Remember That Which is the Same

When you are born of death and cry from breath
When all is new and fear flows through
Remember that which is the same.

When screams of joy and sadness swirl
When cosmic silence brings you peace
Remember that which is the same.

When you are praying, eyes upturned
Calling to he who’s most divine
Remember that which is the same.

When love embraces your broken heart
But sorrow, loss, is all that’s left
Remember that which is the same.

When body grows and shows its strength
But time and sickness takes what once was yours
Remember that which is the same.

The one who knows the unknown
Who touches the mystery and the divine
The cosmic ocean from which you came
In silence, in joy, in pain, in love,
In the sun and in the sea,
In your fears and in your truth
The consciousness which always goes on…

Remember that which is the same.


In honor of a fallen hero. 

On Outrage: Trump is the Obstacle. Trump is the Way.

Serious question: when is outrage appropriate? Because I’m a progressive democrat and Donald Trump is now president of the United States.

As I write this, my Facebook feed is falling apart. I’ve seen videos of riots in the streets, people punching each other in the face, friend unfriending friend, and many deleting their accounts from pure overwhelm.

Facebook has fallen into a never-ending cycle of clickbait headlines, arguments, and my friends, both republican and democrat, trading barbs via links from their favorite news of the day. 

But I’ve yet to flip my shit, crap on a Trump sign in public or try to eat someone’s face off who smugly laughed at the stunning loss of Hillary Clinton. In fact, I’ve been pretty damn calm… I actually went to sleep around midnight on November 8, before it was clear to me that Trump would win.

Impossible you say?

Maybe you think I’m an older white man who needs to check his privilege, or I just don’t get the importance of what we just voted into office. Because if I did understand, I should be fucking furious, I should feel devastated and already planning my move to Canada.


On November 9th, my wife woke up in tears and asked me why I seemed so positive. Then she then threw me out of the room when I tried to tell her.   

But if she weren’t so upset, I’d tell her the answer to that question is Stoicism.

“Is it possible, then, that shameless men should not be in the world? It is not possible. Do not, then, require what is impossible. For this man also is one of those shameless men who must of necessity be in the world. Let the same considerations be present to thy mind in the case of the knave, and the faithless man, and of every man who does wrong in any way.” – Marcus Aurelius

Isn’t it immoral to stand by calmly amidst such unrest? Isn’t this the time we take to the streets and shout at the top of our lungs that this is unacceptable? Where should the line of acceptance fall? While I’m disappointed by Trump’s divisive win and concerned for our future, the more important question for me is how SHOULD we respond?

I think this post-election period presents us with a unique opportunity to ask ourselves what is the wisest, most ethical way to handle a now wide-spread, increasing rivalry in our country. Because as Marcus Aurelius points out, there will always be shameless men and women in our world, so let’s not wish for the impossible now… it won’t help.

Why Be Against Outrage?

As a type-A, I used to think there are times when action powered by anger would help me obliterate any obstacles in my path and that it made me more resourceful. But 10 years ago, I permanently crippled my health and I suspect it’s because I lived with so much stress and anger.

Today I believe that anger – while useful at times – should never be indulged in, even in the slightest degree, if at all possible.

So if not now… then when? What if someone insults you, you might ask?

Seneca would respond, “THANKS my good kinsmen! For giving me so generous a part that I can love, though not beloved.”

Well isn’t that nice Mr. Holier-than-thou… ok, you say, so what if you’re having a heated argument and then she SPITS on you??

Seneca might calmly whisper to himself, “well… that’s how it seemed to her.”

Haaa, yeah right! Ok fine, you self-righteous sally… then, what if someone kills your wife??? What are you gonna do then?!

“To feel anger on behalf of one’s friends does not show a loving, but a weak mind: it is admirable and worthy conduct to stand forth as the defender of one’s parents, children, friends, and countrymen, at the call of duty itself, acting of one’s own free will, forming a deliberate judgment… not in an impulsive, frenzied fashion. (But) no passion is more eager for revenge than anger, and for that very reason it is unsuited to obtain it: being overly hasty and frantic, like almost all desires, it hinders itself in the attainment of its own object, and therefore has never been useful either in peace or war: for it makes peace like war, and when in arms forgets that (the god of War) Mars belongs to neither side, and falls into the power of the enemy, because it is not in its own power.

In the next place, vices shouldn’t be placed into common use just because they’ve succeeded occasionally: for fevers are also good for certain kinds of ill-health, but nevertheless it is better to be free from them altogether: it is a hateful mode of cure to owe one’s health to disease. Similarly, although anger, like poison, or falling headlong, or being shipwrecked, may have done some good unexpectedly, yet it should not on that account to be classed as wholesome, for poisons have often proved good for health.“ ~Seneca

…And to those of you who say at very least, the ACT OF PUNISHMENT for the murder of your wife is justified by anger:

“Do you think that the law is angry with men whom it does not know, whom it has never seen…? We ought, therefore, to adopt the law’s frame of mind, which does not become angry, but merely defines offenses… as Plato says, ‘no wise man punishes any one because he’s sinned, but that he may sin no more: for what is past can’t be recalled, but what is to come may be checked.’”-Seneca

Almost makes you angry reading that, doesn’t it? Look, I’m not saying you won’t feel any anger from such a horrific loss. Of course you would.

How could we all NOT be overcome by despair, anger and the passionate desire for revenge? I suspect even the best of us would fall into our darkest thoughts. Because we’re not robots. We’re human, highly fallible, subject to our passions at any given time and Seneca understood that, too.

The stoics realized the cold reality that we often can’t control our initial reactions, it’s beyond our reason…but we can control OUR RESPONSE to those initial reactions. And that, Epictetus adamantly affirms, is in our control.

The Biological Case Against Anger

Foolish Quote - Trump

Our amygdala is the main part of our brain where emotions, including anger, are processed. This part of our “lizard brain” is located deep in the medial temporal lobe. It evolved long ago to give us heightened sensitivity to dangers in our environment.

But if those emotions were left unchecked, we’d live in continual reaction to our fears and anger (yes, I know we’re not that far off now).

The prefrontal cortex is the area of our brain responsible for logic, reason, and judgment. It’s called the Executive Center because it regulates our emotions so when we freak out because we see a snake, we can also calm ourselves when we realize it’s just a garden hose. It’s only a recent development from an evolutionary standpoint but it’s higher function is housed in the frontal lobe of the brain.

That means in our brains, our emotional centers, and our rational centers are biologically separated from each other (and for good reason).

Because if we feel emotionally unbalanced, using our logic and reasoning skills literally uses a different part of our brain – the part that’s most likely to give us back calm and control. If we didn’t have a prefrontal cortex, we couldn’t rationalize ourselves to “calm down, because it’s just a garden hose.” We’d have to rely on the passage of time to bring us peace. 

Even without the benefit of modern science, the Stoics observed how our powers of rational thought can be superior to our emotions. To them, rational judgment was divine.

So by making reasoned arguments against anger, the stoics wanted to create a new desire in themselves…a desire to NOT be angry. A desire to be rational – even if aroused by anger.

This is why Seneca fills an entire book called “On Anger”, in order to lay out his case against anger, using pure reasoning and explains why – in any situation – there is never a good enough reason to justify it.

If you haven’t read it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.

Not Your Typical Stoic

Like most people, I used to think a stoic person was just a cold-ass motherfucker who couldn’t feel any emotions or care less about other people…yes, I know lots of British people could fall into this category, too.

But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that contrary to the stereotype, Stoics were all about action and compassion. Because the stoics also reasoned that it’s in our nature to be social, just and compassionate.

Does the wise man just calmly sit back and do nothing? Of course not. Like the serenity prayer, they exercise the courage to change the things they can change, accept the things they can’t, and develop wisdom to know the difference.

As a progressive Democrat, action and compassion are very important to me because I can’t just sit back calmly and watch Rome burn.

And if we want to pursue justice, then shouldn’t reason prevail above all? Shouldn’t our moral values be born out of a compassionate motivation but also be tempered with wisdom and rational thinking?

If we act out of outrage, then we’re clearly not coming from a place of reason – literally or figuratively. And that’s a dangerous choice we’re making, even if we’re not aware of it – or especially because of it.

So as counterintuitive as it may sound, I don’t want to focus as much on what actions we can take in pursuit of justice.

Instead, I want to share some key coping strategies I’ve learned from Stoicism to help keep your sanity and be more effective (and trust me, this list is as much for me as it is anyone else).


Meditate on the Good

Meditate Good - Trump

As soon as I open my Facebook or turn on the news, the worst, most clickbait-y headlines await me….lots of posts about racism, voter fraud, gun shootings, terrorism videos, illegal immigration, the middle east – and of course, Adolf Hitler is always a MUST-HAVE, crowd favorite.

At the same time, I’m also aware of the amazing and positive changes happening right now as I write this.

Incredible breakthroughs in biotech and technology that may cure common cancers and diseases, the coming revolution in transportation which brings with it the inevitable switch to alternative energy, regardless of who’s President (…no more wars?), and the fact that diverse philanthropic donations has never enjoyed such meteoric heights in our nation’s history.

Not enough?

How much would you miss your iPhone or Android if you couldn’t do remote deposits, email on the couch or candy crush during awkward social engagements? Or if you lost your left hand, how would you cook, use the bathroom, drive?

What about basic civil engineering like running water (hot AND cold), flushing toilets and the working electricity throughout our world that we use many times per day without a single thought? And finally, you live and breathe every day, despite having done nothing at all to deserve it. 

There’s much to be thankful for at any given time – if you want. So if you’re feeling pessimistic, that’s a choice you’re making.  This is not about seeing the good and ignoring the bad. This is about opening up and expanding your world view to see and accept both truths.

Buddhist monks who practice meditation are taught to use negative and positive visualization to stimulate compassion.

An example of negative visualization would be imagining that someone close to you was just in a car accident and she’s lying in your arms, suffering from terrible pain. By empathizing with the suffering of those we care about, our altruistic desire is awakened and exercised.

However, if they begin to feel overwhelmed by the idea their loved ones are suffering terribly, the counter technique is to visualize all the joy and happiness of others. To meditate on the many great people in the world who are helping a great number of people, in order to be filled with hope and optimism.

But should that joy overflow to the point of distraction, the monks will then bring their attention back to the suffering of others again.

In this way, they exercise and build their compassion without being overly attached to either suffering or joy. The ultimate goal for these monks is to build their compassion and use that to act accordingly in the service of others… without losing their sense of equanimity.

And just like the Buddhist monks, we’re also responsible for maintaining our equanimity by managing our focus. Because without that equanimity, we’re living in reaction to our environment and the goal of our action is lost.

Is the world full of terrifying pain and injustice? Of course. Is the world full of genuine grace, unconditional love, boundless joy and hallelujah? Yes.

As Tony Robbin’s says, “what’s wrong is always available, but so is what’s right.” It’s up to us to take the blinders off.

Not In My Control

Pardon Quote - Trump

Did you ever get angry because you haven’t figured out how to control the weather yet? Maybe it rained on your graduation day and after a few moments of huffing and puffing, you laughed at yourself.

Have you thought about how unfair it is that you’re getting older and you still can’t stop time? And regardless of whether you get angry at the sun or not, it will continue to rise and set every day.

Zeno, one of the original founders of Stoicism (think of him like the Justin Timberlake of his boy band), once compared humanity to a dog tied to a moving cart. The cart is like the wheels of fate moving onward. And the dog must run along with the cart or be dragged by it.

Yet the choice remains his. 

So is it wise to be outraged by every murder and every murderer around the world? Should I be outraged that Genghis KHAAAAAAN! raped thousands of women and murdered 40 million people a thousand years ago?

Regardless if I get angry or not, shameless people will exist in the world, tyrants will be in power at times, bad policy will be enacted and the powerful will oppress the powerless.

History will repeat itself in many ways and I can choose to accept this truth or be dragged by it.

Gain the World - Trump

A comedian I saw at Comedy Cellar once joked that it’s almost impossible to be a racist if you live in New York City because you’d be exhausted by the end of the day. There’s a lot of wisdom to that.

Because if you think the right answer to every injustice is more outrage, then prepare to be outraged all day, every day.

There are lots of things I don’t have control over. The movement of the planets, the passage of time, life and death, people’s behaviors and feelings. In fact, my sphere of influence is very small and while that may sound defeatist, it’s not only rational, it’s very freeing.

Because there’s no point worrying about what I can’t control or getting angry about it. 

And that brings us to one of my favorite coping strategies…

It’s like having two separate folders in your mind. What you can control and what you can’t. Under the folder of “in my control” is your thoughts, your reactions, and your behaviors. Under the folder of what’s “not in my control” is everything else… and it’s the list of things you need to let go of.

Sometimes when I forget this lesson, I play a mental exercise: I meditate on trying to catch the wind.

How would I make the wind blow south even while the breeze drifts north? Can I push it with my hands? Can I pull it somehow? What tools could I use to influence it? How much progress could I make if I worked on it tirelessly for the next 3 months? 6 months?

After a few moments of trying to solve this impossible problem my mind clears up a bit and I remind myself that “this too, is like trying to catch the wind.” 

The Trichotomy of Control

Gain World - Trump

I should mention here that modern stoicism recognizes the gray area between what’s in our control and what isn’t. Or rather, it underscores it more because it’s still discussed in the original stoicism.

This third folder is called “some control”.

An example from Epictetus is how we go about an ocean voyage. We can choose the captain, the cruise line, the date, the season and look at the forecasts. But if a storm strikes the boat on your way, then that’s “no longer my business” as he says. Because you’ve done your best to have a good voyage beforehand and now it’s up to the captain.

But what if the boat sinks? Then “I do the only thing I’m in position to do,” says Epictetus. To “drown – but fearlessly, without bawling or crying out to God, because I know that what is born must also die.”

Sounds like a lot of fun at parties, right?

As depressing as that sounds, the wisdom of it shines forth: that even when fate and fortune turn against us, it’s still our responsibility to do the best we can. And if we fail, we’re still expected to be in control of how we react.

The key is that it’s an internal compass, not external.

If your goal is to be a better athlete, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. It matters that you tried to improve your skill. If you want to conquer the fear of public speaking, it doesn’t matter that the audience hates you, it matters that you got up to speak and that you faced your fear with courage and inner calm.

And if your goal is to protest Trump policy… dare I say it?

It doesn’t matter whether the policy you were protesting changed or not, it matters that you tried, that you did it with thoughtfulness, courage and you maintained your inner peace.

Because if the goal is never outside your control, then you’re never derailed from your goal. You never stop. You don’t lose hope. You’re not discouraged.

You will have setbacks.

But when fortune turns against us – as it sometimes does – it just becomes more grist for sculpting our character. We become stronger because of it, not in spite of it… “what stands in the way, becomes the way”, as Marcus Aurelius said. 

Because for him, the challenge isn’t what ultimately matters. It’s who we become that matters. This is the meaning behind his famous quote.

Whether you hate Trump or Clinton or anyone else in power, rather than wishing our society didn’t have leaders like them, shouldn’t we rather wish that we were strong enough to withstand leaders like them? And even be better for it?

It’s certainly noble to want to make the world a better place for our neighbor and our children, to want to ease the suffering of others. But in the end, we can only be certain of making ourselves better for the world.

So go ahead and protest, in whatever form you see best. There’s nothing more stoic than standing up for what’s right, even when reasonable people won’t support you. But do it without anger.

Either way, the choice is yours.

Take the Long View – Let Time Tell Its Story

Long View - Trump

I have a quirky, and maybe not so politically correct, theory about people. It’s that the more similar we are, the more we look for differences in each other. 

Have you noticed how South Koreans hate North Koreans? Northern Chinese hate southern Chinese. Puerto Ricans hate Dominicans. Italians from the north hate Italians from the south and vice versa. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but they do look down on each other.

As an outsider, the rivalries of Haitians and Dominicans might seem trivial to me. But as a native New Yorker, the hatred for New Jersey is an immutable law of nature. Just… no.

As an American, I find the Australian rivalry funny between New South Wales and Victoria. I mean, COME ON! They’re from the same place for god’s sake! They speak with the same quirky accents, don’t they? They have to have more in common with each other than not!

Yet, as a New Yorker, I can get along easily with the Brits, Australians, South Americans, and Canadians. After all, we’re not that different, are we?

But if you asked me to visit rural Arkansas, Oklahoma City or Alabama…I’d probably hesitate more than a little bit. Because yanks like me blend-in with those good ole’ boys about as well as oil and water.

Yes, we’re all Americans, we all speak English and the fact that we live on the same continent seems significant…certainly, we’re much closer to each other than those in London, Sydney, Buenos Aires or Nova Scotia.

So why do we often get along better with strangers than our neighbors?

It’s like the closer we are, the more distance we seek. And the more distance we have, the more we want to travel to farther exotic nations and seek common ground.

So in my theory, the key motif to all these contradictions is the word distance. It’s funny to me as long as I’m the outsider. But when it lands too close to home, it starts to feel more threatening.


In the same way, I see all humanity.

When our identity is threatened, we want to emphasize our differences in order to reinforce our identities or re-establish our alpha nature by comparison. But when we have enough space, our self-importance fades.

But what if instead of expanding our space, we expanded our identity? Do we need physical distance in order to feel safe, to rise above our differences?

I don’t know if those Blues Travelers were stoics but their song “100 Years” sounds suspiciously like it. Because it won’t mean a thing in a 100 years – none of it. In 100 years, all these silly rivalries mean nothing when you see the rise and fall of entire civilizations, of empires, business empires, the generations of people being born, having kids, growing old and dying.

Do the people from 1,000 years ago affect your daily life? Like us, they lived, they ate, they loved, they fought, they had hopes, disappointments, and dreams…but as Marcus Aurelius says, “of all that life, not a trace survives today”.

In the same way, our actions, our hopes, and worries today will mean nothing to the people 10,000 years from now – assuming humans exist. In the grand scheme, we will all be forgotten – and those who remember us will be forgotten as well.

The stoics call this taking the long view. It goes beyond just meditating on the good.

It’s a way of creating cognitive distance. Of expanding our identity to a cosmic scale. Until – like a magnifying glass that’s suddenly removed – our field of view opens wide.

Marcus Aurelius (and yes, I get the irony he lived 2,000 years ago so shut up about it already) liked to meditate on the impermanence of nature. He’d reflect not only on the eons of time passing by, but space. By doing this the importance of the things he believed was important would lose their significance.

If we were to rise mentally above the earth high enough, it becomes a perfect sphere and the people smaller than ants. If we keep rising, we can begin to see the neighboring planets, the solar system, the galaxy, the neighboring galaxies and a swath of the expansive universe.

We can mentally see the existence of life rise and fall across the eons of time, from the single cell to the almost innumerable complex mammals, including humans… and in the future, the life forms yet to come. And yet, on a cosmic scale, we all share the same home and the same birth.

We can see the massive wheels of time turning, in synchronized motion with the clockwork of the cosmos and massive heavenly bodies. We become the ultimate outsider looking down on the smallest of things…our flash of existence in the thinnest measure of infinite time.

Are democrats to blame for the rise of Trump or are the republicans? Who cares? Let time tell its story. Is the stock market poised for a crash soon? Who knows? Let time tell its story. Is my friend a bigot because he voted for President Trump…what were his true motives after all?

Let time tell its story. In the final balance, the truth always becomes clearer.

And just like at the end of our short lives, when we’re on our death beds, our priorities change. Few things really matter.  So too, should we live our lives.

Just as we gain cognitive distance from our problems to gain a better perspective, taking the long view cultivates our wisdom, patience, and equanimity.

Do I feel the need to read every explosive expose, or march in every protest or donate to all the causes my friends are promoting? No. While I believe it’s important for me to be a voice for good in the world, it also helps if I stay away from the conversation at times.

So when all else fails, this is one of my last lines of defense: I take the long view. I reserve my judgment and let time tell its story. 

The headlines from both my friends and media alike are filled with fear and anger triggers. The question is always, “where’s the outrage?!” on X, Y or Z.

There are many reasons people want you to feel outraged… outrage drives traffic, outrage generates clicks, likes, comments, search rankings, mountains of ad revenue and allows them to exploit political opportunities endlessly.

But it’s said that the most dangerous person in the world is the one who’s happy. Because she can’t be manipulated into buying anything, she doesn’t need anyone’s approval, and she has no reason to hate her neighbor.

She’s dangerous because she’s mentally free. She’s dangerous because she can’t be controlled.

That’s why I believe no other issue confronting us today is more important than our anger, collectively and individually. In a time when outrage is so widespread and a rapidly growing trillion dollar currency, to be untroubled is a revolutionary act.

To be master of oneself is the greatest rebellion.



*Also published in edited form on Modern Stoicism.

The Quantum Butterfly

quantum-beachSometimes, when it’s dark enough, I like to gaze.
I like to look up towards the evening sky and to the stars.
To face the unchanging cosmos and the infinite
tapestry of stardust and life.
I try to glimpse the wings of the beating butterfly.

We are born of the ancient star
and to the cosmic ocean we shall all
flow back once more – drop by shimmering drop –
counting time, our quantum hourglass.
The world rolls on…

I’ve lived with dreams of a child and nursery rhymes,
a stainless heart.
Yet between the beats we quickly go
from Dr. Seuss’ cat to Schroedinger’s Cat and
childhood twilight fantasy to Heisenberg’s Dream;
Chaos versus Destiny.
What you want is very often not what you get.

But life does not obey the gods, nor I.
No, as they say, Life follows its own
random path
and the wing that beats today in China,
brings the Thunderstorms in New York tomorrow.
The world rolls on, they say.

I close my eyes and see the flow of time being sown in moments
like grains of sand on an infinite beach;
an old keepsake… a long gaze…
a warm smile… a favorite verse…
heaven in an hour… a long goodbye…
a parting sigh… forgiveness…
Life’s lessons, I know.

Today, tomorrow and forever, the circle of destiny is forged;
wishes go unfulfilled and faith is discovered,
hearts grow bitter and circling friendships are rekindled anew,
while somewhere, a wife has lost her husband and an old dream is
Yes, the world rolls on;
between the beating wings, the silent wind and the eternal sky;
The quantum butterfly is there, the quest is ours.

In my heart tonight,
there is an ancient longing,
a longing as old as mankind,
that harbors the scars of a traveler’s soul,
writing time on the wind and
memories on the waves of the ocean.

I close my eyes once more
and try to lie very still
on the moonlit beach.
I close my eyes and I listen for the wings of the beating butterfly.
I listen to the waves of the expansive ocean and of the
flowing sea,
the beach wiped clean
and the meticulous sand castle that is no more.

I listen for the whispers of destiny…

Myths I Learned from the Pickup Artist Community: Part 2

Neil Strauss The Game Book - Pickup Artist Community
Hey look everybody! I used to be a PUA bigshot… SEEEEE?!?!

“What do you do when a hot girl throws herself at you?”

I googled this today and the first result was a guy in a body building forum presenting three super thoughtful options:

Give her the cawk.
Get turned off since it’s so easy.
If you want a real relationship you hold out.

These attitudes are common for many men. If a girl is giving it away, it means she’s easy. After all, she doesn’t have any self-respect.

But what if that hot girl is Jessica Alba? Assuming they know who she is, most guys would probably throw themselves at her instead. Does this mean the men don’t have any self-respect? No, of course not. She’s Jessica Alba for god’s sake!

If all this sounds rather shallow to you, that’s because it is.

Why do we play games? Why can’t people who find each other attractive just get down to business and skip the courtship dance, the boring small talk? Why do girls have to wonder “does he like me?” for hours, days and weeks…. even when they both want the same thing in the end?


Pickup Artist Community - Freedom

Back in 2003, the biggest breakthrough I ever learned from the Pickup Artist community was that so much of our attraction is based on social value. Actually, scratch that. Our attraction is often based on our perceived social value.

Mystery decoded most of the formula for attraction theory. It was Tyler Durden and Papa at the time, that tied most of the attitudes and behaviors together, under the title social “value”. The IOIs, negs, obstacles, targets, AFCs, AMOGs, alphas, peacocking, shit tests, take-aways, cocky funny, jealousy plot-lines, qualification, time constraints…they were almost all about how we demonstrate higher value to others.

When I first learned this a light went on. It was in 2003 as I was talking to my friend and mentor Vinigarr when suddenly I had that moment when I saw “the matrix” that explained so much in my dating life. Yes, being short was a disadvantage but if I learned to play the game I could get the girl too.

Sounds a little sleazy right?

But here’s what most people outside the community don’t realize: almost all these techniques came from watching women. Specifically, this is how many attractive women in clubs are already acting with guys trying to date them.

Incidentally, it’s how many attractive men act too. Because all these techniques are just terms for what happens naturally. Not just in the dating world but in everyday social dynamics, whether you realize it or not.

Notice I didn’t say, “hot” men or women. Because there’s a difference between being hot and being attractive. Men with lots of wealth and power are attractive. They may be ugly old farts, but many women find them attractive. It makes them feel safe, taken care of and feminine.

And women who know how to play hard to get, dress well, or have high status (like celebrity) are considered attractive. Yes, men are more visually attracted than women are, but if men were only attracted visually, then they wouldn’t lose respect for the easy, but hot girl.   


Pickup Artist Community - Shadow Quote

As the years went by, I began to notice a long-term pattern.  Most of us were only dating short term even though many of us claimed to want relationships.

Even those of us in long-term relationships weren’t very happy. One by one, they all seemed to self-destruct. It wasn’t just a matter of whether it would or wouldn’t. It was only a matter of time. To be fair, a few did end up in healthy LTRs. And maybe not so coincidentally, many of them continue to be my good friends today.

But Mystery and Style – the two most iconic figures of the seduction community – both became perfect examples of how NOT to have an LTR.

I saw Mystery “closing” lots of beautiful women but he was always depressed about being alone. About not finding his pair bond(s). Eventually, he had a daughter with one of his girlfriends but last I heard she wouldn’t speak to him anymore or allow him to see his baby girl. It made him utterly miserable.

You’d think his superior skill on how to create attraction and desire – which I can attest to, first hand – would lead to superior relationship and communication skills with women as well. Right?

Nope. Not even a little bit. And lest you think this is a one-time occurrence, I can assure you it isn’t. This is the norm in a long line of imploding relationships over the years. 

In 2013, Neil Strauss married his current wife Ingrid and now has a son. But in 2010, she forced him to go to therapy for sex addiction.  His come-to-Jesus moment was when he cheated on her in a church parking lot with her best friend.

Why were so many of us good at meeting girls, having passion in the bedroom and not able to have healthy, steady relationships? What was missing?

After years of therapy and introspection (as well as lots more sex with other women), Neil learned that it all came from his low self-esteem. Today his seminars teach men “how to be ok with themselves.”

I’m not accusing all Pickup Artists of having low self-esteem but it’s ironic that in an industry that teaches men how to be “their best self” and more confident with women – their two most recognizable leaders that created the original blueprints – had significant emotional issues. It says something.

I know what you’re probably thinking by now…

You’re laughing at all the silly PUAs with their little insecurities because it was so obvious to you. You saw it coming a mile away. But the truth is, this isn’t something unique to the Pickup Artist community. It’s just an extreme microcosm of how the world operates. Because everyone has insecurities. And assuming you’re human, so do you.

No one wants to face rejection. No one wants to feel hurt or disappointment. We all have fears, flaws, and vulnerabilities. We’re all wounded. But even though it’s the most natural thing in the world, we fight it. And this is why we all play games at first.

Because attraction and fear are really both aspects of the same phenomenon. It’s scary if she rejects you…but it’s EXCITING if she validates you. This is a fun game to play if you can win at it, but it’s not love. It’s a game.

Yes, women love validation. They need it. But men need it just as much, if not more. When we date, holding our cards means withholding our validation for the other until we get it first. But the reason we withhold validation is because it’s important to us. We treat it like currency.

Without the possibility of losing something, there’s no fear. If you’re afraid of losing then it’s because it’s based on your desire for something. The desire to remain physically safe, the desire to love without disappointment, the desire to be validated by someone attractive.

So whatever we desire, rules us. We’re slaves to our desires and at the same time, we’re afraid of losing our freedom. So we fight. We fight our desires and we fight our fears. We fight other people but the fight is really inside… like a shadow, it follows us everywhere we go.

In the fighting you feel good, you are. It strengthens the ego. But in the process, it increases the distance between two people. This goes in the opposite direction of a real relationship.

Because a real relationship is the art of intimacy.

True intimacy is about removing all barriers between two people. And the ultimate barrier between two people is the ego. Real relationships are about giving up power, giving up the desire for control. It’s about being vulnerable, trusting and allowing a space for the other…including all their flaws, fears and weaknesses…the total human being. 


Pickup Artist Community - Conflict Quote

After 5 years of seeing myself and other Pickup Artists failing in the love department, I learned that when it comes to dating, attraction matters – but when it comes to love, intimacy matters. And this is where we run into conflict. Because if dating is based on a power dynamic then you must maintain that power.

So while having a hot 19-year-old blonde tattoo “Marco Rules” on her leg after knowing her for forty-eight hours  – and against my own wishes, I might add – certainly made me feel super manly about myself, it’s not really the beginning of a healthy LTR.

Of course, it’s natural to have your guard up when you first start dating someone, but at some point, it will have to be dropped – and the sooner the better. If you want closeness, then you’ll have to drop your need for security and risk the truth of yourself and the other. And if two people can’t drop their defenses against each other, then there’s no foundation for love. Love is an impossibility.

With this new understanding I saw how all the techniques developed to demonstrate higher value naturally revolved around self-esteem and control  – and most importantly, it directly opposed any intimacy. It’s totally destructive, long-term. It has to be.

Once I realized this, many things became clear.

Sex and power have always been closely intertwined. Many of our fetishes involve letting go of control or exercising it. S&M is exciting when you can dominate or submit to someone else’s power. But can it be used to build intimacy too? Absolutely – as long as it’s consensual. Then they’re not just objects that you’re getting something from… you’re giving them an experience they want, too. You’re sharing something.

When it comes to dating, some guys like to be the aggressive, alpha male and be super direct with their approach. For some girls, this is a turn-off. Everyone is different. That’s why it’s called a dance.

So when we use “indirect game” it can also help make her more comfortable. It can be used to build trust. But whether you’re being direct or indirect, if you’re changing your behavior because you need to get something from her, then it’s still about power and control. 

It’s no coincidence that Kissinger described power as “the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Money is power, beauty is power, fame and validation is power. People who wield a lot of power are considered sexy. It’s their ability to give or take away what we want that makes them sexy and attractive.

All this explained to me why Mystery couldn’t hold down a healthy relationship if you held a gun to his head. Erik, the human, is a relationship guy. But Mystery, the persona, is not. So when Erik decides he wants the girlfriend, it’s almost too late. Mystery has already established the relationship based on a power dynamic and not much else.

In the Pickup Artist community, not only were we insecure, but the women we chased were as well. This is why it worked so well on attractive women. They can often be some of the most insecure of all. And it’s no coincidence that the women Mystery and Style dated were mostly young club girls, strippers or similar types as well.

So when a hot chick throws themselves at you, an insecure man might wonder “wait… what’s WRONG with her??” But a confident man with a healthy self-image might think, “of course she likes me… I’M FUCKING AWESOME! She must be awesome too!”

That’s what it looks like when we don’t play games.


Pickup Artis Community - Self Image Quote

It may sound like I’m picking on Mystery but the truth is I have a ton of respect for him. If it weren’t for his incredible genius in codifying some of these extremes in the dating world, none of these insights would exist for me.

Today Neil Strauss and a lot of the “natural game” gurus in the Pickup Artist community think many of the techniques and routines taught back in 2005 are bad for dating. Is it true? Yes and no. And this is where I depart from most conventional thinking…

Because we don’t just blindly trust random strangers at first. Nor should we. So if you’re dating, there’s still a qualification process that happens whether you’re aware of it or not. The question is, what are we qualifying for?

Tools are only “good” insofar as the intention for which they’re being used… it all depends on where you’re coming from. If we’re just trying to get laid, then in it’s purest form, it’s only about two people’s attraction to each other. Nothing wrong with that. But if we want more, then our mutual values matter. Even if it’s a short-term fling.

So in 2008 when I met my wife a speed dating event, I didn’t do a modified “crappy sketch artist” on her just to make her laugh. I did it because I come from a very sarcastic family, and a sense of humor is very important to me.

When I shared my “identity story” with her it wasn’t just to create deeper rapport so I could close her. I did it to find out if she’s positive, affectionate, open minded, spiritual, passionate, honest and into health and fitness like me. And as we began dating, I noticed she didn’t participate in any of the typical validation games… not only that, she didn’t respond to them either!

All this showed me that she had the qualities that could lead to a healthy LTR with me. I just set my boundaries upfront and then I let her decide. If she didn’t, I was honest about that. And if she did, I was honest about it too. Dating was just a process of discovering if our values aligned. But no longer was I hiding who I was, for better or worse.

Since dating will always involve some qualification process, why not use that process to build healthy intimacy instead of preventing it?


Eight years later, I still use what I learned back then in our current relationship. I know sometimes she wants me to be a stronger leader in parts of our relationship. I understand that when we argue, her non-verbal cues tell me more about how she feels than what she’s saying. And because we’re clear on our most important values together, we work to maintain them if we stray. Everything else slides.

But in none of these examples is she someone I’m just trying to get something out of… because love doesn’t seek to take. It gives. Love doesn’t fear, it trusts. And love doesn’t seek security because real love is freedom. Real love is a stepping stone. And the only way to freedom is to drop the fear, drop the questions, the doubts.

Without trust, there will always be questions. But if you’ve been following so far, then you understand that the ultimate question is really about accepting ourselves. Accepting others and accepting life as it is, with all it’s limitations, weaknesses, and imperfections. That’s what everyone’s looking for.

Then there’s no more conflict. Then there’s nothing left to fight. There’s no more shadows, only peace.

Seeking love may be the question… trust is the answer.




*Read our relationship interview by RiseUpEight:

Myths I Learned from the Pick Up Artist Community: Part 1

Pick Up Artist Switch
Women… amirite?!

Of all the gurus in the pick up artist community, one of the most well known has to be David DeAngelo. In many of his ebooks, CDs and seminars he asserts authoritatively that “attraction isn’t a choice” for women. You push the right buttons and she’s yours. She can’t help it. After all, she’s wired that way.

But here’s the problem with that… it’s a myth. 

From 2002-2008 I was knee deep in that mythology. I never got to know David DeAngelo (Eben Pagan IRL) but I did hang out with Neil Strauss, Mystery, Papa, Tyler Durden, Sickboy and others during its heyday. We learned a lot together that was groundbreaking and much of it found its way into The Game. And while many of the techniques and gambits developed back then worked surprisingly well for the pick up artist community, there was some dangerous doctrine that took hold. 

How do I know? Because I didn’t just follow the dogma. I learned the mindset and then I continued to learn, on my own. And what I learned is that in the pick up world dating is a science. But in real life, relationship is an art. 

Being deeply involved in the pick up artist community back then brought me some benefits. For aspiring lotharios aged 18 to 24, stories of conquest written about in The Game have turned the characters in the book into something like folk heroes of seduction. But for me, there’s no mystique to them. No hero worship.

They were my friends and I knew their flaws. And I also got to see the many flaws in their relationships as they devolved from that movie perfect beginning to a normal – or most often dysfunctional – dynamic. 

So when I say “attraction isn’t a choice” is my favorite myth to debunk, it’s not because I think I’m above it all. It’s because I witnessed its birth. And I’m living proof how easy it is to believe something so strongly and for so long… even though its fallacy is so obvious that when I look back on it today, I laugh.

Pick Up Artist Myths

All you have to do is look at history.

In the early Renaissance Botticelli painted what was considered the ideal feminine figure. Venus’ hourglass figure and wide hips showed she was obviously healthy, wealthy enough to eat generously and could bare children. Men craved these women.

In the early Renaissance Botticelli painted what was considered the ideal feminine figure. Venus’ hourglass figure and wide hips showed she was obviously healthy, wealthy enough to eat generously and could bare children. Men craved these women.

What about today? Just look at other countries like Africa where “chicken thighs” is so coveted some women resort to stuffing bullion cubes up their backsides in the belief it will thicken their legs and hips. In Tibet, when Cindy Crawford was introduced to monks as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” they laughed at her and said she looked like an alien.

What about when it comes to women’s attraction?

I have two words for you: dad bods. The ideal man has gone from fat and healthy to skinny rocker to meat head to lean athlete to paunch belly with a muscular chest and shoulders. What’s considered physically attractive changes over every generation and within generations.

What’s considered attractive character traits also changes according to the generation, geography and culture. What’s true about the “attraction switches” that DeAngelo teaches is that most of us appreciate confidence and humor. But there are infinite ways to present confidence and humor and equally infinite ways that confidence and humor can be interpreted by her.

As shocking as it may be, some girls think the “cocky funny” attitude is a turn-off…does that mean they lack the hard wiring that supposedly lives in the “lizard brain” area of all women?

How many times have women said, “I didn’t see him that way” before she eventually fell in love with and married her once male friend over the millennia? How many times has this happened with men who fell in love with their once female friend? What about in your own life? And yet, on average, many of them are not wanting of any love or attraction.

Was that not a choice?

From an evolutionary point, we’re born with only a handful of involuntary instincts and the rest is learned. All our desires are the result of judgment and conditioning. All of them.

Even our physical arousal can be influenced more by desire than evolution. That’s why the brain is called the most powerful sex organ in the body. Because the brain dictates biology, not the other way around. 

Animals don’t have foot fetishes, enjoy phone sex or need negging in order to procreate. These are human preferences and there are many.

Sexual function and arousal overlap but aren’t mutually necessary. You can have sexual function without arousal and you can have arousal without sexual function.

Our arousal preferences can change several times within a generation. Evolution happens over millions of years… tens of thousands at best. But it can’t be used to explain Steaming Clevelands.

 Fears & Desires > Emotions > Judgement > Decisions > Actions >>> Fears & Desires

The hierarchy of our actions starts with our fears and desires. Those fears and desires rule our emotions. With enough conditioning, they become habitual. Many of our choices seem out of our control because they’re made instantaneously. And while we can act rationally in spite of our emotions, most of our decisions are made emotionally. This is human nature.

On the surface, attraction also seems out of our control. But we’re already predisposed through conditioning. Or maybe something triggers our desire and suddenly we have a toe fetish. Thankfully our brain – just like much of our sexuality – is plastic and we have some control over this process.

So how does this help us in the dating world?

If you strongly believe “hot girls go for jerks” and you decide to be a jerk, chances are you’ll find some good looking girls that go for you.

If you strongly believe “hot girls go for nice guys” and decide to be a nice guy, then chances are you’ll ALSO find some good looking girls that go for you.

Either way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the bottom line is: don’t be a jerk just to get the girl. Don’t be a nice guy just to get the girl. It leads to cynicism. And we’ve all seen a lot of that in the pick up artist community. This is part of the reason why. Whatever you’re most attractive qualities are, be confident in them and find the girls who like you for them. 

Yes, always work on being your best self and improving your faults… but don’t do it for validation.

David DeAngelo Pick Up Artist
Audience Attraction Is NOT a Choice!

Women are attracted in a variety of ways. Buying blindly into the “cocky funny” dogma is dangerous because it leads to over-reliance of one approach. It ignores the reality that women and their tastes can be – and always will be – subject to change.

So don’t try to sell apples to someone who likes oranges. Be open minded to the women you meet and their differences.

If you decide you only want the “hot girls” who like you for it that’s fine too. But if what you’re attracted to isn’t working well long-term, then at least expand your box a little bit. Many relationships began unexpectedly and leaving space for that can only benefit you. Especially if you haven’t dated much.

Yes, some of the best pick up lines will absolutely work on women, but DeAngelo will be the first to tell you that who you are is what really matters afterward. And then her attraction is up for grabs again.

Because attraction is fluid. It always has been and always will be.

This can be a hard truth to swallow because many of us have ended relationships with the conclusion “I can’t help it, I’m just not attracted him” or her. 

For others, it brings a freedom because it means we don’t have to keep chasing the same men or women that we know deep down are just damaged or unhealthy for us.

Attraction for men and women is a choice. And if we’re attracted to the wrong people, it’s in our power to change that. Again, I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s true.

Just like some of us grew up hating the taste of fish then grew to love it. Our tastes in men and women have changed since we first started dating. Except now we can decide what’s best for us and take control of the process.

For women, the next time you say “I just can’t see myself with him”, you’re not just talking about something that’s outside of your control. And for men, the next time you think “attraction isn’t a choice” that’s also an internal choice you’re making.

You can’t un-know that now.

The good news is you probably already know the people you should be dating. The bad news is you now have to stop dating the people you already know aren’t good for you. Or if you don’t know, then you’ll just have the fun task of figuring out who those people are.

As the title would indicate, there are other hard truths I learned after I left the pick up artist community which I’ll cover in Part II. While some myths were spread from INSIDE the pick up artist community, they’re principles many men around the world believe from outside of the community.

These are general myths about how to attract women that were often used successfully at first – but proved to be destructive long term.

Aren’t you lucky I was the guinea pig for you? 

Modern Stress Reduction Techniques Using Newton’s 3rd Law

Stress Reduction

My favorite model for stress reduction comes from a visual perception trick using the American Flag. Try this exercise with me and I promise you’ll learn some powerful mind and body insights you probably weren’t aware of before.

Get a white piece of paper or choose a white wall in your room. After you stare at the black dot in the middle of the flag for 1 minute, you’re going to look back to the white paper or wall. And when you do, make sure to blink a few times….


Now go. I’ll wait.

Opposition Theory In Action

Wasn’t that like ah-mazing, life-changing stuff?! Ok, so you saw the American flag in red, white and blue. Big surprise.

But WHY it happens is what’s so revealing to me. In 1878, after-images were explained by German physiologist Ewald Hering through the opponent-process theory. Basically, if you look at the colors, its wavelengths excite the corresponding neurons sensing them in your eye.

Now get ready here it comes…

Soon after the neurons become excited, opposing neurons and chemicals reverse this process. The opposing neurons and chemicals inhibit the excited neurons and the inhibiting neurons, in turn, become more and more active over time.

And when you finally look over at the white wall, the opposing colors are dominant in your neurology… blue becomes red… black becomes white… yellow becomes blue.

Presto chango!


Newton’s Third Law stated, “for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” And I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right.

But it’s not just physics. The same holds true when it comes to our basic function. If we flex our bicep, what stops us from flexing our tricep? If we move our right leg forward, what stops us from engaging our right glutes and quads at the same time? And what would happen if we tried to step forward with our right leg and ALL muscles in that leg engaged?

Without the ability to stop opposing muscles, we wouldn’t be able to walk or move. Not in any coordinated way at least, because motion requires a single directional force and when another force pushes in the opposite way, movement stops. The effort is still there, but the movement forward isn’t.

If our bodies evolved without the ability to oppose, or inhibit, our stimulated neurons then we wouldn’t be able to see either. Every color we visually sense has a component of inhibition so that we can see the next color. Every rose we sense is then inhibited so that we can smell the steaming garbage that inevitably comes next.

And every THOUGHT that fires a series of neurons in our brain also fires a series of inhibiting chemicals so we’re allowed to think our next thought….unless it’s Taylor Swift – then it’ll be in your head forever. Sorry.

When the nervous system loses it’s ability to inhibit in any part of the body, it can lead to many disorders like Epilepsy, Tourette’s, Parkinson’s, or Cervical Dystonia which I wrote about before.

Just like you can’t listen to beautiful music without the silence between the notes, the same must happen internally for us to have any coordinated response. Inhibition happens on a neurological and chemical level and it evolved in parallel with all our sense, motor and thought function from the time we were little protozoan that once depended on a single, slimy tail to move left and right so we can swim.

It’s part of the foundation of our ability to do anything. Simply put, without the ability to stop, our life can’t move forward.


Lesson 1: Use Physical Inhibition For Stress Reduction
Stressed Kitty
Nailed it!

We’re all ruled by fears and desires…but their initial spark always starts with a thought. Without the fear, without the desire, there is no chain reaction that follows.

And if you’ve been following the logic so far, then you understand thoughts are inhibited at the neural level too and this is done regularly and automatically throughout the day.

But is there a way to consciously control this? The (very) short answer is yes.

In 1958 a dedicated follower of Freud revolutionized our understanding of managing the fear response with his book Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition. Building on decades of his own research as well as others, Dr. Joseph Wolpe began what would become modern behavioral research.

For him, reciprocal inhibition isn’t about the emotional suppressions Freud talked about but rather a simple mechanical understanding of learned behavior at the basic neurological level. Dr. Wolpe also called it systematic desensitization but it’s been given other names since then such as de-conditioning, counter-conditioning and finally exposure therapy, which is most popular today.

When Dr. Wolpe treated patients of any fear trigger, the first step was always the training of progressive relaxation. Once the patient was very relaxed, he had them imagine the fear trigger in various contexts, gradually exposing them more and more mentally. Over time, the fear response was desensitized, curing over 80% of his patients from neurosis.

Almost all successful treatment of fear therapy now practiced involves a conditioning process linking the main fear stimulus to a known counter response.

Dr. Wolpe and other scientists found there were physically reliable ways to elicit an oppositional response to fear such as relaxation, self-restraint, confidence, and even sexual arousal (!). So if you’ve long suspected that furiously jacking off was an appropriate response to your fear of public speaking, then rest easy dude because you were totally right about that. Just don’t do it while you’re speaking in public.

Interestingly, eating was also found to be another oppositional response to fear. Since we’re usually not being chased by a bear when we’re eating, the body has evolved to understand that we must be safe from any dangers if we’re able to take time to eat and it automatically shuts down neurological defensive systems to aid the digestion process, which takes a large amount of our energy. Eating relaxes us.

This might explain why so many of us reach for that late night cheese snack when faced with anxious feelings of tomorrow’s presentation. And if we’re stressed enough, our digestion may slow enough so we lose our appetite.

Many of our fears and anxieties are entangled with bad eating habits simply because it’s a reliable way to sooth ourselves… but eating celery can do the same job.

But on the off chance you DON’T want to furiously yank Mr. Thriller to overcome your fear of public speaking, here’s a list of ways to use your body for stress reduction now:

  • Use deep diaphragmatic breathing to slow your pulse rate and respiration
  • Lie down in semi-supine position and practice progressive relaxation on your own or with an audio guide for 20 minutes
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Or eat lunch and then lie down to practice progressive relaxation
  • Tense your muscles as much as possible for 30 seconds then release
  • Practice speaking, moving and smiling confidently
  • Practice releasing muscle tension on each exhale. It should feel like the breath falls out of your body without hinderance.
  • Move more slowly or decide to pause for 1-3 minutes
  • Exercise

You don’t have to drink alcohol, take sleeping pills or take anxiety drugs to relax. All those things are just forms of tranquilizers. That’s why they’re called downers.

And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to go on long vacations to relieve stress. You can learn to consciously relax your body and therefore your mind, right now.

With enough conditioning to the chosen relaxation response, our fear becomes altered at the neurological level. Eventually, the fear links in the brain goes to sleep and can remain dormant indefinitely. Viola! Fear is unlearned…and that terrible thing that happened to you when you were 6 years old? It doesn’t matter.

Suck it Freud!


Lesson 2: Use Mental Inhibition For Stress Reduction
Stress Reduction Mofo
A Stress Reduction Mofo

In the late 1800’s, a Shakespearean actor struggled with a chronically hoarse voice, which no doctor could diagnose or cure. After a long struggle of self-observation and experimentation, F. Matthias Alexander came to an unsettling but clear conclusion: his voice issue was based on his desire to speak.

When he wanted to speak, he noticed a subtle response began, similar to stage fright. Except it was a habit where anytime he decided to speak at all, his head pulled back, his larynx would be depressed, breathing constricted and the airway squeezed.

But the approach he developed to cure it was a slightly different than Dr. Wolpe. Alexander concluded, “it would be necessary for me to make the experience of receiving the stimulus to speak and of refusing to do anything immediately in response.” In this case, stimulus = desire.

So his desire to speak is what interfered with his speaking. That desire led to an unconscious and automatic physical habit that prevented his efforts – and while he couldn’t prevent the physical reaction, he could prevent his initial desire.

In other words, he’d think about speaking – and then he’d immediately desire NOT to speak.

Can an opposing desire really inhibit another desire? I pondered this question for quite a while, spoke with a few experts and did my own research before reaching my own conclusion: yes it can.

Alexander’s technique relied greatly on this approach and ultimately cured himself with it. And like Dr. Wolpe, he also relied on similar methods of progressive relaxation along with incremental exposure to inhibit his unwanted speaking habits over time.

So both Alexander and Wolpe maintained that unwanted desires and fears should be systematically desensitized through a physical and mental approach. Because they’re both irrevocably linked.

What about inhibiting anger? Even before Sir Issac Newton, the ancient Stoics developed practices that fit this model nicely and flies in the face of Freudian psychology.

Instead of searching your childhood for your source of chronic anger and expressing your repressed emotions with a psychoanalyst until a catharsis “frees” you, Seneca believed in using reason to tame the savage beast.

To him, anger was a temporary insanity that exists as the desire to punish. And if an angry woman finds nothing to repay her suffering, then she’s likely to turn on herself to satisfy her anger’s desire to destroy something.

Seneca reasoned that anything useful that’s motivated by anger is better done without the impulsiveness of anger. Even the hunter doesn’t kill out of anger, but with careful deliberation. Likewise, the warrior doesn’t kill his enemy out of hatred but to simply defend his homeland.

“What are we to say to the argument that, if anger were a good thing it would attach itself to all of the most noble men? Yet the most irascible of creatures are infants, old men, and sick people. Every weakling is naturally prone to complaint.

Through a list of reasoned arguments against the case of anger’s usefulness, Seneca seeks to install in his followers the desire to not be angry.

Rather than working to discover the origin of your anger and the reason it started, Stoics didn’t care why you were angry… the only cared about why you SHOULDN’T be angry. In fact, Seneca detailed so many reasons against it that it filled a whole book.

And before there was Seneca, Buddhists taught that by practicing compassion for others and yourself, anger couldn’t exist simultaneously. So their prescription for anger was to practice it’s opposing emotion of compassion because the “light” of compassion would cast away anger’s “darkness”.

Other parallels in Buddhism exist with Stoicism, such as the practice of patience, non-striving and equanimity (indifference to the Stoics). Now I don’t want to gloss over thousands of years of philosophy and psychotherapy here… but I’m going to gloss over thousands of years of philosophy and psychotherapy.

So here’s a summarized list of healthy oppositional desires you can practice, taken from Buddhism, Stoicism, Wolpe and modern research for stress reduction:

  • Nonjudgmental curiosity
  • Self-Compassion and compassion for others
  • Gratitude or Altruism
  • Patience, Letting Go or Non-Striving
  • Equanimity, Indifference or Non-Attachment
  • Contemplating the negative consequences of undesired behavior and the many benefits of positive habits to develop wanted motivation
  • Desire to not desire (separate from the above as specific to a trigger)
  • Contemplate your desired identity and the pride you’d feel with new thoughts, actions or lifestyle (identity shifts are needed for significant habits)
  • Imagine a jug of warm oil being poured from the top of your head to through the bottoms of your feet, with each muscle it touches, imagine tension melts away
  • Visualize a peaceful scene by the beach or a lake at sunrise or sunset

Echoing Buddhism, Stoics also recommended practicing happiness even as you feel anger. Seneca advised smiling, speaking softly and kindly to others in an effort to reverse dangerous passions. He recommended his students slow down and take a long pause before proceeding in a hasty or rash manner.

As we know today, acting in a happy way can send similar neurological signals to the brain and affect our moods positively. Today’s scientific research has well established the mind-body link. It’s no magic bullet but it’s another tool in our arsenal that we can use to directly or indirectly take power back in our hands.

You can even practice desires as intention throughout the day. Even if you don’t change anything you do, having a new intention for the hour, day or week sets a new direction for your thoughts. Those thoughts change how you feel and it influences your relationship with whatever you’re doing.

What did philosophers mean to “live like it’s your last day on earth”? Sorry to break the news, but it’s not about spending all your money on hookers and champagne. It’s a mental trick to develop gratitude (…that’s sustainable). And it makes it less likely that you’ll waste your time on meaningless tasks.

Take control of your daily focus today. Pick any of the above to practice and see what happens.

Lesson 3: Use Benchmarking For Stress Reduction
Stress Reduction - Benchmarking
Um, I think my contact lens just fell…

Did you ever wish you could wave a magic wand and have the ultimate emotional mastery to be completely calm, fearless and happy no matter what happens in your life or how bad it gets? If you get easily stressed like me, it sounds impossible.

But several researchers have proved something like that is possible, using fMRI results. In his book, Matthieu Ricard who’s dubbed the “happiest man in the world” presents Richard Davidson’s data on prefrontal cortex activity.

While there’s no center of happiness in the brain, people with dominant activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex were associated with positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, altruism, and compassion. But those with a more active prefrontal cortex on the right side of the brain experienced more anxiety, fear, and feelings of unhappiness in their brain scans.

But the most interesting fMRI results found that the brain activity of practiced meditators was significantly higher in the left prefrontal cortex while they were meditating on compassion. In fact, the “activity in the left prefrontal cortex swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity.”

Want even more impressive research?

One of the top emotion scientists, Paul Ekman, studied thousands of people’s micro-expressions to determine how much control we really have over the startle response. Along with researchers at the University of California, they simulated a gunshot sound going off beside the ear, which they considered “the maximal threshold of human tolerance.” (sounds fun!)

He then monitored their body movements, pulse, perspiration, and skin temperature. Hundreds of subjects were told they’d hear a loud explosion within 5 minutes and were asked to suppress the natural startle response to their best ability and if possible, to the point of being imperceptible.

Previous research established elite police sharpshooters as the best benchmark. Their experience of firing guns every day was helpful exposure to this end – but it still wasn’t enough to stop them from flinching.

But do you know who could? Meditators.

The most successful were experienced meditators that practiced open presence awareness during the test. With one particular meditator, while there was an increase in pulse, perspiration and blood pressure, not one muscle moved.

With some astonishment, Ekman observed, “when he tries to repress the startle, it almost disappears. We’ve never found anyone who could do that. Nor have any other researchers. This is a spectacular accomplishment. We don’t have any idea of the anatomy that would allow him to suppress the startle reflex.”

This is God-like control.

But according to the subject, he wasn’t trying to actively control the flinch reflex, he described it as resting in the present moment where the bang simply occurs as if “I were hearing it from a distance.”

In other words, by practicing open awareness, his focus wasn’t attached to any one thing and he was able to accept anything that arose in his awareness with equanimity.

While these are all impressive feats of mind-body control, the point I want to make is that you can’t just decide to meditate one day and suddenly command God-like resistance to fear, anxiety or anger. It takes years of practice.

Our neurology tends to betray our pursuit of happiness. For survival reasons, our brains have evolved with a negativity bias that makes us overly responsive to real or imagined perceived threats. And the key in that statement is perceived. It doesn’t happen overnight but by now you know there are many ways to balance, neutralize and reverse the natural gravity of our fears and desires.

Those who experience positive feelings of calm, love, contentment, laughter or compassionate altruism, are less likely to be stressed when things don’t go their way. Practicing calm is cumulative. If you do it enough it becomes your natural baseline state.

Today’s neuroplasticity research backs this claim. If you operate in a world where you often feel anxious, worried and stressed out, you become more and more likely to get stressed out when things go wrong. 

Stress Reduction - Teddy
I’m having a lot of fun with this.

Research has shown that negative emotional responses can linger in the body long after the events that trigger them. Sometimes for hours, even days. And if the alarm bells in your body are still ringing, the alerted mind becomes ready to spot any potential dangers, making it more likely to interpret smaller threats as greater than they really are – even if imagined. These are called associative triggers.

Our preexisting state of calm or stress alters the threshold that any new trigger will develop.

This is a fancy way of saying that when you’re alone at night watching a horror movie, those scary sounds that convince you a trained murderer is creeping in your house are the secondary triggers. If the fear is strong enough or if it happens enough times (or both), then any similar sounds can become permanent triggers for you, even without the scary movie.

The stronger the fear, the higher the state of alert your body will be and the more associative triggers may develop. For those with chronic pain, where there’s always alarm bells ringing, social anxiety is typically a secondary trigger. In a world where everyone has at least some insecurities, any imperceptible slight or gesture can become cause for alarm.. until eventually, any interaction causes overwhelming fear and anxiety… which of course, sets the stage for even more chronic pain.

As more and more triggers develop, the world of pain becomes bigger and bigger. People who live in a state of chronic fear or anxiety are living in a shrinking world of pain.

It’s not hard to see we all tend to live smaller than we really are. But that’s why I’m here to tell you that it’s important to manage your baseline of comfort. You can take control of your fear response, counter it and push back. Even if you don’t know what’s causing your fear, you can still set yourself up for success.

Both physically and mentally, the best defense is a good offense.

Interestingly enough, the ancient stoics also developed a similar therapy, called practicing poverty. They would imagine losing a lost one, losing their fortunes, losing their health or anything they considered dear in their lives. The key is that they practiced poverty before it happened.

Not only did it help them be more grateful for what they had, but when misfortune struck, it wasn’t completely unexpected to them. It acted like a vaccine against sorrow. In many ways the mind is no different than a muscle.

Seneca told his followers that you should train your mind like an athlete trains his body. To be an olympian, an athlete trains his muscles before the games and seeks sparring partners that will not go easy on him so he can refine his skill.

As you get used to feelings of calm on a daily basis, it becomes your new benchmark of experience. That new benchmark makes smaller “disturbances in the force” that much easier for you to see and manage right away. If you’re an investor and the volatility index is averaging 10% for the past year but jumps to 25% one day, you better believe you’ll notice it right away.

That’s the power of benchmarking.

It brings more awareness because you become more sensitive to disturbing thoughts and feelings you may have been numb to before. It’s a positive feedback loop.

If you’ve ever trained physically for a long time and then stopped suddenly, you know how different your body feels after a short period. And when you miss feeling strong, you’re likely to go back to training…but you’d never know how weak you were if you weren’t so fit at some point, right?

When All Else Fails, Stop Everything! 
Stress Reduction for Reactions
Seriously, just stop.

This is related to everything before so it’s not really a fourth lesson. But it deserves extra focus. It’s the reason meditation is usually done sitting or lying still. Because when the muscles stop or relax, the mind usually follows. So give yourself a break.

When I was a broker, the top salesman in the company used to always walk back and forth in the hallways all day talking into his headset, until one day I asked him “why do you like to walk so much?” He told me, it helps him think.

Yes, moving helps us think. But if you want to stop thinking, then stop moving. Slow down, pause, close your eyes. The less stimulation, the easier it will be to settle your mind.

Have you ever seen parents who can enjoy eating a strawberry but to their kids, eating strawberries might as well be like eating cardboard paper? It’s because those kids are used to eating candies, chocolates and coca colas that have ten times more sugar than a stupid little strawberry. Their tongues are desensitized.

Our thoughts work the same way. When we slow down and stop, our minds calm down. Each thought is like a drop that ripples through the surface of a lake. But if enough time passes and there are no ripples to disturb the water, then the surface settles and becomes like a mirror, reflecting each moment without distortion… without the stories in our heads.

Given time, our senses reset and so does our nervous system. The constant inner dialogue we all have that’s prone to negative rumination eventually fades into the distance so we can see what’s in front of us anew. We can smell the proverbial rose and appreciate it better.

Some people turn to extremes like skydiving, skiing black diamonds or rock climbing to get out of their heads because it demands all of their focus. But if that’s the only way you can be focused in the present then the beauty of everyday life is passing you by.

Like a drug addict chasing the dragon, more and more sensation is required just to feel anything. Your minimum baseline of sensitivity grows ever higher and higher until numbness feels comfortably normal.

You don’t have to drop extreme sports to be mindful. My point is that it’s what you do every day that counts. It’s the string of little moments, the subtle sensations of life that predestine your resilience to handle stress and anxiety. You might think they don’t matter but they do.

You can pause or stop yourself anytime during the day to stop unmanageable feelings from developing and experience them with courage. Then you can work on calming your body and mind using any of the methods above.

In mindfulness, this is sometimes called the sacred pause. It’s considered a spiritual act because it allows us to discover ourselves and move beyond habitual thought. It’s the first step in acceptance that tells our brains “this isn’t a threat to me” and creates a space for increased awareness and calm.

Sometimes pausing is the hardest thing to do but that’s when we often need it most. That’s when we feel most out of control and in the grip of “dangerous passions.” Our ability to stop drives a wedge between our initial thoughts and the feelings and actions that might follow it. It breaks the cycle of reaction and puts you back in control.


As someone who lives with chronic pain, I’m far from an olympian mentally or physically, but I practice progressive relaxation twice a day. In the morning, when my body is most relaxed, I take advantage of this time in bed to mentally scan my body for any tensions and practice inhibiting the muscles as deeply as possible. After about 20 minutes, my musculature usually settles into a relaxed state and the calm carries over as I start the day.

Between breakfast and lunch, my body is usually starting to freak out again and I can feel the fear starting to grip around my mind. I then lay on the ground with a couple books under my head for another 20 minutes of progressive relaxation. I scan my body for tension, slowing my breath on each exhale and reset my baseline again.

I’d love to tell you this fixes everything for the rest of the day, but it doesn’t. What it does do for me, however, is prevent a very bad day from happening. It prevents my body from becoming an uncontrollable muscular pretzel and it prevents my inner mind from screaming “I CAN’T HANDLE THIS SHIT FOR ANOTHER SECOND WTF!?!” …before crawling into bed with my microwavable heating pad (and ideally with my adult sized carebear).

That’s what used to happen as soon as I woke up and grew increasingly more likely the rest of the day. That was my old baseline. That’s how I lived for many months. But now I kill the monster while it’s small.

And that’s how it is with physical and mental stress. If you want to be less susceptible to fear, anxiety and stress then you have to train your body and your mind against it.

I rotate various methods of meditation depending on how I feel. Doing it reduces accumulating stress and provides a backstop against anything that might have happened during the day or my own inner chatter. It resets me neurologically no matter what happens.

And like the Stoics and Buddhists, sometimes I practice compassion for others and imagining what it would be like to lose them. It increases my gratitude for those I love and I’m more likely to be present. (Self-compassion comes in really handy after a night of heavy drinking and the tsunami of shame and regret that follows.)

So now I think I’ll take my own advice and stop here. And like the ending of a Jerry Springer episode, here’s my final thought:


You can train your mind today to be stronger and calmer tomorrow. But train every day if you want to build a foundation strong enough to weather all the earthquakes, storms and forest fires that are an inevitable part of our lives. We can’t always prevent bad things from happening to us but there are many ways we can change our relationship with them.

When it comes to stress reduction, set yourself up for success. No, we can’t stop ourselves from feeling the initial feelings of fear, anxiety and stress. That’s just being human. But we can build calm on top of it. We can use it to teach our minds and bodies to be stronger in the face of it and build up our courage, brick by brick.

It may not happen overnight. It may take days, weeks, months or even longer. But with enough time and practice, we can reclaim our inner peace. After all, it’s in our very nature.

The rest is up to us.

Until next time… take care of yourself. And each other.

In Praise of Chronic Pain: A Stoic Meditation

When I first read Epictetus’ quote above, I knew I had to revive this stoic exercise for myself. Just 5 years ago I’d been at the point of suicide. And both stoicism and suicide taught me the same lesson: gratitude is the art of living.

The last time I thought of suicide was on November 6th, 2011. It was our 3rd anniversary together with my girlfriend Haley and we celebrated with a dinner at Morton’s Steak House. I didn’t want to think of suicide, but I just couldn’t help myself. The excruciating pain in my neck, shoulders and jaw muscles wouldn’t let me think of anything else. It dominated the past three and a half years and it only seemed to be getting worse. 

If you looked at the Facebook photo from that night, you’d see Haley sitting in a chair with a huge smile on her face and I’m standing behind her, my hands on her shoulders with a faint, weak smile trying desperately to hide the torrential feelings of misery overwhelming me inside. Despite that, we still got the obligatory Facebook likes, comments and congrats from friends and family.   

What if I have to live like this for the rest of my life? Will I have to suffer every day, ever hour, every minute, every second for the next 40 years??

What if it continues to get worse and I become bedridden? How will I earn a living? How will I make any girl happy? Will I become dependent on Haley or my family?

I’d rather die than having to face a lifetime of endless and maddening chronic pain every moment.  To wake up to another day of this kind of intense, relentless pain was terrifying to think about. It was becoming downright debilitating and with it, came a shameful new view of myself.

If that’s all I had to look forward to, then joy for me was an impossibility. For the past four years, all previous attempts to improve my condition had failed, and with it, the last of my remaining hope.    

My future was bleak.  

So there was Haley, smiling as she always does, radiating joy like the angel she is and proud to be by my side for three years – and completely oblivious to the fact that at that very moment, I was quietly yet soberly considering ending it all. With several undergrad degrees, she wasn’t slow or insensitive. I just refused to be honest with her or myself about the reality – and that reality was knocking louder and louder.

Of course, I loved her and happy to be with her, but how much longer could I keep this going? She was the one bright spot in my life, but if it meant a lifetime of physical pain with no relief in sight, then even love wasn’t enough. 

That’s what the photo from 2011 represented to me – the opposite of everything I was before then. I grew up with Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie and other similar authors as a teenager. I used to walk into random offices and restaurants as a college student in New York and convinced them to sign profit-sharing contracts with me. I also ran several businesses by the time I was 29. I was fearless.

I believed in the magic of thinking big and the power of positive thinking. I was that confident, outgoing, successful entrepreneur you read about in magazines… but suddenly, all that was in a past life.

Now, against my own will, I began to think seriously about how to end it. At first, I tried really hard not to… but after a short time – no matter how hard I tried – all my thoughts turned to black.

When I saw myself in that photo the next day, the stark contrast of it all – the unbearable inauthenticity of the moment – just killed me. It broke my heart.

It was the day I finally died inside. 


What brought me to this point?

I’m still not sure, but near as I can figure it started in 2007 when I was working a stressful full-time job as a mortgage broker (yes, THAT 2007), and while managing an already matured real estate business and a start-up. You could say it was like juggling 2-3 full-time jobs. That’s when the pain in my left jaw started and began to get worse as the years dragged on. And after almost four years of this, I wasn’t being very effective in any business venture.

When the brain is overwhelmed with stress, it activates the amygdala and sends the mind and body into fight or flight mode. For survival reasons, our brain has evolved to overwhelmingly respond to pain – real or imagined – versus pleasure. If it senses pain or danger intensely enough and for long enough periods, the brain can get stuck in this stress mode – like a light switch that’s stuck in the “on” position.

Dealing with chronic physical pain is like performing a high-wire act. Your muscles are wound tight and so is your mind…it requires all of your focus and concentration to stay calm and balanced and if you slip slightly left or the right, you fall…but there’s no safety net. And in this case, falling means a cycle of severe pain and a long recovery period that can last days.

So to say chronic pain often brings anxiety is to put it mildly. Try watching TV while walking on a tightrope, or try socializing with friends while performing this balancing act, or working on your computer or enjoying a Mendelssohn ballet. It’s near impossible to focus on anything else at times and it’s exhausting.

Even when you get better at it, the tension of the rope changes day by day, sometimes moment to moment and you’ll fall off no matter how hard you try. But try you must. And even though the fear of falling fades a little – just like the fear of falling – it’s an instinctual reaction. Chronic pain sends danger signals to your brain and you can learn to dampen the signal but the physical pain is still there, constant and very real. 

Chronic pain sends danger signals to your brain and you can learn to dampen the signal but the physical pain is still there, constant and very real. 

After that night in 2011, a part of me died, but another part of me woke the hell up. It was the will to live. A deep, primal anger that I’d found myself in such a stupid, terrible situation that could end my life. If I somehow got myself into this I thought, then I can dig my dumb ass out… it was the belief that deep down, I was still better than this. 

Thus began my journey to recovery. So I put everything else in my life on hold and single-mindedly focused on getting better. I told myself to just give it one more day. And then the next day, I told myself to give it one year and see what happens. Surely if I put my everything into getting better for the next 12 months, I’ll gain some improvement right?

I resolved to be more honest with myself and Haley about my struggle. That’s when I researched more seriously and within a couple weeks, found what I thought was a real diagnosis. That my pain was really TMJ pain. Soon after that, a dentist confirmed it. I also suspected I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And wouldn’t you know it –  I found a psychologist to confirm that diagnosis too!

Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and, I strongly suspect, Cervical Dystonia (although I can’t confirm this diagnosis due to insurance reasons). TMJ symptoms are often overlapping Cervical Dystonia symptoms that bring tight, painful muscles in the jaw, neck, shoulders and back. And they both bring about a fair amount of anxiety, social anxiety, and mental stress.

But after several doctors and tests, I stopped looking for another diagnosis and focused only on what I could control physically and mentally. On the physical side, this lead me to a physiatrist that used dry needle trigger point therapy, where he used a syringe to repeatedly stab trigger muscles into submission. I thanked him and paid him hundreds of dollars each time. The interesting thing was, as I finally experienced some physical relief, lots of my severe GAD symptoms and social anxiety began to clear up along with it!

On the mental side, I took a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Training (MBSR) course. I learned that focusing on the breath to clear the mind also brings with it a certain freedom and control over negative, ruminating thoughts… and learning to clear some of that inner dialogue brought about some mental relaxation…. and experiencing mental relaxation brought with it some physical relaxation. So I continued my mental training with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and found it was inspired and based on Stoic Philosophy, which I studied in earnest. 

Over the next two years, I continued my recovery with a lot of body work and learned the Alexander Technique as well as Feldenkrais. Doing this helped me train my body to release muscular tension and I became aware of my bad habits.

Awareness of my body grew to a deeper level than I ever thought possible and I’ve distilled these lessons to a 20-minute body and mind meditation ritual that I perform every morning, twice a day. Sometimes it’s like a miracle I pull off, reconditioning and reorienting my muscles in a way that eases the overly tensed muscles for most of the day. 

It doesn’t always work, but it’s helped give me some control – and my life – back.



Today, while I still live with chronic pain, I can never say I’ve lost out because I learned so much in the process. If it’s true I’ve had more physical fortune in the past, then today I have more mental fortune.

And the most important thing I’ve learned from this is that if there’s anything you want to change in your life, change your relationship with it. In fact, this is the only way to change anything. No, I can’t get rid of all my bad habits, thoughts, emotions or physical pain, but I can – and did – change my relationship with them all.

I also created a better relationship with my body, my work and with Haley, who became my wife last year – and yes, she’s still the same radiant angel of joy as ever. Together we moved from New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and enjoy a healthy balance of work, friends and hobbies.

I learned how to cope with stress better and achieved a minimum satisfactory level of functionality. I decided to focus only on the real estate business and simplified it dramatically – it still grew almost two times over the past five years (or maybe because of it…?).

Finally, I learned the stoic lessons that have given so much to me. And like Epictetus spoke about above, I wanted to follow an ancient stoic tradition and write in praise of chronic pain. I still struggle with pain every single day, I still have very bad days and I’m still human, with many failings, weaknesses, and faults.

But this is a stoic meditation, an exercise to help me continue changing my relationship with chronic pain and to give proper recognition to its rewards. 

Some words are mine, and some I’m paraphrasing from the best-known stoics like Epictetus and Seneca, or from the Marcus Aurelius Meditations

If you find any of it helpful or inspiring, then I encourage you to go read up on them right away.


Epictetus Freedom

Because of chronic pain, I’ve learned the importance of restraint in my actions, my beliefs, and my thoughts. Restraint of the mind brings not only freedom from desires, but freedom from despair. And freedom from despair brings a space for peace in my life. How many more opportunities has my condition given me to toil in the name of freedom?

FM Alexander called restraint in the body inhibition, and because of chronic pain, I’ve worked tirelessly to learn this skill. Physical inhibition has given me the power to melt down many of my muscular tensions through the power of thought, desire, and awareness directly and indirectly.

These experiences taught me the value of both mental and physical vigilance. Likewise, no great virtue is ever attained without a constant vigilance. Therefore, be wary of the easy path. As Sri Ramakrishna said, “do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a person whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.”

Because of my journey with chronic pain, I’ve had an endless source of spiritual fire to find my inner well of peace and tranquility not just in my body but in my mind.   

This journey has humbled me and taught me the dangers of self-importance. Excessive pride should be avoided. As William Irvine correctly observes, misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune. I’m not immune to bad luck.

Good fortune brought me face to face with how my sense of self-importance leads to anger. Illness makes us irritable and prone to anger. Acting on anger always leads to sorrow or regret. I’m grateful to Seneca for teaching me that every weakling is naturally prone to complaint and therefore to take each moment as an opportunity to practice patience to build my inner strength and character.

It is easier to banish dangerous passions before they begin than to rule them afterwards. Just as in the body, the same is true in the mind.

What I’ve lost in physical capacity and comfort, I’ve gained something back in mental ability and courage. This path has taught me that the most difficult decision I’ll ever have to make in life is to accept it. By welcoming my illness, I’ve learned to simplify every area of my life internally and externally. Simplifying my inner life has taught me not to desire more than is necessary and to avoid the excesses of fame, fortune, and vanity.

Desires always lead to more desire, so I will never be satisfied until I’m courageous enough to accept this moment, as it is. And if I can’t accept this moment as it is right now, I can never have peace. Never trade your inner peace for something you have no control of.

Because of my condition, I’ve chosen as my friends only good-natured, patient friends that are less likely to be angry or to provoke my anger. This has lead me to my wife Haley, where there is no better example of good nature, patience, and peacefulness. In turn, my wife Haley has lead us to live where there is warmer weather and sun. The moderate climate helps support my good spirits, even when things are not going my way.

Seneca wisely observed, “it is useful for a man to understand his disease, and to break its strength before it becomes developed.” While I’ve done this unknowingly in my life, this new understanding has validated the importance of self-compassion… to forgive what I have no control over and to support and comfort my weaknesses, rather than punish them. 

The path of chronic pain has also taught me the importance of continually testing my limits, beliefs and assumptions. Just as self-compassion requires self-forgiveness, compassion also requires the continual exercise of mind and body. Strengths and weaknesses change day by day, moment by moment – and without the exercise of mind and body – both can become weaker and more susceptible to my condition.

Just as a mother willingly bears the severe pain of childbirth for the greater purpose of bringing new life into this world, may I too find greater purpose in my daily struggle to bear willingly what’s naturally mine.

Consider those who’ve accepted the loss of their freedom when they know they’ve committed a crime and consider, like so many others before you, how many times you’ve failed to resist the harsh judgement of others, to resist speaking badly about friends or family, or act selfishly or hurtfully to those who did you no wrong. And yet, I walk free.

If I’m truthful to myself and my greater nature, I can certainly decide that I’ve committed moral crimes that deserve a harder measure than they’ve received. Many crimes escaped punishment simply because I wasn’t discovered or because the person I’ve hurt was more merciful than me, better in character or more forgiving.

Therefore, whenever I feel unfairly punished, let me contemplate on the wrongs I’ve never admitted to or never apologized for but that I know exists deep down. Let me apologize for all of that, and for all the wrongs I’ve yet to commit. If I still can’t remember my own misdeeds, may I remember when others have done me wrong and I failed to forgive them and let my apology stand in its place. 

May these apologies prevent me from repeating my mistakes and purify my thoughts, for the purpose is great.

Cicero Gratitude

Finally, my good fortune has lead me to earnestly search for wiser teachers, which I found in the ancient stoics. From them I’ve discovered the art and science of living with gratitude.

To find happiness by embracing a small measure of sorrow and to keep it always close to my heart. Just as cold water causes the body to heat up, heavy weights cause muscles to grow and losing something brings an increased appreciation. Nature seeks to adapt contradictorily.

When I get up in the morning, I wonder what would it be like if I didn’t have more than this hour left to live? How much would be left undone for myself and others? Or what if this were my last day with Haley and after tomorrow she was no longer in my life? How much joy would I never experience because my beloved wife was missing in it? How great would my emptiness be even years later?

Throughout the day, there are countless miracles I get to appreciate. What would it be like if I didn’t have running water? How many other millions right now have to walk great distances for clean, drinkable water and don’t have the luxury to let it flow so freely and thoughtlessly?

What would it be like if I had no arms, or no legs or no eyes or ears? Who would I have to rely on to help me leave the bed or leave my apartment, drive to places or feed me food? Could I endure such dependency for the rest of my life or the financial burdens it required? Could I learn to accept living without hearing the aching beauty of a Chopin nocturne or hear my wife’s voice and laughter? How long would it take me to safely move even small distances without sight or to do so without overwhelming fear?  What could possibly replace the joy in my life of seeing the brilliant fire colors of the sky during a sunset from our balcony or driving along the I95?

In this way, everything I interact with throughout the day is a chance to practice gratitude. When I speak, I’m grateful I still have a voice to connect with anyone I desire. When I write, I’m grateful I have the time and opportunity to create something that may last. When I search the internet, I’m amazed the whole of human knowledge is so quickly accessible to me where others are grateful to have even a single book. And when I say goodbye to a friend, I’m grateful to have another memory together, even if it’s destined to be our last – or more especially, because of it.

May each daily experience bring such thoughts, until every moment becomes a moment of gratitude and inner prayer. For it is in my power of choice to think such thoughts and there’s much to be celebrated. And if there’s any advantage to be drawn from illness, it’s this: that it calls you to dig deeper into your soul and to find a spiritual satisfaction where the physical is lacking.

And if there’s any advantage to be drawn from death, it’s that it calls you to live a good life. Because a good life equals a good death, no matter how long or how short.

And so when death overtakes me, may I be writing such thoughts, reading such thoughts and thinking such thoughts.


*Also published on Modern Stoicism.

Why Women Date Assholes: A Case Study

Why Women Date AssholesJennifer is 24 years old and just moved from her parent’s house.

She’s happily tasting true independence for the first time and loving every minute of it. She goes to the gym regularly, takes yoga classes, reads often, and spends time with her growing circle of friends from work, college and every day encounters.

More and more she’s dating different types of men and while she isn’t looking for a relationship, she’s growing pickier about what she feels the dude needs to bring to the table.

The last guy Jennifer dated long-term was Jake. This was her college sweetheart of 2 years. He was sweet, gentlemanly, affectionate, considerate, attentive and very present. It didn’t work out though because the excitement and passion fizzled and they both grew apart.

Now she wants to try something different!

Because she’s independent, she expects her mate to be the same. A man “in-between jobs” is not acceptable, and the same goes for any man who’s not open minded like her or ambitious and confident about his career. 

So she starts dating Paul and she really likes him. When he first picked her up at a Café local to her job, she fell for him right away. Not only was he handsome, but he had a strong personality, was very outgoing and take charge. He didn’t take no for an answer.

Paul is an entrepreneur that fell into Real Estate and has his “fuck you” money so he doesn’t think twice about telling someone how he really feels- for better or for worse. She finds his brand of honesty refreshing compared with her old sweetheart Jake, who would sooner tell a white lie than to hurt her feelings in the smallest way.

Sure, Paul can be an asshole sometimes, but she feels safe and protected with him when they’re out. Because he won’t stand down from a confrontation and manages to stay cool when things go wrong.

But after dating 3 months, his jealous side grows increasingly unbearable. They fight more and more.

After 2 months of this, the relationship comes to a stand still. And worse, she wants to get closer to him but he’s busier with his career than with her. He grows distant, they snap at each other, resentment grows and she begins to wonder why they’re still together… even though their passion is as strong as it was on the first date.

One day, the relationship finally explodes after an epic fight, and the name calling reaches a point of no return. Paul completely shuts down emotionally and he won’t return her texts or calls anymore. So Jennifer decides he’s just another asshole and moves on.


A month later, Jennifer is dating Doug. He’s the opposite of Paul and is like a breath of fresh air! He’s sweet, laid back, non-possessive and affectionate. He reminds her of her old college sweetheart Jake.  And in fact, after just 2 months of dating, the attraction fizzles… just like it did with Jake.

Ladies, do you see the pattern here yet? Maybe you’ve experienced this first hand?!

Unfortunately, Jennifer doesn’t realize that she’s bouncing back and forth from the “Alpha male” type to the “nice guy” type, because she’s simply avoiding the worst qualities of her last relationship.

While she is attracted to the Alpha male, the passion is eventually overcome by their inability to build a deeper, healthy relationship.

And while she feels connection and intimacy with the nice guy, the relationship fails in the passion department… so Jennifer bounces back and forth, back and forth, over and over again… eventually believing “there is no such thing as a good guy”.

Because to her a good guy is a man that she is attracted to who can also be as emotionally available as the nice guy. The problem with this is that she can’t recognize what she truly wants is a man who is confident… not just a superficial confidence, but the kind of deep confidence in a man that allows him to be open emotionally and still shout “NO!” if he feels like his personal boundaries are being crossed (of course, this assumes he knows who he is and what his boundaries are!).

In short, Jennifer doesn’t KNOW the difference between a confident man and some dude who’s just another asshole.

So what is the difference, you ask?

This often takes the form of the classic “nice guy” versus “jerk” scenario.  And the challenge comes in recognizing not only the patterns of behavior but the motivation behind it.


Let’s take these two extremes and break them down together.

The man who acts like a jerk because “nice guys always finish last” is just as trapped as the guy who was a jerk and decides to be a nice guy. He’s merely trading one prison for another. Either way you cut it, he’s limited in a world that doesn’t allow him to truly be himself.

The nice guy is trying to please everybody so that he doesn’t get rejected. The jerk is rejecting people first and pushing people’s buttons to prove how much he doesn’t care because he doesn’t want to get rejected himself. The jerk fears intimacy. Otherwise, if it truly didn’t matter to him, why would he bother to resist it so much in the first place?

Human connection is not only natural, it’s our default mode. We’re pack animals that survived precisely because we’ve learned to survive together.

Both the jerk and the nice guy are living in reaction to fear, yet both will adamantly state “I am just being myself!” – I can assure you, they are not.

The woman who goes from one extreme of dating a nice guy to the other extreme of dating the modern asshole also begins to feel the frustration of not having the deeper connection along with the passion that she really wants: because he’s not being himself in the first place (and perhaps, neither is she).

True confidence in a man comes down to his being comfortable enough with himself, with who he is and is also mature enough to be vulnerable.

The first half (being himself) is what allows him to set strong boundaries, while the second half (being open and vulnerable) allows him to develop intimacy and connection in his relationships. It’s like a glass of water. It may be fluid and clear, but it can’t be enjoyed without the boundaries of the glass that holds it in the cup. 

The common ancestor in both these qualities is that it comes from a proactive way of being. It’s non-reactionary. It doesn’t revolve around the fear of how others might react to him.

A truly confident man has the freedom to be both the nice guy when appropriate and a jerk, when appropriate. But in both cases, he’s acting from within HIMSELF… and of course his core, his sense of self, beliefs and identity is already pre-defined.

Likewise, a man who chooses to treat people nicely – because that’s how he chooses to live his life, regardless of what people think –  is coming from a place of strength. He’s strong enough not to care if he gets criticized for it and derives personal pleasure from what he believes is doing good.

But if a man can’t stand up for himself and what he wants when it counts – when something is important to him – then he’s still trapped in his way of being. He’s still losing the freedom of not being nice because of his fear of rejection.

And a man who isn’t strong enough to be vulnerable and open, or admit when he’s wrong, is nothing more than a scared little boy.

Being vulnerable demonstrates a significant level of emotional maturity and inner strength. It shows a healthy self-acceptance and self-love. Without this self-acceptance, no love or acceptance is available for her.

Today’s woman wants a man who is truly confident. Superficial strength will always show it’s weaknesses and insecurities over time and she recognizes that no matter how attractive he may seem at first, if he doesn’t have enough inner strength, a healthy long-term relationship is unlikely.

Of course, women aren’t completely innocent when it comes to keeping their guard up! But it takes a much more subtle – and deadly form –with them, which I’ll cover another time.

As you date more and more, keep this in mind and you’ll begin to recognize what true confidence is and begin to grow attracted to a new type of man… a man who’s strong when it comes to issues important to him, but is otherwise sweet-as-pie with you… and it’s not based on outside approval.

In other words, you’ll be attracted to a man who’s truly confident inside and it won’t be because he’s an asshole.

Big goals, I know.

3 Dating Lessons for Men To Be More Attractive NOW!

3 Lessons for MenIf there’s one piece of dating advice for men that’s most universal, it’s this: be more confident!

And if you’re like most men, that only makes you feel even MORE INSECURE than normal. But it’s normal to feel insecure and the truth is, it’s only a piece of the great man-puzzle that is dating a woman.

First, you have to understand why confidence is so universally accepted as an important aspect for attracting women.

Because women want men who can be confident AND vulnerable, be funny AND serious, be adventurous AND her rock of security,  be focused AND in the moment, be passionate AND emotionally stable… and that’s the short list! It seems impossible at first – until you realize that behind all of it is a woman who just wants to feel and she needs your help.

Most men chase the laundry list of what women say they want (i.e. funny, serious, confident, vulnerable, passionate, focused, emotionally even-keeled) in a futile attempt to grab the prize… like a dog chasing its tail… sometimes never realizing that they ARE the prize.

So let’s take confidence and break it down.

To put it bluntly, they want you to be a leader. They want you to lead them to all the emotions they want to feel. BUT… they want you do it in a way that speaks their language.

This one powerful concept is brought to you in 3 simple lessons, in order to immediately improve your dating life.


Lesson #1: Why is leading good?
She WANTS you to succeed stupid!

Let’s be real here.

How many women do you really think go out every night saying to themselves, “Let’s see how many men’s souls we can crush tonight?”

No, it’s not even close to how many you may think.

I’m not saying they’re not out there. There are a handful of true ice queens out there who go out for the sole purpose of shooting down boys for its own sake. It makes them feel better about themselves. 

But those are the rare exceptions.

The misunderstanding is that she doesn’t want to be your mother, or your therapist, or your best friend. She wants to be your WOMAN. And it’s up to you to make her feel like one.

In the end, men and women want the same basic things. Love. Sex. Companionship. Excitement. Intimacy. Vulnerability. Acceptance.

It’s the specifics that have been lost in this age of gender equality. Your generation- our generation of men – is suffering from the delusion that female attraction somehow works exactly the same as a man’s.

We’ve been raised to think that if only we do everything she tells us to, THEN she’s sure to want us, right? You don’t need to be told how wrong that is.

And if you didn’t already know, you’ll find out soon enough.

Lesson #2: You Must Lead By Example…
You can’t REASON women into being attracted to you.

 Before you can learn anything else, you need to understand this. You can’t talk a woman into feeling attraction for you.

This is the biggest mistake you can ever make with a woman, and yet, night after night, MILLIONS OF MEN across the country try to reason women out of their panties.

You see it in clubs and bars, on the street and on the internet… men deluded into thinking that the way to a woman’s heart is through a well-reasoned argument. I call it the “lawyer’s defense.”

They throw around their money.

They throw around their status.

They throw around their huge biceps, hot cars and hipster threads in vain attempts to convince women of their worth in quantifiable, masculine terms.

Does this work sometimes?

Thankfully, it does! Or there wouldn’t be nearly as many people in the world as there are now.

But, like monkeys with typewriters, success seems entirely random, and way outside the control of your average, non-rockstar, non-millionaire guy. After all, it’s called “getting lucky” for a reason, right?

Yes, women are generally wired to seek alpha men or men with alpha-status amongst guys available to them.

But emotionally speaking, being alpha is not an external thing. For women, it’s internal.  

Why do women like to dance so much?

Ask a girl and she’ll tell you. No matter what’s going on in her life, no matter how bad her week was, she can always go to the club, and lose herself entirely to the music. It’s just her and the rhythm of the music washing over her body. And everything else is just… gone. The logical part of her brain shuts down, and she lets herself sense of self go.

Women are attracted to men who can give them these feelings too.

With shockingly few exceptions, women aren’t gold-diggers. They aren’t status-seekers. They aren’t heart-breakers, ice queens, ball-busters, or any of the other things that unsuccessful men call them after a long, hard night of strikeouts. Just like you, they just want to have a good time.

The men who succeed with women know how to engage their feelings, not their mindsSo if you’re not going to try to reason a woman into attraction, what do you do?

Throw away the sales pitch. If you really want to connect with her, you must go there FIRST. Lead her to the emotions you want by connecting to those feelings first and then allow her to follow you.


Once upon a date, Sam was on sharing a cab ride with a girl named Ophelia, but she was acting standoffish. So instead of trying to convince her to open up, Sam opened up to her.

He thought about the positive feelings he wanted them both to connect with and decided that it was affection and warmth – because that’s what he remembered most fondly about the girls he dated before…

And as they’re riding in the cab together, he shared with her the story of Nikki, his last long term relationship.

Sam: The thing about our first date was we got along right away. You could just tell when you’re with someone that you feel totally comfortable with and you’re having a great time.

So that night we had this amazing connection that naturally became physical – and sure enough, we liked each other so much that we continued dating for like a year and a half.

And on our one-year anniversary, I asked her, “you know how I knew that we were gonna get along right away? 

Ophelia: How?

Sam (looking into Ophelia’s eyes): Because you were so affectionate, so open and warm that it just made me WANT to open up to you. And I just knew we’d be together for a very long time.

I LOOOOOOOOVE affectionate girls!


This is way better than just qualifying her with “are you affectionate? Because if you’re not then we can’t hang out, cuz you’re not cool enough for me… NYAH!”

Instead, Sam felt those emotions first and then used what in NLP terms is called process language. He used those details to really immerse both her and himself into the experience.

Speak to her as a woman. Paint a picture with your words. There’s poetry in every woman’s heart. Meet her there… 

And no matter how little money or status they have, notice how artists and musicians have always gotten beautiful, smart and successful women.

Because communicating in powerful feelings is second nature to them.

So one final time, put away the sales pitch. Learn how to engage a woman’s imagination, and her world- as well as other things- will open up to you.

Lesson #3: Being Powerful Is Attractive
It’s no secret women are attracted to confidence but there’s also a psychological reason…

Here’s the last lesson.

We talked about leading by example and bringing her with you on an emotional journey to the positive feelings we all crave.

And while you may never get “rejected” for talking about your poor little kitten named Fluffy that was caught in a tree one time but then got freed and was so extremely happy and grateful and super cute….

Sometimes, you gotta take a little chance.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be in deep rapport. But when it comes to gaining attraction traction, sometimes you’ll need to go further.

This is a moment where you have to put yourself strongly and powerfully on the line by moving in a bolder direction – and where she’s likely to respond in a yes/no fashion within seconds.

The good news is, if you do it right, the answer will be yes most of the time. :-)

What’s the trick?

Understanding that everyone naturally carries some doubt and insecurity to varying degrees. Our mind is always looking for meaning in the noise and make sense of the world. That way we can go about our world “knowing” that we can handle any surprises…

That is, until I come along while you’re on your way to work and smack you upside the head and then gleefully run away.

“WHAT THE HELL? Why… did this happen?!? How can I prevent this from happening again???”

When the brain is seeking answers, it will always create an answer – even if there is no answer.

And THAT is the bottom line, my friend.

Because people want to feel safe, secure, comfortable and protected so they can enjoy life without fear – but women ESPECIALLY value this. And your confidence gives them that.

Your confidence is sexy to them.

Ever hear a girl tell you she wants a tall guy because she can “feel safe in his big, strong arms”? Well, if he’s not confident and you are, she will get that feeling from you and not from him.

Taking this a step further is called the bold approach.

When a person is taken by surprise, the mind goes into a state of confusion – and I bet you didn’t know that in hypnosis, confusion is considered a form of trance-like state. In the face of the unexpected, we drop our guard temporarily and leave space for new information (i.e. you). 

Because it’s unexpected! And a bold, powerful approach does this. 

It’s as if you went into a luxury store and the salesperson immediately walks up to you and says “can I help you?” Almost everyone says no, but it’s purely out of habit. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and sometimes we forget that and have to make a conscious effort to return to the salesperson to ask for help (I know, it’s horrible).

The saddest part is that’s how girls are often reacting too – from all the moments where they’ve had to suffer the cat calls, the comments about how slutty she looks, the stupid and downright stomach turning pick-up lines from guys who seriously have no clue what to do, besides point at her and grunt.

And – big shocker! – she may even say no to that cool, laid-back guy she found really attractive, purely out of habit and then REALLY regret it later on.

The point is a bold confidence allows you to be attractive. It gives her a sense of comfort AND it gives you a chance to interact with her on a more real, genuine level. And the more confident you are, the easier it will be to lead her into those positive experiences.

For some, this is probably stretching you a bit in terms of your current beliefs and experience, but it’s just one of those things you can only believe once you’ve gone through the journey a bit.

Keep in mind, when we say “bold and powerful”… it doesn’t mean you should be jumping at her from behind the bushes, or blasting her eardrums with your new Harley that has red flames on it. Use your head, OK?

Ok. One last example to close this out.


One night, Alex goes out to a really nice salsa club. The dance floor is filled with women, but the walls are packed with clueless men. So, Alex decides he has to get moving quickly. He spots a beautifully dressed girl from behind, who’s sitting with some of her friends. 

Guys are coming up to her, one after the other, and she’s shooting them down like a machine gun of rejection, one by one.

So, he takes the lead.

He goes up to her and places a hand on her shoulder. Looking down he asks, “You don’t want to dance to this song right now, do you?” After turning down a dozen guys in the last 15 minutes, she of course, automatically says no.

Then after a brief pause, he smiles and nods saying, “But we should dance to the next one, right?”

She didn’t expect to agree with him by saying no. And while she’s thinking about that, Alex is already asking her for the next dance and nodding his head.

Afer a moment, she breaks into a smile. “You’re alright,” she says… and as the curiosity grows inside her, she can’t help asking him, “what’s your name?”


So, what’s the lesson here? Be the man. Surprise her with a bold approach, and confidently take the lead.


Because she wants you to succeed, stupid!

Score the Perfect Job Interview in 5 Steps

perfect interview in 5 stepsCongratulations – you’ve made it to the job interview! Now what?

Here’s a little-known secret to job interviews: 

By controlling the job interview process, you’ll have a much higher chance of securing the job – and career – you want .

First, remind yourself that the company invited you for a reason, otherwise they wouldn’t bother wasting their time. So walk in with the confidence of knowing they already like your experience. Because it’s not your skills but your attitude that determines the success of your interview.

Yes, you qualify. But do they?

Next, don’t wait until they start asking you questions! Instead, learn how to take control of the interview. How do you do that? It starts the moment you introduce yourself and say, “Hello”.

Step 1: Take control of the interview process by asking questions first

The first 15 minutes of your interview will decide whether you succeed or fail. So it’s important to learn as much about the company and what your future employer wants, right from the start.

The moment you shake hands you should start by asking them:

  • How long have you been here?
  • What do you like about the company?
  • What’s the culture like here?
  • Why is this position open?
  • What are you looking for?
  • What are the best qualities you’re looking for in a candidate?

If those questions sound like the kind of questions the interviewer might ask you, that’s because they are.

Step 2: Feed the answers back to them

By now, you will have learned what they want BEFORE they had the chance to ask you the usual questions like “so, tell me about yourself“.

But if they still do that, answer with something like “what aspect of me would you like to know more of?” Keep your answers no longer than 30 seconds. No need to bore the interviewer or shoot yourself in the foot with unnecessary or potentially damaging information.

Then, when the interviewer does start to formally interview you, this is your opportunity to use the same sound bites they used in describing their perfect candidate to you (hint: because they already told you).

Step 3: Create deeper rapport

Beyond the position, it’s your job to develop a deeper rapport and make sure there’s a good fit for you as well as for them.


Interviewer: “it’s important to me that the candidate is resourceful, proactive and independent so that I don’t have to hold his hand all the time.”

You: “I totally see what you mean. It’s really important to be proactive and explore different solutions independently so a person can progress on their own.”

And just like that, you’ve created rapport. But you should take it further to explore why it’s important to them and how you agree or disagree with their thought process.

The bottom line is that the interview process is 80% about liking the candidate and having good rapport. So if you can get this step right, you’re well on your way to securing that job.

Step 4: “Trick” them into imagining they hired you already

Since you now have rapport with the interviewer, it’s time to get them to imagine having hired you already. You do that by asking them questions about the future.

Memorize this job rule: The more you talk about the future, the more likely you will succeed in securing the position. The more you talk about the past, the more likely you are to fail.

This sounds counter-intuitive but remember, your history and experience is already qualified for the job. So why waste this time? Focus on the future. 

Here’s some examples:

“Who would I be working with?”

“What would the first 6 months look like?”

And here’s the most important question you can ask: “I’m curious – what do you see me doing day to day from the first time I walk through that door over there?”

Because when they answer that question they have to imagine you in the position to do it. And they’ll mentally walk themselves through a scenario where you’re doing the day to day tasks – which is exactly what you want!

Step 5: Challenge them a little to get more

Now that you’re in a great position to get that job you need to go even further. This is where you get to push back a bit and see how they might respond. But start small.

Here’s an example:

“I’ve worked with several companies. And recently I’ve been interviewing with a number of companies. And I’ve learned enough along the way to know what I’m looking for. I believe from personal experience that no matter how great the position, title or company, it’s more important for me to work with people that I’m really comfortable with. Not just on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. That’s why even though we’re having a great interview right now, I need to make sure I feel comfortable with the entire group and everyone I’ll be working with. So before I come on board I’d like to know if I can meet the entire group. Because that’s very important to me. Is that okay with you?”

In this example, all you’re doing is asking them a question about the people you’ll be working with. But hidden in this question is a subtle qualifier for them to meet and live up to.

They’re usually pleasantly surprised and react as most people would, “Of course we have a very nice team here and we understand if you want to meet the other people in our department”. And by this point, most will be willing to showing you around and meet your potential co-workers right away or at the end of the interview.

This does a few things. Not only is this a test to see if they like you, but it’s also a good test for you to see if you’ll like them too. And bonus: it’ll probably get the whole office talking about you after you leave. :-)

And that’s it. The perfect job interview in 5 steps!