Life & Career Lessons from Euripides’ The Trojan Women

eazl euripedes the trojan women

The Trojan Women is a Greek tragedy by Euripides, one of the most popular playwrights of his time, about the destruction of Troy by the Greeks (the Trojan War). The play takes place in Troy, just after the Trojans’ defeat. Euripides follows the fate of the women of Troy after their city has been destroyed, after their husbands and sons have been killed, and as they await their division and enslavement by the Greeks.

eazl euripides
Bust of Euripedes

I’ve been interested in Greek tragedies lately for my research project (related to ethics and philosophy) and asked Davis to find tickets to see a live Greek tragedy in Chicago. He tracked down a production of The Trojan Women (adapted by Sartre) at Three Crows Theater in Evanston, IL.

You can look at the original play here, if you’d like.

What I like about Greek tragedies is that there are SO MANY lessons to be learned and applied and they are 100% applicable to life today. Really, they’re timeless little pieces of philosophy in story form.

Here’s a little information about some of the characters to give you a some context:

Poseidon and Athena
Opening the play, Poseidon strategizes with Athena ways to punish the Greek armies after misconduct during the war. We don’t see him much for the rest of the play, but Poseidon does return to deliver the conclusion to the audience at the end of the play.

hecuba
The women of Troy console Hecuba.

Hecuba, Queen of Troy
Distraught throughout most of the play, with some glimmers of hope, Hecuba comes to terms with her fate as a fallen queen-turned-slave. She blames Helen for the war (conveniently overlooking her son’s role in bringing Helen to Troy).

Paris, Prince of Troy and son of Hecuba
Paris died during the war, leaving behind his mother and Helen. Menelaus’ revenge on Paris for stealing his wife caused the destruction of Troy.

Menelaus, King of Sparta

Ancient style sculpture of Menelaus supporting the body of Patro
After the Greek army defeats Troy, Menelaus returns to retrieve Helen and administer punishment for her betrayal. Helen manipulates him and they return, as a couple, to Sparta.

Helen of Troy, formerly Helen of Sparta
Considered the most beautiful woman in the world in Greek mythology, Helen left her husband, Menelaus, to be with Paris in Troy. She spends the majority of her role in the play trying to defend her actions by blaming the gods and manipulating Menelaus into not punishing her. We never see her or anyone else accept personal responsibility for their role in causing the war.

Cassandra, Princess of Troy and daughter of Hecuba
Having supernatural powers to foresee the future, Cassandra isn’t worried about Sparta receiving their punishment for their conduct because she has had visions of them being punished.

Talthybius, Herald of the Greeks
Popping in and out of scenes throughout the play to deliver information about the fate of the Trojan women and their future as slaves to the Greeks, Talthybius takes a don’t-shoot-the-messenger stance, showing no bravery or integrity.

Chorus- Captive Trojan Women
The Trojan Women share bits of their grief with us, following Hecuba’s lead, throughout the play.

Here are the lessons I took away from The Trojan Women combined with some further research and real-life applications:

  1. Do not seek vengeancevengeance

From the play:
Vengeance is sought by Menelaus, the King of Sparta, after his wife Helen –attracted to the opulent living of the royalty in Troy– leaves the King for Paris, the handsome Prince of Troy. This is cited throughout the play as the cause of the war between Troy and Sparta.

Hecuba, Queen of Troy and mother of Paris, wishes harm on Helen, who she views as responsible for the King of Sparta’s actions of war against Troy. You know, typical mother-in-law issues. She can’t wait for Helen to be punished.

Research:
In Berkeley’s Science of Happiness course, vengeance is shown to be a negative and unhelpful reaction and a symptom of an inability to forgive an offender.

Unforgiveness is associated with a negative emotional state that increases blood pressure and heart rate. It also leads to release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Basically, it’s really bad for your health!

Studies have shown that forgiveness decreases nervousness, restlessness, and sadness while increasing well being. (1)

Real-life application:
Seeking vengeance isn’t good for anyone involved, including you. You don’t have to absolve a person from their wrongdoings, but you’ll have much better personal and work relationships if you learn to speak calmly about your issues with others and make a conscious effort to forgive instead of seeking vengeance or cutting ties.

  1. Stop thinking that evil always winsgood vs. evil

    From the play:
    One of the Trojan Women repeats “crime pays” in the last scene of Sartre’s adaptation of the play when it’s clear to her that the gods will not punish the Spartans for their unjust behavior. Hecuba reminds her that Troy will be remembered forever and it will be known that the Greeks acted wrongly. And this play serves as the vehicle for communicating that knowledge!

Research:
There are a TON of instances of crime paying in the short term and punishing in the long term. Just take a look at current events that involve Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Martin Shkreli and EpiPen, Roger Ailes (once called one of the “worst Americans ever”), and Sophia Amoruso of Nasty gal –just to name a few. Some of these issues are still working themselves out, but these people fell hard and fast. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

Crime and wrongdoing ALWAYS have a price. We just tend to not see the punishment because it’s often hiding behind money, which we give people WAY too much credit for possessing.

Unethical people pay the price of their decisions through erosion of relationships, lack of happiness, and poor mental and physical health. Plus, the fall to the bottom is hard once people find out how awful you are.

Real-life application:
Accepting the false narrative that corruption and dishonesty is all a part of success isn’t fair to you or the society you live in. Be careful when you make decisions because every action has a reaction.

  1. Come to terms with the fact that materialism corrupts (and that includes you)materialism

From the play:
Helen is attracted to the opulent living in Troy and the physical attractiveness of Paris, Prince of Troy. She abandons her husband and her home for shallow desires.

In the end, she is hated by both the Greeks and Trojans, with both sides wishing her harm, but her grip is tight as she manipulates them with her beauty and deceptiveness. Helen lives despite Menelaus’ resolve to put her to death (he is weak) but her reputation lives on.

Research:
Studies have shown that we experience a short-term increase in happiness right after we buy something, but we then return to our baseline happiness level very soon after. Money only boosts happiness when it brings and individual out of an impoverished situation. Otherwise, it doesn’t impact happiness at all. (2)

What does lead to happiness is strong social ties and belonging to a strong community. Friendship activates oxytocin, which reduces stress hormones, and is one of the most powerful determinants of happiness. (1)

Real-life application:
By realizing the science behind consumption, we can curtail our focus of attainment of physical items and refocus our efforts on building relationships. Change your whole outlook on what your work means to you and, once your priority transitions from the paycheck to relationships and doing good, you’ll see how much more fulfilled your are in your work.

  1. Expediency is punishableexpediency

From the play:
Helen left Greece to live a better life in Troy (comfort-wise) and was quick to manipulate Menelaus and tell him her actions were the fault of the gods instead of her own fault because she feared being punished.

Research:
Humans naturally desire to punish people who act with expediency and self-interest. We are naturally compassionate creatures but we also choose who we exclude from that compassion –often those who display selfish behaviors. (1)

In addition, those who accept fault for their wrongdoings and make the effort to ask for forgiveness have stronger social ties and better relationships, which leads to greater well-being in lots of areas, including mental and physical health and stronger support networks. (1)

Real-life application:
Caring about others does pay off –don’t be fulled by what you see on the surface with self-oriented people. They do pay the price in some way…you just aren’t witnessing the punishment. You’ll be more successful at work when you begin to truly care about the people you work with. You might even find that others will begin to root for your success instead of being unnecessarily competitive with you.

If you haven’t already, work on your apology skills. An effective apology includes:

  • Remorse, shame, and/or humility
  • Acknowledgement of offense and accepting of responsibility
  • Offering of empathy/explanation
  • Undoing of the harm: offering of compensation/reparation
  • Reassuring that there is low likelihood of recurrence (3)

5. Align your values with your actions

align actions with values

From the play:
Talthybius, herald of the Greeks, continuously returns to deliver more bad news to the Trojan women, including the pending execution of the child heir to the throne due to the Greeks’ fear of future retaliation and announcements of future owners for the women’s enslavement.

We also continuously see Talthybius ask the women not to blame him because he is simply the messenger and is only communicating the King’s commands.

Research:
Talthybius’ don’t-shoot-the-messenger approach reminds me of research that has been done in the area of value and action alignment, as well as a concept called flow, which posits that we are happiest when we can throw ourselves into something that we truly value and believe in. 

Real-life application:
I see a lot of people in employment situations where they have to do and support things that they explicitly do not agree with and they are afraid to make a career change because it’s not fun looking for a new job or making a career move.

Ultimately, it’s far more detrimental to stay on the path that clearly doesn’t work for you. A person who is in the right work is excited to get up in the morning and make progress on a project that they are passionate about and that their skills and interests are aligned with.

What’s your favorite Greek tragedy? Tweet at me with your thoughts.

 

Sources:

  1. Berkeley’s Science of Happiness course on EdX
  2. David Myers’s The American Paradox
  3. Aaron Lazare’s On Apology
  4. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow

From Harvard Business Review: Playing Office Politics Without Selling Your Soul

playing office politics

“Unsurprisingly, research shows that when employees perceive their workplace as more political, they are less engaged, less productive, and more likely to quit. And yet, a more effective way of dealing with office politics is to engage in them — playing the game, instead of complaining about it. Fortunately, not all politics are bad, and there’s a way to play the game without selling your soul.”

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From Forbes: Never Give Up Your Salary Details — Do This, Instead

eazl never give salary details

“It is wonderful to see job-seekers waking up to realize they have more power in the hiring equation than they thought they did.

Employers can’t grow their businesses without great employees on board.

Job-seekers need to know that there are lots of badly-managed organizations that treat job-seekers like dirt. Almost everyone has run into one of those organizations at some point.

The faster you run away from organizations (and recruiters) who treat you badly, the sooner you’ll find the right people to collaborate with!”

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What is Neuroplasticity? (+ Free Neuroplasticity Handbook)

“The only constant is change itself” – Heraclitus of Ephesus ca. 500BC

Because we don’t see or touch our brain it’s easy to forget that–like any other part of our body–our brain changes over time. Specifically, neural pathways, our synapses, and individual neurons evolve in parallel with our habits, with the types of information that we consume, and with our life experiences.

The concept of neuroplasticity really began to take shape in the mid-20th century as psychologists and neuroscientists learned more about our brains, how they adapt, and how the physical “brain folds” that we observe are connected to how we think.

Specifically, neuroplasticity describes the physical and cognitive evolution of your brain that results from your habits, life experiences, and choices.

Here are links to some of the research we used in the making of this video:
• Human Echolocation Study- http://bit.ly/2wnCGRQ
• Neuroplasticity and Meditation- http://bit.ly/2yw7iBh
• Cognitive Development and Neuroplasticity- http://bit.ly/2fTM2hV

Here’s a link to the free handbook created by Eazl Well-being Researcher Ludell Jones related to neuroplasticity.

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Why You Should Start Talking to Your Devices

 

If you haven’t already started, it’s a good idea to start getting used to interacting with your hardware with voice commands. As Bose releases the Bose QC35 headphones with native Google voice assistant, it’s clear that almost all personal computing hardware is moving towards voice command.

Two other stories we’re paying attention to this week:

• Ethereum is Getting Bigger and Bigger: Recently, the founder of Ethereum said that he believes that the Ethereum network will facilitate around the same number of transactions as Visa, the global credit card processor, by 2020. You can watch a great interview with him to learn more about Ethereum and the future of this arena with AngelList founder Neval Ravikant at http://bit.ly/decentralizeeverything

• Visualizing Google Data: The Google News Lab has just finished a massive collaboration with some of the world’s most creative data visualization artists to come up with beautiful new ways of visualizing data related to culture, news, and sports data and it’s amazing! One Spanish team used data from Google Translate to show the most commonly-translated words from different countries. Worldwide, the most translated word is “beautiful.” That’s rad. You can see the whole collection at http://bit.ly/visualizebygoogle

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How to Change Your Neural Pathways and Create Better Habits

neural pathways

Think you are who you are and that’s the end of the story? Everyone should accept you for who you are, inhibiting weaknesses included?

If you answered “yes,” you might want to check your assumptions and look into a lil’ thing called neural plasticity.

What is Neural Plasticity?
Neural Plasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. (1)

Essentially, with a bit of conscious effort, you can change your neural pathways and create new habits that are better and healthier for you (and, consequently, those around you) than your old ones.

This goes for anything from diet and exercise to relationships and the way you see the world around you. Think: negative thought tendencies vs. positive thought tendencies. (Those negative thought tendencies can really hold you back!)

You CAN change anything you don’t like about yourself or anything that isn’t serving you and it’s not even that complicated. Anything is possible!

How I Discovered Neuroplasticity
A couple of years ago, I got deep into my yoga practice and really took it to the next level, practicing daily and exploring the science of yoga. When you do something like yoga regularly, you become very aware and connected to both your mental health and your physical health. (2)

In the western world, a lot of our suffering is caused by our disconnection from our well being that is caused by stress, perceived lack of time, and distraction by a whole lot of things that aren’t good for us. Yoga is an effective way to balance things out, in my experience.

If you are someone who is opposed to the idea of yoga, I encourage you to open your mind to this mental, physical, and spiritual practice that I have seen transform many lives for the better. If you’re interested in dipping your toe in, I’d recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene. Get past any ideas you might have about who does yoga and look for what yoga can do for you.

While practicing yoga one day, I had a breakthrough and realized that I had been suppressing some childhood trauma (most of us have some kind of childhood trauma in varying degrees) and it was time to work through it because life wouldn’t get any better until I did.

I began making a lot of positive changes that took a lot of effort at first but eventually became habits that I didn’t need to think about in order to make happen. The first changes led to a cascade of additional improvements in my life because I realized how much control we over our brains.

These changes naturally turned my relationships and career around because happy, healthy people attract others and develop stronger bonds. And I don’t mean a smiling-like-a-fool kind of happy, but a genuine satisfaction for life and interest in the people around you.

I had naturally stumbled upon the wonders of neural plasticity and changed my own pathways without even being aware of the science behind it.  Soon, in my research on the power of the brain and Science of Happiness, I was able to formalize these techniques I’d been thinking about and became even more intrigued.

It had such an impact on my life, that I want to explore it further and make it a big part of my career. You can follow my research project here.

Who Can Benefit from Creating New Neural Pathways?
Taking advantage of neural plasticity is beneficial to just about anyone but especially useful in the following situations:

  • Those who experienced childhood trauma (to any degree) and would like to overcome negative and fearful thinking patterns
  • Those who tend to see the world from a negative perspective /  have a tendency towards negative thought patterns and have seen those habits affect their relationships and career
  • Anyone who has trouble focusing on tasks and completing projects
  • Anyone who is facing obstacles while on the path to achieving their goals
  • Those who feel like they are stuck in a rut and aren’t sure how to make positive changes in their life
  • Anyone who has habits that are harmful to their well being and/or success
  • Those who struggle with happiness

Ways to Create New Neural Pathways
There are a lot of different methods and exercises out there to help you get to work on creating new pathways but the main theme is conscious, repeated effort. Here is a list of practices I’ve collected for different purposes and a general guide on how to create your new habits.

ludell jones neural plasticity

References:
(1) Nelson, C. Neural Plasticity and Human Development. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999.
(2) Butterfield, N. Yoga and Mental Health. Melbourne: Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 2016.

From Freelancer’s Union: 4 ways to attract better paying clients

eazl better paying clients

“Who are the clients you naturally gravitate towards?

In my experience as a business coach for creative freelancers and entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that graphic designers, website designers, and photographers often target other small creative businesses as clients. The reasons being that (a) they relate to them (b) they get excited about the launch of a new business (c) there is more perceived freedom in these projects.

I say “perceived” because the opposite is often true. While wonderful people, small business owners tend to be emotionally attached to their business and unwilling to relinquish control. Not to mention, they usually have small budgets.

If your goal is to build a viable business that you can grow, you need to make money. For most of us, that means we need to upgrade our mindset and reach for better-paying clients.”

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Access Your Eazl Courses on the New Native App for iOS

If you like to take your Eazl courses on an iPad or iPhone, we’re excited to let you know that you can now do it through a brand new native iOS app. Note that this only applies to the courses you’ve enrolled in through Eazl’s online course platform. The app will show up as the “Teachable Online Courses” app in the app store (they’re one of our technology partners).

Once you have the app downloaded, you can log in with your same Eazl login and password that you’re already using. You might like using the app because you can:

  • Stream videos and view handouts/worksheets all while on the go
  • View courses offline after visiting the course once while connected to the Internet through the app
  • Take lecture quizzes from your phone (while online)
  • Pick up where you left off: your course progress is automatically synced between the iPhone app and your web browser
  • Track your progress on a course-by-course basis
  • Listen to audio with your screen turned off or turn off the screen or use other apps while you listen

We’re stoked about this! I hope you enjoy using the app. Here’s the link to download it again.

 

From Harvard Business Review: Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit

prevent burnout

“’I am sick to death of the ridiculous situations I have to deal with at work. The pettiness, the politics, the stupidity — it’s out of control. This kind of thing stresses me out to the max.’

Stress is a happiness killer. And life is just too short to be unhappy at work. But we hear this kind of thing all the time from leaders in industries as varied as financial services, education, pharmaceuticals, and health care. In our coaching and consulting, we’re seeing a spike in the number of leaders who used to love their jobs but now say things like, “I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore.” They’re burned out — emotionally exhausted and cynical, as a result of chronic and acute work stress.

Why is stress on the rise? A lot of it has to do with uncertainty in the world and constant changes in our organizations. Many people are overworking, putting in more hours than ever before. The lines between work and home have blurred or disappeared. Add to that persistent (sometimes even toxic) conflicts with bosses and coworkers that put us on guard and make us irritable. Under these circumstances, our performance and well-being suffer. Work feels like a burden. Burnout is just around the corner. And happiness at work is not even a remote possibility.

Here’s the good news: Some people don’t get burned out. They continue to thrive despite the difficult conditions in their workplace.”

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