the past as well.

As Marcus Aurelius reflects in his Meditations:  “Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?”

Christmas is a time when I slow down.  It is an excellent opportunity to dwell in the present moment, but also one to observe that time marches on, with or without us.  That’s why how I spend my time is very important if I am to be a man of virtue.

I am a Failure! What Now?


“0h Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be. Anytus and Melitus may kill me indeed, but hurt me they cannot.” –Plato’s Crito

For my job, I am required to pass an evaluation.  I recently took one of these evaluations, and although I passed, I did not leave the lasting good impression that I had hoped to leave with my new boss.  As the new guy, this was my chance to break through, to develop a trust from my employer that would be one I could build upon.  That did not happen.  Instead, as one thing led to another I ended up performing badly enough during one portion that I now am “in a hole” that I must dig out of.  It left my evaluator, who just happens to be my boss, with a lack of confidence in my ability.  For all intents and purposes, I failed.

If at first you don't succeed...(photo by Ben Earwicker)

If at first you don’t succeed…(photo by Ben Earwicker)

So what can I, as a Heroic Stoic make of this?  Here are some thoughts.

1. Control

“What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Much of what happened on this particular evaluation was out my control:  the situation I was put in, my own fatigue, my lack of situational awareness of how difficult the particular task was, my inexperience on the job, my own talent at performing the job, not to mention the boss’s opinion on the seriousness of the errors I committed.  These are not excuses, this is a simple acknowledgment that there are certain things that I cannot control, when I face a failure.  These are things that test me, that make me better.  They improve my skills.  Clearly, if I have failed then I have reached some kind of limit…at least I know where it is now, and what to do next.

2. Picking Myself Up

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”–Dale Carnegie

(Photo by Cheryl Empey)

(Photo by Cheryl Empey)

This failure has afforded me the opportunity to reevaluate my own attitude and what I can do better in the future.  For example, in this case I have committed to be better at the tasks I did not do well.  I will commit to never make those errors again.  They may be my weaknesses, so I am set on bringing them up to par.  Often, failures can close doors and force you to go in a different direction…it may lead to a change in focus in your life.  A failure may make you realize that you are not cut out for a particular task, and a new door will open.  It this is you, be on the lookout for it.

3. Worry (That is, Worrying About Fate)

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” –Marcus Aurelius

I could worry about how this will affect my future.  How will this affect my work environment?  Will the boss be looking for my mistakes now?  Will it affect any raises I get?  What happens if I make another mistake?  Could I lose my job?  All these things are possible, but they will largely be controlled by fate.  There is no reason to worry about these things.  What to be concerned about are the things I can control.  I need to do the best job I possibly can.  Will I make mistakes? Sure.  Will I have to prove myself? Most definitely.  All I can do is the best I can do…it is the only way to be virtuous.

4. Pride

“I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”   George Burns

It is better to have tried at something I am committed to, than to not have tried at all.  Along the way, there will be failures for things that are worth it.  Failures don’t mean the end, and failures while doing something you love are worth it.  It is my pride in my craft that will motivate me to be better…to be excellent!

Failing at something he loves?

Failing at something he loves?

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” –Michael Jordan