Stoicism As A Viking Dad

Around this time last year, I was introduced to the ancient Greek/Roman philosophy of Stoicism.  And no, I am not referring to the art of staring of into the distance wistfully, as I have been asked previously.  While the word “stoic” has in recent times been thought of as a person who is emotionless, the actual ancient art of Stoicism is far from emotionless.  In fact, it thrives on emotion.  The difference, is that you should not depend on any one emotion, especially when it comes from any action that one cannot control themselves.

I started reading “A Guide to the Good Life:  The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy“, by William B. Irvine.  This book did a really great job of defining the history and principles of Stoicism, and then converting that information into practical examples of how the philosophy could be practiced in today’s modern culture.

I followed that read up with “The Daily Stoic“, by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman.  At that time, I started to really place the practice as a central part of how I ran my life.  Ryan and Stephen’s unique review and interpretation of classic quotes from some of the Stoic greats (such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus) really set the tone for how I wanted to control my life.  How to consciously engage with actions that I could control, and also how to disengage from events which I could not control.  The design of the book, set up as a daily reader with varying quotes and discussions for each day of the year, also kept the practice as a forefront in my mind, by maintaining my practice and review of the Stoic philosophy.

The Daily Stoic cover

I am sad to admit that I did fall out of practice for a while, and I saw a noticeable difference in my attitude and general mental well-being when I stopped thinking as a Stoic.  I have recently re-instituted this daily habit, and it has helped dramatically.  The purchase of Ryan and Stephen’s “The Daily Stoic Journal” has been a great tool for me, using the daily journaling as a way to set my mind up to be in the proper frame, from right after my morning workout and coffee.

As a new Dad, I feel that patience is the key area for me to improve upon what I experienced with my father.  he had none with me, in most cases, and I always felt that it meant I was a disappointment.  I do not want my son to feel that way, so I plan to practice the improvement of my own patience on a daily basis, as a part of my Stoic journey.  An example is listed below:

Example:  The baby is crying because no one will pick him up.

For any new parent, the sound of their child crying can initiate a response that can be difficult to control.  We all know the sound our child makes when in pain, and also what sounds they make when they are mad, and resisting the urge to go and comfort them could be the difference between raising a relatively calm baby, and one who is spoiled.

As a father, I feel that it is my duty to instill a sense of self-reliance in my son, even while he is so young, which means that I lean toward the notion that a baby should learn to soothe themselves at an early age.  This isn’t just so that I can get a little more sleep, but also so that my son learns to overcome his feelings of anger, hopefully, by realizing that someone won’t always be there to make everything better.  Stoicism 101.  My wife, however… has to fight a little harder to resist the urge to run and pick him up.  And that’s fine, it doesn’t make her a bad mother, or a good mother.  It just makes her a human being.

So, as I make my way through the life of a new father, especially one who looks to reach Viking Level of Dad-ness, I will make Stoicism a part of my everyday life.  For my own good, and that of my son.

Let me know if you have any experience with Stoicism in the comments below, and also, if you have any other philosophies that you use in the upbringing of your children.

Thanks for reading!

What’s The First Step?

Supplies may come in handy on my long voyage inside my garage…. so I figured that the best thing to do, was to start with a Ruck March from the beautiful Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, all the way to the Viking Pub in Oslo.  After all, any voyage to the far isles of Britain, must begin with a beer or two…or three.

So, I Googled the path from the Viking Ship Museum, to the Viking Pub, using the Maps feature.  According to Google, it is a 3.8 mile hike.  Considering I would be carrying supplies, a weapon, maybe a flask or two, if I were doing this for real, I will be carrying my own Ruck Pack with 30+ lbs. of taped up bricks…don’t ask.  I will also have a water bottle to aid in any thirst until I get to the Pub, and that will round out my supplies.

I will be tracking my ruck path today using Map My Run, and will share the distances and times rucked after I finish.  In the meantime, take a look at my slightly altered path.Day 1_Journey To the Viking Bar

Truth Bombs and Rowing The High Seas

So here is the deal. I am using some basic research, guesstimation, and a general “Yeah, that should be close enough” attitude, and converting that to an exercise plan.  So, not only will you receive my wonderful version of fatherly truth, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to see me transform from a heavyweight Viking, to a lean and not-so-mean Viking that is able to bust a door down with an axe, row across vast seas, and drink a beer or two…or wine….or mead.  Or whiskey.

It’s no secret that I like Viking history and lore, so I thought rowing the distance from “possibly” the first route between Scandinavia and England, would be a fun way to help me get in shape for pillaging,

I have my path, I have my rower, and I have my goal.  I will be updating the path I am taking, including distances rucked (for supplies or revelry) and the distances rowed, as I move along on my Concept 2 Model D rower.

Follow along with me for encouragement and history, as I attempt to row across the North Sea to make my mark on Blighty….all from the safety of my garage or gym.  The Path

How To Learn Like A Viking

I am guessing that some of the Viking skills were learned the hard way.  Kill or be killed. Considering their seafaring abilities though, I would have to assume that there was some form of skilled training.  I mean, did they pick a guy to be a ship builder, and then find out at sea that he was probably a better cook?

 

Scholarly Pursuits:

  • Dad Scholarly Pursuits:  I am a guy who graduated high school while successfully completing honors level classes and by all accounts, should have gone on to university and graduated with a degree.  Problem is, I had no idea of what it was that I wanted to do, and I couldn’t see the value in attending classes just because I had to do them to get them out of the way.  So, I entered working world without a degree, started making money, and that was that.  I have actually progressed my career pretty far, considering I do not have a degree, but it has held me back at certain points, and will most likely limit my upward reaching capability in my current field.  That being said, I have a hard time agreeing to pay what it costs to get a degree, just so I can complete a formality for something I am already skilled and capable enough to do.  So, if I really want to think about my own scholarly pursuits, it is probably more of a “free” pursuit, limited to minimal costs for either books or on-line courses, or even local skills training.
  • Viking Scholarly Pursuits:  I am not sure if there were scholarly pursuits of the Vikings, per se, but I would imagine that there were at least members of the group who learned via the elders on matters regarding healing, etc.  I mean, if you look at the engineering of their long boats that were used to sail the rough North Sea, there had to be some manner of passing down precise details.  Add in their navigation capabilities, and even perhaps their battle tactics, and the picture quickly becomes clear that there were advances and specialties that the Vikings held in comparison to their enemies, that were not just luck of the draw or handed down by the Gods.  Maybe they didn’t follow our now traditional manner of attending a university to learn a skill and get a degree, and then move into the world to either utilize those skills, or flip burgers (I’m looking at you, liberal arts).  So, maybe the most clear way of defining the “scholarly pursuits” of the Vikings, is to say that they learned how to do things better through trials and hardship, so that their life might become better.  I think I could focus on that without having to go back to college.

What are your scholarly pursuits?  University?  Tech school?  Online? Or, good old fashioned grit and perseverance?  Share in the comments section.

Hagar or Ragnar?

If you are a regular reader of Hagar The Horrible, you have a pretty good idea of what Viking family life was like.  Happy go lucky Viking Leader Dad, stern Viking Mom, lovable rascal of a Viking Son, and a hot Viking daughter.  At least, that seems like the gist of their roles in the Viking family unit.

If, on the other hand, you look at Ragnar Lothbrok, from the TV show Vikings, you get a bit of a more complex view at the Viking family unit.  Multiple wives, children by both, or more importantly, sons by both.  Add in the acts of raiding, leading, following, negotiating, exploring, learning, and taking vengeance when needed, then the character becomes more three dimensional than Hagar.  Fatherhood and raiding aside, there is a vast difference between bumbling Hagar and calculating Ragnar, which is one reason why there are multiple Instagram accounts dedicated to Ragnar…and none to Hagar, my guess.

Family Life:

  • Dad Family Life:  I have a wonderful wife, a very young son, and a strained relationship with my own father.  I know how I was raised, and for the most part, I was raised well.  There are areas that I wish would have been better.  I see what I deem as failures between my Dad and I’s relationship, and I am desperate to not repeat them with my own son.  I am a bit of a homebody when at home, but love getting out and exploring new things when away from home (like in vacation).  I am filled with wanderlust most days, and look forward to sharing this world with my wife and son as he grows older.  I want to teach my son, instill great qualities in my son, encourage that spark of curiosity and drive to explore.  I want him to be better than me.
  • Viking Family Life:  Considering the general view on lack of morals of the Vikings (raping, pillaging, killing, etc.), their society was actually somewhat egalitarian when it came to relationships between the sexes of the natives.  Slavery is the definite check mark against their society morals, but women did have more of an equal standing with the men, in comparison to some of the other prominent civilizations at that time.  The family was typically raised in a communal setting, which meant close interaction with others, and more importantly, shared consequences.

Did Vikings Use Ladders?

What did the ladder say to the Step Ladder?  “You’re not my real father!”  Hahahaha….ahhhh.  I kid, but seriously, why is a ladder so often used when referring to advancement in one’s career?  Because you start at the bottom and move your way up toward your goal.  I/m sure that Vikings must have used ladders for storming castles and such, but I wonder how they considered their own “career” advancement?

Career:

  • Dad Career:  I have been in the same field for a little over 18 years.  The career has been lucrative, but also stressful at times, and I find that I am losing interest.  My drive to rise through the ranks has been lost.  This could partially be because I am feeling a little lost at this time in my life and career (middle age crisis?), or because I just don’t feel challenged.  Either way, it definitely isn’t the love of my life, as far as skills to get paid money for goes.  I view myself as a creative, and my current career just feels like I am filling time until I die.  So, yeah…may be time to do something different.
  • Viking Career:  I don’t believe that Vikings, or at least the Vikings we think of, had “careers” so to speak.  I am sure that some of them had skills that they excelled at, such as metalsmithing, or farming, or ship building.  But the Vikings I am most interested in, historically factual or not, were the ones who raided, who explored, who took what they wanted and brought the spoils home.  It could be said that maybe they preferred to be home weaving on a loom, but raiding is what brought wealth to them and their family, but I also think that to them, raiding and fighting and conquering is what made the Gods happy, so to speak.  Living a good Viking life was critical to making it into Valhalla.  Challenging yourself in life or death situations was one way of living the good Viking life.

Rich Like A Viking

One would assume that the Vikings got rich off of pillaging, stealing the good stuff, selling slaves.  And one would be correct, at least partially.  They were also great traders, producing items in their neck of the woods (like iron) and then trading it with other settlements, either in the North Lands or as far south as Northern Africa.  They diversified.  Which is something I am looking to do.

Wealth:

  • Dad Wealth:  Finances are okay, but they could definitely be better.  I think that comfort (and I’m not talking “Ferrari comfort”, more like “the electricity should stay on all month comfort”) can be placating enough to kill the drive to accomplish more.  I am an avowed capitalist, but not someone who puts everything else in my life behind the attainment of 3 more zeros and a n extra comma in my bank statement balance.  I have an urge to do more than what I am currently doing in my area of work at the moment, so improvement of finances is something that would seriously assist that possibility of doing what I love.  I need to diversify, like the Vikings.
  • Viking Wealth:  The communities were generally working together to gain wealth for their area leader, wealth that they shared in, through community feasts, support, and also, the actual spoils of the raids that they may have performed.  Most of them also farmed or raised animals or fished to get food, supplies, or money.  One of their reasons for heading to the West to raid, was because they were tired of raiding local areas where the people were just as poor as them.  The yearning for more land, land that could be farmed, was also a big driver.  Short of being an Earl or some other form of chieftain,  the only way that an individual could increase their wealth was through raiding rich areas, increasing their land area, or travelling further distances and trading with distant cultures.

Any other ideas on how the Vikings had the right idea when it came to growing wealth?  Please share them in the comments below!