Life Lessons from The Daily Stoic

Have you ever had a book fall into your lap from out of the blue that speaks not only to the times we live in but the very moment? Such was the case for me with The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance and the Art of Living by everyday philosophers Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman.

It’s hardly breaking (much less “alternative”) news that America suddenly finds itself in cram mode for an unscheduled midterm exam in Democracy 101 with the arrival of our new and untested leadership in Washington, D.C. While meeting planners tend to remain professionally aloof from politics in their day-to-day, the airport chaos that ensued following the new administration’s immediate crackdown on U.S.-bound foreigners during its first week in office served as a general wakeup call that “the usual” just got unusual.

Or as that sage modern-day Stoic Jackson Browne once predicted in “The Road and the Sky:” “you can hold on steady and try to be ready, but everybody’s gonna get wet. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”

How might one best counter – and encounter – the chaos of change? I would defer to Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, who would reply (paraphrasing here): when the going gets tough, the tough get Stoic.

The Daily Stoic takes the ancient philosophy of courage, self-control and focus on personal happiness espoused by these three clear thinkers and breaks its tips and tactics down into daily one-page pep talks for the entire year, complete with red ribbon bookmark.

Boring? Au contraire; these tips, compiled long before the 2016 election was decided, speak with an uncanny immediacy if not urgency that lifts us up and well above the tedious twitter wars barking at our subconscious.

Here’s a sampling from January’s meditations:

Jan. 1: The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. A flight is delayed because of weather – no amount of yelling at an airline representative will end a storm. 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 people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.

Jan 4: The three most essential parts of stoic philosophy: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control. That’s all we need to do.

Jan. 25: Warren 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. Why? It’s not because these men are cheap. It’s because the things that matter to them are cheap. 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.

Regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Stoicism before, there is an internal logic to both the philosophic quotations that begin each meditation and the everyday interpretations provided by the co-authors that follow.

If I had to summarize The Daily Stoic’s teachings in 140 characters, it would read something like this: Be kind. Stay calm. Tend to what you can affect, disengage from what you can’t and keep your personal happiness as your guiding light.

It’s comforting just now to hear those messages on a daily basis.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman is available in hardcover on ($15.00).

Photo credits: Cover image courtesy of Portfolio Books.


Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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