'Do Your Job, Do It Right' by Ryan Holiday

Today we feature our second extract from Ryan Holiday‘s new book, The Obstacle is the Way, which draws on Marcus Aurelius’ idea that “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”, and shows how you can turn obstacles into opportunities and how this has been done throughout history, from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs. In this extract, Ryan focusses on giving your job the respect it deserves…

 Do Your Job, Do It Right

Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble. (Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum.)—SIR HENRY ROYCE

Long past his humble beginnings, President Andrew Johnson would speak proudly of his career as a tailor before he entered politics. “My garments never ripped or gave way,” he would say.

On the campaign trail, a heckler once tried to embarrass him by shouting about his working-class credentials. John- son replied without breaking stride: “That does not disconcert me in the least; for when I used to be a tailor I had the reputation of being a good one, and making close fits, always punctual with my customers, and always did good work.”

Another president, James Garfield, paid his way through college in 1851 by persuading his school, the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, to let him be the janitor in exchange for tuition. He did the job every day smiling and without a hint of shame. Each morning, he’d ring the university’s bell tower to start the classes—his day already having long begun—and stomp to class with cheer and eagerness.

Within just one year of starting at the school he was a professor—teaching a full course load in addition to his studies. By his twenty-sixth birthday he was the dean.

This is what happens when you do your job—whatever it is—and do it well.

These men went from humble poverty to power by always doing what they were asked to do—and doing it right and with real pride. And doing it better than anyone else. In fact, doing it well because no one else wanted to do it.

Sometimes, on the road to where we are going or where we want to be, we have to do things that we’d rather not do. Often when we are just starting out, our first jobs “introduce us to the broom,” as Andrew Carnegie famously put it. There’s nothing shameful about sweeping. It’s just another opportunity to excel—and to learn.

Continue reading “'Do Your Job, Do It Right' by Ryan Holiday”

'The Obstacle is the Way', by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday‘s new book, The Obstacle is the Way is launched today, and you can read an excerpt from Ryan’s book below, which focusses on controlling your emotions, no matter how difficult the circumstances. We’ll feature some more extracts in a couple of weeks (on May 10th and 17th). Ryan’s book draws on Marcus Aurelius’ idea that “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”. The book will show both how you can use this idea to obstacles into opportunities and how this has been done throughout history, from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs.

Control Your Emotions

by Ryan Holiday

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. —PUBLIUS SYRUS

When America raced to send the first men into space, they trained the astronauts one skill more than in any other: the art of not panicking.

When people panic, they make mistakes. They override systems. They disregard procedures, ignore rules. They deviate from the plan. They become unresponsive and stop thinking clearly. They just react—not to what they need to react to, but to the survival hormones that are coursing through their veins.

Welcome to the source of most of our problems down here on Earth. Everything is planned down to the letter, then something goes wrong and the first thing we do is trade in our plan for a good ol’ emotional freak-out. Some of us almost crave sounding the alarm, because it’s easier than dealing with whatever is staring us in the face.

At 150 miles above Earth in a spaceship smaller than a VW, this is death. Panic is suicide.

So panic has to be trained out. And it does not go easily.

Before the first launch, NASA re-created the fateful day for the astronauts over and over, step by step, hundreds of times—from what they’d have for breakfast to the ride to the airfield. Slowly, in a graded series of “exposures,” the astronauts were introduced to every sight and sound of the experience of their firing into space. They did it so many times that it became as natural and familiar as breathing. They’d practice all the way through, holding nothing back but the liftoff itself, making sure to solve for every variable and remove all uncertainty.

Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority. It’s a release valve. With enough exposure, you can adapt out those perfectly ordinary, even innate, fears that are bred mostly from unfamiliarity. Fortunately, unfamiliarity is simple to fix (again, not easy), which makes it possible to increase our tolerance for stress and uncertainty.

John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, spent nearly a day in space still keeping his heart rate under a hundred beats per minute. That’s a man not simply sitting at the controls but in control of his emotions. A man who had properly cultivated, what Tom Wolfe later called, “the Right Stuff.”

But you . . . confront a client or a stranger on the street and your heart is liable to burst out of your chest; or you are called on to address a crowd and your stomach crashes through the floor.

It’s time to realize that this is a luxury, an indulgence of our lesser self. In space, the difference between life and death lies in emotional regulation.

Hitting the wrong button, reading the instrument panels incorrectly, engaging a sequence too early—none of these could have been afforded on a successful Apollo mission— the consequences were too great.

Thus, the question for astronauts was not How skilled a pilot are you, but Can you keep an even strain? Can you fight the urge to panic and instead focus only on what you can change? On the task at hand?

Life is really no different. Obstacles make us emotional, but the only way we’ll survive or overcome them is by keeping those emotions in check—if we can keep steady no matter what happens, no matter how much external events may fluctuate.

Continue reading “'The Obstacle is the Way', by Ryan Holiday”

Excerpt from Teach Yourself Stoicism by Donald Robertson

Excerpt from the forthcoming book Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013) by Donald J. Robertson.

Release Date: 27th December

CLICK HERE

 

If you can’t see the embedded document above, you should be able to follow this link to download it from the cloud using Microsoft SkyDrive.

Perspectives: 'Stoic Spiritual Exercises' by Elen Buzaré

Elen Buzaré, who has studied Stoicism for almost 20 years, has written a concise manual which modernises ancient Stoic therapeutic exercises. Reproduced here, with kind permission of the author, is an extract discussing both Stoic techniques in examining thoughts, or ‘impressions’ also the idea of ‘getting your desire right’. Elen also started this French language forum for practising Stoics.

To read the fascinating extract from Elen’s book, Stoic Spiritual Exercises (© Elen Buzaré, 2012) please click here. 

Heraclitus and the Birth of the Logos

This is a chapter, reproduced with kind permission, from the forthcoming work 50 Philosophy Classics, by Tom Butler-Bowdon and published by Nicholas Brealey. The book will be published on the 14th March, 2013.

In this guest piece, read about Heraclitus, the first Greek to place such attention on the idea of the Logos, or the rational underlying structure of the universe, a concept which later underpinned the practice of ancient Stoicism. Read and post your thoughts!

Heraclitus

One of the great philosophers before Socrates and Plato, Heraclitus was the eldest son of the leading family of Ephesus, one of the main cities of the ancient Greek world and famous for its temple of Artemis.

We do not know a huge amount about Heraclitus, except that he avoided involvement in politics, was something of a loner, and, at a time when it was normal for philosophers to play a part in politics and communicate their ideas in speech, he focused on the written word. As a result, his thoughts survived him and his book of sayings became famous in the ancient world. Plato and others discussed him, but his influence was greatest among the Stoics.

Continue reading “Heraclitus and the Birth of the Logos”

The Essence of Stoic Philosophy: Excerpt from Build your Resilience (2012)

An excerpt from Build your Resilience (2012) that paraphrases the Handbook of Epictetus to provide a summary of the basic principles of Stoicism.

The Essence of Stoicism

Excerpt from Build your Resilience (2012) by Donald Robertson.

So what practical advice do the Stoics give us about building resilience? Well, this is a philosophy that can be studied for a lifetime and more detailed accounts are available. An excellent modern guide to Stoicism already exists in the book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by Prof. William Irvine, an academic philosopher in the USA (Irvine, 2009). My own writings, especially my book The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, have focused on describing the relationship between Stoicism and modern psychotherapy (Robertson, 2010; Robertson, 2005).

However, although, Stoicism is a vast subject, it was based upon a handful of simple principles. Epictetus summed up the essence Continue reading “The Essence of Stoic Philosophy: Excerpt from Build your Resilience (2012)”