A few months ago, I started really getting down on myself. This comedy shit – is it worth it? Can I really make it? But it’s going to take soooo loooonnnggg…
Thankfully, my perspective on life has been utterly capsized by the teachings of Seneca, one of the three kings of Stoicism and oh, by the way, just the wealthiest financier in Rome. Two thousand years ago, Seneca asked his pupil, Lucilius,
For what end should I toil?
When I become a world-touring stand-up, is that really going to make me happy? It’s my goal…it should, right? No, not necessarily. Why not? Quite simply, it all depends on how I get there.
Above all, my dear Lucilius, make this your business: learn how to feel joy. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
I’ve had a lot to be happy about in the past few months. Just got married, killing it at work, writing 19+1 minutes a day – but I wasn’t experiencing the joy. As I told my wife at our reception, ‘The entire time I was walking down the aisle, I was thinking to myself, holy crap, I’m walking down the aisle beside chairs we spent hours thinking about where to place, in a ceremony we spent a year planning, on an aisle runner that…’
Accomplishments were coming and going, and on top of not feeling happy about them, they weren’t leaving me satisfied. OK, I made a few grand…how do I make more? And how do I make it quicker the next time? And this one was the woooorst one of them all – Oh no, look how much more money he’s making – fuuuuck!!! (We’ll look at that last one in a future post; it deserves its own hyperlink)…
The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future…for we are plunged by our blind desires into ventures which will harm us, but certainly will never satisfy us; for if we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago; nor do we reflect how pleasant it is to demand nothing, how noble it is to be contented and not to be dependent upon Fortune. Therefore continually remind yourself, Lucilius, how many ambitions you have attained. When you see many ahead of you, think how many are behind! If you would thank the gods, and be grateful for your past life, you should contemplate how many men you have outstripped. But what have you to do with the others? You have outstripped yourself. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
You know when you read something so profound that you put down the book and shake your head in amazement and wonder? Now that’s joy!
These teachings upended my perspective on achievement. Now, when I laugh, I stop, and let my head fall back under the shower head of pure bliss. There’s a long way to go before I start criss-crossing the globe with nothing but a backpack and writing utensils, but I’ve never been so excited about the journey in my life.
The Paradox of the End Goal – Jason Selk
Truth be told, Seneca’s teachings on achievement were shaded in by Jason Selk’s Executive Toughness, specifically, his idea of Process Goals. Who’s he? Oh, just the Director of Mental Discipline for the then World Series Champions, St. Louis Cardinals. How’s that for a cocktail party introduction?
Oh me? Oh, I-I teach world-class athletes to, uh, win World fucking Championships. You?
Oh wow, that does sound tough. I’m sorry? Oh yeah, sometimes the wheels on those shopping caaan get stuck. If-if you’ll excuse me…
I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But seriously, if you’re the dude collecting shopping carts from the Wal-Mart parking lot…I’ve heard of starting from the bottom but gyaaaaddaaaymn! Anyways, back to J-Selk.
“…the Paradox of the End goal. When we emphasize the end result [the goal] more than we pay attention to the means to achieve it, we come face to face with this paradox. For example, the baseball player standing at the plate thinking to himself, ‘I need to get a hit” is probably going to hear, ‘Strike Three!” on the other hand the player focused on the fundamentals of his performance (tracking the ball, executing a compact swing, following through) has a much greater likelihood of getting a hit.”
What a STUD! So, I quit my job at Wal-Mart, and started with four process goals:
- Write & Practise comedy for 15 minutes per day, increasing by one minute every week (Product Goal: Become a world-touring stand-up comedian)
- Exercise every other day (Product Goal: 160 lbs and Sexy)
- Meditate for 16 minutes every day (Product Goal: Peaceful)
- Complete XYZ I work (don’t wanna bore you with that one) (Product Goal: $)
As you know, Seinfeld motivated himself to write everyday by placing an X on his calendar after every writing session. The idea of keeping the chain of X’s going, day after day, provided the spark he needed to keep on keeping on (see Gamification). So, I downloaded the Seinfeld Calendar app and started tracking the completion of these process goals. Here’s how December looks thus far:
So, as you can see, I’m a fat ass. A funny, money-making, no shopping cart pulling, very peaceful, but fat ass, all the same. They say you can only focus on three things…fuck! Ha! But just look at that. Look at how I perceive things. I’m killing it, and still beating myself up. Lol. Still gotta lot to learn…
But seriously, if I just get my eating in check, yo, I’ll fuck a motherfucker up. No, stop. I’ll do better than fuck a motherfucker up…I’ll have outstripped myself. Fuck those shopping carts. It’s Sunday, and I’ve been up since 7:30AM making sweet music on these black keys. I can’t sleep past 8am anymore. I’m having too much fun.
Here’s Carl Thomas singing Summer Rain.
Here’s me singing Summer Rain with my noise-cancelling headphones on…
C-C-C-C-C-Cuff yo chiiick…