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©Darius Foroux

STOIC LETTER 11

On the “secret” to becoming better

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between acquiring wisdom versus executing wisdom. I always dedicate a lot of time to study, whether it’s a pandemic or not. And I enjoy the activity of reading — not just the purpose like learning or entertaining yourself.

But over the past year, I’ve noticed that I spent more time merely consuming information. And I’m not alone. We’re all trying to make sense of everything that’s going on right now. We read about history, philosophy, psychology, and any other field that could give us some wisdom so we at least feel better.

But all of this “sense-making” only leads to more knowledge, and less execution. And as you and I both know, more knowledge by itself is not useful. What do you want to do with all that information that you’re putting in your mind?

It’s time to execute! “That’s great, Darius. But how on earth can I execute when I’m stuck at home.” Is what you’re probably thinking right now. I get it. So let me explain what I mean.

First, start seeing yourself as an athlete. Your job is to perform at this game called life. And to perform, you need two things: A plan, and stamina.

You create your plan based on the wisdom you’ve acquired. At some point, we all know what it takes to have a good life and career. It’s the usual: Take care of yourself, sleep enough, don’t take things too seriously, laugh a little, meditate, be kind to your loved ones, show compassion, avoid short-term gratification, etc. There’s nothing complicated about that.

Most of us are good at creating a plan. But we lack stamina. So what happens? We struggle. “Why am I feeling down? Why am I stuck in my career?” Well, you know what it takes! You just need some stamina to pull through.

Now we just need to figure out how to improve our stamina. Actually, we don’t need to figure out anything. This is something you know as well. How do you improve your physical stamina? What do runners do? What do athletes do every day of their lives?

That’s right, they train. Ideally, with a master, coach, or someone who’s been there. Marcus Aurelius, once the most powerful man in the West, humbly said: “Mastery of reading and writing requires a master.” He might have talked about a skill like writing, but this is true when it comes to everything.

We all need to train our skills and mind to improve our mental stamina. The good thing about our digital age is that you don’t have to know a master personally. You can learn through books, articles, courses, podcasts, etc. For example, one of the masters I’ve learned writing from is William Zinsser. He passed away in 2015, and I never met him. But I still studied with him through his books.

The key is to train in a mindful way. Don’t just learn things. Turn everything you learn into an activity. For example, to train inner tranquility, meditate, or go for a long walk without getting distracted by your thoughts. To become a better speaker, dictate your journal entries. To become a better writer, design your day in a way that’s easy for you to write. You can’t expect to improve or to stay at a certain level without proper training. It’s like eating, bathing, and breathing: It’s a continuous practice.

Ernest Hemingway also knew that the “secret” to becoming better is to train. He once said: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” It’s a secret that’s not a secret. We all know what it takes to become better. We need to execute.

Once you’ve improved, people will look at you and think, “Wow, this person got their shit together!” Know that you’ve trained yourself to get to that point. All the best.

Creator of the Stoic Letter (new letter comes out every Friday) | Author of 7 books and 6 courses at dariusforoux.com

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