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The audio companion to DailyStoic.com's daily email meditations, read by Ryan Holiday.Each daily reading will help you cultivate strength, insight and wisdom necessary for living the good life. Every word is based on the two-thousand plus year old philosophy that has guided some of history’s greatest men and women.Learn more at: dailystoic.com
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Ask Daily Stoic

Ask Daily Stoic

2019-12-1400:09:591

The first Saturday Q&A episode. In each of these episodes, Ryan will answer questions from fans about Stoicism. You can also find these videos on the Daily Stoic YouTube channel.
Why You Should Help Others

Why You Should Help Others

2019-12-1300:03:11

In his fascinating biography, The House of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown describes a beautiful scene involving William Alexander Percy, the son of a senator, a poet, and lifelong student of the Stoics. Percy is sitting on a hill looking down into the ruins of an ancient Greek amphitheatre, thinking of Marcus Aurelius.“Though pagan,” Wyatt-Brown writes, “the Stoics recognized the brotherhood of man. The greatest virtue was helping others for one’s own sake and peace of mind as well as theirs. Justice, goodness of heart, duty, courage, and fidelity to fellow creatures, great and lowly, were abstractions requiring no divine authority to sustain them; they were worth pursuing on their own.” This observation contains a lot, so it’s worth unpacking. First, it’s clear that this scene is one of those wonderful moments of sympatheia. William, sitting there by himself in nature, is suddenly reminded of his connection to other people and his role in this larger ecosystem that is the world. We need to seek out these moments because they humble and empower us simultaneously. Next, what does he mean by pagan or divine authority? The author is making an important point about Stoicism. Most religions tell us to be good because God said so. Or they tell us not to be bad because God will punish us. Stoicism is different. While not incompatible with religion, it makes a different case for virtue: A person who lives selfishly will not go to hell. They will live in hell. And both these points are related to the final and most important part: We are all connected to each other, and to help others is to help ourselves. We are obligated to serve and to be of service. The Percys are a great example of a family that did this. Despite being wealthy, they served in politics. Despite being white and from Mississippi, they fought to keep the Klan out of their hometown. When the Flood of 1927 hit, the Percys saved thousands of lives. When William’s cousin died, he adopted his three second cousins. Because the family was duty-bound. Because they believed they were part of a brotherhood of man. Because it was worth doing for its own sake. And so it goes for us.
Although we know nearly nothing about Seneca’s family life or how his children turned out, we know at least that he gave good advice. We know that as a wealthy, powerful, and famous man, the deck was stacked against him. These are corrosive, corrupting influences, particularly on children. Yet it was clearly quite important to Seneca to raise a normal kid—and to encourage everyone else to do the same thing. Below is some advice from Seneca on parenting:Spur them to conceive of great things for themselves, but curb them from arrogance.Let them enjoy some comforts of wealth without indulging their every whim.Show them how to get up when they fall—don’t pick them right up.Instruct them, don’t just punish them.Praise them, but not excessively.Allow some relaxation without fostering laziness.Reward them when quiet what was denied them when they cried for it.Expose them to good role models.Seneca understood that parenting is a balancing act. You want your kids to be confident but not obnoxious. To feel special but not entitled. Comfortable but not spoiled. You want them to be happy, but also know how to handle disappointment and rejection. To not have to struggle but know how to overcome. To be self-sufficient, but also know how to be a team player. To be carefree, but also value hard work. For us, that means we must always keep in mind the end goal, not just what will make this moment easier for them or for you. Assess each situation and strike a balance so your kid will too.
Don’t Be a Fool

Don’t Be a Fool

2019-12-1100:01:551

There are lots of ways to spot a foolish person. They say dumb things. They make unforced errors. They make the same unforced error over and over again. You tend to recognize one when you see one. Seneca, quoting Epicurus, had a good test: “The fool, with all his other faults, has this also—he is always getting ready to live.” Indeed, just about the most foolish thing you can hear—coming from someone else or coming out of your own mouth—are the words: “Some day, I’ll…” “When I’m older I hope to…” “I’m not ready right now but…” “If I ever finish this, then I’ll...”What makes you think you have that luxury? What makes you think you’ll have the time? Forget about issues of self-worth and status and dues-paying for a moment. From a practical perspective, you can’t get ready for something that’s already here. And that’s what life is. It’s right now. Right this second. Don’t be a fool. Live today. Be the best you can be now.
There is something strange you find when you study the early Stoics. Not Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus, but the Stoics who influenced them. The names you don’t hear much: Cleanthes. Posidonius. Panaetius. Aristo. Antipater. Chrysippus. What you find—beside the fact that these were living, breathing, human beings with all sorts of interesting experiences—is that you start to notice just how big a role they played in the shaping of the classic Stoic texts we know and love.For instance, the interesting analogy about how a philosopher should be like a wrestler—a fighter dug in for sudden attacks—that Marcus Aurelius famously makes in Meditations? That actually originates from Panaetius, a Stoic philosopher from the 2nd century BCE that Marcus studied. There are allusions to the insights of Aristo and Antipater and Chryssippus in Seneca. A deep dive into Epictetus shows not only how he was influenced by Zeno, but reveals how many unattributed quotations of Epictetus appear in Marcus Aurelius!So what is this philosophy then? Just a bunch of people repeating the same old insights? Hardly. Remember, Stoicism is a practice, not merely a set of principles. The act of sitting down and journaling—writing and rewriting—about ideas from the earlier Stoics is a kind of meditative experience. It’s almost like a prayer. It’s what transforms an epigram into a mantra...and then later into action when it counts. Besides, have we not learned from music how powerful and creative the art of remixing can be? It’s in this writing and rewriting that each successive generation of Stoics was able to come up with new insights and further refine the philosophy (a tradition that continues today with writers all over the world). Blaise Pascal, whose book Pensées is eerily similar in tone and style and content to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, puts it well when he writes, “Let no one say that I have said nothing new, the arrangement of the material is new. In playing tennis both players use the same ball, but one plays it better." Today, your job is to sit down and do some writing—using this old material. Sit down with The Daily Stoic Journal. Sit down on Twitter and put some quotes in your own language. Riff on the ideas with your kids. Write a reminder to yourself on your phone. Pick up the ball and play with it. Practice the philosophy.
Reputation is a powerful thing. The desire to keep it, maintain it, to not betray it, was a force that made someone like Cato unstoppable. On the other hand, the desire to make it—to have a name that people know—can just as easily be a kind of deceiving, seductive distraction. Marcus Aurelius warned against chasing fame, because of how worthless it was and how easily it could be achieved by ignoble means. Yet that’s precisely what motivates most of us: We want to do great things so people will think we’re great, so they’ll remember us for forever. Blaise Pascal sounds like he was channeling Marcus and the Stoics when he pointed out that we “do not care about our reputation in towns where we are only passing through.” Isn’t that what life is? Aren’t we all just passing through? Some of us for a little longer than others, of course, but none of us are truly here to stay. Realizing that what other people think about you is not important—because we’re all just passing through—is freeing. It’s not a hall pass for bad behavior. On the contrary, it frees you to do the right thing regardless of the criticism that may come from it. It frees you from the petty squabbles and gossip of the town you’re in and lets you think about what really matters. In the end, we suspect that’s what Cato was actually doing. That people happened to respect him in his own time, that his unbending moral strength earned him fame that survived far beyond his life—that was not the end goal. The goal was doing the right thing and not giving a damn what other people thought. If they’d showered him with stones instead of praise, he’d have kept doing what needed to be done. Because what should he care—what should you care—of the opinions of people in a town you’re only passing through?
In a famous exchange—which we wrote about a while back—Agrippinus explained why he was spurning an invitation to attend some banquet being put on by Nero. Not only was he spurning it, he said, but he had not even considered associating with such a madman. A fellow philosopher, the one who had felt inclined to attend, asked for an explanation. Agrippinus responded with an interesting analogy. He said that most people see themselves like threads in a garment—they see it as their job to match the other threads in color and style. They want to blend in, so the fabric will match. But Agrippinus did not want to blend in. “I want to be the red,” he said, “that small and brilliant portion which causes the rest to appear comely and beautiful…’Be like the majority of people?’ And if I do that, how shall I any longer be the red?” He wanted to be red even if it meant being beheaded or exiled.  Because he felt it was right. Because he wouldn’t be anything other than his true self. It’s like Mark Twain’s line: When we find ourselves on the side of the majority, we should pause and reflect. Because it means we might be going along with the mob. We might have turned off our own mind. We might be muting our true colors.Our job as philosophers, as thinkers, as citizens, is not to go along to get along. We are not just another replaceable thread in an otherwise unremarkable garment. Our job is to stand up. To stand out. To speak the truth. To never blend in. And in so doing, we make the most beautiful contribution of all.
One question you hear the comedian Marc Maron ask a lot of standups and actors at the beginning of his interviews is: Who did you come up with? Who were your guys? By that he means, who were the comedians starting out around the same time as you? Who was there at the beginning with you?It’s interesting how almost every one of Maron’s guests seems to be part of some kind of a cohort of fellow comedians or performers who cut their teeth in the same clubs or the same theaters at the same time. You can look at their careers and see how many of them got big breaks around the same time, and developed their careers along similar lines. There might have been some cutthroat competition between them, but as the years passed, it became clear that they all shared a common origin, almost as if they were part of the same graduation class. In a way, this is just another illustration of that Stoic concept of sympatheia. That, whether we know it or not, we’re all on some kind of team, all part of some collective that is much bigger than us. It’s easy to lose sight of this, of course, when we are fighting for the #1 spot or trying to get noticed, but that’s only because each of us is naturally self-obsessed. But anyone with some distance, anyone in the audience or in the press, can’t miss it: We are shaping the scene we are in, just as it is shaping us. Our fate is bound up with other people—and their gain is not our loss. Quite the contrary, we each help each other—and help the world—when we excel and fulfill our potential. We are all part of a scene. We all came up—and are coming up—with a cohort. Even the truly innovative mavericks did (Elon Musk, for instance, comes from the so-called PayPal Mafia). Try to spend some time thinking about that today. What scene are you in? Who else is in your graduating class? Who are your guys? Eventually you’ll come to appreciate being a part of it, and, with time, you’ll understand and be grateful to have shared the stage with these folks. Everyone does. That’s guaranteed. What’s not promised are the lazy, nostalgia filled days of old age. So why wait to appreciate them? Why let decades pass when you could do it right now? When you could thank them now.
We all want to be liked. We want the acceptance of our peers. We want to be chosen. We want the stamp of approval—from the critics, from the crowd, from the market.This makes sense...except it doesn’t. Is it not true that most people are not very bright, hold regressive or alarming opinions, and generally follow the herd? And yet somehow we think it’s vindication when they love us? It’s nonsense. It’s pretty strange how much we value the respect of people we don’t respect...and the lengths we’re willing to go to get it. "If you are ever tempted to look for outside approval,” Epictetus said, “realize that you have compromised your integrity. If you need a witness, be your own." This was something Marcus Aurelius wrestled with more than Epictetus because he was a public person. He saw crowds cheering him in the street. People flocked to court to heap praise on him (before asking for favors). He also had to put up with their jeers and criticisms. Eventually he realized that he couldn’t pay attention to any of it. He had to hold himself to his own standard—an inner scorecard—and ignore everything else. The clapping was meaningless. The boos were too. What mattered was his own integrity—he had to be his own witness. And today, so do you. It doesn’t matter what other people say or think. Approval and disapproval are equally meaningless. What matters is what you know is right, and whether you do it. 
The viciousness of the mob is one of the darker themes in Roman history. There was the angry crowd that tore Saturninus to pieces during Marius’s time. There were the grieving, angry citizens who, riled up by Mark Antony’s funeral oration after the death of Caesar, murdered the poet Cinna just because he had the same name as one of the conspirators. It’s scary what a group of people can do when the unwritten rules of civil society break down. There is perhaps no better day to think about this than Black Friday in America. Fresh off the gratitude of Thanksgiving, we decide to reward ourselves by greedily gorging on stuff. It is hard to think of a day whose entire purpose sits in greater conflict with the Stoic notion of sympatheia. The same people who were previously sitting peacefully with their family are now ready to engage in hand-to-hand combat over a deal on a flat screen television. Instead of enjoying the time off, people have been lined up for hours in the cold to buy more and more crap they don’t actually need, at lower and lower prices. Not to replace the crap they bought last Black Friday, mind you, but to add to the pile. The only cost Black Friday shoppers don’t mind paying for these savings? Yelling matches, countless traffic accidents, and the collateral damage of retail employees being trampled to death. (There’s a website that tallies ‘Black Friday Death Counts’ if you’re really curious.)As Marcus wrote in Meditations, “What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee.” It’s hard to argue that Black Friday is good for anyone or anything but the bottom line of big business. So instead of following the masses on a shopping spree—and possibly a killing spree—it would be nice if you spent this morning thinking about the bigger picture—the biggest picture.We should be humane to each other because we are all human, all part of the same larger body. We spring from the same soil and will each return to it alike one day. When we forget this, it not only hurts other people—makes countless millions mourn—but it hurts us as well.“Revere the gods, and look after each other,” Marcus Aurelius reminds us. “Life is short—the fruit of this life is a good character and acts for the common good.” That is what sympatheia is about. That’s what Oikeiôsis, affinity for your fellow humans, is about. We should live that every day, frankly, but we should be especially mindful of it today. As the exact opposite of a Black Friday deal, we’re selling our Sympatheia coins at full price at Daily Stoic, until Monday December 2nd 6am. BUT, if you buy one, we’ll give you another one free to give to a friend, family member, or colleague who could benefit from it.As we begin the holiday season, we hope you keep this concept in mind when you’re dealing with difficult in-laws, travel delays, or crowds and long lines. Don’t let the modern spirit of materialism and selfishness infect you. Instead, we must all focus on reminders that we are not alone, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that there is a greater good to which we all owe a duty, above and beyond our own se
On this day of American Thanksgiving, we’re supposed to make time for thanks, to actively think about that word that has become almost cliché in wellness circles: gratitude. But what is gratitude? Some people think of it as being thankful for all the good things you have in your life. Others see it as the act of acknowledging what people have done for you or what you appreciate about others. While the Stoics would have agreed that was all important, they practiced a slightly different form of gratitude. It was more inclusive and counterintuitive. It wasn’t just about being grateful for the good, but for all of life. “Convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods,” was how Marcus Aurelius put it, “that things are good and always will be.” The first key word there is everything. The other key word is convince. Meaning: you have to tell yourself that it’s all good, even the so-called “bad stuff.” Is it possible to be grateful for that nine-hour travel delay that has you sleeping on a bench in the airport? Is it possible to be grateful for your father’s affair that tore your family apart, and which now means you’re celebrating two Thanksgivings in two houses because your parents can’t be in the same room together? Or that dark period you went through in college, when your grades fell to pieces and you thought about killing yourself? It’s not easy to be grateful for any of this, but it is possible. In the Discourses, Epictetus says, “It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance, and a sense of gratitude.” On the surface, much of what we’re upset about or wish hadn’t occurred is so objectionable that gratitude seems impossible. But if we can zoom out for that more complete view, understanding and appreciation can emerge. First off, you’re alive. That’s the silver lining of every shitty situation and should not be forgotten. But second, everything that has happened and is happening is bringing you to where you are. It’s contributing to the person you have become. And that’s a good thing. This understanding, Epictetus said, helps you see the world in full color—in the color of gratitude. The Stoics believed that we should feel gratitude for all the people and events that form our lives. We shouldn’t just be thankful for the gifts we receive, and our relationships with friends and family. We should also be aware of and grateful for the setbacks and annoyances. For the difficult coworkers and the nagging in-laws, for the stress they put on us and whatever other difficulties we might be experiencing. Why? Because it’s all of those things, interconnected and dependent on each other, that made you who and what you are today. It is only by seeing the totality of things, good and bad, that you gain the understanding necessary to be truly grateful.It could be that terrible relationship that imploded spectacularly, but which led to you meeting the love of your life. It could even be the passing of a relative, something that caused you great sadness but which also spurred you to build stronger relationships with your loved ones. All of these things are sad, and they may not even lead to a happy ending—but they still define the course of your life, and it wouldn’t be you sitting there right now without them.As you gather around your family and friends this Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other celebration you might partake in, take the time to appreciate the moment and give thanks for all the obvious a
Queen Elizabeth I was a remarkable woman. She was uncommon and special is so many ways. She was believed to have known nine languages. She was considered one of the best educated women of her time. And she presided over many English battle victories. And yet in one other way, she was incredibly common—not unlike so many of us: She basically refused to think of her own mortality. Maybe she was too afraid. Maybe she thought she’d live forever. Either way, she refused to plan for a successor in any form. She never got married, despite numerous courtships. She never had children. If she had been an ordinary person, this would have been her prerogative, but she wasn’t. A queen without an heir puts the entire kingdom at risk. A ruler who doesn’t consider what comes after them is bequeathing chaos and carnage on their subjects.Sir Walter Raleigh, writing late in Queen Elizabeth’s life, saw this happening. He saw the Queen getting older and her options disappearing, as she grew older and grey. She was, he said, “a lady whom time has surprised.” What a great phrase! Because it describes so many of us. It’s the CEO who can’t groom the next generation of leadership in the company. It’s the partier whose twenties have turned into their thirties and can’t see how pathetic they look. It’s the grandma or grandpa who shudders at that word—old—who, me? I’m not old! We have to remember, as Seneca told us, that old age and death aren’t this thing that lies off in the distant future. It’s a process that’s happening to us always and everywhere. We cannot let time surprise us. We must be thinking of it always. That’s how we make sure we are living for today, that we are leaving nothing unfinished or unresolved. We have a duty to ourselves and others, Seneca said, to live each day like a complete life. To keep our affairs in order because we have no idea what’s going to happen or how much time we will be given. Don’t delay. Don’t deny. Don’t be surprised. Do your duty. Face your fears...and your mortality. Today and always.
One of the most inspiring themes in the history of Stoicism is how the Stoics responded to tyrants and to adversity. There was Cato, refusing to roll over and just let Caesar destroy the Republic to which Cato had dedicated his life. There was Thrasea defying Nero, “Nero can kill me, but he cannot harm me.” There was Agrippinus shrugging off exile, refusing to kowtow to anyone who wanted him to bow to the regime. There was Marcus Aurelius, who stayed in Rome even as it was ravaged by the plague, who served with great dedication even when his health failed in later years. There was James Stockdale in that prison camp in Vietnam, unbreakable, defiant, dignified despite all his powerlessness.  This is what Stoicism is about. It’s that iron backbone. That strength of conviction. The sense of duty and purpose that makes it impossible to do anything but stand up, that will never accept less than it’s due. People with that power end up changing the world, regardless of how entrenched or overwhelming their enemies are. Martin Luther King Jr. captured it perfectly. “Whenever men and women straighten their backs up,” he said, “they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.” That’s the question for you today and for all of us fighting for something, trying to make change. Are we going to straighten up and stand up? Or are we going to bend and give in? Are we going to let them ride us or are we going to refuse to roll over?We have the power. Let’s use it. 
Some people will love you. Some people will hate you. One day, Marcus Aurelius wrote, the crowd will cheer and worship you. Other days they’ll hit you with brickbats and hate. You get a lucky break sometimes—get more credit and attention than you deserve. Other times you’ll get held to an impossibly unfair standard. They’ll build you up, and then tear you down—and act like it was your fault you got way up there in the first place. They’ll criticize you in public and privately tell you it’s all for show.There will be good years and bad years. Times when the cards come our way, times when the dice keep coming up snake eyes. That’s just how it is. That’s just life.The key, Marcus Aurelius said, is assent to all of it. Accept the good stuff without arrogance, he wrote in Meditations. Let the bad stuff go with indifference. Amor fati. Take it all in stride, whether it’s undeserved heat or slobbering praise. Let none of it affect you, take none of it personally.Just keep moving. Keep doing your work. Keep being you. That’s the way of the Stoic. 
We talk about the importance of positive thinking. Of making sure we are surrounded by good vibes and good energy. Of cutting out the negative influences of social media and the news. Of looking for the good in everything we see.And, of course, that is important. But it can also be dangerous. Because it sets us up to be disappointed, even horrified, when our bubble is pierced. When we are forced to come face to face with the fact that the world is not a positive place. There are things that go bump in the night. There are bad people and tragic events. That’s why Epictetus’s advice—in his version of premeditatio malorum—was to do the opposite. “Set before your eyes every day death and exile and everything else that looks terrible,” he said, “especially death. Then you will never have any mean thought or be too keen on anything.” You will also never be disappointed, you will never have your illusions shattered or your expectations gone unmet. In fact, if you keep this darkness in mind, you might just be surprised by all the light you find in the world. You’ll be grateful for each day you wake up, still alive. You’ll appreciate each moment you’re not in exile. You’ll be glad each time Murphy’s Law turns out to be wrong. Indeed, just as there is no hot without cold, there is no light without dark. Today, spend some time with the dark. Become familiar with it, set it before your eyes, so that you do not mistake it for blankness and set yourself up, once you walk out of it, for the light to be blinding.
There is so much on our plate. We have emails to respond to. Calls to make. There is that meeting in a couple hours. The folks we met with yesterday are waiting on an answer or a decision we promised we’d make. Twitter beckons. So do our hopes and dreams. And yet as many directions as we find ourselves pulled in, it’s safe to assume that Marcus Aurelius was under even more tension. Make no mistake: The ancient world was not some quiet, peaceful place. It too was filled with crises and distractions, gossip, and ambitious goal-setting. All the temptations we face today have their analogs in the past—plus things were scarier, deadlier, and more precarious. So we should listen to the command that Marcus gave himself after one of those trying days, when he was struggling to stay focused. “Concentrate every minute like a Roman— like a man—” he wrote, “on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice.”And he wasn’t just chiding himself to do some impossible thing. There was a method to this concentration, he said. What was it? Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life. (That’s the power of Memento Mori). The key, Marcus said, was to not let your emotions override your mind and to give yourself a strong purpose (aimlessness is an enabler of distraction). You can do that. You have the power to concentrate like a Roman. You can know how to do this thing in front of you. You can treat it right. And most important, you should. Because it may well be the last thing you do in your life.
The cycle would be almost humorous by now if it were not so sad. Politicians who have sat idly by, not doing their jobs to address the vexing, pressing problems of our time, rush in when tragedy strikes. Whether it’s a natural disaster that caught a city off guard, or another senseless mass shooting, these folks are there—or rather are there on Twitter—to offer their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Then, of course, the crowd shoots back, “That’s not enough!”Let us unravel this according to the Stoics. First, there’s nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers, per se, particularly if they are heartfelt. However, they aren’t remotely sufficient to solve most political or social problems. And yet, yelling at the people offering them is its own hollow form of virtue signaling too. While the Stoics did talk about the importance of acceptance and about our limited control of the world around us, they would reject this modern rejection of our own agency. They would be disappointed in our learned helplessness. The obstacles of life—be they in politics or the environment or the actions of evil doers—require action. They require effort. They require that we seize what’s in our control to affect change and improve the status quo. When Rome’s borders were threatened, Marcus Aurelius didn’t simply send his prayers to the citizens who were killed. No, he led an army to defend them. When a plague struck Rome, he didn’t flee the city and then come back to speak at funerals. He braved the terrible conditions, doing everything he could to stop the dying. Whether he was successful or not is almost secondary to the fact that he at least tried. Because that’s what a Stoic does. We take action. We organize. We vote. We try to solve problems. We try to prevent problems from happening again. And if the leaders we’ve elected aren’t going to help with that—meaning they’re part of the problem themselves—we don’t just yell or complain about it and demand that they do better...we set about solving for that too. We do better. We make sure they do too.No one is coming to save us. But we can save ourselves.
We all want more peace, right? More stillness. The quiet confidence that comes from being on the right path, as Seneca described it, and not being distracted by all those which crisscross ours. Well, how do you get that? It’s simple, Marcus Aurelius wrote. Stop caring what other people think. Stop caring what they do. Stop caring what they say.All that matters, he writes, is what you do. Everything else is beyond your concern. You can let it all go. You can ignore it entirely. We find tranquility when we stop stressing about things we cannot control, whose influence we are impotent to constrain. We find tranquility when we narrow our focus, when we look inward, when we look in the mirror. When we still the uncontrollable passions in our heads, hearts, and bodies.Stillness is the key to a better life. The bad news is that there is only one way to get it. The good news is that it’s easy. You just have to stop. Stop caring what they think or say or do. Start caring deeply about what you do.Stop...and start now.
You'll Have to Beat Me First

You'll Have to Beat Me First

2019-11-1800:03:252

There is a famous moment in the history of Sparta, when they were threatened with invasion by Phillip, King of Macedon. Phillip, whose son was Alexander the Great, demanded the submission of the Spartans. It would be better to submit to him now, he said, because "If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.The Spartans’ reply to this was just one word: “If.”They were not the kind of people who gave up easily, even in the face of incredible odds, because they believed in their own capabilities. If they had even a 1% chance of persevering, they were willing to take it. They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them.While the Spartans had little time or interest in philosophy, we should see the Stoics as the heirs to this tradition of tenacity and determination. Cato’s impassioned resistance against Caesar was a man giving everything he had to a cause most people thought was lost—and he very nearly won. George Washington and the Stoic founding fathers of America fought a similar cause against the greatest army in the world, and did win. James Stockdale looked at his captors at that prison camp in Vietnam and said, “If.” He said, “You’re going to have to beat me.” And as close as they came at times, they never managed to. Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest. It makes that distinction between what is not in our control and what is in our control for a reason—so we can focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control...even if the odds of success are low, even when everyone else thinks the smarter move is submission. If it’s humanly possible, Marcus Aurelius said, know that you can do it. If there is a 1% chance, that means there is a chance. It means you can do it. So do it.
It makes sense that we avoid pain. We don’t want to cause it and we don’t want to feel it. We’d rather life be easy. This makes sense—at least in the short term.But the Stoics knew that in the long term, such an attitude made you weak, made you soft. The NASCAR driver and student of Stoicism, Brad Keselowski, recently talked about how Stoicism has taught him to take whatever is hardest or most difficult in his life and “double down and appreciate it.” Because it’s teaching you something. Because it’s making you stronger. Too many people run from pain, he said, but that’s the wrong way to do it. “Over time,” he said, “you start to realize that pain is your body flushing out weakness.”In Seneca’s writing, we see that theme come up time and time again: Don’t be afraid of challenges. They are preparing you for an uncertain future. In Marcus Aurelius we see him look even at physical pain—we get the sense that Marcus Aurelius had some chronic injuries or illnesses—as a kind of crucible that was forging him into being a stronger person. You can endure this, he would say over and over again. You can get through this. You will get through this. Of course, we should not be glib about pain or misfortune in life, but we can take all of these ideas and apply them to what we face today. There’s no need to turn away from what comes our way. Instead, we can embrace it. We can double down and appreciate what we had to do—even though it’s hard. Amor Fati. We can endure. We can flush weakness out. And we can become better and stronger for it. Whatever it is. 
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Comments (30)

Frank Beard

I love this podcast!!!

Oct 30th
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Vivek

hey man would love more longer form content.. going in depth with 1 topic over a period of hour an half would be amazing to listen 😊 thanks for this it really helped me improve my bad mental state

Oct 10th
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Cam

Was the "traitors" bit really necessary? Not specific to the American Confederacy, but with any (losing) opposition - time and the opinion of a writer determines whether they are are remembered as rebels, traitors, vindicated in their cause, martyrs, villains, etc.

Sep 21st
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Eric Battle

Greetings, listening to this particular episode got me to thinking about how would stoicism have helped a slave deal with his life. I am aware that there were Stoics that survived slavery but, history has shown us in many examples that the Atlantic Slave Trade was quite different. especially in the Southern states of America. ~Dr. Battle

Aug 19th
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Cam

Great message... and then more pendants.

Aug 11th
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mc

i love you Daily Stoic, but I beg of you, please stop talking about donald trump. I dislike him too (maybe not as much as you guys do) but I get the most meaningful lessons out of your unbiased work!

Aug 8th
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Tim Kuhlman

great podcast and grounding topics

Aug 4th
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Cam

I love this podcast but the daily advertisement of pendants is grating on me.

Aug 1st
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Emerson Jongeling

exellent as someone how studys hard and want to give my gf a good life thought my stuggle to give a life were we can live off the furits of mine and ladour bening a stoic mean living in modatrion even with my gf i work long hours to give her a good life

Jul 25th
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Sachin Bishnoi

very excellent

Apr 28th
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Sachin Bishnoi

very good

Apr 23rd
Reply

Sachin Bishnoi

very good

Apr 23rd
Reply

Sachin Bishnoi

very good

Apr 23rd
Reply

Sachin Bishnoi

very good

Apr 23rd
Reply

Karen Browning

Hey Ryan, enjoying your podcasts but really wish you'd stay away from politics. Leftist bias ruins the otherwise thoughtful, stoic messages.

Apr 14th
Reply (1)

Sachin Bishnoi

very good

Apr 10th
Reply

Sachin Bishnoi

very nice

Apr 10th
Reply

Joseph Thomas

Good lessons that are easy to understand and reflect on.

Apr 1st
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Manuel Miralles

one of the best reflections I've heard on this channel. Thank you for it.

Mar 28th
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Suraj Sharma

there's a time and a place for everything, especially while betraying your soon to be erstwhile self

Jan 29th
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