For the past year or so I have delved into stoic philosophy, not in a formal way but I have read a couple of great books, enjoy at least one podcast and follow some of the more advanced stoic practitioners. The first thing I learned was why it was called "stoicism", back in ancient Greece and Roman times what we would call a porch was called a "stoa", on this porch every morning some old dudes would gather and discuss philosophy, from this daily practice stoicism was born. This could be happening around coffee in any small town diner all over America today I am quite sure.
The primary tenants of stoicism match my personal values and philosophical leanings well. Values such as wisdom, fortitude, morality, courage and moderation. It also spends much time differentiating between what is in our control and what is not in our control... then shifting our focus to what we can actually control. Which is mostly our own actions, thoughts and responses to everything else!
Stoicism encourages one to recognize emotions are simply, well "emotions". It's not that a stoic is without emotion but are aware they are emotions. Or simply feelings. Messages sent to our self conscious, we can then decide how to interpret these messages and also how much value to place on them. All of this is an inside job. This promotes an ultimate personal responsibility to how we react to any external condition life throws at us. Thereby taking the power from the external and putting it back within us. Stoicism is a huge power grab!
Whether they knew it or not elements of stoicism are present in all great leaders. I can remember my dad demonstrating these practices often with no mention of stoicism. Once my dad and I were installing metal roofing on a house we were building in Florida. It was an extremely hot summer day, one of those days where you can burn your hands on metal... My dad was probably 65 years old at the time and I was maybe 31... and not a weak 31 either! On this particular day I was about to completely break, I was suffering mightily, but right next to me was my dad whistling, talking and working like it was the most pleasant of days. Finally on the verge of totally losing it I had to ask my dad how can you seem so happy under these awful working conditions. His reply was immediate and rather matter of fact "I think about something else". In other words he took control of what he could control and spent little time or power towards what was not in his control. Needless to say the pain of the moment went away as I internalized what he had just taught me.
I am by no means a "stoic" yet and make no claims of such abilities. But I try my best to at least be cognizant of what is in my control and what is beyond my control. I do my best to focus on what is in my control and less on what is beyond my control. For example 99.9% of what is on the news or social media is beyond my control... but I can turn that shit off! The weather is not in my control but I can dress properly, hydrate, go inside, or be in Florida or Kansas. What others think of me, good or bad, is beyond my control or domain... but what I think of me is totally in my control, so I focus on that.
Daily I intentionally place myself in challenging situations whether its demanding physical training, a financial decision out of my comfort zone, starting a new website :) or any other venture beyond a normal day. In those situations I try to remember to practice stoicism, remember my dad's lessons, remember all the great examples of leaders in my life. I label the fear and pain as a good message and work with it, not in avoidance against it. I look for "decision moments" in my daily life, those moments where external pressures are helping to set me up for great success... if I choose to face them, work with them and not avoid them.
Grateful to be coming to you this morning from my porch or my stoa!