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It’s Possible to Tune These Things Out

Daily Stoic Emails

We have so many strong opinions. Especially about things we don’t like. We don’t like it, and we want you to know that we don’t like it—that musician, that politician, that restaurant, the way that so-and-so talks. 

It’s almost like we take pleasure in the misery these things cause us. Needless to say, this is not Stoic. You think Marcus didn’t have things he didn’t like? Of course he did. Seneca, too. But they worked to get from a place of hate or dislike to what the Stoics called “indifference”—almost Zen-like nothingness towards what displeased them. 

Malcolm Gladwell asked Joe Rogan (in their epic interview on Rogan’s podcast) what kind of comics he didn’t like. Rogan responded that he actually didn’t have any. 

One of the things I’ve gotten really good at as I’ve gotten older is not paying any attention to things I don’t like. Just letting it slide right out of my brain and onto the floor, I’m not interested. It’s just, I spent so much time when I was younger and stupider, worrying about things I don’t like, being upset at things I don’t like—well that sucks, why do people like that, what is wrong with them? And then I realized, like, what a gigantic waste of resources that is, just a huge waste of energy. I don’t care anymore. You know as long as they’re not stealing material, as long as they’re not you know doing something terrible to other comics, victimizing, as long as they’re not doing that, I really don’t care. If they’re doing well, good luck.

“We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “and to not let it upset our state of mind—for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.” Beautiful. 

As Rogan would say, it’s difficult to get to this place 100 percent of the time, it’s closer to a work in progress, but we can get there. Our energy is limited in this life. How are we going to spend it? Getting upset, thinking about what we say we don’t care about? It’s ridiculous. 

To have no opinion is humbler, too. As Rogan concluded, you might not like someone’s music, “but they’ll have a full Staples Center of people rocking out—well, I must be wrong. It’s not me, it’s not them.”

Maybe it’s you. So tune it out and shut up. 

For more on tuning out distractions and finding the focus that you need to succeed, check out Ryan Holiday’s best selling Stillness Is the Key. It’s the perfect tool to help you find that critical stillness in your life, even in distracting times like these. Get it here.

P.S. This was originally sent on March 19, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.