Wearing Indian Summer Co’s Gigit Dress in Bronze from the Musing Campaign | Witchery Chunky Knit Cardigan | Elegant Beverly Hills Bag in Vegan Brown Leather | Seed Heritage Espadrilles
How does one sum twenty twenty up other than to say it has called upon our highest selves? To navigate these deep, murky and messy waters we’ve needed to adjoin hands, employ a fighting spirit and face our new normal like warriors. We’ve learnt that there is great strength in being kind hearted, humble and maintaining a nature of giving, bighearted servitude. In the face of great adversity, we’ve shown up consistently. Despite our fears, qualms and the anxiety that has sat heavy on our heart and tight in our chest, we’ve put one foot in front of the other and paved a pathway where we truly believed there wasn’t one. Don’t you see? We’ve made a way for ourselves and demonstrated that a collective with a greater goal, a united stance, will always emerge victorious. This is why we can take heed, laugh and be joyful even in the midst of uncertainty. The darkness hasn’t won- so much has been overcome, after all. The world and its’ people will always be capable of kindness, whether it is given freely or drawn out.
Think of the minutes, hours, days and months spent campaigning for human rights, for the amplification of voices that have been muted. The outcry when we failed to see wrongs being righted. The movement, the motions, the loud and in your face work, the all that has happened behind the scenes. I sit here tonight with a big steaming mug of green tea and a smile on my face because there is so much to be grateful for and I get the chance to reflect on this. It will always stand true that we have a lot to be proud of and no win, whether small or great, deserves be discounted. Below are excerpts from a few of the Daily Stoic emails I received that resonated with me and spoke to experiences and lessons of this year- gentle yet compelling reminders to take charge of life and commit to transforming mindset. Take excerpt two, for example. How glaringly clear has it become that every person in every profession has a place in keeping the fabric of society bound tightly together? We’d be virtually nonexistent at this point without medical personnel, afraid and uncertain without a stable government, bored and dissatisfied with the entertainment industry and lost without our postal officers, sanitary workers and more. Let this be your timely reminder that what you do matters just as much as what you don’t.
You know a lot. You’ve been alive a while. You’ve read a thing or two and heard a thing or two. You’ve come to trust yourself and the brain and gut that have served you well. So when things happen, when people have questions- about history, about life, about why people are this way or that way- you’re quick with an answer. Even if you don’t say anything, you’re quick with a conclusion or a judgement when you see something. That’s who you are. A person who knows.
That’s a good thing right? Maybe not. It may well be a form of stupidity and a form of misery. It’s impossible to learn that which you think you already know, Epictetus said. To the Stoics, conceit was the greatest impediment to knowledge. Conversely, humility and curiosity were paths to wisdom. Think of Socrates, so beloved by the Stoics. What was he famous for? For what he didn’t know. For the questions he asked. And it certainly seemed like he was having a lot of fun as he did it.
In thinking you already-or always- know the answer to things, you’re preventing yourself from learning. You’re also preventing your kids, your employees, your colleagues and so on from learning. Instead of going to discover things together, they’re just relying on you to spit out facts and figures and explanations. You’re missing out on so much fun, too. Think of the conversations you’re not having, the questions that are not being asked, the things not being experienced.
If you didn’t think you knew, you’d be out doing and talking and questioning. Instead, you’re locked up in your smug little room of arrogant ignorance. Ego is the enemy. Stop pretending or assuming you know everything. Focus on learning. Focusing on figuring stuff out. Focus on asking. Life is more fun this way. You’ll learn more too.
We all have different professions. Some of us write research grants. Some of us trade stocks. Some of us explore the distant past. Some of us grade papers. Some of us deliver packages. Yet for all these differences, in another sense, we all have the same job. In fact, according to the Stoics we have the same job whether we’re on the job our now. People are our proper occupation, Marcus Aurelius said. Our job is to do them good and put up with them.
It’s easy to get lost in the incentives and details of your job. The hedge fund manager thinking of nothing but profit. The garbageman resenting the stink and grime of his job. The politician striving to move up the ladder of offices. This is why we have to remember what Marcus said. We cannot forget that at the core of what we do and why we are here is people. Our job is to make their lives better. Our job is to be of use. Our job is to do this even if we are met with ingratitude, obstacles or attacks. Our job is to do good and be patient even if our bosses give us contrary orders, even if the system has become corrupt or strayed from its charter. Our job is to do people good. Whatever our industry, whatever our pay scale, whatever the public perception. So, do it well.
Marcus Aurelius had a simple description of what luck looked like. It wasn’t that he was chosen out of fifty million Romans to be emperor. It wasn’t that he was born strong and tall. It wasn’t that he was born a free man instead of a slave. It wasn’t any of the other things he could have counted as blessings.
Instead, it was this: “Whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.”
What a wonderful and kind way to look at life. We’ve talked before about how the definition of success is autonomy. Maybe the definition of good luck is surplus. Having enough to share, having enough that you don’t need to take anything from anyone else. It’s self-sufficiency with a little bit extra to help others who weren’t so fortunate. What are you working so hard for? To buy a bigger house? To fill your closet with another pair of expensive sneakers? Or is it so you can be lucky enough to be in a position to help a friend? To take care of those in need?
Luck is a tricky thing. It’s not fully in our control, but as they say, you can prepare to take advantage of it if you get it. You can make yourself luckier with the decisions you make. Let’s just make sure that we have the right lucky target we’re aiming for- which is to be in a better position to help others, not just to get more for ourselves.
Anyhow, on a less involved and introspective note, how was your week and what did you do for Christmas, if you celebrate the holiday? My family don’t tend to go too overboard and festivities are kept fairly modest but in recent years it’s become a tradition to visit my aunty’s mum. She has the loveliest cottage house, the most lively dogs and is honestly the best host. We have the most incredible food spreads to enjoy and always feel so welcome and cared for. Love is everywhere and it extends so far. My aunty’s mum, Jo, knows that I’m passionate about interior design and gives me bags full of home decorating and lifestyle magazines to pore over. It’s the little things that can make such a difference and really spark happiness. Beyond that, her garden is absolutely gorgeous and fully in bloom. It’s so quaint and elegant and I fawn over it every time I visit. Greenery heaven!
The rest of my week was fairly uneventful and yet I ran around non stop. Although, I suppose that’s not entirely true! My grandma and I had quite the shopping saga to deal with as we attempted to return a dress we’d somehow accidentally bought two of. In the process, we stopped in at pretty much every boutique and department store that stocked this label. As it goes, each place we visited had been keeping tabs on this and I’m positive they’ve barred me from coming back as they believed something shifty was going on. Long story short- whether you’re unsure of a purchase or not, always keep your receipts and tags!