Review: How To Think Like A Roman Emperor — Donald Robertson

Genre: Non-Fiction / Philosophy / Psychology
Publisher: MacMillan Audio / Audible
ISBN: 9781250621436
Edition: Audiobook
Length: 8h 30m
Release Date: 02-04-2019


The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves stories of Marcus’ life from the Roman histories together with explanations of Stoicism – its philosophy and its psychology – to enlighten today’s listeners. He discusses Stoic techniques for coping with everyday problems, from irrational fears and bad habits to anger, pain, and illness.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes listeners on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian – taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day – through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides listeners through applying the same methods to their own lives.

Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.

How To THink Like a Roman Emperor

When I was a young boy I’d often look to the stars and how much I’d love to be among them, exploring our galaxy and marvelling at the grandness of it all. These days when I do, I still get that feeling of awe, but I also realise just how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. We are only here for a short period of time, not even a speck, but during that time we have to find our way in life and we are inevitably led to question ourselves. One of the most important questions being: What is the meaning of life? When I was younger, I never really bothered much with religion, or philosophy, but as I grew older there was one direction I’d look to for guidance and that is the Stoic school of philosophy. I started this journey reading one of the most beloved books from perhaps the most widely known Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations. One of the most amazing things about the books of the Stoics is that they’re still relevant to this day, because those dudes really knew their stuff, as it turns out. When I ran into this book on Audible I decided to buy it and see if there was anything new under the sun and as it turned out, there was.

One of the most amazing things about this book is that it’s part history lesson, part philosophy and part practical. With the latter I mean that Donald Robertson manages to convert the Stoic ideas into practical help in the modern day and age. One of the most notable things is that many of the Stoic ideas are used in modern psychotherapy, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or C.B.T.) and that many of their ideas on how to live life and especially how to deal with our emotions and hardships, can really make you one tough cookie. This is my main reason for calling myself a Modern Day Stoic. Adopting all these ideas and applying them to my own life has allowed me to deal with a lot of problems without letting my emotions guide me, but taking on a much more reserved stance and allowing me to tackle my problems by remaining calm and reserved. This book manages to explain plainly how to do this yourself. I also learned quite a few new things myself from this book and that was something I hadn’t expected when I started listening to it.

Every chapter starts off with a lesson in history, in which we learn a lot about the life of Marcus Aurelius. He most certainly didn’t have the easiest life and had to fight on several fronts throughout his life. Not only actual battlefronts, but also mental ones. The Meditations don’t convey much about the actual history behind its story and are much more about how Marcus dealt with his hardships and contains a motherlode of useful advice, which he wrote mostly to himself, hence the title, but they are widely applicable to all of our lives, even to this day!

You don’t need to have read the Meditations in order to enjoy this book, in fact, it might even be best to read this book first, so you already have some prior knowledge about Marcus Aurelius before you dive into his actual work. I am currently re-reading Meditations right after I finished this book and thus far I’ve found an even greater appreciation of it, after having read this book.

Whether you’re new to Stoic philosophy, or already know a thing or two, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s absolutely vital reading if you’re looking for a good self-help book. If there’s one thing I’d have to comment on regarding this book, it’s that sometimes the author’s reading voice differed all of a sudden, as if he had taken a break and was starting a new session. But that’s really nitpicking on my part. If you want to start a journey down the path of Stoic wisdom, this is where you should start.

Cover: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Writing style: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Content: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Originality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Reading Voice: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Happy Reading!


Monday Musings, Week 17, 2022

Hello everyone! Welcome to another Monday Musings! Last week I skipped this recurring blog, because I didn’t have that much to report and it turned out to be a bit of a slow week when it came to my creative endeavours. To be fair, I haven’t written a lot lately (except for blogs), because I found myself a bit conflicted in what I should spend my time on when it comes to writing and that’s something I’m going to share this week in an upcoming blog.

Monday Musings #17

On Writing

As stated above, I’m in a bit of a bind at the moment. While I love novel writing I feel that maybe I should focus my time and energy on writing a non-fiction book instead. I have several ideas that I’d love to work on, one being a Modern Stoic book, something light to introduce people to attain a Stoic mindset in modern day life. At the same time, my interest in videogame music (VGM) has also surged lately and I would love to write a book about the evolution of VGM, covering the facets of the early days of videogames, to the most modern releases. And while I’m at it, I’d also love to write a book together with Bren about green living, that also includes pagan and green witchcraft practices, but from a certain perspective that includes a more scientific and mindful approach to these subjects. The problem is that I just don’t know what to focus on, but since I’m listening to How To Think Like A Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson and this book is so inspiring that I started thinking about what I should spend my time on and that’s how all of this started, haha.

On Reading

Yes! I’m done with All the Bright Places, which I read the Dutch version of and it was a very impressive book that will probably linger on for a little while in my mind. Bren recommended it to me and although the first bit was a bit of a rough start, it got better and better.

How To THink Like a Roman Emperor

I’m also going through the audiobook version of How To Think Like A Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson and it’s an absolute must-read for anyone interested in Stoic history and practical information on how to apply the Stoic philosophy in modern day life. Of course I already do this, but this book has definitely taught me a few new methods I plan on implementing in my life. A full review will soon be posted on this blog!

On Gaming

My current playthrough of This War Of Mine is going extremely well and I think I might have nearly survived for the first time. After that I’m going to try some more of the Stories DLC. Overall I think this game is very well done and it’s definitely a unique experience that reminds me a lot of the board game Zombicide for some reason. The game has you play as several citizens caught in a modern civil war and you have to survive until the cease fire to win the game. It’s a really unique experience and it shows you the hardships of war seen from the viewpoint of a small group of civilians, which is an unprecedented persective in videogames, as far as I know.

I’ve also rediscovered my love for Hyrule Warriors and I’m working on finishing the Great Sea map of Adventure Mode. After that I’ll probably park the game a bit again, having had my fix of hacking and slashing. At some point I’m still hoping to finish the entire game, but I’m in no hurry.

Upcoming blogs

This week, I hope to get back to you about how I go about deciding what to write. Bren will play a part in helping me decide, but I think this process could be interesting to share. Also, you can expect a review for How To Think Like A Roman Emperor and who knows, maybe I’ll find more inspiration for a little something extra!

I hope you’ll all have a great week!

Happy Monday!


How I Deal With Fear Of Missing Out, Part 2

Last week I told you about how I deal with Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO for short. In that blog entry I focussed on the part of FOMO that has everything to do with the sheer amount of options we have to spend our free time with all kinds of different media. What I didn’t focus on in that article, however, is how FOMO is not just about really missing out on things, but also feeling the need to please others by following their recommendations. Today I’ll try to shed some light on how I deal with this and hopefully the same will work for you too.

How I deal with FOMO #2

You can’t change what others think of you

Stoicism with a capital S has a large foundation in the belief that we cannot change what lies outside our circle of influence. In the past I wrote a blog about the so called trichotomy of control. This is a modern version of the original dichotomy of control, but as the trichotomy points out, sometimes there are things that are maybe not entirely within our control, but definitely enough to make a difference on the outcome. This last part is quite important in dealing with other people, because in our interactions with others we do have control on how we act, but not so much how they do.

Since what others think of you is ultimately outside of our control, a true Stoic would say that we should not be bothered with it. However, for most people what others think of us is to some degree important. For me personally, I hold my loved ones their opinion of who I am to them very dear and it would bother me if they’d think badly of me. On the other hand I care little of what strangers think of me. That doesn’t mean I’ll behave badly around strangers, but it just means I won’t lay awake at night fearing they might not like me.

FOMO and feeling peer pressure

“Jeffrey, this show on <Insert streaming service here>, you absolutely have to see it!”, said nearly everyone I know at some point or another. During the earlier days of Netflix I’d immediately put said shows on my watchlist. Nowadays, I never do and politely tell people to stick their shows someplace the sun don’t shine. The problem is when everyone is talking about something on social media, you’ll start feeling peer pressure. What if this really is the best show ever to be produced and you’ll totally miss out on something good if you don’t watch it? Well, what if it’s absolute garbage to you, once you start watching? Or what if people say stuff like: “It doesn’t start off very good, but once you hit the third season, that’s where things start to get really great!” and there’s like ten seasons of this slow-paced drudgery? Are you really willing to make such a large investment in time only to pleasure a friend? Would they do the same for you?

Depending on what you answered on the questions above, however you package it for yourself, you’ll be watching something to please someone else. If you happen to like whatever it is they recommended, well, more power to you and congratulations on enriching your life. However, more often than not, I found whatever people said was good, was an absolute snorefest and not at all worth my time. The question then becomes, what do you do next? Because the peer pressure is still there and you don’t want to disappoint people you like.

How honesty saves the day

One of the things I value most in life is honesty. 100% pure honesty. If someone asks me how I’m doing and I’m not feeling well, would I rather tell them “I’m fine”, which is the preferred social answer on any given day for most people, or should I be honest and tell them I’m not feeling the best I’ve ever felt? While I’m not one to complain, I think it’s important to be honest and this is something I’m learning in my relationship with Bren. Before, when I was single, I’d have no one to really share my mental issues with. So I’m learning to be candid with her and this is a great benefit to my mental health. One thing I learned from this is that you need to be honest with not just people close to you, but basically everyone, because if you’re not honest with them about your feelings, you’re not honest to yourself. And I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years.

Pouring over the dozens of self-help books, one thing that has always stood out to me was that when these books were more business orientated the writer would often say things like “be genuine”. I know no other way to be myself than to be genuine, because I see no reason to package myself differently for other people. I am what I am, and honest to myself in who I am and what I stand for. But the only way you can really deal with peer pressure, or feeling the need to please others is to be genuine and honest. If you don’t like something they do, tell it. Don’t put up some sort of play, because before you know it they’ll keep giving you books, or other gifts you don’t like, because you pretended to like them. This is not just unfair to them, but also to yourself. Does that mean they’ll like you less for it? Well, honesty can often be seen as bluntness and the Dutch people are known for being straightforward and honest. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some people, but in the end, you will always know where you stand with one another. It really is this simple. The only thing that is hard is actually practicing this. And people will definitely not like you better if you’re always honest with them, but in the end honesty is a virtue to hold in high regard and living according to nature, it is your duty to be honest about how you feel when someone is pressuring you into doing something you know you won’t enjoy.

If you’re a major people pleaser, you probably know how exhausting this is. I know this too, because I did this for years. In the end, however, you really need to think about yourself and your own needs as well. You can’t just live your life for the sake of others. You have to take care of yourself too. So start being honest with others and yourself. It’s only that way that you can finally let go of that fear of not pleasing others, because they know where they’ll stand with you. If people really know you and what you stand for, there’s a much bigger chance they’ll leave their recommendations for what they are, without any need for you to pursue them, if you do not wish to do so. They’re called recommendations, not obligations for a reason.


I hope I managed to tackle this part of FOMO well for you, dear reader. This is how I deal with FOMO in its entirety. Sure, it’s not always easy to shrug the feeling, or to fear that you might hurt someone for being honest. But the truth is not always pleasant, nor will your tastes align 100% with any given person. It’s only through this realisation that you can be honest with yourself and start living in accordance with your own nature. Only then can you be a truly genuine person.

I hope you have a good one!


Monday Musings, Week 15, 2022

Hello everyone! It’s a brand new week, full of new possibilities! I was so glad that after a week of mostly rain we’re finally seeing that spring sunshine return. Hopefully it will remain like this, so we can enjoy some walks in our beautiful forests and heath land this week.

Monday Musings 15

On Writing

Last week a lot of my energy went into writing a blog about FOMO, which took a while to put down on paper. As one of my most devout followers pointed out, however, I didn’t touch all of the subject. I left out a part where FOMO is also about pleasing others, only briefly touching on that part of the subject in the article. With this in mind, I think I’ll have to revisit the subject in an upcoming article. The fear or constant need to please others can be crippling as well and applying a stoic stance on this can help you deal with this.

The weekend was filled with several appointments, which left me a little drained of energy, so I didn’t bother doing any novel writing and decided to spend my energy a bit differently.

On Reading

I’m nearly done reading my last review book ‘Water’ for The Book Dragon’s Nook. It’ll be my last review for our book blog, which will cease to exist later this month. It’s a weird realisation, but at the same time our focus on green living and sustainability on our brand new blog is a much needed breath of fresh air. We were often cited as one of the fastest growing Dutch book blogs and we’re hoping to continue down that road with our new blog and shop.

Rewilding Book

In the meantime I’m also nearly finished with another audiobook: Rewilding, which is an intriguing book about biodiversity and making important changes to nature by reintroducing megafauna into areas where they have disappeared. The book uses several examples of this, including a Dutch one, the Oostvaarderplassen, which is cutely abbreviated as OVP (probably because it’s hard to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers). So far the book has been very informative, but not entirely what I expected. A review is bound to follow on The Green Dream Blog!

On Gaming

Bren and I spent some time playing Kirby and the Forgotten Land together and it was a lovely experience to play together with her. I am already looking forward to our next session! 🙂


I’ve also been spending quite some time playing This War of Mine and Axiom Verge. I think I figured out a lot of the gameplay elements for TWoM and am really hoping to make it to the cease fire day soon. Once I do, I think I’ll play some of the Stories mode before writing an in-depth review of this intense game.

Axiom Verge is also a game that finally managed to grab my attention, when the first few hours of gameplay felt a little bland. Now that the protagonist finally has some upgrades that go well beyond the standard upgrades for Metroidvania games, it really sets itself apart from the staple of these games and does some new things that I really like. Add to this an intriguing story and you’ve got a recipe for greatness.

Upcoming blogs

As stated earlier I think I’ll revisit part of what I missed in my FOMO article and write a new one about the toxicity of the need to please others (as always, moderation is key). I’ll also be writing a review for Rewilding and giving you a little sneak peek at my novel writing, perhaps 😉

I hope you’ll all have a great week!

Happy Monday!


How I Deal With Fear Of Missing Out

Fear of missing out, or FOMO as some people refer to it, can be a real pain in the arse. How often have you not heard friends, family or colleagues tell you about this latest show on Netflix, movie, book, or videogame that you absolutely have to check? I’ve had my fair share of these experiences and in fact, there’s still no sign of stopping. Of course, it’s always nice if you can share your experiences with other people and that is what most of these “recommendations” come from, but it can also lead to an overwhelming sense that you have to check these things for yourself, because otherwise you’re missing out on something great. The human psyche is built on us being group animals, and as such fear of missing out can become a real problem for yourself. But how do I deal with it?

How I deal with FOMO

Realising that time can only be spent once

If you read my blog often, then you know I’m an avid gamer and in my early days of gaming I quickly learned that it’s impossible to possibly play every single game that is being released, so I’ve come to rely on several review websites to determine whether a game is worth my time or not. Of course, over time you develop your own personal taste and you get a sense of which games you will like just by checking some gameplay footage, or a trailer. I apply this same logic to whether or not I should watch a series or movie, or read a book. The bottom line is that you can only spend your time once and you want to spend it wisely on something that is worth your time. Some would probably argue that videogames, movies, series and possibly even books are a waste of time in general, but one should never underestimate the need for proper relaxation and for me videogames are a primary source of relaxation (even if the games can sometimes be frustratingly difficult).

The problem I think a lot of people experience is that there’s just so much stuff out there screaming for our attention and whenever we hear someone close to us recommend them we feel kind of obligated to check them out. Often I ended up adding all of their recommendations to my wishlists, watchlists, etc. Does that sound familiar to you? Then you’re probably suffering from FOMO as well. Especially when combined with a feeling that you really need to clear up time to check said things out. But to be honest, most of those things on my Netflix watchlist that I put on there are still there, unwatched. In fact, I’ve been considering if I still need Netflix, because I rarely watch anyway. Most of my “screentime” goes to playing videogames, because to me that’s almost like reading a book.

Spending your time wisely

So, we established that you can only spend your time once and that in this sea of content from all these types of media, it’s impossible to ever do it all in a lifetime. Then what’s important is that you don’t spend your valuable time on something that isn’t worthwhile. And for sure, you won’t always know this when you dive into something. I’ve played so many bad games, read a whole bunch of horribly written books and have probably seen too many bad movies to make up for two lifetimes. Still, it should be all about doing what you enjoy doing in your free time and I think this is one of the important bits of wisdom I want to share. FOMO is about letting others dictate what you should be doing in your free time. Subconsciously you’ll think that if you don’t you’ll deprive yourself of something really good. Ultimately, however, consuming media should all be about what you enjoy. If that happens to coincide with the recommendations, by all means, indulge in them. But otherwise, just be honest with yourself and consider if you really are missing out on something when you’re already missing out on more than 99% of all the things that you could be doing in your lifetime.

Why it’s important to choose for yourself more often than not

Choosing yourself is not per definition a selfish act. In fact, I learned the hard way that you need to do this, in order to be able to be there for others. I need time alone, I need to spend time doing the things that I like doing for relaxation (which often happen to be things that can be done alone). One thing I love about my relationship with Bren is that we can be “alone together”, we can be in the living room together and both be doing our own thing. Of course this is not entirely the same as really having some time alone, I do have that early in the morning, when I get up to meditate and work out.

Yoda Meditating

Master Yoda had his fair share of me-time on Dagoba 😉

I brought this up, because FOMO can cause you an insane amount of stress where none is necessary. What’s important is that what you do in your free time is of value to yourself. If you really consider if you’re missing out on something, try to figure out if indulging in it will truly enrich your life, or if it’s just another one of those short dopamine bursts. Consuming media is quite a hedonistic activity, and as most spiritual people will point out it’s not quite satisfying in the end and suffers from diminishing returns, meaning consuming more media will undoubtedly lead to you feeling empty and unsatisfied. Now that doesn’t mean you should never do any of this again in your life, but rather make a conscious decision if it truly is worth your time. If you feel it is, do so, but always try to be aware of your true feelings.

Dealing with it

To be totally honest, FOMO has been something that can sometimes creep up on me. I often get this sensation when browsing videogame websites, or watch the latest Nintendo Direct videos and see all of these cool games come out that I know I won’t be able to play, due to restrictions on how much time I have. This is something that comes with my current age, because I have a job and other responsibilities before I can sit down to enjoy all these awesome games, books and movies. And even then it’s often a matter of choosing what to do during that free time. Often I would just browse Netflix for a long time and finally ended up watching some show that would only last 30 minutes or shorter, because I had run out of time to put on a movie. An overwhelming amount of choice is always a bad thing, this is something that’s illustrated very well in the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, which I highly recommend giving a read. Given that the vast amount of choice and peer pressure for fear of missing out are both quite negative things, I find it best to just play what I feel like playing. And if people recommend you anything that you know is not your taste, please for the sake of your own sanity, just be honest and politely tell them. I found it’s always best to be honest and direct about this, in a friendly manner, of course. Surely, not everyone will like your honesty, but not being honest is bad for you (and your environment) in the long run.


So, that’s it. That is pretty much how I deal with FOMO. In the end it’s all about being honest to yourself, enjoying the things you like and not letting others dictate what you should do with your free time. I know I make it sound easy, but as I pointed out, I too suffer from this feeling every now and then. However, donning a stoic mindset I do realise it’s no use to worry about everything I am missing out, because there’s so much happening in the world it’s impossible for anyone to do everything in their lifetime. Life is all about choices and fear is always a bad adviser. Listen to your heart instead and follow your own passions.

I hope you have a good one!


Monday Musings, Week 14, 2022

Hello everyone! How have you all been? I’m just fine after a weekend that didn’t exactly go as planned, but I’m glad I could be there for people who needed me. Sometimes life just happens, including the not so fun stuff and all you can do then is just be the best friend, or partner, for your loved ones. Duty calls, so they say 😉

On Turning 41

Last Wednesday I turned 41 and I’m still as hopeless as you’d expect. Starting my 42nd rotation around the Sun, I think I’ve got a bit of a grasp on this thing called life, but at the same time I never stop learning. To be fair, despite my chronic back and shoulder pain, I don’t feel any older than I did ten years ago physically. However, I can tell that mentally I’ve become much more resistant to stress and feel that my burn-out from two years ago was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me in regards to showing me what’s truly important in life and how so much of the things I found important back then seem trivial now. In true Human fashion I learned a lot of stuff when it was too late, but thanks to those experiences I can now help others prevent what happened to me and I hope my blog can help people in that regard. One day I’ll write a book about it 😛

The gifts I got from Bren and Robin on my birthday were awesome too. Robin gave my Kirby and the Forgotten Land, a game we had played the demo of in coop mode. Bren’s challenge this year to not buy anything new made it quite difficult for her to get me something, but she really surprised me with a self-made card holder from leather scraps she recently obtained and she got me an absolutely stunning Ammonite fossil. At some point soon, I’m going to have to get myself a display case for these, as my collection is growing 😉

On Writing

Last night I still managed to get some writing done. Chapter 3 of my upcoming novel manuscript is nearly done. I can feel that I’m still looking for the “hook” of the story so that I can finally reel myself (and the reader) in, but after a smashing start in the first two chapters and skipping some time in chapter 3, I think it’s good that there’s only a bit of tension before all hell breaks loose. Sometimes you just need a chapter that leaves a bit of breathing room for the reader, and that’s okay.

On Reading

I’m currently going through three books. Or well, actually, one of them is “on hold”, until I finish my very last review book for The Book Dragon’s Nook, which will close down near the end of the month. The book is called “Water” by Lara Reims and it’s a sequel to her other book “Lucht”, which leads me to believe that it might become a four book series featuring all of the elements.


The other book I’m reading is Quirkology by Richard Wiseman and it’s a fun science book about the science of everyday lives. It features the results of many researches and why humans are so odd and quirky, but at the same time also quite predictable in their nature. I’ve already learned a ton of things from this book and am learning new things as I go. Definitely worth the time!

On Gaming

I was absolutely spoiled with Kirby and the Forgotten Land, which I’ve been playing cooperatively. It’s such a fun and cute game and Kirby works wonderful in 3D too. I love how the game seems to be using Super Mario 3D World’s engine. The controls are very fluid and responsive and Kirby is just straight up fun, no matter what your age is!


There were also some really good deals on Indie games last week in the eShop and I decided to use a € 15 eShop card to get my hands on as much games as possible. I ended up buying four games!

This War of Mine, a game about the atrocities of war, where you don’t play as a soldier, but rather a group of civilians who are trying to get by in a city that’s been shelled to shreds.

Axiom Verge, an ode to the 8-bit era of Metroidvania games. One of my favourite subgenres when it comes to platform action games. So far, it’s been a lot of fun, but the game doesn’t hold hands and I often find myself guessing where to head off to next. It’s both a good and bad thing, but so far, I’m really glad I bought this game.

Blasphemous, another Metroidvania game and one that had been on my radar as well. It’s a very gritty game with lots of atmosphere and story. I’m really curious where it goes, but it does seem to explore fanaticism in religion. Definitely not a subject for everyone, but I think the delivery works quite well and I’m curious to sit down and play this game in its entirety.

Yes, Your Grace, seeing as I got so many new games, I haven’t taken the time to boot this one up yet. The premise is that you’re the king of a medieval looking country and you have to listen to your people as they plead for your assistance. The game is all about choices, as far as I can tell. I’ll share my thoughts in a review at some point or another, for sure!

Upcoming blogs

Overall, a lot of stuff that’s been keeping me busy! I’m hoping next weekend we’ll have some more rest and can finally get around to some of the hobby stuff Bren and I’ve been wanting to do. I’m also very keen on finishing the third chapter of my new story and starting a new one, and doing some plot work, because I feel that’s what I really need to pin down first. More on that in an upcoming blog about plotting and writing. I’m also in the mood for a mindset blog, focussing on some stoic principles of letting go, and maybe a review on Quirkology, but I’ll see if I feel up to it, or not.

I hope you’ll all have a great week!

Happy Monday!


Review: Stolen Focus — Johann Hari

Genre: Non-Fiction / Psychology
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group / Audible
ISBN: 9780593138519
Edition: Audiobook
Page count: 368
Release Date: 25-01-2022


Why have we lost our ability to focus? What are the causes? And, most importantly, how do we get it back?

For Stolen Focus, internationally best-selling author Johann Hari went on a three-year journey to uncover the reasons why our teenagers now focus on one task for only 65 seconds, and why office workers on average manage only three minutes. He interviewed the leading experts in the world on attention and learned that everything we think about this subject is wrong.

We think our inability to focus is a personal failing – a flaw in each one of us. It is not. This has been done to all of us by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen. Johann discovered there are 12 deep cases of this crisis, all of which have robbed some of our attention. He shows us how in a thrilling journey that ranges from Silicon Valley dissidents, to a favela in Rio where attention vanished, to an office in New Zealand that found a remarkable way to restore our attention.

Crucially, he learned how – as individuals and as a society – we can get our focus back, if we are determined to fight for it.

Stolen Focus - Cover

Sometimes you start reading a book, or in my case, listening to one, and you’re just completely blown away by it. That’s what happened when I was listening to this book by Johann Hari. Stolen Focus is a very important book, because it focuses (pun intended) on a very large, and mostly unspoken of, disaster that is happening around us. We have collectively lost our ability to focus and as with most issues, the causes are multitude and complex. Johann Hari has attempted to shed some light on all of these causes and possible solutions.

The book is chopped up in 14 chapters, most of them handling a cause of our loss of focus. In total Hari identifies twelve different causes and talks about several solutions in the remaining chapters. To be fair, I thought that most of our focus related problems are directly linked to our usage of technology and mainly social media. Those were the ones I could name from the top of my head, but as the book went on I knew that there was so much more and what’s more, we are usually forced into blaming ourselves for not being able to focus. But the true problem is that a lot of the technology we use is designed to distract us in the first place. On top of that, there are even more causes, outside of our personal sphere of influence that affect our ability to focus. Things like air pollution and the food that we’re being sold. How we are raised is also a very important factor in all of this.

This book has really changed my view on our global problems and I agree with Johann Hari that if we can’t even focus for longer periods of time, how are we supposed to be able to overcome things like the current climate crisis? We need to find a way to reset our way of living in order to tackle all of these problems. As a person there is only so much you can do to regain your focus and most of them involve mindfulness practices and deliberately slowing down. Things like meditation and yoga are a good start. But also our social media consumption should be reconsidered. How much time do you typically spend on social media? I pretty much quit Facebook, only checking it maybe once a week on my laptop, but I have removed it from my smartphone. I am, however, still using Instagram and Reddit on it. I do find myself often scrolling mindlessly and kind of hating it, because it was one of my main reasons for cutting back on Facebook. The problem is that the technology behind it is designed to make you keep scrolling and Johann Hari says that we often blame ourselves for doing it, but if the design had been different, we’d be scrolling way less than we are now. The fact is that most social media don’t really offer us any substance and over usage of these platforms can even lead to depression.

So, was this book perfect? Well, content-wise I think this book hits all the right notes. But it has to be said that some of Johann Hari’s personal stories felt too anecdotal in nature in reference to the rest of the material and while I agreed with most of what I heard, I too kept a skeptical attitude towards it all. Since I listened to the audiobook I wasn’t able to see if the book contains a well documented appendix with references to source material that was used as research for this book. I think Johann Hari did a lot of research to write this book, but I’m not 100% convinced that all the research or facts in this book have been properly checked. Johann thankfully admits this later in the book, in the part about ADHD that researchers disagree a lot about this subject and that this makes it impossible to say anything about it with certainty. Adding this disclaimer helped a lot for me and I think Johann Hari did a splendid job at still trying to make a point, because even if the researchers don’t agree on the topic, they all did agree that it was a big problem.

Overall I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s definitely in my top 10 of non-fiction reads that I’ve had in the last five years and I think that more people should be aware of just how bad the situation really is when it comes to our focus. It’s not just a simple matter, it is an actual crisis and just like the climate change dilemma, they both need to be solved if we want to survive as a species. The urgency may not be as apparent as with climate change, but that’s probably because psychology is such a new field and a lot of research we do on the human brain is really hard to perform, because there are so many factors that come into play. This is definitely a must read!

Cover: 🌟🌟🌟
Writing style: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Content: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Originality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Reading Voice: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Happy Reading!


Monday Musings, Week 12, 2022

Blessed Ostara everyone! Today we’re celebrating the Spring Equinox and welcoming spring into our lives. Yesterday Bren and I did a short ritual where we planted seeds and put our intentions for our own personal growth into them when we planted them. I’m really hoping to grow as a writer this year, but I also wished for growing creativity, love and health for ourselves and our kitties. I planted red chili peppers, because I just love spicy stuff and I thought they’d symbolize that burning desire within me to reach my goals.

Monday Musings 12

On Writing

Yesterday I spent some time writing on my novel again and it feels so good to be in the saddle again. I’m looking into making it a more habitual thing now, where I just sit every day to write a little bit. One of the things that I love about these new novels is that while I already have a base, pretty much everything else is a blank canvas for me to paint on, theoretically speaking. So, while I’m working towards a certain end, the rest in between is all up to me to decide. That feeling of creative freedom is one of the best you can experience as a writer.

On Spring

As you could read from the introduction paragraph, we are celebrating the coming of Spring and I’ve been looking forward to this season so much. Although I don’t suffer from winter depression, I really started to take a dislike to January and February as being boring and gray months. Perhaps it would’ve been better if we had had some actual snow here in the Netherlands, but with the global warming and all I doubt we’ll be seeing old fashioned winters in these parts. But we’ve been having some absolutely lovely weather now and with several trees blossoming and seeing nature awaken, I feel that I myself am more awake as well. Perhaps it’s a bit of a mindset thing, but it does help that we’ve had some really sunny days these past weeks and that the temperatures are very mild. Perfect weather for taking long walks!


On Reading

I’m currently reading two books, All the Bright Places and Stolen Focus and the first one is half finished, while the latter is almost done, so expect a review on them soon. Stolen Focus has really managed to capture my full attention and it’s amazing to find out how the world has changed so much around us that it really is no wonder we have so much trouble focussing these days. What also amazes me is that it’s not just the technological distractions that make us focus less, but also things like pollution and the way in which children are raised nowadays. As someone who has trouble focussing I find this book to be very enlightening and although there are a few things we can do to reduce being so distracted all the time, a lot of changes need to be made globally if we want to get our focus back. More on all that in my review and upcoming mindfulness blogs!

On Gaming

Yesterday I spent some time playing Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on Switch. I’m expecting to finish it somewhere this week, so it’s time for an in-depth review for the game, including a comparison between its predecessors, mainly Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, which is one of my most beloved classic games from the SEGA Master System. I have to admit that while the game is fun, I do have a constant feeling that it just isn’t really as good as Wonder Boy III, but maybe that’s because I’ve been playing the game through the rose coloured glasses of my nostalgia and maybe comparing isn’t what I should have been doing. Yet, I think this is something I should dive into when I review the game and see if I can also make an honest, unbiased and objective review, looking at the base gameplay elements.


Upcoming blogs

Well, as you can see, I’ve got plenty of ideas for upcoming blogs this week on several different topics, so stay tuned for all of them! 😉 I hope you’re all going to have a great week!

Happy Monday!


Monday Musings, Week 11, 2022

March is turning out to be an exciting month. Not only did I spend some time finally writing on a new novel again and sharing my thoughts and ideas for some major plot ideas with Bren, we also worked on putting a little bit of content on the new webshop of The Green Dream. By the end of this month, we’re hoping to have everything up and running, offering a wide selection of handmade items that Bren created to a large audience with shipping to a lot of different countries.

Writing and experiencing flow

Last Saturday Bren wanted to have a create night and she decided to craft some new jewelry and asked me what I wanted to do. While I wanted to join in on the sculpting with clay fun, I had a constant nagging feeling that I should really start writing on my new novel and decided to finally take some time to start, which I did. I put on my writing playlist, which consists of orchestral music without any vocals (or at least lyrics) and after getting over a hurdle that had seemed to be there for so long, I was finally writing again! First I penned down some basic plot ideas, then I sat down to actually write a short part of the third chapter of the novel. I checked when I had written the first two chapters and that had been somewhere in 2020! Although I did finish a novel in between, this really felt like coming home and I can’t wait to continue writing this story, which draws heavily on the current state of our real world. After all, most novels.

Monday Musings #11

Evaluating my 2022 goals

As I stated last week I want to review my annual goals, seeing as we’re reaching the end of the first quarter of the year. I’m quite happy about the progress I’ve made, but I have to do some serious evaluating to check if my goals are still all on track. The secret goal of proposing to Bren has been completed, so it’s 1 down, 9 to go 😛 Of course, I’ll share all of this on my blog, to give you all some insights into how I do this.

Stolen Focus

I’m currently listening to Stolen Focus by Johann Hari and it’s such a good book! Just like him, I feel that humanity is losing touch with themselves and how we always feel tired, disconnected, or even depressed by how life in the modern world is and how rushed everything is. This of course has inspired me to write a a couple of blogs on this subject, as I too feel that we need to find our focus and flow and stop being distracted. It’s such a struggle to find peace of mind for a lot of us and even though I have a good meditation and work-out cycle going, I too am subject to distractions, procrastination and the inability to focus on reading for longer than 10 minutes at a time. But I am working on it and I’ve made so much progress over the years, but it sure as hell isn’t easy.

Upcoming blogs

Long story short, this week I’m hoping to post a couple more blogs about focus, finding your flow and goal evaluating. I hope you’re all having a great week and hope you’ll give my blogs a read!

Happy Monday!


Twenty-two, Two, Twenty-Two, “I do”

Every year around December I write down ten goals for the next year. Ten things I really want to achieve, most of them revolve around writing and blogging, because that’s what I enjoy doing in my spare time and writing is a skill I want to keep developing. Usually I share these goals on my blog, but this year, there was one goal I wanted to keep a secret, but I can now tell I have achieved and this is the story of how I did it.

Part 1 – It was a cold day in December…

Well, not really, but I just didn’t know a good title for this chapter. I was having two weeks off work at the end of last year and the start of the new one. I always sit down in December to look back at my annual goals and deciding what I want to focus on in the next. Sometimes this feels a bit like a drag, because I have a tendency to copy/paste a lot of my previous goals. But this year, I really wanted to shake up things and push myself to do new stuff. One of them is obviously working on a brand new novel, which I plan to finish this year. Another was taking up my hobby of drawing again, although I started doing clay sculpting and I have to admit that I’m enjoying myself a lot doing that. And well, the other was something I wanted to keep a secret from everybody, because it’s not every day you ask someone to marry you. In fact, my intention is to only do it once in my entire lifetime. You may call me old fashioned, or some hopeless romantic, but I really do believe in true love and the relationship Bren and I have is just what I always imagined a healthy relationship to look like. We really support each other in areas where the other wants to grow in, we share our feelings, although I have some troubles doing that sometimes. Sure it isn’t always easy, but we’ve been through so much already and I had always imagined that whenever I found a girl like Bren, I’d be in in for the long haul.

So, with all that in mind, I penned down this goal: Propose to Bren, by March 2022 (22-2-2022, 22:22?)

And my key motivation: Bren says she doesn’t want to get marry after her 40th. I figure that 40 for me would be a perfect age to ask her to marry me. I am still madly, deeply in love with that woman and I want to make her mine, forever.

Granted, I was a bit scared, because we both turned 40 last year and Bren had always been pretty adamant about not wanting to marry after her 40th birthday. Since 22-02-2022 was a date we won’t be seeing any time soon, I figured that if I wouldn’t do it then, then when would I. I then wrote down my next actions:

  • Figure out where and how I could propose
  • Get a ring(!)

Easy, right? Right?!

Part 2 – Ring, ring, ring

Since it wasn’t really that hard to settle on a date to ask Bren, that left me with just one more problem. A ring… How could I possibly get a good ring in such a short time? Because by the time I had penned down my goals it was almost the start of January, which would give me a full month and some weeks to get it. One thing that I already knew was that I didn’t have to buy her a big fat diamond ring, because that’s just not her style. Luckily I am good at remembering gift ideas. I even keep a list of ideas whenever something is mentioned by someone, just for future reference.

So, I heard Bren mention Atelier Wolfstone a couple of times and she showed me a bunch of their work on Instagram. What she showed me looked really good and their style really seemed to fit with Bren’s tastes. The first thing that came to my mind when I was thinking of where to buy an engagement ring was to contact them and see if they could do a custom design within about 1.5 months. I filled in the form on their website and pretty soon after I was sent an email with a reply. After that I kept in touch with Huib from Atelier Wolfstone and we discussed my wishes and what elements the ring should have. I told him that my wishes were a ring with a labradorite gemstone, an Ygdrassil theme, because Bren loves the Tree of Life and a text engraved on the inside of the band in Gaelic: “Mo Anam Cara”, which means My Soul Friend.

Huib and Kaat really came through with the design and everything. The sketch and the actual end result are so close to one another. That’s real craftsmanship, if you ask me. They managed to convert my wishes into something real and tangible. But the road to creating the ring wasn’t easy and I was a bit stupid in asking Bren for help as well, while still keeping all of this a secret.

Some time ago last year Bren gave me a small wooden box and I had kept it in the top drawer of my desk, knowing that I wanted to use it for the engagement ring at some point in the future. So when I was discussing the ring design with Huib, I also brought up the little wooden box and whether he was able to make something nice of it for the ring. Huib said they could, but he would need some pieces of fabric to create the padding on the inside and asked if I could provide that as well. With some manner of confidence I searched through all of Bren’s stuff, but seeing as she crochets and rarely uses any fabrics, I decided to ask her if she could provide me with some green fabric, if she ran into it. When I asked, she asked in return what in blazes I could ever need pieces of green fabric for, because I never use any of that stuff for the things I do (which is mainly writing, of course).

And so began a long, long month of Bren asking me almost every day if I wanted to confess my secret and what the fabric was for she had provided. I never told anyone else at this point and I’m glad I didn’t, because I’m sure someone would have probably told her. In the meantime I was also in contact with Huib almost every day, whenever he had questions about the ring and the design. It was quite nerve wrecking to keep a secret for such a long time, I have to admit.

Then came the day when the ring was finally delivered to us. The timing could have been perfect, with Bren being downstairs, but alas, the mailman decided to show up shortly after Bren came home and when the doorbell rang I knew I just said: “It’s for me, so I’ll get it!”
I clearly remember Bren saying that she was already close to the door and she didn’t understand why I was so adamant to be the one to open the door. My heart was beating like a drum in a death metal band. Luckily I was prepared with a decoy of sorts. The mailman also had a package for Bren, which was already a nice way to distract her from the package I had received and eventually she did ask me what was so important. I simply held up a copy of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire for the 3DS and told her I had ordered it cheap.
“And I thought you weren’t going to buy any games this month? So far for that…” was her reply. I was just glad that she hadn’t seen the actual package, but it was a bit too close for comfort. But the most important ingredient for my proposal was finally in my hands. A beautifully crafted engagement ring.

Part 3 – The Big Day

Bren must have wondered why I had been so adamant about wanting to have 22-02-2022 for ourselves and that I would at least take that day off from work, maybe the entire week. I ended up opting for the latter, because I just wanted us to be able to do the things we weren’t able to in the first week of this year, because of the lockdown here in the Netherlands.

It had always been a wish of ours to do some museum visits in the near future and so I decided that this day would be perfect to go to Naturalis in Leiden, the museum for Biodiversity, which is also a large research station. Ever since they had renovated I hadn’t visited and one of their key exhibitions is the dinosaur one. The addition of Trix the T-rex was one of the biggest in the museum’s history and it’s one of the most impressive things you’ll ever see in your life, along with the rest of the dinosaur skeletons on display.

One of the funniest moments was when we were finally seeing Trix and I had already told Bren a lot about my love for dinosaurs and how impressive Trix was in real life. When we finally stood there, she said: “Why don’t you ask Trix to marry you?” and I couldn’t help but laugh and think If only you knew what is coming up tonight!
We had such a great time in the museum and even brought home a couple of souvenirs, gemstones and a rock crystal geode.

We spent the evening eating vegan food from our local Vegan take-out service Mr. Vegan and after dinner we spent time building LEGO sets together, along with some music and talking about our great day at Naturalis. And so, time crept forward at an ever decreasingly slow pace for me. At about 22:15 I had set an alarm, but somewhere around 22:00 Bren said she was going to crochet for a bit, because she didn’t have the energy to keep building her LEGO bouquet and I was thinking Please don’t go to bed, because that’ll sort of ruin this perfect little moment that’s coming in 22 minutes!

But truly, once the time hit 22:15 I was completely taken over by a nerve wracking panic attack or something and I remember going to the bedroom to pick up the ring and pouring us both a new drink. I sat down next to Bren and I had prepared a little story in my head, but once I opened my mouth nothing even close to it came out. I said something along the lines of:

“Bren, we’ve been together for some time now and today is the twenty-second of… ehh… twenty, eh… ”

And Bren, kindhearted soul that she is helped me to get the date right and I just kept babbling before remembering that I should have gone down on one knee and then I asked her if she wanted to marry me and she replied: “No, really, are you all right? You don’t look good.”
For some reason that’s when I managed to finally reveal the box and the ring and ask the question again and she did say “Yes.” that second time! Score!
As you can see, I was extremely well prepared and everything went super smooth, just as I had rehearsed in my head a couple of times. We are engaged to be married, but not for some time, yet, we are going to take our sweet time preparing and actually enjoying this period. Both of us don’t like to stress about things and a lot of people’s first question after announcing that we’re engaged is: “Oh, what’s the date going to be for your marriage?” We both don’t know yet and why should it matter so much for those folks anyway? Well, I hope you enjoyed this little story about my plan to ask Bren to marry me. It sure was a big adventure for me, but the real adventure is yet to come!

With much love,