Know Thyself

“This know thyself thing is what Socrates used to talk about.” Brendan motioned to the other chair and I settled in. “It was actually inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Socrates defined it this way when he wrote:

Know thyself; know your strengths and weaknesses;
your relation in the universe; your potentialities; your spiritual heritage;
your aims and purposes; take stock of thyself.

I pointed to the papers on the table. “So what are those all about? Part of the lesson?”

“Ah, yes. I was reviewing them before you came in. They’re my notes on know thyself.” He took them off the table and pulled a paper from the small pile. “This is one my favorites, heck, they’re all my favorites. This one’s from one of the most interesting thinkers I’ve studied, Dr. William James, the grandfather of American psychology, who taught and researched at Harvard.” Brendan read it out loud, slowly.

Seek out that particular attribute which makes you feel the most deeply
and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says,
‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.

He scanned down the page. “And another one. ‘A happy life is one that is in accord with its own nature.’ That’s by the Roman philosopher, Seneca.”


The above exchange is between Brendan and Jake in my book, Back From Heavens Front Porch. It’s one of my favorite pieces of dialogue in the book. The jckrbbt principle to know thyself appears simple on the surface, but it is much deeper when one makes the conscious choice to go deeper; to the place where the seeds for growth germinate.

In this blog, we’ll reflect on the above quote that was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo.

know thyself

We are given the opportunity each day to gain knowledge and insight into who we are—who we really are. I believe our ‘self’ has two sides, the one we like and the other one. I read once that when two people are together there are really six. Each as they see themselves, each as the other sees them and each as they really are. Happiness and fulfillment are increased when we get to know our “real” self—both as we see ourselves and how others see us—and then align our lives to it.  This alignment is best done for all areas of our life—where we live, where we work, the type of work we do, what we believe in terms of “God/Spirit” and how and where we choose to practice this belief, and in our close relationships.

know your strengths and weaknesses

So? What do you do well? Are you good with numbers? With technology? Do you connect with people and put them at ease? All people, no matter how well you know them? Do you like to create things? Houses? Interior designs? Art? Music? Do you like to think about new ideas and possibilities? Are you good at taking the ideas and possibilities that others come up with—that you could never come up with—and turning them into products and reality? Do you like to work in a large company or small?  Are you a romantic, or not so much?

What do you not like doing? Oh, what the hell, what to do hate doing? And how much of your daily engagement in life calls on you to do the things you hate? I know, my Mom also told me not to use the word hate. But I think she meant not to hate people; things we didn’t like to do are okay to hate. And here’s something to consider…if you’re doing things you hate…stop!

The Gallup Organization reports that over half of American workers are not engaged with their jobs  Going to a job every that you are less than engaged with is “living hell”.  I’ve been there and I’m not ever going back.

Some great resources where you can gain insight into your worldly strengths are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); and Gallup’s strengths finder

Here’s a great piece of advice I got from a wise woman one day when I worked at a huge credit card company, “Danny, get real clear on what you do well, and what you enjoy doing. And then do that as much as you can.”   Yes, great advice.

your relation in the universe

So? What’s the big picture? What’s your big picture? When I was 28 I experience a tragic event that took the life of a friend of mine, who was a wonderful husband and father…he was 38. When the dust of that tragic event settled, some 4-5 years later, I realized I was also given the gift of a glimpse into what lies beyond the heartbeat of our human bodies—I spent some time on the other side in what I believe is Heaven. Some of you reading this know me, some don’t; but here’s the deal…when our bodies stop working, there’s a part of us that I call, Soul, that continues on. It may be good to focus on this possibility. Friends, this is not all there is. Trust me.

Questions to consider:

  • Do I believe in God/Spirit? (I mean really believe?)
  • Is my relationship with my God as strong as it can and should be?
  • What action(s) can I take today to strengthen it?

your potentialities

So? What are you capable of achieving? What is your potential? If you’re 18, what can you create by the time you’re 23? If you’re 30, what can you create by the time you’re 35? If you’re 45, what can you create by the time you’re 50 (remember, it’s just a number)? As I stand on the doorstep of “50”, I really like that saying that 50 is the new 30.  Ha, ha!  If you’re 60, what can you create by the time you’re 70? If you’re 75, what can you create by the time you’re 100? Why not? My Nana was 101 when she passed away. And almost up until the end she was still knitting, and even continued to allow me to buy her a bottle of Tia Maria for Christmas that she kept on the floor of her closet. I was always amazed that she made that bottle last 365 days. Every Christmas, she’d always open the gift and smile and say: “Thank you, Danny, I just finished my stock this week.” I guess wonderful wisdom occurs as we move into our 100′s.

Stop for a moment, and throw logic and reality and all that aside, and dream and imagine…what could you really create?

your spiritual heritage

See ‘your place in the universe’ above.  Then ask yourself if others experience you as a “loving person”.  For me, this one is all about operating as much as we can from our core..from Love. I’ll be the first to say that it ain’t easy; but it sure is great to pursue everyday.

your aims and purposes

What to you want to produce in your lifetime and what do you want people to say about you?  Now…when you’re still here, and when you are not.  Why do you exist?  Interesting here that the word purposes above is plural.  I love that.  So much is written about connecting to your purpose.  All good, but I like the plural because I believe we have many purposes.  What’s my purpose as a Dad?  Husband? Son? Writer? Speaker? Friend?   What are we building?

There’s a great story I read about the ancient Roman arches that were built over 2,oo0 years ago—many are still standing.  It was said that the Romans had an interesting ritual after the arch was finished. They’d have the engineer in charge of the project stand under the arch as the scaffolding and supports were removed, thus ensuring he’d be the first to know if it was not built properly.  This is just like our lives, we must be diligent about “building” them properly, full of our values of love, faith, truth, fun, forgiveness, integrity, and so on…

Be well