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

The Journey Toward Consistency


“Every error implies conflict; for since he who errs does not wish to go wrong but to go right, plainly he is not doing what he wishes.”  Epictetus  (See Full Quote Here)

What is Epictetus getting at here?  If you read the full excerpt, there is a lot to digest in this philosophical pondering.  In the end, it comes down to this:  Think before you do.  When I take an action, when I make a decision about what to do, and when I choose how I will live my life, it should be consistent with my values, with my rationality. Continue reading

Really, Really Listening (“We” Part 2)


So, how about REALLY listening to those around you?  Once you master that, then maybe you can go out and fix the world beyond. I cannot tell you how many times I have committed to doing this…to really listening.  I would compare this effort to speeding, when I was younger.  NOTE:  Now, I regularly drive about 5-7 MPH over the speed limit.  I do not do this for safety or because I think that the speed limits are correct.  It is just not worth it to me to get a ticket AND have my time wasted by a stop.  Anyway, back in the day I would speed EVERYWHERE, then I would get a ticket and drive around at speed limit-speeds for 6 months.  Eventually, my probation would expire and my carefulness would wear off.  Then, I would speed again.

This is a lot like how I listen in my life.  I am ALWAYS preoccupied with something (with a lot of things, actually).  My child, my wife, or a coworker will be talking to me and I suddenly realize that I was not listening.  Even worse, the talker will realize it and then ask, “Are you listening to me?”  BUSTED!  Whether I realize it or I am busted by the speaker, this is like getting that speeding ticket.  It is time to slow down and really listen.  But how do I do that?  My favorite way to do that is called Active Listening.

This is not active listening!

This is not active listening!

There are many way to actively listen, but here’s my technique:

  1. Stop what you are doing (no typing, watching TV, texting, writing, etc.).
  2. Turn and look at the speaker (as long as you are with the speaker).
  3. Really, really try to comprehend; stop thinking of other things.
  4. Do not formulate rebuttals in you mind.  Be open to what you hear.
  5. When there is a pause, repeat what the speaker is saying in your mind.
  6. When the message has been delivered, then you can paraphrase what the speaker has said to you:  “So let me see, what you are saying is…”
  7. Ask questions at opportune times, if you do not understand:  “One moment, did you mean that…?”
  8. Take the time afterward to reflect on what someone has told you.  If you are unclear, follow up with them.  This shows that you took the time to receive the message and have thought it through.

This is just one way to be virtuous with your “we.”  Your interactions with those closest to you define who you are.  If I am not listening to them, then I am not a good listener, and that does not honor those closest to me who are trying to communicate with me.


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