Article on Stoicism appears on Aeon:


It was purely chance today that I was speaking today with a colleague at work about, among other things, the perceptions of stoics and stoicism in general in both personal and professional environments. In an area like technology where people confuse skepticism with laziness and stoicism for lack of enthusiasm for growth or the expression of real concerns as just that and not a manifestation of fear change and not-invented-here syndrome.

Ever the strategist, Marcus employed a trusty technique in confronting the days that comprised such a life, making a point to tell himself at the start of each one of them: ‘I shall meet with meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable people.’ He could have been different about it – he could have pretended things were just hunky-dory, especially on those days when they really were, or seemed to be. But how, then, would he have been prepared to angle both into the wind and away from it – adapting, always, to fate’s violently vexing vicissitudes? Where would that have left him when the weather changed?

Years ago, I saw an endocrinologist who, upon seeing my rather pathetic testosterone number, remarked "You must be one hell of a stoic." After speaking with him about it, and about hormonal therapy, I agreed to try taking some T to boost things -- sex life and even interest in sex, increased mental acuity and even the good-for-you-kind-of-aggression that helps get you promoted at work.... basically he wanted to give me something to help me lose some extra pounds and also give me a personality somewhere north of Ben Stein as a free-gift-with-purchase.

It was dreadful. I was so emotional. I'd get mad about the stupidest shit from people around me and then pout and sulk about it for hours. I'd be aggressive over the dumbest unnecessary stuff, ready to punch that little bastard on the porch in his little "faggy potty mouth," I was! I stopped the T. I didn't like who I was on the hormones: I was essentially a man with PMS.

I had failed to see my indifference as unique, let a lone a source of power and value to myself and those around me.

Strategic Stoicism

I was much happier being the reserved, distant evaluator and stoic that I am. When things happen around me, my reaction is almost always flat. From accidents to elections, my first reaction is one of observation and thought. This article brought home to me a lot about the values I learned to appreciate and even tune after I stepped back from the treatment. I have also learned to appreciate these traits more in others.

I choose to view my stoicism as an asset to my approach to working through problems. I will often propose alternatives that others ignore because, as the flight attendants tell us, "Be aware that the nearest exit maybe be hind you." Is the solution to Trump to be found in refactoring the electoral college OR is the problem psace really more along the notion of what a democratic election is, should be about, and whether it's appropriate. If you're too emotionally invested in the freedom to choose, you lob off an entire quadrant of problem space that could make things better.

So, to all you stoics out there, I implore you to embrace it and to find the confidence and inner peace of mind to see and understand clearly all of your options, even the ones which may not be obvious or immediately forward.

And, people managers, please consider having at least one or two of these folks on your team (up to and including yourself). They won't always be the one that drives the team forward today, but they will be the momentum that keeps you moving forward overall when others lose focus and get frustrated.