Next to the Bible some of the best reading I have done is from the writings of ancient philosophers, in particular, the stoics. I was first introduced to the stoics when the Commandant of the Marine Corps put Meditations on his reading list. Marcus Aurelius, who was the last of the 5 Good Roman Emperors and author of Meditations, wrote some of the best examples of personal and constructive thinking in his journal. Seneca is quickly become one of my favorites. Here is a good quote from a July of passage of The Daily Stoic – “This is what you should teach me, how to be like Odysseus – how to love my country, wife and father, and how, even after suffering shipwreck, I might keep sailing on course to those honorable ends.” Seneca, Moral Letters, 88.7b
I’ve never really been one of those guys that buys books with a passage for each day of the year – I like chapters that make points and take you on a deep journey of thought. That being said, this book takes you on a deep journey of thought and reflection with a small passage for every day of the year. What’s more is the book is broken down into three four-month parts and each part and month has a theme. So it’s kind of like chapters.
The Daily Stoic is a compilation of 366 different thoughts and ideas from the wisdom of ancient stoic philosophers. These passages from the ancients are meant to bring insight on matters of living a good, moral, balanced, and well-rounded good life. Each passage is followed up with a short write-up by authors Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman.
From reading a passage you can clearly understand what the stoics were attempting to do – live better. Contrary to uninformed opinion, the stoics were not some isolated group on the fringes of society that remained indifferent to the world around them. Rather, they were people who wanted to remain in control of those things that we too often let control and wreak havoc on us – things like our emotions. One of the chief tenants, if not the chief tenant, of stoic philosophy is to put our energy, emotions and attention on matters where they make a difference and not on matters where they don’t. As you read through this book, that notion becomes increasingly obvious as the underlying theme of nearly every thought as it comes through in different ways.
Here is one example from the book:
NO SHAME IN NEEDING HELP
“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldiers help?”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.7
No one ever said you were born with all the tools you’d need to solve every problem you’d face in life. In fact, as a newborn you were practically helpless. Someone helped you then, and you came to understand that you could ask for that help. It was how you knew you were loved.
Well, you are still loved. You can ask anyone for help. You don’t have to face everything on your own.
If you need help, comrade, just ask.”
This is an excellent book that I highly recommend not just having, but reading every day.
Holiday, Ryan and Stephen Hanselman. Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Self-Mastery, Perseverance and Wisdom: Featuring New Translations of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.
The Daily Stoic