Real Happiness: How Low-Cost Wine Becomes Undrinkable

business_wine_stoicismSome insightfully challenging observations from Jacob Henricson:

You would think that making a lot of money and having a lot of power makes you less more independent, less vulnerable. But often exact opposite happens.

As your income and prestige grow, you develop more expensive tastes. A modest-sized house is no longer enough. Wine at a low price slowly becomes undrinkable. Before you know it you have become dependent on an income which is much higher than what you would get from most available jobs. And it is much more painful to step down from a privileged position than it is enjoyable to climb up. You are creating a trap for yourself.

Epictetus provocatively asks: “Who is your master?” And immediately he answers: “Whoever has authority over anything that you’re anxious to gain or to avoid.”
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How Ancient Roman Stoicism is Changing Modern Lives for Better

modern_stoicismA useful overview of the Stoicism movement currently building momentum across the world, by Sarah Berry:

Stoicism encourages us to carry out thought experiments on ourselves so that we are not held captive to our comfort zone and enables us to practice courage in the face of change.

“Stoicism is not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulties of life. To focus on managing emotion, specifically non-helpful emotion,” explains Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is the Way

The Four-Hour Body author, Tim Ferris uses the philosophy to address his own fears of poverty, regularly conducting lifestyle experiments such as wearing the same white T-shirt and pants for weeks in a row, have periods of living modestly (rice and beans, about $3 a day) and fasting once a week.

“It’s inoculating yourself against unfounded fears,” Ferris says. “When I find myself defensive, fearful of losing whatever success or money or prestige or status… they’re usually nebulous. You worry that your quality of life will drop, you’ll be very unhappy, but if you rehearse that condition – the worst-case scenario – you realize it’s not that bad and that’s tremendously empowering.”

“Stoicism allows you to make better investment decisions,” Ferriss says. “It allows you to take the steps to start your own company, start a relationship, end a relationship – because you are rehearsing the worst-case scenarios instead of letting them bounce around your head in a very unformed, nebulous way.”

Four quotes from  the seminal Stoic philosopher Seneca:

“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us. We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

“No prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue. The only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fists, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary’s charge, who has been downed in body, but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”

“Let us become intimate with poverty so that fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort if we learn how far poverty is from being a burden.”

“When you challenge yourself by living without luxuries or indulgences, say to yourself: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’ The soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress. It is while fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against its violence.”

The full article is here.


Multiple Simultaneous Partial Presence or Mostly Absent? Happiness at Work

Constant Multi-Tasking and Zombie Executives



I increasingly see this in my coaching practice working with highly successful but highly stressed senior business people.

They are trying to leverage technology so that they can operate simultaneously in several locations. For example, they try to spend time with their kids while checking e-mail or having “quick” business negotiations on the phone while driving… I find that from one day to the next they often forget the details of what they said and what they committed themselves to.

These people are living zombie-like lives in which they move forward, sometimes with devastatingly killer intentions, but they aren’t fully alive. They seem to be driven and controlled by an external force that often contradicts their heartfelt desires – to be loving and supportive with close relatives, to make a genuinely positive difference in the world, to enjoy themselves and to stretch and grow their abilities and talents.

Many of these themes are echoed in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review: Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks

A few excerpts:

…many professional jobs, expectations that one be an “ideal worker”—fully devoted to and available for the job, with no personal responsibilities or interests that interfere with this commitment to work—are widespread. We often think of problems with these expectations as women’s problems. But men too may struggle with them.

..They complained to me of children crying when they missed their soccer games, of poor health and substance addictions caused by how they worked, and of a general sense of feeling “overworked and underfamilied.”
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There Are Only Two Tragedies in Life

Living lightly
Talking this morning over the breakfast table about cell phones, their uses and abuses.

My 11 year-old daughter is under a lot of peer pressure to get a phone, but she needs to convince her parents. So far she has not succeeded. And she has to admit that one of her friends – who spectacularly received a top-of-the-line Apple iPhone a couple of months ago – often forgets to take her phone with her and generally seems not to be so excited about it anymore.

It reminded me of the quotation from Oscar Wilde, which nicely reflects some of the Buddhist notions of “non-grasping” and “non-attachment.”

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.


Have More Sex and Two Other Rewilding Tips

Mindfulness sex & happiness

Using the full breadth and depth of your personal knowledge, what three concise tips would you offer to someone wanting to live a highly successful life?

It’s a question that often yields very illuminating and practical answers on Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof Radio Show.

The little package of advice given by recent guest Daniel Vitalis, a “rewilding” expert, is particularly inspiring and practical.

In its most concise form Daniel suggests that most people need to:
1- Spend more time outdoors
2- Move in more varied and challenging ways
3- Have better sex, more frequently
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How Was Your Holiday? Did You Have a Good Break? High-Performance Vacation Planning

Taking Control of Your Life
How was your holiday? Did you have a good break?

Whether your answer to these questions is “great” or “so-so” or somewhere in between, now — right now — is the time to start planning for next year. You can improve on the year-end break, maintain a status quo level of satisfaction, or leave it to chance, the choice is yours.

Many people don’t get around to specifically planning for the December 20th to January 5th period until late September, when they are settled back in after a summer break. In the U.S., some planning refuseniks, don’t really focus on the year-end holidays until after Thanksgiving, meaning they have a mere three weeks to get ready.

Obviously it’s as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that the world will slow down a bit at the end of December 2015. You’ll be tired from a hectic and hopefully high productivity October, November and the first two weeks of December. It will be hard after December 10th or so to make progress because colleagues and clients will feel similarly. And there are all the distractions of parties to contend with. So don’t fight it. Go with the flow, and the flow at that time of year is toward rest and renewal.

How much time do you dare take off around year-end? My suggestion is that you be bold but subtle. The French have a nice expression that means “To live well, live hidden.”

Would it be so crazy and reckless to have your last day of work be Thursday the 17th of December and your first day back Tuesday the 5th of January? That’s a total of 18 non-work days. Six of those are weekend days. Depending on which country you are based, around four of those are national holidays. That leaves you taking off eight work days, i.e. Not that much.

The key is advance planning and providing your key colleagues advance warning. Slide those dates into the team’s holiday diary as soon as you can but in a way that doesn’t attract notice. Of course put them in your own calendar right away, and with a reminder that goes off every week or so. The anticipation is a key part of the cure; knowing that something desirable and important is coming up can make this period truly transformational, a process of inspiration that gathers momentum as the weeks go by.

Can you organisation live without you between December 18th and January 5th? Of course it can. Many wouldn’t even notice you’re away.

The same isn’t always true with relative, but if you calmly, politely inform them around Sept 10th that you won’t be around for the holidays, they will eventually adjust and come to accept it as bearable.

In my 15 plus years of coaching people at senior levels, I have seen dozens of executives who were thought completely indispensable leave at short notice for weeks at a time. Often it’s because of a serious medical problem but regardless of the reason, most organisations prove themselves surprisingly resilient.

Obviously it’s a lot less disruptive if you plan for your absence, finish up projects, write contingency plans etc.

To be sure, sometimes people are reluctant to plan themselves out of the work flow for a significant period of time precisely because they realize they are readily replaceable or otherwise won’t be particularly missed. Some of that is an irrational anxiety. However part of it, is down to a paradox: People can often grind away at a job not adding much innovation or special value precisely because they are uninspired, even burned out from too much time doing the same things, not enough rest, rejuvenation and exposure to new stimuli that would create new ideas and renewed energy. The solution is to be rigorously “planfull” in taking reinvigorating and inspiring breaks.

Here are some ideas:
– Travel somewhere interesting but not-too busy at year-end, like Ecuador, Romania or Burma
– How about a tropical “semi” paradise; e.g. Puerto Rico is surprisingly low-key despite reliably good weather
– Pick a slightly unusual travel window to save money, like Dec. 17 to Dec. 29
– Try a Buddhist retreat; many centers are fully operational over the Dec./Jan. time period
– Take up a winter sport big-time in a key center, i.e. Cross country skiing in Canada
(Pro-tip – start preparing in the gym for intense sports at least three months in advance)
– Stay at home but work on something new; e.g. schedule 3 hours a day of pottery; hire a local tutor well in advance
– Resolve to do all your holiday shopping and correspondence over one intense 48-hour stint in early December (e.g. The weekend of Dec. 5-6; put it in the diary now)
– Plan to read 6 to 10 great books over the period; set aside 6 to 10 hours a day for reading (including audio books that can be listened to while exercising)
– Hire a fitness coach for intense workouts every other day for two weeks

What ideas do you have? Let me know via
Key terms: vacation planning, holidays, planfull behavior, diary management, time and task management, work stress management, healthy leaves of absences


Mostly Likely to Succeed or Most Likely to be Happy?

taylor_swiftAre there any high schools that give out the award: “Most Likely to be Happy in Life?”

The majority bestow the title “Most Likely to Succeed” and that usually goes to someone who is quite bright, but also a bit of a “go-getter,” popular with the in-crowd and perhaps with a bit of entrepreneurial flair. Or in some cases,  it’s someone demonstrating obvious acting or singing talent over and above the average for that age group. Taylor Swift is the best case in point, and Miley Cyrus before her.

But what characteristics would we be looking for in 17 year-olds to find the school’s winner of  “Most Likely to be Happy?”

Here’s a quick and somewhat slapdash list:
1-      Makes friends easily
2-      Maintains and builds relationships
3-     Helps others; volunteers
4-      Enjoys spending time outdoors
5-      Eats a healthy diet
6-      Has a religious faith and/or a spiritual practice
7-      Is academically intelligent, but not excessively
8-      Keeps fit but is not fitness or body-image obsessed

So generally a well-balanced, calm person who probably doesn’t stand out much during his or her last year of high school. Certainly not somebody Hollywood usually makes movies with or about.
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