Category Archives: Philosophy

Nourish Your Inner Samurai – Staying in the Moment with Eckhart Tolle

If a ninja and a samurai fought, who would win the duel?  Ninjas move in the shadows and samurai fight by publicly advertised appointments, so we will probably never know.  Better to be a ninja, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, samurai are great warriors from whom we can learn much:  honor, discipline, mental strength, the value of training, etc.   Historically, samurai would seek the best teachers to instruct them in a style that would lead to victory.  They were always in search of the best methods.  That’s admirable.

The greatest samurai of all, Musashi, had no method:  “By all accepted standards, Musashi was not a great sword technician.  Schools, styles, theories, traditions – none of these meant anything to him.  His mode fighting was completely pragmatic.  What he knew was only what he had learned from experience.  He wasn’t putting theory into practice;  he fought first and theorized later.”

Musashi was actually a spiritual warrior.  He started his training by spending three years locked in a monastery studying what it meant be human.  His conclusion:  to be fully human is to fully live in the moment.   This fighting style, if it can be called that, carried him to many glorious victories and into Japanese legend.

Consciousness was his weapon.

Musashi  is long gone and so are the shoguns, daimyos, and ninjas.  But if he were alive, he’d be a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle.

Musashi:  “Fighting isn’t all there is to the Art of War.  The men who think that way, and are satisfied to have food to eat and a place to sleep, are mere vagabonds.  A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit.”

Meet Eckhart Tolle, German Mystic and Champion of the Now.  Tolle asserts that your whole life exists only in this present moment.  Locking your conscious in the Now unlocks power.  For us Biz Warriors that is power to fully connect with people, exercise clear judgment, and inspire creative solutions.  Being elsewhere other than the Now, in a place he calls Psychological Time, as opposed to Clock Time, fills our head with worries, fears, and anxieties.

These distractions disconnect us from clients, customers, and teammates in critical moments such as closing deals.  Mental distractions cloud our judgment when fear dictates strategy instead of clarity.  Left brain analytical noise overwhelms the quiet, inspired right brain from where creative epiphanies arise.  For Musashi, allowing his conscious to slip from the present added milliseconds to his sword stroke, costing him many defeats in his early days.

Tolle presents concept and techniques to anchor us into the present.


There Is Only Now:  The past and future do not exist, except as concepts in the mind.  All reality is now.  Our (left, or analytical) brain tells us stories about the past and future.  They aren’t real in the present moment other than our mind tells us they are real.

Psychological Time vs Clock Time:  The former is a hazardous place where our mind leaves the present to focus on thoughts and feelings about times past and future.  The latter is the practical reality that must be dealt with through plans and strategies.

Consciousness:  The human existence composes four realities.  The first three are where 99% of people live their lives:  thoughts, feelings, & perceptions.  The fourth is the space in which the first first three exist.  That space is called consciousness.  Enlightenment:  you are not your mind (Descartes was wrong), you are your consciousness (Jesus, Buddha, James K A Smith, and Pascal were right).

Wanting is Weakness:  “Most egos have conflicting wants.  They want different things at different times or may not even know what they want except that they don’t want what is:  the present moment.  Unease, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, dissatisfaction (and all other forms of neurosis) are the result of unfulfilled wanting.”


The following serve to quiet the left brain, center the awareness in the present, and make us alert to the right (creative) brain.

Focus on the Breath:  This, the most ancient of meditative practices, can easily be done 1-2x per hour all day.  Merely take three slow, full breaths giving them your full attention.  The brain chatter will recede momentarily.

Connect with the Natural:  The second most ancient meditative practice, also quiets the chatter.  Focus for 20-30 seconds on something natural.  That can be sunlight, a tree, a flower, your thumb.  Notice things about it.  Thoughts will come.  Instead of resisting or analyzing them, just notice them and then re-focus on nature.

Observe Your Inner Energy:  Similar to the above, focus a moment periodically through the day experiencing the feeling of aliveness inside you.  Take a breath, find a place of tension, which is the physical manifestation of “non-acceptance,” and relax that part of your body in your exhale.

Accept, then Act:  “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it if you had chosen it.  Always work with it not against it.  Use it as your ally, not your enemy.”  Cease internal conversations about how you feel about your circumstances and how they inform your egoistic self-narrative.  These things are not reality.  Instead, accept your present and live fully in it.

Watch Your Mind:  “Be present as a watcher of your mind — your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations.”  You are not your thoughts or emotions, you are the watcher.  Your consciousness rises to this higher level of awareness.  Neurotic mind-chatter fades and the creative spirit that is God’s gift to all humans emerges.  That spirit, your whole self, will solve the business problems that stumped your analytical brain.

Execution in the Now:  Recognize that your life journey or business strategy “ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment.”  Set times aside to plan and strategize.  Then execute, execute, execute.  There is only this pitch, this conversation, this hand shake, this eye contact, this pause to fully listen.  Your brilliant strategy to dominate your market means nothing outside of this moment of execution.  Read Dwight D Eisenhower’s reflections the days before launching the D-Day assault.

Live, Work with Uncertainty:  As you no longer let your ego (left brain chatter) run your life you enter into uncertainty.  Learn to live with it and love it.  The universe has all you need.  Your heightened awareness will help you become comfortable with uncertainty, which is merely infinite possibility.  The Roman philosopher Tacitus “rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear.  If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.”

Consciously Do:  “The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm.”  Cease your doing, your amazing start-up or exhilarating new executive responsibilities, from want, and move to enjoyment and enthusiasm.  The ego wants, and therefore you do, you do all sorts of unpleasant, miserable, hateful things that spawn negative energy.  Doing with inspiration and enthusiasm, which can be translated from their original language to  ‘with spirit and with God,’ drives you towards your vision with the divine energy in all humans.  Jesus called this the Kingdom of Heaven that dwells inside all of us.  The Stoics called it the Divine Spark.

Aim, Fire, Forget:  Your left brain is a wonderful, incredibly powerful weapon.  Situations will arise that require its use.  Aim your analytical Death Star beam at the situation, question, challenge, and fire all guns.  Then holster your analytical blaster and return to conscious awareness.  Marcus Aurelius calls this the Hegemonikon, or the Directed Mind.

Even a half-hearted pursuit of the above should yield increased tranquility and focus.  As always, be stoic about your pursuit of this, or any other, particular notion of stoicism.  If you screw up, or have set-backs, be stoic.  It’s not a big deal. Try again in a half hour, or try another three breaths.

For more, listen to Tolle’s chat at Google:


Filed under Philosophy, Staying in the Moment, Uncategorized

A Noob’s Guide to E3, or How To Stay In the Moment


I, along with all my video game friends, are headed to E3 in LA this week.  It’s a mess.  Between the parties, sun, and stimulating entertainment showcases, a Player can hardly think.  For you uninitiated noobs, E3 is the video game industry’s annual trade show at Staples Center in downtown LA.  The week-long event overloads the senses by day at press events and by night at company-sponsored parties.  And oh, yeah, we all schedule meetings in between the formal events from dusk until dawn.

The OffWins Playbook dictates that Players “stay in the moment.”  If you are following along in the old-school handout I gave you in our live coaching session, that would be Inner Game Step 5.  Staying in the moment at an event like E3 can challenges even a seasoned vet.  LA is ridiculously hard to get around.  I’ve hiked 45 minutes to get from one event to another because of lack of cabs.  The companies don’t really coordinate so events are running nearly simultaneously.  The visual and aural noise bombards your sensory perception.   And most people are hungover, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived.  It’s a neural gauntlet.

Before we examine staying in the moment, we start with, a paradox (as usual).  To effectively stay in the moment, one must plan assiduously.  (Or plan not at all and float freely like a plankton in the sea.  That’s my preferred method but isn’t very professional).  So plan, precisely as possible.  Planning and adjusting on the fly at E3 is impossible.   Meetings are triple stacked all over Staples Center and downtown LA.  The stress of logistics will overwhelm your experience.  The whole point of staying in the moment is to leave stress behind, wielding a clear mind, keenly focused.  Knowing exactly when and where you need to be helps tremendously.  Just ask my friends trying to book their trip 48 hours beforehand (right now).  All SF flights are sold out, all nearby hotels are booked up, and party and meeting invites are impossible to get.

Pro Tip:  It’s also very helpful to leave 2-3 hour slots open for new possibilities to arise on site.

What Does it Mean to Stay in the Moment?

It means to have your attention focused exclusively on the “now.”  This jump shot, this funding pitch, this networking convo, this job interview, this random watercooler gossip session, this at-bat, etc.  Not the one you screwed up last week.  Not the fear you have of screwing this one up.  Not the pride you are beginning to feel as you nail it.  Not the expectations you have afterwards.  Not the plan.  Not the process other than the current step.   Only the it, itself.

Plan hard, then forget the plan.  Paradox.  The moment is when you execute.  Good planning and lock-down execution are mutually exclusive.  Classic blunder:  taking a step before you catch the ball.  Look the ball all the way in.

Why is it Important to Stay Centered in This Present Moment?

You will miss a lot if you let your attention wander.

First, sensory perception.  What is truly around you?  What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, touching?  What critical information is there?  Sherlock Holmes, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Professor X, all got their super-powers from heightened senses and focused thinking.  I know an investor who once discovered a $100M+ investment opportunity at a trade show by staying in the moment. He was wandering a construction equipment show in Vegas.  He visually observed that two companies were using identical models and displays, without any branding or other identifying giveaways, in both their booths, for a new growth initiative.  The larger company announced the deal months later to the smaller company’s benefit (lawyers:  it was a public event, and using identical displays falls is non-material info and thus falls under the cover of “mosaic” info = no insider trading).

Second, and more importantly, is psychological perception.  A present consciousness enables the player to perceive the emotional and psychological state of everyone in the room.  Continuously checking one’s phone or thinking thr0ugh happy hour options will cause you to miss the signal that the lead decision maker in your meeting is rapidly losing interest in your pitch.  You are about to lose, sucker.  Quit checking your on-line dating profile and close this deal before it’s too late.

Recent neuroscience discoveries reveal the presence of the “mirror neuron” in all humans (more on this once we get to Outer Game- Social Dynamics).  The mirror neuron is a bundle of nerves in our brain.  They analyze incoming sensory perception data to build a mental model of other people’s emotional and psychological state inside our own brains.  It’s what enables humans to quickly establish rapport and synchrony.  That’s an interaction dynamic that every salesperson tries to stimulate to help get the close.  But we don’t have to even go that far, discussing neurological breakthroughs.  Think about the body language analysis training most companies offer in HR.  That stuff is useless if you are not in the moment.  Because you aren’t perceiving the other party’s body language, being lost in your own thoughts.

Hazards to Presence:

Projection:  Humans are the only mammals with the ability to run real world simulations in their head.  I suppose that’s called higher thinking.  In a biz encounter, it’s called Projection.  And it’s bad.  Projecting what you think SHOULD be there, or what you WANT to be there, inhibits you from sensing what really IS there.  Making biz decisions, like how to invest that $100M referenced above, while Projecting, is really really bad.  Investment guys (myself included) make this mistake all the time.  Then the deal blows up on you, and after the fact, you get all stoic, saying, “it is what it is.”  Better to be stoically clear-minded ahead of time, not stoically philosophical afterwards.

Emotions:  Feelings can efffff you up in biz encounters.  Forget what they told you in middle school about feeling your damn feelings.  Once in the moment, a player needs to be an ice cold psychopath.  Your feelings of anxiety about how the meeting is progressing, or how you look in that dress, or what the boss thinks of your performance, or your fear of getting in over your head, or that if you proposal is approved you will have to make a big preso, will not help you get stuff did.  Your feelings are not your friend in that moment.  Clear-minded, or as we studied with the Stoics, Directed-Mind thinking, is your friend, as is the crystal-clear perceptions you are making.  The only feelings you should be entertaining are gut feelings about the present moment and its occupants.

As E3 is a video gaming event, let’s bring in a guest coach from that industry as we wrap up.   Jesse Schell from his book “The Art of Game Design:”

“Reality is amazingly complex.  The only way our minds are able to get by at all is by simplifying reality so that we can make some sense of it.  Correspondingly, our minds do not deal with reality itself, but instead with models of reality.  We mostly do not notice this – the modeling takes place below our awareness.  Consciousness is an illusion that our internal experiences are reality, when in truth they are imperfect simulations of something we may never truly understand.  The illusion is a very good one, but at times we run into places where our internal simulations fail.”

Reality is complex.  To effectively deal with reality, we need the most accurate mental models possible.  Distraction, Projection, negative feelings, untimely introspection, anything removing our awareness from the now undermines the accuracy of our mental models.

Next post, we’ll look at the teaching of Eckart Tolle, on psychological techniques for staying in the moment.  Meanwhile, if you need some last minute coaching at E3, join me at the Ritz’s rooftop pool next door to the Staples Center for a drink.

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Filed under Philosophy, Pyschopathy

Inner Game for Competitors

Last time the Warriors were in the playoffs I had season tickets – saw Baron Davis posterize AK47. They went on to lose that series against Utah, though. These Warriors? Only they can beat themselves, which their accumulating injuries finally did last night. Very excited for next year, though.

I love winning. I FFFFFFFFIIIIIINNNNGGGGGG love winning. But I don’t like trying to win. Rather, I don’t like appearing like I’m trying to win. A colleague called me out on this once: “you like being the smartest person in the room without anyone thinking you are the smartest person in the room.” Guilty (of the liking part, not necessarily the being part). Guilty of following Robert Greene’s Laws of Power #3: “Conceal Your Intentions.” Which is a corallary of Law #21 “Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than Your Mark.” And Rule #30: “Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless.”

So, having just coached a group of young, male media salesguys, some reflections on competition. For sales is a game of competition played by fierce competitors. Victors feast; losers go hungry. Coffee’s for closers.

I gave these guys my standard Inner Game playbook. They grooved on a few points – Stoicism and Positive Energy – but clearly wanted techniques for closing deals now. I don’t blame them. They eat what they kill and have to hit quotas or they are out on the street. I get that.

I know a thing or two about sales, mainly from dodging overpaid, cocaine-fueled ex frat presidents pushing big bank Wall Street research on me. Oh yeah, with Harvard MBAs and such. In other words, more annoying and caustic than helpful. But a few of the good dudes have become close homies over the years.

Compete; but don’t be Competitive. I mean when you are with clients. Back at the office, thump your chest all you want. But as your client, I want to know what value you can add for me. As opposed to information about how I can help you win.

Here’s the three pitches I get all the time; guess which one works:

1. Bro, We/I need to do better in your research vote – what can I do to move up (we allocate millions of trading commissions each year based on a semi-annual voting process where we rank the Wall Street banks).

2. Bro, I wanna help you any way I can what can I do for you; my firm has great research.

3. Bro, I know you are busy and probably tired of salesguys hitting you. I have a few ideas and analysts that I think are pretty good. Can I throw one at you and see if it works? If not, no worries, I won’t bug you. What’s the best way to connect?

If you are sales guy and didn’t guess number 3 you probably won’t be a sales guy for long.

What’s behind Door #3? Humility. Patience. Empathy. Respect. Authenticity. Congruency.

WTH? Those aren’t lock-down red-meat eating win-the-new-caddie sales guy tactics!?!? Are they? Does this guy drink decaf? Cuz real closers drink the real stuff. What complete BS.

But hold on, player. These qualities work exactly because they aren’t standard sales guy hard-charging take-no-prisoner qualities. As an introverted finance geek doing gnome-like research all day, these qualities resonate with me. Me, the whale client whose millions you want. Robert Greene’s Law #43: “Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others.”

I think Authenticity is the most important characteristic for salesperson whose job involves anything more than order taking. Authenticity is the bedrock of relationships (I also happen to believe in ‘fake it til you make it,” but let’s set that paradox aside for a moment). I don’t want to be around you if you have negative energy flow. But if your positive energy flow is inauthentic, then gtfo. Even an authentic negative energy attracts more than a sacharine positive flow.

One of my old sales buddies, who is now my personal financial manager, always plays the curmudgeon. But its real. And endearing, when all his competitors are fake nice, he’s just a crank. He took the time to get to know me, though, figured out I liked basketball, and launched his first offensive with some Warrior tickets on a hot date with his top ranked Aerospace/Defense analyst. The analyst was so established he wasn’t even taking new clients. But he liked bball too, and happened to be in town so I got hooked up. I ditched the analyst later cuz he would eat his lunch on speaker phone while talking to me. Arrogance, writ large.

How to get Authenticity? Two things. Believe in what you sell and believe in yourself. If you love Coors Lite please don’t sell me Bud. If you think your analysts, research, and bank sucks, please don’t sell it to me. But I’ll take those Warriors tix, anyway, thanks very much (a joke, in case the lawyers are reading).

Believe in yourself. Your best self, that is, the one that’s stoic, enjoys life, rolls with the “invulnerable jollity of indifference,” proudly lives from your strengths and values, and is always congruent with your self. That’s what Inner Game is all about.

Stoicism – The foundation for a competitor’s philosophical grounding. You are going to get told no a lot. Be mentally prepared in advance so your energy level and motivation to make the next call are safeguarded.

Outcome Independence – The more you focus on a specific goal, the more power that goal has over you. Rarely is that power helpful; rather, it costs you mental energy and focus. Your focus should be on the client and the relationship. Not the numbers.

Positive Energy Flow – Many salespeople make the mistake of needing to prove themselves right with the client. Read your Dale Carnegie – rarely does winning an argument help you close. Drop the “Analytical Frame” and replace it with a relational and/or good times frame.

Know Yourself/Be Yourself – Employ all the sales tricks and techniques you want – as long as they are real to you. And as long you can respect yourself in the process. The minute you switch to games you don’t believe in, is the minute your client loses connection with you.

Stay In the Moment – If you do the above, you are freed to set aside stress and anxiety and worry and be completely present. Your client will feel the love and respond accordingly. If your mind is elsewhere, so will their’s be. Recent neurological research reveals that all humans possess a so-called “mirror neuron.” This brain feature drives our social connections. Thus your lack of mental presence will directly backfire on you.

Abundance Frame – The final phase and ultimate fulfillment of complete Inner Game – you give energy and value away consistently and unconsciously. Your clients begin to view you as a resource. They are drawn to you, answering your calls and returning emails and saying yes.

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Filed under Philosophy, Psychological Strength, Sales

Sports Psychology – Stoicism

Stoicism:  Thought System of Champions.

“There is nothing good or bad other than thinking makes it so.”  Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Philosopher

Performance and Positivity, two factors in clinching championships, depend on a sharp, clear mind directing human strength into the present moment.

Sports psychologists make the big bucks training world class athletes to keep their mind in the present.  Tiger, Posey, Peyton, Lincecum, Federer all face the same challenge – shaking off the last bad putt, swing, throw, pitch, stroke to make their next is their best.

Buddhist Monks spend decades meditating to reach a similar zen-like state.  New Age fruit-cakes rack up the air miles chasing the latest guru’s conferences.  Yogis spend hours breathing and contorting their bodies.

Lucky for us Wannabe Biz Ballers, we have the Ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers.  They know all the short cuts.

Stoicism’s desired end-state is the Directed Mind.  The Greek word is ‘Hegemonikon.’  While sounding like a video game or sci fi title, it literally means ‘commanding facility.’  Stoics believe the Directed Mind, or Hegemonikon, is the seat of the human soul.  The Directed Mind is centered in the here and now.  Its free from regret about the past, worry over the future, and all other related sources of neurosis. The human possessing a Directed Mind find their daily experiences full of positive energy, joy, and tranquility giving themselves power over transitory impressions, impulses, desires, and passions.
How do these “spiritual” qualities –  positive energy, joy, and tranquility – put points on the bidness scoreboard?

First, the Stoic Baller’s judgment sharpens = better decisions.  They can trust their gut instinct.  Second, people feel good around the Stoic Baller.  He or she feels mellow and chill.  Networking, prospecting, client relationships, and deal closing all become easier.  Third, the natural de-stressing improves work/life balance by lightening the psychological load.

And the super awesome thing about Stoicism is that you can be Stoic about being Stoic – as in you can learn about it and try it and not freak about mastering it cuz, well, freaking out ain’t Stoic.  So you are free to chill when you have an un-Stoic moment.  No biggie.

So, the down and dirty:  Stoicism is a concise set of reflections on life and a few easy psychological practices aimed at freeing, and developing, the Directed Mind.  Every human possesses the raw material of a Directed Mind.  It’s an inborn gift of reason and tempered passion.  To quote the Good Book book in Old English styles, the Directed Mind is part of the design package (I’ll work in some Evolutionary Psych later, too, the better to equally offend the Heathens and Churchians) for God made man “a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.”  The Stoics simplify that sentiment to the poetic “Divine Spark.”  They say we are “meant to set free or perfect this rational element, this particle of the universal reason, the ‘divine spark’ in our human make-up so that it may campaign against and conquer pain, grief, superstition, and fear.”

The above is called a virtuous life.  One that is lived in accordance with nature, meaning the natural order of things and human nature:  “If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor.”  In other words, wise = happy = successful.

Note that Stoicism is a counter-cultural philosophy to our modern day religion of Enlightened Hedonism, built upon the Holy Altar of Consumer Capitalism.  This, our unspoken Orthodoxy, arguably takes more effort to pursue than Stoicism with far less true payoff:  “The Enlightened Hedonist’s grand goal in living is to maximize the pleasure he experiences in the course of a lifetime.  To practice this philosophy of life, he will spend time discovering, exploring, and ranking sources of pleasure and investigating any untoward side effects they might have.”  In other words, normal Middle Class American Life.  I think of it as Incremental Insatiability.  The system tells you this shiny thing is all you need to be happy til it bores you then you need this other shiny thing.  Marketers call this “Good, Better, Best.”   

Note Part Two, Stoicism is not Ascetism.  Stoicism calls for a simple life but allows for pleasures and luxuries.  It heightens the enjoyment thereof by always being prepared to give them up.  A Stoic savors every moment of luxury.    

Stoic Reflections – Quotes from the Ancients*:

Change – “Pick me up and throw me where you will.  Wherever I land I shall keep the divine spark within me happy, satisfied, that is, if attitude and action follow its own constitution.”

Loss – “Accept humbly, let go easily.”

Life Balance – “A man following reason in all things combines relaxation with initiative, spark with composure.”

Common Wisdom – “Socrates used to call the popular beliefs ‘bogies,’ things to frighten children with.”

Ambition – “Alexander, Julius Caesar, Pompey – What are they to Diogenes, Heraclitus, Socrates?  These men saw into reality, its causes and its material, and their Directing Minds were their own masters.  As for the former, they were slaves to all their ambitions.”

Fulfillment – “Every living organism is fulfilled when it follows the right path for its own nature.”

Time – “The present moment is equal for all; so what is passing is equal also;  the loss therefore turns out to be the merest fragment  of time.  No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess.”

Fame – “should mean nothing to philosophers and emperors who focus their attention on the present…it is only the present moment distinct from the abyss of the past and the future that should concern us…the past and future lie beyond our control…a person should act with an eye for precisely what needs to be done and not the glory of its doing.”

Wealth – “The poor lack much;  the greedy, everything…we are unlikely to have a good and meaningful life unless we overcome our insatiability.”

Friendships – Pursue authentic relationships, don’t settle for shallow acquaintance.  “If you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship…after friendship is formed you should trust, but before that you should judge…think for a long time whether or not you should admit a given person to your friendship…associate with people who are likely to improve you.  welcome those whom you are capable of improving.”

Aging – “The man who looks for the  morrow without worrying over it knows a peaceful independence and happiness beyond all others…Is it not living unnaturally to aim at imparting the bloom of youth to a different period of life?”

Anxiety – “The only true serenity is that which stems from the free development of a sound mind” with opposite being “a mind in ferment and mutiny…anxieties can only come from your internal judgments.”

Desire – “Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear.  Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.  Fear keeps pace with hope.  Their moving together should not surprise.  Both belong to mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future.  Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of instead of adapting ourselves to the present.”

Stuff – Attachment to any physical item weighs the human spirit down.  “Only by living thus, and not setting too high a value on things which can at any moment be taken away from him, can he discover that true unshakeable peace and contentment to which ambition, luxury, and above all, avarice, are among the greatest obstacles.”  Our accountant can sum our wealth – rather “than how to work out how much a man needs in order to have enough.”

Popularity – “Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common good…I mean, thinking about what so-and-so is doing, and why, what he is saying and contemplating, and all that line of thought which makes you stray from the close watch on your own directing mind.”

Paradox – “The shortest route to wealth is contempt of wealth.”

Contentment – Seek to gain only what is essential, and beyond that, only what is enough.  Then stop.  Allow wealth, luxury, and fame to find you, instead of you, them.

Learning – “Extend your stay among writers who genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind.  To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”  In other words, read the great stuff more.

Communication – “Language, moreover, which devotes its attention to truth ought to be plain and unadorned…when you speak…be straight-forward, not pedantic.  Use language which rings true.”

Anger – “What’s the use of overcoming opponent after opponent in the wrestling or boxing rings [or market] if you can be overcome by your temper.  The miser, the swindler, the bully, the cheat, who would do you a lot of harm by simply being near you, are actually inside of you…an involuntary spasm and a momentary lapse of reason.”

Acceptance – “Love only what falls your way and is fated for you…one wonderful way to tame our tendency to always want more is to persuade ourselves to want the things we already have.”

Simplicity – “If you want to be happy, do little;  the happy life depends on very little.”

Clarity – “Your mind will take on the character of your most frequent thoughts; souls are dyed by thoughts…the Directing Mind does not frighten itself or lead itself to desire.  If anyone else can frighten it or cause it pain, let him do so:  of itself, of its own judgment, it will not deliberately turn to such modes.  Of itself the directing mind is without needs, unless it creates a need for itself: in the same way it is untroubled and unhindered, unless it troubles or hinders itself.”

Stoic Techniques

Following is from the book “Guide to the Good Life” by William B Irvine.  This guy is a real-life Philosophy Prof who realized all his knowledge wasn’t helping him live a happy life.  He tried Zen and found it too laborious.  So he cracked his Ancient Greek textbooks and stumbled upon Stoicism.

“In my research, I discovered nearly unanimous agreement among thoughtful people that we are unlikely to have a good and meaningful life unless we can overcome our insatiability…to persuade ourselves to want the things we have.”

The Ultimate End Goal of Stoic is to be Free and Strong by giving nothing external power over themselves while being connected to their fellow man.  

Steps to Stoicism

1.  “We will reconsider our goals for living.  In particular, we will take to the heart the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire — most notably, fame and fortune — are not worth pursuing.  We will instead turn our attention to the pursuit of tranquility and what the Stoics call Virtue – a state marked by the absence of negative emotions such as grief, anxiety, and fear, and the presence of positive emotions — in particular, joy.

2.  “We will study the various psychological techniques developed by the Stoics for attaining and maintaining tranquility and employ these techniques in daily living.”

3.  “We will learn to take care to distinguish between things we can control and things we can’t control  and will instead focus our attention on the things we can control.”

4.  “We will recognize how easy it is for other people to disturb our tranquility, and we will therefore deploy Stoic strategies to prevent them from upsetting us.”

5.  “We will become thoughtful observers of our own life.  We will watch ourselves go about our daily business and will later reflect on what we saw, trying to identify the sources of distress in our life and thinking about how to avoid that distress.”

We start by living according to our nature.  Look at ourselves.  We hunger; nature’s way of making us eat.  We lust; thus we reproduce.  But so do the animals.  What separates us is that we have psyche – Greek for soul – and so we have Reason.  And we are social.  Therefore, to live according to our nature as humans we must behave in a rational manner, connected socially to our fellow man.  In this way we are reasonable and whole internally, while being connected to the external whole of humanity.  The latter is an aspect of healthy human spirituality.

Stoic Techniques

Self-Denial – Guarding against the dark side of pleasure.  We should embrace involuntary moments of discomfort.  This reminds us to better appreciate warmth, comfort, good food and drink, pleasurable company.  Rather than bitching about the injustice of a temporary deviation from our otherwise perfect lives.  A person who embraces minor discomfort grows stronger in their confidence they can face tougher circumstances = strength.  We should avoid any pleasures that can capture us in a moment.  Seneca called pleasures Wild Beasts, that when captured, could turn and tear us apart.  Crack, Affairs, and Addictive Video Games and other such forbidden fruits come to mind.  Pleasures, such as alchohol and tobacco should only be enjoyed to the extent we control them, not them us.  Any pleasure which controls our life = weakness.  

Grief – Vanquishing Tears with Reason – Life is loss.  Better to have loved and lost.  The Stoics believed that we should choose the period of our grief, then let our tears cease.  We honor the loss by choosing purposefully to live and grow.  Even better, is to have contemplated the loss in advance, so that every day with the beloved is maximized.  Same for sickness or injury.  These are times to learn new perspectives on life.

Anger – A brief insanity, or void of reason.  Anger is not functional;  feigned anger is.  The former robs us of control = weakness.  The latter is exercised from control = strength.  When feeling angry, we should pause and consider the impermanence of the petty annoyance stirring our rage.  

Fatalism –  “Love only what falls your way and is fated for you.  What could suit you more than that?”  We have no control over the past or present; these are abysses.  Wishing our current circumstances were different only breeds dissatisfaction – and how few of us have control over our circumstances.  As a reminder, the Stoics were the leading over-achievers of their time – Prime Ministers, Thought Leaders, and Emperors.  Fatalism centers the Directing Mind firmly in the moment, the only place a human can impact history, thus making that human ultimately powerful.  They avoided the pursuit of Fame and Fortune and it instead found them.  “We should adapt ourselves to the present” whether it involves luxury, and the full enjoyment thereof, or deprivation.

Negative Visualization – “He robs present ills of their power who has perceived their coming beforehand…misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”  Modern North American humans are stuck on the Satisfaction Treadmill.  One anthropologist calls this Hedonistic Adaptation.  We attain a good, service, or experience, that would previously been available only to Kings, and we are soon miserable if we don’t attain the next better one.  The key to avoid this misery is to short-circuit Hedonistic Adaption through Negative Visualization.  For several minutes a week, to reflect on the loss of our amazing job, car, house, status, fame, wealth, convenience, and even relationships such as family.  A Father, reflecting on the loss of one of his children, whether to accident, college, or marriage, is motivates to more fully enjoy them in the present.    

The Trichotomy of Control – Things we can fully control, partially control, and not control.  Things we can, and must, control – our desires, impulses, passions, values,. character, and opinions.  We also have complete control over what goals we set for ourselves.  A Stoic wisely sets goals only in the area of things they can fully control.  If they set goals in areas of life with partial control, they are sensible to try their best, and recognize the impact of uncontrollable forces.  Sports: set a goal to play your best (an internal goal), as opposed to winning (an external goal), for you can’t control your opponent.  Note that we still strive to win.  Focusing internally to prepare our best to compete better positions us to win over the long term, as all competitors suffer setbacks.  Only the psychologically strong win consistently.  In dealing with people (partial control), we should seek to maintain our tranquility (internal goal) as opposed to managing their behavior (an external goal).  

Daily Meditation – Each evening, we should review the tape – where was our tranquility disturbed and why?  Did we succumb to Pleasure Enslavement?  External Goals?  Embitterment Towards Circumstance?  Lose our Grip on the Moment?  

Social Relations – Be Congruent to ourselves at all times.  Define ourselves in solitude; maintain that identity with integrity when with the community of man.  Be selective in who we befriend – positive energy only.  Avoid whiny people and those prone to vices; parasites to tranquility.  When we find ourselves in the presence of people with demonstrable shortcomings, we should take that as signal to reflect on our shortcomings rather than theirs.  Never waste time allowing our minds to be filled with “sensual imaginings, jealousies, envies, suspicions, or any other such [negative social] sentiments.”  Respond to insults with humor or with no response.  

*The quotes in this section are primarily from Seneca’s Letters and Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations.  Seneca was a Roman Prime Minister and Marcus an Emperor.

Marcus Aurelius – “He is one of those consoling and hope-inspiring marks, which stand forever to remind our weak and easily discouraged race how high human goodness and perseverance have once been carried and may be carried again.”

Towards the end of his life, he reflects on the totality of his experience:  “All that you pray to reach at some point in the circuit of your life can be your now – if you are generous to yourself.  That is, if you leave all the past behind, entrust the future to Providence, and direct the present solely to reverence and justice…If, then, when you finally come  close to your end, you have left all else behind and value only your Directing Mind and the divinity within you, if your fear is not that you will cease to live, but that you never started a life in accordance with nature, then you will be a man worthy of the universe that gave you birth.  You will no longer be a stranger in your own country, no longer meet the day’s events as if bemused by the unexpected, no longer hang on this or that.”

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Real Players are Congruent and Calibrated

Congruent and Calibrated

Two of my favorite words.  You should sprinkle them liberally in your conversations.  These two words make you sound really smart, and no one really knows what they mean so they can’t argue with you.

But seriously, Congruent and Calibrated should never leave your side.  In any endeavor, but especially leadership.

In all situations, be Congruent with yourself.  With all people, without losing that congruency, be Calibrated to who they are.

Let’s apply this concept right now, right here, to you.  This is a self-help blog.  You are here to help your self.  That implies that you think your self could use some improvement.  Cool.  Nobody’s perfect though Lebron lately has been close on the basketball court.  So you are reading all this social dynamics stuff, you want get in the game and try it out.  There’s a temptation to fake it til you make it.  Which I whole-heartedly endorse.  But in faking it, you might also be tempted to fake your self.  Like, lose your core identity in a vague effort to grab some situational status.

I/we are not about that here.

Harken back to the Psychological weight-lifting we were doing a few posts ago:  Know Thyself/Be Thyself.  I forget, I think that was item number five or six, though the order is not too relevant.  Psychological Strength grows from being thyself, and being true to thyself.  If this were a rap song, we’d call it keeping it real.  Like really real, not fake real.  Fake real sucks.

Congruency with yourself is not optional.  To succeed at the highest levels of leadership, you need authenticity.  You are asking people to follow you, to believe in you, to go to war for you, to take a bullet for you, to bleed for you.  Formulaic, robotic, textbooky leadership will not inspire this level of commitment.  Neither will showmanship.  Any hint of fakeness, of hollow rhetoric, of gimmick, and you lose your power to inspire and lead.  So think on all these concepts we discuss on offwins, and all the other red and white covered biz books collecting dust on yourself, and try them out, but don’t try to become someone else in the process.

Some organizations call this “Authentic Leadership.”  Others call it “Value-based Leadership.”  I call it Congruency cuz Congruency just sounds so much cooler than that other stuff.

Calibration with others is not optional.

Bizness is about relationships.  Connection with others starts with Acknowledging them as a person.  As in they have value merely by existing and being a unique person.  This concept indwells many psychological, philosophical, and religious systems of thought.  It forms the basis of Christian thought and Stoic philosophy, among others.  The next step would be Acceptance.  Last, if you want to really connect with them, you have to find something in them you can Affirm.

That’s hard.  You have to take your eyes off yourself and really see the person there in front of you.  Their story, their values, their humanness (whatever the hell that means), the divine spark in them that the ancient Greek philosophers referred to (of course, if its guy to guy, you can also just talk about sports, too, but that lacks true substance).  Lacking this depth, and your networking merely becomes a business card exchange ritual.

Acknowledge-Accept-Affirm.  Those Greeks I mentioned, like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, upon which all of Western Civ is built, besides boring you to death in your HS Latin class, called this “Philea.”  This is one of the four classical forms of love, the others being “Agape,” “Storge,” and “Eros.”  The latter being the type of love advertisers mercilessly exploit to sell us stuff we don’t need.

A quick glance at Wiki:  “Philia (φιλία philía[3]) means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.”



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Player Profile – Mr Scholar

A friend and reader asked me for advice in boosting his schmoozing game. Bro, game isn’t what you do or have, it’s who you are.

LOL. Cheeeeeezy.

So…this guy. Let’s call him the Scholar. He thinks and writes and speaks for a living about heady stuff. Within his organization he is beloved, where he is essentially a co-CEO. Outside, he is struggling to get traction. I think he’d like opportunities to think, write, and speak, for other organizations. To emerge as an industry thought leader.

There’s couple angles to take here. We could look at Framing, Attraction/Connection/Respect, or his Inner Game. In our conversation, I focused on the last one.

I told him to leverage his Masculinity and improve his Positivity.

He’s by all appearances a Macho Macho Man…but he doesn’t own it. So that’s incongruent. People wonder why he looks hard and feels soft. This creates cognitive dissonance. The bad, confusing kind (a solid player will sometimes create cognitive dissonance to his advantage). The result is people feel a bit odd in his presence. That unexplainable odd feeling subconciously pushes them away from him.

Better to own his masculinity.

He’s a big, dark skinned, vaguely-Italian bro with a sick goatee. He could easily pass for a Vato or an Iranian terrorist, depending on his sunglasses choice. As a Scholar, thinking big thoughts, and a man, he sometimes lacks empathy (a nice way of saying he doesn’t always get people). When he inadvertently offends, he should just call it out and move on.

That’s masculine: Honesty.

I gave Mr Scholar a reading assignment, since he likes that stuff: “Iron John” by Robert Bly.

Honesty about who you are, and honesty about what you are about, is very manly, and psychologically healthy. Bly calls it honoring your Inner King:

“The Inner King is the one in us who knows what we want to do for the rest of our lives, or the rest of the month, or the rest of the day. He can make clear what we want without being contaminated in his choice by the opinion of others around us. The Inner King is connected with our fire of purpose and passion.”

The scholar’s worry over his man-bear appearance and his lack of empathy breeds excessive caution and a general neurosis. In other words, negativity.

Now he’s got two strikes. Shame and Negativity.

Addressing the former, will over time, help cure the latter. But Negative Energy flow needs to be neutralized with extreme prejudice. Nothing kills your Schmooze Game more than negative energy.

My Scholar has amazing things to say. He’s one of the smartest, most reflective people I know. I love listening to him talk. But I’ve known him for years. Our bro love runs deep. Casual business acquaintances won’t so easily ignore the slight neurotic undertones.

Noobs, you need to know, nobody cares about your eloquent brilliance if they feel vaguely bad in your presence. Maya Angelou says it very well: “People remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them.”

Or Seneca, a leading Roman Philosopher who also ran the Empire while Nero partied: “Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts!”

Be that guy.

The Scholar’s desire to be a thought leader in his field could easily lead to over-emphasis on other’s opinions of himself. Better to be “that guy” for himself, for his own improvement. Not to improve his schmooze.

Be congruent with who you are, a positive you with healthy masculinity. Care not what others think, while remaining congruent with yourself and they will ultimately think better of you anyway.

Win Win.

Marcus Aurelius, another leading Roman Philosopher and perhaps Rome’s greatest Caesar at it’s zenith, strongly advises ignoring other’s opinions. Note the following is advice he gave himself in his journal.

“Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking in some aspect to the common good. Why deprive yourself of the time for some other task? I mean, thinking about what so-and-so is doing, and why, what he is saying or contemplating or plotting, all that line of thought, makes you stray from the close watch on your own ‘directing mind.’

No, in the sequence of your thoughts you must avoid all that is casual or aimless, and most particularly anything prying or malicious. Train yourself to think only those thoughts such that in answer to the sudden question ‘What is in your mind now?’ you could say with immediate frankness whatever it is, this or that: and so your answer can give direct evidence that all your thoughts are straightforward and kindly, the thoughts of a social being who has no regard for the fancies of pleasure or wider indulgence, for rivalry, malice, suspicion, or anything else that would blush to admit was in one’s mind.”

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The Playbook – Inner Game

“The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” Andrew Carnegie

You suck (I assume, if you are reading this blog…to fix your suckiness). And that sucks. So let’s quit sucking. Let’s be awesome. It’s much easier than you think. You just need to free your mind and the rest will follow (wealth, fame, glory – though if you follow the following precisely you may end up not wanting these things).

Inner Game – A person’s organization of self. A composition of their values, state of being, human energy, self-perception and -awareness, life philosophy, value set, consciousness, totality of desires, and personal presence.

The ideal inner game state removes negative energy, enhances relationships, and leads to clarity of thought and speedy, effective judgement. Problems begin to solve themselves, people are drawn to your presence. Your calmness, positivity, and self-confidence will lead to a huge status increase. You can trust your instinct, your gut. You become so awesome and effective it’s just not even fair for those other corporate noobs.

Fix your suck:

Step 1. Quiet Down – Stoicism – Nervous energy sucks. Neuroticism sucks. The ancient Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers figured out how to hack their brains. I’ll introduce you to Seneca, Emperor Nero’s right hand man (before he went crazy), who got rich, ran the Unholy Roman Empire, partied like a rock star, and got banished twice for seducing imperial princesses. All while keeping his swag on full with tranquility and joy.

Step 2. Quit Try-harding – Outcome Independence – By wanting anything, like a business goal, you give that thing power over you. Screw that. You are a free man – give nothing power of you. Live like Janis Joplin: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” This advice works really well with seducing the ladies (in an HR-approved manner of course) as well as baddassing your way to the top. Isolate process from outcome = power.

Step 3. Positive Energy Flow –  Negativity of any kind depletes your vitality, makes you petty. Noobs flailing around in the Game within the Game – Politics – are marked by pettiness, gossip, hate. I know haters gonna hate, but we don’t want to be that. Winning the Game w/in the Game w/in the Game requires pure, unadulterated positivity.

Step 4. Know Thyself/Be Thyself – We are not talking about your sucky self, here, rather your best self. Figure out your strengths, forget about your weakness. Your energy level and work/life satisfaction soars, your “lose” button stops working, you get stuck on “win.”

Step 5. Live in the Moment – Noobs are neurotic basket cases, always fearing the future and fretting the past. Not you, slayer of management objectives. You are in the present, with every neuron, cell and drop of blood, sweat, and testosterone. People feel more alive in your presence, because you are fully “present.”

Step 6. Give It Away Now – Abundance Frame – The Red Hot Chili Peppers were on to something – give energy and value away and it will be returned to you multiplied over.

Notice, nowhere did I say forsake your goals. Nowhere did I say let people walk on you. Nowhere did I say slack off. Nowhere did I say don’t care passionately about your team’s success. Nowhere did I say forget about the long run.

Execute: make the quarter. I work on Wall Street. If you miss the quarter, we collectively execute you (which is the same as crushing your stock if you are a CEO).

Have a Strategy: make the year.  I’m a long term growth investor.  Make the quarter, make the year, while investing for growth in years 2-5.

So the above is a more detailed intro to some of the concepts espoused by the deep thinkers I referenced in the last post. There’s plenty more to come on this. I bring them up now, before fully introducing the entire framework for this corporate Playbook for two reasons. One, I’m bizcoaching some sales guys at a certain LA-based media company soon on this specific agenda. And I wanted to give a preview of how philosophy and psychology can rock the workplace.

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