Ryan Holiday asks a very good question: why do we extend patience and tolerance to strangers, while simultaneously treating those closest to us less graciously?
It’s an interesting question with some equally interesting possible answers (is it a subconscious and inefficient way of attempting to ease our daily lives by telling those we spend the most time with how we want to be treated?). I like the conclusory piece of advice:Â we should give everyone “the graciousness of meeting them fresh each time”.
Some weirdo says something to you in the grocery store and you smile and nod your head, “Yup!” Just to avoid a scene right? You have a meeting with a sales rep and indulge the friendly but pointless chitchat even though you hate it. But a friend mispronounces a word and we leap to correct them. Your girlfriend tells a boring story and you’ve got to say something about it, you’ve got to get short with her. What kind of bullshit is this? We give the benefit of courtesy to everybody but the people who earned it.
Think of how much patience we have for total strangers and acquaintances. But what a short fuse we have for the actual people in our life. In the course of our everyday lives, our priorities are so very backwards. We do our best to impress people we’ll never see again and take for granted people we see all the time. We’re respectful in our business lives, casual and careless in our personal. We punish closeness with criticism, reward unfamiliarity with politeness.
This is a great example of why I read Ryan’s work: he’s adept at pointing out the everyday hypocrisies that we rarely notice.
Starting a career is daunting. Office politics, poor management and unchallenging work are issues that many of us will have to navigate in our jobs.
Ryan Holiday’s advice to young careerists is cynical and pragmatic.
The point isnâ€™t just to prove that youâ€™re capable, but also that youâ€™re sane. In fact, if you had to pick between the two, being well-adjusted the better one. You can teach people how to do things. You canâ€™t make them normal. In other words, leave your crazy at home.
Have an exit strategy. Know how this all fits intoÂ your grand strategy, this is the Start-Up of You. But also have the easily explainable, non-threatening goal that you tell people so you can maneuver in peace. If youâ€™re working at a management company, donâ€™t tell everyone your goal is to be a stand up comedian.Â The grand strategy is just for you.
Most importantly, remember that you are not special. There were a million other kids on this path before you and there will be another million after. […]Â What will set you apart, what is rare, is humility, diligence and self-awareness.
Advice to a Young Man Hoping to Go Somewhere (Or Get Something From Someone Successful)
My first introduction to Stoic thinking came from reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; a powerful book showing how important self-discipline and attitude are in situations that some may see as hopeless.
After discussingÂ Tim O’Reilly’s thoughts on Classics last week, I was reminded of a post I’ve been meaning to read for a few months: a concise introduction to Stoicism by Ryan Holiday. (Billed as being an introduction ‘for entrepreneurs’, this merely means that it contains some real-world examples of the philosophy that you can put into practice straight away, cutting through the academic ambiguity.)
For further introductions, Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philosophers provides condensed versions of many of the most important philosophical works (including modern thinkers such as Turing and Darwin).
Ryan Holiday asks, What is the ‘classic’ book of the 80s and 90s? Ryan starts by listing the classics from previous eras and decadesâ€¦
The Scarlet Letter (colonial America)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (slavery)
The Red Badge of Courage (sometimes for civil war)
The Jungle (turn of the century)
All Quiet on the Western Front (WWI)
The Great Gatsby (20s)
Of Mice and Men (30s)
Catcher in the Rye (50s and 60s)
Fahrenheit 451 (Cold War)
â€¦and goes on to suggest that the classic 80s book is American Psycho and Fight Club for the 90s.
I cannot disagree with American Psycho; the book satires perfectly the 80s yuppie culture which embodies everything the 80s was about. The 90s, however, is a different story: Fight Club is a good and very valid choice, but I would argue that Trainspotting is on par with it for representing 90s UK culture.
Like My Life in Books, I can only suggest The Corrections for the current decade.
Other contenders were:
Are you on a peak or in a trough? Looking for a kick-start? Then you can do worse than reading, absorbing, and taking to heart Ryan Holiday’s article, This is My Life:
[Look at developing yourself] like a start up. You are a start up. Don’t worry about monetization. Or a safety net or health insurance or an office. Aim for critical mass and pick up support wherever you can. Woo every customer. Find something that no one else does and do it better than they ever can. Invest in yourself. Sweat equity. What are you doing? Do you love it? Start ups run on love. Read the books. Look for the angel investors. Have an exit strategy.