Creative Commons License

Thursday, February 8, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66 With #RandomThoughts For the Week

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
- Aldous Huxley

Approach each new problem not with a view of finding what you hope will be there,
but to get the truth, the realities that must be grappled with.
You may not like what you find. In that case you are entitled to try to change it.
But do not deceive yourself as to what you do find to be the facts of the situation.
- Bernard M. Baruch

We want the facts to fit the preconceptions.
When they don't, it is easier to ignore the facts
than to change the preconceptions.
- Jessamyn West

Get the facts first.
You can distort them later.
- Mark Twain

The fact of life is that we’re going to get tossed around by forces outside our control. Never forget fortunes’ habit of behaving exactly as she pleases, Seneca reminds us, never forget that adversity is inevitability. There would be war, he said, and torture and shipwrecks and exile, along with a lot less dramatic stuff: traffic jams, divorces, food poisoning, annoying neighbors, bad weather, pets that run away.

The only option according to the Stoics was to submit. No amount of wishing otherwise, no amount of anxiety, no amount of power or wealth would fully protect us from this. We had to surrender to the fates, let them guide us. But perhaps we could add to this idea a little corollary from Cheap Trick—surrender, but don’t give yourself away.

Stockdale obviously had to surrender as a POW (his book Courage Under Fire is a must read for Stoics). He had to accept his powerlessness, the objective reality of his fate and captivity. Yet he kept the most important part of himself to himself, within himself. Marcus Aurelius accepted the job of emperor—which he did not seek out—but there was a part of himself, the part we read in the pages of Meditations, that he did not allow his professional identity to consume.

We all have to surrender and accept and accede to the events that life throws at us. There will be moments when we have to give up, when we have to admit defeat. But like Stockdale, like Marcus, like a Stoic, we don’t have to give ourselves away in the process. Nothing can make us depart from our virtues and values but ourselves. No one and nothing has any say over our character.

That’s always ours…unless we surrender it.

He was seriously ill, plagued by a chronic stomach condition painful enough to require occasional doses of opium. Then you know, he lived through an actual plague that lasted for more than a decade. He buried children. He worked in the snake pit that was Rome’s court. He saw war and decay and corruption.

What did he cling to? In sickness and in health, prosperity and problems? Marcus Aurelius relied on philosophy, on Stoicism, which he had been introduced to as a young man. All his life he felt a debt of gratitude to his teacher, Rusticus, who loaned him his personal copy of Epictetus.

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes that a person should “never let go of philosophy, no matter what happens.” Elsewhere, he refers to it as a soothing ointment, akin to the medical treatments he received, something that relieved pain and healed wounds. That’s what philosophy was in the ancient world—not some academic exercise, not “bandy[ing] words with crackpots and philistines,” as Marcus himself put it in that same passage.

None of us know what the future holds. None of us know what adversity and difficulty tomorrow, let alone the next 10 years, might bring. What we do know, what we can be sure of, is that philosophy can guide us through it. Stoicism can help us, support us, offer counsel, advice, strength, clarity and purpose.

We should not only not let it go, we should dive deep into it.



We know all about the fear of failure. On any stage and in any performance, no one wants to make a mistake, stumble, or perform poorly. The embarrassment and ridicule we feel when others judge us harshly for our missteps feeds our fear of failure. We will do almost anything to avoid it. 

Ironically, most performers owe their personal growth and success to a modest fear of failure. When not taken to an extreme, the fear of failure drives leaders and performers to prepare, practice, and rehearse so they might reduce the odds of a blunder or meltdown. They develop strong skills in the process. 

Once a leader or performer has learned to tame the fear of failure, using it as a motivating force instead of as a performance inhibitor, they often face a newfound fear — The Fear of Success. Mostly unconscious or denied, the fear of success is very real and must be overcome for performers to reach their highest potential. 

The fear of success arises most often when leaders and performers have achieved moderate mastery and are on the cusp of attaining the highest level of accomplishment or victory. At that point in their development, they begin to sense that reaching the pinnacle of achievement, such as a promotion, a competitive victory, or the spotlight, will change what is expected of them and how they are viewed by others.  

When the fear of success takes hold, the leader or performer begins to feel an unusual internal pressure. They start to believe that if they continue to succeed, they will be incapable of sustaining that success. 

They astutely recognize that continued success will increase the responsibility and work required to live up to the new bar set by high achievement. They worry that others will expect great things from them and increase their scrutiny and judgment of how they perform. They panic at the thought that others will learn their true limits. 

They falsely believe they are somehow unworthy or undeserving of more success. They even have a concern that continued success will create peer jealousy and weaken their connection to friends and peers who lack the talent or opportunity to reach the same heights. 

In other words, they develop a deep and abiding fear that more success is not something they can handle. If they don’t confront these perceptions and fears and overcome them, the anxiety over succeeding continues to build inside. To release this pressure, they sabotage themselves, making higher success an unlikely outcome. 

When succumbing to the fear of success, self-sabotage comes in many forms: Leaders and performers may procrastinate and fail to complete assignments, find excuses not to practice or rehearse, turn down important opportunities, or avoid competing or playing with others who are better than they are. They undermine themselves to prove why more success is just out of their reach.  

The fear of failure is nowhere near as destructive as the fear of success. For highly skilled performers, the deepest fear is usually not about stumbling. Instead, it is about admitting to themselves that more success comes with a package of pressure they do not want or are not ready to conquer. 

No comments:

Post a Comment