By Ciaran O'Regan


Due to both having lived in the US during the final 6 months of the recent circus election, and, with the sheer amount of social events surrounding the current Christmas season, the concepts surrounding the ability to have rational conversations with people are at the forefront of my mind. Whether it be at social events, work nights out, or parties with friends: the vast majority of us have been and will be spending time in groups of people frequently over these weeks. 

Q. But what will we most likely discuss when surrounded by these people?

A. Fuck all of any importance probably. 


Why do we talk about fuck all of any importance when in groups? People avoid important and meaningful topics of discussion because of a fear of offending people of delicate disposition resulting in an impassioned argument, or worse yet, an outburst of batshit irrationality (Side Note: I took the phrase "batshit irrationality" from my fellow Limerick men in The Rubberbandits. I know nothing about the intricacies of batshit or why it is irrational, I just love the phrase. But I digress......).


"Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often." - Mae West


People will more than likely simply stick to relatively soft topics of conversation such as weather/fashion/movies/material objects they bought or received as presents etc. I like the label of meaningless surface interaction (MSI) to describe this type of conversation due to its obviously inherent lack of importance or depth. Big ideas that are of huge importance to our entire society such as economics or emotional intelligence are rarely if ever discussed. Religion and politics? Don't touch them with a fucking barge pole! 


Religion and politics are seen under the same light as saying "Candyman" five times into a mirror (FYI: "Candyman" was a 1992 supernatural horror film directed by Bernard Rose in which saying the name five times resulted in a bunch of people getting murked by a steel hook wielding paranormal villain).

Religion and politics are at the forefront of our societal structure. They are literally two of the most important (if not THE most important) things to have played roles in shaping the world we live in today. Why the fuck can't (supposed) adults rationally discuss these topics? When we discuss soft nonsense by entertaining the aforementioned MSI topics, we are doing fuck all else but making sounds with our faces so that we are not standing around in silence. Other than to get a social interaction warmed up, this kind of conversation revolving around a series of predictable MSI's, is more or less a waste of everybody's time and energy. It serves no purpose other than to act as a human equivalent to two dogs sniffing each other upon making acquaintance.


Q. Why are big topics like religion and politics generally deemed to be unmentionable?

A. Because the vast majority of us are close minded hobgoblins where these topics are concerned. 


“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall." - Emerson


What Emerson is getting at in the above quote, is that we should not only not fear being proven wrong, but we should be actively trying to learn new stuff all the time or we may as well concern ourselves with our "shadow on the wall". A "foolish consistency" simply means being too stuck in our ways with our minds closed to new ways of thinking. Being a "hobgoblin" means we are essentially being foolishly consistent in our thought processes at the exclusion of entertaining new ways of viewing a topic. When it comes to supposedly controversial topics like religion and politics: far too many of us fall into the "hobgoblin" category as we are irrationally unwilling to entertain that we may, in fact, be incorrect in some of our thought processes. 


Being incorrect is not a bad thing, it simply means one did not have sufficient information to make a more accurate opinion. That is all. For example:

  • Prior to the work of William Harvey in the 1600's, it was not generally known that the heart was the pump of our blood. Some people even though that the liver may have been responsible for generating venous blood while the heart was responsible for the origin of arterial blood. This was due to the work of Galen.

  • Prior to the work of Galileo Galilei, it was widely believed the sun moved around the earth and not vice versa.

  • People used to think the earth was a fucking flat disk from which shit fell off the edge (which is an idea that curiously still prevails amongst a small subgroup of tinfoil hat donning individuals.)


EXCHANGING IDEAS - The Scientific Method

When we have conversation with other humans with the scientific method as the lens through which we view the incoming information, we are exchanging ideas. As a rational human, all we can do is make decisions and form opinions based off of available ideas or evidence. When we get new evidence, we can entertain it and decide if we should change our opinions or not based off of the accuracy and reliability of the new information. If we do change our opinion, we then just hold it until we come across yet more evidence. This is essentially the scientific method. In science there is no such thing as a "scientific fact" but there are simply ideas that are more likely to be true than not true based on these ideas holding out against rigorous attempts to prove them wrong. (while science is unable to be truely true for want of a better phrase, mathematics can be. This is a topic for another day however.)

This is obviously the more favorable way to interact with each other as it removes irrationality and allows for more intelligent interactions.

DEFENDING STANCES - The Believer Method

When we have a conversation with other humans using a belief system operating outside of the scientific method as our lens for viewing the information and responding, we are defending stances. I call this 'The Believer Method'. Topics like religion and politics are probably the most common to fall into the believer method. These hot topics are so deeply personal to people that they have ZERO FUCKING INTENTION of changing their opinions but will instead defend their beliefs with as much emotion and close-mindedness as are humanly summonable. With this lens, we are guilty of ignoring the scientific method in favor of not trying to disprove our ideas at all. Instead, we are simply defending our currently held stances against all new evidence. 

(Side Note: This clouding of our thoughts by irrational emotion was eluded to by the ancient stoics. They labeled the source of this irrationality to be the "passions".) 

BEING TRIGGERED - The Victim Method

When we have a conversation with other humans in which the fear of being "triggered" is the lens through which we view the incoming information, we are adopting what I call The Victim Method. People using the victim method as their lens have no intention of either entertaining the incoming information as if it were potentially truer than their current opinions (via the scientific method), OR, even defending their beliefs with emotion and irrationality as the driving force (via the believer method). Instead, they simply fuck off to their safe space. 

I understand that our primitive ape brains are still struggling to get past their culturally ingrained bad habits such as racism and sexism. However, fostering a culture of it being ok to be easily offended is not the answer. Real life doesn't give us a fucking trigger warning before it swings a metaphorical "Hadouken Punch" at us in the form of a major illness, family death, or even a simply a setback in our career or personal relationships. As such, our time would be much better spent learning some tools of emotional intelligence and using hardship in life as opportunities to sharpen these tools in preparation for when the big shit actually happens. Did Rosa Parks cry over trigger warnings? Fuck no she didn't. She got sick of the bullshit she saw and took action that changed the world.

The type of rationality involved in holding discussions using the the scientific method as a lens to view and process information, is as good a place to start as any with regards to learning how to better separate emotion from data thereby allowing us to make better decisions. This approach is just a more honest way of looking at the world, or to put it accurately; a more intellectually honest way. 


"Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day." - Ralph Waldo Emerson



To be intellectually honest is basically when we do not choose to ignore new information because it contradicts our current opinions or viewpoints. The scientific method is pretty much the definition of intellectually honest. Whereas, both the Believer and Victim methods are intellectually dishonest and reside in the same neck of the woods as the cognitive operating systems one would reckon to be employed in the brain of Emerson's "hobgoblin".

The ability to entertain a new idea and explore it with diligent rational analysis, without accepting it as necessarily truer than our current opinions, whilst maintaining the ability to change our opinions if the information warrants it: is the hallmark of intellectual honesty. To shun this way of looking at new information is to think one is special in some way as it means we think we know better than others.


Everyone and their dog has heard that snowflakes are cool and are supposedly "special" because they are all different. I personally do not see why this uniqueness is a big deal. Regardless of how unique and admittedly beautiful they are to view through magnification, they are still simply supercooled cloud water droplets nucleated about some lucky dust particle.

Us humans are the same. None of us are special because all we are as an individual, is how our genetics have been expressed through our environmental and social influences (basically everything we were exposed to in our lives). With this way of viewing other humans in mind, the next time we find ourselves in a discussion with someone revolving around a topic we have strong opinions on, remember this: if we had their genetics and their exposures we would fucking be them. Simple. To use a very dramatic example let us run an interesting thought experiment: 

Q. What would happen if I (or you for that matter) had Hitler's genetics and Hitler's exposures?

A. I would have been Hitler (and so would you).

This is not controversial but is simply a fact. This is not a fact in a scientific sense but in a mathematical sense as both sides of the equal sign would be identical; Hitler's actual life on one side, and the details of my thought experiment involving the idea that I had both his genetics and exposures on the other.  

This type of outlook removes any of the aforementioned "passions" from the situation as it simply allows us to look at the person in front of us as collection of parts rather than potentially as an enemy that we need to attack via the Believer Method or flee from to a room in an "educational" institution containing cuddly toys and puppies via the Victim Method. As I talked about in THIS ARTICLE, there are potentially huge benefits to breaking a person down into their various parts and analyzing them mechanistically as opposed to emotionally. Regarding difficult conversations, this mechanistic manner of viewing people may thereby limit the likelihood of our emotional ape brains throwing up a barrier to new and potentially beneficial viewpoints. 

Expanding our Frame of Reference

As humans, we each have a unique frame of reference through which we view the world. By adopting the scientific method as our lens through which we view and process new information, we are allowing for the potential that our frame of reference may be changed in beneficial ways should we encounter better information.  Otherwise, we may as well concern ourselves with our "shadow on the wall". 


"If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance." - Marcus Aurelius

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How To Deal With A Prick: Lessons from Seneca, Jocko, and Aurelius.

By Ciaran O'Regan

What Is A Prick?

Firstly, I want to clarify what exactly a "prick" is in the context of the vernacular used in modern English to describe a person. The below screen shot is of the "top definition" as voted in the Urban Dictionary at the time of writing.


(NB* In case I was not clear enough; for the purposes of this article I referring to el numero dos above; "derogatory term used to sum up the existance of a worthless asshole", and not the first definition, "a penis". It is always good to clarify your intentions in any aspect of life in which "a penis" is involved).

The reason I chose the word "prick", is simply because it is a word I have been exposed to in many the discussion with friends when an unpleasant person was the topic of choice (now, while I was probably mostly exposed to it through hearing my own vocal cords producing it rather than from my friends voices, I still have been exposed to it a lot). As such, it is the first descriptive word of its genre that springs to mind when I sat down to write this piece. My predilection towards vulgarity is probably more pronounced than most, much to the chagrin of my parents when growing up (and still to this day). But I digress.....   

Now, while I chose the word prick, you could substitute in any of your own locally appropriate synonyms used to describe a rather unpleasant individual. The same unpleasant person, depending on the part of the world they find themselves in, may be a prick/dickhead/asshole/fucker/fuckwit/fuckhead/twat/gobshite/gomie etc. The list of the descriptive words of this genre is never ending and constantly being added to in innovative and admirably creative ways. This innovation is necessary since calling someone a "cream-faced loon", as did Macbeth to his servant in the Shakespearean play, loses its impact after a while. 

Right, so now that I have provided a pseodo-academic definition of a distasteful descriptive word, along with having taken you admittedly unnecessarily far down the rabbit hole of English vulgarity: what makes a prick a prick in a practical sense?

Perception And Labelling

In its most basic sense, calling someone a prick all comes down to 3 step process. The first step involves an interaction. The second step involves our interpretation and subsequent perception of their actions in this interaction. The third step then involves labeling the person we have deemed to be distasteful, with a suitable word from our own personal vocabulary based off our perception of our interpretation of their actions in this interaction. This highly complex 3 step process summarized like this:

Step 1. We have an interaction with another homo sapien sapien (modern human) of our species.  

Step 2. This other ape we have interacted with (yes we are actually apes, this is not an insult but a factual declarative statement) has a characteristic(s) and/or performs an action(s) we deem to be distasteful/mean-spirited/aggressive etc.   

Step 3. We now decide to label this person a prick.  


“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” - Marcus Aurelius


Why Are They A Prick?

During my brief 27 years on this planet, I have thus far been able to identify and label 3 subcategories of prick through my own personal interactions and study:

1. The Ignorant Prick: This type of prick actually means well and do not want to upset us at all but are for whatever reason totally unaware of how they are being perceived. This ignorant prick may actually be trying to help us but simply does not have the social awareness or skills to understand how to impart their advice to us in a suitable way thereby coming across to us as unpleasant or domineering. 

2. The ASPD Prick: ASPD stands for "Antisocial Personality Disorders" as outlined in the "Diagnostic and Statistical manual for Mental Disorders".  Here are the criteria for ASPD in case you were curious. Under the heading of ASPD are both sociopath and psychopath. A prick under this category upset us because they are a basically a sociopath (which according to Dr. Martha Stout could be 4% of the population) or a psychopath (Coid et al. 2009 found 0.6% of people in Great Britain to be born psychopath). These types of people have the inability to feel remorse or guilt due to social trauma (sociopath), or a genetic defect resulting in an underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for emotions (psychopath). As such, a prick of this variety may upset us because they don't care about us or may even derive enjoyment from upsetting us.   

3. The Bully Prick: They are not ASPD and are just coming across as unpleasant because they are simply projecting their own insecurities and/or sadness out onto the world due to some inner turmoil they have yet to resolve. This type of prick has undergone some trauma themselves and tries to establish some feeling of empowerment by attempting to demonstrate dominance over other people. This is the classic bully. 


“All cruelty springs from weakness.” - Seneca


Why is This Breakdown and classification Important?

This is important for a very simple reason: it removes the influence of any emotional reaction from a potentially highly emotional situation by looking at a person's personality mechanistically as a collection of parts. Negative emotions such as anger or sadness simply cloud our judgment and rarely if ever result in good decision-making. Once we attempt to break a person down into their component parts, and try to look at where a person is coming from with regards to why they are a prick (or at the very least acknowledge that they are a prick for a reason outside of our control), the likelihood of developing a very clear and logical strategy to deal with this person is much higher as our negative emotion has been removed from the situation. 

Don't lose twice

They are what they are – should we get emotionally attached in a negative way we lose twice. We lose initially as we have allowed ourselves to get stressed (which results in a whole host of harmful physiological and psychological issues), then we lose again as we will probably make a not so good decision while in the stressed state. Essentially, they are just a "prick" because that is what we have chosen to label them as such due to an emotional reaction. Regardless of the reason for their actions, if we were to get upset we are allowing negative emotions to fester due to something they did not even mean to happen, or we are allowing them to win, or we are getting upset at someone who simply has a sloppy mind. For example:

1. Negative Emotion and Ignorant Pricks: If we get angry/sad over the actions of this type of prick, we are getting stressed due to the actions of someone who actually means well and does not mean any harm but is simply unaware of how they are being perceived. Ask yourself: how is allowing a negative emotional reaction to influence your decision-making process in this situation in any way rational?

2. Negative Emotion and ASPD Pricks: If we get angry/sad over the actions of this type of prick, we are getting stressed due to the actions of someone who actually means to cause us harm. By getting stressed here we are essentially allowing this person to win by giving them the reaction they want. We are gifting them a victory wrapped in a bow. Ask yourself: how is allowing a negative emotional reaction to influence your decision-making process in this situation in any way rational?

3. Negative Emotion and Bully Pricks: If we get angry/sad over the actions of this type of prick, we are getting stressed due to the actions of someone who actually means to cause us harm but their actions are coming from a place of inner turmoil and emotional weakness due to sloppy management of their own mind. Ask yourself: how is allowing a negative emotional reaction to influence your decision-making process in this situation in any way rational?


“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.” ― Marcus Aurelius


As you can see from the above 3 examples, allowing ourselves to get emotionally involved to the point where the negative emotion we are allowing to happen is clouding our judgment just doesn't stand up to logic

"But removing emotion from the situation is easier said than done" I hear you say.

"But I am not a robot" I hear you say.

"But I am only human and emotion is normal" I hear you say. 

So what is my response to these statements I imagine many of you to be pondering?

Dealing with pricks is like lifting weights

Think of how we deal with pricks just like how we think of lifting weights. When we lift weights week on week we keep getting stronger (Bro, do you even lift?). This physiological stress followed by subsequent recovery allows us to lift a heavier weight next time for the same reps, or simply to lift the same weight for the same reps with much less relative effort. Dealing with lighter weights initially allows basically allows us to throw heavier weights around eventually. 

Dealing with difficult people is the very same.  

When we get used to practicing dealing with difficult people, even if just practicing staying calm when someone cuts us off in traffic (think light weight), we are strengthening our ability to deal with difficult people. It really is like a muscle. Dealing in a constructive way with unavoidable adversity is just an opportunity to get better with dealing with future unavoidable adversity. Every obstacle in the form of a difficult person we are forced to deal with is just an opportunity to get better at dealing with future difficult people.


"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." - Marcus Aurelius


This is all very well in theory, but how do I remove emotion enough to allow for unclouded rationality you may find yourself asking?

Detach. Calm Down. Mind control.

Jocko hits yet another home run with this gem of simplicity: 

(Side note: someone should really make a book of Jockos tweets. He really is a blackbelt at getting powerful lessons across in usually way less than 140 characters)

(Side note: someone should really make a book of Jockos tweets. He really is a blackbelt at getting powerful lessons across in usually way less than 140 characters)

Become detached. It really is that simple. 

Learning to become detached is difficult but very possible. This is a simple concept but not an easy one. Practicing detachment is subject to the same simile I used above regarding weight lifting. It can be trained and improved upon with effort and time. There are also a bunch of approaches we could use to trigger our detachment when dealing with difficult people. For example here are just a few I have used as triggers when experimenting with what works for me:

 1. Look at the situation for what is really is, and acknowledge that getting upset and allowing a negative emotional reaction to cloud our decision making usually leads to nothing good.


2. Look at the ephemeral nature of not just our lives, but of our whole existence as a species. On top of this, realize that this stress is not just a blip on the radar of our lives, but that our negative stress means as much to the universe at large as moving a single grain of sand from one spot on a beach to another means to the ocean. Nature does not give a fuck about us and we are just here to spend our short time before we return our borrowed carbon to the universe having a laugh so stop wasting time and energy dwelling in negativity. 

or my personally preferred option due to its simplicity and brevity,

3. See this stressor as an opportunity to make yourself better and sharpen your social tools. Or, as Mr. Willink likes to say in any situation involving unavoidable adversity (using literally as few words as possible);


"Good." - Jocko Willink


management of negative emotion is like water filling a sink...

The more and more we practice this concept of emotional management the better we will get at it. Removing negative emotion such as anger or sadness from the situation is not about becoming a robot and not feeling emotions, it is about seeing the negative emotion occur like water filling up a sink. Before the water fills the sink causing an overflow, however, we just pull the plug and let the negative emotion go down the drain. The better we get at managing our emotions, the less water will be able to collect in the sink before we pull the plug. This shit takes constant practice however and I honestly see it as a skill that has no ceiling to its development.

It is all about perception

It is up to us how we deal with pricks. Will we allow ourselves to get emotionally entangled in a downward spiral of negativity leading to subsequent irrationality in our thought processes, or will we see these situations as opportunities to sharpen our social tools. 

It is WAY WAY WAY beyond the scope of this piece to break down every single possible solution to dealing with people who may trouble us. In fact, I think such an article would be infinitely long and infinitely complex due to how varied and multifaceted our weird species is. Humans love getting caught up in gossip and taking other people's negativity to heart far too much. Fuck knows how many times I have heard someone in an enraged voice saying things like "who do they think they are?" or "what right have they to say that to me?" or some other nonsense. Limp Bizkit put it best in their glorious song "Break Stuff";


"It's all about that he-says, she-says bullshit

I think you better quit, let the shit slip

Or you'll be leaving with a fat lip

It's all about that he-says she-says bullshit" - Limp Bizkit


Our closest mammalian relatives are the chimpanzee and the bonobo and these species solve social problems in polarized but much more simple ways that do not allow for taking each other's negativity to heart and allowing it to fester. Chimpanzees have a very patriarchal society and when they have problems with each other just fuck each other up in vicious fights. On the other hand, bonobos have a more egalitarian and matriarchal society and don't really have any conflict because rather than resolving issues through violence, they substitute sex for aggression. (side note: this is probably why we do not see many bonobos in zoos as all the promiscuity may result in some difficult questions directed at prude parents from their sheltered kids). Humans are far more complex however (which is quite unfortunate as living like a bonobo seems like a good old time. But I digress yet again...). 

As such when looking at our lives in a logical fashion, we cannot see difficult people as “bad” or label them as pricks and view them in an emotional manner as it then it leaves our happiness in life up to pure randomness. With this labeling and emotional investment in negative areas, happiness and peace are left up to chance because theoretically, by sheer mathematical probability, it is possible that;

1. We may be lucky and never come across a single difficult person like this ever again in our lives,

or just as equally likely,

2. We may be unlucky and forced to interact with a difficult person that has characteristics worthy of labeling a prick every single day of the rest of our lives if they are a difficult colleague or family member that we cannot escape due to circumstances out of our control. We could, by utter chance be subject to a series of random unfortunate events which could result in the potential for every job we will ever have for the remainder of our lives containing one colleague that has the characteristics of a prick. Therefore, if we allow ourselves to see this kind of person as a negative and adopt a soft victim mentality, our lives life will fucking suck. 


"You don't have to turn this into something. It doesn't have to upset you." Marcus Aurelius


The choice is up to us

All I am trying to get across with this piece is the there is benefit to at least attempting to break a problematic person down into their various possible components (figuratively and not literally a la Dexter). This process of attempted mechanistic analysis facilitates a much more calm and rational response from us, rather than the emotionally driven reaction the vast majority of us have been guilty of in the past. Once we get into the habit of seeing difficult people as what they are - just a genetic code that has been expressed through whatever social and environmental influences were undergone, we can then see them as a tool to improve our ability to deal with future difficult people. As a social animal, there is a game to play as a human. We can play this game in a lot more of a stress-free manner if we do not allow our happiness to be left up to random luck.


“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” - Marcus Aurelius

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Don’t Fuck Around

By Ciaran O'Regan

Let’s say you live the “perfect life”.

You set out on a journey to become the best you can be at your field and end up becoming one of the greatest and most influential contributors to that area in all of history. Your name ends up in the same lists as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

You live a life of overcoming obstacles, relentless self-improvement and hard graft. You experience the inevitable failures and problems along the way but you end up accomplishing as much if not more than anyone else ever has and maybe ever will in that field.

Let us also assume you have enjoyed yourself along the way and are totally at peace with what you have done with your life in those last few moments prior to returning your temporarily borrowed carbon to the universe.

Now let’s say your life has been a complete and utter shitshow

You spend your life faffing about and fucking around going in no clear direction with no focus or aim. You work a job to simply facilitate the maintenance of your rudderless existence. You hide yourself away from your seemingly inconsolable and originless frustrations with a dependency or dependencies on some substances (alchohol or drug abuse) or behaviors (reality TV, gambling, lottery tickets, excessive social media use, celebrity gossip, shopping etc).

In the grand scheme of things the aforementioned universe could not give less of a fuck either way what you do with your allotted time.

Whether you live a life consisting of a passionate and driven quest towards self-actualization or whether you live an existence based around production and consumption clouded by self imposed distraction; it doesn’t matter.

At the end of the day, should we as a species and culture manage to avoid self destruction, disease, natural disasters, or simply being hit by giant rocks from space and wiped out like the dinosaurs: the sun will still eventually explode like a giant reset button anyway.

We are still fucked.

This however is NOT a bad thing. It is actually a fact that you can use to motivate yourself. Acceptance of the finite nature of everything is about as powerful a stimulus to get off your arse and enjoy yourself as you could find.

While nothing matters in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to what you do with your life; everything matters.

A beautifully eloquent quote I heard somewhere that summarizes this whole philosophy goes as follows:


“I do what is important to me, not because it is important, but because it is important to me.” - Unknown


Realistically, all we can do as individuals is to live a life of passionate pursuit, fervently going after whatever paths excites us the most while simultaneously trying our best to leave the world in a little bit of a better state when we leave than if we had not been born at all. If everyone was to look at life like this I would hazard a bet there would be a lot less unhappiness and negativity. 

Life is too fun to waste time on the negative going in no clear direction. There are too many cool people to meet, too many beautiful places to see, too much delicious food to eat, and too many obstacles to overcome and learn from.


“Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or the day after”. Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was-what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow are just as small” – Marcus Aurelius


Now go get it done. Don’t fuck around.


“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” - Confucius


- Ciaran 

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