Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
The Great Secret, Version Three

Today, you won't control the external events that happen. Is that scary? A little, but it's balanced when we see that we can control our opinion about those events. You decide whether they're good or bad, whether they're fair or unfair. You don't control the situation, but you control what you think about it. All we have is our own mind.

Serenity and stability are the results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility – other people, external events, stress – you will never be successful. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.

“You shouldn't give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don't care at all.”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

When something bad happens, we have to be sad, depressed, or worried. But if something good happens a few minutes later, all of a sudden we're happy, excited, and want more. We would never let another person jerk us around the way we let our impulses do.

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flulike symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask: Is this actually making me feel better?

But here's a question: Why are you subjecting yourself to this? Don't forget to ask: Is this really the life I want? Every time you get upset, a little life leaves the body.

The Stoics remind us that there really is no such thing as an objectively good or bad occurrence. These situations require our participation to be "bad." Our reaction is what actually decides whether harm has occurred.

“Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust.”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Alexander the Great was buried in the same ground as his mule driver. Eventually, all of us will pass away and slowly be forgotten. We should enjoy this brief time we have on earth – not be enslaved to emotions that make us miserable and dissatisfied.

“As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession.”
- Seneca, Moral Letters

You will only get one shot at today. Will you call out, "I've got this," and do your very best to be your very best?

“Don't set your mind on things you don't possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren't already yours.”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Obstacles are a part of life – things happen, stuff gets in our way, situations go awry. But nothing can stop a Stoic mind because in every course of action it has retained "a reverse clause." What's that? It's a backup option. If a friend betrays us, our reverse clause it to forgive this person's mistake. If we're thrown in prison, our reverse clause is that we can refuse to be broken and try to be of service to our fellow prisoners. When a technical glitch erases our work, our reverse clause is that we can start fresh and do it better this time.

The world is unfair. The game is rigged. So-and-so has it out for you. Maybe these theories are true, but practically speaking – what good are they to you? We have a choice: Do we focus on the ways we have been wronged, or do we use what we've been given and get to work?

How you handle even minor adversity might seem like nothing, but, in fact, it reveals everything.


THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY

Today, things will happen that will be contrary to your plans. You have the power to use the Stoic exercise of turning obstacles upside down, which takes one negative circumstance and uses it as an opportunity to practice an unintended virtue or form of excellence. If something prevents you from getting to your destination on time, then this is a chance to practice patience. If a computer glitch erases your work, it's a chance to start over with a clean slate. If someone hurts you, it's a chance to practice forgiveness. If something is hard, it's a chance to get stronger. Try this line of thinking and see whether there is a situation in which one could not find some virtue to practice or derive some benefit. There isn't one.

Stuck in traffic? A few wonderful minutes to relax and sit. Your car broke down after idling too long? Ah, what a nice nudge to take a long walk the rest of the way. A swerving car driven by a distracted, cell-phone-wielding idiot nearly hit you as you were walking and soaked you head to toe with muddy water? What a reminder about how precarious our existence is and how silly it is to get upset about something as trivial as being late or having trouble with your commute!

Can you be fully content with your life, can you bravely face what life has in store from one day to the next, can you bounce back from every kind of adversity without losing a step, can you be a source of strength and inspiration to others around you? That's Stoic joy – the joy that comes from purpose, excellence, and duty.

“That cucumber is bitter, so toss it out! There are thorns on the path, then keep away! Enough said. Why ponder the existence of nuisance?”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“You must stop blaming God, and not blame any person. You must no longer feel anger, resentment, envy, or regret.”
- Epictetus, Discourses

Defeatism won't get you anywhere (except defeat). But focusing your entire effort on the little bit of room, the tiny scrap of an opportunity, is your best shot.

Feeling bad is totally voluntary. And what better use could you make of your time?

“And so we should take a lighter view of things and bear them with an easy spirit, for it is more human to laugh at life than to lament it.”
- Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind
“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don't have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.”
- Seneca, Moral Letters

We could look at the upcoming day and despair at all the things we don't control: other people, our health, the temperature, the outcome of a project once it leaves our hands. Or we could look out at that very same day and rejoice at the one thing we do control: the ability to decide what any event means.


AMOR FATI

A love of fate. Loving everything that happens.

Remember, events are objective. It's only our opinion that says something is good or bad, and thus worth fighting against or fighting for. A better attitude? To make the most of everything.

When you are distressed by an external thing, it's not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgement of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment's notice.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“If we judge as good and evil only the things in the power of our own choice, then there is no room left for blaming gods or being hostile to others.”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It's easy to complain about this or that. But that doesn't accomplish anything – and it never lightens the load.


YOU'RE GOING TO BE OK

There's that feeling we get when something happens: It's all over now. All is lost. If we're Stoic, there is one thing we can be sure of: whatever happens, we're going to be OK.


GIVE THANKS
“In all things we should try to make ourselves be as grateful as possible.”
- Seneca, Moral Letters

Think of all the things you can be grateful for today. That you are alive, that you live in a time primarily of peace, that you have enough health and leisure to read this book. What of the little things? The person who smiled at you, the woman who held the door open, that song you like on the radio, the pleasant weather. Gratitude is infectious. Its positivity is radiant. Even if today was your last day on earth – if you knew in advance that it was going to end in a a few short hours – would there still be plenty to be grateful for? How much better would your life be if you kicked off every day like that? If you let it carry through from morning to night and touch every part of your life?

- Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

  attitude     happiness  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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