05.07. 2017

Let's be fwends: Staying (or getting) calm

Let's be fwends: Staying (or getting) calm
The dude said: "Yeah,well, that's just, like, your opinion, man." And he's damn right!
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It’s super easy to be worked up all the time. Being enraged, angry, sad, frustrated just seems to be too justified these days.
Maybe even I have done my share to make you feel agitated. I’ve talked about bad coffee, angry birds (or, rather, birds that make everyone else angry) and scary machines.
So, let’s talk a bit about being calm and getting calm. Or more specifically - since we’re probably not really calm right now: Is there anything that can help us get calm - and relax a little?

Maybe something like 'The little Book of Calm‘ from Black Books?


(That’s just a short clip, if you want to see the rest of the episode - including what’s happening if you put the Little Book of Calm in a cup of chunky soup - click here.)

But what if self-help books full of poetic visualizations aren’t your thing? Should we try a little ancient wisdom?

Roughly 2300 years ago, a guy called Zeno had an epiphany and as a result founded Stoicism.

As every philosophical school, stoicism has its quirks and wrinkles, but two of its main ideas can help us in our quest to get a bit calmer:
  1. Most things happening in the outside world - even when they are happening to us - are outside of our control.
  2. Since we cannot do anything for or against things that are outside of our control, we need not bother us with them.

These two thoughts have a very powerful corollary: We have the liberty to focus on the things we control. Because there, we can actually make a difference.

Is this something we can work with? I think we can. Because getting emotionally involved in something we cannot control just adds another negative emotion to the mix: The feeling of helplessness.

OK, so how do we do this?

Well, I’m not here to tell you how to become a Stoic and lead a happy life (frankly, because I don’t know how to do that either), but I might be able to give you three pieces of inspiration.


Emotions and thoughts enter your mind mostly through your senses, to form a perception of the world around you. You formulate theories on why things happen, and how they happen, even before you get a chance to think about them properly. This is because our minds are well-drilled pattern-recognition machines, an excellent topic for a future newsletter.

Remember stoic idea #1: You cannot control that stuff, because it’s happening on the outside, out of your control.

But also remember the corollary: You can control how you perceive it.


Maybe you have seen this video made from a longer speech by David Foster Wallace, but regardless, please watch it again, and focus just on this single thought: You might not have the power to change the events around you. But you do have the power to change how you see and interpret them.

Inspiration #1: You have the power to chose your interpretation of the world.

Growth through action

‚Win or learn but never lose‘ is a common saying, mostly aimed at people who just lost.

I like it, but I want to add something: Before you can win or learn, you actually have to do something.
And often, we find ourselves blocked by something that is in our path. Some obstacle that seems to be insurmountable. What follows are writers block, procrastination, giving up before we really start, giving in to negative thoughts of defeat.

„We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.“ ~Theodore Roosevelt

Actions are the basic building block of your life. Actions are so important to your well-being that there should be nothing to stop you from what you want to do. Especially not obstacles.

A book I really recommend is 'The Obstacle is the Way' by Ryan Holiday.

(Showing off our bookshelf - The other books are good, too. I recommend 'A Field guide to Getting Lost' by Rebecca Solnit for the topic at hand)

Holidays take on stoicism and how it can help you tackle problems big and small is really worth a read.

Inspiration #2: The chance of embarrassing yourself is surprisingly small. Start doing it, it will be amazing once it’s done.

Shut down

Much has been said about the power of meditation, and I don’t feel like I can add something to that.
But if you want to take up meditation (something I’m wrestling with), I do recommend you try out Headspace, an app for guided meditations. Some people call it the ‚Starbucks of meditation‘, but I really like it, and the 10 minute sessions are something I can fit into my day. And since done is better than perfect (see inspiration #2 above), that’s what I’m doing.


(I don’t get anything from them if you click on the link, download the app, try it, or start a subscription)

Meditation can take up many different shapes and forms. Sometimes, I just like to unwind and rest my brain for a bit with a simple, soothing exercise.

And I found the perfect little game for it: I ❤️Hue.
Inspiration #3: Be actively in the moment sometimes. Don’t distract yourself, don’t go to some other place with your mind.

And if you find some time to spare,  I recommend reading On the happy life by Seneca. It is beautiful.

And what if all of that fails?

Well, you can always occupy yourself with some useless knowledge. Like this one:

That’s it from this edition of Let’s be Fwends. Please high-five yourself, because you are an exceptional person. May happiness and calm find your way. 🏁

And here’s some bonus material as a reward for making it down here: A can choir.
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