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Ian O'Byrne

I'm hearing a lot of should. I want to start hearing a lot more could. - Verena Roberts In issue of TL;DR - subscribe at #persistence


Ian O'Byrne

The best way to achieve complete strategic surprise is to take an action that is either stupid or completely contrary to your self-interest. - Robert Gates In issue of TL;DR. Subscribe at #strength


Ian O'Byrne

Resilience and preparation for adversity

4 min read

On the sixth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 4.49 from Marcus Aurelius:

Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm, while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future.’ 

In this piece, I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us that we can be prepared for the future, while not remaining consumed by what "might" happen. 

To achieve this, I think it is helpful to focus on two things. First, I strive to keep an objective accounting of events and goals in life. Second, I work to make a decision not to suffer in dealing with these events.

An objective focus on life

First, developing an objective, as opposed to subjective description of events in our lives. This means that we strive to describe and understand events in our lives in a "neutral" fashion without adding an emotional charges to circumstances.

In Meditations, Book 6, Marcus Aurelius explains the need to examine and simplify events in our lives without injecting emotion into the anaylsis: 

When we have meat before us and such eatables we receive the impression, that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian (wine) is only a little grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep's wool dyed with the blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind of things they are. Just in the same way ought we to act all through life, and where there are things which appear most worthy of our approbation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. 

Epictetus explains how this over-analysis and subjective description of daily events usually leads to troubles (Enchiridion 5):

Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.

Suffering is a choice

The second thing that I focus on when thinking about the future and preparing for adversity is that the world is full of positive and negative emotions and energy. We can choose whether or not we add these values and judgements to our lives. We can also decide whether we want to suffer.

The external circumstances of the world present us with opportunities to think about, and in most cases worry about things in the past and future. These thoughts about events which may have happened, or are yet to be cause us to suffer. As always, our thoughts are up to us to control.

Marcus Aurelius indicates in Meditations, Book 11:

Anger and frustration hurt us more than the things we are annoyed about hurt us.

Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Book 11) furthers this thinking by indicating that it is often times our viewpointor perspecitve about an issue that causes us to feel pain and suffer when we think about it. Just by believing that an event or action is "insulting" we add value judgements to the event and decide to suffer.

Make a decision to quit thinking of things as unsluting, and your anger immediately disappears.

In this we can decide whether or not to add value judgements to events in the past or future. We often cannot choose what the world throws at us, but we can make decisions about how to respond to it.


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Ian O'Byrne

Examining your impressions

2 min read

On the third day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to develop a stoic approach by self-monitoring and focusing on mindfulness throughout the day. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

The reflection of the day is from Epictetus, Handbook, 1.5:

Practise, then, from the very beginning to say to every rough impression, ‘You’re an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’ Then examine it and test it by the standards that you have, and first and foremost by this one, whether the impression relates to those things which are within our power or those which aren’t up to us; and if it relates to those things which aren’t within our power, be ready to reply, ‘That’s nothing to me’.

In this Epictetus is suggesting that we train ourselves to avoid being carried away in our own thoughts and feelings. Once again, we see this sentiment that something is "nothing to me."

To achieve this balance and avoid errors in our judgement, it is suggested that we "examine our imporessions." That is to say that we should examine and problematize our impressions, or thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In short, routinely problematize your perceptions about the world and your place in it.

To make this happen, it may help to employ some aspect of "cognitive distancing." In this psychological strategy you need to step back from your own reality, and examine your life and world from a distance.

We see this at times from great athletes or military figures that indicate that they can mentally step back from the field and see all of the pawns on the board and how they intersect. I believe this mental strategy may come with time, experience, and self-efficacy.

In this we have an opportunity to challenge negative patterns of thinking and the socially constructed narratives that we set for ourselves. By examining our impressions, we can regularly interrogate our own thinking and perspectives to ensure that we're experiencing reality.


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Ian O'Byrne

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. - Aristotle

2 min read

In our lives, the number one priority should be the expansion of our own self awareness. We need to become aware, accept, and in some cases adjust the truth about our selves and our world.

To examine this narrative and build self-confidence, we have the possibility of reversing that narrative and speak from expertise as the person we would like to believe that we are. We are who we think that we are.

We can achieve this through the following:

  • Cease automatically and arbitrarily defending your own viewpoints as being binary (i.e., right/wrong, or black/white). This relentless attack/defense stops us from receiving new ideas.
  • Problematize and reassess your concepts, values, belief systems, assumptions, defenses, goals, hopes, and truths.
  • Understand, evaluate, and revise your real needs and motivations.
  • Learn to trust your intution. 
  • Observe your mistakes and try to correct them. we learn more about ourselves through this process.
  • Love yourself and others.
  • Listen without prejudice and evaluation. Train yourself to listen to WHAT someone is saying without auditing their expressions.
  • Recognize what you are defending most of the time.
  • Understanding that the end result and your unlocked awareness will provide the means and motivation needed to enact further change in your life.

Ian O'Byrne

We are what we think about all day long. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 min read

Our beliefs and narratives hld us back and in many ways imprison us from achieving what we'd like to accomplish during our lives.

From an early age we are indocritinated to this narrative about how we're supposed to act, about the value of hard work, and our role in society. We use this narrative as a form of belief system that includes conscious and unconscious information that impacts what we see as being "real." This narrative and belief system impacts our views about "truth" and perspectives on the world.

We filter our view of the world through these prisms and react to what may at times be misconceptions about the current milieu. Regardless of what the truth may be, we filter this truth, see what we want to see, and reject most everything else.

If we want to make a real change in our lives, we need to recognize these self and socially constructed narratives and question the root of our thinking. What are the narratives and belief systems that dictate our decisions? In what ways do these hold us back from living the way that we choose? How might we revise, or recreate these narratives to achieve self-actualization?

As we change what we see to what we want to see, we must start with changing ourselves. We need to question and understand our present state and reality. What is the current state in which we exist? What are our capabilities? 

Our present state is determined by education, environment, family connections, childhood experiences, successes, failures, and religious beliefs.

Within these contexts, everything that is happening to you in your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual present state is the result of what in going on in your mind. You can be what you want your mind frames it to be. 

What do you think about and bring into being?


Ian O'Byrne

Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Doing so gives us a sense of control - General Charles Krulak

2 min read

This quote comes from the book Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg.

As we try to make sense of our own lives, and make room for the dreams/goals that we hope to achieve, the first step is to identify the roadblocks and impediments that thwart motivation and our ambitions.

These roadblocks come in the form of emails, meetings, and busy work that suck up our time. In most careers throughtout our past, we were taught that it was good to work long hard days. Punching in at 7 and punching the clock out at 5 every day was a good thing. What you accomplished during those hours didn't matter. The fact that you were there was the only thing of value. 

The fourty hour workweek, and the hours spent "working" were the only metric of value.

My hourly wage, and multiplying that by the number of hours I worked, gave me an estimate of my value and worth during that time period.

As I move to a position where my time is worth whatever value I place on it changes everything. I can work whenever, whereever I'd like. I can focus on anything that I choose and head in whatever direction seems best.

There are certain things I have to show up for. Meetings, classtimes, meals. In the remaining times, I can work in whatever function or fashion I choose.

Changing chores into choices empowers me. It provides me with an opportunity to decide how I'll function in these responsibilities. 

Ian O'Byrne

February 11, 2016

2 min read

We don't beat the Reaper by living longer. We beat the Reaper by living well. - Randy Pausch

Yesterday I spent some time listening to the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It's a book I've put off reading for some time. I know that certain books are needed at certain times in our lives. Perhaps the delay and the timing are coming together to achieve syncronicity.

This book, at this point in my life has been helpful.

I'm listening to it on Audible...and I've got the ebook/PDF in Evernote as well. This has been helpful as I'm constantly going back to the text to see soemthing that he quoted, or a specific point. I will most likely listen to this a second time to get more of the basic nuance.

One thing I learned yesterday is that I need to change my thinking about living now as opposed to later. 

I know that my retirement is a mess. I also know that retirement may/may not happen. I'm very aware of death, and aware that we cannot take anything for granted. Saving up a lump sum so that I can one day "do what I want to do" seems foolish. 

I have no problem with my day to day job. I don't dread this. What I do want to do is start living my days better.

As I identify/develop new opportunities my goal will be two fold.

One, I want to buy my Wife's time. The kids are both young. I want to be able to have her there for them as they get off of the bus.

Two, I want to build in time for us to travel, and spend time together. Now is the time when we need to travel, enjoy each other's company, and live.

Ian O'Byrne

February 1, 2016

2 min read

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. - Henry Ford

As I develop a daily plan of attacking the world, I take time each morning to pause, and reboot the brain.

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and the brain is running full speed thinking about what I need to do and usually jumbling that into a mess compiled with things I saw on a TV show, or things left unsaid/undone during the day. This is also a problem as the day gets started and I try to think about all of the things that I have to achieve that day. 

I'm learning that it's far better to shut the brain down and tell myself not to worry about "what has to be done." The routine for each day provides time to meditate, work out, and then focus on the next steps for the day. The end of the meditation asks that I sit there for a minute and think about the next steps...and see how far I can bring that calmness from the meditation into the day. 

As the meditation ends, I focus on being able to workout, have breakfast with the kids, shower, head into work, journal, and then think about what the goals of the day include. 

While working out or on the ride into work I'm able to listen to a podcast or book to get my mind going, and excited about some new possibility.

Then I can jump into the emails, or the tasks at hand and not feel overwhelmed.

Ian O'Byrne

Learning Event 1 (#LE1) for #WalkMyWorld 2016

For my learning events in the Project 2016, I'll release tracks that would form a playlist for my life. I've wanted to do this for the past couple of years and foolishly told my class that I would finally do it.

This year in the Project I want to force myself to focus on audio and experiment with podcasting to achieve these goals. 

In each podcast I'll try and situate myself in my life and explain why this specific track is meaningful to me.

For Learning Event One, track one of my playlist is My Philosophy by Boogie Down Productions.

In the podcast I mention Jack of Spades and Love's Gonna Get'cha by BDP. 


The music for the bumper is Nothing to Fear by Dexter Britain shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license