STOCISM

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So, this happy pic of me was taken in 1999. I was a senior in college, and it was right after a dance practice. I was really, really happy. And I remember exactly where I was about a week and a half later. I was sitting in the back of my used minivan in a campus parking lot, when I decided I was going to commit suicide. I went from deciding to full-blown planning very quickly. And I came this close to the edge of the precipice. It’s the closest I’ve ever come. And the only reason I took my finger off the trigger was thanks to a few lucky coincidences. And after the fact, that’s what scared me the most: the element of chance.

So I became very methodical about testing different ways that I could manage my ups and downs, which has proven to be a good investment. Many normal people might have, say, six to 10 major depressive episodes in their lives. I have bipolar depression. It runs in my family. I’ve had 50-plus at this point, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had a lot of at-bats, many rounds in the ring with darkness, taking good notes. So I thought rather than get up and give any type of recipe for success or highlight reel, I would share my recipe for avoiding self-destruction, and certainly self-paralysis.

And the tool I’ve found which has proven to be the most reliable safety net for emotional free fall is actually the same tool that has helped me to make my best business decisions. But that is secondary. And it is … stoicism. That sounds boring.

So why would people of action focus so much on an ancient philosophy? This seems very academic. I would encourage you to think about stoicism a little bit differently, as an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments, for making better decisions. And it all started here, kind of, on a porch.

So around 300 BC in Athens, someone named Zeno of Citium taught many lectures walking around a painted porch, a “stoa.” That later became “stoicism.” And in the Greco-Roman world, people used stoicism as a comprehensive system for doing many, many things. But for our purposes, chief among them was training yourself to separate what you can control from what you cannot control, and then doing exercises to focus exclusively on the former. This decreases emotional reactivity, which can be a superpower.

Conversely, let’s say you’re a quarterback. You miss a pass. You get furious with yourself. That could cost you a game. If you’re a CEO, and you fly off the handle at a very valued employee because of a minor infraction, that could cost you the employee. If you’re a college student who, say, is in a downward spiral, and you feel helpless and hopeless, unabated, that could cost you your life. So the stakes are very, very high.

And there are many tools in the toolkit to get you there. I’m going to focus on one that completely changed my life in 2004. It found me then because of two things: a very close friend, young guy, my age, died of pancreatic cancer unexpectedly, and then my girlfriend, who I thought I was going to marry, walked out. She’d had enough, and she didn’t give me a Dear John letter, but she did give me this, a Dear John plaque.

 I’m not making this up. I’ve kept it. “Business hours are over at five o’clock.” She gave this to me to put on my desk for personal health, because at the time, I was working on my first real business. I had no idea what I was doing. I was working 14-plus hour days, seven days a week. I was using stimulants to get going. I was using depressants to wind down and go to sleep.

I felt completely trapped. I bought a book on simplicity to try to find answers. And I did find a quote that made a big difference in my life, which was, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality,” by Seneca the Younger, who was a famous Stoic writer. That took me to his letters, which took me to the exercise, “premeditatio malorum,” which means the pre-meditation of evils. In simple terms, this is visualizing the worst-case scenarios, in detail, that you fear, preventing you from taking action, so that you can take action to overcome that paralysis. My problem was monkey mind — super loud, very incessant. Just thinking my way through problems doesn’t work. I needed to capture my thoughts on paper. So I created a written exercise that I called “fear-setting,” like goal-setting, for myself. It consists of three pages. Super simple.

The first page is right here. “What if I …?” This is whatever you fear, whatever is causing you anxiety, whatever you’re putting off. It could be asking someone out, ending a relationship, asking for a promotion, quitting a job, starting a company. It could be anything. For me, it was taking my first vacation in four years and stepping away from my business for a month to go to London, where I could stay in a friend’s room for free, to either remove myself as a bottleneck in the business or shut it down.

In the first column, “Define,” you’re writing down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step. You want 10 to 20. I won’t go through all of them, but I’ll give you two examples. One was, I’ll go to London, it’ll be rainy, I’ll get depressed, the whole thing will be a huge waste of time. Number two, I’ll miss a letter from the IRS, and I’ll get audited or raided or shut down or some such.

And then you go to the “Prevent” column. In that column, you write down the answer to: What could I do to prevent each of these bullets from happening, or, at the very least, decrease the likelihood even a little bit? So for getting depressed in London, I could take a portable blue light with me and use it for 15 minutes in the morning. I knew that helped stave off depressive episodes. For the IRS bit, I could change the mailing address on file with the IRS so the paperwork would go to my accountant instead of to my UPS address. Easy-peasy.

Then we go to “Repair.” So if the worst-case scenarios happen, what could you do to repair the damage even a little bit, or who could you ask for help? So in the first case, London, well, I could fork over some money, fly to Spain, get some sun — undo the damage, if I got into a funk. In the case of missing a letter from the IRS, I could call a friend who is a lawyer or ask, say, a professor of law what they would recommend, who I should talk to, how had people handled this in the past. So one question to keep in mind as you’re doing this first page is: Has anyone else in the history of time less intelligent or less driven figured this out? Chances are, the answer is “Yes.”

The second page is simple: What might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success? You can see we’re playing up the fears and really taking a conservative look at the upside. So if you attempted whatever you’re considering, might you build confidence, develop skills, emotionally, financially, otherwise? What might be the benefits of, say, a base hit? Spend 10 to 15 minutes on this.

Page three. This might be the most important, so don’t skip it: “The Cost of Inaction.” Humans are very good at considering what might go wrong if we try something new, say, ask for a raise. What we don’t often consider is the atrocious cost of the status quo — not changing anything. So you should ask yourself, if I avoid this action or decision and actions and decisions like it, what might my life look like in, say, six months, 12 months, three years? Any further out, it starts to seem intangible. And really get detailed — again, emotionally, financially, physically, whatever.

And when I did this, it painted a terrifying picture. I was self-medicating, my business was going to implode at any moment at all times, if I didn’t step away. My relationships were fraying or failing. And I realized that inaction was no longer an option for me.

Those are the three pages. That’s it. That’s fear-setting. And after this, I realized that on a scale of one to 10, one being minimal impact, 10 being maximal impact, if I took the trip, I was risking a one to three of temporary and reversible pain for an eight to 10 of positive, life-changing impact that could be a semi-permanent. So I took the trip. None of the disasters came to pass. There were some hiccups, sure. I was able to extricate myself from the business. I ended up extending that trip for a year and a half around the world, and that became the basis for my first book, that leads me here today.

And I can trace all of my biggest wins and all of my biggest disasters averted back to doing fear-setting at least once a quarter. It’s not a panacea. You’ll find that some of your fears are very well-founded.

But you shouldn’t conclude that without first putting them under a microscope. And it doesn’t make all the hard times, the hard choices, easy, but it can make a lot of them easier.

I’d like to close with a profile of one of my favorite modern-day Stoics. This is Jerzy Gregorek. He is a four-time world champion in Olympic weightlifting, political refugee, published poet, 62 years old. He can still kick my ass and probably most asses in this room. He’s an impressive guy.

I spent a lot of time on his stoa, his porch, asking life and training advice. He was part of the Solidarity in Poland, which was a nonviolent movement for social change that was violently suppressed by the government. He lost his career as a firefighter. Then his mentor, a priest, was kidnapped, tortured, killed and thrown into a river. He was then threatened. He and his wife had to flee Poland, bounce from country to country until they landed in the US with next to nothing, sleeping on floors.

He now lives in Woodside, California, in a very nice place, and of the 10,000-plus people I’ve met in my life, I would put him in the top 10, in terms of success and happiness. And there’s a punchline coming, so pay attention. I sent him a text a few weeks ago, asking him: Had he ever read any Stoic philosophy? And he replied with two pages of text. This is very unlike him. He is a terse dude.

And not only was he familiar with stoicism, but he pointed out, for all of his most 13
important decisions, his inflection points, when he stood up for his principles and ethics, how he had used stoicism and something akin to fear-setting, which blew my mind.

And he closed with two things. Number one: he couldn’t imagine any life more beautiful than that of a Stoic. And the last was his mantra, which he applies to everything, and you can apply to everything:

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — these are very often exactly what we most need to do. And the biggest challenges and problems we face will never be solved with comfortable conversations, whether it’s in your own head or with other people.

So I encourage you to ask yourselves: Where in your lives right now might defining your fears be more important than defining your goals? Keeping in mind all the while, the words of Seneca: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Thank you very much.

NIETZSCHE : UBERMENSCH AND MENTALITY IN LIFE

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Nietzsche memiliki pandangan kehidupan bahwa hidup ini tragis, berbahaya, dan mengerikan. Ia dengan tegas menerima kehidupan ini. Nietzsche terkenal dengan semboyannya dalam bahasa Jerman yang berbunyi Ja-sagen, yaitu mengatakan ya. Arti dari mengatakan ya ini adalah mengafirmasi kehidupan. Dalam bukunya yang berjudul The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche menjelaskan bahwa orang-orang Yunani kuno sudah memahami bahwa hidup ini berbahaya dan menyulitkan. Nietzsche berkata dalam bukunya yang berjudul Ecce Homo, The Birth of Tragedy “Saying Yes to life even in its strangest and hardest problems.”.

Berkata Ya pada kehidupan bahkan dalam masalah-masalah yang paling aneh dan keras. Mereka tidak menyerah lari atau menegasi kehidupan ini, justru sebaliknya mereka menantang dan mengafirmasi terhadap kehidupan ini.

Nietzsche menyarankan manusia untuk selalu hidup secara Amor-fati, artinya dalam bahasa Yunani adalah mencintai takdir. Manusia tidak boleh untuk mengutuk dan menjauhi tragedi. Tragedi harus kita lawan dengan keteguhan hati, sebab dengan cara seperti inilah hidup menjadi lebih berguna. Pandangan hidup yang seperti ini terlihat dalam nilai-nilai estetika mereka. Menurut Nietzsche, dari estetika Yunani kuno itu dapat dibedakan adanya dua macam mentalitas, yaitu mentalitas Dionysian dan Apollonian.

Dionysios adalah dewa anggur dan kemabukan. Bagi Nietzsche, ia menjadi lambang pengakuan terhadap kehidupan sekarang dan di sini (diesseitigkeit) yang selalu mengalir. Dionysios adalah simbol kejantanan, keberanian, gairah, nafsu, dan pendobrakan dari segala batas serta kekangan.

Simbol-simbol tersebut diwujudkan dengan pesta riuh-rendah yang setiap tahun diadakan untuk menghormati Dionysios. Dalam ritual pemujaan dewa ini para pemujanya mabuk, tetapi dalam kemabukan itu justru menyatukan mereka dengan kehidupan yang estetis. Dalam ecstasy itu, individuasi dan perbedaan-perbedaan menjadi kabur. Mentalitas Dionysian adalah mentalitas kebudayaan Yunani kuno yang cenderung melampaui segala aturan atau norma dan bebas mengikuti dorongan-dorongan hidup tanpa kenal batas.

Apollo adalah dewa matahari dan ilmu kesusastraan. Bagi Nietzsche, Apollo menjadi lambang pencerahan, keugaharian, individuasi, kontemplasi intelektual, dan pengendalian diri. Mentalitas Apollonian adalah mentalitas kebudayaan Yunani kuno yang berpegang pada keseimbangan, ketertiban, kedamaian, harmoni, kecintaan pada bentuk-bentuk, dan keselarasan diri.

Mentalitas ini terlihat dalam tata cara berlaku di antara dewa-dewi Olympus, seni arsitektural, dan seni pahat patung-patung Yunani. Dalam kebudayaan Yunani kuno, mentalitas Apollonian ini berfungsi mengendalikan mentalitas Dionysian. Tragedi Yunani diterangkannya sebagai semacam sintesa antara musik dan tarian Dionysian dengan bentuk Apollonian.

Di setiap diri manusia selalu terdapat unsur Apollonian dan Dionysian. Unsur-unsur yang berkaitan dengan Apollo (kekuatan nalar, keteraturan, dan kelembutan) dan Dionysios (intuisi, naluri, kehendak, dan nafsu) pasti terdapat dalam diri setiap manusia. Kombinasi dari kedua unsur ini yang melahirkan tragedi. Nietzsche menyadari bahwa kehidupan manusia selalu diwarnai dengan tragedi tapi selalu ada usaha-usaha untuk mengatasi tragedi itu dalam kehidupan.

Menurut Nietzsche, sikap mental Dionysian ini telah menyelamatkan kebudayaan Yunani kuno dari pesimisme hidup. Sikap Dionysian yang ‘mengiyakan’ hidup ini apa adanya merupakan sikap penuh vitalitas dan gairah untuk tidak menolak apa-pun yang diberikan hidup ini, baik itu menyenangkan maupun menyakitkan. Sikap seperti ini menuntut keberanian untuk hidup tanpa berpaling sedikit-pun darinya. Mentalitas Dionysian inilah yang dimiliki oleh para jenius dalam kebudayaan Yunani.

Pandangan Nietzsche yang mengafirmasi kehidupan ini diperkuat oleh pandangan kaum ‘Penegasan Kehidupan’. Manusia harus melakukan sebuah sikap penegasan kehidupan, yaitu sebuah refleksi diri bahwa keutamaan yang terbaik bagi setiap manusia adalah menerima dan menghadapi kehidupan ini sepenuhnya dan apa adanya.

Manusia seharusnya berpendirian bahwa segala usaha mempertanyakan keberadaan manusia itu salah dan merupakan ilusi belaka, melainkan ia harus menerima kenyataan hidup ini secara utuh dan tanpa menggolong-golongkan – baik itu realita yang menyenangkan maupun menyusahkan.

Pada hakikatnya, apa yang terpampang di dalam kehidupan inilah satu-satunya makna hidup. Orang-orang yang tidak dapat menerima kehidupan ini sebagaimana adanya akan membangun dunia-dunia bayangan, tempat mereka mencari naungan secara khayal. Contoh orang-orang yang seperti ini misalnya: seorang biarawan yang mengecam dunia dengan mengutamakan surga, seorang idealis yang merendahkan materi tapi mengatasnamakan roh, dan seorang moralis yang melarang kegembiraan dengan menjalankan kewajiban keras.

Nietzsche memiliki pandangan sinis tersendiri terhadap orang-orang yang seperti ini. Di dalam bukunya yang berjudul Why I Am a Destiny ia berkata “The concept of the ‘beyond’, the ‘true world’ invented in order to devaluate the only world there is – in no order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality!”.

Konsep tentang ‘yang melampaui’, ‘dunia sejati’ diciptakan untuk mengurangi nilai dari dunia yang nyata – agar tidak menyisakan tujuan, tiada alasan, tiada tugas pada realitas duniawi kita!

Sikap pandangan penegasan kehidupan ini sangat mengecam segala bentuk penyisihan yang berkembang dengan mengatasnamakan nalar. Peradaban yang mendasarkan diri pada nilai-nilai ideal dipandangnya sebagai semangat yang dijiwai oleh suatu nihilism1 mendalam. Peradaban semacam itu menghasilkan masyarakat-masyarakat yang memaksa anggota-anggotanya untuk tunduk kepada suatu sistem yang semakin tidak manusiawi dan menekan segala kehendak untuk mengungkapkan diri secara non-conformist.

Peradaban seperti itu dengan semakin licik memberangus para penyimpang, yakni orang-orang yang tidak mengikuti kaidah-kaidah peradaban tersebut. Ideologi-ideologi yang berkuasa adalah penguatan sistem penindasan dengan menyatakan bahwa percobaanpercobaan untuk mematahkan cara hidup yang dipaksakan itu hanyalah usahausaha yang bertentangan dengan akal. Ilmu-ilmu tentang manusia baik disadari atau tidak telah dicemari oleh ideologi yang seperti ini – sebab dengan dalih mempelajari tentang manusia, ilmu-ilmu itu sebenarnya berusaha untuk memanipulasikan manusia dengan mengendalikan perilakunya secara sepenuhnya.

Pandangan penegasan kehidupan ini berusaha menghancurkan tata kenalaran yang menyekap bahasa, keinginan, kreatifitas; dan berusaha mengembangkan suatu gaya keberadaan yang menerima hidup ini sebagaimana adanya. Pendirian ini ingin menegaskan kembali nilai segala bentuk ungkapan spontan kehidupan. Paham penegasan kehidupan bertendensi menjalani segala pengalaman, tanpa mengesampingkan satu-pun darinya.

Übermensch adalah simbol manusia yang tidak hanya memiliki kekuatan secara fisik dan intelligence, tapi juga merupakan manusia yang telah melewati kerasnya ujian kehidupan sosial. Ia adalah sesosok manusia yang terbaik yang diciptakan oleh kondisi masyarakat yang bergejolak. Ia adalah segelintir manusia yang memiliki keutamaan bahwa hidup hanyalah untuk memperbesar kekuasaan. Ia adalah sebuah contoh bagi seorang pemimpin sejati.

Berkenaan dengan prinsip individualisme yang dijadikan keutamaan oleh Nietzsche, ia menjelaskan tentang perlunya pengembangan terhadap manusia. Pertama, manusia harus mampu untuk bertahan hidup atau survive dari alam. Alam memiliki hukumnya sendiri, yaitu “siapa yang kuat, maka dialah yang berkuasa; siapa yang lemah, maka dia akan binasa”. Manusia, sebagai makhluk hidup, tidak bisa menghindar dari hukum alam.

Kehidupan setiap makhluk hidup hanya seputar menjadi pemangsa atau mangsa. Kehidupan yang seperti ini sama halnya dengan bangsa-bangsa yang besar di dalam sejarah peradaban dunia, di mana mereka melakukan penaklukkan manusia yang lainnya dengan penuh keberanian dan kekuatan.

Manusia yang satu berperang dan menaklukkan manusia yang lainnya dengan kemurnian naluri dan kehendak untuk berkuasa. Ini adalah kodrat alami setiap makhluk hidup. Kebudayaan dan kemasyarakatan merupakan bentuk lanjutan dari hukum alam. Manusia harus selalu memiliki keberanian dan kekuatan untuk menaklukkan kebudayaan dan sosial-politik kemasyarakatan yang ada di lingkungannya. Ini adalah pengejawantahan kehidupan aristokrasi, yaitu kehidupan yang keras karena adanya keinginan dari individu untuk melawan dan menaklukkan society di mana ia berada, bahwa ia mengakui bahwa dialah being yang harus memiliki kekuasaan.

Selanjutnya, Nietzsche menegaskan bahwa dengan adanya kemandirian dalam menghadapi kehidupan yang asing, manusia akan membanggakan dirinya sendiri sebagai suatu being yang telah mampu untuk menaklukkan kerasnya kehidupan alam serta sosial kemasyarakatan. Ini adalah dasar untuk terciptanya sebuah being yang paling digdaya, yaitu Übermensch. Übermensch secara esensial adalah seorang individu yang telah melewati kerasnya hidup dan memberontak terhadap kebudayaan yang usang dan rigid. Übermensch tidak melihat kehidupan sebagai suatu pandangan yang ke belakang tetapi ia melihat jauh ke masa depan. Übermensch memiliki segala nilai moral yang terbaik, sebab tragedi sebagai seni dalam kehidupan telah melahirkan mahakaryanya yang terindah.

 

STOIC – SENCA

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It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing.

So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.

 

RULE OF THE GAME

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Jadi gini, kalo ada orang ngebacot soal “sistem”, itu ibarat kita ngomongin aturan main sebuah game, cuma disini game-nya bernama “hidup”.

“Rule of the game” ini bagi tiap orang mungkin adil mungkin tidak, tapi ada cara-cara untuk melihat adil-atau-tidak-nya peraturan yang ada secara lebih menyeluruh, misal lewat kacamata teori kayak moralisme, idealisme, determinisme biologis, pragmatisme, utilitarianisme, efisiensi, dsb.

Sudah barang tentu lah orang-orang yang merasa peraturannya udah adil bakal sebel liat orang-orang yang protes, karena mereka bakal keliatan kaya minta “keistimewaan”, atau minta peraturannya direvisi supaya lebih nguntungin kaum orang-orang yang protes ini. Atau lebih parah lagi, ngancurin aturan main lama terus bikin peraturan baru, cuma peraturan baru ini punya nilai keadilan berbeda dari apa yang selama ini kita pegang.

Masalahnya ya, seperti orang-orang yang protes ini, penilaian kita ke adil-atau-tidak-nya peraturan-peraturan hidup ini bisa jadi bias subyektifnya kuat, jangan-jangan selama ini aturannya nguntungin kita. Cara-cara main yang kita setujui pun, yang kita jalani sambil ngelap keringat dan darah belum tentu cara yang paling “baik dan adil” di dalam permainan kehidupan. Jangan-jangan bisa tuh dibikin aturan lain yang ternyata nggak cuma lebih baik untuk orang-orang yang protes itu, tapi buat kita juga, nggak perlu lagi kita ngelap keringat dan darah secara berlebih demi mempertahankan eksistensi di dalam konformitas sosial. Tapi tanpa pemahaman teori akan sulit untuk mencerna gimana peraturan-peraturan sosial bisa mempengaruhi kehidupan individu-individu didalamnya.

Ngerti sih, belajar di dalam sistem yang tak pernah bersahabat untuk belajar (hal-hal tertentu) itu memang sulit, sekali sebuah sistem berjalan, sudah kodratnya untuk terus melindungi diri, misal lewat “institusi-institusi” yang membentuk sistem ini, kayak pasar, korporasi, bank, negara, agama, media, bahkan keluarga.

Oleh : Hanung

PHILOSOPHICAL OUTLOOK

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today, i saw the extremities of life. i saw every emotion that human beings are capable of, and just how strange we can be.

I saw my mother break when my brother died. i saw her being rebuilt by her grandchildren.

I saw regret in my sister-in-law when she arrived too late to see him. i saw hatred in my sister when she saw our sister-in-law get out of her car.

I saw pure, unadulterated love in the people who came to be with me and my family today, and in my niece and nephew, who showed me why people love children so much. i saw pain in the tears that everyone cried.

I held my brother’s hand as he was passing. I felt my voice break when i called my godparents and told them what had happened. i know that i am here for a reason; what exactly that is, i’m not sure yet. but i know that i’m going to help as many people as i can, while i’m here. i have been lied to, cheated on, thrown away, forgotten.

Here i remain, even for those who’ve hurt me in the past. I am blessed to have learned from my experiences and i am blessed to know the people that i know/have known.

I know that some days it  hurts to exist. i know what it’s like to be in excruciating agony. i know what it’s like to be in love. i will always be here.

Regardless of my feelings or how much it may hurt me, i will be here.