Tag Archives: Stoicism

Enchiridion by Epictetus

Summary
  1. Epictetus’ “manual” for how to live life
Key Takeaways
  1. Similar in style to Meditations and other stoic type philosophy. Many anecdotes and passages on how to deal with and think about life and life’s problems
  2. Amor fati stressed throughout
What I got out of it
  1. I liked it but not nearly as much as other stoic philosophy books such as Publilius Syrus or Meditations by Alexander the Great

The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus by Publius Syrus

Moral Sayings of Publius

Summary
  1. Publius Syrus was not born a slave but captured in Syria and given that name. His master gave him an education and later his freedom and this book is a collection of wonderful wisdom and antidotes on how to lead a successful and happy life
Key Takeaways
  1. To do two things at once is to do neither
  2. Hard it is to correct the habit already formed
  3. We are interested in others when they are interested in us
  4. We all seek to know whether we shall be rich; but no one asks whether he shall be good
  5. A wise man rules his passions, a fool obeys them
  6. Human reason grows rich by self-conquest
  7. He has existed only, not lived, who lacks wisdom in old age
  8. What greater evil could you wish a miser, than along life?
  9. The rich miser suffers more from loss than a poor sage
  10. No one but a knave or fool thinks a good deed thrown away
  11. To receive a favor is to pawn your freedom
  12. A favor granted before it is asked is doubly acceptable
  13. A good reputation, even in darkness, keeps on shining
  14. We must master our good fortune, or it will master us
  15. Learn to see in another’s calamity the ills which you should avoid
  16. Trust no man as a friend till you have tried him
  17. The request of a master is a command
  18. Consult your conscience, rather than popular opinion
  19. Consider what you ought to say, and not what you think
  20. Patience is a remedy for every sorrow
What I got out of it
  1. Over 1,000 powerful 1-2 line thoughts and axioms. Too many to include and probably will never be able to fully absorb the wisdom contained in this book. One of the few books I feel I will read over and over. Can’t recommend highly enough

On the Shortness of Life by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

On the Shortness of Life

Summary

  1. Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, offers his view on how to live successfully and happily (by being in the moment and not worrying about the past or future since there is nothing you can do about either), the importance of reason and morality and provides timeless wisdom which is just as relevant today as it was millennia ago.

Key Takeaways

  1. Men may live to be old but may not live at all. Do not be distracted by pointless actions, jobs, thoughts, people, etc. Live passionately and you will live a long life no matter how young you die
  2. The man who lives correctly is never worried about dying
  3. Everyone hurries his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and a weariness of the present. But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow. For what new pleasure is there that any hour can now bring? They are all known, all have been enjoyed to the full.
  4. And so there is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long—he has existed long.
  5. But no one sets a value on time; all use it lavishly as if it cost nothing. But see how these same people clasp the knees of physicians if they fall ill and the danger of death draws nearer, see how ready they are, if threatened with capital punishment, to spend all their possessions in order to live! So great is the inconsistency of their feelings.
  6. Life is divided into three periods—that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain. For the last is the one over which Fortune has lost control, is the one which cannot be brought back under any man’s power. But men who are engrossed lose this; for they have no time to look back upon the past, and even if they should have, it is not pleasant to recall something they must view with regret.
  7. Of all men they alone are at leisure who take time for philosophy, they alone really live; for they are not content to be good guardians of their own lifetime only. They annex every age to their own; all the years that have gone ore them are an addition to their store.
  8. Honours, monuments, all that ambition has commanded by decrees or reared in works of stone, quickly sink to ruin; there is nothing that the lapse of time does not tear down and remove. But the works which philosophy has consecrated cannot be harmed; no age will destroy them, no age reduce them; the following and each succeeding age will but increase the reverence for them, since envy works upon what is close at hand, and things that are far off we are more free to admire. The life of the philosopher, therefore, has wide range, and he is not confined by the same bounds that shut others in. He alone is freed from the limitations of the human race; all ages serve him as if a god.  He makes his life long by combining all times into one.
  9. But those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled; when they have reached the end of it, the poor wretches perceive too late that for such a long while they have been busied in doing nothing.
  10. They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.
  11. Reasons for anxiety will never be lacking, whether born of prosperity or of wretchedness; life pushes on in a succession of engrossments. We shall always pray for leisure, but never enjoy it.
  12. Meantime, while they rob and are being robbed, while they break up each other’s repose, while they make each other wretched, their life is without profit, without pleasure, without any improvement of the mind. No one keeps death in view, no one refrains from far-reaching hopes;

What I got out of it

  1. Seneca offers powerful insights into how to live in the moment without worrying about the past or future. Live fully in the now and realize that if you take advantage of this, you will live a full (albeit not necessarily long) and fruitful life.

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Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Letters from a Stoic

 

Summary
  1. Seneca’s advice to his friend is still fantastic several thousand years later. Covers everything from his thoughts on crowds to acquiring wisdom.
Key Takeaways
  1. Spent the last years of his life writing letters to Lucilius, a very close friend and this book is a collection of those letters
  2. The primary indication of a well-ordered mind is a man’s ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company
  3. Contented poverty is not poverty at all
  4. It is not the man who has little, but the man who craves more, who is poor
  5. Advocates equality of sexes, scientific innovation, retirement, plain living, love of nature, elimination of gladiator games and better treatment of slaves. All novel or at least unusual points of view during this time
  6. Two elements must be rooted out once and for all – the fear of future suffering and the recollection of past suffering – the latter no longer concerns me and the former concerns me not yet
What I got out of it
  1. Incredibly interesting book with many quotable lines and great axioms to live bye. There is too much gold to try to summarize. Do yourself a favor and just read it.

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Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations

 

Summary
  1. Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 and Meditations is a collection of axioms to live by that he never intended anybody else to see, forget being published and one of the most read books of all time. It offers incredible insights into his mind and how he perceived the world and wanted to live in it.
Key Takeaways
  1. Focused on the three “disciplines”: the disciplines of perception, of actions and of the will
    1. Perception – absolute objectivity of thought
    2. Action – humans are social animals and must act as nature intended us to
    3. Will – discipline of will governs attitude of things not in our control
  2. At every instant the objects and events in the world around us bombard us with impressions. As they do so they produce a phantasia, a mental impression. From this the mind generates a perception (hypolepsis), which might best be compared to a print made from a photogenic negative. Ideally this print will be an accurate and faithful representation of the original. But it may not be. It may be blurred, or it may include shadow images that distort or obscure the original. Chief among these are inappropriate value judgments: the designation as “good” or “evil” of things that in fact are neither good nor evil. It is, in other words, not objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem
  3. Aim for “Gravity without airs”
  4. To be free of passion and yet full of love
  5. You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant
  6. “…if you find there’s nothing more important or valuable…then don’t make room for anything but it – for anything that might lead you astray, tempt you off the road, and leave you unable to devote yourself completely to achieving the goodness that is uniquely yours.”
  7. “No random actions, none not based on underlying principles”
  8. “Do less, better”
  9. “Things have no hold on the soul”
  10. “Things ordinary people are impressed by fall into the categories of things that are held together by simple physics…Those admired by more advanced minds are held together by a living soul…Still more sophisticated people admire what is guided by a rational mind…But those who revere that other mind – the one we all share, as humans and as citizens – aren’t interested in other things. Their focus is on the state of their own minds – to avoid all selfishness and illogic, and to work with others to achieve that goal”
  11. “You take things you don’t control and define them as “good” or “bad.” And so of course when the “bad” things happen, or the “good” ones don’t, you blame the gods and feel hatred for the people responsible – or those you decide to make responsible. Much of our bad behavior stems from trying to apply those criteria. If we limited “good” and “bad” to our own actions, we’d have no call to challenge God, or to treat other people as enemies.”
  12. “The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t.”
  13. “Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves”
  14. “Straight, not straightened”
  15. Helping them isn’t yet its own reward. You’re still seeing it only as The Right Thing To Do. You don’t yet realize who you’re really helping
  16. “External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
  17. “What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness”
  18. “To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.”
  19. “That no one can say truthfully that you are not a straightforward or honest person. That anyone who thinks that believes a falsehood. The responsibility is all yours; no one can stop you from being honest or straightforward. Simply resolve not to go on living if you aren’t. It would be contrary to the logos”
  20. “I am released from those around me. Not dragged against my will, but unresisting”
  21. “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own”
What I got out of it
  1. The principles that Marcus Aurelius lays out here are just as relevant, if not more so, today than they were almost 2000 years ago. Dozens of powerful yet succinct messages that I believe can help anybody in any walk or stage of life. Highly recommend

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The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Obstacle is the Way

Summary
  1. With short but sweet advice and pointed historical examples, Ryan Holiday envelops you in a Stoic world where people not only can conquer any obstacle, but take advantage of it, enjoy it and become better and stronger people because of it. Holiday is a very interesting guy who has worked closely with critically acclaimed author Robert Greene since dropping out of college at age 19 and I would highly recommend his podcasts with Tim Ferriss.
Key Takeaways
  1. The most successful people have a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon obstacles life throws at us. Great individuals and great companies find a way to turn weakness into strengths. The greater the obstacle, the greater their/its strength becomes (pair with Taleb’s amazing Antifragile)
  2. Every obstacle is unique to each of us but the responses they elicit are the same – fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression, anger
  3. With the advice in this book you will be able to attack any obstacle by seeing clearly, acting correctly and enduring and accepting the world as it is
  4. Our perception can be a source of strength or our greatest weakness
  5. See things as they really are, without their legend or ornamentation
  6. Live in the present, day by day. Do not always try to figure out what things mean – why they are the way they are.
  7. Don’t waste time on false constructs
  8. Of course you want to avoid negative situations if you can but what if you were able to remember in the moment the second act, that opportunity to improve even the slightest, that comes with unfortunate situations
  9. Action is commonplace. Proper action is not
  10. Genius often really is just persistence in disguise
  11. Stop looking for angels and start looking for angles
  12. What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better
  13. We must be willing to roll the dice and lose. Prepare, at the end of the day, for none of it to work
  14. Will is our internal power which can never be affected by the outside world. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility; the other kind of will is weakness disguised as bluster and ambition
  15. Love everything that happens – Amor Fati
  16. Death gives life meaning. Having that finite timeline pushes you and inspires you
What I got out of it
  1. As we all know, simple often does not mean easy. The themes in this book not only cover how to face and conquer obstacles, but how to live a happy and successful life. Much of the advice may not be novel, in fact much of it is Stoic and dates back thousands of years, but it is nevertheless invaluable. People are capable of anything as long as they don’t confuse perception with observation, can learn from their mistakes and can embrace the problems everybody undoubtedly will face with a clear mind, acting correctly and accepting the world as it is.

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