#1537 Areté +1° #002: ARETÉ

Explain It to Me Like I’m 10

Hi, this is Brian. Welcome back to another Areté +1°.

Today we have the second micro-chapter of 451 from my new book, Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.

Let's get to work!


I’m a pretty disciplined guy and have a pretty structured way I approach every day of the year.

This morning, I cut my normal morning work protocol short to focus on my love protocol.

The special occasion?

A chess tournament with Emerson at the Austin Grandmaster Chess Academy.

So… I leave my office early and step into the kitchen all fired up about the day ahead.

And… Emerson tells me he doesn’t want to go.

Me: “Really? What’s up, buddy?!”

Emerson’s wilted-flower posture response: “I don’t know. I just don’t want to go.”

Me: “Hmm. Interesting. How about we go on a quick walk and talk about it?!”

Emerson: “Okay.”

We head out to hit the trail on our property.

Eleanor and Mommy follow.

Before heading the opposite direction on our little trail, Mommy says: “He says he doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t think he will win! You might want to talk about that.”

Me to myself: “Fascinating. We’ll definitely want to talk about that.”

I reach out to hold Emerson’s hand as we start our walk.

I squeeze it tight and tell him “I love you” in our little made-up language we call squeeze-eze.

He tells me he loves me back via a little squeeze.

Me: “So, Mommy says you don’t want to go because you’re not going to win the tournament?!”

Emerson: “Yah.”

Me with a chuckle: “Dude. OF COURSE you’re not going to win the tournament. You’re going to play against guys that are INSANELY GOOD.”

“Remember what Nick [his coach] said yesterday when he was invited to play at an elite tournament that HE knew he wouldn’t win?”

Emerson: “Yah. He said he was super excited because he KNEW he’d be playing REALLY good players that would challenge him and help him get better.”

Me: “EXACTLY. Win or learn. And learning is winning so let’s go, right?!”

Emerson: “Yep.”


That part of our chat was on the first half of our loop. Right after we established the opportunity to win or learn, we ran into Mommy and Eleanor who were headed the other direction.

We give them a high five and then continue our chat.

Me: “Hey buddy. You know that voice in your head that was telling you all the reasons you DIDN’T want to go to the chess tournament?”

Emerson: “Yes.”

Me: “Well…”

And I stop walking and get down on a knee and look him straight in the eye as I say…

“We ALL have that voice in our head.”

“And… I want you to listen really closely right now…”

“If you run your life making decisions based on what THAT voice in your head tells you, then…”


“You will NOT create the life you want.”


“Your Grandpa Phil calls that ‘Part X.’ We ALL have that voice. It’s NEVER (!!!) going to go away.”

“And… One of THE most important things you will ever do is learn how to deal with that voice.”

Emerson: Eyes big. Focused. Locked in. Fully registered.

I stand up. We continue our walk.

I grab his hand again.

Me via squeeze-eze: “I love you.”

Him via squeeze-eze: “I love you, too.”

Me: “Now… Here’s how you deal with that voice.”

“First, you need to recognize that Part X is talking to you. You’ll usually know because you will be whining or complaining or making up stories about why you don’t want to do something

you kinda know you actually DO want to do.”

“Just notice the voice is there.”

“Then practice Targeted Thinking by asking yourself, ‘WHAT DO I WANT?!’”

We make eye contact. He’s fully present and tracking.

Me: “So… What do you want in your life?”

Emerson: “Well… I want to be happy and…”

Me: “Exactly.”

I pull up the sleeve on my sweatshirt and show him the (one- inch-tall, five-inch-wide!) tattoo on my left forearm.

“You want to be HEROIC and show up as your best self and create a great, joyful life in which you’re giving your gifts to the world.”

He nods his head and says: “Yah!”

Me: “And… You know HOW you will do that?”

Him: “By helping people?”

Me: “GREAT answer. Yes. Exactly. And… In this situation, you need to…”

Then I pull up the other sleeve on my sweatshirt to show him the (one-inch tall, four-inch wide!) tattoo on my right forearm.

“You need to live with ARETÉ.”

“You remember what that means?!”

Him: “Sort of…”

Me: “It’s an ancient Greek word. We translate it into English as ‘virtue’ or ‘excellence,’ but it has a deeper meaning. Something closer to ‘expressing the best version of yourself moment to moment to moment.’”

Then I stop again and hold up my right hand about eye level so it’s parallel to the ground.

Me: “You see that line? That’s you being your absolute best self.”

Then I hold up my left hand about a foot below that, also parallel to the ground.

Me: “You see THIS line? That’s you not being your best self.”

“Now… You see that GAP between THIS line and THAT line?” Emerson nods his head.

“Well… You know how you feel when there’s that big of a gap?”

Emerson: “Not very good?!”


“Now… What if we CLOSED THE GAP between who we are capable of being and who we are actually being as we show up as the best version of ourselves?! How do you think that feels?!”

Emerson: “It feels good!!”

Me: “NO! It feels GREAT!!

“And THAT is the ultimate game we’re all playing all day every day. When we close the gap and choose to do the things that help us show up as the best version of ourselves, we feel a deep sense of joy.”

“The ancient Greek and Stoic philosophers had a word for that as well. They called it eudaimonia.”

Emerson nods his head, letting me know he gets it.

We continue walking.

Me: “And guess what?! Remember that voice that was telling you all the reasons why you shouldn’t go to the tournament today?”

Emerson: “Yah!”

Me: “He wasn’t helping you make the best decision, was he?” Emerson: “No!!”

Me: “And THAT is why I have this HEROIC tattoo and this ARETÉ tattoo.”

Me via squeeze-eze: “I love you.”

Him via squeeze-eze: “I love you, too.”

And that, my fellow Hero in training, is one way to teach a kid the power of ARETÉ.

Helping you operationalize THAT wisdom so you can activate YOUR Heroic potential is what this book is all about.

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