Notations From the Social Grid (Weekly Edition): Keeping A Sense of Focus

 Please enjoy this courtesy the team at the Daily Stoic: 


We challenge ourselves not to improve our immune system. Not to increase our metabolism. Not to reduce anxiety. Those things might be nice ancillary benefits but they are not the point. The purpose is to become the kind of person that can do it. How do you expect to do the big things that scare you—that scare others—if you haven’t practiced them? Why do you think you can endure the cold reception of a bold idea if you can’t even endure cold water? How can you trust that you’ll step forward when the stakes are high when you regularly don’t do that when the stakes are low? What gives you any confidence you’ll do the hard thing when people are watching if you can’t do that even when no one is watching?

— Who Is In Charge? (Listen)


In one of the most watched videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube Channel this week, Ryan Holiday explained Why You Should Do Something Scary Every Day. He tells a story of the Los Angeles Rams’ General Manager Les Snead, a practitioner of Stoicism, and the habit Snead borrowed from Seneca that helped him carry out a strategy that largely ignored all conventional wisdom and therefore invited all the Monday morning quarterbacks and living room GMs to attack and criticize Snead…before the Rams became Super Bowl champions. The habit? Every morning, Snead takes a cold plunge in the Pacific Ocean. He started taking cold plunges after learning that, as Ryan puts it:

“To do big scary things, you have to make a habit of doing small scary things. You have to build up a tolerance for doing scary things…You have to get to a place where when something’s scary, you have the power to say, ‘I don’t care, I’m doing it anyway.’ We want to cultivate the willpower, the strength, that allows us to be the kind of person that pushes through, that does the things that are scary.”


On the Daily Stoic podcast this week, Ryan Holiday talked to Scott Hershovitz about his new book Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with Kids, the ancient philosophical ideas kids seem to intuit, how great philosophers have an eye for comedy, the Stoic virtue of justice, and how to develop the moral courage one needs to stand up and do the right thing no matter the costs:

There’s a conversation in the book about moral courage and how one might cultivate moral courage…At least one way of having moral courage is to see what happens to yourself as insignificant, while nevertheless seeing what happens to other people as very important. You see yourself, from the perspective of the universe, as small to the point of insignificant, but you let others loom really large.


What leads us forward and helps us along the way, what has guided and is guiding us, is a joy in taking responsibility. But to what extent is the average person happy to take on responsibility? Responsibility is something one is both “drawn to” and “withdraws from.” This wisdom in the language indicates that there are opposing forces in human beings that prevent them from taking responsibility…If we delve into the nature of human responsibility, we recoil: there is something terrible about the responsibility of a human being—and at the same time something glorious! It is terrible to know that at every moment I bear responsibility for the next; that every decision, from the smallest to the largest, is a decision “for all eternity”; that in every moment I can actualize the possibility of a moment, of that particular moment, or forfeit it. Every single moment contains thousands of possibilities—and I can only choose one of them to actualize it. But in making the choice, I have condemned all the others and sentenced them to “never being,” and even this is for all eternity! But it is wonderful to know that the future—my own future and with it the future of the things, the people around me—is somehow, albeit to a very small extent, dependent on my decisions in every moment.

— Yes to Life by Viktor Frankl


Take a walk.

A philosopher, for all their love of books, knows that there is something special about getting outside and getting active. As Seneca said,

“We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.”

At Daily Stoic, we talk a lot about the Stoic idea of stillness being the key. When the Stoics talk about stillness, they weren’t talking about sitting in your house doing nothing. They weren’t even talking about meditation. They were actually talking about getting out and getting active. About soaking in the outdoors. About letting your heart and head slow down while your body moves.

(For more on this idea, watch this video!)



This Surprises You? (Listen)