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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Philosophy

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There’s nothing like a global pandemic to sap your motivation. When you’re locked in your house, working from home, when your routine is disrupted, when everything that’s happening in the world seems to be negative, it’s easy to say, screw it. Or, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll get back on track when things go back to normal. I’ll start eating salads for lunch when I’m back at the office. I’ll stop snacking when the kids are back on a schedule. I’ll get back to working out when I can safely go to the gym. …


Making choices based on the desires of others is a part of human nature. But there are ways to counteract the force.

Illustration credit: Liana Finck

Nearly everyone (unconsciously) assumes there’s a straight line between them and the things they want.

I wake up one day and “suddenly” decide that I want to run a marathon. (Amazingly, all of my friends had a similar realization when they hit their midthirties, too.)

I get the brilliant idea that starting a podcast is objectively the best way to talk about big ideas, and I arrive at this decision based on all the “data.” (Right around the time that everyone else seems to be arriving at the same conclusion.)

I decide to get a dog during the pandemic because…


The best pieces of wisdom gathered from a body of work that spans 2,000 years

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What is the job of a philosopher?

“When the standards have been set,” Epictetus said, “the work of philosophy is just this, to examine and uphold the standards, but the work of a truly good person is in using those standards when they know them.”

Pretty straightforward then: Define your rules. Live by them.

But the Stoics were not quite so direct in practice. While they spoke, wrote, and debated, nowhere did they put their “commandments” down in one place. Not in any form that survived, at least. …


A life lesson from a cult-classic Kung Fu movie

Photo by Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash

Ip Man, a Kung Fu movie about the legendary martial arts teacher of the same name, is rated a staggering eight out of 10 on IMDb and considered a cult classic among fans. The movie is almost two hours long, but if you skim through it, you’ll notice something: There’s not a lot of fighting.

Isn’t that what Kung Fu movies are about? Apparently not. You’ll see the master having tea, helping his friends, and struggling with everyday life. You’ll see him muse about politics, about war, and about philosophy. …


Moral self-examination can lead to self-improvement

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Journaling for self-improvement is nothing new. Daily reflection as moral self-examination goes all the back to ancient Greece and Rome. It was first described in a poem called The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, based on the doctrines of the famous sixth century BCE philosopher. The famous Stoic thinker Seneca wrote:

I make use of this privilege, and daily plead my cause before myself. When the lamp is taken out of my sight, and my wife, who knows my habit, has ceased to talk, I pass the whole day in review before myself, and repeat all that I have said and…


If you’re wondering why you’re not happy, why things are always hard, try this thought experiment from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius

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We can imagine that Marcus Aurelius was a busy man, perhaps the busiest man in the world. He had 14 children. He was living through a pandemic. He had a nagging stomach ailment. He was taking philosophy classes.

Oh, and he was the emperor of Rome. His domain stretched some 2.2 million square miles and included some 120 million people for whom he was both responsible for and in charge of.

How did he manage it all? How did he get it all done? Without losing his mind? Without falling behind?

We know that one question played a huge role.


A list for anyone struggling to see beyond this pandemic moment

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Over the past year, we’ve all been tested. Many of us have failed.

The pandemic made some of us callous. It infected others with conspiracy theories. Too many of us gave into apathy and chaos, losing all sense of structure (and spending who knows how many hours watching Netflix). Now, with the pandemic in the home stretch, but still with us, we have to get serious. We have to get serious about the tried and tested way to wisdom: reading.

Books are an investment in yourself — one that can come in many forms: novels, nonfiction, how-to, poetry, classics, biographies…


Stress is part of life. But suffering because of stress? To the Stoics, that was a choice.

Graphic of a person standing on top of a hill/mountain overlooking a red sun.
Graphic of a person standing on top of a hill/mountain overlooking a red sun.
Credit: We Are/Getty Images

“It’s normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if you’re using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal — if he’s living a normal human life. And if it’s normal, how can it be bad?” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.33

Life has always been hard. Even in the ancient world, there were children to raise, debts to pay, and terrible bosses. People got sick. They committed to too much.

Stress was a fact of life. But suffering because of stress? …


Meditating on our fleeting mortality might sound like a downer, but the ancient practice can help us find more tranquility while we’re here

Photo illustration; Image source: Westend61/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago, I felt a dull ache in my abdomen. It wasn’t painful, but it was persistent and, since the belly houses several mission-critical organs, I decided to get it checked out. My doctor seemed puzzled by my nonspecific symptoms, especially since a recent colonoscopy and upper GI scan indicated all was good. So he ordered a slew of tests and an ultrasound, which he scheduled for the next afternoon.

After I left my samples and departed the office, I spent the next 24 hours Googling “stomach pain” while contemplating my imminent death. The internet suggested I had…


Seven tactics from the ancient world that have stood the test of time

Marcus Aurelius writing philosophical advice to his son. Photo: Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The Roman-era Stoic philosopher Seneca once joked that the one thing fools all have in common is that they are always getting ready to live but never actually do.

That was 20 centuries ago. For tens of thousands of years, people have been procrastinating just like you do today: They put things off, delayed, made excuses, and wished their deadlines would disappear. And just as it does with you, this caused them anxiety, made them piss off their colleagues and families, and, worst of all, wasted time.

Fortunately, unlike our ancient counterparts, we have ages of wisdom to help us…

Forge

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