The Enchiridion 1.1

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.” – Enchiridion 1.1


It’s important for people like me to remember that in the second sentence of this paragraph, Epictetus is assuming a healthy mind.  By “healthy”, I mean having the capacity to be in control of those things, or the potential for that capacity.

People with mental difficulties (because of illness, brain injury, or developmental disabilities) must recognize this.  If a person with a fully functional brain has difficulty being in control of their desire and aversion, imagine how much more it will be for someone who’s brain is not fully functional.  So we can probably cut ourselves a little bit of slack when we fail.  Not slack as in “why bother trying”, but forgiveness when we fall short.

A person with with working legs and a healthy cardiovascular system probably can’t run a marathon if they’ve never run any appreciable distance before.  Break one of those working legs, and you wouldn’t expect them to train by running until the leg has healed.  But they *can* do things to be ready for the day when the leg has healed.

We have no idea what our potential is.  As far as I can tell, it’s usually much higher than we give ourselves credit for.  No, it’s not unlimited, as some self-help gurus would have you believe.  But it’s a mistake to say “Oh, I have Bipolar Disorder, so I can’t do this” or “Too bad I’m on the spectrum, not for me” or “Yeah, but I’m an addict, and I’ll never climb out of this.”  Or even the much simpler (and far more common) too old, too young, too stupid, too whatever spiel.

It’s in your power to take whatever action you can and begin to put those things back under your control.  And when (not if, when) you initially fail, begin again.  And again.  And again.

But what about the things that Epictetus lists as not in our control?  Stop concerning yourself with them.  Wisdom may tell you to take care of your body, but no matter what precautions you put in place you could still get attacked by a super bug or get hit by a bus.  You may be self-disciplined when it comes to your money – then along come the banksters or scammers, and it’s gone.

So focus only on those things in these areas where you do have control (or the potential for control).  You can exercise control over what you do with your body.  You can exercise control over where your property is allocated.  Exercise what control you have, and it will grow.

Doing this, according to Epictetus (and the rest of the Stoics), is a major step on the road to happiness.


“Just Do It” “Fuuuuuck Yooooou”


I’m so over the “you gotta want it as much as you would want to put out your hair if it was on fire” crowd.

We don’t all work that way.  We know that our hair isn’t on fire, and that we’ll be just fine if we don’t make a million dollars, write that bestselling novel, or start our own successful business, thank you very much.

No, we aren’t lazy.  Yes, we want to improve ourselves.  But we’d rather do it without killing ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually.

We want to enjoy the run, not gut it out.  We want to provide a useful service, not maximize our profits.  We want to have a healthy relationship with our children, not drive them to the point that they are as miserable as we are.

We want to be happy.  And we don’t want to feel guilty because you think that we aren’t being the best people we can be.

But that’s on us.  We won’t accept it anymore.  We will be, and continue to become, the people that we want to be, no matter what you think.

If you think we aren’t skinny enough, rich enough, hard working enough… that’s on you.

We will be happy.  And if we aren’t, we will learn how to become that way.

Because we are good enough and smart enough, but quite frankly we don’t give a fuck if people like us or not.

And it won’t be by setting our heads ablaze.


[image by Tommy Lisbin, retrieved from]

Thank You For Doing My Laundry

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.” – Barack Obama, via Wikipedia, retrieved 4/28/2017

This morning I did a load of laundry.

Thank you for that.

Thank you to the universe that provided the raw materials.

Thank you for the waste products that you expel, which allows many of those raw materials to grow.

Thank you to the women and men who took those raw materials and turned them into metal and useful chemicals.

Thank you to the electrical professionals who figured out how safely apply the current through wires to the machines.

Thank you to the designers and builders who created the machines that accept that current in a way that gets the job done.

Thank you to my parents, who through both genetics and the environment that they provided, gave me the ability to move, to think, to figure out how to separate darks from lights, hot from cold, on from off.

Thank you to all the other people, both those I know of and those I don’t, who brought me to this point in my life where I have access to this amazing technology.

I could go on and on until the day I die, drilling down and mentioning all of the things that came together to allow me to get my clothes clean this morning.  But I’ll stop there for now.  My point is…

It’s not just the big “successes” (building a business, writing a novel, fighting a fire) that others help us with.  It’s every little thing that we do, every single day.

We are a product of our genetics and environment.  Yes, we have a choice in a whole hell of a lot of things, but what gave us the ability to make those choices?  Our genetics and our past environment (even if that past was just a second ago).

Genetics can’t be changed (or can they?).  Environment can be.  But both the desire and the ability to make those changes depend on causes and conditions (to borrow a Buddhist term) that are quite often beyond our control.

Think about that today.  When you come across something, either mundane or extraordinary, just take a bit of time to contemplate how that something came into your life, both by your actions and the actions of others.  I’m not necessarily asking you to manufacture gratitude – just think about it.

For me, thinking about it creates gratitude without having to fake it.  And gratitude feels good.

So once again – thanks for doing my laundry today.  The amount of effort I put into it pales in comparison to the effort of everyone and everything else that did.

I Am The Starfish (Goo goo g’joob)

I know I’m not a very good writer.  I’m adequate, but I ain’t no Hemingway.  Actually, I’ve never read any Hemingway, so I can’t say that from personal experience (though I’ve heard he wasn’t bad).

But I feel pulled to write.  The problem, I’ve always thought, was that I had nothing important to say.  Oh, sure, I had lots of ideas, but if I had the notion that I could write about those ideas, my old friend self-doubt would show up.

“I’m not good enough.  What will people think of me?  They’ll all laugh at me!  Where’s my authority?  Who am I to tell people these things?  I quit college, I’m a recovered alcoholic, I’m bipolar, I’m introverted, I have a low level blue collar warehouse job, I’ve treated the people I love like shit…. and I can’t spell very well.”  Not exactly a paragon of success and virtue.

So what could I ever say that would matter to the world?

There’s a story that I think I first read in a Wayne Dyer book.  It was about a person on a beach, throwing starfish that had washed up on the shore back into the water.  There were hundreds of them, dying and littering the area.  She continued to pick them up, one by one, and chuck them back into the water.

A passerby asked what she was doing.  She answered, “Saving these starfish.”

“Why?  You’ll never be able to throw all of them back.  Seems pretty pointless.”

So the thrower picked up another one, tossed it into the sea, looked at the passerby, and said “It wasn’t pointless to that one.”

For some reason, that story came to mind this morning while reading through some of Brian Johnson’s PhilosophersNotes.  I don’t remember which note it was that sparked the thought, because the story wasn’t in the note itself.  But a common theme throughout many of his notes is on finding your purpose and passion.

Here’s the deal – I’m a part of this world.  So if I’m doing something that matters to me, something that isn’t pointless to me, I’m doing something important for the world.

The same goes for you.

We are not strangers in a strange land.  We are an integral part of the universe.  So to do something simply because it makes us happy, makes the world a little more happy.

Doing something that fulfills our own purpose, fulfills the purpose of the world.

If you are a dying starfish… throw yourself back into the ocean of your own purpose, your own joy, even if you don’t see how it will benefit others.  And if you can’t throw yourself back in, seek out others who can help.  I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the many people who cared enough to give me a good toss when I needed it.  Especially those who kept tossing me in when I would swim back to shore.

I think I’ll hang out in the water now.  It may not always be comfortable, but it’s where I belong.