The Daily Stoic

By Daily Stoic

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Subscribers: 1531
Reviews: 9

Zac
 Jun 22, 2020

Getting preachy...
 Jun 15, 2020
Thought this podcast was great a few months back. But since COVID and the protesting kicked off, it feels more like a platform for this fellow's political views. If it doesn't end soon, I'll be jumping ship.

Teri
 Jan 22, 2020

J
 Sep 3, 2019
I could get past the repetition of the intro and understand why its neccessary. The continuous promotion was grating, fine. the content however feels shallow most days, like talking to someone with a passing curiosity in the philosophy.

Anthea
 Jun 10, 2019
agree it could do without repeating intro, but great daily readings on stoicism. Important stuff when trying to lead a good life

Description

For centuries, all sorts of people—generals and politicians, athletes and coaches, writers and leaders—have looked to the teachings of Stoicism to help guide their lives. Each day, author and speaker Ryan Holiday brings you a new lesson about life, inspired by the thoughts and writings of great Stoic thinkers like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca the Younger. Daily Stoic Podcast also features Q+As with listeners and interviews with notable figures from sports, academia, politics, and more. Learn more at DailyStoic.com.

Episode Date
Don’t Let Them Steal What Can’t Be Replaced
175

"In early January, Kobe Bryant got a note from a reporter at ESPN. She was working on a story about a moment in Lakers’ history and she wanted to feature Kobe in the story... It would not have taken Kobe long to answer that inquiry. Maybe fifteen minutes. Maybe a few emails... Like with so many requests, it would have been so easy to say yes."

Find out what Kobe did instead, and what that should mean to you, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 10, 2020
This Is What Living Through History Looks Like
183

"Perhaps you’re alarmed about the state of the world. Perhaps you’re horrified at the risks and dangers that lurk about. Pandemics, political chaos, riots, people at each other’s throats, unprecedented events—from cancelled NBA seasons to impeachments to a collapse in order in cities all over the world.

What did you think living through history was going to be like?"

Ryan talks about how we can best deal with the fits and spasms of history in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: http://DailyStoic.com/signup

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Jul 09, 2020
It’s Time for Class
160

"No one is saying you’re not smart. No one is saying that you aren’t pretty well-versed in philosophy. You might even be the most informed out of all of us. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that education is a process. It’s not something you do once. It doesn’t stop, no matter who you are or were."

Ryan describes the importance of education, and why you can't stop learning, ever, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

Sign up for Ryan's Stoicism Masterclass on Calm and get your first seven days free: http://calm.com/blog/ryanholiday

***

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Jul 08, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Writer David Frum Discuss Political Courage and Standing Up For Your Beliefs
2838

In today’s episode, Ryan and conservative pundit David Frum talk about how it feels to be a conservative who opposes Donald Trump, the limitations that political correctness imposes on our culture, and more.

David Frum is a journalist and conservative political commentator who is currently a senior editor at The Atlantic. Frum worked as a speechwriter for the second Bush administration and coined the term “Axis of Evil.” He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Canada’s National Post, Tablet, and numerous other publications, and is also the author of several books such as Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy and Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

This episode is brought to you by the Theragun. The new Gen 4 Theragun is perfect for easing muscle aches and tightness, helping you recover from physical exertion, long periods of sitting down, and more—and its new motor makes it as quiet as an electric toothbrush. Try the Theragun risk-free for 30 days, starting at just $199. 

***

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Jul 08, 2020
Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture
204

"It’s so easy to be reactive these days. We are drowning in information from unlimited sources. Much of it is inaccurate, most of it is sensational. We’re told of crises and failures, we see the worst of our fellow humans, and rarely are we given the much needed context of how events fit in with the grand scheme of things… because that would render a great deal of it unworthy of coverage."

Ryan explains how to filter through the noise of everyday life to find the signal in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jul 07, 2020
It’s Never A Straight Line
172

"You had plans for how this year was going to go. You had plans for your business, for your relationships, plans for your house or your finances. Maybe you had a cause you had been working on for years. Maybe you thought your moment was approaching. Things were going in the right direction. It was about to happen. 

And now? Boom. It seems like all progress has stopped. Maybe it feels like things are suddenly going in the opposite direction."

Ryan discusses how to deal with the sense that your plans have all gone awry on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 06, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Billy Bush Discuss the Stoic Reaction to Public Shaming and How to Grow Beyond It
2199

In today’s episode, Ryan and TV news anchor Billy Bush discuss how to deal with being publicly shamed, the practical use of premeditatio malorum, and what Billy learned from being enmeshed in a significant public controversy.

Billy Bush is the current anchor for TV’s Extra, with a career in broadcast journalism spanning over 20 years. He was part of one of the defining moments of the 2016 US presidential campaign, when footage was leaked of a 2005 appearance by Donald Trump on Access Hollywood during which Trump made lewd comments about various women.

This episode is brought to you by the Theragun. The new Gen 4 Theragun is perfect for easing muscle aches and tightness, helping you recover from physical exertion, long periods of sitting down, and more—and its new motor makes it as quiet as an electric toothbrush. Try the Theragun risk-free for 30 days, starting at just $199.

***

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Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: http://DailyStoic.com/signup

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Jul 05, 2020
This Work Must Continue
1309

“Today is the 4th of July. It’s the celebration of the American Declaration of independence, which was signed on this date in 1776. There’s no question that document—inspired as it was by ideas from the Stoics—was an essential one. As we have talked about before, it asserted man’s inalienable rights and began a great experiment in human liberty and equality under the law that was, and continues to be, unparalleled in history. 

But it is important that today, and on all days, we do not mistake July 4th or the Declaration’s signing as the accomplishment we should be celebrating.” 

Ryan discusses the meaning of the 4th of July, and the work we all must do to make sure that its promised freedom is one day fulfilled for all of us.

This episode is also brought to you by Felix Gray, maker of amazing blue light-filtering glasses. Felix Gray glasses help prevent the symptoms of too much blue light exposure, which can include blurry vision, dry eyes, sleeplessness, and more. Get your glasses today at http://felixgrayglasses.com/stoic and try them for 30 days, risk-free.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 04, 2020
This Is the Challenge We’re Rising To
181

"There’s almost nothing more difficult than other people. They’re just tough. They fall short. They get in our way. They do hurtful things. They surprise and scare and bewilder us.

This was true in the ancient world, just as it’s true today.. And perhaps nowhere in life is that challenge greater than in our own families."

Ryan describes how Stoicism can help you deal with the challenges of raising or being part of a family in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

Sign up for The Stoic Parent here: http://dailystoic.com/stoicparent

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 03, 2020
So What Do We Do?
276

"It’s hard to argue that we are not beset by many problems as a society. Depending on where you sit, those problems might be different, and that’s its own problem in and of itself. But the good news is that the path to solving those problems is the same, regardless of what you sit: we have to turn to the Stoics, or at least their method of problem solving."

Ryan discusses a number of Stoicism-grounded methods that you can use to help deal with the issues of today's society in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jul 02, 2020
We Are Who We Honor
296

"It was Malraux who said that we judge a society by the monuments it puts up

So imagine a society that puts up statues to tyrants, to someone who nearly succeeded in tearing an empire apart, who did horrible, inexplicably cruel things, even by the standards of their own time."

Ryan tells us why monuments dedicated to the Confederacy must come down in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 01, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and E.S. Schubert Talk the Purpose of Monuments and Why Statues Matter
2380

In today’s episode, Ryan and sculptor E.S. Schubert discuss the purpose of monumental statues and the complex issues surrounding who society venerates and why.

E.S. Schubert is a sculptor based in Kansas City. He has designed and sculpted monumental statues for cities, sports teams, and Hall of Famous Missourians. Schubert has also crafted busts for Daily Stoic featuring famous Stoic figures.

Get Daily Stoic’s busts of Marcus Aurelius (https://store.dailystoic.com/products/marcus-aurelius-bust) and Seneca (https://store.dailystoic.com/products/seneca-bust), designed and built by E.S. Schubert. 

This episode is also brought to you by the Theragun. The new Gen 4 Theragun is perfect for easing muscle aches and tightness, helping you recover from physical exertion, long periods of sitting down, and more—and its new motor makes it as quiet as an electric toothbrush. Try the Theragun risk-free for 30 days, starting at just $199. 

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jul 01, 2020
It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
127

"We have fought very hard, together, in an unprecedented display of global and national courage, justice, discipline and wisdom.

How many people have been saved from COVID-19? Too many to count. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t handled perfectly. We didn’t do everything we could have, but we did a lot. You did a lot. 

But before you congratulate yourself, you must remember what the Stoics said: that Fortune deceives us."

Ryan discusses what we must do instead of letting our guard down on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 30, 2020
You Need to Have a Vision
175

***

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Jun 29, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: How to Feel Like You Have Enough
604

In today’s episode, Ryan discusses how to feel satisfied with what life has brought you—whatever that may be—using the wisdom of the Stoics.

This episode is brought to you by the Theragun. The new Gen 4 Theragun is perfect for easing muscle aches and tightness, helping you recover from physical exertion, long periods of sitting down, and more—and its new motor makes it as quiet as an electric toothbrush. Try the Theragun risk-free for 30 days, starting at just $199. 

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 28, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Jessica Lahey Talk Parenting, the Process of Writing, and How to Fail Gracefully
2607

In today’s episode, Ryan and author and teacher Jessica Lahey talk about how to teach your kids to fail, the process of putting together a book, and more.

Sign up for The Stoic Parent, Daily Stoic’s newest course, today: http://dailystoic.com/stoicparent

Jessica Lahey is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. She has written for The New York Times and The Atlantic and has taught middle and high school for over a decade. 

Get The Gift of Failure: https://geni.us/R8mA4

This episode is brought to you by GoMacro. GoMacro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors—the perfect fuel for your summer expeditions. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order over $60, plus free shipping.


This episode is also brought to you by the Theragun. The new Gen 4 Theragun is perfect for easing muscle aches and tightness, helping you recover from physical exertion, long periods of sitting down, and more—and its new motor makes it as quiet as an electric toothbrush. Try the Theragun risk-free for 30 days, starting at just $199. 

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 27, 2020
They Still Hide Money In Books
427

"As a young boy, the famed basketball coach George Raveling learned an invaluable lesson about the power of both knowledge and ignorance from his grandmother, who raised him. 

'Why did the slave masters hide their money in books, George?' she asked the young boy, standing together in her kitchen.

'I don’t know, grandma,' he said.

'Because they knew the slaves wouldn’t open them,' she said.

Learn more about George's story, and the importance of reading, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 26, 2020
It Keeps Coming and Won’t Stop Coming
180

"In March, Brent Underwood thought he’d found the perfect place to ride out the pandemic: a small California ghost town he’d been slowly renovating and turning into a resort. 

It was safe and isolated, beautiful and quiet. Then a freak series of snow storms trapped him there in Cerro Gordo for weeks with dwindling supplies and no running water. His retreat turned suddenly into a prison. Then he had a bout with appendicitis that required him to drive himself 2 hours to the closest clinic.

As we’ve said before, life comes at you fast."

Hear the rest of the story in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 25, 2020
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Should Stop
194

"If you’ve ever made it to the end of Homer’s Odyssey, you might have noticed a rather strange part of the ending. It’s a part that’s talked about a lot less than the rest of the poem, possibly because it makes so little sense. You see, despite spending every waking second for ten years fighting to get home, despite overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles on his way, despite all the carnage of the final battle to reclaim his kingdom, Odysseus does something almost inconceivable the second he possesses what he longed for…"

Find out what that is, and how you can avoid doing the same thing, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 24, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Lauryn and Michael Bosstick (The Skinny Confidential) Talk Stoic Morning Routines and How to Manage Your Life in Quarantine
1873

In today’s episode, Ryan speaks with Lauryn and Michael Bosstick of The Skinny Confidential, They talk about how they start their days off strong with their morning routines, the value of their time and how they protect it, and how they have changed their lives to not only survive but thrive during the global quarantine.

Lauryn and Michael Bosstick are the producers of The Skinny Confidential, the lifestyle brand that delivers blogging, podcasts, workout and meal plans and more to its followers. Lauryn and Michael have used the teachings of Stoicism to help fuel their success as they reach out to a global audience of millions of fans.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is also brought to you by Felix Gray, maker of amazing blue light-filtering glasses. Felix Gray glasses help prevent the symptoms of too much blue light exposure, which can include blurry vision, dry eyes, sleeplessness, and more. Get your glasses today at http://felixgrayglasses.com/stoic and try them for 30 days, risk-free.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: http://DailyStoic.com/signup

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Follow Lauryn, Michael, and The Skinny Confidential: 

Podcast: The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast

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Jun 24, 2020
This Is Your Fight
191

"It’s tempting to tell yourself that we don’t have a problem. That you don’t have to get involved. This doesn’t affect your community. It’s not actually that big of a deal. 

Look at these numbers instead, a commenter whispers. But what about this other case or that one, they say. I’m not an activist, you think. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, I don’t want to make things political. Someone else can probably do a better job. 

These are lies. All of them."

Ryan describes how the fight for justice in our society is everyone's fight, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 23, 2020
Life is Overwhelming. Or Is It?
152

"It’s incredible to think of what has occurred in the last twenty years. The tech bubble. 9/11. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Great Recession. The Syrian Civil War. The Arab Spring. And now the COVID-19 Pandemic, and unprecedented protests and clashes between authorities and civilians. Even the last few months, as people have come to joke, feel like years all by themselves. Impeachment. The primaries. Pandemic. Police. It’s too much. Overwhelming, yeah? Or is it just… life?"

Ryan talks about the chaos inherent in life and how we all can deal with it on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Jun 22, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: This Is Your Most Important Job
335

“How do we emulate the great parents of history? How do we work on improving ourselves at this essential job? The one for which we are given next to no training, for which many of us had less than ideal models for in our own childhood?”

Ryan talks about the importance of preparation for the role of a parent—and discusses a great way you can make yourself ready for this critical job.

Sign up for The Stoic Parent, Daily Stoic’s newest course on how to be the best parent to your kids, today: http://dailystoic.com/stoicparent

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic is a maker of mushroom coffee, lattes, elixirs, and more. Their drinks all taste amazing and they've full of all sorts of all-natural compounds and immunity boosters to help you think clearly and live well. Visit http://foursigmatic.com/stoic to get 15% off your order.

***

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Jun 21, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Brett McKay Talk Parenting, Living Through History, and Modern Manliness
2418

In today’s episode, Ryan and Brett McKay, founder of The Art of Manliness (https://www.artofmanliness.com/), talk about being a parent in the age of COVID-19, the changing definition of manliness, and more.

Sign up for The Stoic Parent, Daily Stoic’s newest course, today: http://dailystoic.com/parenting

Brett McKay is founder and editor-in-chief of The Art of Manliness, the massive men’s lifestyle website with over 10 million monthly page views. For over six years, Brett has published articles about how to be a strong, conscious, thoughtful man in the modern age. Brett lives in Oklahoma with his wife and children.

This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is the best platform for finding the right candidate to join your business. And right now, LinkedIn is helping companies like yours find the essential workers that they need in these trying times. Visit http://slinkedin.com/stoic to post your healthcare or essential job for free, or to post another job for your business.

This episode is also brought to you by Felix Gray, maker of amazing blue light-filtering glasses. Felix Gray glasses help prevent the symptoms of too much blue light exposure, which can include blurry vision, dry eyes, sleeplessness, and more. Get your glasses today at http://felixgrayglasses.com/stoic and try them for 30 days, risk-free.

***

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Jun 20, 2020
You Need Less Philosophy
108

"All this reading, all these quotes. This love of learning, our fascination with books

No one is saying it’s a bad thing. Because it isn’t. 

Still, it’s worth using, from time to time, a quip from Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire on yourself."

Learn about that quip in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 19, 2020
You Must Avoid This Weakness
165

"We’d like to think that our mind is our friend, but of course it isn’t. The Stoics knew this. The mind wants to jump to conclusions. The mind wants us to get worked up. The mind wants not to be challenged, not to have to admit it was wrong. That’s why they worked so hard to question their assumptions, to build strategies for questioning their own thinking and not being at the mercy of it."

Ryan describes the weakness that you must not fall prey to, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 18, 2020
The One Purchase That Pays You Back
231

"Is a Stoic stingy and frugal about everything? Some take it that way, but that’s probably the incorrect view. Instead, a Stoic should think both about eliminating needless expenses as well as spending liberally on the things that matter."

Ryan discusses the one thing that a Stoic can always justify spending money on, on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 17, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Ben Hardy Talk Family, Self-Improvement, and How to Take On a Challenge
2522

In today’s episode, Ryan and Ben Hardy, the author and organizational psychologist, talk about the path of self-improvement, being a parent to foster children, and how to make permanent positive change.

Ben Hardy is an organizational psychologist who has written multiple books and articles on the power of changing your personality to achieve success. From 2015 to 2018, he was the most popular author on Medium with over a million people reading each one of his posts. Ben also speaks at multiple leadership and entrepreneurial events each year. Ben and his wife have fostered three children; together with their new twins, they live in Orlando, FL.

Get Ben’s latest book, Personality Isn’t Permanent: https://geni.us/AjG8

This episode is brought to you by GoMacro. GoMacro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors—the perfect fuel for your summer expeditions. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order over $60, plus free shipping.

This episode is also brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is the best platform for finding the right candidate to join your business. And right now, LinkedIn is helping companies like yours find the essential workers that they need in these trying times. Visit http://slinkedin.com/stoic to post your healthcare or essential job for free, or to post another job for your business.

***

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Jun 17, 2020
We Have To Try Harder To Get There
200

"It’s not that our ancestors didn’t know what was right, it was that they had trouble fully getting there. 

In the opening pages of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius describes how the early Stoics like Thrasea, Helvidius, and Cato inspired him to believe in a 'society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rules who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.' 

Nothing is more important or just than that, Marcus believed. And yet he ruled a Rome that could not have been further from it in many ways."

Find out more about how we need to work to live up to the promises of our forebears in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 16, 2020
Are You Holding Your Shield?
175

"The world has asked a lot of us over the last few months." Ryan describes the sacrifices we've all had to make and why they were so necessary on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 15, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: It’s Always the Time to Act Bravely
764

In today’s episode, Ryan reads an excerpt from Stillness Is the Key, describing the importance of actually taking action and living the way that your philosophy would direct you to act.

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

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Read the excerpt here: https://ryanholiday.net/act-bravely/

***

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Jun 14, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and UT Basketball Coach Shaka Smart Talk Self-Control and Using Your Time Wisely
2497

In today’s episode, Ryan and University of Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart talk about focusing on what you can control, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected college basketball, and more.

Coach Shaka Smart has been involved with college basketball since 1995 and has been a head coach since 2009. In 2011, he led the VCU Rams to a historic Final Four finish at the NCAA Tournament. Since then, he has become the head coach at UT Austin.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is also brought to you by GoMacro. GoMacro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors—the perfect fuel for your summer expeditions. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order over $60, plus free shipping.

***

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Jun 13, 2020
This Is the Most Powerful Force on Earth
165

Over and over again, the Stoics remind us how weak we are compared to the force of nature and the whims of nature. Why get angry at the world, Marcus asks—quoting Euripedes—as if the world would notice? Seneca pokes fun at Claudius and his absurd delusion to immortalize himself. His impotent declaration of war against the sea and command to his soldiers to attack the waves with their swords. 

***

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Jun 12, 2020
This Is Why You Have to Slow Down
162

"There’s no question that we are facing a number of pressing issues as a planet: Public health dangers. Homelessness. The rise of authoritarian China. Police brutality. Failures of the regulatory state. 

It’s an interesting question: Are these crises suddenly coming to a head now? Or is it that we’re just finally noticing them?"

Ryan describes the importance of slowing down, so that we don't miss all these trends, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 11, 2020
No One Can MAKE You Upset
152

"These are strange times. We all have entrenched political beliefs, for which the stakes seem dreadfully high. There are trolls everywhere. There are stupid people everywhere. Both the trolls and the ignorant seem to revel in saying things designed to piss us off. And if that weren’t enough, most of us are spending extended and unprecedented amounts of time trapped inside with people whom we may love but still have the ability to make us upset."

Learn how to control your feelings of upset and unease in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 10, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Author Tom Mueller Talk Whistleblowers, Courage, and Doing the Right Thing
2876

In today’s episode, Ryan and author Tom Mueller talk about the history of whistleblowers, the need for organizations to employ people of conscience, and how we treat whistleblowers in modern times.

Get Tom’s latest book, Crisis of Conscience: https://geni.us/AjG8

This episode is brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor. Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

This episode is also brought to you by Shippo. Shippo is a top-to-bottom shipping solution that works great with small and large businesses. Shippo will help you get the lowest rates on postage for your customers from dozens of global carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL. Visit goshippo.com/stoic to get a shipping consultation and a six-month trial of Shippo’s pro plan (up to $700 value) absolutely free.

***

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Watch Tom’s TEDx talk on whistleblowing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77rjqnNsP8Q

Jun 10, 2020
This Is the Hardest Thing
190

"So much is happening. 

At home. Abroad. On the news. At work. 

You have the things you need to do. And the emails that keep pouring in. You have the distractions that your own head creates. You have the criticisms and actions of the mob outside. There are a million different options, different opinions, different orders that things can be done."

What should you do in moments like these? Find out on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 09, 2020
How Can You Lighten the Load for Others?
189

"When things get hard, a Stoic steps up. We’ve talked about that before. We do this because we know we can carry a heavy load, a load heavier than most people. 

That’s what Marcus Aurelius was saying when he said it doesn’t matter whether something is fortunate or unfortunate. What’s fortunate, he said, is that it happened to you."

Ryan discusses the benefits that abound when you help others in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 08, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: This Is Why You Have to Care
663

In today’s episode, Ryan reads his latest article, discussing the unfair advantage that privilege gives to certain of us because of the color of our skin, and how it is incumbent on us to fight back against it.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor. Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today

Read the original article here: https://ryanholiday.net/this-is-why-you-have-to-care/

***


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Jun 07, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Sunday Night Football’s Michele Tafoya Talk Stoicism and Making the Most of Each Day
2180

In today’s episode, Ryan and Michele Tafoya, NFL sideline reporter and radio host, discuss self-improvement in quarantine, sympatheia, and more.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is brought to you by Mack Weldon, an amazing online retailer for men’s basics. Mack Weldon believes in smart design, premium fabrics and simple shopping—and they’ve created a great new loyalty program, Weldon Blue. Try out Mack Weldon today. And for 20% off your first order, visit http://mackweldon.com and use promo code STOIC.

***

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Jun 06, 2020
You Have to Fight
146

"Maybe you don’t have to worry about being pulled over for little reason. Maybe you don’t have to worry about not getting the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’ve never been in trouble. Maybe you know how to de-escalate tense situations, maybe you can afford a good lawyer. Maybe you’ve never been in the wrong place at the wrong time."

So why is racial justice still a you problem? Ryan explains in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 05, 2020
You Should Meditate on Greatness
244

"The Stoics were some of the keenest admirers of human greatness. Marcus Aurelius opens his Meditations with seventeen entries—nearly ten percent of the book—reflecting upon the various influential individuals in his life. Nearly every other page thereafter has at least one quote or one story or one mention of a story about his heroes: Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Hadrian, Augustus, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Diogenes—'When you need encouragement,' he wrote, explaining this practice, 'think of the qualities the people around you have.'"

Learn about the importance of reflecting on the best of those who came before us, on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 04, 2020
To Wrong One Is To Wrong All
163

"It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to think small. 

But this life is not just about us. Our loyalty and duty is not just to ourselves, to our family, or to our immediate neighbors. 

The Stoics believed that we were all one."

***

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Jun 03, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Charlamagne tha God Talk Opening Your Mind and Political Power
2652

In today’s episode, Ryan and Charlamagne tha God, host of The Breakfast Club and author, speak on a number of different topics—from reading and fatherhood to Charlamagne’s always-present interest in politics.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is also brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is the best platform for finding the right candidate to join your business. And right now, LinkedIn is helping companies like yours find the essential workers that they need in these trying times. Visit http://slinkedin.com/stoic to post your healthcare or essential job for free, or to post another job for your business..

Get Charlamagne tha God’s Shook Ones: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me: https://geni.us/msLZ3v 

***

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Jun 03, 2020
This Is a War We Are Fighting
201

"It would be easy to say that this is someone else’s fight. It is easy to say, as some pundits have said, that this is not a fight at all. You don’t go to war with a virus. That’s not how it works. 

But according to Andrew Roberts, the great biographer of Churchill and Napoleon, that is exactly what is happening and exactly how this works."

Hear more from Andrew Roberts, and listen to Ryan discuss the importance of a total fight against the pandemic, on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 02, 2020
You Always Have The Power To Resist
217

"When one considers the notion of 'resignation and the principle of 'amor fati,' it might not seem like the Stoics and the idea of political resistance would go together. But this modern misconception would come as a surprise to the many tyrants and oppressors that found themselves in conflict with the Stoics over the centuries."

Learn how a Stoic handles the presence of injustice in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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Jun 01, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: How Marcus Aurelius Conquered Stress (and the Rest of Us Can Too)
643

In today’s episode, Ryan reads his latest article describing how Marcus Aurelius fought against the stresses and anxieties that come with running a continent-spanning empire. He draws actionable insights and tactics from Marcus Aurelius’s practices during his reign.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

Sign up for Daily Stoic’s Slay Your Stress course here: http://dailystoic.com/stress

Read the original article here: https://ryanholiday.net/how-marcus-conquered-stress/

***

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May 31, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Cal Newport Discuss Staying Productive in a Pandemic and How to Maintain Focus
2923

On today’s podcast, Ryan talks with author and computer scientist Cal Newport about staying productive during the pandemic, how to maintain your focus on what's most important to you, and more. 

Get your copy of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism: https://geni.us/Eh4IX2

This episode is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor. Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

Join Daily Stoic’s Slay Your Stress course: http://dailystoic.com/read

***

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May 30, 2020
Remove These Three Words From Your Life
221

"You’ve said them a thousand times. You said them when you were a kid. You said them last year. You’ve caught yourself saying them recently as you watched the world tear apart your carefully made plans.

It’s not fair."

Find out how to get "it's not fair" out of your system on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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May 29, 2020
At Least It’s a Chance to Do This
150

"It would have been much better if this hadn’t happened. If your employee had listened. If your parents could respect your boundaries. If your neighbor wasn’t so rude. If people hadn’t been reckless. If your kids had passed their math test. If nobody had taken offense to your joke... But that’s not how it shook out."

So how do you deal with it? Find out on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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May 28, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Coach George Raveling Talk Meeting Harry Truman, Reading and the Perils of Ego
2540

On today’s podcast, Ryan talks with Coach George Raveling, the longtime college basketball coach and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They talk about Coach Raveling’s encounters with historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Harry Truman, the benefits of reading, and much more. 

This episode is brought to you by Future. Future pairs you up with a remote personal trainer that you can get in touch with from your home. Your trainer will give you a full exercise regimen that works for your specific fitness goals, using the equipment you have at home. It works with your Apple Watch, and if you don’t already have one, Future will give you one for free. Sign up at tryfuture.com/stoic and get your first two weeks with your personal trainer for just $1.

This episode is also brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is the best platform for finding the right candidate to join your business. It’s the largest marketplace for job seekers in the world, and it has great search features so that you can find candidates with any hard or soft skills that you need. Visit http://linkedin.com/stoic to get fifty dollars off your first job post.

Join Daily Stoic’s Read to Lead Challenge: http://dailystoic.com/read

***

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May 28, 2020
Stress Is a Fact Of Life, Being Stressed Is Not
258

"You think the Stoics didn’t experience stress? 

Of course they did... Seneca had health problems, was exiled, and then had to show up to work for years in Nero’s court—walking on eggshells around an unstable man with a penchant for bloodlust. Epictetus survived thirty years of exile. Marcus Aurelius’s reign included a plague, health problems, wars, flooding, bankruptcy, and family issues... That’s the definition of stress."

Learn the Stoic solution to stress in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

Sign up for Daily Stoic's Slay Your Stress course now: https://dailystoic.com/stress

***

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May 27, 2020
There’s Nothing Better Than A Simple Pleasure
162

"The Spartans were known for their simple, rustic ways. Unlike the citizens of Athens, who dined on the most gourmet fare, the Spartans ate almost nothing but “gruel,” a kind of broth or blood pudding. Visitors noted just how unappetizing this soup was, but to the Spartans, who were constantly training and working, it was delicious. Why? Because they said that hunger was the best flavoring."

Learn more about the simple pleasures in life in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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May 26, 2020
This Will Make You Feel Better
150

"It’s been rough. We’re not meant to be inside this long. We’re not meant to spend this much time with our devices. We’re not meant to hit pause like this on our jobs, on our businesses, on whatever projects we have been working on.

How long will this continue? No one can say. 

But there is something you can do to maintain your mental and physical health..."

Find out what that is on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

Get Stillness Is the Key on sale for just $3.99—ends today: https://geni.us/StillnessSale

***

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May 25, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: You Must Stare This Scary Fact in the Face
779

On today’s podcast, Ryan discusses the idea of memento mori as depicted in art throughout the centuries, and why it might be such a common motif.

This episode is brought to you by Future. Future pairs you up with a remote personal trainer that you can get in touch with from your home. Your trainer will give you a full exercise regimen that works for your specific fitness goals, using the equipment you have at home. It works with your Apple Watch, and if you don’t already have one, Future will give you one for free. Sign up at tryfuture.com/stoic and get your first two weeks with your personal trainer for just $1.

Get Stillness Is the Key for just $3.99: https://geni.us/stillnesssale

***

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May 24, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Coach Buzz Williams (Texas A&M) Talk Habits, Time Management and the Lessons You Can Learn from the Pandemic
3140

Today Ryan talks with Buzz Williams, head coach of the men’s basketball team at Texas A&M. They discuss the impact of the COVID-19 quarantine on college sports, the personal progress they have made during the pandemic, how they practice reading, and more.

Get your copy of Stillness Is the Key for just $3.99 on Amazon: https://geni.us/StillnessSale

This episode is brought to you by Future. Future pairs you up with a remote personal trainer that you can get in touch with from your home. Your trainer will give you a full exercise regimen that works for your specific fitness goals, using the equipment you have at home. It works with your Apple Watch, and if you don’t already have one, Future will give you one for free. Sign up at tryfuture.com/stoic and get your first two weeks with your personal trainer for just $1.

This episode is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

This episode is also brought to you by Shippo. Shippo is a top-to-bottom shipping solution that works great with small and large businesses. Shippo will help you get the lowest rates on postage for your customers from dozens of global carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL. Visit goshippo.com/stoic to get a shipping consultation and a six-month trial of Shippo’s pro plan (up to $700 value) absolutely free.

***

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May 23, 2020
There Is Nothing Special About Money
206

"For all the poverty he practiced and Stoic philosophy he wrote, clearly there was some part of Seneca that was dazzled by money. Even though he was born into a wealthy family, he wanted more and more of it. That’s what drew him into Nero’s service, where he accumulated a net worth of millions and millions of dollars. So too with Cicero, who was born to a less prestigious family, but still strove for fame and fortune. Although Cicero refused to take bribes as a politician, he had no problem marrying rich or accepting large gifts from benefactors. 

What’s striking, though, about these two men’s lives is that while they eventually achieved their grand ambitions—accumulating much fame and fortune—they, with time, came to be disillusioned by it all."

Find out the true importance of money, and what trumps it, in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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May 22, 2020
Do You Know How To Wait?
177

"Shakespeare waited out a plague. So did Isaac Newton. The poet John Keats spent 10 days in a harbor, waiting out a typhus epidemic. Think of the soldiers who spent years being posted overseas. Think about the ones who spent years recovering from their wounds.

Life is full of waiting. It’s filled with moments of forced stillness. We’re delusional to think we’ll be exempted from this—that things are going to happen at our pace and on our terms."

Ryan talks about dealing with periods of forced stillness in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

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***

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May 21, 2020
The Horror of Words Not Turned Into Deeds
168

"It’s always been tempting to talk a good game. People have been doing it for thousands of years. But today, it’s never been easier to talk and virtue-signal. There are whole social networks designed to enable you to do this. They reward you for what you say, for the image you project. They don’t much care for what you do."

Ryan talks about the importance of backing up your words with actions in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

****

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May 20, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan Talks Freedom and Personal Responsibility with David French
2539

Today Ryan talks with author and reporter David French about the balance between personal and civic responsibility, the ability to take criticism, the polarizing battles between the left and right in today’s politics, and more.

This episode is brought to you by Mack Weldon, an amazing online retailer for men’s basics. Mack Weldon believes in smart design, premium fabrics and simple shopping—and they’ve created a great new loyalty program, Weldon Blue. Try out Mack Weldon today. And for 20% off your first order, visit http://mackweldon.com and use promo code STOIC.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor. Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

***

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May 20, 2020
Bring On Your Wrecking Ball
128

"What does a Stoic say to adversity? To recessions? To pandemics? To setbacks and struggles and months stuck inside? To uncertainty and cramped quarters and a collapse of confidence? What do they say to the looming question that has so many people scared—'What if things get worse?'"

Find out on today's Daily Stoic Podcast episode.

***

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May 19, 2020
Don’t Learn This Dangerous Lesson
195

"It’s easy to look at history and learn the wrong lesson. You see Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar and can’t help but connect their enormous ego to their incredible successes. Or you watch Elizabeth Holmes escape consequences for her frauds and Adam Neumann, the founder of WeWork, get rewarded with a golden parachute and think: the upside of ego is enormous and the downside is pretty minimal. You look at a Steve Jobs or a Kanye West and it’s understandable to think that ego is an asset. 

This is a mistake. Correlation and causation are not the same thing."

Get another perspective on the costs of ego on today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

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****

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May 18, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: Ryan Talks with South Carolina Football About How to Practice Stoicism
1645

Today’s podcast features Ryan talking to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team, discussing how you can use Stoicism in a practical way to keep learning, make (and stick to) your own standards, and make the most of your defeats.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is also brought to you by GoMacro. GoMacro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order plus free shipping.

***

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May 17, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Historian Andrew Roberts Talk Leadership, Character and How One Person Can Change The World
2736

Today Ryan talks with writer and historian Andrew Roberts about the process of writing about historical figures, the ways that character is tested during trying times, Roberts’ take on figures like Napoleon and Lloyd George, and more. 

Books by Andrew Roberts

Churchill: Walking with Destiny: https://geni.us/vi8z

Napoleon: A Life: https://geni.us/p3JMb9n

Leadership in War: https://geni.us/MCzyPy

The Storm of War: https://geni.us/CKRDmyw

Get Ego Is the Enemy for just $2.99: https://geni.us/Y6mZ0

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic is a maker of mushroom coffee, lattes, elixirs, and more. Their drinks all taste amazing and they've full of all sorts of all-natural compounds and immunity boosters to help you think clearly and live well. Visit http://foursigmatic.com/stoic to get 15% off your order.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor. Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

***

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May 16, 2020
Better To Have Than Not To Have
185

"It’s easy to think—given their spurning of so many of the pleasures that other people chase—that the Stoics didn’t want or like anything. When you see the lengths that Seneca and Marcus go to criticize luxury, you might assume they lived like paupers. Or when you hear about how blasé Epictetus was about his crippled leg, that maybe he had gotten so philosophical that like one of those monks, he had somehow transcended his physical form altogether. 

While this might all be inspiring if it were true, the reality is that the Stoics were regular people just like you. They had wants and desires, and they generally didn’t like feeling pain. So what did they mean by all that writing then?"

Find out their meaning in today's Daily Stoic Podcast episode.

****

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May 15, 2020
We Are All Tied Up Together
291

"These are rough times. 

Then again, times are always rough for someone. If not for us, then for someone else. And according to the Stoics, that means they’re rough for everyone. What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee, Marcus Aurelius wrote. Meaning: we’re all in this together. Our fates are all tied up with one another. "

Learn more about what you can do to help in today's Daily Stoic Podcast episode.

Donate to Mobile Loaves & Fishes and Community First! Village here: https://geni.us/ozIaIW7

****

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May 14, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and NBA G League Coach Coby Karl Answer Your Questions About Stoicism and Sports
1760

Today Ryan talks with Coby Karl, a former member of the Los Angeles Lakers and current head coach of the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers. They take questions from Daily Stoic readers and listeners about the merits of coaching, and how to stay physically and mentally healthy with the tenets of Stoicism.

This episode is brought to you by Future. Future pairs you up with a remote personal trainer that you can get in touch with from your home. Your trainer will give you a full exercise regimen that works for your specific fitness goals, using the equipment you have at home. It works with your Apple Watch, and if you don’t already have one, Future will give you one for free. Sign up at tryfuture.com/stoic and get your first two weeks with your personal trainer for just $1.

This episode is brought to you by GoMacro.Go Macro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order plus free shipping.

***

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May 13, 2020
Always Keep A Role Model In Mind
173

"It’s key then, if you want to be good and do good, that you have a kind of North Star in your life that keeps you centered. A role model who draws you back on course when the events of life or the drift of inertia subtly misdirect you."

Learn more about the importance of role models in today's Daily Stoic Podcast

****

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May 13, 2020
This Is Who To Turn To When You’re Struggling
249

"For thousands of years people have been turning to Stoicism when they had problems, big and small. Obviously you know that on some level or you wouldn’t be reading this email. But do you really practice this? Or, are you treating philosophy like some sort of side gig, as Seneca put it, or treating it, as Marcus termed it, like a stepmother?

Whatever you’re going through, the Stoics have written about it." Find out what else Stoicism applies to in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

This episode was brought to you by Magic Spoon. Magic Spoon makes delicious cereal just like you remember from when you were a kid—only this version has only 3g carbs and 11g of protein. Use code DAILYSTOIC at magicspoon.com to get free shipping.

****

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May 12, 2020
Just Do One Thing Every Day
159

"Seneca wrote a lot of letters to his friend Lucilius. We don’t know a lot about Lucilius, only that he was from Pompeii, he was a Roman knight, he was the imperial procurator in Sicily then its Governor, he owned a country villa in Ardea. For all his success though, we get the sense that he struggled with many of the things we all struggle with: Anxiety. Distraction. Fear. Temptation. Self-discipline."

Find out Seneca's simple solution to Lucilius's problems in today's Daily Stoic Podcast.

***

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May 11, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: Life Comes at You Fast. So You Better Be Ready.
621

In today’s episode, Ryan reads his latest article about the unpredictability of life, and how we should always be prepared for the worst and the best that it has to offer us.

Read the original article here: https://geni.us/rLEd0

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

***

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May 10, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: How Do I Deal With Imposter Syndrome?
2008

In today’s episode, Ryan talks about the new box set (https://geni.us/A6gX) of his first three books on Stoicism. He reads from Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic (https://geni.us/GMzk) and tackles your questions, too.

This episode is brought to you by WHOOP. WHOOP is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on how well you’re sleeping, how much you’ve recovered from your workouts, and how much you’re stressed out from each day. It’s the ultimate whole-body tracker for someone who needs an all-in-one solution. Visit WHOOP.com and enter STOIC at checkout to save 15% on your order.

This episode is also brought to you by Future. Future pairs you up with a remote personal trainer that you can get in touch with from your home. Your trainer will give you a full exercise regimen that works for your specific fitness goals, using the equipment you have at home. It works with your Apple Watch, and if you don’t already have one, Future will give you one for free. Sign up at tryfuture.com/stoic and get your first two weeks with your personal trainer for just $1.

***

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May 09, 2020
Can You Help Others First?
207

"Here we are in tough times. A global pandemic has struck wide swaths of the population. Governments are struggling under the load. Economies are crashing. These are the kinds of moments that make average people want to shrink, to turn inward, to focus on themselves. 

A Stoic resists that impulse."

Find out what a Stoic does instead, in today's Daily Stoic podcast.

****

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May 08, 2020
There Is Only One Person to Listen To
199

"Like any person in power, any person in the public spotlight, any person striving to be great, Marcus struggled with caring too much about what other people thought of him. Good or bad—as animals, we are designed to think this matters, lest our evolutionary ancestors risk being driven from the tribe. So Marcus worked to remind himself that praise and criticism were really the same thing: a clacking of tongues. Throw away the recognition, throw away the gossip, throw away all grousing from your haters, he said—it’s worthless."

Learn more about tuning out the clacking of tongues in todays' Daily Stoic podcast.

****

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May 07, 2020
Now Is The Time For Structure
151

"Maybe right now you’re stuck at home, maybe you’re not working. Your kids might be home with you. Certainly the normal way of doing things has been significantly altered. Well, now is the time to follow the Stoic practices more than ever." Find out what kind of practices you should incorporate into your life in today's Daily Stoic podcast.

****

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May 06, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and Robert Greene Talk Plagues, Politics, and Polarization
3338

In today’s episode, Ryan talks with his mentor, author and strategist Robert Greene. They discuss historical links to today’s pandemic, the 2020 US presidential election, Robert’s thoughts on making alive time out of the state-imposed quarantines, and more.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic is a maker of mushroom coffee, lattes, elixirs, and more. Their drinks all taste amazing and they've full of all sorts of all-natural compounds and immunity boosters to help you think clearly and live well. Visit http://foursigmatic.com/stoic to get 15% off your order.

This episode is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

***

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And follow Robert Greene:

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Get Robert’s latest book, The Laws of Human Nature: https://geni.us/pmH4

May 06, 2020
It’s Important to Have Reminders
185

"It seems crazy now, but amongst the Stoics in the ancient world there was once intense disagreement over whether philosophers should have “precepts” or sayings to remind them of their teachings. Stoics like Aristo, who lived around the time of Zeno, believed that this was cheating. A wise man, properly trained, should just know what to do in any and every situation. "

Ryan discusses how we should use reminders to stay on the right path in today's episode.

****

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May 05, 2020
Yours Is Not to Reason Why
142

"It just doesn’t make sense, does it?

They have every incentive in the world to get it right, and they can’t. They’re putting their own livelihood at risk. All the information is out there. They had the same opportunities as you did, maybe even better ones. 

And yet… and yet… "

Ryan discusses how you can keep from being distracted by the actions of others.

This episode was brought to you by Magic Spoon. Magic Spoon makes delicious cereal just like you remember from when you were a kid—only this version has only 3g carbs and 11g of protein. Use code DAILYSTOIC at magicspoon.com to get free shipping.

****

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May 04, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: All You Need Are a Few Small Wins Every Day
556

In today’s episode, Ryan describes how success rarely comes in one fell swoop, but rather is built a little more every day, bit by bit.

Building success day by day is just one of the many things you can do with an effective, efficient habits regimen. Get your habits in order with Daily Stoic’s Habits for Success, Habits for Happiness (https://geni.us/DShabits) course. It’s six weeks of challenges designed to revitalize your habits and make them start working for you.

This episode is brought to you by GoMacro.Go Macro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order plus free shipping.

***

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May 03, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and NBA Legend Pau Gasol Talk Books, Basketball, and Stoicism
2771

In today’s episode, Ryan talks with NBA All-Star, Laker legend and humanitarian Pau Gasol. They discuss everything from Pau's reading habit to his advocacy for female coaches in basketball and more.

1:51 - Intro

6:22 - Being a big reader—and how that was encouraged by Phil Jackson

8:22 - What Pau gets out of fiction

10:32 - Phil Jackson recommendations

11:52 - Stoicism and reading

16:02 - The Meditations and marginalia

18:28 - Why do athletes always like quotes/aphorisms?

21:52 - The importance of reminders

24:42 - The importance of female coaches in basketball, and why discrimination is so harmful, and how hardship makes us stronger

37:25 - COVID-19 economic consequences: how did Pau process his experience with the Trailblazers, and how is that informing his decisions now?

Books mentioned:

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

This episode is also brought to you by Shippo. Shippo is a top-to-bottom shipping solution that works great with small and large businesses. Shippo will help you get the lowest rates on postage for your customers from dozens of global carriers like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL. Visit goshippo.com/stoic to get a shipping consultation and a six-month trial of Shippo’s pro plan (up to $700 value) absolutely free.

This episode is also brought to you by Go Macro. Go Macro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order plus free shipping.

***

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May 02, 2020
You Do the Math
278

"At least 200,000 people are marked for death worldwide and they don’t even know it. They are the back half of 'the curve.' They are essentially walking dead.

That is the cold, harsh reality of statistics. Of the numbers."

Ryan describes why we can't let our guards down against COVID-19—and why we must use it as a reminder that we could leave life at any moment.

***

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May 01, 2020
In the End, It’s Nothing
145

"From the outside, it can all seem very impressive. Think of Marcus Aurelius, marching into Rome in triumph. Think of him looking down at the crowds in the coliseum. Think of him looking up, as they erect a 39 meter marble column to his accomplishments.

But those who have had these things, they know."

Find out what they know in the rest of today's podcast.

This episode is also brought to you by Thrive Market, an online marketplace where you can get over 6000 products, whether it's pantry staples, food, wine, and other groceries, or cleaning products, vitamins, or even bath and body products. They have products for any diet or value system, whether it's vegan, non-GMO, paleo, keto, kosher, halal, non-FODMAP, and more. Visit https://thrivemarket.com/stoic to get 25% off your order today.

***
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Apr 30, 2020
You Will Not Be Made Whole
179

"This was not your fault. You work hard. You pay your taxes and your insurance premiums. You follow the law. So you should be good, right?"

Ryan shows why, when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic or any other misfortune, that's not necessarily the case.

****

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Apr 29, 2020
This Is a Critical Strength to Cultivate
226

"Whatever you decide to do with your life, whatever path you decide to walk, people are going to  stand in your way. They’re going to doubt you. They’re going to give you bad advice. They will do you wrong. On purpose and unintentionally. They’ll lie. They’ll undermine you. They may well actively take steps to stop you."

Find out how to deal with this in today's meditation.

This episode was brought to you by Magic Spoon. Magic Spoon makes delicious cereal just like you remember from when you were a kid—only this version has only 3g carbs and 11g of protein. Use code DAILYSTOIC at magicspoon.com to get free shipping.

***

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Apr 28, 2020
You Have to Care About the Most Vulnerable
210

"By now, you’ve probably seen the viral CNN clip of the woman heading to church in Ohio. Aren’t you worried about being exposed to COVID-19, the reporter asks? No, she says confidently, I am bathed in Jesus’s blood. But aren’t you worried about exposing other people? No, she says, angrily. I go to Wal-Mart everyday. I go to the grocery store. Those people could infect me."

Ryan talks about how a Stoic looks at the idea of flattening the curve, and why the lockdowns are so important.

***

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Apr 27, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: What Marcus Aurelius Can Teach Frontline Responders During COVID-19
2862

This past January, Ryan spoke with the USAF’s 31st Fighter Wing, stationed in Aviano, Italy. Later this area would experience a virulent outbreak of COVID-19. Ryan recently recorded a follow-up call with the Aviano base, which you can hear in today’s episode.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic is a maker of mushroom coffee, lattes, elixirs, and more. Their drinks all taste amazing and they've full of all sorts of all-natural compounds and immunity boosters to help you think clearly and live well. Visit http://foursigmatic.com/stoic to get 15% off your order.

This episode is also brought to you by Thrive Market, an online marketplace where you can get over 6000 products, whether it's pantry staples, food, wine, and other groceries, or cleaning products, vitamins, or even bath and body products. They have products for any diet or value system, whether it's vegan, non-GMO, paleo, keto, kosher, halal, non-FODMAP, and more. Visit https://thrivemarket.com/stoic to get 25% off your order today.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Apr 26, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan Talks Social Media, Social Distancing, and Stoicism with Congressman Mike Gallagher
3763

In this episode, Ryan speaks with US Representative Mike Gallagher from the 8th District of Wisconsin. They talk how not to be distracted by social media and disinformation, how Stoics dealt with plagues both past and present, and how anyone can implement the lessons of Stoicism.

This episode is brought to you by Go Macro. Go Macro is a family-owned maker of some of the finest protein bars around. They're vegan, non-GMO, and they come in a bunch of delicious flavors. Visit http://gomacro.com and use promo code STOIC for 30% off your order plus free shipping.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa's hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor.

Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

Finally, this episode was also brought to you by Magic Spoon. Magic Spoon makes delicious cereal just like you remember from when you were a kid—only this version has only 3g carbs and 11g of protein. Use code DAILYSTOIC at magicspoon.com to get free shipping. 

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

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Apr 25, 2020
This Is a Game of Inches
215

"Zeno lost everything in a shipwreck in the 3rd century BC. A family fortune. His occupation. Everything. He washed up in Athens anonymous and penniless. When he died, an old man, some forty years later, he was not only prosperous, he was one of the wisest men in the world. He’d been offered the keys to Athens and an honorary citizenship too. The school he founded, on the old stoa in Agora, would influence millions of people for the next two thousand years. 

How did he do it? How did he recover? How did he make his way to greatness?"

Find out in today's Daily Stoic podcast.

***

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Apr 24, 2020
We All Fall Short
170

By now, you may have seen the video. A devout religious woman grabs the hand of Pope Francis as he greets the crowd of pilgrims and children. He tries to move on.  She refuses to let go. In frustration, he slaps her hand and continues on. 

It’s not a pretty sight for sure. Especially for a man who has spoken so beautifully about kindness and compassion and humility. To call it “violence” would be an overstatement, but it was rudely out of character—a contradiction of what the man teaches and is supposed to be an example of. 

But here’s the thing: If you’re surprised and horrified, the problem is not the pope, it’s you. We all fall short. Seneca fell short. Marcus Aurelius fell short. Epictetus did too. Do you think they never lost their tempers? Never did the wrong thing? Ever failed to live up to their impossibly high standards? 

They, like the pope, like you, are human. Which means flaws. Which means messing up. Which means doing the exact opposite of what you believe and how you want to be (because you’re tired, because you were tempted, because you weren’t thinking). “Is it possible to be free from error?” Epictetus said. “Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person stretching to avoid error.” 

So don’t be too hard on other people, or even yourself. Accept apologies when given. Offer them readily when necessary. Learn from both other people’s mistakes and your own. And remember Pope Francis’ apology, because it was a wise one: "Love makes us patient. So many times we lose patience, even me, and I apologize for yesterday's bad example.”

Apr 23, 2020
Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light
209

"In April 46 BCE, 1,974 years ago, Cato the Younger died. In one sense, you might say he died willingly, as he chose death by his own hand rather than life under the tyranny of Julius Caesar. But no one who ever met Cato, nor anyone who reads of his death, should see anything resigned in the man."

Listen to learn more about Cato the Younger's inspiring death, and about how we can follow his example in how he led his life.

"Do not go gentle into that good night," by Dylan Thomas

The sponsor of today's episode is Magic Spoon (https://geni.us/dslmagicspoon). It's delicious cereal that tastes just like breakfast when you were a kid. Each bowl has 11g of protein and only 3g net of carbs. If you use the code DAILYSTOIC at magicspoon.com, you can get free shipping on your first order. Check it out today!

***

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Apr 22, 2020
Ryan Interviews Brent Underwood, Ghost Town Proprietor
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On this special bonus episode of the Daily Stoic podcast, Ryan interviews Brent Underwood, a partner in Ryan's marketing endeavors and the owner of an actual ghost town, Cerro Gordo. They discuss the practice of Stoicism when you're the only person around for hundreds of square miles.

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If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Follow @DailyStoic:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dailystoic/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/dailystoic

Follow along with Cerro Gordo, the ghost town, on Instagram at:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cerro.gordo.ca/

Website: https://cerrogordomines.com/

And Brent at:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brentwunderwood/

Website: http://brentunderwood.com/

Apr 22, 2020
We Are What We Repeatedly Do
259

Arete.

That’s a powerful word. 

To the Greeks, it meant excellence. It was the ultimate expression of human greatness—moral, physical, spiritual. It’s what the Stoics were chasing. It’s what you’re chasing today. 

But how do we get there?

Ryan discusses how we can achieve arete through the power of habits, and introduces the Daily Stoics's newest online course: Habits for Success, Habits for Happiness. It's six weeks of emails designed to completely rework your relationship with your habits—and make them the best they can be.

Purchase it here: dailystoic.com/habits

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: DailyStoic.com/signup

Follow @DailyStoic:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryanholiday

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ryanholiday/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ryanholiday

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/dailystoic

Apr 21, 2020
Keep Calm and Carry On
203

"Things are rough out there, it’s hard to argue with that. The stock market. Quarantines. Hospitals filled to capacity, and beyond. Travel plans cut short. Families cut off from loved ones. 

What is happening?! you might find yourself asking. This is terrifying, are things breaking down? Maybe. But it’s helpful to recall in times like these that, as the broadcaster Paul Harvey once explained, there have always been times like these."

Every day, Ryan Holiday reads the Daily Stoic meditation for the day. To receive these via email, sign up at
https://dailystoic.com/email/

Apr 20, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: Using Stoicism To Become Unbeatable
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In today’s episode, Ryan talks to the University of Alabama football team and discusses how to use the concepts of Stoicism to take on any challenge.

When you keep one of the Daily Stoic’s medallions by your side, it helps to cement into place the messages espoused by Stoicism. Use the Obstacle is the Way medallion to remember that any obstacle you encounter contains an opportunity as well. And our Ego is the Enemy medallion is a great token of the idea that you need to get your ego out of the way in order to succeed against whatever challenges you face.

https://prints.dailystoic.com/products/the-obstacle-is-the-way-medallion

https://prints.dailystoic.com/products/ego-is-the-enemy-medallion

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: DailyStoic.com/signup

Follow Ryan:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryanholiday

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ryanholiday/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ryanholiday

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/dailystoic

Apr 19, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan and John Brownstein Discuss the Science Behind the Pandemic
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In this episode, Ryan speaks with John Brownstein about the COVID-19 pandemic and what we all should do to stay safe and fight back against it. John Brownstein is a professor at the Harvard School of Medicine and Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. He’s spent his whole career learning about pandemics: how to track them using cutting-edge technology, and how to fight against them.

This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic is a maker of mushroom coffee, lattes, elixirs, and more. Their drinks all taste amazing and they've full of all sorts of all-natural compounds and immunity boosters to help you think clearly and live well. Visit foursigmatic.com/stoic to get 15% off your order.

This episode is also brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is the best platform for finding the right candidate to join your business. It’s the largest marketplace for job seekers in the world, and it has great search features so that you can find candidates with any hard or soft skills that you need. Visit linkedin.com/stoic to get fifty dollars off your first job post.

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: DailyStoic.com/signup

Follow Ryan:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryanholiday

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ryanholiday/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ryanholiday

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/dailystoic

Apr 18, 2020
How Will You Remember This?
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Right now, we’re looking at this all up close. It’s in our face. Being stuck at home. Watching business—and money—evaporate. Our plans are cancelled. Opportunities that we so looked forward to are gone, never to return again. 

How long will this last? Another month? Another year? How long will we be in the hurt? No one can say. 

A couple weeks ago, we interviewed Chris Guillibeau for Ask Daily Stoic, our Saturday podcast, while he was feeling the fresh sting of having to cancel a 40-city tour for his new book, The Money Tree. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, Chris said he was trying to focus on that old idea from Epictetus: go to what you control. Look for the positive. See what you can do with what’s in front of you. 

“Everyone is going to remember this,” he said. “We’re all going to have very sharp memories of this time.” The question, he said, is will you be proud of how you used it? How will you feel about who you were in this moment?

Flashing forward like that is a great way to hold your current self accountable. It can be easy to let yourself drift when suddenly the structure and routine of your life is torn away. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when your plans are wrecked (imagine being Chris—all the work and preparation and expense lost). But a Stoic has to be stronger than that. A Stoic knows they can’t afford to waste the present—because they know tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

No, we must seize this moment. We must turn this down time, this dead time, into “alive time” (here’s our challenge to you about that). We can’t get lost in the chaos or the despair or the unpleasantness. We have to get back to work. We have to make the most of what we have. We don’t control what has happened, but we do control how we respond

And so we will respond well. We will keep going. We will be proud of what we did, and who we were, in this moment. We will make it so we can look back at ourselves—and this experience—fondly. 

We can start to earn that pride and positive memory...today.

Apr 17, 2020
We Cannot Be Servants To Our Stuff
176

There is a story about King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. He was leading a massive army campaign, and had picked an ideal spot to stop to break camp. As he began to give out orders, an aide rushed up to inform him that the location lacked enough pasture for the army’s pack animals and that they would have to move. “O Hercules,” Philip cursed in frustration, “what a life I lead if I am obliged to live for the benefit of my asses!” 

Philip may have been powerful, but not more powerful than the reality of logistics. His unstoppable, all-powerful army was—for all its victories—at the mercy of its weakest link. It has always been and always will be thus. As Marcus Aurelius would write in Meditations about Philip’s son, Alexander—for all his victories too—was buried in the same ground as his mule driver.  Reality has a way of cutting us down to size like that. 

But the real message of that story is how easily even the most powerful people can become a slave to their stuff. Every soldier Philip pressed into service meant more supplies, which meant more pack animals to carry them, which required larger and larger amounts of fodder. Every ounce of treasure that Philip acquired in victory meant the same. Everything he accomplished or did was actually slowing—weighing—him down.

And so it goes for us. Which is why we should remember Seneca’s advice today: “Get used to dining out without the crowds, to being a slave to fewer slaves, to getting clothes only for their real purpose, and to living in more modest quarters.”

Apr 16, 2020
We Always Lose When We Lose Our Tempers
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Something happened. You got pissed. Now two bad things have happened. That’s just a fact. 

Because getting angry rarely makes things better—even if it helps you get what you thought you wanted. It taxes your heart. It causes you to be mean to other people. To “win” you had to lose your self-control

This is not to say you should merely accept everything in life. The Stoics were not passive weaklings. It’s that they preferred persuasion, patience, and persistence to yelling. They focused on addressing root causes, not catharsis. 

How much worse getting mad is than the things that caused it, Seneca said. “Anger always outlasts hurt,” he advised. “Best to take the opposite course. Would anyone think it normal to return a kick to a mule or a bite to a dog?”

So if you want to win—at life, at philosophy, at accomplishing what you have set out to accomplish—you’ll need to rein in your temper. You’ll need to figure out the opposite course, develop more than one kind of response to things you don’t like. It’s easy to get angry, but it’s more effective to remain calm and come up with solutions. 

Tame your temper. Don’t make problems worse by getting angry. 

Apr 15, 2020
Your Job is to Get The Best Out of People
198

One of the trickiest parts of holding yourself to a high standard in life is that it’s only natural to start to expect others to do the same. You’re not taking the easy road, why should they be able to? You’re putting in the work, why aren’t they? You don’t lie, cheat, or steal, is it so crazy to assume others shouldn’t either? Look at your results—where are theirs?

Marcus Aurelius must have struggled with this too. He hadn’t wanted to be emperor, but he was pressed into duty. Still, with all this power, he was trying to be good and do good. What was everyone else’s excuse? It’s something that lots of brilliant leaders and talented people have wrestled with through the centuries, whether it’s Kobe Bryant trying to figure out why his teammates aren’t as dedicated as he is, or an A student wondering why the other people in their group aren’t striving for the grade they are

What we know is that Marcus Aurelius found a way through. We’re told of it by the historian Cassius Dio, and it’s a worthy example for us to think about today:

“So long as a person did anything good, he would praise him and use him for the service in which he excelled, but to his other conduct he paid no attention; for he declared that it is impossible for one to create such men as one desires to have, and so it is fitting to employ those who are already in existence for whatever service each of them may be able to render to the State.”

We only control our behavior. We can only fully uphold our standards for ourselves. As leaders, we have to work to meet everyone else where they are—get as much as we can from them and of them—but we can’t make ourselves miserable expecting them to be like us. Because they aren’t. What they do is in their control. What we do is in ours. Remember what Seneca learned with Nero: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink

Never forget that. Get the best you can from yourself and hope—but don’t expect—for the best from everyone else. That’s all you can do.

Apr 14, 2020
You Have A Gun To Your Head
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It’s one of the most surprising scenes in literature and film. In Fight Club, Tyler Durden walks into a 24-hour convenience store and puts a gun to the head of the cashier. It’s an act of disturbing violence and cruelty. 

“Give me your wallet,” Tyler says as he presses the barrel against the man’s temple. Then he reads off his name and address: Raymond K. Hessel, 1329 SE Benning, Apartment A. “What did you want to be, Raymond K. Hessel?” Tyler asks, seeing the expired student ID card in the wallet. Then he cocks the pistol. “The question, Raymond, was what did you want to be?”

You start to squirm in your seat as you witness this. Please don’t kill him, please don’t kill him. Because up to this point, Tyler Durden has been clever and cool. He has not been a murderer. Is that going to change? Finally, to our relief, Hessel, panicking, manages to stammer out an answer. A vet, he wanted to be a veterinarian, he says, but gave up because it was too hard, too much school. And now here he is, working behind a counter. Tyler, still holding the gun to his head, makes this promise: If Hessel isn’t back in school by the time he returns in a year, he’s going to kill him. 

It’s a dark scene, for sure. But it’s also beautiful. “Tyler is practicing a form of tough love,” Fight Club’s author Chuck Palahniuk writes in his new book, Consider This. “Tyler reminds the man of his mortality.” He is doing what the Stoics tried to do to themselves constantly: To remember that there is a gun pointed at our heads always—that we do not have time to waste or fritter away. 

“You could leave life right now,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Let that determine what you do and say and think.” Do everything as if it was the last thing you were doing in your life, he said. Seneca even tells us a story of an emperor who did have the power to kill, as Tyler Durden did in fiction, and said to a weeping prisoner, Is the life you’re living really all that different than being dead?

Well, that’s the question and command today: Do not be Raymond K. Hessel. Do not give up on your dreams or live a kind of living death. You have to seize this moment. You have to let your awareness of your mortality give you urgency and purpose. You have to show up. You have to live each second as if it was the last thing you were doing in your life. 

Because Tyler Durden or not, it just might be. 

Apr 13, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: The Important Thing is to Not Be Afraid
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On today’s episode, Ryan talks about the importance of courage in the face of great peril—and the distinction between being scared and being afraid. It's especially relevant in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the original article here: https://ryanholiday.net/the-important-thing-is-to-not-be-afraid/


We’ve made a Four Virtues medallion commemorating courage along with the other Four Stoic Virtues. Get yours at https://geni.us/FourVirtues

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market, an online marketplace where you can get over 6000 products, whether it's pantry staples, food, wine, and other groceries, or cleaning products, vitamins, or even bath and body products. They have products for any diet or value system, whether it's vegan, non-GMO, paleo, keto, kosher, halal, non-FODMAP, and more. Visit https://thrivemarket.com/stoic to get 25% off your order today. 

Apr 12, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Ryan Holiday & Tim Ferriss Discuss "Alive Time vs Dead Time"
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In this episode, Ryan speaks with Tim Ferriss, the author, podcaster, entrepreneur and investor. Tim has written five New York Times best selling books, including The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef, Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has over 400 million downloads on iTunes and ranks at or near the top of its leaderboards at any given time. He has been an early investor in over 50 companies, including Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, and Alibaba. Tim writes a hugely popular blog and has spoken in front of millions of people, whether on TV or to organizations like Google, MIT, Microsoft, and Palantir.

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a custom formulation of 75 vitamins, minerals, and other whole-food sourced ingredients that make it easier for you to maintain nutrition in just a single scoop. It tastes great and gets you the nutrients you need, whether you're working on the go, fueling an active lifestyle, or just maintaining your good health. Visit athleticgreens.com/stoic and receive 20 free travel packs with your first purchase.

This episode is also brought to you by Leesa, the online mattress company. Leesa will ship a good night’s sleep directly to your doorstep. Each of their mattresses is made to order and shipped for free right to your door. All mattresses come with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty, so you can feel confident in your investment in a good night’s sleep. And Leesa hybrid mattress has been rated the best overall mattress by sites like Business Insider, Wirecutter, and Mattress Advisor.

Daily Stoic listeners get 15% off their entire order with the code STOIC. Just visit Leesa.com and get your mattress today.

Apr 11, 2020
It’s Okay To Ask For Help
159

It’s the strongest and the most helpful among us that often have the most trouble asking for help. The frontline responders know that their duty is to rush toward the bang, while others run away. A parent knows that they put their own interests and needs behind those of their children. The person who others rely on to be cheerful and fun can feel like they have no one to express their sorrow and pain to. 

Yes, a Stoic is strong. Yes, a Stoic is brave. Yes, a Stoic does their duty—without complaint, without hesitation. A Stoic carries the load, and willingly carries the load for others when necessary. But they also have to be able to ask for help. Because sometimes that’s the strongest and bravest thing to do

“Don’t be ashamed to need help,” Marcus Aurelius wrote. “Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?”

Exactly. So what? You’re not looking for a handout. You’re looking for advice. You’re not looking to be exempted. You’re getting your wounds treated so you can get back into the fight. You’re not looking to get an unfair advantage over anyone else. You’re taking advantage of the opportunities that were designed for precisely the situation you’re in. 

If you need a minute, ask. If you need a helping hand, ask. If you need reassurance, ask. If you need a favor, ask. If you need therapy, go. If you need to start over, go for it. If you need to lean on someone or something, do it. 

We’re in this mission together. We’re comrades. It’s okay to ask for help. If it makes you better, it’s the right thing to do. 

Apr 10, 2020
In Any Event, Do Your Best
182

Look: none of us are truly self-sufficient. The success of a salesman depends on whether they’ve been given a good product and solid leads. The project manager is only as good as the projects her bosses give her to manage and the employees she decides to hire to work on them. The movie needs a marketing budget if it is to have a chance to build an audience. An athlete’s performance is shaped by their coaching, the teammates the GM gives them, and the resources the organization provides for winning. How a general fares on the battlefield depends on the support of the nation behind them and the courage of their troops. 

It does not take much to say that history is replete with examples of these critical ingredients not being provided. All sorts of sales teams and armies and athletes being given only a fraction of what they need. The draftee—in sports or in the service—reports to find that morale is crap and the facilities are falling apart. The executive lacks the budget or the direction they need. 

And? And what should they do? Quit? Whine? Get comfortable with defeat? No. They must say to themselves and their team, as MacArthur did in World War II, looking at the woefully deficient resources provided to him in the Pacific, “In any event, I shall do my best. I shall keep the soldier’s faith.” He said it and then he got to work. He fought island by island, until in the end and despite the odds, victory was his. It was a victory for free people everywhere. 

The Stoics knew a thing or two about lost causes. They knew about low probabilities. They never let that stop them. Cato gave everything he had, despite what many saw as the inevitable rise of Caesar, to preserve the Roman Republic...and very nearly pulled it off. Washington sat in Valley Forge at the lowest point of the American Revolution, poorly supplied by Congress, undermined by his generals, and put on a play about Cato to inspire him and his men to keep going. Stockdale resisted his captors for nearly a decade, doing his best under incredible circumstances, keeping the soldier’s faith in his country, his soldiers, and himself. 

You can’t do the same? You think you’re entitled to give less than your all because someone else has let you down? Because things are not to your liking? 

C’mon. 

Apr 09, 2020
You Don’t Control When, You Do Control How
176

As we’ve discussed, one could look out at the world right now and see a lot of negative. Or you could grab the other handle, as Epictetus says, and see the positive. It’s an open question: Is this a great time to be alive or a terrible one? Are we blessed to have spent twenty years without any major wars, without any truly global crises, with sustained periods of economic prosperity and incredible technological advances? Or has it been twenty years with three major recessions, with the terror of terrorism, disruptive or disappointing tech, and now with a global pandemic?

Here’s the Stoic’s answer: It doesn’t matter. Because you don’t control when you live. What history will think of this period compared to other periods is meaningless. The only thing that counts is that you’re alive right now. 

We don’t choose when we live, we choose how we live. That’s it. You didn’t ask for this moment. Maybe you’d prefer things to be different. Well...they aren’t. And you’re going to have to make do. Understand this and you will be wise. Adhere to it and you will be successful. 

How can we make the most of right now? That’s the question. How can we live well within—or in spite—of what’s happening? That’s our job. You think Marcus wanted to live through the plague or Epictetus in a time where slavery existed or Seneca during Nero’s rule? Nope. But they figured it out. They made it work. 

And so can you. 

Apr 08, 2020
When You’re Going Through Hell, Do This…
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When Seneca was exiled, he wanted to give up, but he didn’t. He wrote. He prepared for the opportunity that would eventually come. When Musonius Rufus was exiled, he did the same. He kept himself busy not just with writing, but by discovering a natural spring on the island he was trapped on, one that provided for inhabitants who had long been without fresh water. When Epictetus was born into slavery, he endured it for thirty years until his freedom finally came. When the plague fell upon Rome during Marcus’s reign, he found a way to create and keep a new normal, for all fifteen years of it. 

In each case, these Stoics were in a kind of hell. But you know what they did? They did what you’re supposed to do when you find yourself going through hell: They kept going. 

Which is what we have to do today, through this pandemic and all that life throws at us. We have to keep going. We have to find a new normal. We have to find things to focus on. We have to find ways to do good for others. We have to keep busy. We can also follow this help list of rules from Austin Kleon (who has a wonderful book by the same title):

  1.  Every day is Groundhog Day.
  2.  Build a bliss station.
  3.  Forget the noun, do the verb.
  4.  Make gifts.
  5.  The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary
  6.  Slay the art monsters.
  7.  You’re allowed to change your mind.
  8.  When in doubt, tidy up.
  9.  Demons hate fresh air.
  10.  Plant your garden.

Most of all, we have to follow Churchill’s advice to KBO: Keep buggering on. Just keep going. You’ll get through this.

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Today's sponsor is Thrive Market, an online members-only marketplace filled with over 6000 ethical products. Sign up at thrivemarket.com/stoic and receiver an extra 25% off your first order. You'll receive your first 30 days of membership for free as well, and if you spend $49 or more you get free shipping. Join Thrive Market today!

Apr 07, 2020
Now Is The Time For Heroes
163

It was a decade or so ago, in the depth of the global financial crisis, that the musician and writer Henry Rollins offered a prescription that once again feels relevant. Indeed, it feels relevant because his advice was timeless, and applies in ordinary and extraordinary times alike. It’s advice worth following in times of triumph and great trials. 

“People are getting a little desperate,” he wrote as unemployment spiked and markets crashed. “People might not show their best elements to you. You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like. There is no better time than now to have a moral and civic backbone. To have a moral and civic true north. This is a tremendous opportunity for you, a young person, to be heroic.”

Well, here we are in rough and uncertain times again. People are not showing their best selves. People are scared. For several years in a row now, people have had their true north obscured and disoriented by daily examples of bad leadership—of ego and selfishness and downright incompetence. But, in a way, that doesn’t matter. As Marcus Aurelius said, what other people say or do is not our concern. What matters is what we do

We can choose to see this as a tremendous opportunity. This is a moment to be heroic. To think about others. To serve. To prepare. To keep calm. To reassure. To protect. This is a time to reevaluate our priorities. To ask ourselves what’s important and what we’re working towards. 

Courage is calling you. Self-discipline is essential. We need your moral and civic backbone. And man, do we need wisdom right now more than ever. We need you to embody those things. We need them right now. 

Apr 06, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: The Four Stoic Virtues
437

On today's episode, Ryan discusses the Four Stoic Virtues: Courage, Justice, Moderation, and Wisdom. Listen to find out why the Four Virtues are so important in today's world. And check out the new Daily Stoic Four Virtues medallion at https://geni.us/FourVirtues

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market, an online marketplace where you can get over 6000 products, whether it's pantry staples, food, wine, and other groceries, or cleaning products, vitamins, or even bath and body products. They have products for any diet or value system, whether it's vegan, non-GMO, paleo, keto, kosher, halal, non-FODMAP, and more. Visit thrivemarket.com/stoic to get 25% off your order today. 

***

If you enjoyed this week’s podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps with our visibility, and the more people listen to the podcast, the more we can invest into it and make it even better.

Sign up for the Daily Stoic email: DailyStoic.com/signup

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Apr 05, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Chris Guillebeau
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In this super-sized edition of Ask Daily Stoic, Ryan talks about his visit to Nashville Masterminds and has a Q+A with Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and visitor to all 193 countries in the world.

Apr 04, 2020
We’re Part of This Beautiful Tradition
205

Do you remember the first time you heard about the Stoics? Maybe you read about them in another book. Maybe someone you know recommended them to you. Remember that feeling though? When those words first started going through your brain and you felt them in your soul for the first time? It was an incredible experience right? One of the most important and transformative moments in your life. 

Here’s the crazy thing though. Before the Vietnam war, James Stockdale had almost that exact experience when he was given a copy of Epictetus at Stanford. You could roll back the tape of history almost 200 years and find the exact moment that George Washington had his experience when, at 16, a neighbor passed along a copy of the works of the Stoics. Nearly 2,000 years ago almost the exact same thing happened, only instead of America it was in Rome, and a man named Junius Rusticus was loaning Marcus Aurelius a copy of Epictetus. A generation before that, someone was introducing Epictetus himself, then no more than a slave, to the works of Musonius Rufus. You could go back further still and sit in a book store and watch Zeno, washed up from a shipwreck, being introduced to philosophy by way of a reading of the works of Socrates. 

It shouldn’t take away from the beauty of your experience to learn that it wasn’t singular. In fact, it enhances it. It ties directly into the most moving passages of Marcus Aurelius, where he points out how long human beings have been doing the same thing, how we’ve been falling in love and fighting over money, improving ourselves and falling short, and yes, having our minds blown by great books, since as long as there have been books. 

We are part of a long tradition and it’s a long tradition that will continue after we’re gone. We’re not special. We’re a strong, but ordinary link in a timeless chain… that includes some of the greatest men and women to ever walk the earth. We don’t own these ideas. We are, as they say about Patek Philippe watches, just guarding them for the next generation. We are caretakers. 

And that’s important. 

Apr 03, 2020
The Way, The Enemy and The Key
182

We should always be looking for mantras and epigrams. Ideas that are true and applicable in every situation, to every generation, across all time. The Stoics had more than a few they liked:

“Character is fate,” which came to them from Heraclitus. 

“Life is only perception,” which Marcus got from Democritus

“You become what you give your attention to,” which Epictetus wrote

Even memento mori and amor fati are short little reminders of concepts we should never forget. Lincoln was fond of the expression, “And this too shall pass,” which undoubtedly helped him through the depths of all the crises he faced. 

Here are three others worth keeping at hand: 

The obstacle is the waythere is nothing so bad that we can’t make some good out of it. We can treat every problem as an opportunity to practice virtue.

Ego is the enemyno problem is ever solved by introducing ego. Pride makes us complacent and intolerable and ignorant; for we cannot learn that which we think we already know.

Stillness is the key—you can speed up by slowing down. People can only focus, be happy, and see clearly when they get rid of franticness and passions and get to that state of ataraxia that the Stoics talked about. 

What’s in the way is the way. Improve yourself by thinking of yourself less. Slow down to speed up. 

Remember, this philosophy is about taking ideas and applying them to our lives until they turn into muscle memory. Repeating it enough times to yourself that it becomes part of who you are. That’s what a mantra is—something to come back to, something to lean on in times of trouble and stress. It’s a tool for focus. A way of living. 

The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego is the Enemy, and Stillness is the Key (all bestsellers that have reached millions of people around the world) are now available in a box set from Portfolio. You can check it out at Amazon right now. 

“Ryan’s trilogy of The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy, and Stillness Is the Key are for sure must reads.”

—Manu Ginobili, NBA Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist

Apr 02, 2020
From The Past, We Are Able To Tell The Future
228

Let’s imagine a scenario in which almost all our modern scholarship was lost. Imagine if some great fire at the Library of Alexandria wiped away the last few hundred years of breakthroughs in psychology and biology. Suddenly, countless research papers and books and discoveries were turned to ash. The cost would be immense, no question.

And yet, somehow, we’d be fine. Even if all that remained were just the writings of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus. Because as much as our species craves new-ness, the truth is that most truths are very old. In fact, it’s these timeless truths that teach us more about the future and about our current times than most of our contemporary thinking. 

As Douglas MacArthur wrote in the early 20th century, speculating about the future of warfare, the best lessons about what’s coming next come not from the recent but from the distant past. “Were the accounts of all battles, save only those of Genghis Khan,” he said, “effaced from the pages of history, and were all the facts of his campaigns preserved in descriptive detail, the soldier would still possess a mine of untold wealth from which to extract nuggets of knowledge useful in molding an army for future use. “

Of course, one should always avail themselves of the latest research and the newest books. The problem is that for far too many people this comes at the expense of availing themselves of wisdom from the wisest minds who ever lived. “I don’t have time to read books,” says the person who reads dozens of breaking news articles each week. “I don’t have time to read,” they say as they refresh their Twitter feed for the latest inane update. “I don’t have time to read fiction—that’s entertainment,” they say as they watch another panel of arguing talking heads on CNN, as if that’s actually giving them real information they will use. 

Being informed is important. It is the duty of every citizen. But we go about it the wrong way. We are distracted by breaking news when really we should be drinking deeply from the great texts of history. We need to follow Marcus Aurelius’s advice to carve out “some leisure time to learn something good, and stop bouncing around.”

It is from this learning, from the learning of the distant past, from the wisest minds who ever lived, that we can know how to prepare for the future. Everything else is noise. Everything else should be ignored. 

Apr 01, 2020
How a Few Can Help The Many
228

Perhaps you know the story of the 300 Spartans. It was first immortalized by Herodotus, and then has been passed down through the ages (there’s a wonderful Steven Pressfield novel about it). If you don’t know the story, here’s what happens: Facing an invading army of some 300,000 Persian soldiers that threatened to annihilate Greece, King Leonidas led just 300 Spartan warriors into battle in a desperate attempt to buy his neighboring countries a chance to coordinate and defend themselves. For three days, the soldiers fought at what’s known today as the Hot Gates, against so many Persian archers and soldiers that it was said their arrows blocked out the sun. Eventually, inevitably, the Spartans fell, but not before they had slowed Xerxes and his invaders down enough to save the free world. 

In their honor, the poet Simonides provides this epitaph:

Stranger passing by, tell the Lacedaemonians

Here we lie, having obeyed their orders. 

You sit here reading this email, in part, because of their brave sacrifice. Just as you sit here because of the soldiers who landed at Normandy, and, if you’re in a democracy, because of the sacrifices of Cato (who attempted to save the Roman Republic) and George Washington (who, inspired by Cato, founded America). These were missions that required immense selflessness, and all the Stoic virtues: Courage. Temperance. Justice. Wisdom. The few helped to save and serve the many. 

Have you seen the meme being passed around these days, in the time of COVID-19, the global pandemic ravaging countless nations? It shows a row of matches. The first several are burned out. One rests slightly below and all the matches to the right of it remain like new. “The one who stayed away,” it says, “saved all the rest.” (And think about the opposite: Patient 31 in South Korea, instead of staying away, potentially infected many people and may have ruined South Korea’s containment of the virus out of pure recklessness). 

If you want to know what you can do right now, how to help in this crisis, it doesn’t require a sacrifice like the heroes mentioned here. It’s much simpler. Stay at home. Listen to the pleadings and warnings—these are not for fun. Yes, you’re young. Yes, you’ll probably survive catching the Coronavirus, but a person you give it to, or the hospital bed you take from them? That’s a much more serious scenario. Help them by flattening the curve. Help buy them and the system some time. Rush to the Hot Gates… by staying home.


This is not a drill. Don’t be selfish. We’ve talked for a long time about what a good person looks like, what a philosopher is. Well? Now is the time to be one. 

Mar 31, 2020
These Are The Three Most Important Words of Wisdom
158

Almost 50 years ago, the Beatles whispered to us some words of wisdom: Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.

One of the most relatable passages in Meditations is actually about just that. Marcus writes about sitting next to someone who smells or has bad breath. You can almost feel his frustration, as if he too has sat on an airplane center seat and had to jostle for the armrests that are clearly his. What is wrong with this person? Can’t they figure out how this works? Do they have to be so rude? And yet, he catches himself. If it’s such a problem, he says, then talk to them about it. 

Or you know what? Just let it go. 

As he writes, “You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can't control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

It’s worth remembering today and every day. That we can just leave things as they are. We can let them be. We don’t have to get upset. We don’t have to have an opinion. We can listen to those words of wisdom…

Mar 30, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: Should I Watch The News
553

Ryan discusses the merits of watching the news, and how to tune out distractions, with Steven Pressfield.

Mar 29, 2020
Alive Time or Dead Time. What Will It Be?
217

Here you are, stuck indoors, stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. Maybe also you’re stuck because you’re 17 going on 30. Maybe also you’re stuck because you’ve got another two years left on your enlistment or because you’re waiting for a position to open up at a new company. Or you’re stuck because there is a global pandemic and, like a good Stoic, you’re listening to the authorities, and staying home, and helping to flatten the curve

You can’t help that, the Stoics would say. But you can help what you do with this time. As we talked about recently, just because you’re stuck is not an excuse for killing time. More than two thousand years ago, Cato the Elder advised that in rainy weather, farmers must “try to find something to do indoors. Clean up, rather than be idle. Remember that even though work stops, expenses run on nonetheless.” Robert Greene says we always have a choice between alive time and dead time. What will it be? The answer determines the course of our life, whether what we face is an obstacle or an opportunity

Issac Newton did some of his best research when Cambridge closed due to the plague. Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he hid out from the plague as well. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while he was laid up in the hospital, expressly forbidden from working on something as tough as a novel. Malcolm X educated himself in prison and turned himself into the activist the world needed. 

So we get it, you’re stuck. That’s not your fault. But what you do while you’re stuck? That’s on you. That’s what the Stoics meant when they said you don’t control what has happened, but you control how you respond. That’s what Marcus was talking about when he said we can turn everything that happens into fuel, and that the impediment to action can actually advance action

So that’s where we are right now. Faced with a choice. A choice to use this or not. Make something of it or not. It’s the only potential silver lining...and it’s totally up to you. 

Check out the Daily Stoic Alive Time Challenge! It starts Monday 3/30, and is the perfect way to turn your quarantine into productive "alive time."

Mar 28, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic - How Do I Use Stoicism To Fend Off Negativity?
1239

Ryan talks about the Edmund Morrison biography of Thomas Edison, reads a passage from The Obstacle is the Way (on sale for a few more days), and fields more questions from his readers and fans.

Mar 28, 2020
When Things Are Tough, Remember This
204

Most languages have some expression to the effect of “When it rains, it pours.” For instance, in Latin malis mala succedunt means troubles are followed by troubles. In Japanese, they say, “when crying, stung by bee.” The point of these expressions is to capture an unfortunate reality of life: that what can go wrong will… and often all at the same time. 

Obviously to the Stoics, the idea of premeditatio malorum is a kind of hedge against this. If you’re only prepared for a few, isolated and tiny things to go wrong, you’re going to be rudely surprised by how often difficulties come in pairs or triplets or entire litters. If you think life is going to be one lucky break after another, you’re going to be rudely surprised when, to quote Seneca, fortune decides to behave exactly as she pleases. 

The real lesson from the Stoics on adversity comes from Epictetus, however, who believed that while we don’t control whether it’s pouring, we do control how we respond. We control whether we can find something productive to do inside, while it’s raining. We control whether we put on a jacket. We control whether we’ve been smart enough to build a roof while the sun was shining. And Epictetus would have also liked the quip from the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadwick, who reminds us that in space, “there is no problem so bad you can’t make it worse.” 

So if you’ve been feeling some raindrops lately, first off, be prepared for things to really start coming down. Get ready for the bee sting on top of the stubbed toe. Get ready for your delayed flight to also have turbulence. But most importantly, don’t make it worse by overreacting, by taking it personally or doing something stupid. Whatever it is, know that perhaps the first step to making things better is just not making them worse. 

Mar 27, 2020
No One Escapes This Law
203

This is not another note about memento mori.

It’s about a different immutable, inescapable law of human existence that comes to us from the Stoics through Heraclitus (one of Marcus Aurelius’ favorites): Character is fate. 

After death and taxes, this is a timeless adage that the Stoics believed will determine our destiny whether we like it or not. And just a quick glimpse around the world and across history confirms it: Liars and cheats eventually destroy themselves. The corrupt overreach. The ignorant make fatal, self-inflicted mistakes. The egotistical ignore the data that challenges them and the warnings that could save them. The selfish end up isolated and alone, even if they’re surrounded by fame and fortune. The "robbers, perverts, killers and tyrants" Marcus Aurelius wrote about always end up in a hell of their own making. It’s a law as true as gravity. 

Bad character might drive someone into a position of leadership—because of their ambition, their ruthlessness, their shamelessness—but eventually, inevitably, this supposed “strength” becomes an Achilles’ heel when it comes time to actually do the job. Who trusts them? Who actually wants to work with them? What kind of culture develops around them? How can they learn? How can they know where the landmines are?

If you want to know why things are the way they are right now—on Wall Street, in politics, in Silicon Valley, on college campuses, everywhere—it’s because character is fate. And for too long we have ignored the predictive—no, prophetic—power of character. When you make excuses for liars and cheats and egomaniacs because they agree with you, or they might benefit your business or help your cause in the short term, not only do you do so at your own long term peril, but you are exhibiting bad character yourself. 

And that is what will come back to bite you. That is what is biting us right now, on every continent, in every corner of culture, at nearly every turn. Because character is fate. Always has been. Always will be. 

Mar 26, 2020
We All Have Flaws… What Matters is What We Do With Them
316

Jeannie Gaffigan is a control freak. She takes charge. She cares about the little things and getting those things right. She always has. It’s hard to argue that this part of her personality hasn’t served her well. She and her husband, the comedian Jim Gaffigan, have created an enormously successful partnership that birthed not only multiple television shows and comedy specials but five healthy, well-adjusted children. 

You can imagine, you have to be a stickler for details to pull all that off. The problem was when three years ago, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed a pear-sized tumor on Jeannie’s brain. A 10-hour surgery successfully removed the tumor, but not without a series of life-threatening complications, a few more surgeries, and a long road to recovery. Life does that to us. It takes the balance we’ve created or the systems we take comfort in and it dashes them to pieces. 

In a recent interview on Marc Maron’s podcast, Jeannie explained how this obstacle required her to re-examine her life and her need for control. She really had no choice. “I am a person who naturally sweats small stuff,” she explained. “I didn't change my entire personality. I still sweat small stuff. I still get irritated by this and that. But I have a different level of awareness that it's small stuff. It doesn't have to ruin my day. I see the big picture.” 

It was at this point in the conversation that Marc Maron, the host, responded about how he has managed this side of his personality as well: 

“I understand that, you know, to take that pause… And the weird thing is, if you have that personality, you know you're going to do it. You're going to freak out. And it's really about trying to nip it in the bud a little bit. Like in the middle. or, it seems hard to do it before because sometimes maybe it's necessary. Maybe that's how you do it. But there's a point where you’re like, 'well I don't need this to be toxic. I don't need to ruin everyone's day. I don't need to make everybody crazy.'”

It’s important to realize that the Stoics were not perfect. Nobody was. It’s exceedingly unlikely that Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome, didn’t have a desire to control things. That he didn’t worry. That he didn’t sweat the small stuff. That he didn’t have the impulse to get up in other people’s business or to expect things to go his way. 

We all have these inclinations. The key is that you don’t give yourself over to it entirely—that you pause and try to stop or slow it down before it spirals out of control. “Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet,” Epictetus said. “Say to it, ‘Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.’” And as Marcus told himself, “You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.”

The Stoics don’t hold us responsible for our initial impulses or impressions—we can’t be too hard on ourselves from habits we picked up from our own parents or in responses to experiences or responsibilities in our life. But what matters is whether we give ourselves over to these drives and flaws, or whether we actively work to improve ourselves. We feel anxiety or a desire to control. Ok. But does that mean we accept it unthinkingly? No. We must put it up to the test. We pause. We put it in perspective. We try not to vomit it all over other people, or let it ruin anyone’s day. 

We can nip it in the bud. We can blunt its extremes. We can get awareness. We can get better. 

Mar 25, 2020
You Can Seize This Moment
310

This is an email we weren’t expecting to send, but sometimes sudden events call for sudden responses. 

Right now you, and much of the world, are locked down, doing your part to fight the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps you’ve already been trapped inside for weeks. Perhaps you just got back the test results and now you are in complete isolation. Perhaps your job has furloughed you and you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. 

Things seem serious now, but the truth is, it’s only going to get more serious. 

All of us are looking at the potential for some serious lost time. Dead time, as Robert Greene calls it. But do we have to be? A Stoic knows that while we don’t control what happens, we do control how we respond. So that’s the real question: How can we use this time to get better? To grow? To be of service and use?   To create “alive time” where we’re actively getting better.

With that end in mind, we have been scrambling to put together what we’re calling the Daily Stoic Alive Time Challenge: Resilience, Productivity and Service in the Time of Coronavirus. It’s 14 days—the length of the suggested quarantine—of Stoicism-inspired challenges, practices and reading that will help you grow and help you help others. 

If you’ve done any of our other challenges over the last two years, you know we pack them full of great content, actionable advice, and strategies to make the habits stick. This one will be all that… and incredibly timely. We’re taking our best material and the best insights from the Stoics and organizing it to help you make the most of this time we have. Why shouldn’t you emerge from this process having at least wrested from it some real advantages? Why would you kill time when you could be seizing that time? Why not use it to create better habits and a better perspective?

Since there is little time to lose, we are putting the challenge on sale right now and starting it this coming Monday (March 30th). The more of us doing it together, at the same time, the better (people who sign up late can still do it, but they’ll miss some of the fun). We’ll create a Slack channel for sharing and holding each other accountable. And we’ll do a wrap-up call at the end to discuss keeping these good practices going. 

More important, we’re giving $5 of every sale (20% of all proceeds) to Feeding America. By doing this challenge together we can create what Marcus Aurelius calls a double bonus—doing good for ourselves and the people on the front lines fighting to keep us safe. 

Sign up today

Mar 24, 2020
The World Is Trying To Teach You
170

This was all pretty sudden, wasn’t it? The economy was chugging along. Life was going well. We had travel plans. We had work plans. We had things we were doing. We had a sense for what we’d do next. 

And then… bam. Now, here we are. 

You know what that is? It’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that Seneca—a man who experienced exile, illness, financial setbacks, and all sorts of other adversity—wrote about more than 2,000 years ago. He told us “never to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do.” His point was that events can change quickly, and that we have to be vigilant, particularly in good times, because vigilance is the first step towards preparation. “Whatever you have been expecting,” he said, “comes as less of a shock.”

The events of the last few weeks have been an expensive and merciless reminder of the truth of that advice. We ignored it at our peril, for too long, as humans often do. Fate is fickle. Reversals happen. Black Swans are real. Nothing is stable, change is the only constant. No one is so rich, so healthy, so strong or smart that they cannot be brought low. That is obvious to anyone looking around today. Yet we are likely, as things get better (which they inevitably will), to forget this fact if we’re not careful...and that is a waste of the pain we are experiencing right now.

The world is always teaching us. The question is whether we’re open to listening. The question is whether we’re ready to hear. 

Mar 23, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: You Don’t Control What Happens, You Control How You Respond
569

In today's episode, Ryan reads his piece from March 12, "Remember: You Don’t Control What Happens, You Control How You Respond." He discusses how to stay safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and how to think and act Stoically during this crisis.

Mar 22, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Keeping Calm About Coronavirus
1536

In this week's Saturday episode, Ryan discusses the coronavirus pandemic and how to deal with it like a Stoic.

Mar 21, 2020
You Should Always Find Something to Learn
189

We all have our way of doing things. We have what we were directly taught. We have the values that our culture gives us. We have the lessons we picked up by experience. It’s understandable then, when we see someone else doing things totally differently, that we might assume they’re doing it the wrong way. That’s not how that’s supposed to go, we think to ourselves.

This, the Stoics would tell us, is a recipe for folly. “It’s impossible to begin to learn that which you think you already know,” Epictetus said. Cato the Elder, the great-grandfather of Cato the Younger, coined a maxim in his famous essay, On Agriculture, which explained best practices for farming in the Roman era. “Be careful,” he said about the management practices of your neighbors, “not to rashly refuse to learn from others.” This lesson was picked up on and rephrased by hundreds of writers since, including Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Only an idiot turns up their nose at how other people do things. Sure, nine times out of ten, you’re right and they’re wrong. But that one time? That’s the game changer. 

It’s worth always remembering that other people have different perspectives, different experiences, and, in some cases, better schooling than you. What if they discovered a shortcut? What if they learned, painfully—through trial and error—something that could save you from suffering? A Stoic cannot allow their logic and their habits to become rigid or their mind to harden into condescension. We have to be open. We cannot be rash or dismissive. 

There is always something to learn—from everyone and in any situation. Even if it is only a reminder of why you do the things you do the way you do them. But hopefully you seek out disconfirmation even more than confirmation.

Learn from others, always. 

Mar 20, 2020
This Is One Thing You Must Not Do
174

It’s possible, Marcus Aurelius said, to not have an opinion. You don’t have to turn this into something, he reminds himself. You don’t have to let this upset you. 

It’s not that the Stoics lived in a world where people didn’t do bad things or a world free from rudeness and cruelty. On the contrary—those things were far more prevalent in Rome than they are today. But what the Stoics worked on was not letting these things get to them, not letting it provoke them to anger. 

If someone insulted Cato, he pretended not to hear it. When someone attacked Marcus Aurelius’s character, he tried to think about the character of the person saying it. When someone said something offensive to Epictetus, he told himself that if he got upset, he was as much to blame as they were. He also joked that if they really knew him, they’d be even more critical. 

It wasn’t that the Stoics were apathetic or that they never tried to change the world. Clearly, they wouldn’t have been engaged in politics if all they cared about was the status quo. Why would Seneca have written those letters if he didn’t believe he could have an impact on people? It’s just that the Stoics saw only danger in getting angry. They refused to be provoked. They tamed their temper so they could do the work they believed they needed to do. 

And that’s what you must do also. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t have to turn things into bigger things. You can control your emotions. You can do what you need to do. 

Mar 19, 2020
When the System Breaks Down, Leaders Stand Up
713

It began in the East. At least, that’s what the experts think. Maybe it came from animals. Maybe it was the Chinese. Maybe it was a curse from the gods. 

One thing is certain: it radiated out east, west, north, and south, crossing borders, then oceans, as it overwhelmed the world. The only thing that spread faster than the contagion was the fear and the rumors. People panicked. Doctors were baffled. Government officials dawdled and failed. Travel was delayed or rerouted or aborted altogether. Festivals, gatherings, sporting events—all cancelled. The economy plunged. Bodies piled up.

The institutions of government proved very fragile indeed. 

We’re talking, of course, about the Antonine Plague of 165 CE, a global pandemic with a mortality rate of between 2-3%, which began with flu-like symptoms until it escalated and became gruesome and painfully fatal. Millions were infected. Between 10 and 18 million people eventually died. 

It shouldn’t surprise us that an ancient pestilence—one that spanned the entire reign of Marcus Aurelius—feels so, well, modern. As Marcus would write in his diary at some point during this horrible plague, history has a way of repeating itself. “To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before,” he said in Meditations. “And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging. Produce them in your mind, as you know them from experience or from history: the court of Hadrian, of Antoninus. The courts of Philip, Alexander, Croesus. All just the same. Only the people different.”

This pattern of disease is nauseatingly familiar. It’s a pattern that has repeated itself like a fractal across history. Indeed, we could be talking about the Bubonic Plague (aka the Black Death), the Spanish Flu of 1918, or the cholera pandemics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just as easily as we are talking about the Antonine Plague and thinking about the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the globe. As Marcus would say, all we’d have to do is change a few dates and names.

It can be a very jarring mental exercise for some—thinking about the way the history of disease repeats itself—because we like to view the evolution of human civilization as moving inevitably in some new, unique direction. We like to see history as steady progress. Then when bad things happen, when catastrophe strikes, we feel like the world is coming apart. We suffocate ourselves with breathless shouting about the sky falling and give ourselves heart attacks over not being prepared for what is to come. 

It’s the same story, unfolded as if from an ancient script, written on the double helix of human DNA. We make the same mistakes. Succumb to the same fears. Endure the same grief and pain… then eventually exult in the same heroism, the same relief, and hopefully, the same kind of emergent leadership

And that, really, is the key to survival, to persevering for the better: Just because history repeats itself is not an excuse to throw up your hands and give yourself up to the whims of Fortune. The Stoics say over and over that it is inexcusable not to learn from the past. “For this is what makes us evil,” once wrote Seneca, who lived two generations before Marcus and watched Rome burn. “We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from our past.” 

Read the rest at https://dailystoic.com/marcus-aurelius-leadership-during-a-pandemic/

Mar 18, 2020
Your Obstacles Are Trying To Teach You Something
228

One way to go through life is to turn away from the things that are hard. You can close your eyes and ears to what is unpleasant. You can take the easy way, forgoing difficulty whenever possible. The other way is the Stoic way—it entails not only not avoiding hardship, but actively seeking it out.

In the novel Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar has Hadrian write to young Marcus Aurelius about his philosophy for learning and benefiting from all of life’s adversity and unpleasantness. “Whenever an object repelled me,” he says, “I made it a subject of study, ingeniously compelling myself to extract from it a motive for enjoyment. If faced with something unforeseen or near cause for despair, like an ambush or a storm at sea, after all measures for the safety of others had been taken, I strove to welcome this hazard, to rejoice in whatever it brought me of the new and unexpected, and thus without shock the ambush or the tempest was incorporated into my plans, or my thoughts. Even in the throes of my worst disaster, I have seen a moment when sheer exhaustion reduced some part of the horror of the experience, and when I made the defeat a thing of my own in being willing to accept it.” 

Of course, this is fiction so Hadrian never said such a thing. But clearly somebody taught Marcus a lesson along those lines, because Meditations is filled with similar passages. Marcus writes about how a fire turns everything that is thrown into it into flame. He says that obstacles are actually fuel. “The impediment to action advances action,” he writes, “what stands in the way becomes the way.”

It’s a beautiful way to approach the world—and ultimately, the only one suited for our unpredictable and stressful times. To avoid difficulty would mean complete retreat from life. It would mean hiding in ignorance. Worse, this would make you dreadfully vulnerable to crisis if it did ever find you. Instead, we must strive—as Hadrian said—to welcome hazard. We can rejoice in the unexpected and even turn failure into something by deciding to own it. We can learn from unpleasantness and even soften our aversions. 

This will not be easy. But that’s fitting, isn’t it? We are not naturally attracted to obstacles...which is precisely why we must work on finding out how to like them. This is the way.

Great news: The Obstacle is the Way, just went on sale for $1.99 as an ebook in the US and Canada (and £3.32 in the UK). Get your copy of this #1 bestseller, read and absorbed by everyone from politicians and generals to head coaches and athletes, today.

And that's not all: to help you keep the book's message close at hand, we're offering a 20% discount on our Obstacle is the Way coin and pendant at the Daily Stoic store (use code OBSTACLEDISCOUNT). Mar 17, 2020

We Need You To Be Bold
267

On the Roman calendar, March 15th was known as the Ides of March—once most notable as the year’s deadline for settling debts. That changed in 44 BC when Julius Caesar walked into the Theatre of Pompey for a routine meeting with the Roman Senate. Caesar was then at his apotheosis. He had made himself Dictator Perpetuo. He was about to embark on a three year expedition, which, if successful, would, as Plutarch wrote, “complete this circuit of his empire, which would then be bounded on all sides by the ocean." 

All of Rome hung on what would happen next. Would he name himself king? Would he destroy his remaining enemies? Would Rome destroy itself? Would it be content to be yoked under a tyrant?

We don’t know, because it was yesterday 2,064 years ago that Brutus, Cato’s son-in-law, and his wife, Porcia, took matters into their own hands. Soon, Caesar was dead. What remained was a bloody Civil War in which the Roman Republic was nearly restored. It didn’t quite go the way that Brutus hoped. Cato himself was not quite successful in his attempt to rally the Roman people to stand up to their traditions. But the example remains in history as a partly inspiring, partly cautionary tale: Can an individual change the course of history? Can things blow up in our faces? 

Yes. The answer is yes to both. 

That’s basically the complicated arc of Conspiracy, which tells the story of Peter Thiel's quixotic, bold, desperate, deranged, inspiring (your pick) plot to take down Gawker Media, the gossip blog that had outed him, that he felt had become too powerful. 

The knock against the Stoics—one repeated by Thiel himself once or twice—is that they are too resigned, that they accept the status quo. This would have been surprising to Rome’s emperors, from Julius Caesar to Nero to Galba and Domitian, who were all convinced that the Stoics were plotting against them. It is almost ironic that Marcus Aurelius became the Stoic philosopher king, because nearly every single one of his predecessors believed that the Stoics were seeking to destroy the monarchy entirely. No one thought that Cato or Thrasea or Musonius Rufus were passive. They feared them. They believed they were radicals who sought to change things. 

With yesterday being the anniversary of the Ides of March, we challenge you to think about where that spirit has gone. We could use more boldness, and less passivity. We could use more vision, courage, creativity, a sense of justice, a willingness to try and fail, to risk and hope. We could use more people courageous enough to reject the status quo and fight for change they believe in. 

We could use more people trying. 

Mar 16, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: Four Strategies for Reading Better
593

Ryan talks about how you can improve your reading skill and get more from the books you love.

Mar 15, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Austin Kleon
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Ryan chats with Austin Kleon, author of great books like Steal Like An Artist.

Mar 14, 2020
You Must Be a Good Example
155

Think of the pressure Marcus Aurelius must have been under. Not just of the temptations and the corruptions of power, but all the eyes that were on him. Forget the judgments of history, there was literally an “emperor cult” in Rome that worshipped the man on the throne as a god to be sacrificed to and prayed for. 

What we know is that Marcus took this pressure seriously. He strove to live up to the expectations and the dignity of his position, even if many of his predecessors had not. “Let people see someone living naturally,” he reminded himself in Meditations 10:15, “and understand what that means.” And in Meditations 10:16, that’s where he writes his famous line to stop talking about what a good person is like and just be one. 

But what’s interesting is that while Marcus more or less lived up to this pressure, he claimed to be doing it for himself, not for other people. Actually the second half of the line in 10:15 talks about how he’s fine being killed for what he believes in, if people don’t understand it. He’s doing right because it’s right, not because people are watching. It’s sort of like that Chris Rock line about being a role model: Don’t not beat your wife because you’re a role model for young people, don’t do it because it’s wrong!

Remember what Marcus said about not expecting the “third thing”—that is, gratitude or acknowledgment. Be a good role model because you’re a good person, because you’ve trained yourself to like and enjoy being good. Be a good role model because that’s what this philosophy demands of you, because that’s what life is demanding of you. That it might help other people, that you are teaching your children or your audience at the same time? That’s extra. 

Don’t talk about being a good role model. Be one. 

Mar 13, 2020
How Prepared Are You To Start Over?
215

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig experienced both incredible good fortune and misfortune in his life. He was born into wealth; he met some of the great minds of his time, from Freud to Arthur Schnitzler; he traveled extensively and became Europe’s bestselling novelist. And in that span, he also experienced two terrible world wars and was driven from his home by Hitler’s antisemitism; first fleeing to England, then later going to the U.S, before finally starting his life over again in Brazil, where he spent the last two years of his life. 

One would think that someone who had experienced so many good times in his first fifty years, would be unprepared for difficulty in his final ten. Not so with Zweig. During his many years of delightful and luxurious travel, he liked to play an interesting game—one very similar to a practice that Seneca had

As soon as Zweig arrived in a new city—no matter how distant—he would pretend that he’d just moved there and desperately needed a job. He would go from store to store, checking to see if they were hiring. He’d read the help wanted ads in the newspaper. He would often go all the way through the hiring process until he got an offer. Offer in hand, he would then walk out and enjoy his trip, feeling the pride and comfort of knowing he could handle starting from scratch if he had to. 

Seneca’s version of this was to practice poverty once per month. He’d wear his worst clothes and eat the cheapest food. He’d sleep on the ground. The point was to get up close and personal with the thing most of us secretly and subconsciously fear: losing everything. Being poor. Having nothing. 

There is immense value in these practices. For fears that we have faced are less scary than those we can only speculate about. Uncertainties we have practiced are more confidently endured when they come to pass. The less unfamiliar misfortune is, the less power it will have over us. That’s what premeditatio malorum is about. That’s why we must, as Seneca said, keep all the terms of the human lot before our mind—exile, war, torture, grief, pain. 

Because they happen. They did happen to Zweig, who had his possessions and his livelihood stolen by the Nazis (and yet managed to do some of his best writing in exile). We must be ready. We must know the fear, so that we may not be afraid when the worst finally comes. 

Mar 12, 2020
You Should Always Find Something To Do
153

There was time to kill in Rome, just as there is today. A dinner started late. A meeting got cancelled. Travel delays meant being stuck in this place or that place for a couple days. Something would break and someone would need to go into town for supplies. The impulse then, as now, when faced with these kinds of situations, was to just wait. Or complain. Or mess around. 

We all do it, writing stuff off as dead time, as we’ve talked about before. It’s a rather presumptuous thing to do, though, if you think about it. We kill time as time is literally killing us. Who says you’ll get more moments? Can you really afford to let any be wasted?

Cato the Elder was built of that sturdy, original Roman stock. He didn’t put up with laziness or poor productivity. He didn’t tolerate it from his workers or his family or himself. As he wrote in On Agriculture, there is no excuse for just sitting around.  =“In rainy weather,” Cato advised, “try to find something to do indoors. Clean up, rather than be idle. Remember that even though work stops, expenses run on nonetheless.” 

We can always find something to do, even when our original intention or plan is thwarted (that’s what the obstacle is the way means). We can read. We can think. We can clean up and prepare. We can squeeze in a few minutes of work while we sit in the waiting room. We can turn a rainy day into a family day. 

There is always something to do. You can’t afford for there not to be.

Mar 11, 2020
You Might Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.
193

Marcus Aurelius talked a lot about fame. He called it a worthless clacking of tongues and liked to point out things like how few people remember the emperors who preceded him, or how the generations to come will be the same annoying people he knows now. It’s easy to picture him writing these things in times where he caught himself falling for the allure of fame, of power, of how history might remember him. 

Don’t we all fall for it? It is alluring. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it isn’t the fame we really want. it’s the validation that our lives are meaningful. Praise, recognition, millions of followers on Instagram, we think, are proof that we matter. And until we get those things, we’re not always so sure we do.

Emily Esfahani Smith wrote an amazing piece in the New York Times, titled “You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.”. Reminding us of Marcus in the way Emily too said that fame is a foolish pursuit and not where meaning lies, we reached out to her for an interview. We asked Emily for advice on finding meaning—and how Stoicism can help us get there. She shared the opinion of the 20th-century psychologist Erik Erikson, who said that a flourishing, meaningful life is one of “generativity”: 

“When we’re young, we’re supposed to figure out who we are and what our purpose is. As we get older, we’re supposed to shift the focus from ourselves to others and be ‘generative.’ That is, we’re supposed to give back, especially to younger generations, by doing things like raising children, mentoring colleagues, creating things of value for our community or society at large, volunteering, etc. We each have the power to be generative. Fame and glamour are about the self—aggrandizing yourself. But generativity is about connecting and contributing to something bigger, which is the very definition of leading a meaningful life.”

It’s the Rick Warren line, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” There’s that silly thing that floats around the internet from time to time about how few people can name a gold medalist from the last Winter Olympics, but everyone can name that third grade teacher, that childhood neighbor, who changed your life. It’s the people we touch singularly. That’s the real test. That’s where you make your mark. 

Let that be today’s great and simple pursuit: positively impact one person’s day. That’s it. 

Mar 10, 2020
Why Anger Might Be The Worst Vice
151

There are many different vices out there. It’s long been a debate amongst priests and philosophers if some are worse than others, or if they are all created equal. Even amongst the Stoics there was some debate—were all sins the same? Was being or doing wrong a matter of degree, or was it black and white?

It’s one of those things that vexes philosophers but is obvious to normal people. Of course some vices are worse than others. Of course there is a grey area! Welcome to life, genius. 

Seneca eventually concurred. As he writes in Of Anger, anger must rank fairly high on the list of vices because it has so few redeeming qualities. “It’s a worse sin than luxury,” he says, “since that is enjoyed by personal pleasure, whereas anger takes joy in another’s pain.” Malice and envy are similar, he said, because they are about wanting other people to be unhappy, not just yourself. Anger and envy are about inflicting harm on others, not just on oneself.  

Point being: It’s better to be a little bit Epicurean (that is, to enjoy some pleasure) than it is to be an asshole. If you’re going to sin or give in to vice, make sure it only ruins your life. Make sure it’s something internal, not something like anger—which inevitably makes itself felt by the people around you. 

To sin, to fall short, is one thing. To punish innocent people? Well, that’s even worse.

Mar 09, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: How a Stoic Deals with Bad News
471

Ryan describes how a Stoic can deal with bad news—and not just move past it, but use it to fuel their success.

Mar 08, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: How Does a Stoic Deal with Aggressive People?
1361

Ryan talks about the new Daily Stoic offices, reads a selection from The Obstacle is the Way, and answers your questions.

Mar 07, 2020
Wisdom is the Most Important Virtue
193

Courage. Temperance. Justice. These are the critical virtues of life. But what situations call for courage? What is the right amount? What is the right thing? This is where the final and essential virtue comes in: Wisdom. The knowing. The learning. The experience required to navigate the world. 

Wisdom has always been prized by the Stoics. Zeno said that we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen more than we talk. And since we have two eyes, we are obligated to read and observe more than we talk as well. 

It is key today, as it was in the ancient world, to  be able to distinguish between the vast aggregations of information that lay out there at your disposal—and the actual wisdom that you need to live a good life. It’s key that we study, that we keep our minds open always. You cannot learn that which you think you already know, Epictetus said. It’s true. 

Which is why we need to not only be humble students but also seek out great teachers. It’s why we should always be reading. It’s why we cannot stop training. It’s why we have to be diligent in filtering out the signal from the noise. 

Our goal is not just to acquire information, but the right kind of information. It’s the lessons found in Meditations, in everything from the actual Epictetus to James Stockdale entering the world of Epictetus. It’s the key facts, standing out from the background noise, that you need to absorb.

Thousands of years of blazing insight are available to the world. It is likely that you have the power to learn anything you want at your fingertips. So today, honor the Stoic virtue of wisdom by slowing down, being deliberate, and finding the wisdom you need.

Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Remain a student. Act accordingly—and wisely. 

Keep the four Stoic virtues in mind—courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. The fact is, they are all important, and you can’t neglect any one of them in trying to live virtuously. Study how best to embody each one as is called for, and you’ll be making good progress. 

When you find yourself wondering what the right course of action is, pick the options that are most in accordance with the virtuous path they mark. It’s how you live successfully and happily.

P.S. The Daily Stoic has released our Four Virtues Medallion—on the front, a seal depicting each of the Four Virtues; on the back, a reminder to always rely on them. Check it out here.

Mar 06, 2020
Justice: The Most Important Virtue
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Being brave. Finding the right balance. These are core Stoic virtues, but in their seriousness, they pale in comparison to what the Stoics worshipped most highly: Doing the right thing. 

There is no Stoic virtue more important than justice, because it influences all the others. Marcus Aurelius himself said that justice is “the source of all the other virtues.” Stoics throughout history have pushed and advocated for justice, oftentimes at great personal risk and with great courage, in order to do great things and defend the people and ideas that they loved. 

  • Cato gave his life trying to restore the Roman Republic.
  • And Thrasea and Agrippinus gave theirs resisting the tyranny of Nero.
  • George Washington and Thomas Jefferson formed a new nation—one which would seek, however imperfectly, to fight for democracy and justice—largely inspired by the philosophy of Cato and those other Stoics.
  • Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a translator of Epictetus, led a black regiment of troops in the US Civil War.
  • Beatrice Webb, who helped to found the London School of Economics and who first conceptualized the idea of collective bargaining, regularly re-read Marcus Aurelius.

Countless other activists and politicians have turned to Stoicism to gird them against the difficulty of fighting for ideals that mattered, to guide them towards what was right in a world of so much wrong. A Stoic must deeply believe that an individual can make a difference. Successful activism and political maneuvering require understanding and strategy, as well as realism… and hope. It requires wisdom, acceptance and also a refusal to accept the statue quo. 

It was James Baldwin who most brilliantly captured this tension in Notes of a Native Son:

It began to seem that one would have to hold in mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in light of this idea it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but one must fight them with all one’s strength.

A Stoic sees the world clearly...but also sees clearly what the world can be. And then they are brave, and strategic enough to help bring it into reality. 

Check out the Daily Stoic’s new Four Virtues Medallion here.

Mar 05, 2020
Temperance is the Most Important Virtue
192

Yesterday we discussed the Four Virtues, and talked about the primacy of courage. Of course, life is not so simple as to say that courage is all the counts. While everyone would admit that courage is essential, we are also all well aware of people whose bravery turns to recklessness and becomes a fault when they begin to endanger themselves and others. 

This is where Aristotle comes in. Aristotle actually used courage as the main example in his famous metaphor of a “Golden Mean.” On one end of the spectrum, he said, there was cowardice—that’s a deficiency of courage. On the other, there was recklessness—too much courage. What was called for, what we required then, was a golden mean. The right amount.

That’s what Temperance or moderation is about: Doing nothing in excess. Doing the right thing in the right amount in the right way. 

In Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, the emperor Hadrian writes to Marcus Aurelius that “overeating is a Roman vice.” He explains that far too many of his fellow citizens “poison themselves with spice” and drown their plates in rich sauces. The result? They overwhelm their palates—and themselves. By succumbing to excess, they lose the ability to appreciate things and throw themselves off keel.

To Hadrian, simple pleasures were better. He tells Marcus that “moderation has always been my delight.” And not just when it comes to dinner. Fitness, being in good fighting form to face the challenges of each day, was critical, yet working out to the point of fanaticism was a step too far. That means refraining from both indolence and overexertion, cutting the middle course between the two poles to find that Golden Mean where one is neither over nor underprepared, but simply ready

So today and every day, remember the Stoic admonition to find the middle ground. Do not adhere to one extreme or the other; make temperance your goal in every part of your life, and your future self will thank you for it.

The Daily Stoic has just released our Four Virtues Medallion, featuring temperance, courage, justice, and wisdom. Everything we face in life is an opportunity to respond with these four traits. Learn more here.

Mar 04, 2020
Courage is the Most Important Virtue
185

The Stoics believed that a life well lived was one which always countered adversity with virtue. And they believed in four aspects of virtue: courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. Each and every situation calls for one or more of these four Stoic virtues, and nothing in life exempts us from their power. 

Today, we begin with one of the most important: Courage. 

If you’ve read Cormac McCarthy’s dark and beautiful novel All the Pretty Horses, you’ll remember the key question that Emilio Perez asks John Grady, one that cuts to the core of life and what we all must do to live a life worth living.

“The world wants to know if you have cojones. If you are brave?”

The Stoics might have phrased this a bit differently. Seneca would say that he actually pitied people who have never experienced misfortune. “You have passed through life without an opponent,” he said, “No one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

The world wants to know what category to put you in, which is why it will occasionally send difficult situations your way. Think of these not as inconveniences or even tragedies but as opportunities, as questions to answers. Do I have cojones? Am I brave? Am I going to face this problem or run away from it? Will I stand up or be rolled over?

Let your actions etch a response into the record—and let them remind you of why courage is the most important thing.


Mar 03, 2020
You Can Make This A Game...and Win
249

The Stoics said it over and over: the most important thing to remember about pain and suffering is that it is inevitable. It can’t be avoided, so don’t make it worse by fearing it, worrying about whether it will come, wondering how bad it will be. Seneca’s line was that we suffer more in imagination than in reality. The essential insight from Epictetus was: It’s not things that upset us, it’s our opinion about them. And Marcus Aurelius too: If you choose to feel like you’ve been harmed, you have been. 

At just eight years old, Verity Smith was told that, due to a rare genetic disorder, she would soon lose her eyesight. She didn’t have a choice. She would be blind. All that was left to her was how she would respond to this demand of fate. In our interview with Verity, we asked her to take us back to that diagnosis and how she came to terms, mentally and emotionally, with the painful realities of losing her vision. Her answer is extraordinary:

I saw going blind as a challenge, a game...I understood that the darkness was coming and that it would steal the faces of those I loved and the views of the landscapes I lived in, but in my innocence, I set to work filling my memory with images that would never fade. It was a game against the clock. My challenge was to drink in every sight, to exercise every sense and to become good at being blind before the lights went out. With my bedroom curtains drawn and a blindfold on, I would rearrange my furniture in order to practice navigating through self-imposed blackouts. Being a practical child, I figured the best way to overcome my coming blindness was to learn how to get good at being blind…I began to understand the power of my thoughts—how if the sky was grey I could color it in blue in my mind’s eye, how I could paint the beautiful horizon upon the canvas of the dullest of views. The world became multi-dimensional. As my eyes went to sleep my other senses awoke.

When adversity struck, Marcus liked to remind himself, “It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it...It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it.” 

Not everyone would choose to see something so unfair as a game, like Verity did. Not everyone could do that, as she did. So in that sense, it is fortunate that it happened to her. Certainly, what she managed to make of it is incredibly impressive and fortunate. Since being unable to compete in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic games, Verity has been training hard for the 2020 games in Tokyo. In 2017, she was ranked 12th in France at the Elite Able-Bodied level and has recently been selected for the French Para Dressage Team. Aside from her plans to bring home a gold medal in 2020, Verity also hopes to become the first equestrian disabled athlete to represent her country as a member of both the Paralympic and Olympic teams. 

She made her situation a game...and became world class at playing it. That’s what a Stoic does. That’s what you can do, whatever you’re going through today or in the future. You choose how you respond. You choose what you will make of this. You don’t have to suffer. 

Mar 02, 2020
Daily Stoic Sundays: How to Have Your Best Week Yet
603

Ryan uses eight Stoic lessons to teach us how to have the best week ever.

Mar 01, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Guest Starring Steven Pressfield
2142

This week's extra-long Saturday episode of Ask Daily Stoic features Ryan talking about, and speaking with, author Steven Pressfield, writer of classic books such as The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and The War of Art.

Feb 29, 2020
You Must Wash Away This Dust
177

Life is a dirty, dusty affair. It was that way in Rome and it’s that way today. The puddle in the street splashes us. Someone else’s nasty mood sullies our demeanor. The heat makes us sweat. The news of the world makes us worried. We spill some food, we spill out some frustration. 

We wake up in the morning fresh and ready to go and by the end of the day, we are covered in dust. The dust of emotions, of work, of stress, of everything. 

The Stoics knew this and they knew also that it was critical to find ways to, as Marcus Aurelius put it, wash away the dust of earthly life. There were many ways to do this, literally and figuratively. Seneca noted that Socrates liked to play music and to play games with children to relax and have fun. Cato liked to have long meals over wine where philosophy was discussed. We also know from stories that he would frequent Roman baths, as did Seneca, where the grime of the city could be scrubbed away, but where also they might have some time to think. Even that observation from Marcus Aurelius, in its fuller context, gives us an insight. Marcus was talking about washing away the dust of earthly life by taking a moment to look up at the stars at night. And where was he “talking” about this? In the journal where he often retreated to clear his mind and his soul; where he could find solace and hold himself accountable at the same time. Stoicism and journaling—as we show in The Daily Stoic Journal—are hard to separate for that reason. 

The question for you, today and always, is how are you washing yourself clean and clear? Do you have a fun hobby? Do you meditate? Is it a weekly therapy session? Is it swimming laps? Maybe it’s the time after the kids go to bed when you and your spouse read and talk? Maybe it’s a morning walk or an evening prayer?

It certainly can’t be just two weeks of vacation every year. It can’t just be a shower every couple days. It has to be a practice. It has to be a process. This is a dirty, dusty world we live in. And without ritual cleaning, even the purest and strongest souls will become filthy and corrupted. 

Feb 28, 2020
You Are A God
175

The Stoic writings alternate between reminding us of our humility and our power. For humility, we have the concept of amor fati, for example—we should learn to love our fate, “good or bad” because we’re powerless to do anything about it. And with equal sincerity, Marcus Aurelius reminds himself that if something is humanly possible, he should believe he is capable of doing it. 


Humility and power. Power and humility. It’s not a contradiction. It’s a balance. On some days we need a reminder of the former, and on other days, the latter. Today, let’s do the latter. How’s this: The Stoics believed each of us was a god. As Cicero writes in his dialog, Scipio’s Dream

“The true self of each person is the mind. Know therefore that you are a god. For a god is someone who moves, who feels, who remembers, who looks to the future, who rules over and guides and directs the body he is master of, just as that Supreme God directs the universe. And just as this eternal God controls the universe, which is partly mortal, so too your eternal spirit directs your fragile body.” 

It’s a pump-me-up that should have you ready to run through walls this morning. Sure, we are powerless over so much. We can be tossed around by the oceans, we can be struck down by disease, we’re not even as strong as a small chimpanzee. But over our own mind? There we have god-like powers. There, we are supreme masters. There we can direct and control the world like those mythical beings from Mt. Olympus. 

You’re a god. Know that. Now use that power wisely. Go do something that matters with it. 

Feb 27, 2020
Repeat These Three Words To Yourself Constantly
203

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams once said, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” How true it is. It’s an idea that goes to the very essence of what Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus spend so much time talking about.

Reality is a stubborn thing. As much as we might want events to go or be one way, this has little bearing on the way they are. We wish we had been born tall, to a rich or royal family, we wish that special someone we fell head over heels in love with would return the feeling (or be the person we idealized them to be in our hearts) and yet, that is not how things are. We put in the work and yet, somehow, the person who was less talented won. We held our nose and voted for one candidate and, still, somehow the greater of two evils ended up winning. 

What do we do? It’s so unfair. It’s so frustrating. It’s just not right. Yet, yet, yet...

In ex-Marine Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn, a novel based on his experience fighting in the Vietnam War, the line, “There it is,” appears nearly thirty times, spoken by different characters. Your post Ivy League graduation plans were thwarted by a war? There it is. You have no experience leading a platoon of marines? There it is. You don’t get to sleep for two days because of an enemy invasion? There it is. 

Life is “There it is.” Stoicism is an acknowledgement of that fact, it’s a coping mechanism and a response to this fact. That’s what Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius and Seneca were all talking about in their own way: How to make the most of a world to which most of what happens is not up to us and, in fact, seems to go contrary to how we would choose if it were. 

We can get angry and announce our disapproval. We can throw our hands up, curse the sky, and tell whoever will listen about how unfair this or that is. But as much as we argue, we can’t alter reality. So, we must embrace it. We must love it. All of it. Amor fati. “There it is.” 

And then do our best. And then make the most of it.

Feb 26, 2020
You Must Read… and Re-Read
180

It’s no secret that John Adams is one of history’s brilliant minds. He was widely respected as a lawyer, a politician, a president, and as a husband, a father, and a friend. But for all this, he was often overwhelmed by anguish, despair, discontent, loneliness, doubt, fear, uncertainty, and the rest. “I can as easily still the fierce tempests or stop the rapid thunderbolt,” he once lamented in his journal, “as command the motions and operations of my own mind.” 

Like many of us, Adams longed for stillness, for “tranquility of mind,” vowing to one day “wear out of my mind every mean and base affection.” But it was a long time coming—indeed, it nearly came too late. 

In 1819, the year after the death of his treasured wife of fifty-four years, the devastated Adams turned to Cicero’s essay on growing old gracefully, De Senectute. It was an essay he had read “for seventy years, to the point of nearly knowing it by heart,” but somehow, now, in the quiet stillness, he found something new in it. As he wrote:

I never delighted much in contemplating commas and colons, or in spelling or measuring syllables; but now...if I attempt to look at these little objects, I find my imagination, in spite of all my exertions, roaming in the Milky Way, among the nebulae, those mighty orbs, and stupendous orbits of suns, planets, satellites, and comets, which compose the incomprehensible universe.


It was as if, now, having slowed down, having experienced so much, that he was seeing things differently. In short, he noticed what he had missed before—by reading and re-reading, he found something he had missed all those previous times. When Marcus Aurelius quoted Heraclitus—about how we can never step in the same river twice—this is what he was encouraging. We cannot content ourselves with first impressions or encounters, we must constantly revisit everything. Revisit the pages of books, revisit the sights we have overlooked, revisit the ordinary beauty of the world. 

It might take a lifetime for us to finally “get” it—but the stillness and the understanding will be worth it.

Feb 25, 2020
Don’t Be Zero-Sum
215

Steven Pressfield, whose historically-driven novels about ancient Greece have sold millions of copies, wrote a recent post that posits that there are two kinds of people in the world—Zero-Sum and Non-Zero-Sum. 

Hitler was zero-sum. He believed that the Aryan race could only survive if it took from and eliminated other races. Abraham Lincoln was non-zero-sum. Yes, he believed that slavery was a horrible evil and needed to end, but he did not believe that the North needed to crush and destroy the South. In fact, his famous Second Inaugural Address is all about how both sides shared the blame and both could be redeemed by the suffering they had endured in this horrible Civil War. Martin Luther King was non-zero-sum. So were the Spartans at Thermopylae, who sacrificed their lives just to buy a little more time for their Greek allies to prepare. Almost all villains in history and in fiction, on the other hand, are zero-sum. They believed that someone else’s loss was their gain—and that their own pain justified the infliction of pain on other people. 

Over and over again in the Stoic writings we see reminders intended to nudge us towards seeing the world as non-zero-sum. If you want to find some good, Marcus Aurelius writes, all you have to do is look inside yourself—it’s just there ready to bubble up. Wherever there is another person, Seneca writes, we have an opportunity for kindness. The best revenge, Marcus writes, is to not be like the people who have wronged you. What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee. What is the concept of sympatheia but a realization that harming other people does not benefit you? That you can’t steal your way to prosperity or harm your way to happiness? 

And yet, so much of what we do is selfish and zero-sum. That’s why we lie. Or cheat. Or vote for politicians who promise to aggressively fight for our own interests, even if it means that other people will suffer terribly. 

Pressfield’s beautiful article is a call to a higher standard to all of us. It’s worth quoting the final sentences of it here in full:

In the non-zero-sum world, on the other hand, resources are infinite. The love a mother gives to her child (and that the child returns) grows greater, the more each loves. There is and can never be a shortage of love.

Compassion is infinite.

Integrity is infinite.

Faith is infinite.

Zero-sum versus non-zero-sum. Which point of view do you believe?
Feb 24, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: How Do You Recognize What's in Your Control?
914

Ryan talks about speaking to service members at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Ryan reads a passage from Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Feb 22, 2020
Do What’s Right, Not What’s Easy
210

It was a somber scene as the pallbearers marched down Pine Street carrying the coffin of General William Tecumseh Sherman on this day 129 years ago. It grew more somber still as the rain started to drizzle and then rain steadily. The temperatures dropped as the procession winded through the streets. Repeatedly along the seven mile walk, the former Confederate General Joe Johnston, then old and frail, but who had faced off in battle against Sherman many times, was asked if someone could take his place so that he might go inside and warm up. 

No, Johnson said, I’m fine. An aide suggested that he at least put on a hat to keep dry. Once again, Johnson refused. It would be impolite. It would be disrespectful to the dead. “If the positions were reversed,” he said, “Sherman would not do so.” So he continued to carry the coffin, bare-headed in the rain, in honor of his former enemy, the man who had beaten and dominated him.  

Marcus Aurelius wrote of how we should do the right thing, whether it’s cold or warm, whether we’re tired or well-rested, whether we’re despised or honored. Johnson faced each of these dilemmas that day. He was tired, he was cold, he could not have been been particularly popular with the thousands of Yankees who watched his labored steps. But he did what he thought was right— like his former opponent, he lived by a code and that was all that mattered. He wanted to pay his respects, even if it was inconvenient, even if it wasn’t fully understood. 

And he was willing to sacrifice more than just a few minutes of comfort to make that statement. Because at that funeral Joe Johnson caught pneumonia. Within a month, he was dead.


Feb 21, 2020
Who Can You Adopt?
190

One of the most remarkable traditions of ancient Rome—and one for which we have no real modern analog—was the tradition of wealthy, successful families adopting and raising young men (sometimes women) to be their heir. Scipio Aemilianus, one of the early patrons of Stoicism, for instance, was adopted into the famous Scipio family, while his elder brother Quintus was adopted by the Fabii family, an equally grand legacy. 

Seneca was not adopted (nor did he adopt anyone), but his brother Novatus was adopted by Lucius Junius Gallio, an admired rhetorician, and eventually changed his name accordingly. You might be familiar with it, in fact, because Gallio—Seneca’s brother—appears in the Bible, having fairly adjudicated a legal case against the apostle Paul. Marcus Aurelius himself underwent a similar process when Hadrian (adopted by Trajan) adopted Antoninus who in turn adopted Marcus Aurelius. 

The point of today’s email is not to tell you to rush out and sign up to be a foster parent—although it would be wonderful if more people did this—but to suggest a more modern analogy. The process of choosing a promising young person, mentoring them, guiding their ascent into public life, looking out for them, helping pass along some of the advantages and wisdom you have accumulated—this is a timeless idea. It makes rational sense why fathers and mothers do this for their own children (and grandchildren) but it is truly beautiful when strangers do it for each other. When we help others get ahead not because they are our blood, but because we see something in them, or simply because we are in the privileged position of having such benefits to share. 

Remember, the Stoics believed that we were all in this thing together. That we were all part of the same hive, that we were all serving the same great cause—be it the empire, the nation, the human race—and therefore we are obligated to help others. To lend a hand. To adopt. To advocate for. To cultivate.

Feb 20, 2020
Why Be Angry About Something That’s Already Gone?
157

It’s another mess. It’s not your fault, but you’re dealing with it. It’s another rude person— representing a company you are paying money to—who doesn’t seem to get how this is supposed to work. It’s another example of disrespect, or bias, or plain discrimination. It’s precisely the kind of thing that pisses you off. 

So you’re angry. It shouldn’t be like this. It doesn’t need to be like this. When will it stop?

The Stoics have an answer. It might not be the one you want to hear, but it’s an answer. The answer is that this will stop soon. It always does. Everything does. 

As Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations:

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone — those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the ‘what’ is in constant flux, the ‘why’ has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us — a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted.

This is one of the reasons the Stoics were big advocates of “the pause” (which we talk about in our Taming Your Temper course). Yes, this thing is angering you right now. But the truth is that it will be gone soon enough. And so will you for that matter

Life is short. Do you want to spend it being upset? Most problems resolve themselves. Most bad news is followed, eventually, by good news. Most frustrations lessen with time. Use that to your advantage. Don’t give them more substance and permanence than they deserve. Go with the flow. 

Don’t be angry. It’s pointless. 

Feb 19, 2020
How To Be Proven Wrong
243

Imagine writing a book that sells millions of copies over the course of nearly a decade, and then, out of nowhere, another author comes along and challenges it. What would you do? 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s massive bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, he posits that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is required to master any skill. Implicit in Gladwell’s argument is that success is the manifestation of specialization. If you want to be among the best at something, you have to focus solely on that singular skill. 

David Epstein first disputed the 10,000-hour rule in his book The Sports Gene. He was then invited to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference to debate Gladwell on this topic of specialization. Neither they or their critics would have predicted the friendship that came out of the debate. But their discussions spawned the ideas that became Epstein’s second book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World—which doesn’t just challenge the 10,000-hour rule, it may well debunk it. How did Gladwell take it? As Epstein explained in our interview with him for DailyStoic.com:

He could have viewed our ideas as in zero-sum competition. But he didn’t. He viewed it as an opportunity to engage in more discussion—often politely antagonistic but very productive discussion—and consequently we learned from one another. [This] set in motion what became not only a really productive intellectual relationship for me, but also a model of how two people publicly associated with certain ideas can engage without forcing zero-sum competition.

Seneca deliberately read and immersed himself in the work of people he disagreed with. He frequently and unapologetically quotes Epicurus, the head of a rival philosophical school! Knowing this may be perceived as abandoning the writings of his avowed philosophical school, he often clarifies his intentions. “I am wont to cross over even into the enemy’s camp,” he explains, “not as a deserter, but as a scout.” Like Gladwell and Epstein, he didn’t view Epicurus’ ideas as in zero-sum competition with his own. They were a chance to learn. They were not an obstacle but an opportunity to broaden and bolster his intellectual arsenal. 

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change,” Marcus said. “For I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance.”

It’s so easy today to close ourselves off at the first sight of an opposing view. On all points along the political spectrum, people are close-minded and sensitive to their perspectives being challenged. Let David Epstein and Malcolm Gladwell be your models today. Break out of your filter bubble. Prioritize speaking with someone you are likely to disagree with. Practice quieting your ego and opening yourself up to learning something new. Practice seeing things from someone else’s point of view. Seeking the truth, keeping an open mind, having the humility to accept you might be wrong—this is how we grow.

Feb 18, 2020
Don’t Take the Money. Don’t Take the Money.
169

Cicero and Cato both refused to take bribes, despite how widespread the practice was for politicians at the time. Cato refused to be enriched by his office in any form, even though that was even more common. Marcus Aurelius refused inheritances that were offered to him, much the same way. 

Although they never gave us their exact reasons, it’s pretty easy to deduce. Because corruption is a betrayal of the public trust. Even if it weren’t, Marcus and Cato would likely have declined all the same. Why? Because to accept the money would have been to sacrifice their autonomy. They lived along the same principle so brilliantly expressed, thousands of years later, by the photographer Bill Cunningham: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”

Just look at Seneca. While there is no evidence he took outright bribes, he did accept a paycheck from Nero. He accepted piles and piles of gifts. He couldn’t see that Nero was slowly buying him, trapping him in a gilded cage. Seneca’s fortune grew—soon, he was the second richest man in Rome—but his control over his own life diminished. He was tied up in Nero’s misdeeds; he was at the mercy of his whims. When Seneca tried to walk away, Nero said, “Nope.” When Seneca tried to give all the money back, he learned that’s not how it works. Nero called the tune now. Nero owned him. 

To a Stoic, that was a form of death (indeed, Seneca died not long after this, at Nero’s hand). Blood money comes at the cost of your soul. Bribes and corruption are not just wrong; they’re dangerous. It’s corrosive. There are always strings attached, whether the money comes in the form of a salary or an envelope of cash slid under a table. Let Seneca be an example of that. Let Cato be an inspiration. 

But most of all, remember what Bill Cunningham said: If they pay you, they get to tell you what to do. Remember: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty, freedom is the most expensive.”

Feb 17, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Who Are Some Famous Figure Influenced By Stoicism?
1395

Ryan talks about putting the finishing touches on his upcoming book, Lives of the Stoics
Featuring today's entry from The Daily Stoic. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Feb 15, 2020
This Is a Command, Not a Mere Reminder
222

Like most solo pursuits, the artist’s life is one that ceaselessly tests one's mental fortitude. Steven Pressfield likens it to dragon slaying. The dragon being what he’s coined the “Resistance”—that voice that questions your abilities, your worth, your sanity. “Resistance never sleeps,” Pressfield says. “It never slackens and it never goes away. The dragon must be slain anew every morning.” Anyone who sets out to make a career in the arts is confronted with this reality quickly, if not immediately. 

The two-time finalist for the Pulitzer prize, Russell Banks, was in his mid-twenties—just married, an apprentice plumber, living frugally—when he took the leap into the dragon’s den of creative expression. It was then that he happened upon a plaster angel statue in the window of a used furniture store. It wasn’t the angel that caught his attention. “I was pointedly irreligious and whatever the opposite of puritanical is,” as he puts it. It was the words carefully carved on the angel: Remember Death. 

Something about this particular reminder got through to me, as if I had never linked the two words together before, had never probed the meaning of either one alone or truly considered the imperative mood, and I had to own it, had to bring it home to our little apartment and hang it above my writing table, so that every time I looked up from my struggle to write my first poems and stories, I would see it, and I would remember death...On a profound level, beyond the purely personal, beyond pop-romanticism, beyond politics, beyond history, beyond even genocide and terrorism, it’s saying, Never forget. I took it as a command, not a mere reminder.

In the half-century with his memento mori, Banks has lived all over the world, he’s written some two-dozen novels, and received widespread acclaim, but “Wherever I have set up my desk and sat myself down to write, my angel has looked down and murmured, Remember Death.” 

No one becomes immune to the evil inner-voice that makes us doubt ourselves, that tells us we’re inadequate or incapable, that puts us in a rut and tries to keep us there. What separates those who do great things is the ability to quell those voices before they swell. That’s what we see in Marcus’s routine writing of his impending death. He said, “Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life.” When we do, we’re freed from the Resistance, inspired into action. 

That’s the power of memento mori. It isn’t morbid. It isn’t dark or depressing. No, it pulls us out of the dark and depressing by transcending those petty doubts and fears. Whether it’s an angel statue on your desk, a medallion in your pocket, a pendant around your neck, a statue of Marcus Aurelius himself, or a sticky note on your computer—memento mori.

And use it to propel you. 

Feb 14, 2020
You Must Think For Yourself
178

It’s never been easier to get information than it is today. You have access to Wikipedia, to podcasts, to social media, and a near infinite library of books. You can chat with just about anyone about anything. We live in a wonderful time where facts and opinions are abundant like truly never before in history. 

But there is danger in all this abundance as well. Because with this access has come instant connection and viral sharing, which means that for all the diverse sources of information out there, it’s also never been easier to see what other people are thinking. The algorithms of Facebook and Twitter can create a filter bubble. The public-ness of our discourse now makes it easier to enforce political correctness and consensus-thinking. It incentivizes virtue signaling and a mob mentality. 

Think about how impressive it was that Marcus Aurelius didn’t need to publish his Meditations. He didn’t need to get credit for his ideas. All he cared about was truth. He was thinking for himself, literally. What made someone like Cato so powerful and inspiring was that he didn’t care what anyone else thought. He also thought for himself. In fact, he actively practiced inoculating himself against public opinion by walking barefoot and bareheaded through Rome. He wanted to get used to being laughed at, to being different. It shouldn’t surprise us then that when nearly everyone in Rome was willing to rationalize Julius Caesar’s norm-breaking behavior, only Cato could see it for what it was. Only he was willing to stand alone. 

A Stoic has to be willing to do that. A Stoic has to think for themself. A Stoic doesn’t care what the mob thinks—they don’t need to “consort with the crowd,” as Seneca put it. Yes, it’s wonderful that we have access to all kinds of knowledge and tools that the Stoics didn’t have. But how we use these assets is essential. Are we just going to agree with everyone because we don’t want trouble? Are we going to seek out only what we like and what confirms our worldview?

Or are we going to think for ourselves? Are we willing to stand alone?

Feb 13, 2020
Can You Be Still?
246

There is probably no piece of literature that the Stoics were more familiar with than the Odyssey. Seneca quotes it. Marcus Aurelius quotes it. Pretty much everyone in the ancient world was so familiar with Homer’s verses that they could be quoted without attribution and people would know what the speaker was referencing

It makes sense. It’s a beautiful, inspiring poem with all sorts of lessons and images. But here’s one that the Stoics never mentioned, that is easy to miss unless you read all the way to the end. In fact, in some translations it’s cut off or ignored. What does Odysseus do after nearly ten years of war and then ten more years of struggle to make it home? What does he do shortly after arriving home after having been gone so long that his wife’s hair was grey and his old dog was barely alive? After he slaughtered the invaders in his home and secured his kingdom that he was blocked from for so long? 

It’s almost unbelievable: Almost immediately after coming home, he gets ready to leave again! As Emily Wilson beautifully translates Odysseus giving the insane news to his long suffering wife:

But now we have returned to our own bed,

As we both longed to do. You must look after

My property inside the house. Meanwhile, 

I have to go on raids, to steal replacements

For all the sheep those swaggering suitors killed,

And get the other Greeks to give me more,

until I fill my folds.

Isn’t that the human condition in a nutshell? Isn’t that restlessness exactly what got Odysseus in trouble in the first place? The insatiability and greed that nearly took him and his men to the brink a hundred times? As Blaise Pascal put it, “all of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room.” Because we cannot be happy, because we can’t just be, we waste years of our life. We go begging for trouble. We invent problems. We flee, as Seneca once put it, from ourselves. Clearly that’s what Odysseus was doing. No one who actually likes themselves or their lives spends twenty years fighting to get back to it...and then leaves the day after they get there!

We must realize that stillness is the key. Stillness is how you connect to yourself and others. Stillness is where true happiness comes from. Where is all this rushing taking you? Where was Odysseus pointing his ship toward? We are rushing toward death. A life of restlessness is not what we’re after. That’s not where meaning comes from. No one is saying that Odysseus should just lay back and lounge for the rest of his life—but if he can’t take even a few minutes with his family after that long of an absence, something is wrong with him. Turns out the war with Troy was the sideshow—the real battle was in this guy’s head and heart...and it was against the fear of not being in motion constantly. Sadly it’s an affliction shared by a good portion of ambitious, talented people. 

There is no greatness that is not at peace, Seneca reminds us. There is no greatness if we cannot be. We must be still.

Feb 12, 2020
Here’s How To Become an Informed Citizen
209

When people hear Epictetus quoted to justify not watching the news—“If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters”—they get upset. It’s understandable. For generations, especially in America, people have been conditioned to think that consuming journalism, be it in newspaper or television or online form, is the duty of every informed citizen. 

Unfortunately, only the second half of this supposition is correct. Yes, it is the duty of every citizen—especially those with voting rights—to be informed. No, the news is not the way to do that. In fact, in today’s world of clickbait and sensationalism it may be the worst. Just a few years ago, the head of CBS (who also happened to be a serial sexual harasser) noted glibly how a certain presidential candidate was clearly bad for America but “damn good for CBS.” “This is going to be a very good year for us,” he said, faux apologizing. “It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on... Keep going.”

If that isn’t evidence for you that you should not keep going, and should definitely stop watching so much news, there’s not much else to be said. But perhaps there’s another way to think about it: The best way to be an informed citizen is to follow the path of the Stoics, who had no such thing as real-time journalism. You should study history. You should study the law. You should study human nature. As Machiavelli, who was forced into a retreat from public affairs, once observed, “Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions." Marcus Aurelius said very much the same thing: History is the same thing happening over and over again. 

If you want to be an informed citizen, if you want to actually understand—rather than know trivia about—what’s going on in the world, then pick up a biography. Pick up Thucydides. Pick up Plutarch. Pick up Robert Caro or Edward Gibbon. Read Doris Kearns Goodwin. Forget tweets about political witch hunts, read Stacey Schiff’s new book about actual witch hunts. Read Machiavelli. Read Seneca. Read about Seneca and Nero and their complicated relationship. Read psychology. Go read the actual constitution of the country you live in—read The Federalist Papers or the Magna Carta

Go deep. Go backward. Go to the real truths. That’s what informed people do. And they are fine being seen as ignorant about every other silly thing.

Feb 11, 2020
It Takes What It Takes
192

Watching a master do their work is always impressive. Whether it’s an orator working a crowd or an athlete contorting their body with ease and finesse, it’s incredible to see what people are capable of. We see things and wonder how they’re possible. We hear of the feats of brilliance, of courage, of endurance, and of wisdom pulled off by Cato or by Thrasea and wonder how they managed to do it.

The answer, in every instance, is simple. They did the work. 

“First, tell yourself what you want to be, then act your part accordingly,” Epictetus said. “This, after all, is what we find to be the rule in just about every other field. Athletes decide first what they want to be, then proceed to do what is necessary."

The renowned mental conditioning expert Trevor Moawad put it even more simply: Greatness takes what it takes.  

As Russell Wilson’s mental skills coach, he has seen what that process looks like from the inside. His new book (with that awesome title), It Takes What It Takes, is about the kind of work we have to do to achieve our biggest goals. We interviewed him for Daily Stoic and he explained it a bit further: 

It goes back to a conversation I had with NBA star Vince Carter when I was consulting with them. He said at 38 the behaviors for him to keep playing were clearly defined. It “took what it took” and he had to decide whether to do them or not...That conversation helped me better explain the simple truths behind success to athletes. It also safely allows for people to choose an average set of behaviors, but the outcome will be pre-determined.

Remember, the Stoics—Marcus Aurelius especially—talked repeatedly about doing what his nature demanded. They also believed that character was fate. The work you put in, the traits you inculcated, that’s what kind of person you would be, the kind of results you would get. 

“Behavior, which you’ve drilled into your muscle memory,” Moawad says, “will dictate what happens next.”

So how can you be like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius or Russell Wilson or Vince Carter? Set your sights on the goal and do the work. Put in what it takes. Do what your nature and the job demands. Build the muscle memory. And the outcome will be fated.

Feb 10, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: Can You Be Informed Without Cable News?
976

Ryan talks about his upcoming talk in Italy and about James Stockdale, and answers questions from fans. Featuring today's entry from The Daily Stoic. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Feb 08, 2020
You Still Have Time. You Have So Much Time.
167

Seneca’s life is worth looking at for anyone who thinks they missed their shot, who thinks it might be “too late” for them. Because in his early twenties, just as his career as a lawyer was taking off, Seneca was struck with a terrible blow of tuberculosis. He was sent away by his doctors to Egypt, where he spent the next ten years recovering. Eventually, he returned to Rome, and though many would have suspected his window had closed, he quickly made a name for himself as a politician and a philosopher. 

Then, just as his career was taking off, he was banished to Corisca on trumped up charges by jealous enemies. There he had to spend eight years, eight years of the prime of his life, on an island far away from home. Yet, he eventually returned to Rome, rebuilt and remade himself, and soon found himself one of the most powerful men in the world, advising the Emperor. 

You might be sensing where this is going, but once again, at the height of his influence, he was forced to retire from Nero’s service, as the Emperor became increasingly unstable. Still, Seneca managed to re-dedicate himself to philosophy and publish some of his most brilliant works. 

What Seneca’s life proves is something much more bluntly phrased in Gary Vaynerchuk’s viral video, “You’ve Got Fucking Time.” It might feel like you are too old, that things have not turned out like you planned, that you’ve been royally screwed by bad luck. And that may be so—but the fact remains that you still have time. You can still make something of this life. You can still be grateful for whatever—and how much ever—time you have left. 

What if you had just woken up from a coma? What if you had just gotten exonerated and released from death row? What if you’d found out your cancer was in remission? Would you be thinking 'I'm getting a late start' or ‘woe is me?” Or would you be thinking, 'I'm so lucky. This is the beginning of my new life'? 

There is no too late, not as far as ordinary life goes; just get started. Or get back to work. That’s all we can do. 

Feb 07, 2020
You Must Look Beneath The Surface
238

Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, like all Romans, seemed to have loved the theatre. 

Seneca, in particular, had a great fascination for what “actors in theatre who imitate the emotions” could teach him about dealing with people in real life. Many actors appear “most dangerous when they redden,” Seneca observed, but “they were letting all their sense of shame escape.” From that, he realized that with Sulla “when the blood mantled his cheeks” it was always “due...to the novelty of a situation.” And “Fabianus also, I remember, reddened when he appeared as a witness before the senate; and his embarrassment became him to a remarkable degree.”

Evan Puschak, creator of the wildly popular Nerdwriter YouTube channel, made a great video a couple years ago, titled “Jack Nicholson: The Art of Anger.” The video is not only an eight minute montage of Nicholson’s very entertaining freak outs, it’s a distillation of a very human emotion. Like Seneca, Puschak wanted “to get a sense of the larger shape of anger as a human phenomenon.” Here’s what he learned:

For Nicholson—and everybody else, for that matter—anger can be a form of desperation, a noise so loud that you don't have to hear your own insecurities. The larger and louder it is, the closer he is to recognizing a vulnerability in himself. That's the challenge for an actor playing this emotion. You're not just playing anger; you're playing what's under it. Most anger isn't psychotic. It's only a thin veneer for what's brewing below, and you have to be able to turn up the volume while preserving traces of this deeper motivation. 

This is a really powerful insight. To see that anger is not anger but often a glimpse of what is unresolved underneath. Sulla was revealing his weakness, his inexperience, his uncertainty. Fabianus was revealing his embarrassment. In The Border, Puschak points out, Nicholson was revealing fear. “Fear at what he's gotten himself into. Fear that he won't be able to get himself out.” 

Although the Stoics spend a lot of time dealing with the symptoms of anger, they don’t spend enough time really looking at what’s underneath. Marcus Aurelius couldn’t remind himself to go to therapy because it didn’t exist then. Seneca couldn’t talk about processing trauma because we didn’t really understand that yet. The Stoics lacked even some of the healing strategies that result from the Christian emphasis on forgiveness. But just because they didn’t have these things, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from them now. It’s not enough to just stuff your anger down or cut it off at the pass—you have to figure out what’s going on way before that. You have to look at the root causes. You have to look back at the road you traveled to understand how you got to this place, this moment.

Tear off the mask. Look below. Look behind. And deal with it. 

Feb 06, 2020
If Everyone Is Woke, Then No One is Awake
233

It’s unquestionably a good thing that the world is waking up to the idea of social justice. For too long, marginalized groups have been precisely that—marginalized. Oppression, racism, unequal access to opportunity have been too common for too long in America and the world. People have been way too insensitive to the trauma that all sorts of people have experienced in life, and indifferent to how those traumas are exacerbated and triggered by the way we do things. 

Of course, we should be awake and aware of this. Kindness and fairness and human dignity are core Stoic virtues, so there would be no objection from Marcus Aurelius or Seneca to the idea of social justice. Certainly Epictetus, a former slave, would have fit right into our modern discussion about privilege and equality. 

But it’s also true that the Stoics would have looked quite warily on the increasing radicalization of the so-called “woke” activists. Nor would they have been surprised at how quickly its self-righteousness has created alarming abuses of power (and in some cases, been guilty of the same injustices they claim to fight against.) Administrators and activists at Oberlin College in Ohio egged on a mob that wrongly accused a small-town bakery of racism and tried to run them out of business. The #MeToo movement, which has brought all sorts of terrible sexual predators to justice, also—it seems—prematurely deprived Al Franken of due process and cost themselves an ally in the Senate. There have been countless other examples, from the Covington Kids and the Yale Halloween costume controversy to using physical force to deprive people of their right to free speech and a surprising level of tolerance for anti-semitism, where jumping to conclusions and moral certainty have caused embarassing lapses in judgement.

These movements are supposed to be about truth and justice and fairness. But like any movement, when they become a mob, or become blind to nuance or empathy, they can do real harm to people. When everyone is woke, then no one is awake. 

The Stoics believed in virtue, not virtue signaling. They were not naive. They knew the world was full of injustices and evil and believed that it was not just important, but every person’s duty to fight against it. At the same time, Marcus Aurelius reminded himself that most people who did wrong were not doing it on purpose. He spoke of the importance of mercy, of forgiveness and understanding. Most of all, he spoke about practicing what he preached. He couldn’t control other people, but he could control whether he did wrong himself. 

And this is an important lesson for everyone out there fighting for the important cause of social justice. Radicalization is dangerous, whether it’s on the right or left. Anger is the problem, not the solution. Righteousness can easily become self-righteousness. 

We must be careful. We must be kind. We must be fair. We must always act with the virtues that the Stoics believed balanced out the pursuit of justice: courage, moderation, and wisdom.

Feb 05, 2020
It’s Better To Share
203

For Julius Caesar’s grip on power to be complete, he had to eliminate his rivals. So too did Octavius, Caesar’s nephew who succeeded him. Claudius eliminated senators who threatened his reign. Nero, even with the moderating influence of Seneca, violently dispatched his mother and stepbrother. That’s basically the entire history of emperors and kings—an endless parade of heirs getting rid of other potential heirs and anyone who might exert influence on the throne. 

All this makes what Marcus Aurelius did upon ascending to power all the more remarkable. Because he too had a rival, at least on paper: his stepbrother, Lucius Verus, the biological son of Antoninus Pius. Yet what did Marcus do? What was the first thing he did with the absolute power that we all know corrupts absolutely? He named his brother co-emperor. He willingly ceded half his power and wealth to someone else. Imagine that. 

Why did he do this? Well, for starters, he had a problem with murdering people just because they might want what he had. But more philosophically, Marcus was wise enough to understand that there was plenty of power to go around—that the job of emperor was really hard and it might actually be better to split the duties with someone else rather than to try to selfishly shoulder the whole burden yourself. 

It would be wonderful if we could get better at seeing this ourselves. That someone else’s gain is not our loss—in fact, it might actually make our lives easier. That historically, those who try to maintain an exclusive and tyrannical grip on the reigns don’t actually tend to hold them that long. That we are improved by the process of sharing and collaborating and bringing people in (did you notice that there are two authors for The Daily Stoic and The Daily Stoic Journal? Both those books were incalculably improved by Stephen Hanselman’s translations and insights. Sharing works!). 

It’s lonely to go through life alone, to try to do everything by yourself and for yourself. That approach rarely brings out the best in anyone or anything. So start sharing. 

Feb 04, 2020
You Must Win The Morning!
147

One of the most relatable moments in Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is the argument Marcus Aurelius has with himself in the opening of book 5. It’s clearly an argument he’s had with himself many times, on many mornings—as have many of us: He knows he has to get out of bed, but so desperately wants to remain under the warm covers. 

It’s relatable...but it’s also impressive. Marcus didn’t actually have to get out of bed. He didn’t really have to do anything. One of his predecessors, Tiberius, basically abandoned the throne for an exotic island. Marcus’s adopted great-grandfather Hadrian hardly spent any time in Rome at all. The emperor had all sorts of prerogatives, and here Marcus was insisting that he rise early and get to work. 

Why? It’s because Marcus knew that winning the morning was key to winning the day and winning at life. He wouldn’t have heard the expression that “the early bird gets the worm,” but he was well aware that a day well-begun is half done. By pushing himself to do something uncomfortable and tough, by insisting on doing what he said he knew he was born to do and what he loved to do, Marcus was beginning a process that would lead to a successful day.

It’s one that we have to follow today and every day. We should get up early. We should not delay. We should get the nutrients we need. We should practice good habits. We should go right into whatever the biggest or most important task of the day is. We want to win the morning so that the rest of the day (much of which will be out of our control) has less power over us. 

Well-begun is half won. So get started. 

Feb 03, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: How Do I Deal With Long Term Problems?
1108

**Now featuring twice as much content per episode**

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Feb 01, 2020
Shine On, You Crazy Diamond
180

There has always been an odd streak in the Stoics. Zeno used to practice begging people for money, even though he had plenty. Cleanthes worked as a manual laborer for so long, some in Athens thought it might be a front for something. Cato used to walk around bareheaded and barefooted, wearing dingy clothing. Seneca was completely unafraid both of regularly practicing poverty (despite his wealth) and unafraid of showing his wealth (despite his reputation as a Stoic). He also experimented with vegetarianism at a time when it was deeply transgressive in Rome. And can you imagine the scene Marcus Aurelius created when he would write and read philosophy while the gladiatorial games raged on beneath his box seats in the coliseum? 

The Stoics were not afraid to be themselves, to be seen as weird. In fact, that’s something Epictetus said: If you want to improve, if you want to achieve wisdom, you have to be okay looking strange or even clueless from time to time. Epictetus also tells us the story of Agrippinus, who refused to keep a low profile during Nero’s reign, who refused to conform or tamp down his independent thinking. Why do this, Agrippinus was asked, why not be like the rest of us? 

Because you consider yourself to be only one thread of those which are in the tunic. Well then it was fitting for you to take care how you should be like the rest of men, just as the thread has no design to be anything superior to the other threads. But I wish to be purple, that small part which is bright, and makes all the rest appear graceful and beautiful. Why then do you tell me to make myself like the many? And if I do, how shall I still be purple?

Beautifully said. And a reminder to all of us today. Embrace who you really are, embrace what makes you unique. Let your freak flag fly—because chances are it’s special. Shine on you crazy diamond. Be purple. Be the small part that makes the rest bright.

We desperately need you to do that. 


Jan 31, 2020
If You Don’t Read, You’re Functionally Illiterate
217

General James Mattis is part of a long line of tradition of Stoic warriors. Just as Frederick the Great carried the Stoics in his saddlebags as he led his troops, or Cato proved his Stoicism by how he led his own troops in Rome’s Civil War, Mattis has long been known for taking Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations with him on campaign. 

“Reading is an honor and a gift,” he explains, “from a warrior or a historian who—a decade or a thousand decades ago—set aside time to write.” Yet many people spurn this gift and still consider themselves educated. “If you haven’t read hundreds of books,” Mattis says, “you’re functionally illiterate.” Channeling Marcus Aurelius, Mattis notes that human beings have been fighting and dying and struggling and doing the same things for eons. To not avail yourself of that knowledge is profoundly arrogant and stupid. To fill up body bags of young soldiers while a commander learns by experience? It’s worse than arrogant. It’s unethical, even murderous. 

Well, the same is true for much less lethal professions. How dare you waste your investor’s money by not reading and learning from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs? How dare you so take your marriage or your children for granted that you think you can afford to figure this out by doing the wrong things first? What is the upside of trying to make it in the NFL all on your own, and not looking for shortcuts and lessons from seasoned pros and students of the game who have published books? There is no real job training for an emperor or the advisor to the emperor, but you can imagine both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca read heavily from and about their predecessors. The stakes were too high for them not to. 

In Mattis’ view, no Marine, and no leader, is excused from studying. Consider yourself assigned to this as well. It’s wonderful that you’re reading this email, but more is demanded of you. Drink deeply from history, from philosophy, from the books of journalists and the memoirs of geniuses. Study the cautionary tales and the screw ups, read about failures and successes. Read constantly—read as a practice.

Because if you don’t, it’s a dereliction of duty.


Jan 30, 2020
How You Look At Things Matters
147

If you’ve ever been stuck in Los Angeles traffic at night, you know it’s miserable. But if you’ve ever seen a helicopter shot of Los Angeles at night, you’ve seen how this same miserable experience can suddenly be made to seem beautiful and serene. We call one a traffic jam, the other a light show.

The chaos of international politics can strike us with fear—wars break out, property is destroyed, and people are killed. Yet if you zoom out just slightly, all those terrifying CNN updates seem to blur together into an almost coordinated dance of nations lurching towards a balance of power. We call one journalism, the other history.

Same thing, different perspective. 

Life is like that. We can look at it one way and be scared or angry or worried. We can look at it another and find an exciting challenge. We can choose to look at something as an obstacle or an opportunity. We can see chaos if we look up close, or order if we look from afar. 

Which is the right lens? What perspective does the Stoic bring to each experience? That’s a trick question. The Stoics alternate between lenses, choosing to see things in the way that allows them to move forward, to reduce anxiety, to find humility, or even humor. As Epictetus said, each situation has two handles—one that will bear weight and one that won’t. We have to choose carefully and properly. 

The world is dyed by our thoughts, colored by the glasses we decide to wear. So that’s what you have to think about today and always. How are you going to look at things? Which perspective will you choose? Will you choose to be miserable or awed? Terrified or reassured? It’s up to you. It’s up to us.

Jan 29, 2020
You Have To Be Kind To Yourself
179

There’s no question that much of what we talk about in this philosophy is hard. Specifically, it’s hard on the person practicing it. Stoicism asks you to challenge yourself. It doesn’t tolerate sloppy thinking or half measures. It wants you to undergo deprivation, it asks you to look in the mirror and examine your flaws. 

But it’s important that we don’t mistake all this with self-flagellation and a lack of self-esteem. The early Stoic Cleanthes once overheard a philosopher speaking unkindly to himself when he thought no one was listening. Cleanthes stopped him and reminded him: “You aren’t talking to a bad man.” One of the most beautiful passages in Seneca’s letters is the one where he talks to Lucilius about how he was learning to be his own friend. He wrote that as a very old man. He was still working, even then, on being kinder to himself. The same man who was so hard on himself—practicing poverty and diving into freezing rivers—wanted to make sure that he was also loving himself like a good friend. 

Are you doing the same? Do you know that you’re a good person? Are you your own friend? There is a line in a great song by The Head and The Heart about this:

Until you learn to love yourself

The door is locked to someone else

It’s true. It’s also locked to wisdom. The point of this philosophy we are writing and talking about is not self-punishment, it’s self-improvement. Nobody improves for a teacher that loathes them. No one trusts someone that is out to hurt them. 

Forget cutting yourself a break today. Instead, just be kind. Be your own friend. Catalog some of your strengths. Smile at all the progress you’ve made. Tell yourself, “good job.” And then promise that you’re going to keep going and keep working because you know you’re worth it. 

Jan 28, 2020
Stop Freaking Out. None of This Is New.
142

You think this hasn’t happened before? Whatever it is, whatever you’re freaking out about?

A crisis at the borders. Agitators riling up the youth. Excess and immorality. Rising demagogues. Distrust in institutions. A backlash against free speech and expression.

It’s scary because it seems new—like things are breaking down, right? Except it’s not remotely new. Each one of those things was happening during Marcus Aurelius’s reign. They were happening during Seneca’s time. They were happening a hundred years ago. They were happening back in America while James Stockdale was locked away as a POW in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

What the Stoics want us to see is the big picture. All of this has happened before, Marcus wrote to himself. It happened before and it is happening now and it will happen again. Zoom out, he says, look at this from space, not with your ear to the ground. See how small it really is. 

Look back through the pages of history, the Stoics urge us. You’ll find that most of the things people were worried about never came to pass. The trends peter out. The revolution loses its force. Sanity is restored. You’ll find that the things they should have been concerned about, they totally missed. You’ll find people who were so focused on the trends and the symptoms of problems that they lost opportunities to address the root causes. 

And most of all, you’ll find that none of us are around long enough to waste any time on worry anyway. So relax. See the big picture. Focus on what you control. Change what you can. Make a difference where you can. Let go and keep going.


Jan 27, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: How can I get my partner interested in Stoicism?
536

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Jan 25, 2020
You Must Think The Thing You Cannot Think
157

It’s fitting that one of the most important things you can do as a parent requires you to think about something that’s very nearly impossible for a parent to consider. It comes to us from Marcus Aurelius by way of Epictetus

As you kiss your son good night, says Epictetus, whisper to yourself, “He may be dead in the morning.” Don’t tempt fate, you say. By talking about a natural event? Is fate tempted when we speak of grain being reaped?

No one wants to think about that. You want to think only good things about your kids. Damn these philosophers and their silly, academic exercises. Except that’s not what this is. Marcus wasn’t speaking flippantly. He lost nine children. Nine! Seneca, we gather, lost one early too. It should never happen, but it does. It heartbreakingly-world-wreckingly-nobody-deserves-it does. 

The point of thinking about this unthinkable thing is not morbidity. It has a purpose. A parent who faces the fact that they can lose a child at any moment is a parent who dares not waste a moment. A wise parent looks at the cruel world and says, “I know what you can do to my family in the future, but for the moment you’ve spared me. I will not take that for granted.” That’s what you must do—about your children, about your wealth, about peace in your nation, about the fair weather. 

It can all go away in a second. There’s nothing we can do about that. We can, however, drink in the present and be grateful for every waking moment. 

If you’re a parent looking to apply some ancient wisdom to one of the toughest jobs on the planet, you might try signing up for our email at DailyDad.com. Each morning, like DailyStoic.com, we send out an inspiring email designed to make you better, more present and more prepared. Join us now.

Jan 24, 2020
You Have To Learn Something From Everyone
234

The Stoics were learners. It’s hard to escape that conclusion when you read their writings. Marcus Aurelius begins Meditations by cataloging the lessons he learned from the many people in his life, big and small. Seneca was constantly looking at other people, studying their lives and what they did well and not so well. When Epictetus said that you can’t learn what you think you already know, he was describing his own worldview as well as the worldview of his hero—Socrates—who went around constantly questioning and putting things up to the test.

All of them would have agreed with Emerson’s observation that we can learn something from everyone we meet, because everyone is better than us at something. The trouble with that advice—which few would argue with—is how easily it can be inhibited by the self-righteousness that Stoicism can sometimes accidentally encourage. Right after Marcus Aurelius finishes thanking all those people in his life, what does he talk about? He talks about all the awful, stupid, mean, and frustrating folks he is going to see in the next 24 hours. Needless to say, such judgments close us off from opportunities to learn.

In her beautiful book, Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar has Hadrian try to instill in a young Marcus the antidote to that egotism. He explains to Marcus that he has actively looked at the strengths of the maligned emperors who preceded him and tried to find a virtue he could take from them.

“I looked for example even to those twelve Caesars so mistreated by Suetonius,” she had him write, “the clear-sightedness of Tiberius, without his harshness; the learning of Claudius, without his weakness; Nero’s taste for the arts, but stripped of all foolish vanity; the kindness of Titus, stopping short of his sentimentality; Vespasian’s thrift, but not his absurd miserliness. These princes had played their part in human affairs; it devolved upon me, to choose hereafter from among their acts what should be continued, consolidating the best things, correcting the worst, until the day when other men, either more or less qualified than I, but charged with equal responsibility, would undertake to review my acts likewise.”

This is the attitude we must take with us, day to day, in whatever position of leadership or followership we occupy. It’s not enough to just learn from history or to be grateful to the explicit lessons we get from our teachers. We must keep our eyes open always, and actively look for opportunities to learn from everyone, including people we know are flawed or even evil. We must not let our own moral progress block us from learning from those further behind us on the road. Because, as Emerson said, everyone is better than us at something—even if it’s a little thing—and if we want to keep getting better, we should focus on that more than anything else.

Jan 23, 2020
A Good Morning Creates A Good Life
226

The Stoics believed in the power of ritual, particularly at the beginning and the end of the day. For them, routines and rituals were not productivity hacks, but ways of living. In a world where so much was out of our control, committing to a practice we did control was a way of establishing and reminding ourselves of our own power. It was about preparation. It was about creating peace. 

We recently talked to Amy Landino—who reads The Daily Stoic each morning—about her book Good Morning, Good Life. A title whose essence the Stoics would have likely agreed with. If you can win the morning, you can win the day. Amy told us that it doesn’t matter if you have an hour or only five minutes, if you’re home or on the road, if the kids have you up at the crack of dawn or you sleep in until your body’s clock naturally wakes you—there are three keys to a good morning:

1. Movement — Do something to move your body. You can be ambitious and hit the gym right away. I prefer just a few simple stretches and massaging the muscles on my face. When you move your body a little, you wake up.

Or, as Seneca said, "Hold fast, then, to this sound and wholesome rule of life...The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind.”

2. Mindfulness — It's too easy to pick up the phone or turn the TV on when you don't have anything else to do. Instead of resorting to those things, start with a practice that helps you generate your own original thoughts or ideas. Meditation works for some people. I prefer stream-of-consciousness writing in a journal for 3 pages to get all the random annoyances and bad dreams off my brain so I can move forward more positively through the day.

Or, as Marcus said, “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.” And then once he got that out of the way, he was ready to go meet those folks with a smile on his face.

3. Mastery — This one is my favorite because if not for my mastery time, I wouldn't have been able to figure out how to start my own business while I still had a full-time job 10 years ago. Focus on something that you've been meaning to get around to or that you're passionate about. Have you been wanting to learn a foreign language? Start the day going through flashcards or using a training app. When you make time to master something, you aren't allowing yourself to stay stuck on the hamster wheel of the everyday.

Or, as Epictetus said, paraphrasing Socrates, “One person likes tending to his farm, another to his horse; I like to daily monitor my self-improvement.”

Move your body. Clear your mind. Do something to improve yourself. That’s it. You do those three things, you’re ready to have a good day...and a good life. It’s been true for two thousand years. 

Start tomorrow with the three M’s.

Jan 22, 2020
Do It Because It’s Right. Not So They’ll Like You
187

We’ve talked a lot recently about the importance of not making yourself a slave to outside approval. Because it’s not something you control. Because your own standards should be so high that you already have plenty to worry about. 

Still, there is so much more to be said about this very human desire for external validation. Indeed, it is a timeless and universal problem. Marcus Aurelius, like us, wanted to be liked—by his imperial staff, by the Senate, by the citizens he met in the street, by history--but he also always tried to really think about why he wanted to be liked. He wanted to get his mind wrapped around it, so he knew what was driving him and he could neutralize its power. 

“You want praise from people who kick themselves every fifteen minutes,” he asks rhetorically in Meditations, “the approval of people who despise themselves?”

It’s such a great point. Being liked seems important...for some it can seem like the most important thing in the world. Until you start to consider the people we seem to be so desperate to impress. Until you think about the silly things they are impressed by, and the amazing things they don’t “get.” Until you realize that they don’t even respect themselves. Then all of the sudden being liked feels almost...juvenile.

To be clear, the point of freeing yourself from this external burden isn’t to make it easier for you to be a selfish jerk. On the contrary, it’s to free you up to do the right things for the right reasons. Not to pursue virtue for praise, but for its own sake with no regard for whether we take heat for it later. Many great decisions are not popular, many brilliant innovations (and creative people) are poorly understood. Should they change for the sake of people who kick themselves? Or don’t understand themselves?

No. And neither should you. Do right—do your best—because it’s who you are. The rest doesn’t matter.

Jan 21, 2020
Everything is Figureoutable
173

We all have problems. We have an employee we can’t figure out how to motivate. We have a kid with behavioral issues. We have a job we want to leave, or a couch we want to get up a complicated flight of stairs. We have clients who ask for things that seem impossible and we have trouble fitting an exercise regimen into our busy lives.

What do we do with all this? How do we handle it?

We must repeat to ourselves a beautiful mantra from the writer and entrepreneur Marie Forleo: Everything is Figureoutable. Everything is Figureoutable. Everything is Figureoutable. 

Because it’s true. The Stoics knew it was. Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is filled with constant reminders that if he just slowed down and put his mind to it, he could figure just about anything out. Take it action by action, he wrote, no one can stop you from that. “Are there brambles in the path?” he asked, then go around. If it’s humanly possible, he said, then know that it’s possible for you. Think about Epictetus exhorting us to put each impression—each fear or worry—up to the test. It’s the same thing. Slow down, really look at it, figure out what to do next. 

Nearly every problem has a solution. It’s just a fact. It might not be the solution you want, but there is a solution. In fact, that’s the essence of the idea that the obstacle is the way. Each problem presents you an opportunity to move forward, to improve. No one said this would be easy, or even that it would be fun, but it is a fact that there is always something you can do. The question is only whether you will do it or not. 

Are there some utterly unsolvable problems in life? Like death? Or pi? Yes, sure, but Marcus Aurelius has that figured out too. As he said, those problems mark the end of all your other problems, too. So don’t worry about that. In the meantime, get to solving what you can.

Everything is figureoutable.

Jan 20, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: The Stoic Response to Getting Your House Burgled, and more
680

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Jan 18, 2020
When It Comes To Family, We Have To Be Kind
215

Marcus Aurelius’s step brother Lucius Verus was hardly a great man. Unlike Marcus, he was not as driven or as a smart. He was not always so diligent in his responsibilities. We hear that he liked to party. But still, Marcus loved his step-brother and not only found a role for him leading the troops, he celebrated his accomplishments as well, sometimes at the expense of his own. Would Marcus have treated his other generals so generously? Doubtful. 

In Rome it was said that “not all men could be Catos” and that included Cato’s own brother, Caepio. Caepio was more Stoic than Lucius Verus, but he also loved luxury, at least compared to his brother. Did it bother Cato that his brother wore perfume? Would he have judged other men harshly for doing the same thing? Probably. 

But as Bruce Springsteen put it in one of his greatest songs—“when it’s your brother, sometimes you look the other way.” Is this Stoic? To hold people you love to different standards? To let them get away with things you wouldn’t do yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s also life. 

In Epictetus’s famous metaphor that “everything has two handles,” one which will hold weight and the other which will not, he actually references this exact kind of situation. You can choose to grab hold of the fact that something wrong has been done to you, or you can choose to grab hold of the fact that it was done by your brother, someone you were raised with, someone who loves you and has a good heart. Which one of those is a better handle? 

Marcus Aurelius and Cato could have looked down on their brothers. Instead, they loved them. When Cato’s brother died, he told a friend he’d rather part with his life than his brother’s ashes. And they were willing to look away not just for brothers, but with all the people they lived with and were related to--regardless of the transgression. Marcus did this with his wife, who was rumored to be unfaithful, and of course with his son, who clearly went astray. Cato did this with his sister who had a torrid affair with Julius Caesar, his worst enemy. 

We must be kind to our family. We must forgive. Because they are all we have. Like us, they are not perfect. Not by a long shot. In fact, they might be obnoxious or deeply flawed. But they are our blood. We share a past. If we want to share a future, we need to see what is good in them and encourage that. Up to a point of course, but now, let’s grab the kindness handle, the forgiveness handle. 

Look for it, look for love...then look away. 

Jan 17, 2020
All We Can Do Is Propose
135

There is a great expression: Man proposes, God disposes. You don’t have to be religious to understand or agree with it. It just means: All we can do is plan...then life intervenes. 

Certainly, the Stoics built much of their philosophy around this humble but brilliant insight. Seneca spoke repeatedly of the power of Fortune to dash all our plans and intentions to pieces. All we could do was be ready—was prepare for a whole swath of possibilities. What we get from Marcus Aurelius was the idea that it’s better to accept what God—or the logos—disposes. To say to these sudden changes in plans, “Oh, actually, that’s what I wanted all along. It’s actually even better this way!”

That’s what Amor Fati is. A love of fate. An embracing of what happens, even if it is the exact opposite of what we proposed. Because it still presents its own opportunities. Whatever we have been deprived of by this swing of circumstances, we remain in possession of our character and our power to respond. 

Today, what you’ve proposed may not come to pass. Your plans may well be dashed to pieces. And so? Shrug it off. It was never your call anyway—all you were entitled to was a request. Then the chips fell. Now you have to respond. And propose what you plan to do about it.

Jan 16, 2020
You Win Some, You Lose Some
214

Politics, like all contests, involves winners and losers. Cato lost elections, such as his first run for praetorship in 55 BCE and his run for consul in 51 BCE. Cicero lost some as well. James Stockdale lost in a landslide as Ross Perot’s running mate, after one of the worst drubbings in vice presidential debate history. As long as there have been Stoics running for office—from the days of ancient Greece through Rome and up to today—there have been Stoics who lost. The same is true for all Stoics for all time. Chrisyppius, the philosopher and distance runner, would have certainly lost races. There were Stoics who lost battles (Cato being one) and Stoics who lost deals or experienced crushing financial setbacks (Zeno being another). 

How should a Stoic respond to such a loss? With humor, with determination, and with perspective. 

Zeno, remarking on the fact that he had lost his entire fortune when a convoy of ships carrying his goods was wrecked, joked, “Thus Fortune did drive me to philosophy.” Other Stoics said less...they just kept going. They ran for the next public office, rebuilt their fortunes, retreated with their troops for the next battle. More recently, Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama for the Presidency in 2012, captured the proper attitude as well, when asked by a reporter who seemed to assume he was still dwelling on that setback. 

“My life is not defined in my own mind by political wins and losses,” Romney said. “You know, I had my career in business, I’ve got my family, my faith—that’s kind of my life, and this is something I do to make a difference. So, I don’t attach the kind of—I don’t know—psychic currency to it that people who made politics their entire life.” 

But more than what he said, Romney seems to be living with the right attitude. In 2018, he ran for an open Senate seat in Utah and won it—taking office with a long list of things he wanted to accomplish, not for himself but for what he thinks his grandchildren will expect of his generation. As for becoming president? He’s got no need for higher office. He’s making do with what’s in front of him. 

“I’m not in the White House. Tried for that job,” Romney said. “I didn’t get it. So all I can do from where I am is to say, ‘All right, how do we get things done from here?’”

It’s inevitable that we will lose in life. We’ll get passed over for the promotion. We’ll get beaten in the final game of the season. A competitor will take all in a winner-take-all market. The question for the Stoic is not “Why?” or “How come?” or “Isn’t life unfair?” It is simply: “Ok. What next?” It is, as Romney said, “How can I get things done from here?” It is: What will I do in response?

Jan 15, 2020
We Are All Equal At The End
213

"Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both." It is one of Marcus Aurelius’s most withering lines. The most powerful conqueror on earth was, Marcus implied, in the end, no better or no less mortal, than the man who drove his baggage cart. 

It is a powerful point, particularly when one considers that, for thousands of years, we haven’t been sure what actually killed Alexander. He died mysteriously at age 32, far from home. Was he killed by his men in a mutiny? Did he have a type of typhoid? Or cirrhosis from alcoholism? No one knows. 

One new theory has emerged, this time from health scientists in New Zealand, and it only further enhances Marcus's humbling analogy. The evidence points to the idea that Alexander was killed by a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome that pits the body's immune system against its nervous system. It would have been excruciatingly painful and terrifying as Alexander was suddenly struck with a fever and sharp abdominal pains. Soon enough, he would be paralyzed and unable to speak. As his breathing slowed to next to nothing, his perplexed doctors and friends would pronounce him dead—even though he lived, frozen and alone, speechless and scared, for several more days. His men would cry at the sight of his body, which showed no signs of decay, believing it to be proof that he was a god. But Alexander was all too mortal. He was dying right there in front of them—unable even to cry for help or stop them from burying him alive. (You may remember a similar meditation we have on this very terrifying idea)

In a way, Marcus did not go far enough with his biting line. What happened to Alexander the Great was likely far worse than what happened to his mule driver—who, for all we know, may have died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by loved ones. No amount of money or fame or military achievement could insulate Alexander from this brutal stroke of fate. In the end, he was equal—or less than equal—to everyone else who ever lived. He died and he had no control over how. 

The same is true for us. Being a billionaire or a four-star general doesn’t stop the growth of malignant cells into cancer. It won’t prevent your plane from crashing. It can’t change your genetics. And even if it does increase your lifespan, in the end, you end up in the same ground as everyone else.

We all end up as worm food, soon enough. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Let’s live and be good while we can. 

Memento Mori.

Jan 14, 2020
The Kind of Opportunity You Should Always Say Yes To
203

Marcus Aurelius and Seneca both made no secret of their objection to escapism. They both spoke negatively of people who frittered their existence away, chasing one tourist destination after another. Seneca likened these folks to someone tossing and turning in bed, just trying to get comfortable. Meanwhile, they were sleeping their lives away. The only real retreat could be found by looking inward, Marcus said, by escaping into your own soul. 

So you might think that the Stoics were homebodies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cato visited countless places across the vast expanse of the Roman empire. So did Panaetius and Cicero and Seneca. Marcus Aurelius traveled as far as Budapest, some 750 miles from Rome. When he said he was a citizen of the world, he meant it—for he had seen large swaths of it. It can hardly be said that he or any of the Stoics were overly inclined to stick close to home. 

However, what the travels of all those Stoics tended to have in common is that they were mostly done as part of their official duties. Cato traveled to visit philosophers under whom he wanted to study. Cicero traveled for official postings in distant lands. “Life is warfare and a journey far from home,” Marcus wrote, likely from Carnuntum, a distant Roman fortress near the borders of present-day Austria and Slovakia. Unlike his stepfather Antoninus, who never left Italy, Marcus Aurelius was on the road a lot as Emperor. Although it wasn’t always pleasant, it undoubtedly influenced his philosophy and his world view. He could have sent someone else to inspect the troops on his behalf, but he chose to go. He almost always said “Yes” to the opportunity to explore and see places he hadn’t been to. 

And so should you. Even if it’s only a trip to Akron or Tampa. Even if it means a multi-leg flight in coach. There is beauty everywhere. Things to learn everywhere. New perspectives everywhere. History everywhere. If the calls of duty and the road converge, count yourself lucky and go.

Like everything within Stoicism, balance and moderation remain key. Don’t ditch your family for the chance to attend an unnecessary conference in Vegas. Don’t neglect your work just because someone is offering you a companion ticket to who knows where. Don’t use traveling as an excuse to indulge bad habits or disrupt your daily rituals. But the world is an incredible place, and we have only a short term here, so when you get the chance to explore, take it!

Jan 13, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: January 11, 2020
659

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Jan 11, 2020
You Don’t Get To Not Care
222

There are a lot of tensions in Stoicism, as we have talked about before. How do you balance acquiescing to fate and embracing your own agency? How do you balance being aware of the dangers of the future without worrying about or fearing it? How do you think regularly of your own death without losing your taste for life?

But perhaps the most relevant tension today is the one about balancing a philosophical detachment from external events and our obligations to contribute to society and democracy. As the statesman Pericles said, “One person’s disengagement is untenable unless bolstered by someone else’s commitment.” If you decide not to vote because voting seems so statistically insignificant, or you ignore the injustice happening in the world because it doesn’t affect you, it make might your life a little more peaceful, but the result is an incremental increase in the suffering of others—whether that is the additional burden placed on others to carry your part of the load or an elongation of the injustice they are trying to ameliorate. 

Every famine, every plague, every genocide, every repressive regime that has terrorized a part of the globe since the end of World War II and the reorganization of the world order, one could argue owes the length of its reign to just the kind of disengagement Pericles was talking about. Five years, ten years, thirty years—those numbers could have been halved, if they weren’t happening so far away that it didn’t affect us. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. 

Clearly, the Stoics believed that turning off noise and chatter was not in conflict with actively participating in civic life. How could Marcus have been emperor or Cato and Seneca senators if it were otherwise? In fact, what they would argue is that by choosing to ignore the trivial we free up energy to engage with and care about the essential. Yes, there is a lot going on in the world. Yes, a lot of it is outside of our control—or in the big scheme of things is very inconsequential. But this is not an excuse for apathy or for retreating exclusively into your private affairs. 

We are all in this thing together. We are obligated to contribute to the common good. Because if we don’t...the whole thing falls apart. Not caring is privilege. Complete detachment is criminal self-indulgence. It is a rejection of our duty and our potential. 

Speaking of which, there is a profound humanitarian crisis happening in the United States that,. no matter your views on immigration reform, we can all agree needs to be addressed—innocent children do not deserve to suffer. Currently, we have thousands of children being housed on American soil in abhorrent conditions — they have little access to adequate food, hygienic products, medical care, and safe places to sleep. Children are sick, traumatized, even dying. Click here to donate to any one of a number of charities and organizations that are doing work on the border to help those in need. 

It’s our duty to help.

Jan 10, 2020
Here’s an Important Power You Have
177

The ask is just an ask, you know.

Whether they’re asking you to pass the salt or asking you for a hundred thousand dollar loan, whether they’re asking you what you weigh or if you can come in and work on Sunday, the ask is just the ask.

We decide that it’s offensive or presumptuous or rude. 

That’s what Epictetus was saying when he observed that it’s not events that upset us, but our judgement about events. The request is objective—just words coming out of someone’s mouth. The opinion that it’s objectionable is just that. Your opinion. 

We have to remember that we hold this power. We don’t need to get upset. We don’t need to be taken apart. We just need to realize that all someone has done is utter some words at us, and that we are free to ignore them, grant the request, or politely explain why we’re not interested. 

Epictetus said that when we get offended—when we get upset and think, “How dare they?” or “Wow, that’s a huge imposition they just tried to foist on me”—we are complicit. We have chosen to be upset. We have chosen to hear or read the request that way. 

We could have just let it go. We could have seen it for what it was—simply an ask. And then moved on. We have that power. We choose whether we exercise it or not. 


Jan 09, 2020
Where Are They Now?
141

It’s a staple of entertainment shows and those clickbait-y links at the bottom of the page on news websites: Where are they now? What happened to those famous TV stars of your youth? You’ll never believe what so-and-so is up to today.

Funnily enough, Marcus Aurelius liked to play this game too. He’d say: Think about the emperors who came before you. Think about this famous conqueror or that notorious philosopher. Think of the wealthy or the powerful with their insatiable appetites and ambitions. Where are they now?

They’re dead. That’s what he’d say. They’re dead and gone and almost completely forgotten.

It’s a humbling thought, one that we could all be reminded of from time to time. Because the celebrity stories are skewed by the survivorship bias. The reporter either tells you about how so-and-so went on to huge stardom or how they struggled with addiction for years but are finally turning things around. Maybe the story tells you that the band broke up and now that rockstar is a school teacher in Cleveland. But inevitably, where they are now is “alive.” It’s never that the hard hand of fate took them from us too early. It’s never that international fame helped them beat cancer. It’s never that they got old, drifted into obscurity, passed away, and the world moved on.

But this happens and it is inexorable. No matter who we are or what we’re doing. We all, in our own way, with enough time, end up like the punchline in this Clickhole article: 7 Famous Dogs From The ’90s That Are Definitely Dead Now.

Jan 08, 2020
Try This Secret Roman Party Trick
193

The Greeks and the Romans were known for their parties. They threw huge ones. Seneca famously owned—not rented—three hundred ivory tables for entertaining. Imagine that. The ancients also knew how to drink. Cato liked to drink. So did Socrates. There’s no evidence that Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus and Seneca didn’t either

But the accounts of their drinking don’t square one to one with our modern times. You see, the Greeks and the Romans were famous for watering down their wine. In fact, anyone who didn’t water down their wine was considered barbaric—someone who was out of control. The poet Hesiod—a favorite of Marcus and Seneca and many of the Stoics—actually said that three parts water and one part wine was the proper ratio. Nobody but the drunks drank their alcohol neat.

For much of history the symbol of mixing water and wine has been a kind of symbol for that essential Stoic virtue that we talk about so much here: Moderation. Their wine was quite strong in those days, so to take this intoxicating but enjoyable pleasure and dilute it a bit? That was not only necessary, but it was an important metaphor. 

It’s one we should think about today. What vices or indulgences do we have that we might “add a little water” to? Maybe if you drink soda, you can start mixing in some diet. Or if you like lemonade or tea, you can mix a little bit of sweetened into your unsweetened—rather than the other way around. Water down your television time by reading during the commercial breaks. Water down your night out with friends by listening to a podcast or an audiobook on the way out. Water down your workout regime with rest days. Water down your whirlwind love affair with time apart. 

Moderation is key. Don’t overdo anything. Don’t take virtue or vice in its pure or unadulterated form. Balance. Soften. Enjoy.

Jan 07, 2020
All You Control is How You Play
139

It would be wonderful if teams didn’t cheat and refs always got the calls right. It’d be wonderful if people in the media knew what they were talking about and didn’t stake out positions just to be controversial or contrarian. It’d be wonderful if other politicians operated in good faith and put country above partisanship. It’d be wonderful if drivers were courteous and followed all the rules of the road. 

But we know that this is simply not how things go. They never have, and they never will. 

So where does that leave us? It leaves us to focus on the one thing we can control. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, it doesn’t matter what other people say or think, it only matters what you do.

An athlete doesn’t control the weather or the conditions on the field. They only control how they play. A politician doesn’t control the game of politics, only how they choose to play it. We don’t control whether we get credit for our good deeds, or whether our hard work is noticed. We don’t control the economy. We don’t control whether we were born rich or poor. What we control is what we do in response. What you control is how you play. 

You control how you play.

Not whether you win.

You control how you play.

Not if people like you. 

You control how you play.

Not if the crowd cheers you on. 

You control how you play.

That’s it. 

Jan 06, 2020
Ask Daily Stoic: January 4, 2020
507

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Jan 04, 2020
Pain Is Self Chosen
154

“My pain is self-chosen,” Layne Staley sings on the melancholy Mad Season hit, River of Deceit. “At least I believe it to be.” That belief, the Stoics would concur, is well-founded. Pain is a choice. 

Now before you get upset hearing that, wait a second. We’re not talking about physical pain. You don’t choose the stabbing pains from a knife wound or a back injury. It’s not your fault that cancer treatment is brutal, and no one is saying that people ask to be abused, physically or otherwise. 

What the Stoics refer to as a chosen pain is the sense of being wronged. "Choose not to be harmed,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “and you won't feel harmed. Don't feel harmed—and you haven't been." He means that if you don’t feel like you’ve been singled out or screwed over, then were you? No, because that’s subjective. Just as it was subjective whether you thought the intention of this email was victim-blaming or whether you see it for what it is: a different way to think about the situations we find ourselves in throughout life. 

Getting cut from a team—that’s objective. A sense that you were dealt a grave injustice? That isn’t. The resentment you decide to nurse for getting cut? That’s self-chosen pain. And choosing it usually comes at the expense of getting back to work and earning your spot (or changing teams so you’re no longer at the mercy of that capricious coach). Being born poor or dyslexic or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s not your fault. No one is disputing the realness of the pain that would cause. But what is less real—what’s chosen—is the chip you carry on your shoulder about it. So is deciding to lay down and quit. Or to focus on who you can blame. 

Believe that. 

Jan 03, 2020
You Become What You Practice
295

The Stoics were all about routine and repetition. It wasn’t just about knowing what the right thing was, it was about doing it daily. Fueling the habit bonfire, they said. It was about creating muscle memory. 

Epictetus said that philosophy was something that should be kept at hand every day and night. Indeed, the title of his book Enchiridion actually means “small thing in hand,” or handbook. Seneca, for his part, talked about repeatedly diving back into the great texts of history—rather than chasing every new or exciting thing published. We quoted him on that exact idea last week. “You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works,” he said, “if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.”

One of the reasons we wrote The Daily Stoic was to help accomplish just that. We thought it was pretty remarkable that despite more than two thousand years of popularity, no one had ever put the best of the Stoics in one book—let alone one that was easy to carry, read and study. It’s been pretty incredible to see the success it’s had since its release in 2016, having now sold well over a half million copies in more than a dozen languages. The book has spent more weeks on the bestseller list than any other book about Stoicism ever. In celebration of that—to help encourage another year of Stoicism for you and everyone you know, the ebook is $1.99 in the US (and on sale in the UK) for the next week if you haven’t picked one up yet!

Of course, the success of the book is a reflection of the power of Stoic teachings more than anything else. But it’s also a testament to the power of combining the right idea with the right medium. Marcus Aurelius was a brilliant mind and a beautiful writer, but his Meditations is not organized in any coherent way. While Marcus acknowledges many other Stoics, including Epictetus, neither Marcus nor Epictetus acknowledge Seneca in the writings they left, even though Epictetus was also in proximity to Nero’s court at the same time. What we have from Epictetus is really a collection of quotes and highlights from his lectures jotted down by his student Arrian, and what we have of Arrian’s work is only half of what originally existed. Just ploughing straight through those writings is, for many, not the best way to digest the philosophy—it’s almost un-Stoic in its disorderliness. 

Good practice is not random. It is organized. Stoicism is designed to be a practice and a routine. It’s a lifelong pursuit that requires diligence and repetition and concentration. (Pierre Hadot called it spiritual exercising). That’s one of the benefits of the page-a-day (with monthly themes) format we organized the Stoics into (and the weekly themes in The Daily Stoic Journal). It’s putting one important thing up for you to review—to have at hand—and to fully digest. Every single day over the course of a year, and preferably year in and year out. It's something you’re supposed to keep within reach at all times—which is why a collection of the greatest hits, presented daily, was so appealing to us.

So here we are, beginning 2020, and we hope you’ll give The Daily Stoic a chance, in print or with this discounted ebook. And that you’ll pick up journaling with The Daily Stoic Journal or some other notebook. Because if 2020 is anything like 2019, you’re going to need it.

Jan 02, 2020
All We Control Is The Beginning of Things
139

Clearly the Stoics were doers. They ran for public office. They fought in the army. They started business ventures. They created artistic works. How can this fit, though, with what Marcus called “the art of acquiescence?” Isn’t this resignation a contradiction? If you believe in a kind of predetermination, why bother?

Perhaps the way through this puzzle is best captured in a quote from Democritus, a pre-Socratic philosopher admired by the Stoics (Seneca most of all). Democritus said, “Boldness is the beginning of action. But fortune controls how it ends.”

What that means is that the Stoic believes in their power to, say, write a book, but not in their power to determine whether people will like it or buy a lot of copies of it. A Stoic will fight bravely in battle but know that the outcome is determined by so many other things. They will run for office, they will start a business, they will compete in an athletic event—but whether they win? That’s not up to them. Whether they give it their best, boldest, and hardest effort? Well, that is. 

That’s the message for today—in fact, it’s the perfect message for today, as we begin a new year and a new decade. All we control are the beginnings of things. We control how we start. We control our first move. Whether we say hello to a pretty stranger, but not whether they reciprocate. We can make the pitch, or the apology, but fortune controls whether its accepted. We can plan the trip, but not when or if we arrive. We control this first minute of the long year ahead.

It’s not a lot...but it’s enough, so let’s do it right. Let’s do it boldly.

Jan 01, 2020
Do Not Ignore This Warning
192

In Greek mythology, the god Apollo curses the Trojan princess, Cassandra, with the power of accurate prophecy that will always be ignored. In Aeschylus’ play Agamemnon, Cassandra is brought back to Greece after the capture of Troy as one of the great spoils of war. Unlike Agamemnon, who is happy to be home, Cassandra predicts ominous deaths for both herself and her new master. 

“I know that odor,” she says, “I smell the open grave.” She warns him that death is near, but he won’t listen. Agamemnon ignores the obvious signs and walks right into a trap—taking her with him. Soon enough, they are both murdered by Clytemnestra, his jealous, cheating wife. 

Cassandra might not be real, but the essential truth of her warning to Agamemnon is real enough: Memento mori. The grave is dug and waiting for each us. We know this, it was prophesied to us at birth—that one day we would die—and yet we go around living as if that isn’t true. We spend our time as if we have an infinite amount of it, as if someone isn’t waiting to steal our kingdom like Clytemnestra.

A new year sits before us, but how many of us are holding our noses? Plugging our ears? Closing our eyes? Pretending as if we know for certain that we have plenty more left. Blithely acting as if nothing threatens us, as if we can afford to be entitled and unprepared. As Marcus said, we could leave life right now. We could leave life this week, this year, this morning. Are you ready? Have you been living with that in mind? Or have you been in denial? 

Do not wait for the doctor to deliver the prophecy to you a second time: You have cancer. You have leukemia. We’re not able to stop the bleeding. It will be too late when you hear these words. You’ll never get back what you wasted.

Don’t ignore Cassandra’s warning. Do not doom yourself to a rude awakening—or rather a very rude and sudden sleep. Be ready. Be prepared. Listen. Live. While you still can.

Dec 31, 2019
You Have To Do What You Think Is Right
121

There will come a moment in your life when you are faced with an important decision that appears to have two choices: one that feels like the status quo, the path of least resistance, the way things have always been done. 

And then there is the one that appeals to you most. The exciting one; the new, risky one. The one that, if you make it, people are going to think you’re crazy.

They’re going to think you’re stupid. 

Think of your career, they’ll say. You worked so hard to get here.

You can’t listen to that. You can’t listen to the mob or to the doubters. You can’t look at the averages or concern yourself with the odds. If it’s right, Marcus Aurelius reminded himself, you have to do it. No matter the circumstances. No matter the fear. No matter the well-wishers who hope you’ll choose a safer path. 

History is made by those who take risks. Who stand on principle. Who defy expectations and conventional wisdom. The battles are won by those who are willing to go further, to go alone, to do it a way it’s never been done before. 

You have to do what you think is right. For you. For your family. For your country. For what you believe in. 

The rest doesn’t matter.

Dec 30, 2019
Ask Daily Stoic: December 28, 2019
513

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Dec 28, 2019
Tell Yourself: This Is All Worth It
250

Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, you may have heard about this incredible upset in 2018, when top-ranked University of Virginia was defeated by University of Maryland-Baltimore County in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first time in the tournament’s 80 year history that a number 16 seed beat a number one seed. Virginia had been the favorite to win the entire 68-team tournament, and then the biggest of underdogs came in and surprised everyone, pulling off one of the greatest victories in sports history. 

The Virginia loss ruined millions of brackets and could very well have ruined one man’s career. As one local Virginia newspaper put it, Virginia and head coach Tony Bennett “will be remembered in years, perhaps decades, to come, for becoming the first No. 1 seed...to lose to a No. 16 seed. That stain,” the article continued, “does not easily, if ever, wash away.”

Maybe you’ve experienced a loss or a setback like that in your life. Maybe it’s worrying about that kind of failure that keeps you up at night--and keeps you out of big-time moments. God, we think, I hope that never happens to me. But that’s not how Bennett saw it. He decided to accept it—to take the hit. Because that’s all you can do, if you want to play on the biggest stages, at the highest levels, and test yourself against the best.. As he explained in a press conference after the game:

That's life. We talk about it all the time...If you play this game, and you step into the arena, this stuff can happen...And all those who compete take that on. And so we'll accept it.

That’s the first part. The Stoics knew you had acquiesce to misfortune, to the reality of life. If you play the game, sometimes you’ll lose. Sometimes you’ll lose big. What matters is what you do next. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, perhaps after one of his failures, “If you accept the obstacle and work with what you’re given, an alternative will present itself—another piece of what you’re trying to assemble.”

The second part is beyond acceptance. It’s amor fati. It’s deciding to love what happened, to realize it was meant for you. Because it’s teaching you something. It’s leading you somewhere and preparing you for something...if you let it. For Coach Bennett, that was winning the national championship the following year. That’s right, Coach Bennett and his University of Virginia Cavaliers went from being the basketball world’s biggest goats in 2018, to “The GOAT” in 2019. As Coach Bennett explained in a recent speech

"All of the ridicule, all of the criticism, all the humility, all the things that happened, at that moment, it was crystal clear that it was all worth it...If you learn to use failure, suffering, adversity right, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn't have gone any other way." 

Acceptance. Amor Fati. That’s the recipe, that’s the right way to use adversity. That’s life. It’s buying us a ticket to a place we wouldn’t have gone any other way, but now that we’re here, let us get the most out of it. 

Accept it. Love it. Use it. It’ll take you somewhere great.

Dec 27, 2019
Here is a Pleasure You Can Have Anytime
151

The Stoics did not reject worldly pleasures. They rejected the reckless ones. The dangerous, ephemeral ones. The Stoics were not afraid of joy. They just wanted to earn it. 

Epictetus loved to quote Socrates: “Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.”

Delight! Not a word you’d expect from Epictetus, but there it is. And to be found in such an unexpected way. Not in material things. Not in a hobby. But in oneself—in improving oneself

We can imagine Marcus Aurelius actually having fun while writing his Meditations, because he was attending to his own development. The same goes for Seneca as he did his crazy philosophical practices, whether it was diving into a freezing fountain at the beginning of the new year or living frugally to prepare himself for changes in fortune. Cato took real pleasure in challenging himself—to walk barefoot and bareheaded, to sleep on the ground with his soldiers, to dress simply and to work hard.

And so can you. We can become our own hobby. We can become our own source of satisfaction. The economy determines what we can do professionally, but no one can stop us from working on ourselves personally. Nor can anyone or anything take away the pleasure we earn by getting better day by day. 

This is just one of the reasons we’ve set up our New Year New You Challenge, which starts in just six days. Now’s your chance to commit to attending to your own improvement in 2020 and to experience the joy and rewards that come from challenging yourself. 

Dec 26, 2019
Always Focus on the Response
205

It was December 25th, 1776. One of the darkest times in the American Revolution. George Washington was planning to cross the Delaware, a desperate move necessitated by a string of setbacks and ebbing support for the revolution across his struggling country. 

Whose fault was this despair? How had things gone so poorly? 

Washington wasn’t interested in those questions. As he wrote in a letter to Robert Morris from his headquarters that day, “it is in vain to ruminate upon, or even reflect upon the Authors or Causes of our present Misfortunes.” Instead of looking backwards, Washington said, “we should rather exert ourselves,” meaning they should focus on how they were going to respond. His response was a daring attack on the Hessian Troops in Trenton the next day, which may well have saved his army and the floundering nation. 

This mindset is part and parcel of the Stoicism that Washington had known and followed all of his life. Looking at events in the calm light of mild philosophy, as he liked to quote from the Stoic philosopher Cato, deciding not to be ruled by his phantasai and instead focusing on what he’d do next. And that’s what we should take a minute to think about this Christmas, whether we’re busy working or taking some time with family or planning out how we’re going to use 2020 for a fresh start. 

Not what caused our troubles. Not who authored them. Not how much blame they deserve. Those questions are irrelevant distractions—answering them an exercise done only in vain. What matters is how we plan to exert ourselves, how we plan to fix our situation, how we plan to respond to what life has thrown at us. Whether it’s a passive aggressive family member, a struggling business, or a series of bad personal choices, we have the power to decide what we’re going to do next.

We can exert ourselves. We can still turn this around

Dec 25, 2019
This is a Day About Love
267

Here we are on Christmas Eve once again. The last couple of years, we took time during this holiday to look at the beautiful symmetry between two of the greatest philosophers to ever live: Jesus and Seneca

It’s incredible to think that these two men were born in the same year, in similarly distant provinces of the Roman empire. Few would have expected the impact that both would have on the world. Nor would Seneca or Jesus have imagined how their journeys would mirror each others’: Both would be immensely popular in their own time, and long after. Both would run afoul of the powerful interests of their time. Both would be forced, in their final moments, to live their teachings—Jesus, on the cross, asking for forgiveness for the people who had wronged him. Seneca as he comforted his friends and family when Nero’s goons came to demand his suicide. Tacitus would note how long ago Seneca had made plans for such an ordeal, writing that “even in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of his life’s close.” So too had Jesus. 

Because, despite their brilliance and their blessings, both these men—like us—were mortal. 

We could spend hours sitting and thinking about the remarkable similarities between Jesus and Seneca...and them and us. As much as life has changed in two thousand years, as unique and unprecedented as their circumstances were, it’s not that different than our lives today. 

Maybe that’s not a bad thing to spend some time thinking about tonight. Rather than focusing on what presents you’re going to get tomorrow, try to think of what you’re going to do with the gifts you were born with. Instead of thinking about what you’re going to eat, think about all the people without anything at all. Don’t think about your vacation. Think of this present moment, because it’s all you have. 

Take a minute to sit with some of the ideas from those two great men and what they learned about life and love:

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” —Jesus

“Nature bore us related to one another … She instilled in us a mutual love and made us compatible … Let us hold everything in common; we stem from a common source. Our fellowship is very similar to an arch of stones, which would fall apart, if they did not reciprocally support each other.” —Seneca

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” —Jesus

“Hecato, says: ‘I can show you a philtre, compounded without drugs, herbs, or any witch's incantation: If you would be loved, love.’ Now there is great pleasure.” —Seneca

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” —Jesus

 “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” —Seneca

Whether you’re a Christian or a Stoic, today is a good day to remember that these ideas are not just something to “believe.” They’re something you do. You have to put the words, whether they are Seneca’s or Jesus’, to work. You have to live them. 

Not just with your crazy family, not just on Christmas, but every day of your life. 

Happy Holidays!

Dec 24, 2019
You Must Commit to This Task This Next Year
240

As a new year is about to begin, many of us are thinking about how we’d like to get healthier, wealthier, and wiser over the next twelve months. Of course, to the Stoics, what really mattered was that final bucket—getting wiser. Understanding yourself and the world better was their primary focus.

So if your goal is to get smarter this year, where will you start? For most people, the obvious answer is books. A lot of people begin the year committing to read a certain number of books. I am going to read 50 books this year. I am finally going to finish the entire works of Howard Zinn. Once again, the Stoics might urge caution. 

They would encourage you to begin this year by committing not to read widely, but read deeply. To dive into a handful of the wisest texts and come to know the authors like you had lived with them. As Seneca advised Lucilius in one of his letters

You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere...And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner...There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about. And in reading of many books is distraction.

Today, with 2020 bearing down on us, we are encouraging you to follow that timeless wisdom. Listen to David McCullough’s advice, too. “Study a masterpiece,” he says, “take it apart, study its architecture, its vocabulary, its intent. Underline, make notes in the margins, and after a few years, go back and read it again.” 

While we’d never claim that The Daily Stoic is a masterpiece, it is one of those books you can return to again and again. It’s designed that way, in fact. (It’s also on sale for $1.99 on Amazon in the US right now, and on sale in the UK as well). Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom is similar. One page a day, every day, for a year. It’s an awesome format, one not used often enough. 

But you could also break down Seneca’s letters this way—read one letter a day. Or one passage from Marcus each morning. Or one poem from Emily Dickinson each day. Or one page of the Bible each evening before bed. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have divided up the Torah in what they call Parashat ha-Shavua (portion of the week) to be read aloud at synagogue, so that the entire Torah can be cycled through annually. 

Beautiful. 

A new year sits before you. Use it wisely. Commit to read deeply and regularly. It will change you over the next fifty two weeks...and then January 1st next year, if you’re still here, you can start again as a new person and be changed once more.

Dec 23, 2019
Ask Daily Stoic: Dec 21, 2019
604

In each of the Ask Daily Stoic Q&A episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Dec 21, 2019
Remember: You Can Lead A Horse To Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink
221

There is a fascinating statue of Seneca and Nero done by the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Barrón in 1904. Even though it depicts a scene centuries after the fact, it manages to capture the timeless elements of the two men’s characters. Seneca, well into old age, sits with his legs crossed, draped in a beautiful toga but otherwise unadorned. Spread across his lap and onto the simple bench is a document he's written. Maybe it's a speech. Maybe it's a law being debated by the Senate. Maybe it's the text of his essay and warning to Nero, Of Clemency. His fingers point to a spot in the text. His body language is open. He is trying to teach.  He is wisdom embodied, hoping to instill in his young charge the seriousness of the tasks before him. 

Nero, sitting across from Seneca, is nearly the opposite of his advisor in every way. He is hooded, sitting in a throne-like chair. A fine blanket rests behind him. He's wearing jewelry. His expression is sullen—both fists are clenched and one rests on his temple as if he can't bring himself to pay attention. He is looking down at the ground. His feet are tucked behind him, crossed at the ankles. He knows he should be listening, but he isn't. He'd rather be anywhere else. Soon enough, he is thinking, I won’t have to endure these lectures. Then I’ll be able to do whatever I want. 

Seneca can clearly see this body language, and yet he proceeds. He proceeded for many years, in fact. Why? Because he hoped some of it—any of it—would get through. Because he knew the stakes were high. Because he knew his job was to try, and he was going to die trying (indeed, he did) to teach Nero to be good. 

In the end, Seneca made only minimal impact on Nero, a man who was clearly deranged and had little interest in being a good emperor. Seneca lost much of his reputation in the process of working for Nero (criticism which has merit). But another way to see this exchange—and perhaps that’s what Eduardo Barron intended—is that it’s an illustration of a Stoic lesson: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. You control what you do and say, not whether people listen. 

All a Stoic can do is show up and do our work. And we have to keep showing up, even if we are rebuffed, scorned, or ignored. Because the work is important.

Dec 20, 2019
Just Shrug It Off Pt 2
145

Epictetus tells us the story of a Stoic philosopher named Agrippinus, who, during Nero’s reign, was delivered some awful news one morning: He was exiled. Effective immediately. Agrippinus’s response? “Very well, we shall take our lunch in Aricia.” 

Meaning: We might as well get this show on the road. No use bemoaning or weeping about it. Hey, is anyone else hungry? 

That’s how a Stoic responds—they shrug off the emotional weight of even the worst news. They have humor about it. They focus on what they can control and they let go of everything outside of it. Like Agrippinus, like Walker Percy did, like you can if you put in the work. If you practice, if you rehearse, if you steel yourself for the fact that life inevitably will deliver these moments to us

Being exiled. Finding out you got fired. Hearing that your computer just deleted a year of hard work. Being informed that you just lost the election. None of that is fun. It’s often unfair. You can let it crush you. You can fall to your knees and tear out your hair. 

Or you can shrug it off, and start thinking about lunch. 

It’s your call.

Dec 19, 2019
You Must Train The Coward Inside You
238

There's a long-standing connection between philosophy and soldiering. Marcus Aurelius, Cato, Socrates, and many other philosophers were all soldiers. James Stockdale, whose A-4E Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam, was too. As he recounts: “After ejection I had about thirty seconds to make my last statement in freedom before I landed…And so help me, I whispered to myself: ‘Five years down there, at least. I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.’” It turned out to be seven years in a Vietnamese prison, and he credited Stoicism with saving his life. 

That’s what Stoicism was built for. It teaches us to—as they say in the military—“embrace the suck” and find security and peace even in the midst of warfare and crisis. Nick Palmisciano, CEO of Ranger Up and former Infantry Officer in the United States Army, discovered Stoicism at a young age and, like Stockdale, credits it with helping him get through some tremendously tough situations. Nick details many of them in our interview with him for DailyStoic.com. The thread, what Stoicism taught him and what he continues to cultivate, is about being comfortable with suffering:

Everyone has a breaking point.  For most people, that point is very low, which is why many people never push themselves past their comfort zone. The military demands suffering. It provides you with increased opportunity to suffer at every turn...The guys we revere are the guys that have suffered the most... And the dirty little secret is that everyone has a coward inside them, and if you really want to be tough, and I mean that both physically and mentally, you have to push that coward to the breaking point and then push past it every day. You have to embrace suffering.

Epictetus as a slave, Stockdale as a prisoner of war, Zeno shipwrecked—if you go down the list of Stoics, you find story after story of tremendous resilience in the face of tremendous misfortune. You also find that it’s never some innate superpower. It’s trained. “But neither a bull nor a noble-spirited man comes to be what he is all at once,” Epictetus said. “He must undertake hard winter training, and prepare himself.”

Nick continues to train in jiu jitsu, not because it will help with combat but “to get my suffering in and push the coward inside me past my breaking point.” That’s our challenge to you today: get out of your comfort zone, push the coward inside you, embrace suffering. Get it on the calendar. Undergo hardship voluntarily. Then, you will be better prepared for life’s involuntary hardships.

Dec 18, 2019
Blame Yourself—Or No One
156

The causes of things are complicated, and rarely do they go how we’d like them to go. So it’s easy to point the finger—at other people, at unfair conditions, at the weather, at the advice we got. If it hadn’t been for _______, I’d have won. Why did so-and-so have to get involved like that? It’s all _______’s fault.

And yet, the causes of things are also quite simple—at least according to the Stoics. Because to them, the fault always lies with us. We’re the one who chose to listen to that advice, they’d say. We’re the one who left the outcome up to chance, who didn’t plan for all the contingencies. We’re the one whose expectations set us up to be disappointed.

Marcus Aurelius’s rule was: Blame yourself—or blame no one. It’s the other side of the idea we were talking about not long ago, that the only place to look for approval is within yourself. The same goes for disapproval and fault-finding. As soon as you try to get it from other people, you’ve compromised your integrity. You’ve handed over your power. 

So either don’t blame anyone...or blame yourself. For whatever happens. For everything that happens. Those are the options.

Dec 17, 2019
A New Year is a New Opportunity
283

We are what our choices make us. Do we walk the fifteen minutes to work, or do we take an Uber? Hit the snooze button, or get up early? Do we have the difficult conversation, or hide from it? Is good enough really good enough? 

Will you resolve to be better this year? Or just stay the same?

It’s your choice. And what you choose is who you are. 

The Stoics believed that a beautiful life was the result of beautiful decisions. They also believed that the only way to freedom, to strength, to wisdom, was through continual effort.

 “Progress is not achieved by luck or accident,” Epictetus said, “but by working on yourself daily.” 

The question for you today, then—and really, for this upcoming year as well—comes down to one word: When? 

To quote Epictetus again: How much longer are you going to wait to demand the best of and for yourself?

Because life is short. The time is now. And gains are cumulative. 

The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see results, the further you’ll end up going. 

For the last two years, we have been doing what we call “challenges” and, on January 1st, we’re starting again with a new challenge for the new year—and for a new you. We’re calling it the Daily Stoic New Year New You Challenge, and it’s designed to help you do exactly what Epictetus was talking about, and what we have spent so much time talking about in these emails: Take action on becoming the person you know you’re capable of being. 

It would be easy to let December bleed into January, to let 2020 meander and stultify just as you did with 2019. But that’s not what Stoicism is about. That’s not what you want to be about. Instead, we must seize the moment. We must seek out challenges. 

That’s why we created this 21-day Stoic challenge: to do just that—to help you create a better life, and reshape a new you here at the start of a new decade that is set to reshape the world. 

The Daily Stoic New Year New You Challenge is a set of 21 actionable challenges, presented one per day, built around the best, most timeless wisdom in Stoic philosophy. 21 challenges designed to set up potentially life-changing habits for 2020 and beyond, that will help you become the kind of person you know you are capable of being—the kind that can handle any of the uncertainty and difficulty and opportunity that the next year and the next decade are sure to throw at us.

Some people are going to hire a personal trainer in January. Others will hire a nutritionist or a life coach. You have the chance to get step-by-step instruction and encouragement from three of the greatest thinkers in history: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus.

We’ll tell you what to do, how to do it, and why it works. We’ll give you strategies for maintaining this way of living not just for this coming year, but for your whole life.

What is getting rid of one bad habit worth? What would you give to add a new positive way of being into your daily routine? What would you give to be a positive person? And how great would it be to become a part of a community—part of a tribe—of people just like you, struggling and growing and making that satisfying progress towards the kind of personal reinvention that produces the kind of human beings they never knew they could one day be?

Well, here’s your chance.


Dec 16, 2019
Ask Daily Stoic
599

The first Saturday Q&A episode. In each of these episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.

Dec 14, 2019
Why You Should Help Others
191

In his fascinating biography, The House of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown describes a beautiful scene involving William Alexander Percy, the son of a senator, a poet, and lifelong student of the Stoics. Percy is sitting on a hill looking down into the ruins of an ancient Greek amphitheatre, thinking of Marcus Aurelius.

“Though pagan,” Wyatt-Brown writes, “the Stoics recognized the brotherhood of man. The greatest virtue was helping others for one’s own sake and peace of mind as well as theirs. Justice, goodness of heart, duty, courage, and fidelity to fellow creatures, great and lowly, were abstractions requiring no divine authority to sustain them; they were worth pursuing on their own.” 

This observation contains a lot, so it’s worth unpacking. First, it’s clear that this scene is one of those wonderful moments of sympatheia. William, sitting there by himself in nature, is suddenly reminded of his connection to other people and his role in this larger ecosystem that is the world. We need to seek out these moments because they humble and empower us simultaneously. Next, what does he mean by pagan or divine authority? The author is making an important point about Stoicism. Most religions tell us to be good because God said so. Or they tell us not to be bad because God will punish us. Stoicism is different. While not incompatible with religion, it makes a different case for virtue: A person who lives selfishly will not go to hell. They will live in hell. And both these points are related to the final and most important part: We are all connected to each other, and to help others is to help ourselves. We are obligated to serve and to be of service. 

The Percys are a great example of a family that did this. Despite being wealthy, they served in politics. Despite being white and from Mississippi, they fought to keep the Klan out of their hometown. When the Flood of 1927 hit, the Percys saved thousands of lives. When William’s cousin died, he adopted his three second cousins. Because the family was duty-bound. Because they believed they were part of a brotherhood of man. Because it was worth doing for its own sake. 

And so it goes for us.

Dec 13, 2019
How to Raise Your Kids Like Seneca Did
166

Although we know nearly nothing about Seneca’s family life or how his children turned out, we know at least that he gave good advice. We know that as a wealthy, powerful, and famous man, the deck was stacked against him. These are corrosive, corrupting influences, particularly on children. Yet it was clearly quite important to Seneca to raise a normal kid—and to encourage everyone else to do the same thing. 

Below is some advice from Seneca on parenting:

  • Spur them to conceive of great things for themselves, but curb them from arrogance.
  • Let them enjoy some comforts of wealth without indulging their every whim.
  • Show them how to get up when they fall—don’t pick them right up.
  • Instruct them, don’t just punish them.
  • Praise them, but not excessively.
  • Allow some relaxation without fostering laziness.
  • Reward them when quiet what was denied them when they cried for it.
  • Expose them to good role models.

Seneca understood that parenting is a balancing act. You want your kids to be confident but not obnoxious. To feel special but not entitled. Comfortable but not spoiled. You want them to be happy, but also know how to handle disappointment and rejection. To not have to struggle but know how to overcome. To be self-sufficient, but also know how to be a team player. To be carefree, but also value hard work. 

For us, that means we must always keep in mind the end goal, not just what will make this moment easier for them or for you. Assess each situation and strike a balance so your kid will too.

Dec 12, 2019
Don’t Be a Fool
115

There are lots of ways to spot a foolish person. They say dumb things. They make unforced errors. They make the same unforced error over and over again. You tend to recognize one when you see one. 

Seneca, quoting Epicurus, had a good test: “The fool, with all his other faults, has this also—he is always getting ready to live.” 

Indeed, just about the most foolish thing you can hear—coming from someone else or coming out of your own mouth—are the words: “Some day, I’ll…” “When I’m older I hope to…” “I’m not ready right now but…” “If I ever finish this, then I’ll...”

What makes you think you have that luxury? What makes you think you’ll have the time? Forget about issues of self-worth and status and dues-paying for a moment. From a practical perspective, you can’t get ready for something that’s already here. And that’s what life is. It’s right now. Right this second. 

Don’t be a fool. Live today. Be the best you can be now.



Dec 11, 2019
Why You Should Do Your Own Writing
216

There is something strange you find when you study the early Stoics. Not Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus, but the Stoics who influenced them. The names you don’t hear much: Cleanthes. Posidonius. Panaetius. Aristo. Antipater. Chrysippus. What you find—beside the fact that these were living, breathing, human beings with all sorts of interesting experiences—is that you start to notice just how big a role they played in the shaping of the classic Stoic texts we know and love.

For instance, the interesting analogy about how a philosopher should be like a wrestler—a fighter dug in for sudden attacks—that Marcus Aurelius famously makes in Meditations? That actually originates from Panaetius, a Stoic philosopher from the 2nd century BCE that Marcus studied. There are allusions to the insights of Aristo and Antipater and Chryssippus in Seneca. A deep dive into Epictetus shows not only how he was influenced by Zeno, but reveals how many unattributed quotations of Epictetus appear in Marcus Aurelius!

So what is this philosophy then? Just a bunch of people repeating the same old insights? Hardly. Remember, Stoicism is a practice, not merely a set of principles. The act of sitting down and journaling—writing and rewriting—about ideas from the earlier Stoics is a kind of meditative experience. It’s almost like a prayer. It’s what transforms an epigram into a mantra...and then later into action when it counts. 

Besides, have we not learned from music how powerful and creative the art of remixing can be? It’s in this writing and rewriting that each successive generation of Stoics was able to come up with new insights and further refine the philosophy (a tradition that continues today with writers all over the world). Blaise Pascal, whose book Pensées is eerily similar in tone and style and content to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, puts it well when he writes, “Let no one say that I have said nothing new, the arrangement of the material is new. In playing tennis both players use the same ball, but one plays it better." 

Today, your job is to sit down and do some writing—using this old material. Sit down with The Daily Stoic Journal. Sit down on Twitter and put some quotes in your own language. Riff on the ideas with your kids. Write a reminder to yourself on your phone. Pick up the ball and play with it. Practice the philosophy.



Dec 10, 2019
Remember: You’re Just Passing Through
153

Reputation is a powerful thing. The desire to keep it, maintain it, to not betray it, was a force that made someone like Cato unstoppable. On the other hand, the desire to make it—to have a name that people know—can just as easily be a kind of deceiving, seductive distraction. Marcus Aurelius warned against chasing fame, because of how worthless it was and how easily it could be achieved by ignoble means. Yet that’s precisely what motivates most of us: We want to do great things so people will think we’re great, so they’ll remember us for forever. 

Blaise Pascal sounds like he was channeling Marcus and the Stoics when he pointed out that we “do not care about our reputation in towns where we are only passing through.” Isn’t that what life is? Aren’t we all just passing through? Some of us for a little longer than others, of course, but none of us are truly here to stay

Realizing that what other people think about you is not important—because we’re all just passing through—is freeing. It’s not a hall pass for bad behavior. On the contrary, it frees you to do the right thing regardless of the criticism that may come from it. It frees you from the petty squabbles and gossip of the town you’re in and lets you think about what really matters. In the end, we suspect that’s what Cato was actually doing. That people happened to respect him in his own time, that his unbending moral strength earned him fame that survived far beyond his life—that was not the end goal. The goal was doing the right thing and not giving a damn what other people thought. If they’d showered him with stones instead of praise, he’d have kept doing what needed to be done. 

Because what should he care—what should you care—of the opinions of people in a town you’re only passing through?




Dec 09, 2019
On a Long-Enough Timeline, We Are All Blips
208

Here’s an interesting exercise. Pull up a Spotify playlist for hits from the ‘90s. Or turn on a satellite radio station built around that time. As you listen to the songs, note how many you recognize and how many you’ve never heard of. Now go back an era or two and do the same thing for the ‘80s or for the second wave of classic rock. Then do it again for real oldies. As you keep going backwards, the familiarity will fall further and further away until you’ve heard none of the “hit” songs before—and all the “famous” names sound strange or even made up. 

The point of this stroll through music history is not nostalgia or even about discovering some forgotten greats. It’s a reminder of how ephemeral we all are. How fleeting fame and life is. 

As Marcus Aurelius writes:

Words once in common use now sound archaic. And the names of the famous dead as well: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus...Scipio and Cato...Augustus...Hadrian and Antoninus and..everything fades so quickly, turns into legend and soon oblivion covers it.

He points out something that is worth noting about the music we just flipped through as well: The names we no longer recognize are the most famous ones, the ones who shone for at least a few minutes. The vast majority of people, of art that’s made, of events that happen, are “unknown, unasked-for" and don’t even get this. They were not even blips, they were less than blips. 

The lesson from this, as with so many Stoic lessons, is humility. We are not nearly as important as we think we are—and even if we are important, the passage of time is an unforgiving leveler. The other lesson is about priorities. If all fame is fleeting, if even the most accomplished and most influential—the writers of the biggest hits and the owners of the greatest songs of their time—are eventually forgotten, why chase it? Why let it make you miserable—why let getting it make you miserable, or not having it make you miserable?

Why not focus on right now? On living the life you have as best you can?



Dec 06, 2019
Don’t Blend In. Stand Up and Stand Out.
162

In a famous exchange—which we wrote about a while back—Agrippinus explained why he was spurning an invitation to attend some banquet being put on by Nero. Not only was he spurning it, he said, but he had not even considered associating with such a madman. 

A fellow philosopher, the one who had felt inclined to attend, asked for an explanation. Agrippinus responded with an interesting analogy. He said that most people see themselves like threads in a garment—they see it as their job to match the other threads in color and style. They want to blend in, so the fabric will match. But Agrippinus did not want to blend in. “I want to be the red,” he said, “that small and brilliant portion which causes the rest to appear comely and beautiful…’Be like the majority of people?’ And if I do that, how shall I any longer be the red?” He wanted to be red even if it meant being beheaded or exiled.  Because he felt it was right. Because he wouldn’t be anything other than his true self. 

It’s like Mark Twain’s line: When we find ourselves on the side of the majority, we should pause and reflect. Because it means we might be going along with the mob. We might have turned off our own mind. We might be muting our true colors.

Our job as philosophers, as thinkers, as citizens, is not to go along to get along. We are not just another replaceable thread in an otherwise unremarkable garment. Our job is to stand up. To stand out. To speak the truth. To never blend in. 

And in so doing, we make the most beautiful contribution of all.



Dec 05, 2019
You Are Part of a Team (Whether You Know It Or Not)
191

One question you hear the comedian Marc Maron ask a lot of standups and actors at the beginning of his interviews is: Who did you come up with? Who were your guys? By that he means, who were the comedians starting out around the same time as you? Who was there at the beginning with you?

It’s interesting how almost every one of Maron’s guests seems to be part of some kind of a cohort of fellow comedians or performers who cut their teeth in the same clubs or the same theaters at the same time. You can look at their careers and see how many of them got big breaks around the same time, and developed their careers along similar lines. There might have been some cutthroat competition between them, but as the years passed, it became clear that they all shared a common origin, almost as if they were part of the same graduation class. 

In a way, this is just another illustration of that Stoic concept of sympatheia. That, whether we know it or not, we’re all on some kind of team, all part of some collective that is much bigger than us. It’s easy to lose sight of this, of course, when we are fighting for the #1 spot or trying to get noticed, but that’s only because each of us is naturally self-obsessed. But anyone with some distance, anyone in the audience or in the press, can’t miss it: We are shaping the scene we are in, just as it is shaping us. Our fate is bound up with other people—and their gain is not our loss. Quite the contrary, we each help each other—and help the world—when we excel and fulfill our potential. 

We are all part of a scene. We all came up—and are coming up—with a cohort. Even the truly innovative mavericks did (Elon Musk, for instance, comes from the so-called PayPal Mafia). Try to spend some time thinking about that today. What scene are you in? Who else is in your graduating class? Who are your guys? Eventually you’ll come to appreciate being a part of it, and, with time, you’ll understand and be grateful to have shared the stage with these folks. Everyone does. That’s guaranteed. 

What’s not promised are the lazy, nostalgia filled days of old age. So why wait to appreciate them? Why let decades pass when you could do it right now? When you could thank them now.



Dec 04, 2019
There is Only One Place to Look for Approval
144

We all want to be liked. We want the acceptance of our peers. We want to be chosen. We want the stamp of approval—from the critics, from the crowd, from the market.

This makes sense...except it doesn’t. 

Is it not true that most people are not very bright, hold regressive or alarming opinions, and generally follow the herd? And yet somehow we think it’s vindication when they love us? It’s nonsense. It’s pretty strange how much we value the respect of people we don’t respect...and the lengths we’re willing to go to get it. 

"If you are ever tempted to look for outside approval,” Epictetus said, “realize that you have compromised your integrity. If you need a witness, be your own." This was something Marcus Aurelius wrestled with more than Epictetus because he was a public person. He saw crowds cheering him in the street. People flocked to court to heap praise on him (before asking for favors). He also had to put up with their jeers and criticisms. 

Eventually he realized that he couldn’t pay attention to any of it. He had to hold himself to his own standard—an inner scorecard—and ignore everything else. The clapping was meaningless. The boos were too. What mattered was his own integrity—he had to be his own witness. 

And today, so do you. It doesn’t matter what other people say or think. Approval and disapproval are equally meaningless. What matters is what you know is right, and whether you do it



Dec 03, 2019
We All Need Monuments to Guide Us
256

Nobody cared more about statues than the Greeks and the Romans. In fact, the only reason we know what many of the Stoics looked like is because they were preserved in marble by sculptors many thousands of years ago. It wasn’t just philosophers who knew the value of statues. Leaders put up statues in nearly every important place within the realms that they ruled so that we might look upon and be inspired by the deeds and the principles of the great men and women they honored.

In 175 AD, Marcus Aurelius was honored with the creation of a bronze statue depicting him atop a horse addressing his troops, perhaps following some great victory on the battlefield. It was placed in the heart of Rome on the Capitoline Hill. Bronze equestrian statues like this one were commonly created to laud the most notable Romans, yet this is the only statue of a pre-Christian emperor to survive to the modern era. While dozens of other statues were being melted down to make coins or destroyed by revolutionaries, this statue remained on display, through the centuries. In fact, it was Michelangelo who, at the height of his powers as an artist, designed a new base for it in the Piazza del Campidoglio, where it stands to this day. 

And we are all the better for it. Because each generation needs guidance. We need to be called to honor the greatness of our past, or in the case of some monuments, reminded of the failures and mistakes that humanity has made. We need to see—in tangible form—the principles that we as a people hold dear, that we aspire to mirror in our own lives

In 1863, the English writer Matthew Arnold wrote about why the endurance of the symbols of Marcus Aurelius are so important, and what a grand tradition it remains.

Long after his death, his bust was to be seen in the houses of private men through the wide Roman empire. It may be the vulgar part of human nature which busies itself with the semblance and doings of living sovereigns, it is its nobler part which busies itself with those of the dead; these busts of Marcus Aurelius, in the homes of Gaul, Britain and Italy, bear witness, not to the intimates' frivolous curiosity about princes and palaces, but to their reverential memory of the passage of a great man upon the earth.

A nation—an era—is judged by the monuments it erects just as a home is judged by the mementos and family artifacts hung on its walls and displayed on its shelves. So that’s the question for the world and for you as an individual today: What statues are you putting up? Who are you honoring? Whose presence is inspiring you to follow in their example? What is calling you to be the person you know you can be? 

———

We’ve just released our newest Daily Stoic creation to help you keep in mind the example of Marcus Aurelius: a limited edition bust, modeled after the that inspired The Obstacle is the Way. This hand-sculpted bust is individually hand-numbered with a beautiful verdigris finish. It’s mounted on a black marble base and comes wrapped in a green velour pouch along with a signed certificate of authenticity. We’ve only had the sculptor produce a limited quantity from his original clay model, so if you’re interested, the time is now to check it out at DailyStoic.com/Statue, where we’ve included a great video showing how the bust was made. We also conducted an interview with the bust’s sculptor, E. S. Schubert. Not only is Schubert an amazing sculptor who has crafted statues for cities and stadiums, he is also a passionate student of Stoicism.

Dec 02, 2019
You Must Avoid The Orgy of Materialism and Greed
243

The viciousness of the mob is one of the darker themes in Roman history. There was the angry crowd that tore Saturninus to pieces during Marius’s time. There were the grieving, angry citizens who, riled up by Mark Antony’s funeral oration after the death of Caesar, murdered the poet Cinna just because he had the same name as one of the conspirators. 

It’s scary what a group of people can do when the unwritten rules of civil society break down. There is perhaps no better day to think about this than Black Friday in America. Fresh off the gratitude of Thanksgiving, we decide to reward ourselves by greedily gorging on stuff. 

It is hard to think of a day whose entire purpose sits in greater conflict with the Stoic notion of sympatheia. The same people who were previously sitting peacefully with their family are now ready to engage in hand-to-hand combat over a deal on a flat screen television. Instead of enjoying the time off, people have been lined up for hours in the cold to buy more and more crap they don’t actually need, at lower and lower prices. Not to replace the crap they bought last Black Friday, mind you, but to add to the pile. The only cost Black Friday shoppers don’t mind paying for these savings? Yelling matches, countless traffic accidents, and the collateral damage of retail employees being trampled to death. (There’s a website that tallies ‘Black Friday Death Counts’ if you’re really curious.)

As Marcus wrote in Meditations, “What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee.” It’s hard to argue that Black Friday is good for anyone or anything but the bottom line of big business. So instead of following the masses on a shopping spree—and possibly a killing spree—it would be nice if you spent this morning thinking about the bigger picture—the biggest picture.

We should be humane to each other because we are all human, all part of the same larger body. We spring from the same soil and will each return to it alike one day. When we forget this, it not only hurts other people—makes countless millions mourn—but it hurts us as well.

“Revere the gods, and look after each other,” Marcus Aurelius reminds us. “Life is short—the fruit of this life is a good character and acts for the common good.” That is what sympatheia is about. That’s what Oikeiôsis, affinity for your fellow humans, is about. We should live that every day, frankly, but we should be especially mindful of it today. 

As the exact opposite of a Black Friday deal, we’re selling our Sympatheia coins at full price at Daily Stoic, until Monday December 2nd 6am. BUT, if you buy one, we’ll give you another one free to give to a friend, family member, or colleague who could benefit from it.

As we begin the holiday season, we hope you keep this concept in mind when you’re dealing with difficult in-laws, travel delays, or crowds and long lines. Don’t let the modern spirit of materialism and selfishness infect you. Instead, we must all focus on reminders that we are not alone, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that there is a greater good to which we all owe a duty, above and beyond our own se

Nov 29, 2019
Be Grateful for Everything—Even the Tough Stuff
285

On this day of American Thanksgiving, we’re supposed to make time for thanks, to actively think about that word that has become almost cliché in wellness circles: gratitude. But what is gratitude? Some people think of it as being thankful for all the good things you have in your life. Others see it as the act of acknowledging what people have done for you or what you appreciate about others. 

While the Stoics would have agreed that was all important, they practiced a slightly different form of gratitude. It was more inclusive and counterintuitive. It wasn’t just about being grateful for the good, but for all of life. “Convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods,” was how Marcus Aurelius put it, “that things are good and always will be.” The first key word there is everything. The other key word is convince. Meaning: you have to tell yourself that it’s all good, even the so-called “bad stuff.” 

Is it possible to be grateful for that nine-hour travel delay that has you sleeping on a bench in the airport? Is it possible to be grateful for your father’s affair that tore your family apart, and which now means you’re celebrating two Thanksgivings in two houses because your parents can’t be in the same room together? Or that dark period you went through in college, when your grades fell to pieces and you thought about killing yourself? It’s not easy to be grateful for any of this, but it is possible. 

In the Discourses, Epictetus says, “It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance, and a sense of gratitude.” On the surface, much of what we’re upset about or wish hadn’t occurred is so objectionable that gratitude seems impossible. But if we can zoom out for that more complete view, understanding and appreciation can emerge. First off, you’re alive. That’s the silver lining of every shitty situation and should not be forgotten. But second, everything that has happened and is happening is bringing you to where you are. It’s contributing to the person you have become. And that’s a good thing. This understanding, Epictetus said, helps you see the world in full color—in the color of gratitude. 

The Stoics believed that we should feel gratitude for all the people and events that form our lives. We shouldn’t just be thankful for the gifts we receive, and our relationships with friends and family. We should also be aware of and grateful for the setbacks and annoyances. For the difficult coworkers and the nagging in-laws, for the stress they put on us and whatever other difficulties we might be experiencing. Why? Because it’s all of those things, interconnected and dependent on each other, that made you who and what you are today. It is only by seeing the totality of things, good and bad, that you gain the understanding necessary to be truly grateful.

It could be that terrible relationship that imploded spectacularly, but which led to you meeting the love of your life. It could even be the passing of a relative, something that caused you great sadness but which also spurred you to build stronger relationships with your loved ones. All of these things are sad, and they may not even lead to a happy ending—but they still define the course of your life, and it wouldn’t be you sitting there right now without them.

As you gather around your family and friends this Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other celebration you might partake in, take the time to appreciate the moment and give thanks for all the obvious a

Nov 28, 2019
Don’t Let Time Surprise You
178

Queen Elizabeth I was a remarkable woman. She was uncommon and special is so many ways. She was believed to have known nine languages. She was considered one of the best educated women of her time. And she presided over many English battle victories. 

And yet in one other way, she was incredibly common—not unlike so many of us: She basically refused to think of her own mortality. Maybe she was too afraid. Maybe she thought she’d live forever. Either way, she refused to plan for a successor in any form. She never got married, despite numerous courtships. She never had children. If she had been an ordinary person, this would have been her prerogative, but she wasn’t. A queen without an heir puts the entire kingdom at risk. A ruler who doesn’t consider what comes after them is bequeathing chaos and carnage on their subjects.

Sir Walter Raleigh, writing late in Queen Elizabeth’s life, saw this happening. He saw the Queen getting older and her options disappearing, as she grew older and grey. She was, he said, “a lady whom time has surprised.” What a great phrase! Because it describes so many of us. It’s the CEO who can’t groom the next generation of leadership in the company. It’s the partier whose twenties have turned into their thirties and can’t see how pathetic they look. It’s the grandma or grandpa who shudders at that word—old—who, me? I’m not old! 

We have to remember, as Seneca told us, that old age and death aren’t this thing that lies off in the distant future. It’s a process that’s happening to us always and everywhere. We cannot let time surprise us. We must be thinking of it always. That’s how we make sure we are living for today, that we are leaving nothing unfinished or unresolved. We have a duty to ourselves and others, Seneca said, to live each day like a complete life. To keep our affairs in order because we have no idea what’s going to happen or how much time we will be given. 

Don’t delay. Don’t deny. Don’t be surprised. Do your duty. Face your fears...and your mortality. Today and always.



Nov 27, 2019
You Have The Power To Straighten Your Back
166

One of the most inspiring themes in the history of Stoicism is how the Stoics responded to tyrants and to adversity. There was Cato, refusing to roll over and just let Caesar destroy the Republic to which Cato had dedicated his life. There was Thrasea defying Nero, “Nero can kill me, but he cannot harm me.” There was Agrippinus shrugging off exile, refusing to kowtow to anyone who wanted him to bow to the regime. There was Marcus Aurelius, who stayed in Rome even as it was ravaged by the plague, who served with great dedication even when his health failed in later years. There was James Stockdale in that prison camp in Vietnam, unbreakable, defiant, dignified despite all his powerlessness.  

This is what Stoicism is about. It’s that iron backbone. That strength of conviction. The sense of duty and purpose that makes it impossible to do anything but stand up, that will never accept less than it’s due. People with that power end up changing the world, regardless of how entrenched or overwhelming their enemies are. 

Martin Luther King Jr. captured it perfectly. “Whenever men and women straighten their backs up,” he said, “they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.” That’s the question for you today and for all of us fighting for something, trying to make change. Are we going to straighten up and stand up? Or are we going to bend and give in? Are we going to let them ride us or are we going to refuse to roll over?

We have the power. Let’s use it. 



Nov 26, 2019
You Must Take All This in Stride
113

Some people will love you. Some people will hate you. One day, Marcus Aurelius wrote, the crowd will cheer and worship you. Other days they’ll hit you with brickbats and hate. 

You get a lucky break sometimes—get more credit and attention than you deserve. Other times you’ll get held to an impossibly unfair standard. They’ll build you up, and then tear you down—and act like it was your fault you got way up there in the first place. They’ll criticize you in public and privately tell you it’s all for show.

There will be good years and bad years. Times when the cards come our way, times when the dice keep coming up snake eyes. That’s just how it is. That’s just life.

The key, Marcus Aurelius said, is assent to all of it. Accept the good stuff without arrogance, he wrote in Meditations. Let the bad stuff go with indifference. Amor fati. Take it all in stride, whether it’s undeserved heat or slobbering praise. Let none of it affect you, take none of it personally.

Just keep moving. Keep doing your work. Keep being you. 

That’s the way of the Stoic. 



Nov 25, 2019
Set This Before Your Eyes Every Day
180

We talk about the importance of positive thinking. Of making sure we are surrounded by good vibes and good energy. Of cutting out the negative influences of social media and the news. Of looking for the good in everything we see.

And, of course, that is important. But it can also be dangerous. Because it sets us up to be disappointed, even horrified, when our bubble is pierced. When we are forced to come face to face with the fact that the world is not a positive place. There are things that go bump in the night. There are bad people and tragic events. 

That’s why Epictetus’s advice—in his version of premeditatio malorum—was to do the opposite. “Set before your eyes every day death and exile and everything else that looks terrible,” he said, “especially death. Then you will never have any mean thought or be too keen on anything.” You will also never be disappointed, you will never have your illusions shattered or your expectations gone unmet. 

In fact, if you keep this darkness in mind, you might just be surprised by all the light you find in the world. You’ll be grateful for each day you wake up, still alive. You’ll appreciate each moment you’re not in exile. You’ll be glad each time Murphy’s Law turns out to be wrong. 

Indeed, just as there is no hot without cold, there is no light without dark. Today, spend some time with the dark. Become familiar with it, set it before your eyes, so that you do not mistake it for blankness and set yourself up, once you walk out of it, for the light to be blinding.



Nov 22, 2019
How To Concentrate Like a Roman
160

There is so much on our plate. We have emails to respond to. Calls to make. There is that meeting in a couple hours. The folks we met with yesterday are waiting on an answer or a decision we promised we’d make. Twitter beckons. So do our hopes and dreams. 

And yet as many directions as we find ourselves pulled in, it’s safe to assume that Marcus Aurelius was under even more tension. Make no mistake: The ancient world was not some quiet, peaceful place. It too was filled with crises and distractions, gossip, and ambitious goal-setting. All the temptations we face today have their analogs in the past—plus things were scarier, deadlier, and more precarious. 

So we should listen to the command that Marcus gave himself after one of those trying days, when he was struggling to stay focused. “Concentrate every minute like a Roman— like a man—” he wrote, “on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice.”

And he wasn’t just chiding himself to do some impossible thing. There was a method to this concentration, he said. What was it? Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life. (That’s the power of Memento Mori). The key, Marcus said, was to not let your emotions override your mind and to give yourself a strong purpose (aimlessness is an enabler of distraction). 

You can do that. You have the power to concentrate like a Roman. You can know how to do this thing in front of you. You can treat it right. And most important, you should. Because it may well be the last thing you do in your life.



Nov 21, 2019
Thoughts and Prayers are not Enough
188

The cycle would be almost humorous by now if it were not so sad. Politicians who have sat idly by, not doing their jobs to address the vexing, pressing problems of our time, rush in when tragedy strikes. Whether it’s a natural disaster that caught a city off guard, or another senseless mass shooting, these folks are there—or rather are there on Twitter—to offer their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Then, of course, the crowd shoots back, “That’s not enough!”

Let us unravel this according to the Stoics. First, there’s nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers, per se, particularly if they are heartfelt. However, they aren’t remotely sufficient to solve most political or social problems. And yet, yelling at the people offering them is its own hollow form of virtue signaling too. 

While the Stoics did talk about the importance of acceptance and about our limited control of the world around us, they would reject this modern rejection of our own agency. They would be disappointed in our learned helplessness. The obstacles of life—be they in politics or the environment or the actions of evil doers—require action. They require effort. They require that we seize what’s in our control to affect change and improve the status quo. 

When Rome’s borders were threatened, Marcus Aurelius didn’t simply send his prayers to the citizens who were killed. No, he led an army to defend them. When a plague struck Rome, he didn’t flee the city and then come back to speak at funerals. He braved the terrible conditions, doing everything he could to stop the dying. Whether he was successful or not is almost secondary to the fact that he at least tried. 

Because that’s what a Stoic does. We take action. We organize. We vote. We try to solve problems. We try to prevent problems from happening again. And if the leaders we’ve elected aren’t going to help with that—meaning they’re part of the problem themselves—we don’t just yell or complain about it and demand that they do better...we set about solving for that too. We do better. We make sure they do too.

No one is coming to save us. But we can save ourselves.



Nov 20, 2019
If You Want Tranquility, Here's How to Find It
142

We all want more peace, right? More stillness. The quiet confidence that comes from being on the right path, as Seneca described it, and not being distracted by all those which crisscross ours. 

Well, how do you get that? 

It’s simple, Marcus Aurelius wrote. Stop caring what other people think. Stop caring what they do. Stop caring what they say.

All that matters, he writes, is what you do. Everything else is beyond your concern. You can let it all go. You can ignore it entirely. 

We find tranquility when we stop stressing about things we cannot control, whose influence we are impotent to constrain. We find tranquility when we narrow our focus, when we look inward, when we look in the mirror. When we still the uncontrollable passions in our heads, hearts, and bodies.

Stillness is the key to a better life. The bad news is that there is only one way to get it. The good news is that it’s easy. You just have to stop. Stop caring what they think or say or do. Start caring deeply about what you do.

Stop...and start now.



Nov 19, 2019
You'll Have to Beat Me First
205

There is a famous moment in the history of Sparta, when they were threatened with invasion by Phillip, King of Macedon. Phillip, whose son was Alexander the Great, demanded the submission of the Spartans. It would be better to submit to him now, he said, because "If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.

The Spartans’ reply to this was just one word: “If.”

They were not the kind of people who gave up easily, even in the face of incredible odds, because they believed in their own capabilities. If they had even a 1% chance of persevering, they were willing to take it. They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them.

While the Spartans had little time or interest in philosophy, we should see the Stoics as the heirs to this tradition of tenacity and determination. Cato’s impassioned resistance against Caesar was a man giving everything he had to a cause most people thought was lost—and he very nearly won. George Washington and the Stoic founding fathers of America fought a similar cause against the greatest army in the world, and did win. James Stockdale looked at his captors at that prison camp in Vietnam and said, “If.” He said, “You’re going to have to beat me.” And as close as they came at times, they never managed to. 

Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest. It makes that distinction between what is not in our control and what is in our control for a reason—so we can focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control...even if the odds of success are low, even when everyone else thinks the smarter move is submission. If it’s humanly possible, Marcus Aurelius said, know that you can do it. If there is a 1% chance, that means there is a chance. It means you can do it. 

So do it.



Nov 18, 2019
Be Grateful for Everything—Even the Tough Stuff
285

On this day of American Thanksgiving, we’re supposed to make time for thanks, to actively think about that word that has become almost cliché in wellness circles: gratitude. But what is gratitude? Some people think of it as being thankful for all the good things you have in your life. Others see it as the act of acknowledging what people have done for you or what you appreciate about others. 

While the Stoics would have agreed that was all important, they practiced a slightly different form of gratitude. It was more inclusive and counterintuitive. It wasn’t just about being grateful for the good, but for all of life. “Convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods,” was how Marcus Aurelius put it, “that things are good and always will be.” The first key word there is everything. The other key word is convince. Meaning: you have to tell yourself that it’s all good, even the so-called “bad stuff.” 

Is it possible to be grateful for that nine-hour travel delay that has you sleeping on a bench in the airport? Is it possible to be grateful for your father’s affair that tore your family apart, and which now means you’re celebrating two Thanksgivings in two houses because your parents can’t be in the same room together? Or that dark period you went through in college, when your grades fell to pieces and you thought about killing yourself? It’s not easy to be grateful for any of this, but it is possible. 

In the Discourses, Epictetus says, “It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance, and a sense of gratitude.” On the surface, much of what we’re upset about or wish hadn’t occurred is so objectionable that gratitude seems impossible. But if we can zoom out for that more complete view, understanding and appreciation can emerge. First off, you’re alive. That’s the silver lining of every shitty situation and should not be forgotten. But second, everything that has happened and is happening is bringing you to where you are. It’s contributing to the person you have become. And that’s a good thing. This understanding, Epictetus said, helps you see the world in full color—in the color of gratitude. 

The Stoics believed that we should feel gratitude for all the people and events that form our lives. We shouldn’t just be thankful for the gifts we receive, and our relationships with friends and family. We should also be aware of and grateful for the setbacks and annoyances. For the difficult coworkers and the nagging in-laws, for the stress they put on us and whatever other difficulties we might be experiencing. Why? Because it’s all of those things, interconnected and dependent on each other, that made you who and what you are today. It is only by seeing the totality of things, good and bad, that you gain the understanding necessary to be truly grateful.

It could be that terrible relationship that imploded spectacularly, but which led to you meeting the love of your life. It could even be the passing of a relative, something that caused you great sadness but which also spurred you to build stronger relationships with your loved ones. All of these things are sad, and they may not even lead to a happy ending—but they still define the course of your life, and it wouldn’t be you sitting there right now without them.

As you gather around your family and friends this Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other celebration you might partake in, take the time to appreciate the moment and give thanks for all the obvious a

Nov 16, 2019
Don’t Run From Pain, Embrace It
166

It makes sense that we avoid pain. We don’t want to cause it and we don’t want to feel it. We’d rather life be easy. This makes sense—at least in the short term.

But the Stoics knew that in the long term, such an attitude made you weak, made you soft. The NASCAR driver and student of Stoicism, Brad Keselowski, recently talked about how Stoicism has taught him to take whatever is hardest or most difficult in his life and “double down and appreciate it.” Because it’s teaching you something. Because it’s making you stronger. Too many people run from pain, he said, but that’s the wrong way to do it. “Over time,” he said, “you start to realize that pain is your body flushing out weakness.”

In Seneca’s writing, we see that theme come up time and time again: Don’t be afraid of challenges. They are preparing you for an uncertain future. In Marcus Aurelius we see him look even at physical pain—we get the sense that Marcus Aurelius had some chronic injuries or illnesses—as a kind of crucible that was forging him into being a stronger person. You can endure this, he would say over and over again. You can get through this. You will get through this. 

Of course, we should not be glib about pain or misfortune in life, but we can take all of these ideas and apply them to what we face today. There’s no need to turn away from what comes our way. Instead, we can embrace it. We can double down and appreciate what we had to do—even though it’s hard. Amor Fati. We can endure. We can flush weakness out. 

And we can become better and stronger for it. Whatever it is. 



Nov 15, 2019
Remember that People Avoid the Truth
140

Time and time again, we hear the Stoics tell us to say what is right, to do what is right, to be comfortable swimming upstream or rejecting the choices of the mob. Marcus Aurelius said this. Seneca said it. Cato said it. Nassim Taleb says it still today.

What usually goes unsaid alongside these inspiring calls—whether it’s “If you see fraud, say fraud” or “If it’s not right do not do it, if it’s not true do not say it”—is anything about the consequences. Because while history admires whistleblowers and men and women of principles, their contemporaries often have the opposite reaction. Because speaking the truth and standing up for what’s right is an implicit rebuke of the status quo. It challenges people’s identities. It indicts them for not doing the same

This is important to know and to constantly remind oneself of. It’s almost like you need to do a premeditatio malorum for what happens when you commit to being a good and honest and courageous person. Because it’s not going to be easy. People are not going to throw you a parade. They’re much more likely to throw brickbats. Or insults.

But you have to do what you think is right, and, as Marcus Aurelius said, treat the rest like it doesn’t matter. Who cares if they unsubscribe from your emails? Who cares if they report you? Or try to take away your sponsors? Try to run against you in a primary election? Or leave nasty comments? Or try to bully you? 

Because the truth is that none of these things matter. Or at least, they don’t matter more than your duty.



Nov 14, 2019
There’s Nothing Special About Philosophers
199

If you ask most people to describe a philosopher, they end up painting a picture of somebody who works at Harvard and wears a lot of wool and tweed and corduroy. Maybe they’ll describe somebody from ancient history, dressed in a toga, talking about big ideas, oblivious to the everyday happenings around them. It’s an understandable impulse, because philosophy can seem so distant and the people who practice it somehow above or apart from the rest of us. 

This is a mistake. It’s not only not what philosophy is supposed to be, but it’s also historically inaccurate. As Blaise Pascal explains, writing some five hundred years ago, "We always picture Plato and Aristotle wearing long academic gowns, but they were ordinary decent people like everyone else, who enjoyed a laugh with their friends.” Pascal took pains to point out that the books they wrote were written for pleasure and enjoyment—they were not stuffy, pretentious documents meant to intimidate people. On the contrary, Aristotle and Plato and Socrates were writing to help people, to pass along what they had learned. 

The same was true for the Stoics. Why is Meditations so straightforward and easy to read? It’s because Marcus was writing to help himself. Why does Epictetus seem so conversational? It’s because that’s literally what he was doing. He didn’t “write” anything—what survives to us are essentially transcripts of conversations he had with students. Think about Seneca writing his letters. There was a real person on both sides of that communique, a writer and a recipient. True friends trying to help each other by being clear, not confusing. 

Philosophers aren’t different from us or better than us. They are us. 

The best philosophers are regular people with a passion for self-improvement, with a love for their fellow human beings struggling in the real world. There might be Harvard professors who fit that bill, but too many of them don’t. It’s critical that you ignore them and don’t let them lead you astray (or intimidate you). Philosophy isn’t about books and big words and theories and complicated metaphysics. It’s about getting better, in a real practical sense. It’s about realizing your potential—intellectually, morally, spiritually. 

As Blaise Pascal concluded, the writing that Aristotle and Plato did was actually the “least philosophical and least serious part of their lives: the most philosophical was living simply and without fuss." 

Beautiful. Let that inspire you. And try to follow in its example today and always.




Nov 13, 2019
This Is How You Get Tranquility
225

Marcus Aurelius said that pain either affects the body or the soul. What’s the difference? “The soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquillity. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.” Pierre Hadot’s metaphor for this was the “inner citadel.” Hadot said that Marcus worked to create a soul, a core, an inner fortress that fate, chaos, hysterics, vice, and outside influences could never penetrate or break down. 

Ada Palmer—a historian, professor, and novelist—knows the importance of building an inner citadel. In addition to the tummults of academia, publishing, and constant deadlines, Ada is also disabled and suffers from chronic pain. She says that, sounding like Hadot, “Stoicism is about achieving interior tranquillity.” Hadot said that Marcus wrote to himself to strengthen the walls of his citadel, to achieve interior tranquility. In our interview with Ada for DailyStoic.com, we asked her about how she does it:

I use a variety of different techniques to battle the gloom, "morbid thinking," and other mental effects of chronic pain. I self-monitor carefully, keeping an inner lookout for when I find myself dwelling on something that's upsetting me, and I have a sort of triage of responses. I ask myself (A) can I find an actionable solution to the problem? If not (B) can I get myself to stop worrying about the problem and let go? Can I laugh at the problem? Can I ask myself whether this will really matter in a year or five years?  Sometimes that alone can break the spell, but if it doesn't this is where I find the maxims, especially the vivid images, often help. 

One of my favorites is the stoic image of life as being like being a guest at a banquet.  Many great platters are being passed around for you to take from, but occasionally one arrives already empty, everyone else has already taken it all.  It's easy to be angry, and it is unfair, but the food wasn't yours to begin with, it was a gift from your host, and you didn't really need it, there is plenty of other food. Sometimes just thinking about that can make me less upset by something. It's amazing how that kind of reframing, zooming out, or changing perspective can sometimes dispel the stormy thoughts that are really what are causing one's unhappiness. 

Cultivating your inner citadel doesn’t mean reaching a point where one is immune to life’s disturbances. It’s about having your systems in place, your battle-tested line of defense, ready to fend them off when they inevitably do show up. For Marcus, it was journaling. For Ada, it’s stopping, reframing, changing perspectives. What is it for you?




Nov 12, 2019
You Have To Find The Good In People
174

Marcus Aurelius was clearly torn about his fellow man. He was loving and kind and spoke repeatedly of serving the common good. He was also clearly frustrated and disappointed with the flaws of the people around him. Like many great men, he had trouble understanding that not everyone had his gifts, not all of them were capable of what he was capable of. 

You can see in Meditations how he wrestled with these feelings. In the opening passage, he talks about just how obnoxious and annoying (and awful) the people he was likely to meet in the course of the upcoming day. And then, just as you think it can’t get any more depressing and dark, he turns around and reminds himself that they’re doing the best they can, and that it’s not their fault that they have been cut off from truth.

 In the passage that inspired The Obstacle is the Way, Marcus is less forgiving. He talks about how the people who obstruct or bother us are “irrelevant”—how we can shut our minds off to them. It’s a theme that comes up a lot: People are a problem. People are weak. Push them away. You get the sense that he would have been hard to work for, hard to have as your father, hard to please—even for talented and committed people. 

If only Marcus Aurelius could have heard the (fictional) advice from his adopted grandfather, Hadrian, that Marguerite Yourcenar writes into her prize-winning book Memoirs of Hadrian. “Our great mistake,” she has Hadrian say, “is to try to exact from each person virtues which he does not possess, and to neglect the cultivation of those which he has.” How much happier Marcus would have been had he been more able to see the good in people, and how much better a leader he could have been had he leaned into their strengths rather than disdained their weaknesses. 

Each of us would benefit from that advice as well. We have to focus on what we can learn from other people. We have to focus on what is special and unique about them instead of zeroing in on the ways they are not as good as us. We have to be forgiving and patient, kind and appreciative. We have to engage with what they bring to the table, not lament the things they take from it. Then we have to work to make those people around us better...not write them off as hopeless and broken.




Nov 11, 2019
Remember: You Are Not Everything
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One of the most haunting moments in all of literature is the moment when King Lear hits rock bottom. He has destroyed his kingdom. He has lost his family. He has lost his sanity. 

He says to Gloucester as they stand on a cliff:

“They told me I was everything. 'Tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.”

In short, all the illusions of the king have been shattered, his ego destroyed. Everything he had worked for was gone, and all that was left was the inescapable conclusion that it was his fault. He had believed the flatterers and let power go to his head. Then, after unbelievable folly and meanness, it all came crashing down.

This temptation to believe that we are everything, that we are immune to the constraints or flaws of other people is the source of so much pain and misery in the world. Pain for the believers and for the bystanders who become its collateral damage. Which is why the Stoics—particularly the ones who found themselves in positions of leadership—spent so much time working on their egos. Marcus Aurelius actively practiced his philosophy so that he would not be corrupted by his absolute power. Seneca wrote essays to Nero to try to steer the young man away from ego, to tell him: You are not everything. You have to stay sane and sober. It didn’t always work, but he tried. 

Ego is the enemy. Of what we’re trying to accomplish. Of the people we’d like to be. Of relationships. Of kindness. Of the ‘objectivity’ and rational thought that Stoicism prizes. We must remember this always, even as others puff us up or success accumulates around us. We are not everything. We are ordinary. We are mortal. 

We are not exempt.



Nov 08, 2019
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