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The Accidental Stoic Pt. 2 - Overcome Adversity

Updated on May 13, 2016

(If you have already read one of the other parts, you can skip the intro. I wanted to make sure all readers had the background no matter which lesson they were starting on. Enjoy!).

I love Tim Ferriss.

I love Ryan Holiday.

When you go through something traumatic you find yourself looking for answers, grasping for knowledge.

You hate the way you feel.

You don’t know what to do yet, but you know you never want to feel this way again.

But what can you do?

You allow yourself to be teachable.

Allow yourself the opportunity to learn from your mistakes so you don’t have to relive them again.

Two of the people that I turned to were: Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday. They practice and preach Stoicism: the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.

In these blogs I am going to break down 5 pillars of the philosophy (Time Is Brief, Overcome Adversity, Living A Life Of Character, Self-Awareness, and Practicing Misfortune), and explain how I became one without even knowing it. What a pleasant surprise! Nothing like having a goal and realizing you are already there!

I find the best way to allow yourself permission to be teachable is either acknowledging the desire and need to learn or finding yourself in stories about other people and applying it to your own life.

1. Overcome Adversity:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Life is reactions. How you react to any and every situation will determine your place in life. Nothing can beat you if you don’t let it. The only way to lose is to give up or give in.” - Me!

- Use pain as a teacher

- Pain and difficulty build endurance and self-control

- Fear nothing, you can only be scared if you allow fear in.

- Walk out the door in the morning knowing that the world is unpredictable.

- Take the negative and use it for calm and perspective.

- Do not run from obstacles

Raise your hand if you have had some diversity in your life?

Ok. Good. That’s about everyone.

The person who didn’t raise their hand wasn’t listening. On their phone, of course.

So now that we know we are all on the same page, let’s get right in to this.

I would bet that you are where you are in life because you encountered a few obstacles along your journey.

Did you go through them?

Over them?

Under them?

Or did you turn around because the obstacle was too big?

Or at least you thought it was too big?

I believe the variable that determines success and failure is the ability to handle adversity, to overcome obstacles. The funny thing about obstacles is no matter what they are, they all feel HUGE. You are lost, you feel out of control, you question everything that got you in to that situation, you are scrambling for answers, solutions, anything. Then you either fight, or “flight.” What’s amazing is, no matter what obstacle you have faced in your life, you are here, today, reading this article, by a guy, who is also still here, after facing his obstacles. We did it! *golf clap

If we learned from those situations, those obstacles, that adversity, we are better now because of them, in some cases a lot. I am 10x the person I was before going to prison. When I walk around now, I feel like an f’ing machine. Unstoppable. Why? Because I have already been through something unbelievably traumatic (or maybe it is believable), my own complete failure and the consequences of it. I broke my own heart in to pieces and I will never let that happen again. I am constantly conditioning myself through work, nutrition, and physical activity to crush today, annihilate tomorrow. I don’t even see obstacles any more. Why? Because I lived through: my career being destroyed, my mistake being plastered everywhere, total and utter embarrassment, having to live with my mistakes and look at my wife and daughter every day reminding me of what a sack of shit I was, and oh yeah, the hell of San Quentin. Are there a lot of people in worse situations, hell yes. A lot in better situations? Hell yes. But they were my obstacles, and all of us are stronger on the other side, no matter what we dealt with.

Once you know you can get through something, you know you can get through anything. The skill is getting in to attack mode as soon as that obstacle surfaces. Don’t waste any time crying or complaining. You can’t wash away an obstacle with your tears. You can’t complain your way through a wall. You hit it, and you hit it hard. The faster you get in to that mode, the better.

Stoic philosophy stresses putting yourself in to situations where you are scared, insecure, uncomfortable, or taking the hard way, and using those to show you can get through them. This practice allows you to recognize your strength, so you can see, first-hand, your capabilities, which are enormous! Humans are amazing!! You are amazing!! Give yourself the chance to show you you can do it (a little clunky, but you know what I mean). The more obstacles you overcome, the more confident you will be in yourself to attack next one, get past it, and move on.

I know we have all learned something from our mistakes, something from the adversities we have faced. I am realistic enough to know that there are people who don’t seem to learn shit about shit, but they probably aren’t reading this anyways. Why would they? Their either blame someone else, or run away (most likely saying they didn’t really care anyways. I’m calling bullshit).

If you put the fault of your situation on anyone but you, you a will consistently find yourself losing. Some adversity will be individual issues, some societal. Who cares where the adversity comes from? You still need to get past it. Don’t change the system, change yourself. Take the power, don’t hand it over in defeat. Stop being a pussy and fight. (A pussy cat by the way. No offense ladies!).

Job market? Just an obstacle. Figure it out, learn more, strategize, what are your strengths? Build on those. Monetize your skill-set.

Racism? It’s been around for a million years. Figure it out. If you are Black or Latino you will face racism. Your grandparents did and so did their grandparents, and it was much worse. You should be able handle something you expect to happen in some capacity anyways. Focus on being great at what you do and it will work out. Choose victor, not victim. (I have a black wife by the way. Not sure if that matters, but I figured this point was a reasonable place to add that little tidbit to the article).

No money? Learn, practice, out-think it. Figure it out. Some of the greatest companies started with jack shit. If anyone can make it with no money everyone can make it with no money. Get your big boy pants on, stop making excuses.

Ex-con? Hard time finding people to believe in you? Stop being a bitch and rewrite the narrative, out-think it, out work it, focus on the long game. Figure it out. There are 400 million people that speak English in the world. Who gives a shit if a handful of people don’t like you, or won’t give you a chance? 400 million!!! (That last one is me by the way. In case that wasn’t clear).

Kind of a side not: You ever hear people describe a situation as “ruining our lives”? Don’t get me wrong, there are some F’D situations: car accidents, murders, etc. But there are so many people that apply that same description to something small, and blame it for whatever situation they are in. Those people are called losers. Learn to recognize them, and stay away. Unless you are one, then fix it!

Every obstacle is an opportunity to make yourself better. EVERY DAMN ONE. They make you smarter, stronger, more resilient, etc. But you have to let them, and you have to recognize them as such. The goal of practicing difficulty and adversity is to eliminate the idea of obstacles all together. What if you encountered an obstacle and didn’t even see it? You just pivoted, and overcame it? Walking through walls. Bullets bouncing off your chest. Becoming Superman, or Superwoman, or SuperWhatverYouIdentifyAs. You don’t need the blue tights and the cape, unless you are in to that thing. You just need your heart, your mind, and your guts. Hoorah!

You have been through a lot in your life. Guess what? You are going to be going through a lot more before this wonderful journey is over with. Be prepared. Be teachable. Be bulletproof. Let people look at you crazy as you maneuver as if nothing is wrong. You can walk by the problem as if you didn’t see it, because you shouldn’t see it. It‘s just an opportunity for greatness, for learning. Show them how to do it. That can be you.

Either take your past and use it as fuel, or start making yourself uncomfortable, start showing yourself you can do things you never thought possible. You have no idea what you are capable of!

I consistently made it over obstacles I never thought I would see the other side of, and it started changing me.

How in the hell am I going to make it through prison? I am not the toughest guy (just being honest). I was terrified waiting in county, waiting for my “ticket” up. (To be honest I wasn’t scared about prison before the sentencing, only because everyone and their mom said there was no way I would get prison time, most likely house arrest. They were massively wrong, obviously. But I am better because of it. I made that obstacle my bitch). I was scared every single day I was in San Quentin. Every day. Somewhere in the back of my mind, 24-7. I was devastated, and hated myself, every single day for …….. well, I am still working on that part. It is actually my fuel to work harder, train harder, learn more, push myself to the limits and make sure that failure is temporary. I am focused on the long game.

The conditioning of my adversities has allowed me to be unstoppable. If I can get over THAT. If I can get through THAT. There is nothing that can stop me. And nothing can stop you either.

Every obstacle is an opportunity. It all comes together and works together for today and tomorrow. My past taught me Accidental Stoic Lesson #2 – Overcome Adversity.


Joey

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