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Three Life-Changing Lessons From Ancient Philosophy

November 2016Words by Mr Adam Welch

Illustration by Mr Vincent Mahé

“It would be hard to find a word dealt a greater injustice at the hands of the English language than ‘stoic’,” write Messrs Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman in the introduction to their new book The Daily Stoic. It’s true that today, the idea of “stoicism” is more usually used to invoke grim forbearance, a Job-like ability to suffer without complaint. But that’s not at all what it was originally about when the Hellenistic school of study was founded in 3rd-Century Athens by Zeno of Citium, say Messrs Holiday and Hanselman. In fact, the writings of the early stoics Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca – a Roman school of philosophers whose central proposition is that we can deal with the uncertainties of life by adopting a controlled mental attitude – are not only proactive and positive, but inherently practical, even for the wildly different experience of life we have in 2016.

To prove this, the authors set about collecting 366 snippets of stoic wisdom, one for each day of the year, to compile into The Daily Stoic. Each page of the book features a quotation from a stoic philosopher and a gloss from Messrs Hanselman and Holiday (formerly a marketing man, now a self-help guru, whose previous books include Ego Is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is The Way), that explains the teaching contained therein, with clarifying references to everything from Mr Arthur Schopenhauer to Fight Club. Scroll down for a brief taster of what stoicism can do for you, via three lessons from the book.