The Accidental Stoic Pt. 4 — Develop Self-Awareness

(If you have already read one of the other parts, you can skip the intro. I wanted to make sure all readers had the background no matter which lesson they were starting on. Enjoy!).

I love Tim Ferriss.

I love Ryan Holiday.

When you go through something traumatic you find yourself looking for answers, grasping for knowledge.

You hate the way you feel.

You don’t know what to do yet, but you know you never want to feel this way again.

But what can you do?

You allow yourself to be teachable.

Allow yourself the opportunity to learn from your mistakes so you don’t have to relive them again.

Two of the people that I turned to were: Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday. They practice and preach Stoicism: the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.

In these blogs I am going to break down 5 pillars of the philosophy (Time Is Brief, Overcome Adversity, Live A Life Of Character, Self-Awareness, and Practicing Misfortune), and explain how I became one without even knowing it. What a pleasant surprise! Nothing like having a goal and realizing you are already there!

I find the best way to allow yourself permission to be teachable is either acknowledging the desire and need to learn or finding yourself in stories about other people and applying it to your own life.

4. Develop Self-Awareness:

Overcome destructive emotions.

Recognize that all emotions come from within.

Life after failure: With no failure there is no growth.

Do not place blame outside yourself.

Remember how small you are.

I honestly don’t know how to develop this on purpose. It’s the epitome of accident.

We are horrible judges of ourselves.

We are our best advocates, our worst critics, we go on the defensive when criticized by others, we fail to see our own weaknesses. Basically, we are a mess.

How many of us know exactly what we need to change, and just don’t do it? We know the next step, the best course of action, the thing we are supposed to do, the thing we are not supposed to do, but we just don’t. We make excuses, we distance ourselves from the situations, from it’s reality, and we don’t change.

A huge benefit to messing up is the (lethal) dose of reality.

It’s like chemotherapy in the 1960s. Reality can kill you. Even if it doesn’t it will bring you close enough to feel like it. If you are lucky enough that it doesn’t, you are good as new, maybe even better.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The idea that you can be better than ever is what keeps you pushing through. I remember sitting in my cell, hell, sitting at home, before I ever got to San Quentin, and knowing, this will never happen again. I will never be that person again. Not just a cheating piece of shit, but any of the negative things. I was going to be a machine.

It was like a self-awareness atom bomb. I audited my whole life. Where could I be better? What should I stop doing? What should I do more of? How can I get better? Audit, audit, audit.

I became consumed with self-awareness. Granted, in the darker days, it was not great. I was so self-aware of my past that I was not functioning well in the present. But I got passed it, and focused on the present and future.

That drive, that hatred of my former self is inevitably going to make me better than I was before.

Failure is not an option, learning is growing, complaining will get you nothing, believe in yourself, blah blah blah. It flipped a switch. I had to consistently check myself, audit my thoughts, behavior, my whole day from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, Monday through Sunday, 365. There was 5% better somewhere, 3% somewhere, I just needed to find it.

I honestly don’t know how I would have been able to have this focus and insight without the failure.

Everything became so obvious. The heat from the blast melted down everything to it’s core, it’s truth. Everything was looking me in the eye. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

It allowed me to realize that I am the center of all of my issues. There is no one to blame but me. No one can make me angry, no one can make me happy. I choose to do good or bad. I choose to work better and smarter, or I don’t. I am the master of my emotions, my thinking, my body, and my decisions. That means doing things that help with physical as well as mental health: meditation, sleep, healthy eating, fitness, reading, etc. Practicing positive self-talk. Constantly refining and adjusting to be more effective, more efficient, striving to get better and better.

Because I was able to see my weaknesses, I could reinforce the areas that needed it.

Another thing I realized through introspection is that we are small.

No one wants to think things will function without them. Work, family, friends, anything. But the truth is things will function without you. Why? Because they have to.

Everyone talks about the greatest generation, the pain tolerance of women, all these things that one group can do that the other can’t. It’s all bullshit. No one really knows what they are capable of until they have to do it. If men gave birth, men would give birth and women would have the lower pain tolerance. That’s not the way it is, but there is not much of an option either.

Some of the best stories in history, war stories, come from men and women that were put in situations we couldn’t even imagine, and they survived to tell their story. Were they heroic? Of course. Were they superhuman? Spawned from a tougher generation? No. They were put in a situation where they either lived or died. They lived. I am sure if they had a choice, they never would have been there in the first place. But once you’re there, you either fight or lie down. That could be you. It could be me. We don’t know. We have never been tested like that.

We can all be just as good and just as bad as the next person. There are moments where we are great. There are moments where we are weak.

It is a blessing to be humbled. To feel weak. To be a loser. To be a piece of shit. It allows you to evaluate yourself honestly, the hardest thing for humans to do.

Self-awareness requires effort and honesty.

Unless you put yourself in a situation where you find it accidentally.