Resisting The Abuse Of Power

Resisting the Abuse of Power: #

A vibrant Democracy is not threatened by the actions of a few, but the inactions of the many.  As sovereign citizens we not only have a right to dissent; we have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our freedoms and power.  Governments of the people, by the people and for the people.   There are always leaders or institutions that attempt to extend their power.  All power should be defined by its limits.

“We are living in dangerous times. It is important that people recognise that they have to care, and actually apply some effort in democracy, so that it will work. No one else is going to fix it for you.  You are the system.* *** ****Birgetta Jonsdottir** – Iceland – Pirate Party

*"*Tyrannical politicians (as will religious zealots) use fear to control and manipulate the electorate, hoping to suspend their rational judgments.  They then assure us that they alone can protect us. #

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.  ** H. L. Mencken**

Adam Bandt warns, ”unscrupulous governments use people’s legitimate fears to illegitimately take away their freedoms”.

“*Those who are willing to sacrifice an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither”.  *Benjamin Franklin.

The noun “abusage”, has many of the original senses of the verb, abuse: “misuse, ill-use, abuse,” and the still stronger sense “corrupt practices, immoral behaviour.”

*“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” * Martin Luther King Jr.

All injustice creates anger. Unresolved anger can develop into reflexive uncontrollable rage.  Anger has words; rage can turn destructive.  Unabated fury can become self-destructive.  Anger needs to be managed and channeled into a constructive, remedial force.  It is easy to become a blubbering, wallowing victim, but you must strive to survive, regain your dignity and power.  Survivors either become agents of positive change or turn into perpetrators of cyclical abuse.   Hannah Gadsby claims “there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself”.

As we get older, almost everything changes and we can easily resist all change becoming curmudgeonly. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
*.**    ***Dylan Thomas**

It is not always good to complain about every trivial issue.  Use some discretion.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage for the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Reinhold Niebuhr.

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber." Plato, ancient Greek Philosopher

*“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”    – *Thomas Jefferson

*“Truth forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne”.  *Lowell.

*“The price of freedom, as the old saying goes, is eternal vigilance. More than ever, that’s a job for the reader as much for the journalist.”    *Rob Burgess

“It is a truth wearily demonstrated by history that acts of tyranny condoned against some will finally become a tyranny visited on all.” *** Richard Flanagan*

*“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.  *Thomas Jefferson (?) - More likely Thomas Paine.

***"****The time is out of joint, o cursed spite, that I was born to set it right”.   **Hamlet ***

*And one thing psychologists know is that tyranny and atrocity thrive on bystanders. Passive, silent, submissive, obedient bystanders, without whom atrocity cannot survive. So if you care about Justice, free press, rule of law and tyranny, don’t be silent. Don’t be complicit. Speak up. *  Dr. Lissa Johnson – New Matilda

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Marcus Aurelius: “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.”  Doing the right thing isn’t free. Doing the right thing might even cost you everything.

Most infractions of power are cravenly accepted due to socialised silence and power imbalances with the veiled threat of state sanctioned violence against trouble makers.  To question authority is a sign of impertinence and ungraciousness.  We don’t like sore losers.



Australia’s Craig Foster

Craig Foster, an ordinary Australian soccer commentator, took on FIFA, perhaps one of the most corrupt organisations in the world, when a young Australian player, Hakeem-al Arabi, was detained in Thailand for extradition by the Bahraini Government.  Though Foster had never met Hakeem, he travelled to meet him in prison in Bangkok.  It was an emotional experience which compelled Foster to help a vulnerable man.  

Up against overwhelming forces of absolute monarchs, government and sporting politics but citing Australian values of standing up for the little guy with direct, fair, respectful, unyielding principles, Foster used his skills, clout and position to cut through the politics.  He is now considered a national hero for shaming Bahrain into dropping extradition proceedings.

Russian dissidents #

Pussy Riot:The Russian legal system is mired in controversy; arguably more concerned with cracking down on dissent than executing justice. Among the most notorious examples are the ongoing “farcical” trial of the assassination, years ago, of journalist and Chechen war critic Anna Politkovskaya and the Yukos affair that saw the politically motivated, unjust jailing of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky among many others.

After the murder of Anna Politkovskava, Putin refused to answer any questions about her for six days.  When he finally did respond, it was to devalue her legacy by maintaining her work made no significant contribution to Russian society.

Pussy Riot note that authorities use many means to get people to obey.

“Don’t accept anything at face value.  Scrutinise everything you hear or read – even your friends.  They could lie to you.  Don’t trust anyone.”

“We are living through a car crash that is the twentieth century and it is not an easy ride.  There are no heroes who will come and save us from evil. Every person can do something to change the world. It is happening every day in classrooms and in the streets.

While the world goes to pot, focus on the small stuff.  Stay close to family and friends.  Look after the ones you love.  Start by changing your home.  Remember it is not the politician’s country – it is your country and the future of your country is in the hands of its citizens.  All citizens have rights that cannot be taken from them. “

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Real Power #

Real Power is imbued with authority and legitimised by implicit trust and respect. Vaunted, bulwark power is an abuse of power actually diminishing its own authority.  The latter needs to be called out for what it is and challenged.  However, dissenters, protesters and activists must avoid carping,whining, self-righteousness and absolute certitude.  It is better to recognise the problems and calmly, relentlessly search for constructive solutions.  

All power structures are insidious.  Some maintain power is only gained by exercising it.  This is at best a half truth.   The most effective and enduring power is soft, non-coercive - inspirational. A great leader’s influence can last for eternity.    Aristotle claimed *"**Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them" *which  Twain updated to:  *"*It is better to deserve and not have honours than to have them and not deserve them.

It is in the nature of hard power to ally yourself with other powerful institutions, corporations and governments.  Power is intoxicating, aphrodisiacal but ephemeral. The purpose of power is to accrue and consolidate your power so none can hold you to account.  Since the mid nineties there’s something noxious drifting through the world wide body politic; the rapid decline of respectable institutions through combination of arrogance, anonymity, unaccountability associated with an air of irresponsibility – grab what you can for yourself and yours; bugger anyone else – self interest trumps public interest.

Bureaucracies #

Bureaucracies have become so commonplace and ingrained that we seldom question their purpose and authority, yet, according to anthropologist and anarchist, David** Graebe**r, they inform every aspect of our existence *– “bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim”. * According to **Dom Amerena**, *the best artistic satires occur in ***Kafka’s The Trial ***and in*** Heller’s Catch-22. ***Graeber claims bureaucracies derive their power from the veiled threat of state sanctioned violence against non-compliance or even criticism.*

Some critics suggest that corporations and institutions have become the new evil “robber barons” with no public interest in mind. Some have found symptoms of psychopathy, e.g., the callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to appreciate human relationships, the reckless disregard for the safety of others, the deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect the law. 

In the 1950’s President Eisenhower was the first to warn us of the subtle incremental dangers of transformative power grabs like the rise of The Military Industrial Complex.  Since then multitudes of other powerful bulwark organisations have risen that threaten our democracy by assuming untrammelled power; including, but not limited to:  multi-national mining companies, the American Rifle Association, Monsanto, Drug and Medical Supply Companies,  the telecommunication industry, the legal/judicial industry.……..

The more monolithic bureaucracies become, the more they are reinforced by their remoteness; their schizoid disconnection from grounded reality. Incestuous institutions like the Catholic Church, the legal judicial fraternity or global corporations can become moribund due to calcification or entrenchment.  A self serving careerist mind set develops that they exist for themselves rather than for the greater good of the public.  Some believe that their institution exists simply to provide them with a job; not the other way around. Subject to groupthink, they become reluctant to hear opposing views or to work with anyone perceived to be on the outside.  Some live high up in an ivory tower; embedded in a bubble world doubling as an echo chamber.  The peer review process becomes dysfunctional.  Only a seismic paradigm shift can change entrenched mind sets.  What we need are not only better individuals; we need better systems to make up for individual flaws, rather than a culture and practice of concealment.  All professions harbor individuals of varying degrees of incompetence for different reasons.  It is in the long term interest of all professions to weed out the worst offenders.  They are a danger – cause injury, not only to the public, but by undermining the faith, confidence and authority of institutions.  The reputation of one Judge/Priest/individual is not more important than maintaining the public confidence of the entire  institution.

Noel Turnbull, adjunct professor of media and communications at RMIT University writes:

*It has been axiomatic that the first principle of issues management is always masterly inaction. (Sweep it under the carpet) Think before you act, seriously consider doing nothing because it might aggravate the situation, and remember that it is probably not as big an issue as you think it is.  *

Yes Minister, demonstrates this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIYfiRyPi3o

Governments deflect responsibility and scrutiny by outsourcing into a nebulous mix of systems and separate decision-makers, leaving no one person or agency ultimately responsible. And the court system has long since become a Kafkaesque mix of arrogated presumptions of solipsistic vanity, mystical understanding, uncanny reasoning, evidenced by rhetorical theatre, institutionalised paranoia and irrational bureaucracy in which any semblance of logic is not merely dismissed but might even be considered folly.

This outsourcing of guardianship enables governments and politicians in particular to operate with complete plausible deniability. Ministers, who used to be considered responsible for what happened in their portfolios, can place their hands on their hearts and swear they know nothing, that they have sought advice but they too are powerless. They need to heed the advice of ** Cicero 55 BC:** *“…the arrogance of officialdom needs to be tempered and controlled,….” *

Meantime, lawyers, activists, gadflys… hell, let’s call them what they are, troublemakers – get ignored without anyone with any authority having to front up and accept responsibility. It’s all part of the constant process of delegitimising dissent.   Democracy is not a gift from above, rather a hard fought demand from the people.  Thousands of people died fighting for it in the English Civil War from 1640 – 1660, the French Revolution, 1789 – 1848, and various other struggles for freedom.  It is fragile and vulnerable.  Democracy can only be retained by constant vigilance and publically spirited endeavour.  The greatest danger to democracy is a feeling of powerlessness or abject servility caused by fear, resulting in disconnection or apathy; a frozen form of violence.

To illustrate, Donald Trump got fewer votes than Cain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, but Hilary Clinton received millions of fewer votes than Obama in both election years.  People have become disillusioned with left wing governments. Apathy can be a tightly wound coil, when released causes a lot of damage.

According to Nick Feik:* “The American people elected a candidate who promised to upend their political system. As with Brexit, it was a political result that seemed to come out of nowhere. The politics of rage, of populism, of protest, are overwhelming Western nations.*

Thomas Drake *claims that “the truth-tellers, the whistleblowers and the hacktivists are canaries in the coal mine of democracy. If we do not have rights such as privacy, then citizens are the subjects of the state, not free beings.” ***Edward Snowden’s **US defence lawyer

Jesselyn Radack agreed, saying that the “American constitution is designed to protect people from their own government. The people are supposed to govern the government, not the other way around.”  *** Margot Saville*, Crikey.com 05/08/14

Whistle blowers, like medieval martyrs, often pay a high price for their public service.   For examples of what happens to whistleblowers in Australia click here.

In a democracy, once accountability and transparency have disappeared, there is no room left for trust. While sunshine may be the best disinfectant, and It’s amazing how quickly cockroaches and rats scurry back into the shadows when you shine a light on them, however, pachyderms have thicker hides; they don’t need to hide.  Most of us fear the dark; power-mongers fear the light.   As Tacitus put it,” misdeeds, once exposed, have no refuge but in audacity”.

When institutions like the Catholic ChurchJustice system, Politicians or Corporate leaders abuse their power, their diminishing credibility, influence and authority breaks our faith, confidence and trust. Not since the birth of liberal democracy have so many of its key establishments been both so reviled and powerless. Faith in the political process to deliver to the will of the people sits at a level roughly commensurate with that of used car salesmen -  and not without reason. These powerful institutions often give us no reason to believe that they are acting in anything but self or mutual interest, and it is no wonder at all that many of us believe that private interests trump public ones or that politicians are trustworthy.  The first instinctive reaction of public servants being criticised is a siege mentality; close ranks, shield your own - circle the wagons, protect your turf.  Government officials and regulatory authorities are reluctant to actively pursue other silo government agencies for misconduct.

This is a credibility crisis so severe and widespread that it might not be overstating matters to suggest that a dangerous malaise is now infecting the very heart of confidence in the democratic system of government.  It seems there is an increasing deep and persistent political credibility crisis that threatens to make most countries increasingly ungovernable, creating even more failed states.

Due to this collapse of trust, the whole world is fast becoming a catalogue of failed states as we become more afraid of our governments than of any other evil forces.  The American gun lobby claims people need fire arms to protect them from arrogant government officials.  

*Throughout history the race has gone to the rich. Power in the paws of the plutocrats, be they monarchs, popes or secular tycoons. Modern democracy promised things would be different. But the meek did not inherit the parliaments. Nor did the Soviets deliver the promised dictatorship of the proletariat.  Now we are witnessing the rise and rise (and occasional fall) of the oligarchs. *

Despite our objections to inequality, to the one per cent, billionaires are buying political supremacy.  And we, the strugglers are voting them in. Berliusconi, and Donald Trump.  Both have oodles of loot, legendary sexual appetites, stratospheric vanity, awesome vulgarity and funny hair.  Both play the media for fools by shamelessly manipulating gross celebrity.  Both are also seen as fools outside their own countries.*** * Phillip Adams**

Dissent

Throughout history there have been many significant champions challenging a dominant but corrupt establishments. Naomi Klein questions how do social movements succeed in forcing elites to forgo substantial political and economic self-interest?   We can think of Jesus Christ who took on the Jewish establishment, Martin Luther who questioned the power of the Catholic Church, **Abraham Lincoln, **whose anti-slavery movement deprived plantation owners of trillions of dollars, Ghandi who stood up to the profiteering British colonialists, Martin Luther King and segregation, Nelson Mandela and the disparity of Apartheid …..

In more recent times the investigative journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, who exposed the crimes of Watergate, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon disclosing American abuses and Pussy Riot protesting Russian tyranny.  There are many others.  Power brokers trivialise these exposes. 

Shortly after **Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya, ** a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist, known for her opposition to the Second Chechen War and fierce courageous critic of  President of Russia Vladimir Putin was murdered in the elevator of her block of flats in 2006, Putin ignored the event for days before dismissing her death as insignificant as her work was not important to Russia.

Just like the printing press provided reformers like Martin Luther access to pamphleteering, so modern social media provides the ability for a freer exchange of views and opinions.

What we must avoid is the stereotype of whining or negativism in favour of positive and constructive criticism.  Alarmist, hysterical or rabid language needs to be avoided.  Yet as times become more desperate, we need to increase the force of our language.

A captious critic is relentlessly negative; carpingly dismissive of all.   It is important to realise that we are all flawed individuals and criticism, unless constructive, can appear petty, trivial and pedantic if it merely serves the purpose of venting by ranting and raving.

One of the most vocal critics of modern society is **John Pilger, however his message is being lost because of his polarity and negativity.   Spiro Agnew **is famous for his smearing of opponents: including *“pusillanimous pussyfooters,” “nattering nabobs of negativism”  and “hopeless,  hysterical hypochondriacs of history.“Agnew once described a group of opponents as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.” *All products of Spiro Agnew’s speech writers:  Pat Buchanan and William Safire.

To be more effective, stay calm, positive and constructive, but reserve the right to stand up to people who abuse their power.** **

**Al Gore has been advocating for measures to combat climate change for more than 25 years with many abject failures but also remarkable success. **

“If you have a belief that you strongly hold, that might not be the belief of the colleagues beside you, it is your right – in fact, it is your duty – to stand up and say something about it and to express your view. If you do not, you are letting yourself down and, worse than that, you are letting your nation down …"

We have a moral obligation and duty to have the courage to speak out when we see or hear of injustice.

Chairman Mao:* “no political class would ever give up its power without a struggle”.*

*You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.   *William Wilberforce on Slavery

*         ** Evil can only exist if good people stand by and do nothing.   ** Edmund Burke*

*          The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm; but because of those who look at it without doing anything.  *Albert Einstein

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

*“A voice is a human gift, it should be cherished and used..  Powerlessness and silence go together”  * Margaret Atwood

“He has an enormous anger about injustice and has the courage to speak out loudly and often about the distortions of power in this world.” **** David Williamson in tribute of Thomas Keneally

*“Speak truth to power”   * Quaker saying

*         “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”  *Anne Frank

*“Sometimes you need to poke power in the eye”.  *As Odysseus does to Polyphemos.

*“the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”   *General David Morrison.

*The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. * Mencken

*“Being outraged by injustice is the way to maintain a connection to one’s humanity.  The alternative is indifference.”    *Stephane Hessel, French freedom fighter 

The great American historian and teacher Howard Zinn, was a champion of public education. His textbook A People’s History of the United States challenged the propaganda of established power that claimed democracy as a gift from the top, not fought for by us.

“I wanted my students,” he wrote, “to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it”.

 This, of course, is a recipe for trouble.

Success in life does not necessarily come from prizes. What is important is the person you are, the kindness you express, the compassion you feel and the courage you show. Go into the world and relinquish the safety of silence and make trouble - remembering that the most important trouble is calling to account those who assume power over our lives.

An edited extract of an address by journalist and filmmaker John Pilger to the Sydney Boys High School annual speech night.

The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. The prize is awarded annually to a journalist whose work has “penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda, or ‘official drivel’, as Martha Gellhorn calls it."

The truth is free; bullshit (spin) can be very expensive.

“Every time we witness an act that we feel to be unjust and we do not act, we become party to the injustice.  Those who are passive in *the face of injustice soon find their character corroded into servility.                     *   Julian Assange, 2006

The consequences of  complicity #

*         First they came for the Communists,*

and I didn’t speak up,  because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up,  because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up,  because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for the Singers,

and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a singer.

Then they came for the Authors,

and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t an author.

Then they came for me,  and by that time there was no one

*left to speak up for me. *One of many versions by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945 

A Parody: #

First, they came for the bonox drinkers.
*I did not speak out - *
Since I didn’t understand the idea of drinking cow.
Then they came for the Lemsip drinkers
*And I did not speak out *
Because I did not have a cold.
Then they came for the minimum chips & vinegar eaters
And I did not speak out -
Because I don’t like vinegar.
*Then they came for me & my chicken salted chips - There was no-one left to speak for me. *Bruce Campbell

Make a Difference in the World

(A Peace and Justice Prayer)

* May God bless us with discomfort*

at easy answers, half-truths,

*superficial relationships, so that *

we will live deep within our hearts.

* *

May God bless us with anger at

*injustice, oppression, and *

exploitation of people, so that

we will work for justice, equity and peace.

* *

May God bless us with tears to

shed for those who suffer from

pain, rejection, crime and war,

so that we will reach out our

hands to comfort them.

* *

And God bless us with the foolishness

*to think that we can make *

a difference in the world, so

*that we will do the things *

which others say cannot be done.

Taken from 600 Blessings and Prayers from Around the World, Twenty Publications. www.23rdpublications.com   On my oldest brother, Aaron’s fridge. 

Knowledge and articulation help to empower people and are a rationale for teaching language:

*** ****A democratic society needs people who have the linguistic abilities which enable them to discuss, evaluate and make sense of what they are told, as well as to take effective action on the basis of their understanding…. Otherwise there can be no genuine participation, but only the imposition of ideas of those who are linguistically capable.   Kingman (1988) *

Bernard of Clairveaux: Instruction & upbringing

*            To Robert, a monk,  I know your heart, I know that you can be led more easily by love than driven by fear. . .*

*           For those superiors[monastic teachers] who wish always to inspire fear in their communities and rarely promote their welfare.   Learn that you must be mothers to those in your care, not lords; make an effort to arouse the response of love, not of fear; Show   affection as a mother would.*

*Be gentle, avoid harshness, do not resort to blows, expose your breasts: let your bosoms expand with milk not swell with passion.  *Sermon on The Song of Songs

Quotes on Power: #

*       “You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the  facts to fit their views.  * Doctor Who

*        “most great men of the past were only there for the beer – the wealth, prestige and grandeur that went with power.” *AJP Taylor

*        “Knowledge is power”.   * FRANCIS BACON 

*        “Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”            *  Blaise Pascal

*        “Power is not sufficient evidence of truth”                            *  Samuel Johnson 

*        “Might is not necessarily right”**   *Only in barbaric dark ages.

*        “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” *

*        “The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while”    *Albert Einstein

*         “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”     *Lao Tzu

*“Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it. Thus, our opinion of liberty does not reveal our differences but the relative value which we  place on our fellow man. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man’s support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.   *Alexis de Tocqueville

The speech of Norway’s current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg following the Utøya Island massacre were moving and profound and defiant:

I have a message for those who attacked us. And for those who are behind them.

It is a message from the whole of Norway:
You will not destroy us.
You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to bringing about a better world.
We are a small nation, but we are a proud nation.
No one is going to bomb us into silence.
No one is going to shoot us into silence.
No one is ever going to frighten us away from being Norway.

We must never give up our values.
We must show that our open society can pass this test too.
That the answer to violence is even more democracy.
Even more humanity.
But never naivity.
That is something we owe the victims and their families.

Not for Stoltenberg or his country any shrill recourse to the rolling back of accrued democratic rights and freedoms in the face of terrorism.

We can keep power in check, which is different to influence
Toby Ralph, The Power Index: 15/02/12

Power, real power, is about having the ability to refit societal frameworks to meet your needs; fixing court cases, reframing laws, commandeering public assets and bending the public mind to your will.

We see it across Africa, through the Middle East, in the non-tiger economies of Asia. It flourishes in Russia and China and positively blooms in North Korea.

But in truth we don’t want to see much of it in Canada.

**Arouse in others the desire to be great  **Rose Herceg  2012  The Power index.

Having real influence means being able to inspire those around you to be great. Power Players know they’ve got something special when they can make their colleagues want to reach for the stars.

My Power heroes always make me want to impress them and I’m constantly trying to find new ways to show them that I’m on the case. Just the very presence of my Power heroes makes me want to be great and I imagine myself coming up with the best ideas of my life. I care deeply about what they think and how they view my ideas.

In return, they seem to bring out my creativity and drive.

With great power comes great responsibility  Rose Herceg

* People say it all the time because it’s true. Power Players are aware of the responsibility that comes with Power. When they enter a room it can feel like Moses parting the Red Sea.*

And they know their words carry extra calories. This is why they are careful with their words.

Aspiring Power Players should remember this very important piece of advice: once you start to have some Power in a room, your words and actions pack twice the punch.

Don’t get predictable by using this Power badly. It’s not fair that you need to be twice as careful as everyone else in the room, but that’s the price you pay for Power.

Practice this: when someone does something boneheaded, choose not to be that final nail in his or her coffin. Either find a way to help them or shut up. That’s real Power.

Power Play #46: Watch the body language

Power Players know that body language can give them away quicker than anything else can. They control their mannerisms and quirks so that no one knows what they’re thinking until they say it out loud.

Slouch and you look like you’ve already lost.

Place your arms akimbo and everyone thinks you’re angry.

Look down and you’re having a crisis of confidence.

Look up and you’re either uncertain or just plain lying.

**Body language **can often be manipulative. And Power Players are no fans of manipulation. They never experiment with passive aggression either.

 They understand their body language speaks volumes. It can be used to inspire confidence and show a sense of great calm.

* True Power Players never use their body language to exploit, boss, hurt, humiliate or terrify anyone in the room, no matter what.*

* Watch your body language in the mirror. Get to know your natural quirks and understand just how much information your body language can communicate.*

* If it’s not for public consumption, then make certain your body doesn’t betray you.*

*You have far more impact as a union leader than being a member of parliament – absolutely, especially at a union like ours. We have a big impact on a significant sector of the workforce.”  *Power Play: Never forfeit your right to fight

Rose Herceg, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 #

Power Players always reserve the right to fight. Yes, the sentiment may rhyme, but it’s more than just poetic. If something is totally dumb or just plain wrong, Power Players fight the injustice. One good, solid, committed fight can be a far better strategy than trying to smooth things over in a gentle way.

Gentle and subtle are always preferable ways to go it but if what’s required is a nice, juicy knock down, then so be it.

Think about the scene in The Godfather (Part 1), when Clemenza tells Michael Corleone that every few years a good messy feud between the mafia heads is exactly the ticket: clears out the bad blood.

Sometimes a good old-fashioned brawl in business achieves exactly the same thing.

No amount of pussy boy behaviour can deliver you quite the same conclusion as a definitive win/lose fight.

Suit up and fight (when you have to). Sometimes it really is the best course of action.

Paul Pollard writes:*** *Re. “ ICAC’s ‘disgusting’ ruling against Labor: Obeids, Macdonald face charges"* *

* In your July story on the recent ICAC report on mining leases, you repeat the statement by counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson SC, early in the inquiry, that it would reveal “corruption on a scale probably unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps”. This silly statement shows remarkable ignorance of the seriousness of corrupt state government in much more recent times than the Rum Corps. It is now undisputed that the NSW premier Bob Askin was the recipient of funds from organised crime in NSW for years. Similarly, in Queensland the Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, appointed by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was on the take from organised crime for years, and went to jail for that (though he continues to protest his innocence), while a number of ministers in the Bjelke- Petersen government were sent to jail for corruption. Having a premier and police commissioners as a part of organised crime for years rather puts the corrupt granting of a coal mining lease by a  minister into perspective.*

Temporal Power:

The fall of Rudd is a lesson worth remembering for those who aspire to power: it’s hard to get anywhere in this life—except in North Korea—unless you bring people along with you. Power in almost every area depends on some degree of consent. He had it from the people but not from those who knew him and worked with him.

And so he blew the top job. Once the most powerful person in the country, he now has none at all.  A rooster one day; a feather duster the next.

“If you have a belief that you strongly hold, that might not be the belief of the colleagues beside you, it is your right – in fact, it is your duty – to stand up and say something about it and to express your view. If you do not, you are letting yourself down and, worse than that, you are letting your nation down …"

* The fact that they do it is not the thing that should bother us. The fact that we shrug our shoulders and recognise the political calculations for what they are and give them grudging admiration, that’s the troubling bit.*

We let ourselves be taken for this ride, by participating mutely in a structured political drama that can argue for people’s very lives in one month then turn around the next and do the opposite straight faced. One of these elections we might demand better.

That we collude quietly for now is a particularly dark piece of moral turpitude. It shouldn’t be assessed against the standards of political cunning, it should be judged against the standards of simple decency.

A counter argument is presented by Homer when he has Achilles’ reply to Odysseus in Hades:

‘far better, he says, to be a serf among the living than to lord it over the dead”

* Or “it is better to be an abject craven coward, than a dead hero”.      Variation of a quote by Bill Allen*

…………………

**Question:  **Why is it best not to question Authority?

**Answer:   * ***It might embarrass them; they don’t have any answers either.

Nick Davies of Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with Rupert Murdoch fame says:

“The journalist’s fantasy, that gets you out of bed in the morning, is that if you write about a bad thing, then the bad thing will stop.  That isn’t what happens.  You write about a bad thing, the people responsible get furious and run around shouting at you and threatening to sue you, and then they carry on as ever.”

The strongest existence is to go on in the face of obstacles; yet to keep your dignity. . ****

Albert Camus.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back."

“Although there is no reason to hope, that is no reason for despair."

*“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” *― Theodore Parker - 1810

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21 Quotes That (If Applied) Change You Into a Better Person

Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday

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Sep 7, 2018 · 16 min read

As long as man has been alive, he has been collecting little sayings about how to live. We find them carved in the rock of the Temple of Apollo and etched as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. They appear in the plays of Shakespeare, the commonplace book of H. P. Lovecraft, the collected proverbs of Erasmus, and the ceiling beams of Montaigne’s study. Today, they’re recorded on iPhones and in Evernote.

But whatever generation is doing it, whether they’re written by scribes in China or commoners in some European dungeon or simply passed along by a kindly grandfather, these little epigrams of life advice have taught essential lessons. How to respond to adversity. How to think about money. How to meditate on our mortality. How to have courage.

And they pack all this in in so few words. “What is an epigram?” Coleridge asked, “A dwarfish whole; Its body brevity, and wit its soul.” Epigrams are what Churchill was doing when he said: “To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” Or Balzac: “All happiness depends on courage and work.” Ah yes, epigrams are often funny too. That’s how we remember them. Napoleon: “Never interrupt an enemy making a mistake.” François de La Rochefoucauld: “We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.” Voltaire: “A long dispute means that both parties are wrong.”

Below are some wonderful epigrams that span some 21 centuries and 3 continents. Each one is worth remembering, having queued in your brain for one of life’s crossroads or to drop at the perfect moment in conversation. Each will change and evolve with you as you evolve (Heraclitus: “No man steps in the same river twice”) and yet each will remain strong and unyielding no matter how much you may one day try to wiggle out and away from them.

Fundamentally, each one will teach you how to be a better person. If you let them.

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

At the beginning of his life, few would have predicted that Theodore Roosevelt even had a choice in the matter. He was sickly and fragile, doted on by worried parents. Then, a conversation with his father sent him driven, almost maniacally in the other direction. I will make my body,” he said, when told that he would not go far in this world with a brilliant mind in a frail body. What followed was a montage of boxing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, swimming, boldly charging enemy fire, and then a grueling work pace as one of the most prolific and admired presidents in American history. Again, this epigram was prophetic for Roosevelt, because at only 54 years old, his body began to wear out. An assassination attemptleft a bullet lodged in his body and it hastened his rheumatoid arthritis. On his famous “River of Doubt” expedition he developed a tropical fever and the toxins from an infection in his leg left him nearly dead. Back in America he contracted a severe throat infection and was later diagnosed with inflammatory rheumatism, which temporarily confined him to a wheelchair (saying famously, “All right! I can work that way too!”) and then he died at age 60. But there is not a person on the planet who would say that he had not made a fair trade, that he had not worn his life well and not lived a full one in those 60 years.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus

There is the story of the alcoholic father with two sons. One follows in his father’s footsteps and ends up struggling through life as a drunk, and the other becomes a successful, sober businessman. Each are asked: “Why are you the way you are?” The answer for both is the same: “Well, it’s because my father was an alcoholic.” The same event, the same childhood, two different outcomes. This is true for almost all situations — what happens to us is an objective reality, how we respond is a subjective choice. The Stoics — of which Epictetus was one — would say that we don’t control what happens to us, all we control are our thoughts and reactions to what happens to us. Remember that: You’re defined in this life not by your good luck or your bad luck, but your reaction to those strokes of fortune. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“The best revenge is not to be like that.” — Marcus Aurelius

There is a proverb about revenge: Before setting out for a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Because revenge is so costly, because the pursuit of it often wears on the one who covets it. Marcus’s advice is easier and truer: How much better it feels to let it go, to leave the wrongdoer to their wrongdoing. And from what we know, Marcus Aurelius lived this advice. When Avidius Cassius, one of his most trusted generals rebelled and declared himself emperor, Marcus did not seek vengeance. Instead, he saw this as an opportunity to teach the Roman people and the Roman Senate about how to deal with civil strife in a compassionate, forgiving way. Indeed, when assassins struck Cassius down, Marcus supposedly wept. This is very different than the idea of “Living well being the best revenge” — it’s not about showing someone up or rubbing your success in their face. It’s that the person who wronged you is not happy, is not enjoying their life. Do not become like them. Reward yourself by being the opposite of them.

“There is good in everything, if only we look for it.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the classic series Little House, lived this, facing some of the toughest and unwelcoming elements on the planet: harsh and unyielding soil, Indian territory, Kansas prairies, and the humid backwoods of Florida. Not afraid, not jaded — because she saw it all as an adventure. Everywhere was a chance to do something new, to persevere with cheery pioneer spirit whatever fate befell her and her husband. That isn’t to say she saw the world through delusional rose-colored glasses. Instead, she simply chose to see each situation for what it could be — accompanied by hard work and a little upbeat spirit. Others make the opposite choice. Remember: There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.

“Character is fate.” — Heraclitus

In the hiring process, most employers look at where someone went to school, what jobs they’ve held in the past. This is because past success can be an indicator of future successes. But is it always? There are plenty of people who were successful because of luck. Maybe they got into Oxford or Harvard because of their parents. And what about a young person who hasn’t had time to build a track record? Are they worthless? Of course not. This is why character is a far better measure of a man or woman. Not just for jobs, but for friendships, relationships, for everything. When you seek to advance your own position in life, character is the best lever — perhaps not in the short term, but certainly over the long term. And the same goes for the people you invite into your life.

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” — Nicholas Nassim Taleb

A man shows up for work at a company where he knows that management is doing something wrong, something unethical. How does he respond? Can he cash his checks in good conscience because he isn’t the one running up the stock price, falsifying reports or lying to his co-workers? No. One cannot, as Budd Schulberg says in one of his novels, deal in filth without becoming the thing he touches. We should look up to a young man at Theranos as an example here. After discovering numerous problems at the health care startup, he was dismissed by his seniors and eventually contacted the authorities. Afterwards, not only was this young man repeatedly threatened, bullied, and attacked by Theranos, but his family had to consider selling their house to pay for the legal bills. His relationship with his grandfather — who sits on the Theranos board — is strained and perhaps irreparable. As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, and us: “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” It’s an important reminder. Doing the right thing isn’t free. Doing the right thing might even cost you everything.

“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone is better than you at something. This is a fact of life. Someone is better than you at making eye contact. Someone is better than you at quantum physics. Someone is better informed than you on geopolitics. Someone is better than you are at speaking kindly to someone they dislike. There are better gift-givers, name-rememberers, weight-lifters, temper-controllers, confidence-carriers, and friendship-makers. There is no one person who is the best at all these things, who doesn’t have room to improve in one or more of them. So if you can find the humility to accept this about yourself, what you will realize is that the world is one giant classroom. Go about your day with an openness and a joy about this fact. Look at every interaction as an opportunity to learn from and of the people you meet. You will be amazed at how quickly you grow, how much better you get.

“This is not your responsibility but it is your problem.” — Cheryl Strayed

It is not your responsibility to fill up a stranger’s gas tank, but when their car dies in front of you, blocking the road, it’s still your problem isn’t it? It is not your responsibility to negotiate peace treaties on behalf of your country, but when war breaks out and you’re drafted to fight in it? Guess whose problem it is? Yours. Life is like this. It has a way of dropping things into our lap — the consequences of an employee’s negligence, a spouse’s momentary lapse of judgement, a freak weather event — that were in no way our fault but by nature of being in our lap, our f*cking problem. So what are you going to do? Complain? Are you going to litigate this in a blogpost or an argument with God? Or are you just going to get to work solving it the best you can? Life is defined by how you answer that question. Cheryl Strayed is right. This thing might not be your responsibility but it is your problem. So accept it, deal with it, kick its ass.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

In Rome just as America, in the forum just as on Facebook, there was the temptation to replace action with argument. To philosophize instead of living philosophically. Today, in a society obsessed with content, outrage, and drama, it’s even easier to get lost in the echo chamber of the debate of what’s “better.” We can have endless discussions about what’s right and wrong. What should we do in this hypothetical situation or that one? How can we encourage other people to be better? (We can even debate the meaning of the above line: “What’s a man? What’s the definition of good? Why doesn’t it mention women?”) Of course, this is all a distraction. If you want to try to make the world a slightly better place, there’s a lot you can do. But only one thing guarantees an impact. Step away from the argument. Dig yourself out of the rubble. Stop wasting time with how things should be, would be, could be. Be that thing. (Here’s a cool poster of this quote).

“You are only entitled to the action, never to its fruits.” — Bhagavad Gita

In life, it’s a fact that: You will be unappreciated. You will be sabotaged. You will experience surprising failures. Your expectations will not be met. You will lose. You will fail. How do you carry on then? How do you take pride in yourself and your work? John Wooden’s advice to his players says it: Change the definition of success. “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” “Ambition,” [Marcus Aurelius reminded himself]As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, “means tying your well-being to what other people say or do . . . Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.” That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards — those are just extra.

“Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” — Epicurus

A lot has been said of so-called “F*ck You Money.” The idea being that if one can earn enough, become rich and powerful enough, that suddenly no one can touch them and they can do whatever they want. What a mirage this is! How often the target seems to mysteriously move right as we approach it. It calls to mind the observation of David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson who said that “beyond a specific amount, f*ck-you money can be a state of mind. One that you can acquire well in advance of the corresponding bank account. One that’s founded mostly on a personal confidence that even if most of the material trappings went away, you’d still be happier for standing your ground.” The truth is being your own man, being self-contained, having fewer needs, and better, resilient skills that allow you to thrive in any and all situations. That is real wealth and freedom. That’s what Emerson was talking about in his famous essay on self-reliance and it’s what Epicurus meant too.

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” — Jose Ortega y Gasset

It was one of the great Stoics who said that if you live with a lame man, soon enough you will walk with a limp. My father told me something similar as a kid: “You become like your friends.” It is true not just with social influences but informational ones too: If you are addicted to the chatter of the news, you will soon find yourself worried, resentful, and perpetually outraged. If you consume nothing but escapist entertainment, you will find the real world around you harder and harder to deal with. If all you do is watch the markets and obsess over every fluctuation, your worldview will become defined by money and gains and losses. But if you drink from deep, philosophical wisdom? If you have regularly in your mind role models of restraint, sobriety, courage, and honor? Well, you will start to become these things too. Tell me who you spend time with, Goethe said, and I will tell you who you are. Tell me what you pay attention to, Gasset was saying, and I can tell you the same thing. Remember that the next time you feel your finger itching to pull up your Facebook feed.

“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.” — Zeno

You can always get up after you fall, but remember, what has been said can never be unsaid. Especially cruel and hurtful things.

“Space I can recover. Time, never.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

Lands can be reconquered, indeed in the course of a battle, a hill or a certain plain might trade hands several times. But missed opportunities? These can never be regained. Moments in time, in culture? They can never be re-made. One can never go back in time to prepare for what they should have prepared for, no one can ever get back critical seconds that were wasted out of fear or ego. Napoleon was brilliant at trading space for time: Sure, you can make these moves, provided you are giving me the time I need to drill my troops, or move them to where I want them to be. Yet in life, most of us are terrible at this. We trade an hour of our life here or afternoon there like it can be bought back with the few dollars we were paid for it. And it is only much much later, as they are on their deathbeds or when they are looking back on what might have been, that many people realize the awful truth of this quote. Don’t do that. Embrace it now.

“You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” — Warren Buffett

The problem with comparing yourself to other people is you really never know anyone else’s situation. The co-worker with a nice car? It could be a dangerous and unsafe salvage with 100,000 miles. The friend who always seems to be traveling to far off places? They could be up to their eyeballs in credit card debt and about to get fired by their boss. Your neighbors’ marriage which makes you so insecure about your own? It could be a nightmare, a complete lie. People do a very good job pretending at things, and their well-maintained fronts are often covers for incredible risk and irresponsibility. You never know, Warren Buffett was saying, until things get bad. If you’re living the life you know to be right, if you are making good, solid decisions, don’t be swayed by what others are doing — whether that is taking the form of irrational exuberance or panicked pessimism. See the high flying lives of others as a cautionary tale — like Icarus with his wings — and not as an inspiration or a source of insecurity. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t be caught swimming naked! Because the tide will go out. Prepare for it! (Premeditatio Malorum)

“Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.” — Benjamin Franklin

Marcus Aurelius would say something similar: “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” Why? For starters because the only person you control is yourself. It’s a complete waste of time to go around projecting strict standards on other people — ones they never agreed to follow in the first place — and then being aghast or feel wronged when they fall short. The other reason is you have no idea what other people are going or have been through. That person who seemed to rudely decline the invitation you so kindly offered? What if they were working hard to recommit themselves to their family and as much as they’d like to have coffee with you, are doing their best to spend more time with their loved ones? The point is: You have no idea. So give people the benefit of the doubt. Look for good in them, assume good in them, and let that good inspire your own actions.

“The world was not big enough for Alexander the Great, but a coffin was.” — Juvenal

Ah, the way that a good one liner can humble even the world’s greatest conqueror. Remember: we are all equals in death. It makes quick work of all of us, big and small. I carry a coin in my pocket to remember this: Memento Mori. What Juvenal reminds us is the same thing that Shakespeare spoke about in Hamlet:

“Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O’ that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t’ expel the winder’s flaw!”

It doesn’t matter how famous you are, how powerful you are, how much you think you have left to do on this planet, the same thing happens to all of us, and it can happen when we least expect it. And then we will be wormfood and that’s the end of it.

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” — Winston Churchill

While this is probably not a Churchill original (he most likely borrowedfrom Cardinal Newman: “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”), Churchill certainly abided this in his life. He’d even quip about his constant change of political affiliation: “I said a lot of stupid things when I worked with the Conservative Party, and I left it because I did not want to go on saying stupid things.” As Cicero would say when attacked that he was changing his opinion: “If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.” There is nothing more impressive — intellectually or otherwise — than to change long held beliefs, opinions, and habits. The more you’ve changed, the better you probably are.

“Judge not, lest you be judged.” — Jesus

Not only here would Jesus call us on one of our worst tendencies but immediately also ask: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” This line is similar to what the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who historical sources suggest was born the same year as Jesus, would say: “You look at the pimples of others when you yourselves are covered with a mass of sores.” Waste no time judging and worrying about other people. You have plenty of problems to deal with in your own life. Chances are your own flaws are probably worse — and in any case, they are at least in your control. So do something about them.

“Time and patience are the strongest warriors.” — Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy puts the above words in the mouth of Field Marshall Mikhail Kutuzov in War and Peace. In real life, Kutuzov gave Napoleon a painful lesson in the truth of the epigram over a long winter in Russia in 1812. Tolstoy would also say, “Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait.” When it comes to accomplishing anything significant, you are required to exhibit patience and fortitude, so much patience, as much as you’d think you’d need boldness and courage. In my book Conspiracy, about Peter Thiel’s plot to destroy Gawker, his operative describes a similar idea: With enough time and patience, you can do anything.

“No one saves us but ourselves / No one can and no one may.” — Buddha

Will we wait for someone to save us, or will we listen to Marcus Aurelius’s empowering call to “get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.”

Because at some point, we must put articles like this one aside and take action. No one can blow our nose for us. Another blog post isn’t the answer. The right choices and decisions are. Who knows how much time you have left, or what awaits us tomorrow? So get to it.

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21 Quotes That (If Applied) Change You Into a Better Person

Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday

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Sep 7, 2018 · 16 min read

As long as man has been alive, he has been collecting little sayings about how to live. We find them carved in the rock of the Temple of Apollo and etched as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. They appear in the plays of Shakespeare, the commonplace book of H. P. Lovecraft, the collected proverbs of Erasmus, and the ceiling beams of Montaigne’s study. Today, they’re recorded on iPhones and in Evernote.

But whatever generation is doing it, whether they’re written by scribes in China or commoners in some European dungeon or simply passed along by a kindly grandfather, these little epigrams of life advice have taught essential lessons. How to respond to adversity. How to think about money. How to meditate on our mortality. How to have courage.

And they pack all this in in so few words. “What is an epigram?” Coleridge asked, “A dwarfish whole; Its body brevity, and wit its soul.” Epigrams are what Churchill was doing when he said: “To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” Or Balzac: “All happiness depends on courage and work.” Ah yes, epigrams are often funny too. That’s how we remember them. Napoleon: “Never interrupt an enemy making a mistake.” François de La Rochefoucauld: “We hardly find any persons of good sense save those who agree with us.” Voltaire: “A long dispute means that both parties are wrong.”

Below are some wonderful epigrams that span some 21 centuries and 3 continents. Each one is worth remembering, having queued in your brain for one of life’s crossroads or to drop at the perfect moment in conversation. Each will change and evolve with you as you evolve (Heraclitus: “No man steps in the same river twice”) and yet each will remain strong and unyielding no matter how much you may one day try to wiggle out and away from them.

Fundamentally, each one will teach you how to be a better person. If you let them.

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

At the beginning of his life, few would have predicted that Theodore Roosevelt even had a choice in the matter. He was sickly and fragile, doted on by worried parents. Then, a conversation with his father sent him driven, almost maniacally in the other direction. I will make my body,” he said, when told that he would not go far in this world with a brilliant mind in a frail body. What followed was a montage of boxing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, swimming, boldly charging enemy fire, and then a grueling work pace as one of the most prolific and admired presidents in American history. Again, this epigram was prophetic for Roosevelt, because at only 54 years old, his body began to wear out. An assassination attemptleft a bullet lodged in his body and it hastened his rheumatoid arthritis. On his famous “River of Doubt” expedition he developed a tropical fever and the toxins from an infection in his leg left him nearly dead. Back in America he contracted a severe throat infection and was later diagnosed with inflammatory rheumatism, which temporarily confined him to a wheelchair (saying famously, “All right! I can work that way too!”) and then he died at age 60. But there is not a person on the planet who would say that he had not made a fair trade, that he had not worn his life well and not lived a full one in those 60 years.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus

There is the story of the alcoholic father with two sons. One follows in his father’s footsteps and ends up struggling through life as a drunk, and the other becomes a successful, sober businessman. Each are asked: “Why are you the way you are?” The answer for both is the same: “Well, it’s because my father was an alcoholic.” The same event, the same childhood, two different outcomes. This is true for almost all situations — what happens to us is an objective reality, how we respond is a subjective choice. The Stoics — of which Epictetus was one — would say that we don’t control what happens to us, all we control are our thoughts and reactions to what happens to us. Remember that: You’re defined in this life not by your good luck or your bad luck, but your reaction to those strokes of fortune. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

“The best revenge is not to be like that.” — Marcus Aurelius

There is a proverb about revenge: Before setting out for a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Because revenge is so costly, because the pursuit of it often wears on the one who covets it. Marcus’s advice is easier and truer: How much better it feels to let it go, to leave the wrongdoer to their wrongdoing. And from what we know, Marcus Aurelius lived this advice. When Avidius Cassius, one of his most trusted generals rebelled and declared himself emperor, Marcus did not seek vengeance. Instead, he saw this as an opportunity to teach the Roman people and the Roman Senate about how to deal with civil strife in a compassionate, forgiving way. Indeed, when assassins struck Cassius down, Marcus supposedly wept. This is very different than the idea of “Living well being the best revenge” — it’s not about showing someone up or rubbing your success in their face. It’s that the person who wronged you is not happy, is not enjoying their life. Do not become like them. Reward yourself by being the opposite of them.

“There is good in everything, if only we look for it.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the classic series Little House, lived this, facing some of the toughest and unwelcoming elements on the planet: harsh and unyielding soil, Indian territory, Kansas prairies, and the humid backwoods of Florida. Not afraid, not jaded — because she saw it all as an adventure. Everywhere was a chance to do something new, to persevere with cheery pioneer spirit whatever fate befell her and her husband. That isn’t to say she saw the world through delusional rose-colored glasses. Instead, she simply chose to see each situation for what it could be — accompanied by hard work and a little upbeat spirit. Others make the opposite choice. Remember: There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.

“Character is fate.” — Heraclitus

In the hiring process, most employers look at where someone went to school, what jobs they’ve held in the past. This is because past success can be an indicator of future successes. But is it always? There are plenty of people who were successful because of luck. Maybe they got into Oxford or Harvard because of their parents. And what about a young person who hasn’t had time to build a track record? Are they worthless? Of course not. This is why character is a far better measure of a man or woman. Not just for jobs, but for friendships, relationships, for everything. When you seek to advance your own position in life, character is the best lever — perhaps not in the short term, but certainly over the long term. And the same goes for the people you invite into your life.

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” — Nicholas Nassim Taleb

A man shows up for work at a company where he knows that management is doing something wrong, something unethical. How does he respond? Can he cash his checks in good conscience because he isn’t the one running up the stock price, falsifying reports or lying to his co-workers? No. One cannot, as Budd Schulberg says in one of his novels, deal in filth without becoming the thing he touches. We should look up to a young man at Theranos as an example here. After discovering numerous problems at the health care startup, he was dismissed by his seniors and eventually contacted the authorities. Afterwards, not only was this young man repeatedly threatened, bullied, and attacked by Theranos, but his family had to consider selling their house to pay for the legal bills. His relationship with his grandfather — who sits on the Theranos board — is strained and perhaps irreparable. As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, and us: “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” It’s an important reminder. Doing the right thing isn’t free. Doing the right thing might even cost you everything.

“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone is better than you at something. This is a fact of life. Someone is better than you at making eye contact. Someone is better than you at quantum physics. Someone is better informed than you on geopolitics. Someone is better than you are at speaking kindly to someone they dislike. There are better gift-givers, name-rememberers, weight-lifters, temper-controllers, confidence-carriers, and friendship-makers. There is no one person who is the best at all these things, who doesn’t have room to improve in one or more of them. So if you can find the humility to accept this about yourself, what you will realize is that the world is one giant classroom. Go about your day with an openness and a joy about this fact. Look at every interaction as an opportunity to learn from and of the people you meet. You will be amazed at how quickly you grow, how much better you get.

“This is not your responsibility but it is your problem.” — Cheryl Strayed

It is not your responsibility to fill up a stranger’s gas tank, but when their car dies in front of you, blocking the road, it’s still your problem isn’t it? It is not your responsibility to negotiate peace treaties on behalf of your country, but when war breaks out and you’re drafted to fight in it? Guess whose problem it is? Yours. Life is like this. It has a way of dropping things into our lap — the consequences of an employee’s negligence, a spouse’s momentary lapse of judgement, a freak weather event — that were in no way our fault but by nature of being in our lap, our f*cking problem. So what are you going to do? Complain? Are you going to litigate this in a blogpost or an argument with God? Or are you just going to get to work solving it the best you can? Life is defined by how you answer that question. Cheryl Strayed is right. This thing might not be your responsibility but it is your problem. So accept it, deal with it, kick its ass.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

In Rome just as America, in the forum just as on Facebook, there was the temptation to replace action with argument. To philosophize instead of living philosophically. Today, in a society obsessed with content, outrage, and drama, it’s even easier to get lost in the echo chamber of the debate of what’s “better.” We can have endless discussions about what’s right and wrong. What should we do in this hypothetical situation or that one? How can we encourage other people to be better? (We can even debate the meaning of the above line: “What’s a man? What’s the definition of good? Why doesn’t it mention women?”) Of course, this is all a distraction. If you want to try to make the world a slightly better place, there’s a lot you can do. But only one thing guarantees an impact. Step away from the argument. Dig yourself out of the rubble. Stop wasting time with how things should be, would be, could be. Be that thing. (Here’s a cool poster of this quote).

“You are only entitled to the action, never to its fruits.” — Bhagavad Gita

In life, it’s a fact that: You will be unappreciated. You will be sabotaged. You will experience surprising failures. Your expectations will not be met. You will lose. You will fail. How do you carry on then? How do you take pride in yourself and your work? John Wooden’s advice to his players says it: Change the definition of success. “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” “Ambition,” [Marcus Aurelius reminded himself]As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, “means tying your well-being to what other people say or do . . . Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.” That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards — those are just extra.

“Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” — Epicurus

A lot has been said of so-called “F*ck You Money.” The idea being that if one can earn enough, become rich and powerful enough, that suddenly no one can touch them and they can do whatever they want. What a mirage this is! How often the target seems to mysteriously move right as we approach it. It calls to mind the observation of David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson who said that “beyond a specific amount, f*ck-you money can be a state of mind. One that you can acquire well in advance of the corresponding bank account. One that’s founded mostly on a personal confidence that even if most of the material trappings went away, you’d still be happier for standing your ground.” The truth is being your own man, being self-contained, having fewer needs, and better, resilient skills that allow you to thrive in any and all situations. That is real wealth and freedom. That’s what Emerson was talking about in his famous essay on self-reliance and it’s what Epicurus meant too.

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” — Jose Ortega y Gasset

It was one of the great Stoics who said that if you live with a lame man, soon enough you will walk with a limp. My father told me something similar as a kid: “You become like your friends.” It is true not just with social influences but informational ones too: If you are addicted to the chatter of the news, you will soon find yourself worried, resentful, and perpetually outraged. If you consume nothing but escapist entertainment, you will find the real world around you harder and harder to deal with. If all you do is watch the markets and obsess over every fluctuation, your worldview will become defined by money and gains and losses. But if you drink from deep, philosophical wisdom? If you have regularly in your mind role models of restraint, sobriety, courage, and honor? Well, you will start to become these things too. Tell me who you spend time with, Goethe said, and I will tell you who you are. Tell me what you pay attention to, Gasset was saying, and I can tell you the same thing. Remember that the next time you feel your finger itching to pull up your Facebook feed.

“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.” — Zeno

You can always get up after you fall, but remember, what has been said can never be unsaid. Especially cruel and hurtful things.

“Space I can recover. Time, never.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

Lands can be reconquered, indeed in the course of a battle, a hill or a certain plain might trade hands several times. But missed opportunities? These can never be regained. Moments in time, in culture? They can never be re-made. One can never go back in time to prepare for what they should have prepared for, no one can ever get back critical seconds that were wasted out of fear or ego. Napoleon was brilliant at trading space for time: Sure, you can make these moves, provided you are giving me the time I need to drill my troops, or move them to where I want them to be. Yet in life, most of us are terrible at this. We trade an hour of our life here or afternoon there like it can be bought back with the few dollars we were paid for it. And it is only much much later, as they are on their deathbeds or when they are looking back on what might have been, that many people realize the awful truth of this quote. Don’t do that. Embrace it now.

“You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” — Warren Buffett

The problem with comparing yourself to other people is you really never know anyone else’s situation. The co-worker with a nice car? It could be a dangerous and unsafe salvage with 100,000 miles. The friend who always seems to be traveling to far off places? They could be up to their eyeballs in credit card debt and about to get fired by their boss. Your neighbors’ marriage which makes you so insecure about your own? It could be a nightmare, a complete lie. People do a very good job pretending at things, and their well-maintained fronts are often covers for incredible risk and irresponsibility. You never know, Warren Buffett was saying, until things get bad. If you’re living the life you know to be right, if you are making good, solid decisions, don’t be swayed by what others are doing — whether that is taking the form of irrational exuberance or panicked pessimism. See the high flying lives of others as a cautionary tale — like Icarus with his wings — and not as an inspiration or a source of insecurity. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t be caught swimming naked! Because the tide will go out. Prepare for it! (Premeditatio Malorum)

“Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.” — Benjamin Franklin

Marcus Aurelius would say something similar: “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” Why? For starters because the only person you control is yourself. It’s a complete waste of time to go around projecting strict standards on other people — ones they never agreed to follow in the first place — and then being aghast or feel wronged when they fall short. The other reason is you have no idea what other people are going or have been through. That person who seemed to rudely decline the invitation you so kindly offered? What if they were working hard to recommit themselves to their family and as much as they’d like to have coffee with you, are doing their best to spend more time with their loved ones? The point is: You have no idea. So give people the benefit of the doubt. Look for good in them, assume good in them, and let that good inspire your own actions.

“The world was not big enough for Alexander the Great, but a coffin was.” — Juvenal

Ah, the way that a good one liner can humble even the world’s greatest conqueror. Remember: we are all equals in death. It makes quick work of all of us, big and small. I carry a coin in my pocket to remember this: Memento Mori. What Juvenal reminds us is the same thing that Shakespeare spoke about in Hamlet:

“Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O’ that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t’ expel the winder’s flaw!”

It doesn’t matter how famous you are, how powerful you are, how much you think you have left to do on this planet, the same thing happens to all of us, and it can happen when we least expect it. And then we will be wormfood and that’s the end of it.

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” — Winston Churchill

While this is probably not a Churchill original (he most likely borrowedfrom Cardinal Newman: “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”), Churchill certainly abided this in his life. He’d even quip about his constant change of political affiliation: “I said a lot of stupid things when I worked with the Conservative Party, and I left it because I did not want to go on saying stupid things.” As Cicero would say when attacked that he was changing his opinion: “If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.” There is nothing more impressive — intellectually or otherwise — than to change long held beliefs, opinions, and habits. The more you’ve changed, the better you probably are.

“Judge not, lest you be judged.” — Jesus

Not only here would Jesus call us on one of our worst tendencies but immediately also ask: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” This line is similar to what the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who historical sources suggest was born the same year as Jesus, would say: “You look at the pimples of others when you yourselves are covered with a mass of sores.” Waste no time judging and worrying about other people. You have plenty of problems to deal with in your own life. Chances are your own flaws are probably worse — and in any case, they are at least in your control. So do something about them.

“Time and patience are the strongest warriors.” — Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy puts the above words in the mouth of Field Marshall Mikhail Kutuzov in War and Peace. In real life, Kutuzov gave Napoleon a painful lesson in the truth of the epigram over a long winter in Russia in 1812. Tolstoy would also say, “Everything comes in time to him who knows how to wait.” When it comes to accomplishing anything significant, you are required to exhibit patience and fortitude, so much patience, as much as you’d think you’d need boldness and courage. In my book Conspiracy, about Peter Thiel’s plot to destroy Gawker, his operative describes a similar idea: With enough time and patience, you can do anything.

“No one saves us but ourselves / No one can and no one may.” — Buddha

Will we wait for someone to save us, or will we listen to Marcus Aurelius’s empowering call to “get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.”

Because at some point, we must put articles like this one aside and take action. No one can blow our nose for us. Another blog post isn’t the answer. The right choices and decisions are. Who knows how much time you have left, or what awaits us tomorrow? So get to it.