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The Daily Stoic / (by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman, 2016) -

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The Daily Stoic /     (by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman, 2016) -

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living / . 366 , (by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman, 2016) -

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The Daily Stoic / (by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman, 2016) -
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2016
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Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
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Brian Holsopple
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upper-intermediate
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10:06:31
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128 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living / . 366 , :

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: The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

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_Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. Only an ingrate would fail to see that these great architects of venerable thoughts were born for us and have designed a way of life for us._ _SENECA INTRODUCTION T he private diaries of one of Rome_s greatest emperors, the personal letters of one of Rome_s best playwrights and wisest power brokers, the lectures of a former slave and exile, turned influential teacher. Against all odds and the passing of some two millennia, these incredible documents survive. What do they say? Could these ancient and obscure pages really contain anything relevant to modern life? The answer, it turns out, is yes. They contain some of the greatest wisdom in the history of the world. Together these documents constitute the bedrock of what is known as Stoicism, an ancient philosophy that was once one of the most popular civic disciplines in the West, practiced by the rich and the impoverished, the powerful and the struggling alike in the pursuit of the Good Life. But over the centuries, knowledge of this way of thinking, once essential to so many, slowly faded from view. Except to the most avid seekers of wisdom, Stoicism is either unknown or misunderstood. Indeed, it would be hard to find a word dealt a greater injustice at the hands of the English language than _Stoic._ To the average person, this vibrant, action-oriented, and paradigm-shifting way of living has become shorthand for _emotionlessness._ Given the fact that the mere mention of philosophy makes most nervous or bored, _Stoic philosophy_ on the surface sounds like the last thing anyone would want to learn about, let alone urgently need in the course of daily life. What a sad fate for a philosophy that even one of its occasional critics, Arthur Schopenhauer, would describe as _the highest point to which man can attain by the mere use of his faculty of reason._ Our goal with this book is to restore Stoicism to its rightful place as a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry. Certainly, many of history_s great minds not only understood Stoicism for what it truly is, they sought it out: George Washington, Walt Whitman, Frederick the Great, Eug?ne Delacroix, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Matthew Arnold, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Roosevelt, William Alexander Percy, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Each read, studied, quoted, or admired the Stoics. The ancient Stoics themselves were no slouches. The names you encounter in this book_Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca_belonged to, respectively, a Roman emperor, a former slave who triumphed to become an influential lecturer and friend of the emperor Hadrian, and a famous playwright and political adviser. There were Stoics like Cato the Younger, who was an admired politician; Zeno was a prosperous merchant (as several Stoics were); Cleanthes was a former boxer and worked as a water carrier to put himself through school; Chrysippus, whose writings are now completely lost but tallied more than seven hundred books, trained as a long-distance runner; Posidonius served as an ambassador; Musonius Rufus was a teacher; and many others. Today (especially since the recent publication of The Obstacle Is the Way), Stoicism has found a new and diverse audience, ranging from the coaching staffs of the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks to rapper LL Cool J and broadcaster Michele Tafoya as well as many professional athletes, CEOs, hedge fund managers, artists, executives, and public men and women. What have all these great men and women found within Stoicism that others missed? A great deal. While academics often see Stoicism as an antiquated methodology of minor interest, it has been the doers of the world who found that it provides much needed strength and stamina for their challenging lives. When journalist and Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce advised a young writer that studying the Stoics would teach him _how to be a worthy guest at the table of the gods,_ or when the painter Eug?ne Delacroix (famous for his painting Liberty Leading the People) called Stoicism his _consoling religion,_ they were speaking from experience. So was the brave abolitionist and colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who led the first all-black regiment in the U.S. Civil War and produced one of the more memorable translations of Epictetus. The Southern planter and writer William Alexander Percy, who led the rescue efforts in the Great Flood of 1927, had a unique reference point when he said of Stoicism that _when all is lost, it stands fast._ As would the author and angel investor Tim Ferriss, when he referred to Stoicism as the ideal _personal operating system_ (other high-powered executives like Jonathan Newhouse, CEO of Cond? Nast International, have agreed). But it_s for the field of battle that Stoicism seems to have been particularly well designed. In 1965, as Captain James Stockdale (future Medal of Honor recipient) parachuted from his shot-up plane over Vietnam into what would ultimately be a half decade of torture and imprisonment, whose name was on his lips? Epictetus. Just as Frederick the Great reportedly rode into battle with the works of the Stoics in his saddlebags, so too did marine and NATO commander General James _Mad Dog_ Mattis, who carried the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius with him on deployments in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Again, these weren_t professors but practitioners, and as a practical philosophy they found Stoicism perfectly suited to their purposes. FROM GREECE TO ROME TO TODAY Stoicism was a school of philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early third century BC. Its name is derived from the Greek stoa, meaning porch, because that_s where Zeno first taught his students. The philosophy asserts that virtue (meaning, chiefly, the four cardinal virtues of self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom) is happiness, and it is our perceptions of things_rather than the things themselves_that cause most of our trouble. Stoicism teaches that we can_t control or rely on anything outside what Epictetus called our _reasoned choice__our ability to use our reason to choose how we categorize, respond, and reorient ourselves to external events. Early Stoicism was much closer to a comprehensive philosophy like other ancient schools whose names might be vaguely familiar: Epicureanism, Cynicism, Platonism, Skepticism. Proponents spoke of diverse topics, including physics, logic, cosmology, and many others. One of the analogies favored by the Stoics to describe their philosophy was that of a fertile field. Logic was the protective fence, physics was the field, and the crop that all this produced was ethics_or how to live. As Stoicism progressed, however, it focused primarily on two of these topics_logic and ethics. Making its way from Greece to Rome, Stoicism became much more practical to fit the active, pragmatic lives of the industrious Romans. As Marcus Aurelius would later observe, _I was blessed when I set my heart on philosophy that I didn_t fall into the sophist_s trap, nor remove myself to the writer_s desk, or chop logic, or busy myself with studying the heavens._ Instead, he (and Epictetus and Seneca) focused on a series of questions not unlike the ones we continue to ask ourselves today: _What is the best way to live?_ _What do I do about my anger?_ _What are my obligations to my fellow human beings?_ _I_m afraid to die; why is that?_ _How can I deal with the difficult situations I face?_ _How should I handle the success or power I hold?_ These weren_t abstract questions. In their writings_often private letters or diaries_and in their lectures, the Stoics struggled to come up with real, actionable answers. They ultimately framed their work around a series of exercises in three critical disciplines: The Discipline of Perception (how we see and perceive the world around us) The Discipline of Action (the decisions and actions we take_and to what end) The Discipline of Will (how we deal with the things we cannot change, attain clear and convincing judgment, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world) By controlling our perceptions, the Stoics tell us, we can find mental clarity. In directing our actions properly and justly, we_ll be effective. In utilizing and aligning our will, we will find the wisdom and perspective to deal with anything the world puts before us. It was their belief that by strengthening themselves and their fellow citizens in these disciplines, they could cultivate resilience, purpose, and even joy. Born in the tumultuous ancient world, Stoicism took aim at the unpredictable nature of everyday life and offered a set of practical tools meant for daily use. Our modern world may seem radically different than the painted porch (Stoa Poikil?) of the Athenian Agora and the Forum and court of Rome. But the Stoics took great pains to remind themselves (see November 10th) that they weren_t facing things any different than their own forebears did, and that the future wouldn_t radically alter the nature and end of human existence. One day is as all days, as the Stoics liked to say. And it_s still true. Which brings us to where we are right now. A PHILOSOPHICAL BOOK FOR THE PHILOSOPHICAL LIFE Some of us are stressed. Others are overworked. Perhaps you_re struggling with the new responsibilities of parenthood. Or the chaos of a new venture. Or are you already successful and grappling with the duties of power or influence? Wrestling with an addiction? Deeply in love? Or moving from one flawed relationship to another? Are you approaching your golden years? Or enjoying the spoils of youth? Busy and active? Or bored out of your mind? Whatever it is, whatever you_re going through, there is wisdom from the Stoics that can help. In fact, in many cases they have addressed it explicitly in terms that feel shockingly modern. That_s what we_re going to focus on in this book. Drawing directly from the Stoic canon, we present a selection of original translations of the greatest passages from the three major figures of late Stoicism_Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius_along with a few assorted sayings from their Stoic predecessors (Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Musonius, Hecato). Accompanying each quotation is our attempt to tell a story, provide context, ask a question, prompt an exercise, or explain the perspective of the Stoic who said it so that you may find deeper understanding of whatever answers you are seeking. The works of the Stoics have always been fresh and current, regardless of the historical ebb and flow of their popularity. It was not our intention with this book to fix them or modernize them or freshen them up (there are many excellent translations out there). Instead, we sought to organize and present the vast collective wisdom of the Stoics into as digestible, accessible, and coherent a form as possible. One can_and should_pick up the original works of the Stoics in whole form (see Suggestions for Further Reading in the back of this book). In the meantime, here, for the busy and active reader, we have attempted to produce a daily devotional that is as functional and to the point as the philosophers behind it. And in the Stoic tradition, we_ve added material to provoke and facilitate the asking of big questions. Organized along the lines of the three disciplines (Perception, Action, and Will) and then further divided into important themes within those disciplines, you_ll find that each month will stress a particular trait and each day will offer a new way to think or act. The areas of great interest to the Stoics all make an appearance here: virtue, mortality, emotions, self-awareness, fortitude, right action, problem solving, acceptance, mental clarity, pragmatism, unbiased thought, and duty. The Stoics were pioneers of the morning and nightly rituals: preparation in the morning, reflection in the evening. We_ve written this book to be helpful with both. One meditation per day for every day of the year (including an extra day for leap years!). If you feel so inclined, pair it with a notebook to record and articulate your thoughts and reactions (see January 21st and 22nd and December 22nd), just as the Stoics often did. The aim of this hands-on approach to philosophy is to help you live a better life. It is our hope that there is not a word in this book that can_t or shouldn_t, to paraphrase Seneca, be turned into works. To that end, we offer this book. JANUARY CLARITY January 1st CONTROL AND CHOICE _The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . ._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4_5 T he single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can_t. What we have influence over and what we do not. A flight is delayed because of weather_no amount of yelling at an airline representative will end a storm. No amount of wishing will make you taller or shorter or born in a different country. No matter how hard you try, you can_t make someone like you. And on top of that, time spent hurling yourself at these immovable objects is time not spent on the things we can change. The recovery community practices something called the Serenity Prayer: _God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference._ Addicts cannot change the abuse suffered in childhood. They cannot undo the choices they have made or the hurt they have caused. But they can change the future_through the power they have in the present moment. As Epictetus said, they can control the choices they make right now. The same is true for us today. If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle. January 2nd EDUCATION IS FREEDOM _What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated_tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.1.21_23a W hy did you pick up this book? Why pick up any book? Not to seem smarter, not to pass time on the plane, not to hear what you want to hear_there are plenty of easier choices than reading. No, you picked up this book because you are learning how to live. Because you want to be freer, fear less, and achieve a state of peace. Education_reading and meditating on the wisdom of great minds_is not to be done for its own sake. It has a purpose. Remember that imperative on the days you start to feel distracted, when watching television or having a snack seems like a better use of your time than reading or studying philosophy. Knowledge_self-knowledge in particular_is freedom. January 3rd BE RUTHLESS TO THE THINGS THAT DON_T MATTER _How many have laid waste to your life when you weren_t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements_how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!_ _SENECA, ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, 3.3b O ne of the hardest things to do in life is to say _No._ To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust. None of these impulses feels like a big deal by itself, but run amok, they become a commitment like anything else. If you_re not careful, these are precisely the impositions that will overwhelm and consume your life. Do you ever wonder how you can get some of your time back, how you can feel less busy? Start by learning the power of _No!__as in _No, thank you,_ and _No, I_m not going to get caught up in that,_ and _No, I just can_t right now._ It may hurt some feelings. It may turn people off. It may take some hard work.But the more you say no to the things that don_t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do. This will let you live and enjoy your life_the life that you want. January 4th THE BIG THREE _All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.6 P erception, Action, Will. Those are the three overlapping but critical disciplines of Stoicism (as well as the organization of this book and yearlong journey you_ve just begun). There_s more to the philosophy certainly_and we could spend all day talking about the unique beliefs of the various Stoics: _This is what Heraclitus thought . . ._ _Zeno is from Citium, a city in Cyprus, and he believed . . ._ But would such facts really help you day to day? What clarity does trivia provide? Instead, the following little reminder sums up the three most essential parts of Stoic philosophy worth carrying with you every day, into every decision: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what_s outside your control. That_s all we need to do. January 5th CLARIFY YOUR INTENTIONS _Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It_s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad._ _SENECA, ON TRANQUILITY OF MIND, 12.5 L aw 29 of The 48 Laws of Power is: Plan All The Way To The End. Robert Greene writes, _By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead._ The second habit in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is: begin with an end in mind. Having an end in mind is no guarantee that you_ll reach it_no Stoic would tolerate that assumption_but not having an end in mind is a guarantee you won_t. To the Stoics, oi?sis (false conceptions) are responsible not just for disturbances in the soul but for chaotic and dysfunctional lives and operations. When your efforts are not directed at a cause or a purpose, how will you know what to do day in and day out? How will you know what to say no to and what to say yes to? How will you know when you_ve had enough, when you_ve reached your goal, when you_ve gotten off track, if you_ve never defined what those things are? The answer is that you cannot. And so you are driven into failure_or worse, into madness by the oblivion of directionlessness. January 6th WHERE, WHO, WHAT, AND WHY _A person who doesn_t know what the universe is, doesn_t know where they are. A person who doesn_t know their purpose in life doesn_t know who they are or what the universe is. A person who doesn_t know any one of these things doesn_t know why they are here. So what to make of people who seek or avoid the praise of those who have no knowledge of where or who they are?_ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.52 T he late comedian Mitch Hedberg had a funny story he told in his act. Sitting down for an on-air interview, a radio DJ asked him, _So, who are you?_ In that moment, he had to think, Is this guy really deep or did I drive to the wrong station? How often are we asked a simple question like _Who are you?_ or _What do you do?_ or _Where are you from?_ Considering it a superficial question_if we even consider it at all_we don_t bother with more than a superficial answer. But, gun to their head, most people couldn_t give much in the way of a substantive answer. Could you? Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths? January 7th SEVEN CLEAR FUNCTIONS OF THE MIND _The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind_s proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.11.6_7 Let_s break down each one of those tasks: Choice_to do and think right Refusal_of temptation Yearning_to be better Repulsion_of negativity, of bad influences, of what isn_t true Preparation_for what lies ahead or whatever may happen Purpose_our guiding principle and highest priority Assent_to be free of deception about what_s inside and outside our control (and be ready to accept the latter) This is what the mind is here to do. We must make sure that it does_and see everything else as pollution or a corruption. January 8th SEEING OUR ADDICTIONS _We must give up many things to which we are addicted, considering them to be good. Otherwise, courage will vanish, which should continually test itself. Greatness of soul will be lost, which can_t stand out unless it disdains as petty what the mob regards as most desirable. _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 74.12b_13 W hat we consider to be harmless indulgences can easily become full-blown addictions. We start with coffee in the morning, and soon enough we can_t start the day without it. We check our email because it_s part of our job, and soon enough we feel the phantom buzz of the phone in our pocket every few seconds. Soon enough, these harmless habits are running our lives. The little compulsions and drives we have not only chip away at our freedom and sovereignty, they cloud our clarity. We think we_re in control_but are we really? As one addict put it, addiction is when we_ve _lost the freedom to abstain._ Let us reclaim that freedom. What that addiction is for you can vary: Soda? Drugs? Complaining? Gossip? The Internet? Biting your nails? But you must reclaim the ability to abstain because within it is your clarity and self-control. January 9th WHAT WE CONTROL AND WHAT WE DON_T _Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don_t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing. Even more, the things in our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unobstructed, while those not in our control are weak, slavish, can be hindered, and are not our own._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 1.1_2 T oday, you won_t control the external events that happen. Is that scary? A little, but it_s balanced when we see that we can control our opinion about those events. You decide whether they_re good or bad, whether they_re fair or unfair. You don_t control the situation, but you control what you think about it. See how that works? Every single thing that is outside your control_the outside world, other people, luck, karma, whatever_still presents a corresponding area that is in your control. This alone gives us plenty to manage, plenty of power. Best of all, an honest understanding of what is within our control provides real clarity about the world: all we have is our own mind. Remember that today when you try to extend your reach outward_that it_s much better and more appropriately directed inward. January 10th IF YOU WANT TO BE STEADY _The essence of good is a certain kind of reasoned choice; just as the essence of evil is another kind. What about externals, then? They are only the raw material for our reasoned choice, which finds its own good or evil in working with them. How will it find the good? Not by marveling at the material! For if judgments about the material are straight that makes our choices good, but if those judgments are twisted, our choices turn bad._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.29.1_3 T he Stoics seek steadiness, stability, and tranquility_traits most of us aspire to but seem to experience only fleetingly. How do they accomplish this elusive goal? How does one embody eustatheia (the word Arrian used to describe this teaching of Epictetus)? Well, it_s not luck. It_s not by eliminating outside influences or running away to quiet and solitude. Instead, it_s about filtering the outside world through the straightener of our judgment. That_s what our reason can do_it can take the crooked, confusing, and overwhelming nature of external events and make them orderly. However, if our judgments are crooked because we don_t use reason, then everything that follows will be crooked, and we will lose our ability to steady ourselves in the chaos and rush of life. If you want to be steady, if you want clarity, proper judgment is the best way. January 11th IF YOU WANT TO BE UNSTEADY _For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful, and unstable._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.1.12 T he image of the Zen philosopher is the monk up in the green, quiet hills, or in a beautiful temple on some rocky cliff. The Stoics are the antithesis of this idea. Instead, they are the man in the marketplace, the senator in the Forum, the brave wife waiting for her soldier to return from battle, the sculptor busy in her studio. Still, the Stoic is equally at peace. Epictetus is reminding you that serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility_other people, external events, stress_you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be. January 12th THE ONE PATH TO SERENITY _Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night_there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.4.39 T his morning, remind yourself of what is in your control and what_s not in your control. Remind yourself to focus on the former and not the latter. Before lunch, remind yourself that the only thing you truly possess is your ability to make choices (and to use reason and judgment when doing so). This is the only thing that can never be taken from you completely. In the afternoon, remind yourself that aside from the choices you make, your fate is not entirely up to you. The world is spinning and we spin along with it_whichever direction, good or bad. In the evening, remind yourself again how much is outside of your control and where your choices begin and end. As you lie in bed, remember that sleep is a form of surrender and trust and how easily it comes. And prepare to start the whole cycle over again tomorrow. January 13th CIRCLE OF CONTROL _We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What_s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country_anything with which we might associate._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.22.10 T his is important enough that it bears repeating: a wise person knows what_s inside their circle of control and what is outside of it. The good news is that it_s pretty easy to remember what is inside our control. According to the Stoics, the circle of control contains just one thing: YOUR MIND. That_s right, even your physical body isn_t completely within the circle. After all, you could be struck with a physical illness or impairment at any moment. You could be traveling in a foreign country and be thrown in jail. But this is all good news because it drastically reduces the amount of things that you need to think about. There is clarity in simplicity. While everyone else is running around with a list of responsibilities a mile long_things they_re not actually responsible for_you_ve got just that one-item list. You_ve got just one thing to manage: your choices, your will, your mind. So mind it. January 14th CUT THE STRINGS THAT PULL YOUR MIND _Understand at last that you have something in you more powerful and divine than what causes the bodily passions and pulls you like a mere puppet. What thoughts now occupy my mind? Is it not fear, suspicion, desire, or something like that?_ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 12.19 T hink of all the interests vying for a share of your wallet or for a second of your attention. Food scientists are engineering products to exploit your taste buds. Silicon Valley engineers are designing applications as addictive as gambling. The media is manufacturing stories to provoke outrage and anger. These are just a small slice of the temptations and forces acting on us_distracting us and pulling us away from the things that truly matter. Marcus, thankfully, was not exposed to these extreme parts of our modern culture. But he knew plenty of distracting sinkholes too: gossip, the endless call of work, as well as fear, suspicion, lust. Every human being is pulled by these internal and external forces that are increasingly more powerful and harder to resist. Philosophy is simply asking us to pay careful attention and to strive to be more than a pawn. As Viktor Frankl puts it in The Will to Meaning, _Man is pushed by drives but pulled by values._ These values and inner awareness prevent us from being puppets. Sure, paying attention requires work and awareness, but isn_t that better than being jerked about on a string? January 15th PEACE IS IN STAYING THE COURSE _Tranquility can_t be grasped except by those who have reached an unwavering and firm power of judgment_the rest constantly fall and rise in their decisions, wavering in a state of alternately rejecting and accepting things. What is the cause of this back and forth? It_s because nothing is clear and they rely on the most uncertain guide_common opinion._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 95.57b_58a I n Seneca_s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as _believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction._ It is this state of mind, he says, that produces tranquility. Clarity of vision allows us to have this belief. That_s not to say we_re always going to be 100 percent certain of everything, or that we even should be. Rather, it_s that we can rest assured we_re heading generally in the right direction_that we don_t need to constantly compare ourselves with other people or change our mind every three seconds based on new information. Instead, tranquility and peace are found in identifying our path and in sticking to it: staying the course_making adjustments here and there, naturally_but ignoring the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks. January 16th NEVER DO ANYTHING OUT OF HABIT _So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I_ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving._ _MUSONIUS RUFUS, LECTURES, 6.25.5_11 A worker is asked: _Why did you do it this way?_ The answer, _Because that_s the way we_ve always done things._ The answer frustrates every good boss and sets the mouth of every entrepreneur watering. The worker has stopped thinking and is mindlessly operating out of habit. The business is ripe for disruption by a competitor, and the worker will probably get fired by any thinking boss. We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do_do it for the right reasons. January 17th REBOOT THE REAL WORK _I am your teacher and you are learning in my school. My aim is to bring you to completion, unhindered, free from compulsive behavior, unrestrained, without shame, free, flourishing, and happy, looking to God in things great and small_your aim is to learn and diligently practice all these things. Why then don_t you complete the work, if you have the right aim and I have both the right aim and right preparation? What is missing? . . . The work is quite feasible, and is the only thing in our power. . . . Let go of the past. We must only begin. Believe me and you will see._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.19.29_34 D o you remember, in school or early in your life, being afraid to try something because you feared you might fail at it? Most teenagers choose to fool around rather than exert themselves. Halfhearted, lazy effort gives them a ready-made excuse: _It doesn_t matter. I wasn_t even trying._ As we get older, failure is not so inconsequential anymore. What_s at stake is not some arbitrary grade or intramural sports trophy, but the quality of your life and your ability to deal with the world around you. Don_t let that intimidate you, though. You have the best teachers in the world: the wisest philosophers who ever lived. And not only are you capable, the professor is asking for something very simple: just begin the work. The rest follows. January 18th SEE THE WORLD LIKE A POET AND AN ARTIST _Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.48.2 T here are some stunningly beautiful turns of phrase in Marcus_s Meditations_a surprising treat considering the intended audience (just himself). In one passage, he praises the _charm and allure_ of nature_s process, the _stalks of ripe grain bending low, the frowning brow of the lion, the foam dripping from the boar_s mouth._ We should thank private rhetoric teacher Marcus Cornelius Fronto for the imagery in these vivid passages. Fronto, widely considered to be Rome_s best orator besides Cicero, was chosen by Marcus_s adopted father to teach Marcus to think and write and speak. More than just pretty phrases, they gave him_and now us_a powerful perspective on ordinary or seemingly unbeautiful events. It takes an artist_s eye to see that the end of life is not unlike a ripe fruit falling from its tree. It takes a poet to notice the way _baking bread splits in places and those cracks, while not intended in the baker_s art, catch our eye and serve to stir our appetite_ and find a metaphor in them. There is clarity (and joy) in seeing what others can_t see, in finding grace and harmony in places others overlook. Isn_t that far better than seeing the world as some dark place? January 19th WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOUR CHOICE IS _A podium and a prison is each a place, one high and the other low, but in either place your freedom of choice can be maintained if you so wish._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.6.25 T he Stoics all held vastly different stations in life. Some were rich, some were born at the bottom of Rome_s rigid hierarchy. Some had it easy, and others had it unimaginably hard. This is true for us as well_we all come to philosophy from different backgrounds, and even within our own lives we experience bouts of good fortune and bad fortune. But in all circumstances_adversity or advantage_we really have just one thing we need to do: focus on what is in our control as opposed to what is not. Right now we might be laid low with struggles, whereas just a few years ago we might have lived high on the hog, and in just a few days we might be doing so well that success is actually a burden. One thing will stay constant: our freedom of choice_both in the big picture and small picture. Ultimately, this is clarity. Whoever we are, wherever we are_what matters is our choices. What are they? How will we evaluate them? How will we make the most of them? Those are the questions life asks us, regardless of our station. How will you answer? January 20th REIGNITE YOUR THOUGHTS _Your principles can_t be extinguished unless you snuff out the thoughts that feed them, for it_s continually in your power to reignite new ones. . . . It_s possible to start living again! See things anew as you once did_that is how to restart life!_ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.2 H ave you had a bad couple of weeks? Have you been drifting away from the principles and beliefs that you hold dear? It_s perfectly fine. It happens to all of us. In fact, it probably happened to Marcus_that may be why he scribbled this note to himself. Perhaps he_d been dealing with difficult senators or having difficulties with his troubled son. Perhaps in these scenarios he_d lost his temper, became depressed, or stopped checking in with himself. Who wouldn_t? But the reminder here is that no matter what happens, no matter how disappointing our behavior has been in the past, the principles themselves remain unchanged. We can return and embrace them at any moment. What happened yesterday_what happened five minutes ago_is the past. We can reignite and restart whenever we like. Why not do it right now? January 21st A MORNING RITUAL _Ask yourself the following first thing in the morning: _What am I lacking in attaining freedom from passion? _What for tranquility? _What am I? A mere body, estate-holder, or reputation? None of these things. _What, then? A rational being. _What then is demanded of me? Meditate on your actions. _How did I steer away from serenity? _What did I do that was unfriendly, unsocial, or uncaring? _What did I fail to do in all these things?_ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.6.34_35 M any successful people have a morning ritual. For some, it_s meditation. For others, it_s exercise. For many, it_s journaling_just a few pages where they write down their thoughts, fears, hopes. In these cases, the point is not so much the activity itself as it is the ritualized reflection. The idea is to take some time to look inward and examine. Taking that time is what Stoics advocated more than almost anything else. We don_t know whether Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations in the morning or at night, but we know he carved out moments of quiet alone time_and that he wrote for himself, not for anyone else. If you_re looking for a place to start your own ritual, you could do worse than Marcus_s example and Epictetus_s checklist. Every day, starting today, ask yourself these same tough questions. Let philosophy and hard work guide you to better answers, one morning at a time, over the course of a life. January 22nd THE DAY IN REVIEW _I will keep constant watch over myself and_most usefully_will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil_that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 83.2 I n a letter to his older brother Novatus, Seneca describes a beneficial exercise he borrowed from another prominent philosopher. At the end of each day he would ask himself variations of the following questions: What bad habit did I curb today? How am I better? Were my actions just? How can I improve? At the beginning or end of each day, the Stoic sits down with his journal and reviews: what he did, what he thought, what could be improved. It_s for this reason that Marcus Aurelius_s Meditations is a somewhat inscrutable book_it was for personal clarity and not public benefit. Writing down Stoic exercises was and is also a form of practicing them, just as repeating a prayer or hymn might be. Keep your own journal, whether it_s saved on a computer or in a little notebook. Take time to consciously recall the events of the previous day. Be unflinching in your assessments. Notice what contributed to your happiness and what detracted from it. Write down what you_d like to work on or quotes that you like. By making the effort to record such thoughts, you_re less likely to forget them. An added bonus: you_ll have a running tally to track your progress too. January 23rd THE TRUTH ABOUT MONEY _Let_s pass over to the really rich_how often the occasions they look just like the poor! When they travel abroad they must restrict their baggage, and when haste is necessary, they dismiss their entourage. And those who are in the army, how few of their possessions they get to keep . . ._ _SENECA, ON CONSOLATION TO HELVIA, 12. 1.b_2 T he author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who often glamorized the lifestyles of the rich and famous in books like The Great Gatsby, opens one of his short stories with the now classic lines: _Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me._ A few years after this story was published, his friend Ernest Hemingway teased Fitzgerald by writing, _Yes, they have more money._ That_s what Seneca is reminding us. As someone who was one of the richest men in Rome, he knew firsthand that money only marginally changes life. It doesn_t solve the problems that people without it seem to think it will. In fact, no material possession will. External things can_t fix internal issues. We constantly forget this_and it causes us so much confusion and pain. As Hemingway would later write of Fitzgerald, _He thought [the rich] were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren_t it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him._ Without a change the same will be true for us. January 24th PUSH FOR DEEP UNDERSTANDING _From Rusticus . . . I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 1.7.3 T he first book of Marcus Aurelius_s Meditations begins with a catalog of gratitude. He thanks, one by one, the leading influences in his life. One of the people he thanks is Quintus Junius Rusticus, a teacher who developed in his student a love of deep clarity and understanding_a desire to not just stop at the surface when it comes to learning. It was also from Rusticus that Marcus was introduced to Epictetus. In fact, Rusticus loaned Marcus his personal copy of Epictetus_s lectures. Marcus clearly wasn_t satisfied with just getting the gist of these lectures and didn_t simply accept them on his teacher_s recommendation. Paul Johnson once joked that Edmund Wilson read books _as though the author was on trial for his life._ That_s how Marcus read Epictetus_and when the lessons passed muster, he absorbed them. They became part of his DNA as a human being. He quoted them at length over the course of his life, finding real clarity and strength in words, even amid the immense luxury and power he would come to possess. That_s the kind of deep reading and study we need to cultivate as well, which is why we_re reading just one page a day instead of a chapter at a time. So we can take the time to read attentively and deeply. January 25th THE ONLY PRIZE _What_s left to be prized? This, I think_to limit our action or inaction to only what_s in keeping with the needs of our own preparation . . . it_s what the exertions of education and teaching are all about_here is the thing to be prized! If you hold this firmly, you_ll stop trying to get yourself all the other things. . . . If you don_t, you won_t be free, self-sufficient, or liberated from passion, but necessarily full of envy, jealousy, and suspicion for any who have the power to take them, and you_ll plot against those who do have what you prize. . . . But by having some self-respect for your own mind and prizing it, you will please yourself and be in better harmony with your fellow human beings, and more in tune with the gods_praising everything they have set in order and allotted you._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.16.2b_4a W arren Buffett, whose net worth is approximately $65 billion, lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500. John Urschel, a lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, makes millions but manages to live on $25,000 a year. San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard gets around in the 1997 Chevy Tahoe he_s had since he was a teenager, even with a contract worth some $94 million. Why? It_s not because these men are cheap. It_s because the things that matter to them are cheap. Neither Buffett nor Urschel nor Leonard ended up this way by accident. Their lifestyle is the result of prioritizing. They cultivate interests that are decidedly below their financial means, and as a result, any income would allow them freedom to pursue the things they most care about. It just happens that they became wealthy beyond any expectation. This kind of clarity_about what they love most in the world_means they can enjoy their lives. It means they_d still be happy even if the markets were to turn or their careers were cut short by injury. The more things we desire and the more we have to do to earn or attain those achievements, the less we actually enjoy our lives_and the less free we are. January 26th THE POWER OF A MANTRA _Erase the false impressions from your mind by constantly saying to yourself, I have it in my soul to keep out any evil, desire or any kind of disturbance_instead, seeing the true nature of things, I will give them only their due. Always remember this power that nature gave you._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.29 A nyone who has taken a yoga class or been exposed to Hindu or Buddhist thought has probably heard of the concept of a mantra. In Sanskrit, it means _sacred utterance__essentially a word, a phrase, a thought, even a sound_intended to provide clarity or spiritual guidance. A mantra can be especially helpful in the meditative process because it allows us to block out everything else while we focus. It_s fitting, then, that Marcus Aurelius would suggest this Stoic mantra_a reminder or watch phrase to use when we feel false impressions, distractions, or the crush of everyday life upon us. It says, essentially, _I have the power within me to keep that out. I can see the truth._ Change the wording as you like. That part is up to you. But have a mantra and use it to find the clarity you crave. January 27th THE THREE AREAS OF TRAINING _There are three areas in which the person who would be wise and good must be trained. The first has to do with desires and aversions_that a person may never miss the mark in desires nor fall into what repels them. The second has to do with impulses to act and not to act_and more broadly, with duty_that a person may act deliberately for good reasons and not carelessly. The third has to do with freedom from deception and composure and the whole area of judgment, the assent our mind gives to its perceptions. Of these areas, the chief and most urgent is the first which has to do with the passions, for strong emotions arise only when we fail in our desires and aversions._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.2.1_3a T oday, let_s focus on the three areas of training that Epictetus laid out for us. First, we must consider what we should desire and what we should be averse to. Why? So that we want what is good and avoid what is bad. It_s not enough to just listen to your body_because our attractions often lead us astray. Next, we must examine our impulses to act_that is, our motivations. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Or do we act because we haven_t stopped to think? Or do we believe that we have to do something? Finally, there is our judgment. Our ability to see things clearly and properly comes when we use our great gift from nature: reason. These are three distinct areas of training, but in practice they are inextricably intertwined. Our judgment affects what we desire, our desires affect how we act, just as our judgment determines how we act. But we can_t just expect this to happen. We must put real thought and energy into each area of our lives. If we do, we_ll find real clarity and success. January 28th WATCHING THE WISE _Take a good hard look at people_s ruling principle, especially of the wise, what they run away from and what they seek out._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.38 S eneca has said, _Without a ruler to do it against, you can_t make crooked straight._ That is the role of wise people in our lives_to serve as model and inspiration. To bounce our ideas off and test our presumptions. Who that person will be for you is up to you. Perhaps it_s your father or your mother. Maybe it_s a philosopher or a writer or a thinker. Perhaps WWJD (What would Jesus do?) is the right model for you. But pick someone, watch what they do (and what they don_t do), and do your best to do the same. January 29th KEEP IT SIMPLE _At every moment keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand, as a Roman and human being, doing it with strict and simple dignity, affection, freedom, and justice_giving yourself a break from all other considerations. You can do this if you approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint over your fair share. You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life_for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won_t ask for more._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.5 E ach day presents the chance to overthink things. What should I wear? Do they like me? Am I eating well enough? What_s next for me in life? Is my boss happy with my work? Today, let_s focus just on what_s in front of us. We_ll follow the dictum that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives his players: _Do your job._ Like a Roman, like a good soldier, like a master of our craft. We don_t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people_s business. Marcus says to approach each task as if it were your last, because it very well could be. And even if it isn_t, botching what_s right in front of you doesn_t help anything. Find clarity in the simplicity of doing your job today. January 30th YOU DON_T HAVE TO STAY ON TOP OF EVERYTHING _If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters_don_t wish to seem knowledgeable. And if some regard you as important, distrust yourself._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 13a O ne of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in our hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: _I don_t know._ Or, more provocatively: _I don_t care._ Most of society seems to have taken it as a commandment that one must know about every single current event, watch every episode of every critically acclaimed television series, follow the news religiously, and present themselves to others as an informed and worldly individual. But where is the evidence that this is actually necessary? Is the obligation enforced by the police? Or is it that you_re just afraid of seeming silly at a dinner party? Yes, you owe it to your country and your family to know generally about events that may directly affect them, but that_s about all. How much more time, energy, and pure brainpower would you have available if you drastically cut your media consumption? How much more rested and present would you feel if you were no longer excited and outraged by every scandal, breaking story, and potential crisis (many of which never come to pass anyway)? January 31st PHILOSOPHY AS MEDICINE OF THE SOUL _Don_t return to philosophy as a task-master, but as patients seek out relief in a treatment of sore eyes, or a dressing for a burn, or from an ointment. Regarding it this way, you_ll obey reason without putting it on display and rest easy in its care._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 5.9 T he busier we get, the more we work and learn and read, the further we may drift. We get in a rhythm. We_re making money, being creative, and we_re stimulated and busy. It seems like everything is going well. But we drift further and further from philosophy. Eventually this neglect will contribute to a problem_the stress builds up, our mind gets cloudy, we forget what_s important_and result in an injury of some kind. When that happens, it_s important that we tap the brakes_put aside all the momentum and the moment. Return to the regimen and practices that we know are rooted in clarity, good judgment, good principles, and good health. Stoicism is designed to be medicine for the soul. It relieves us of the vulnerabilities of modern life. It restores us with the vigor we need to thrive in life. Check in with it today, and let it do its healing. FEBRUARY PASSIONS AND EMOTIONS February 1st FOR THE HOT-HEADED MAN _Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on_it isn_t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn_t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance_unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 11.18.5b W hy do athletes talk trash to each other? Why do they deliberately say offensive and nasty things to their competitors when the refs aren_t looking? To provoke a reaction. Distracting and angering opponents is an easy way to knock them off their game. Try to remember that when you find yourself getting mad. Anger is not impressive or tough_it_s a mistake. It_s weakness. Depending on what you_re doing, it might even be a trap that someone laid for you. Fans and opponents called boxer Joe Louis the _Ring Robot_ because he was utterly unemotional_his cold, calm demeanor was far more terrifying than any crazed look or emotional outburst would have been. Strength is the ability to maintain a hold of oneself. It_s being the person who never gets mad, who cannot be rattled, because they are in control of their passions_rather than controlled by their passions. February 2nd A PROPER FRAME OF MIND _Frame your thoughts like this_you are an old person, you won_t let yourself be enslaved by this any longer, no longer pulled like a puppet by every impulse, and you_ll stop complaining about your present fortune or dreading the future._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.2 W e resent the person who comes in and tries to boss us around. Don_t tell me how to dress, how to think, how to do my job, how to live. This is because we are independent, self-sufficient people. Or at least that_s what we tell ourselves. Yet if someone says something we disagree with, something inside us tells us we have to argue with them. If there_s a plate of cookies in front of us, we have to eat them. If someone does something we dislike, we have to get mad about it. When something bad happens, we have to be sad, depressed, or worried. But if something good happens a few minutes later, all of a sudden we_re happy, excited, and want more. We would never let another person jerk us around the way we let our impulses do. It_s time we start seeing it that way_that we_re not puppets that can be made to dance this way or that way just because we feel like it. We should be the ones in control, not our emotions, because we are independent, self-sufficient people. February 3rd THE SOURCE OF YOUR ANXIETY _When I see an anxious person, I ask myself, what do they want? For if a person wasn_t wanting something outside of their own control, why would they be stricken by anxiety?_ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.13.1 T he anxious father, worried about his children. What does he want? A world that is always safe. A frenzied traveler_what does she want? For the weather to hold and for traffic to part so she can make her flight. A nervous investor? That the market will turn around and an investment will pay off. All of these scenarios hold the same thing in common. As Epictetus says, it_s wanting something outside our control. Getting worked up, getting excited, nervously pacing_these intense, pained, and anxious moments show us at our most futile and servile. Staring at the clock, at the ticker, at the next checkout lane over, at the sky_it_s as if we all belong to a religious cult that believes the gods of fate will only give us what we want if we sacrifice our peace of mind. Today, when you find yourself getting anxious, ask yourself: Why are my insides twisted into knots? Am I in control here or is my anxiety? And most important: Is my anxiety doing me any good? February 4th ON BEING INVINCIBLE _Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.18.21 H ave you ever watched a seasoned pro handle the media? No question is too tough, no tone too pointed or insulting. They parry every blow with humor, poise, and patience. Even when stung or provoked, they choose not to flinch or react. They_re able to do this not only because of training and experience, but because they understand that reacting emotionally will only make the situation worse. The media is waiting for them to slip up or get upset, so to successfully navigate press events they have internalized the importance of keeping themselves under calm control. It_s unlikely you_ll face a horde of probing reporters bombarding you with insensitive questions today. But it might be helpful_whatever stresses or frustrations or overload that do come your way_to picture that image and use it as your model for dealing with them. Our reasoned choice_our prohairesis, as the Stoics called it_is a kind of invincibility that we can cultivate. We can shrug off hostile attacks and breeze through pressure or problems. And, like our model, when we finish, we can point back into the crowd and say, _Next!_ February 5th STEADY YOUR IMPULSES _Don_t be bounced around, but submit every impulse to the claims of justice, and protect your clear conviction in every appearance._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.22 T hink of the manic people in your life. Not the ones suffering from an unfortunate disorder, but the ones whose lives and choices are in disorder. Everything is soaring highs or crushing lows; the day is either amazing or awful. Aren_t those people exhausting? Don_t you wish they just had a filter through which they could test the good impulses versus the bad ones? There is such a filter. Justice. Reason. Philosophy. If there_s a central message of Stoic thought, it_s this: impulses of all kinds are going to come, and your work is to control them, like bringing a dog to heel. Put more simply: think before you act. Ask: Who is in control here? What principles are guiding me? February 6th DON_T SEEK OUT STRIFE _I don_t agree with those who plunge headlong into the middle of the flood and who, accepting a turbulent life, struggle daily in great spirit with difficult circumstances. The wise person will endure that, but won_t choose it_choosing to be at peace, rather than at war._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 28.7 I t has become a clich? to quote Theodore Roosevelt_s _Man in the Arena_ speech, which lionizes _the one whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . ._ compared with the critic who sits on the sidelines. Roosevelt gave that speech shortly after he left office, at the height of his popularity. In a few years, he would run against his former prot?g? in an attempt to retake the White House, losing badly and nearly assassinated in the process. He would also nearly die exploring a river in the Amazon, kill thousands of animals in African safaris, and then beg Woodrow Wilson to allow him to enlist in World War I despite being 59 years old. He would do a lot of things that seem somewhat baffling in retrospect. Theodore Roosevelt was a truly great man. But he was also driven by a compulsion, a work and activity addiction that was seemingly without end. Many of us share this affliction_being driven by something we can_t control. We_re afraid of being still, so we seek out strife and action as a distraction. We choose to be at war_in some cases, literally_when peace is in fact the more honorable and fitting choice. Yes, the man in the arena is admirable. As is the soldier and the politician and the businesswoman and all the other occupations. But, and this is a big but, only if we_re in the arena for the right reasons. February 7th FEAR IS A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY _Many are harmed by fear itself, and many may have come to their fate while dreading fate._ _SENECA, OEDIPUS, 992 _O nly the paranoid survive,_ Andy Grove, a former CEO of Intel, famously said. It might be true. But we also know that the paranoid often destroy themselves quicker and more spectacularly than any enemy. Seneca, with his access and insight into the most powerful elite in Rome, would have seen this dynamic play out quite vividly. Nero, the student whose excesses Seneca tried to curb, killed not only his own mother and wife but eventually turned on Seneca, his mentor, too. The combination of power, fear, and mania can be deadly. The leader, convinced that he might be betrayed, acts first and betrays others first. Afraid that he_s not well liked, he works so hard to get others to like him that it has the opposite effect. Convinced of mismanagement, he micromanages and becomes the source of the mismanagement. And on and on_the things we fear or dread, we blindly inflict on ourselves. The next time you are afraid of some supposedly disastrous outcome, remember that if you don_t control your impulses, if you lose your self-control, you may be the very source of the disaster you so fear. It has happened to smarter and more powerful and more successful people. It can happen to us too. February 8th DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER? _You cry, I_m suffering severe pain! Are you then relieved from feeling it, if you bear it in an unmanly way?_ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 78.17 T he next time someone gets upset near you_crying, yelling, breaking something, being pointed or cruel_watch how quickly this statement will stop them cold: _I hope this is making you feel better._ Because, of course, it isn_t. Only in the bubble of extreme emotion can we justify any of that kind of behavior_and when called to account for it, we usually feel sheepish or embarrassed. It_s worth applying that standard to yourself. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flulike symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask: Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually relieving any of the symptoms I wish were gone? February 9th YOU DON_T HAVE TO HAVE AN OPINION _We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind_for things have no natural power to shape our judgments._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.52 H ere_s a funny exercise: think about all the upsetting things you don_t know about_stuff people might have said about you behind your back, mistakes you might have made that never came to your attention, things you dropped or lost without even realizing it. What_s your reaction? You don_t have one because you don_t know about it. In other words, it is possible to hold no opinion about a negative thing. You just need to cultivate that power instead of wielding it accidentally. Especially when having an opinion is likely to make us aggravated. Practice the ability of having absolutely no thoughts about something_act as if you had no idea it ever occurred. Or that you_ve never heard of it before. Let it become irrelevant or nonexistent to you. It_ll be a lot less powerful this way. February 10th ANGER IS BAD FUEL _There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, none more insane_since it_s not driven back by weariness even in defeat, when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself._ _SENECA, ON ANGER, 3.1.5 A s the Stoics have said many times, getting angry almost never solves anything. Usually, it makes things worse. We get upset, then the other person gets upset_now everyone is upset, and the problem is no closer to getting solved. Many successful people will try to tell you that anger is a powerful fuel in their lives. The desire to _prove them all wrong_ or _shove it in their faces_ has made many a millionaire. The anger at being called fat or stupid has created fine physical specimens and brilliant minds. The anger at being rejected has motivated many to carve their own path. But that_s shortsighted. Such stories ignore the pollution produced as a side effect and the wear and tear it put on the engine. It ignores what happens when that initial anger runs out_and how now more and more must be generated to keep the machine going (until, eventually, the only source left is anger at oneself). _Hate is too great a burden to bear,_ Martin Luther King Jr. warned his fellow civil rights leaders in 1967, even though they had every reason to respond to hate with hate. The same is true for anger_in fact, it_s true for most extreme emotions. They are toxic fuel. There_s plenty of it out in the world, no question, but never worth the costs that come along with it. February 11th HERO OR NERO? _Our soul is sometimes a king, and sometimes a tyrant. A king, by attending to what is honorable, protects the good health of the body in its care, and gives it no base or sordid command. But an uncontrolled, desire-fueled, over-indulged soul is turned from a king into that most feared and detested thing_a tyrant._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 114.24 T here is that saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. At first glance, that_s true. Seneca_s pupil Nero and his litany of crimes and murders is a perfect example. Another emperor, Domitian, arbitrarily banished all philosophers from Rome (Epictetus was forced to flee as a result). Many of Rome_s emperors were tyrants. Yet, not many years later, Epictetus would become a close friend of another emperor, Hadrian, who would help Marcus Aurelius to the throne, one of the truest examples of a wise philosopher king. So it_s not so clear that power always corrupts. In fact, it looks like it comes down, in many ways, to the inner strength and self-awareness of individuals_what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference. The same is true for you. Both personally and professionally. Tyrant or king? Hero or Nero? Which will you be? February 12th PROTECT YOUR PEACE OF MIND _Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?_ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.3.6b_8 T he dysfunctional job that stresses you out, a contentious relationship, life in the spotlight. Stoicism, because it helps us manage and think through our emotional reactions, can make these kinds of situations easier to bear. It can help you manage and mitigate the triggers that seem to be so constantly tripped. But here_s a question: Why are you subjecting yourself to this? Is this really the environment you were made for? To be provoked by nasty emails and an endless parade of workplace problems? Our adrenal glands can handle only so much before they become exhausted. Shouldn_t you preserve them for life-and-death situations? So yes, use Stoicism to manage these difficulties. But don_t forget to ask: Is this really the life I want? Every time you get upset, a little bit of life leaves the body. Are these really the things on which you want to spend that priceless resource? Don_t be afraid to make a change_a big one. February 13th PLEASURE CAN BECOME PUNISHMENT _Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction you_d feel for abstaining altogether. However, if a seemingly appropriate time arises to act on it, don_t be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure_but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 34 S elf-control is a difficult thing, no question. Which is why a popular trick from dieting might be helpful. Some diets allow a _cheat day__one day per week in which dieters can eat anything and everything they want. Indeed, they_re encouraged to write a list during the week of all the foods they craved so they can enjoy them all at once as a treat (the thinking being that if you_re eating healthy six out of seven days, you_re still ahead). At first, this sounds like a dream, but anyone who has actually done this knows the truth: each cheat day you eat yourself sick and hate yourself afterward. Soon enough, you_re willingly abstaining from cheating at all. Because you don_t need it, and you definitely don_t want it. It_s not unlike a parent catching her child with cigarettes and forcing him to smoke the whole pack. It_s important to connect the so-called temptation with its actual effects. Once you understand that indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal. In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and the temptation becomes the regret. February 14th THINK BEFORE YOU ACT _For to be wise is only one thing_to fix our attention on our intelligence, which guides all things everywhere._ _HERACLITUS, QUOTED IN DIOGENES LAERTIUS, LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, 9.1 W hy did I do that? you_ve probably asked yourself. We all have. How could I have been so stupid? What was I thinking? You weren_t. That_s the problem. Within that head of yours is all the reason and intelligence you need. It_s making sure that it_s deferred to and utilized that_s the tough part. It_s making sure that your mind is in charge, not your emotions, not your immediate physical sensations, not your surging hormones. Fix your attention on your intelligence. Let it do its thing. February 15th ONLY BAD DREAMS _Clear your mind and get a hold on yourself and, as when awakened from sleep and realizing it was only a bad dream upsetting you, wake up and see that what_s there is just like those dreams._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.31 T he author Raymond Chandler was describing most of us when he wrote in a letter to his publisher, _I never looked back, although I had many uneasy periods looking forward._ Thomas Jefferson once joked in a letter to John Adams, _How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!_ And Seneca would put it best: _There is nothing so certain in our fears that_s not yet more certain in the fact that most of what we dread comes to nothing._ Many of the things that upset us, the Stoics believed, are a product of the imagination, not reality. Like dreams, they are vivid and realistic at the time but preposterous once we come out of it. In a dream, we never stop to think and say: _Does this make any sense?_ No, we go along with it. The same goes with our flights of anger or fear or other extreme emotions. Getting upset is like continuing the dream while you_re awake. The thing that provoked you wasn_t real_but your reaction was. And so from the fake comes real consequences. Which is why you need to wake up right now instead of creating a nightmare. February 16th DON_T MAKE THINGS HARDER THAN THEY NEED TO BE _If someone asks you how to write your name, would you bark out each letter? And if they get angry, would you then return the anger? Wouldn_t you rather gently spell out each letter for them? So then, remember in life that your duties are the sum of individual acts. Pay attention to each of these as you do your duty . . . just methodically complete your task._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.26 H ere_s a common scenario. You_re working with a frustrating coworker or a difficult boss. They ask you to do something and, because you dislike the messenger, you immediately object. There_s this problem or that one, or their request is obnoxious and rude. So you tell them, _No, I_m not going to do it._ Then they retaliate by not doing something that you had previously asked of them. And so the conflict escalates. Meanwhile, if you could step back and see it objectively, you_d probably see that not everything they_re asking for is unreasonable. In fact, some of it is pretty easy to do or is, at least, agreeable. And if you did it, it might make the rest of the tasks a bit more tolerable too. Pretty soon, you_ve done the entire thing. Life (and our job) is difficult enough. Let_s not make it harder by getting emotional about insignificant matters or digging in for battles we don_t actually care about. Let_s not let emotion get in the way of kath?kon, the simple, appropriate actions on the path to virtue. February 17th THE ENEMY OF HAPPINESS _It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don_t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn_t be hunger or thirst._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.24.17 I _ll be happy when I graduate, we tell ourselves. I_ll be happy when I get this promotion, when this diet pays off, when I have the money that my parents never had. Conditional happiness is what psychologists call this kind of thinking. Like the horizon, you can walk for miles and miles and never reach it. You won_t even get any closer. Eagerly anticipating some future event, passionately imagining something you desire, looking forward to some happy scenario_as pleasurable as these activities might seem, they ruin your chance at happiness here and now. Locate that yearning for more, better, someday and see it for what it is: the enemy of your contentment. Choose it or your happiness. As Epictetus says, the two are not compatible. February 18th PREPARE FOR THE STORM _This is the true athlete_the person in rigorous training against false impressions. Remain firm, you who suffer, don_t be kidnapped by your impressions! The struggle is great, the task divine_to gain mastery, freedom, happiness, and tranquility._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.18.27_28 E pictetus also used the metaphor of a storm, saying that our impressions are not unlike extreme weather that can catch us and whirl us about. When we get worked up or passionate about an issue, we can relate. But let_s think about the role of the weather in modern times. Today, we have forecasters and experts who can fairly accurately predict storm patterns. Today, we_re defenseless against a hurricane only if we refuse to prepare or heed the warnings. If we don_t have a plan, if we never learned how to put up the storm windows, we will be at the mercy of these external_and internal_elements. We_re still puny human beings compared with one-hundred-mile-per-hour winds, but we have the advantage of being able to prepare_being able to struggle against them in a new way. February 19th THE BANQUET OF LIFE _Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don_t stop it. It hasn_t yet come? Don_t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth_one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 15 T he next time you see something you want, remember Epictetus_s metaphor of life_s banquet. As you find yourself getting excited, ready to do anything and everything to get it_the equivalent of reaching across the table and grabbing a dish out of someone_s hands_just remind yourself: that_s bad manners and unnecessary. Then wait patiently for your turn. This metaphor has other interpretations too. For instance, we might reflect that we_re lucky to have been invited to such a wonderful feast (gratitude). Or that we should take our time and savor the taste of what_s on offer (enjoying the present moment) but that to stuff ourselves sick with food and drink serves no one, least of all our health (gluttony is a deadly sin, after all). That at the end of the meal, it_s rude not to help the host clean up and do the dishes (selflessness). And finally, that next time, it_s our turn to host and treat others just as we had been treated (charity). Enjoy the meal! February 20th THE GRAND PARADE OF DESIRE _Robbers, perverts, killers, and tyrants_gather for your inspection their so-called pleasures!_ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.34 I t_s never great to judge other people, but it_s worth taking a second to investigate how a life dedicated to indulging every whim actually works out. The writer Anne Lamott jokes in Bird by Bird, _Ever wonder what God thinks of money? Just look at the people he gives it to._ The same goes for pleasure. Look at the dictator and his harem filled with plotting, manipulative mistresses. Look how quickly the partying of a young starlet turns to drug addiction and a stalled career. Ask yourself: Is that really worth it? Is it really that pleasurable? Consider that when you crave something or contemplate indulging in a _harmless_ vice. February 21st WISH NOT, WANT NOT _Remember that it_s not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel, and learning. It doesn_t matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another . . . where our heart is set, there our impediment lies._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.4.1_2; 15 S urely, Epictetus isn_t saying that peace, leisure, travel, and learning are bad, is he? Thankfully, no. But ceaseless, ardent desire_if not bad in and of itself_is fraught with potential complications. What we desire makes us vulnerable. Whether it_s an opportunity to travel the world or to be the president or for five minutes of peace and quiet, when we pine for something, when we hope against hope, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Because fate can always intervene and then we_ll likely lose our self-control in response. As Diogenes, the famous Cynic, once said, _It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little._ To want nothing makes one invincible_because nothing lies outside your control. This doesn_t just go for not wanting the easy-to-criticize things like wealth or fame_the kinds of folly that we see illustrated in some of our most classic plays and fables. That green light that Gatsby strove for can represent seemingly good things too, like love or a noble cause. But it can wreck someone all the same. When it comes to your goals and the things you strive for, ask yourself: Am I in control of them or they in control of me? February 22nd WHAT_S BETTER LEFT UNSAID _Cato practiced the kind of public speech capable of moving the masses, believing proper political philosophy takes care like any great city to maintain the warlike element. But he was never seen practicing in front of others, and no one ever heard him rehearse a speech. When he was told that people blamed him for his silence, he replied, _Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I_m certain what I_ll say isn_t better left unsaid.__ _PLUTARCH, CATO THE YOUNGER, 4 I t_s easy to act_to just dive in. It_s harder to stop, to pause, to think: No, I_m not sure I need to do that yet. I_m not sure I am ready. As Cato entered politics, many expected swift and great things from him_stirring speeches, roaring condemnations, wise analyses. He was aware of this pressure_a pressure that exists on all of us at all times_and resisted. It_s easy to pander to the mob (and to our ego). Instead, he waited and prepared. He parsed his own thoughts, made sure he was not reacting emotionally, selfishly, ignorantly, or prematurely. Only then would he speak_when he was confident that his words were worthy of being heard. To do this requires awareness. It requires us to stop and evaluate ourselves honestly. Can you do that? February 23rd CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE NO CARE FOR OUR FEELINGS _You shouldn_t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don_t care at all._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.38 A significant chunk of Marcus Aurelius_s Meditations is made up of short quotes and passages from other writers. This is because Marcus wasn_t necessarily trying to produce an original work_instead he was practicing, reminding himself here and there of important lessons, and sometimes these lessons were things he had read. This particular quote is special because it comes from a play by Euripides, which, except for a handful of quoted fragments like this, is lost to us. From what we can gather about the play, Bellerophon, the hero, comes to doubt the existence of the gods. But in this line, he is saying: Why bother getting mad at causes and forces far bigger than us? Why do we take these things personally? After all, external events are not sentient beings_they cannot respond to our shouts and cries_and neither can the mostly indifferent gods. That_s what Marcus was reminding himself of here: circumstances are incapable of considering or caring for your feelings, your anxiety, or your excitement. They don_t care about your reaction. They are not people. So stop acting like getting worked up is having an impact on a given situation. Situations don_t care at all. February 24th THE REAL SOURCE OF HARM _Keep in mind that it isn_t the one who has it in for you and takes a swipe that harms you, but rather the harm comes from your own belief about the abuse. So when someone arouses your anger, know that it_s really your own opinion fueling it. Instead, make it your first response not to be carried away by such impressions, for with time and distance self-mastery is more easily achieved._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 20 T he Stoics remind us that there really is no such thing as an objectively good or bad occurrence. When a billionaire loses $1 million in market fluctuation, it_s not the same as when you or I lose a million dollars. Criticism from your worst enemy is received differently than negative words from a spouse. If someone sends you an angry email but you never see it, did it actually happen? In other words, these situations require our participation, context, and categorization in order to be _bad._ Our reaction is what actually decides whether harm has occurred. If we feel that we_ve been wronged and get angry, of course that_s how it will seem. If we raise our voice because we feel we_re being confronted, naturally a confrontation will ensue. But if we retain control of ourselves, we decide whether to label something good or bad. In fact, if that same event happened to us at different points in our lifetime, we might have very different reactions. So why not choose now to not apply these labels? Why not choose not to react? February 25th THE SMOKE AND DUST OF MYTH _Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something, of even the most renowned for success, misfortune, evil deeds, or any special distinction. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust, the stuff of simple myth trying to be legend . . ._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 12.27 I n Marcus Aurelius_s writings, he constantly points out how the emperors who came before him were barely remembered just a few years later. To him, this was a reminder that no matter how much he conquered, no matter how much he inflicted his will on the world, it would be like building a castle in the sand_soon to be erased by the winds of time. The same goes for those driven to the heights of hate or anger or obsession or perfectionism. Marcus liked to point out that Alexander the Great_one of the most passionate and ambitious men who ever lived_was buried in the same ground as his mule driver. Eventually, all of us will pass away and slowly be forgotten. We should enjoy this brief time we have on earth_not be enslaved to emotions that make us miserable and dissatisfied. February 26th TO EACH HIS OWN _Another has done me wrong? Let him see to it. He has his own tendencies, and his own affairs. What I have now is what the common nature has willed, and what I endeavor to accomplish now is what my nature wills._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 5.25 A braham Lincoln occasionally got fuming mad with a subordinate, one of his generals, even a friend. Rather than taking it out on that person directly, he_d write a long letter, outlining his case why they were wrong and what he wanted them to know. Then Lincoln would fold it up, put the letter in the desk drawer, and never send it. Many of these letters survive only by chance. He knew, as the former emperor of Rome knew, that it_s easy to fight back. It_s tempting to give them a piece of your mind. But you almost always end up with regret. You almost always wish you hadn_t sent the letter. Think of the last time you flew off the handle. What was the outcome? Was there any benefit? February 27th CULTIVATING INDIFFERENCE WHERE OTHERS GROW PASSION _Of all the things that are, some are good, others bad, and yet others indifferent. The good are virtues and all that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between virtue and vice and include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, and pain._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.19.12b_13 I magine the power you_d have in your life and relationships if all the things that trouble everyone else_how thin they are, how much money they have, how long they have left to live, how they will die_didn_t matter so much. What if, where others were upset, envious, excited, possessive, or greedy, you were objective, calm, and clearheaded? Can you envision that? Imagine what it would do for your relationships at work, or for your love life, or your friendships. Seneca was an incredibly wealthy, even famous, man_yet he was a Stoic. He had many material things, yet, as the Stoics say, he was also indifferent to them. He enjoyed them while they were there, but he accepted that they might someday disappear. What a better attitude than desperately craving more or fearfully dreading losing even one penny. Indifference is solid middle ground. It_s not about avoidance or shunning, but rather not giving any possible outcome more power or preference than is appropriate. This not easy to do, certainly, but if you could manage, how much more relaxed would you be? February 28th WHEN YOU LOSE CONTROL _The soul is like a bowl of water, and our impressions are like the ray of light falling upon the water. When the water is troubled, it appears that the light itself is moved too, but it isn_t. So, when a person loses their composure it isn_t their skills and virtues that are troubled, but the spirit in which they exist, and when that spirit calms down so do those things._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.3.20_22 Y ou messed up a little. Or maybe you messed up a lot. So? That doesn_t change the philosophy that you know. It_s not as if your reasoned choice has permanently abandoned you. Rather, it was you who temporarily abandoned it. Remember that the tools and aims of our training are unaffected by the turbulence of the moment. Stop. Regain your composure. It_s waiting for you. February 29th YOU CAN_T ALWAYS (BE) GET(TING) WHAT YOU WANT _When children stick their hand down a narrow goody jar they can_t get their full fist out and start crying. Drop a few treats and you will get it out! Curb your desire_don_t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.9.22 _W e can have it all_ is the mantra of our modern lives. Work, family, purpose, success, leisure time_we want all of this, at the same time (right now, to boot). In Greece, the lecture hall (scholeion) was a leisure center where students contemplated the higher things (the good, true, and beautiful) for the purpose of living a better life. It was about prioritization, about questioning the priorities of the outside world. Today, we_re too busy getting things, just like kids jamming their hand down a jar of goodies, to do much of this questioning. _Don_t set your heart on so many things,_ says Epictetus. Focus. Prioritize. Train your mind to ask: Do I need this thing? What will happen if I do not get it? Can I make do without it? The answers to these questions will help you relax, help you cut out all the needless things that make you busy_too busy to be balanced or happy. MARCH AWARENESS March 1st WHERE PHILOSOPHY BEGINS _An important place to begin in philosophy is this: a clear perception of one_s own ruling principle._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.26.15 P hilosophy is intimidating. Where does one start? With books? With lectures? With the sale of your worldly possessions? None of these things. Epictetus is saying that one becomes a philosopher when they begin to exercise their guiding reason and start to question the emotions and beliefs and even language that others take for granted. It is thought that an animal has self-awareness when it is able to fully recognize itself in a mirror. Perhaps we could say that we begin our journey into philosophy when we become aware of the ability to analyze our own minds. Can you start with that step today? When you do, you_ll find that from it we really come alive, that we live lives_to paraphrase Socrates_that are actually worth living. March 2nd ACCURATE SELF-ASSESSMENT _Above all, it is necessary for a person to have a true self-estimate, for we commonly think we can do more than we really can._ _SENECA, ON TRANQUILITY OF MIND, 5.2 M ost people resist the idea of a true self-estimate, probably because they fear it might mean downgrading some of their beliefs about who they are and what they_re capable of. As Goethe_s maxim goes, it is a great failing _to see yourself as more than you are._ How could you really be considered self-aware if you refuse to consider your weaknesses? Don_t fear self-assessment because you_re worried you might have to admit some things about yourself. The second half of Goethe_s maxim is important too. He states that it is equally damaging to _value yourself at less than your true worth._ Is it not equally common to be surprised at how well we_re able to handle a previously feared scenario? The way that we_re able to put aside the grief for a loved one and care for others_though we always thought we_d be wrecked if something were to happen to our parents or a sibling. The way we_re able to rise to the occasion in a stressful situation or a life-changing opportunity. We underestimate our capabilities just as much and just as dangerously as we overestimate other abilities. Cultivate the ability to judge yourself accurately and honestly. Look inward to discern what you_re capable of and what it will take to unlock that potential. March 3rd (DIS)INTEGRATION _These things don_t go together. You must be a unified human being, either good or bad. You must diligently work either on your own reasoning or on things out of your control_take great care with the inside and not what_s outside, which is to say, stand with the philosopher, or else with the mob!_ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.15.13 W e_re all complicated people. We have multiple sides to ourselves_conflicting wants, desires, and fears. The outside world is no less confusing and contradictory. If we_re not careful, all these forces_pushing and pulling_will eventually tear us apart. We can_t live as both Jekyll and Hyde. Not for long, anyway. We have a choice: to stand with the philosopher and focus strenuously on the inside, or to behave like a leader of a mob, becoming whatever the crowd needs at a given moment. If we do not focus on our internal integration_on self-awareness_we risk external disintegration. March 4th AWARENESS IS FREEDOM _The person is free who lives as they wish, neither compelled, nor hindered, nor limited_whose choices aren_t hampered, whose desires succeed, and who don_t fall into what repels them. Who wishes to live in deception_tripped up, mistaken, undisciplined, complaining, in a rut? No one. These are base people who don_t live as they wish; and so, no base person is free._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.1_3a I t is sad to consider how much time many people spend in the course of a day doing things they _have_ to do_not necessary obligations like work or family, but the obligations we needlessly accept out of vanity or ignorance. Consider the actions we take in order to impress other people or the lengths we_ll go to fulfill urges or sate desires we don_t even question. In one of his famous letters, Seneca observes how often powerful people are slaves to their money, to their positions, to their mistresses, even_as was legal in Rome_to their slaves. _No slavery is more disgraceful,_ he quipped, _than one which is self-imposed._ We see this slavery all the time_a codependent person who can_t help but clean up after a dysfunctional friend, a boss who micromanages employees and sweats every penny. The countless causes, events, and get-togethers we_re too busy to attend but agree to anyway. Take an inventory of your obligations from time to time. How many of these are self-imposed? How many of them are truly necessary? Are you as free as you think? March 5th CUTTING BACK ON THE COSTLY _So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration_either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren_t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren_t worth that much. But we don_t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 42.6 O f Seneca_s many letters, this is probably one of the most important_and one of the least understood. He_s making a point that goes unheard in a society of ever-bigger houses and ever more possessions: that there_s a hidden cost to all that accumulating. And the sooner we_re aware of it, the better. Remember: even what we get for free has a cost, if only in what we pay to store it_in our garages and in our minds. As you walk past your possessions today, ask yourself: Do I need this? Is it superfluous? What_s this actually worth? What is it costing me? You might be surprised by the answers and how much we_ve been paying without even knowing it. March 6th DON_T TELL YOURSELF STORIES _In public avoid talking often and excessively about your accomplishments and dangers, for however much you enjoy recounting your dangers, it_s not so pleasant for others to hear about your affairs._ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 33.14 M odern philosopher Nassim Taleb has warned of the _narrative fallacy__the tendency to assemble unrelated events of the past into stories. These stories, however gratifying to create, are inherently misleading. They lead to a sense of cohesion and certainty that isn_t real. If that_s too heady, remember that as Epictetus points out, there is another reason not to tell stories about your past. It_s boring, annoying, and self-absorbed. It might make you feel good to dominate the conversation and make it all about you, but how do you think it is for everyone else? Do you think people are really enjoying the highlights of your high school football days? Is this really the time for another exaggerated tale of your sexual prowess? Try your best not to create this fantasy bubble_live in what_s real. Listen and connect with people, don_t perform for them. March 7th DON_T TRUST THE SENSES _Heraclitus called self-deception an awful disease and eyesight a lying sense._ _DIOGENES LAERTIUS, LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, 9.7 S elf-awareness is the ability to objectively evaluate the self. It_s the ability to question our own instincts, patterns, and assumptions. Oi?sis, self-deception or arrogant and unchallenged opinion, requires that we hold all our opinions up to hard scrutiny; even our eyes deceive us. On the one hand, that_s alarming. I can_t even trust my own senses?! Sure, you could think about it that way. Or you could take it another way: because our senses are often wrong, our emotions overly alarmed, our projections overly optimistic, we_re better off not rushing into conclusions about anything. We can take a beat with everything we do and become aware of everything that_s going on so we can make the right decision. March 8th DON_T UNINTENTIONALLY HAND OVER YOUR FREEDOM _If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you_d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled_have you no shame in that?_ _EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 28 I nstinctively, we protect our physical selves. We don_t let people touch us, push us around, control where we go. But when it comes to the mind, we_re less disciplined. We hand it over willingly to social media, to television, to what other people are doing, thinking, or saying. We sit down to work and the next thing you know, we_re browsing the Internet. We sit down with our families, but within minutes we have our phones out. We sit down peacefully in a park, but instead of looking inward, we_re judging people as they pass by. We don_t even know that we_re doing this. We don_t realize how much waste is in it, how inefficient and distracted it makes us. And what_s worse_no one is making this happen. It_s totally self-inflicted. To the Stoics, this is an abomination. They know that the world can control our bodies_we can be thrown in jail or be tossed about by the weather. But the mind? That_s ours. We must protect it. Maintain control over your mind and perceptions, they_d say. It_s your most prized possession. March 9th FIND THE RIGHT SCENE _Above all, keep a close watch on this_that you are never so tied to your former acquaintances and friends that you are pulled down to their level. If you don_t, you_ll be ruined. . . . You must choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends . . . if you try to have it both ways you will neither make progress nor keep what you once had._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.2.1; 4_5 _From good people you_ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you_ll destroy such soul as you had._ _MUSONIUS RUFUS, QUOTING THEOGNIS OF MEGARA, LECTURES, 11.53.21_22 J im Rohn_s widely quoted line is: _You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with._ James Altucher advises young writers and entrepreneurs to find their _scene__a group of peers who push them to be better. Your father might have given you a warning when he saw you spending time with some bad kids: _Remember, you become like your friends._ One of Goethe_s maxims captures it better: _Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are._ Consciously consider whom you allow into your life_not like some snobby elitist but like someone who is trying to cultivate the best life possible. Ask yourself about the people you meet and spend time with: Are they making me better? Do they encourage me to push forward and hold me accountable? Or do they drag me down to their level? Now, with this in mind, ask the most important question: Should I spend more or less time with these folks? The second part of Goethe_s quote tells us the stakes of this choice: _If I know how you spend your time,_ he said, _then I know what might become of you._ March 10th FIND YOURSELF A CATO _We can remove most sins if we have a witness standing by as we are about to go wrong. The soul should have someone it can respect, by whose example it can make its inner sanctum more inviolable. Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!_ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 11.9 C ato the Younger, a Roman politician best known for his self-discipline and for his heroic defense of the Republic against Julius Caesar, appears constantly throughout Stoic literature_which is interesting because he didn_t write anything down. He taught no classes. He gave no interviews. His bold and brave example is what made him such a commonly cited and quoted philosopher. Seneca tells us that we should each have our own Cato_a great and noble person we can allow into our minds and use to guide our actions, even when they_re not physically present. The economist Adam Smith had a similar concept, which he called the indifferent spectator. It doesn_t have to be an actual person, just someone who, like Seneca said, can stand witness to our behavior. Someone who can quietly admonish us if we are considering doing something lazy, dishonest, or selfish. And if we do it right, and live our lives in such a way, perhaps we can serve as someone else_s Cato or indifferent spectator when they need it. March 11th LIVING WITHOUT RESTRICTION _The unrestricted person, who has in hand what they will in all events, is free. But anyone who can be restricted, coerced, or pushed into something against what they will is a slave._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.128b_129a T ake a look at some of the most powerful, rich, and famous people in the world. Ignore the trappings of their success and what they_re able to buy. Look instead at what they_re forced to trade in return_look at what success has cost them. Mostly? Freedom. Their work demands they wear a suit. Their success depends on attending certain parties, kissing up to people they don_t like. It will require_inevitably_realizing they are unable to say what they actually think. Worse, it demands that they become a different type of person or do bad things. Sure, it might pay well_but they haven_t truly examined the transaction. As Seneca put it, _Slavery resides under marble and gold._ Too many successful people are prisoners in jails of their own making. Is that what you want? Is that what you_re working hard toward? Let_s hope not. March 12th SEEING THINGS AS THE PERSON AT FAULT DOES _Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you_ll feel compassion, instead of astonishment or rage. For you may yourself have the same notions of good and evil, or similar ones, in which case you_ll make an allowance for what they_ve done. But if you no longer hold the same notions, you_ll be more readily gracious for their error._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.26 S ocrates, perhaps the wisest person to ever live, used to say that _nobody does wrong willingly._ Meaning that no one is wrong on purpose either. Nobody thinks they_re wrong, even when they are. They think they_re right, they_re just mistaken. Otherwise, they wouldn_t think it anymore! Could it be that the slights you_ve experienced or the harm that others have done to you was not inflicted intentionally? What if they simply thought they were doing the right thing_for them, even for you? It_s like the memorial for Confederate soldiers at Arlington (obviously a cause that was wrongly fought for by people doing wrong), which states, in part, that the Confederate soldiers served _in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it._ Again_they understood wrongly, but it was their genuine understanding, just as Lincoln was genuine when he ended his famous Cooper Union speech by saying, _Let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it._ How much more tolerant and understanding would you be today if you could see the actions of other people as attempts to do the right thing? Whether you agree or not, how radically would this lens change your perspective on otherwise offensive or belligerent actions? March 13th ONE DAY IT WILL ALL MAKE SENSE _Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.17.1 P art of the reason we fight against the things that happen is that we_re so focused on our plan that we forget that there might be a bigger plan we don_t know about. Is it not the case that plenty of times something we thought was a disaster turned out to be, with the passage of time, a lucky break? We also forget that we_re not the only people who matter and that our loss might be someone else_s gain. This sense of being wronged is a simple awareness problem. We need to remember that all things are guided by reason_but that it is a vast and universal reason that we cannot always see. That the surprise hurricane was the result of a butterfly flapping its wings a hemisphere away or that misfortune we have experienced is simply the prelude to a pleasant and enviable future. March 14th SELF-DECEPTION IS OUR ENEMY _Zeno would also say that nothing is more hostile to a firm grasp on knowledge than self-deception._ _DIOGENES LAERTIUS, LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, 7.23 S elf-deception, delusions of grandeur_these aren_t just annoying personality traits. Ego is more than just off-putting and obnoxious. Instead, it_s the sworn enemy of our ability to learn and grow. As Epictetus put it, _It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows._ Today, we will be unable to improve, unable to learn, unable to earn the respect of others if we think we_re already perfect, a genius admired far and wide. In this sense, ego and self-deception are the enemies of the things we wish to have because we delude ourselves into believing that we already possess them. So we must meet ego with the hostility and contempt that it insidiously deploys against us_to keep it away, if only for twenty-four hours at a time. March 15th THE PRESENT IS ALL WE POSSESS _Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what_s not theirs?_ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.14 T oday, notice how often you look for more. That is, wanting the past to be more than what it was (different, better, still here, etc.) or wanting the future to unfold exactly as you expect (with hardly a thought as to how that might affect other people). When you do this, you_re neglecting the present moment. Talk about ungrateful! There_s a saying_attributed to Bil Keane, the cartoonist_worth remembering: _Yesterday_s the past, tomorrow_s the future, but today is a gift. That_s why it_s called the present._ This present is in our possession_but it has an expiration date, a quickly approaching one. If you enjoy all of it, it will be enough. It can last a whole lifetime. March 16th THAT SACRED PART OF YOU _Hold sacred your capacity for understanding. For in it is all, that our ruling principle won_t allow anything to enter that is either inconsistent with nature or with the constitution of a logical creature. It_s what demands due diligence, care for others, and obedience to God._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 3.9 T he fact that you can think, the fact that you can read this book, the fact that you are able to reason in and out of situations_all of this is what gives you the ability to improve your circumstances and become better. It_s important to appreciate this ability, because it_s a genuine ability. Not everyone is so lucky. Seriously_what you take for granted, others wouldn_t even think to dream of. Take a little time today to remember that you_re blessed with the capacity to use logic and reason to navigate situations and circumstances. This gives you unthinkable power to alter your circumstances and the circumstances of others. And remember that with power comes responsibility. March 17th THE BEAUTY OF CHOICE _You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.1.39b_40a I t_s that line in the movie Fight Club: _You are not your job, you_re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You_re not the contents of your wallet._ Obviously our friend Epictetus never saw that movie or read the book_but apparently the consumerism of the 1990s existed in ancient Rome too. It_s easy to confuse the image we present to the world for who we actually are, especially when media messaging deliberately blurs that distinction. You might look beautiful today, but if that was the result of vain obsession in the mirror this morning, the Stoics would ask, are you actually beautiful? A body built from hard work is admirable. A body built to impress gym rats is not. That_s what the Stoics urge us to consider. Not how things appear, but what effort, activity, and choices they are a result of. March 18th IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT _Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn_t from outside me but in my own assumptions._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.13 O n tough days we might say, _My work is overwhelming,_ or _My boss is really frustrating._ If only we could understand that this is impossible. Someone can_t frustrate you, work can_t overwhelm you_these are external objects, and they have no access to your mind. Those emotions you feel, as real as they are, come from the inside, not the outside. The Stoics use the word hypol?psis, which means _taking up__of perceptions, thoughts, and judgments by our mind. What we assume, what we willingly generate in our mind, that_s on us. We can_t blame other people for making us feel stressed or frustrated any more than we can blame them for our jealousy. The cause is within us. They_re just the target. March 19th TIMELESS WISDOM _For there are two rules to keep at the ready_that there is nothing good or bad outside my own reasoned choice, and that we shouldn_t try to lead events but to follow them._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.10.18 I n the mid-twentieth century, there was an Indian Jesuit priest named Anthony de Mello. Born in Bombay when it was still under British control, de Mello was an amalgam of many different cultures and perspectives: East, West; he even trained as a psychotherapist. It_s interesting when one sees timeless wisdom develop across schools, across epochs and ideas. Here is a quote from de Mello_s book, The Way to Love, that sounds almost exactly like Epictetus: _The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me._ Remember, each individual has a choice. You are always the one in control. The cause of irritation_or our notion that something is bad_that comes from us, from our labels or our expectations. Just as easily, we can change those labels; we can change our entitlement and decide to accept and love what_s happening around us. And this wisdom has been repeated and independently discovered in every century and every country since time began. March 20th READY AND AT HOME _I may wish to be free from torture, but if the time comes for me to endure it, I_ll wish to bear it courageously with bravery and honor. Wouldn_t I prefer not to fall into war? But if war does befall me, I_ll wish to carry nobly the wounds, starvation, and other necessities of war. Neither am I so crazy as to desire illness, but if I must suffer illness, I_ll wish to do nothing rash or dishonorable. The point is not to wish for these adversities, but for the virtue that makes adversities bearable._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 67.4 P resident James Garfield was a great man_raised in humble circumstances, self-educated, and eventually a Civil War hero_whose presidency was cut short by an assassin_s bullet. In his brief time in office, he faced a bitterly divided country as well as a bitterly and internally divided Republican Party. During one fight, which challenged the very authority of his office, he stood firm, telling an adviser: _Of course I deprecate war, but if it is brought to my door the bringer will find me at home._ That_s what Seneca is saying here. We_d be crazy to want to face difficulty in life. But we_d be equally crazy to pretend that it isn_t going to happen. Which is why when it knocks on our door_as it very well may this morning_let_s make sure we_re prepared to answer. Not the way we are when a surprise visitor comes late at night, but the way we are when we_re waiting for an important guest: dressed, in the right head space, ready to go. March 21st THE BEST RETREAT IS IN HERE, NOT OUT THERE _People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, or in the mountains. You are very much in the habit of yearning for those same things. But this is entirely the trait of a base person, when you can, at any moment, find such a retreat in yourself. For nowhere can you find a more peaceful and less busy retreat than in your own soul_especially if on close inspection it is filled with ease, which I say is nothing more than being well-ordered. Treat yourself often to this retreat and be renewed._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.3.1 D o you have a vacation coming up? Are you looking forward to the weekend so you can have some peace and quiet? Maybe, you think, after things settle down or after I get this over with. But how often has that ever actually worked? The Zen meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn coined a famous expression: _Wherever you go, there you are._ We can find a retreat at any time by looking inward. We can sit with our eyes closed and feel our breath go in and out. We can turn on some music and tune out the world. We can turn off technology or shut off those rampant thoughts in our head. That will provide us peace. Nothing else. March 22nd THE SIGN OF TRUE EDUCATION _What is it then to be properly educated? It is learning to apply our natural preconceptions to the right things according to Nature, and beyond that to separate the things that lie within our power from those that don_t._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.22.9_10a A degree on a wall means you_re educated as much as shoes on your feet mean you_re walking. It_s a start, but hardly sufficient. Otherwise, how could so many _educated_ people make unreasonable decisions? Or miss so many obvious things? Partly it_s because they forget that they ought to focus only on that which lies within their power to control. A surviving fragment from the philosopher Heraclitus expresses that reality: _Many who have learned from Hesiod the countless names of gods and monsters never understand that night and day are one._ Just as you can walk plenty well without shoes, you don_t need to step into a classroom to understand the basic, fundamental reality of nature and of our proper role in it. Begin with awareness and reflection. Not just once, but every single second of every single day. March 23rd THE STRAITJACKETED SOUL _The diseases of the rational soul are long-standing and hardened vices, such as greed and ambition_they have put the soul in a straitjacket and have begun to be permanent evils inside it. To put it briefly, this sickness is an unrelenting distortion of judgment, so things that are only mildly desirable are vigorously sought after._ _SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 75.11 I n the financial disaster of the late 2000s, hundreds of smart, rational people lost trillions of dollars_ worth of wealth. How could such smart people have been so foolish? These people knew the system, knew how the markets were supposed to work, and had managed billions, if not trillions, of dollars. And yet, almost to a person, they were wrong_and wrong to the tune of global market havoc. It_s not hard to look at that situation and understand that greed was some part of the problem. Greed was what led people to create complex markets that no one understood in the hope of making a quick buck. Greed caused other people to make trades on strange pools of debt. Greed prevented anyone from calling out this situation for what it was_a house of cards just waiting for the slightest breeze to knock it all down. It doesn_t do you much good to criticize those folks after the fact. It_s better to look at how greed and vices might be having a similar effect in your own life. What lapses in judgment might your vices be causing you? What _sicknesses_ might you have? And how can your rational mind step in and regulate them? March 24th THERE IS PHILOSOPHY IN EVERYTHING _Eat like a human being, drink like a human being, dress up, marry, have children, get politically active_suffer abuse, bear with a headstrong brother, father, son, neighbor, or companion. Show us these things so we can see that you truly have learned from the philosophers._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.21.5_6 P lutarch, a Roman biographer as well as an admirer of the Stoics, didn_t begin his study of the greats of Roman literature until late in life. But, as he recounts in his biography of Demosthenes, he was surprised at how quickly it all came to him. He wrote, _It wasn_t so much that the words brought me into a full understanding of events, as that, somehow, I had a personal experience of the events that allowed me to follow closely the meaning of the words._ This is what Epictetus means about the study of philosophy. Study, yes, but go live your life as well. It_s the only way that you_ll actually understand what any of it means. And more important, it_s only from your actions and choices over time that it will be possible to see whether you took any of the teachings to heart. Be aware of that today when you_re going to work, going on a date, deciding whom to vote for, calling your parents in the evening, waving to your neighbor as you walk to your door, tipping the delivery man, saying goodnight to someone you love. All of that is philosophy. All of it is experience that brings meaning to the words. March 25th WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE FREE _. . . freedom isn_t secured by filling up on your heart_s desire but by removing your desire._ _EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.175 T here are two ways to be wealthy_to get everything you want or to want everything you have. Which is easier right here and right now? The same goes for freedom. If you chafe and fight and struggle for more, you will never be free. If you could find and focus on the pockets of freedom you already have? Well, then you_d be free right here, right now. March 26th WHAT RULES YOUR RULING REASON? _How does your ruling reason manage itself? For in that is the key to everything. Whatever else remains, be it in the power of your choice or not, is but a corpse and smoke._ _MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 12.33 T he Roman satirist Juvenal is famous for this question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?) In a way, this is what Marcus is asking himself_and what you might ask yourself throughout the day. What influences the ruling reason that guides your life? This means an exploration of subjects like evolutionary biology, psychology, neurology, and even the subconscious. Because these deeper forces shape even the most disciplined, rational minds. You can be the most patient person in the world, but if science shows we make poor decisions on an empty stomach_what good is all that patience? So don_t stop at Stoicism, but explore the forces that drive and make Stoicism possible. Learn what underpins this philosophy you_re studying, how the body and mind tick. Understand not only your ruling reason_the watchmen_but whoever and whatever rules that too. March 27th PAY WHAT THINGS ARE WORTH _Diogenes of Sinope said we sell things of great value for things of very little, and vice versa._ _DIOGENES LAERTIUS, LIVES OF THE EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, 6.2.35b Y ou can buy a Plume Blanche diamond-encrusted sofa for close to two hundred thousand dollars. It_s also possible to hire one person to kill another person for five hundred dollars. Remember that next time you hear someone ramble on about how the market decides what things are worth. The market might be rational . . . but the people who comprise it are not. Diogenes, who founded the Cynic school, emphasized the true worth (axia) of things, a theme that persisted in Stoicism and was strongly reflected in both Epictetus and Marcus. It_s easy to lose track. When the people around you dump a fortune into trinkets they can_t take with them when they die, it might seem like a good investment for you to make too. But of course it isn_t. The good things in life cost what they cost. The unnecessary things are not worth it at any price. The key is being aware of the difference.

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