The Stoic philosophers, including the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and the slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, lived some 2,000 years ago and didn’t have the benefit of more recent schools of philosophy, such as Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Among other things, they didn’t understand that free will is the ability to think or not to think. Consequently, they were confused, as are many people to this day, about what truly is and isn’t in one’s control. But working with the knowledge and suppositions they did have, the Stoics developed many useful ways of thinking about life. And their writings are rich with ideas about what Epictetus called The Art of Living.
The Stoics are best known for the practical methods they developed of overcoming the challenges of daily life. Resisting temptation, overcoming one’s fear of death, making best use of one’s time—these are just a few of the issues they delved into. The result? They created what Ryan Holiday characterizes as “a set of practical exercises and ways of thinking” that empower you to succeed in life.
Stoic teachings have influenced world leaders throughout history, from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius through to Fortune 500 executives today. Indeed, the name of the shoe company, ASICS, is an acronym of a Stoic maxim “Anima Sana In Corpore Sana,” which means “a sound mind in a sound body.”
Holiday, author of best-selling book The Obstacle is the Way and creator of the YouTube channel Daily Stoic, has built a career presenting Stoic principles of successful living, concretizing them for modern-day audiences in books, videos, and live presentations. Holiday is one of the few public figures today who appreciates the critical role that philosophy plays in determining how we should live our lives.
In the clip below, he outlines eight lessons of Stoicism that I find particularly valuable in improving the quality of my life. I hope you will too.