Letter No. 2 -- Solicit Advice Carefully

If you're just joining me, I'm writing a daily blog applying ancient wisdom to the present day experience of people going through a divorce in Minnesota.

The wisdom comes from Seneca (an old Roman dude) who wrote a series of letters about the meaning of life to his friend, Lucilius. Whether the letters were actually sent, or just compiled in book form, doesn't matter to me because I've found his advice as sound today as when he wrote it circa 65 A.D.

All the letters can be downloaded (for free) courtesy of Tim Ferriss. Click (here) for his website. He's got a bunch of other amazing stuff too.

Today's Letter is No. 2. It's titled On Discursiveness in Reading. If that makes you want to click away, you're not alone. I had the same reaction when I read it this morning.

But sometimes good things do come in ugly packages. Today's letter is one of them.

Seneca tells Lucilius to be careful how many authors he reads because it will cause him to meander (that's what discursive means in this context) and to be unsteady. Being everywhere is nowhere, he explains.

Then he provides a series of examples everyone can understand: "Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong."

Stay focused, he's telling us.

Near the end, he answers a potential objection Lucilius may have about wanting to "dip first into one book and then into another.”

He tells his friend to resist the urge. To focus instead on things that will fortify him against poverty, death, and other misfortunes. Then he suggests that Lucilius "select one [thing] to be thoroughly digested that day" and to concentrate on it.

What good advice!

How often have I jumped from one thing to another? In the past two months, I've probably started reading twenty books, only finished five of them. I've also resolved not to eat so many pumpkin muffins, to get up earlier, to write 2,500 words a day, to not watch so much TV, to exercise 5 days per week, and to focus on being more grateful.

My computer monitor has five post-it notes stuck to it. Each one offers a different bit of wisdom.

How well do you think I'm doing focusing on so many things?

Not great.

I think the situation is the same for people going through a divorce. Many well-intentioned family members, friends, and colleagues will offer advice about what you should be doing. How you should be fighting more. How you must get more, and how you need to stand-up for yourself.

And where does all this wisdom lead you?

Nowhere, if you're lucky. Some place dark, if you're not.

As for me, I'm following Seneca's advice. At least for today anyway. I'm focusing on recapturing my own time. Trying not to let others take it from me without my consent.

So don't be upset if I tell you that our time is up. There are many more important things each of us needs to do today. We might not have many left.

Stay strong,

Rob