An Observation On Emotion from a Gifted Stoic


  • Problem solving is an emotional super-power, which requires putting emotion aside
  • IMHO: professionals are in a crisis because we use this super power too much and go beyond our sustainable limits
  • A feelings diagram might help you get back in touch [1]
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I’m a fantastic stoic. I’m able to push away emotion and exist in thought. This makes me a fantastic, ice cold, problem solver.

I think this is a super-power of professionals. If you’re on LinkedIn, reading this, there’s a good chance this is one of your super powers.

If you know me, you know I’m a consistently optimistic, positive person. In 2015, I was working at M*Modal, which at the time was going through a bankruptcy. We were all intensely driven and connected to the work. Bankers and lawyers were driving many decisions. People were scared for their jobs. The stressful environment had become toxic.

I kept rowing. I couldn’t feel that my arms were numb. I couldn’t feel that I had depleted my reserves and was now eating away at my core.

Leadership is sacrifice, right?

Leadership is setting an example, right?

I ended up, clinically depressed and took 12 weeks off and it took years to get in touch with what happened.

Here’s the message: stoicism, not feeling, will keep you from knowing you are doing damage to yourself. Stoicism is for the short term. It’s for a sprint. It’s not for the marathon.

For the marathon, you need to be thought and feeling, integrated. You need to be able to recognize when you are beyond your sustainable limits.

I’m going to end with the idea that “they,” don’t teach us this s*it in school. Some schools are starting. Courtney Bragg shared with me that some schools teach feelings with the characters from the fantastic Pixar movie, Inside Out.

I called a friend out the other day, when I asked her, “How do you feel,” and she went on to tell me, “I feel like work is really busy and I’m doing a lot of things.” She went on to intellectualize… When I pointed out she hadn’t actually told me how she felt, she was able to revise: “I feel overwhelmed” and “I feel tired.”

I did the same thing, intellectualizing my feeling iI did the same thing, intellectualizing my feeling in another conversation. “I feel like I’m going to have a good week.” “I feel like I should be working harder.” “I feel like I should…” –I feel inspired. I feel pressure [to work harder].

Why does it matter? Because you are not feeling… You’re thinking. Emotions are hard and our ability to feel them can atrophy. Emotion, though, is a source of energy and motivation. To be without it leads to not wanting to get up in the morning.

Don’t take my word for it, go practice… If you want to warm up, start by going intellectual and read Wikipedia’s article on emotional classification.


  • Find (and even print) your favorite feelings wheel [2]
  • Instead of talking about why you feel a certain way… name your feeling.
  • Notice, it’s really difficult to start.
  • Keep doing it. Over time, with practice, you’ll start getting much better at it. Being able to name feelings with precision and quickness will lessen their distraction while adding essential input to your ability to make decisions and solve problems.
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