You Must Tame Your Temper

“Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on—it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 11.18.5

I sometimes struggle with this. I can be very patient if it’s premeditated, but other times, if things don’t go my way or my expectations are subverted in a bad way, I react like a petulant child:

“Ugh! Go! The light is green! What are you doing?!”

“Hello? I’m speaking to you… Why are you on your phone?”

“Who plans an event so last-second?! Now we have to cancel all our plans because we can’t not-go to this person’s birthday. Ugh!”

I suppose I have two options to “fix” this:

  • Premeditate about every single possible way my expectations can be left unmet or subverted, and expect to be disappointed
  • Release my hold on any expectations entirely, or lower them such that I am never unpleasantly surprised

The first option seems exhausting, and borderline impossible. I would have to think of every single possible way I could have my expectations thrown off and then prepare for it. The second option is still a lot of difficult work, no doubt about that; but at least it’s reasonably achievable. It feels somewhat like the contrast between different manufacturing processes:

The first option is like the conventional process (Just-in-Case) where manufacturers have stock of every possible combination of their product ready to ship.

The second option is like the process Toyota pioneered (Just-in-Time) where they would keep only the parts either in stock or easily available from suppliers and would quickly build the car to the customer’s specifications on demand.

I need to react in a more JIT way to events in my life. Let’s try it for a few days and see how it goes.

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