Being Free from Perturbation Pt. 2

It’s hard. It’s really hard. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how many maxims you’ve told yourself–when it comes right down to it, many of us are fighting something inside us that we wish we weren’t. That we wish we could move past.

Maybe it was childhood trauma, maybe your parents didn’t love you all that much, maybe it’s your sexuality, maybe you can’t figure out why you’re so lazy. Maybe you don’t feel anything at all.

It’s a strange balance trying to struggle towards strength without relinquishing your humanness. We all fail. We all have buttons that people can push–that thumbscrew that we hope no one notices. You give yourself away to pickpockets when you check for your wallet; it means you have something worth stealing. We are the same way with vulnerabilities. We think we’re hiding them but reveal them in the process.

And the blessing: It is a process. The second dirty secret is that Cicero wrote his finest works in a fit of depression, alone in his country home, following the death of his daughter and a divorce. He did it as an utter hypocrite. By now you’ve seen some of my frenetic, crazy posts. The ones where I’m clearing struggling with something or trying to navigate the chasm between what I want to be and where I actually am. No question, I try to be as honest as possible here but you wouldn’t pick up on that socially. So what is your mask? What do you put up to compensate for where you feel lacking? Because unless you acknowledge it, you’re just living in an illusion and that very often comes crashing down. Tucker quotes Pericles a lot–something to the effect of “there is nothing wrong with poverty, only not doing something about it.”

I know for me, all I want to do is get to point where perturbation doesn’t control me; where the littlest thing doesn’t throw me off; where when I understand that a person shouldn’t affect me I actually don’t let them; where lulls are moments of relaxation instead of worry; where I am as calm as I am after a run, every second of everyday. And I am so far from this that it’s not even funny.

But when you fail–and you surely will: today, tomorrow and the week after–understand that it is a process. And to embark on that process is a journey required for enlightenment and happiness. “Who am I?” “What makes me act the way that I do?” It doesn’t matter what it is, or what you’re trying to “fix,” someone else has done it already and they’d love to talk to you about it. More than anything, don’t compare yourself to where you suspect other people are. Seneca the Stoic is widely considered to just be complete artifice–he mentored Nero for Christ’s sake. Chances are, they’re just pretending.

So back to the question: Can you be happy on the rack; tortured and bloody? Someone can, but I can’t, at least not today. But I’d like to be. I’d like to get to that point. Because really, if your happiness depends on how other people treat you and on the circumstances of life, you’ll find yourself in some dark, dark places. Like the point in your life where you cross streets and just pray for a car.

You don’t want that. No one does.

Whatever you’re after–if it’s influence like I am or solitude like Thoreau–none of it is going to matter if you can’t find tranquility. A thousand additions or a hundred subtractions, the core remains the same. And that has to be the focus of your efforts if you ever want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You can realize that now or you can wait until time is almost up; that is your call

But lastly, it’s just not fair to treat that journey as anything but a process. You can’t wake up tomorrow unbothered by things or free from a certain sadness, but you can, everyday, get a little closer to where you want to be. Each second you shave off from that is one you can spend enjoying yourself, un-enslaved to the tyranny of fate or circumstance, and actually be happy.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.