Ed Latimore, a professional in the self-improvement arena, found his own strategy for success. It is a practical, stoic approach, which he learned through his struggles, including growing up poor and dealing with alcohol problems.
Latimore, 35, grew up in a housing project in Pittsburg where abject poverty and violence were the norm. When he was only 3 years old, he witnessed the murder of another kid in his neighborhood. Every day, as he grew up, he was forced to defend himself.
“One of the things I don’t ever remember having was a sense of safety anywhere,” Latimore said.
Latimore developed two coping mechanisms that kept him calm, strong, and away from the trouble around him. His first method was playing video games, particularly role-playing games that featured a comprehensive narrative. His favorite game was Final Fantasy. He also read voraciously, and his mother stressed to him the value of books. Both kept him from interacting extensively with the environment around him.
But he knew that eventually he would have to engage with others. So he learned how to be funny and likable in order to deescalate violent situations. Humor also took his mind off the stress surrounding him. At the same time, he had to strike a balance between fitting in and becoming somebody he didn’t want to be.
“I didn’t want to be someone that everyone was going to mess with,” Latimore said. “But I also had no interest in following the crowd and doing what it took to be that kid either.”
Latimore also learned how to proactively control his emotions and how to obscure what set him off from others. Everyone tried to get a rise out of him, but he wouldn’t indulge in a reaction, whether at school or at home.
“If people don’t know what can tick you off, you take back a lot of power. You remove the ability for a person to manipulate your emotions,” Latimore said.
Resentment and Growth
When Latimore reached high school, he encountered a world that was starkly different from the environment he had grown up in. He had won a spot at a nationally respected school through a lottery system, and for the first time, he was going to class with people from the middle and upper-middle classes. The students he was around now hadn’t experienced the poverty, crime, and violence he had during his early formative years. Latimore started playing sports and got involved in other extracurricular clubs, but he still felt somewhat out of place.
While high school offered new opportunities, Latimore struggled to fit in. For the first time in his life, he saw functional families that were well adjusted. He had a different background, and he resented the poverty and violence he had grown up with.
“I felt like I was tolerated,” Latimore said.
When Latimore became a young adult, he discovered that he could feel like he belonged by drinking. Partying made him feel accepted, and he built an identity around letting loose. Soon, the only way he could socialize and enjoy himself was with alcohol.
Latimore recognized he had a problem once he began hearing tales about his behavior while he’d been intoxicated, so he tried to address the issue first by managing his drinking. However, more and more accidents and problems ensued even as he tried to drink more moderately. Fortunately, a turning point was around the corner.
At age 27, Latimore was working a menial job and knew he wanted a different life for himself. He had spent the past decade as an amateur boxer and professional drinker, and was angry at who he had become. He had failed out of college once, and he decided to enlist in the Army National Guard for a second shot at higher education.
When Latimore arrived at basic training, he was confronted with a sobering reality: he couldn’t drink for 10 weeks. When he returned at the end of December 2013, he immediately went out. He woke up at a friend’s house and started to think about all he had to lose: the Army, college, a professional boxing career, and his fiancée.
“I was thinking back to all the problems I had, all the failures I had, and the common denominator was alcohol,” Latimore said.
Latimore decided to see what life without alcohol would be like, and set short-term goals to achieve sobriety. After two years, he liked his life without booze. He had gained respect for himself and from others. Furthermore, his sobriety and writing about it encouraged others to try to quit drinking. Dec. 23, 2013, is his sober date.
Latimore has always loved storytelling and has written about many of his experiences on his online platform Stoic Street-Smarts. His articles range from “The Hagakure: 10 Best Quotes and Ideas” (lessons from a samurai guide) to “How to Be More Likeable: 5 Strategies That Worked for Me.”
Not only has his online writing developed a following, but he’s also a bestselling author. Through his writing and ideas, he’s developed a practical approach to stoic philosophy for the modern day.
His approach is broken up into the mastery of three categories: mental, physical, and emotional. He’s learned how to master the three pillars from his own life experiences, and he stresses that they are critical supports in anyone’s mission for personal development.
“That is the underlying foundation of all self-improvement,” he said.