Derek Sivers

The Daily Stoic - by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic - by Ryan Holiday

ISBN: 0735211736
Date read: 2016-12-10
How strongly I recommend it: 3/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

This would be great as a daily email, and I think that's how it was intended. But as a book, with 365 tiny chapters, each point feels too shallow. Like reading nothing but blog posts for days. Still, great thoughts inside, so go to to subscribe to that daily email.

my notes

Virtue (meaning, self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom) is happiness.

Your perceptions of things cause most of your trouble, not the things themselves. Control your perceptions.

Accept what’s outside your control.

You can only control and rely on your reason to choose how you categorize, respond, and reorient ourselves to external events.

Use your will to find the wisdom and perspective to deal with anything.

Differentiate between what you can change and what you can’t.

Learn because you want to be freer, fear less, and achieve peace.

Direct your efforts at a cause or a purpose.

Get clarity about who you are and what you stand for.

This is what the mind is here to do:
* choice to do and think right
* refusal of temptation
* yearning to be better
* repulsion of negativity, of bad influences, of what isn’t true
* preparation for what lies ahead
* purpose your guiding principle and highest priority
* assent to be free of deception about what’s inside and outside your control
See everything else as pollution or a corruption.

Harmless indulgences become full-blown addictions.
Little compulsions chip away at your freedom.
Reclaim the freedom to abstain.

Use reason to take the crooked, confusing, and overwhelming nature of external events and make them orderly.

Don’t eliminate outside influences or run away to quiet and solitude.
Serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment.
If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility, you will never be successful.

Study philosophy to break yourself of rote behavior.

Recall the events of the previous day.
Notice what contributed to your happiness and what detracted from it.

Read carefully. Don’t be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole.

Don’t agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.

Limit your action or inaction to only what’s in keeping with the needs of your own preparation.

Have a mantra.

Look at what the wise run away from, and what they seek out.

Keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand.

Give up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint.

If some regard you as important, distrust yourself.

One of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in your hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: “I don’t know.” Or, more provocatively: “I don’t care.”

The nearer you come to a calm mind, the closer you are to strength.

Don’t give way to anger and discontent.

Strength is the ability to maintain a hold of yourself.

Getting anxious is wanting something outside your control.

You can be invincible if you are not upset by anything outside your reasoned choice.

Think before you act.
Impulses of all kinds are going to come, and your work is to control them, like bringing a dog to heel.
Submit every impulse to the claims of justice, and protect your clear conviction in every appearance.

Endure a turbulent life, but don’t choose it.
Choose to be at peace, rather than at war.

The paranoid often destroy themselves quicker than any enemy.

Cultivate the power to hold no opinion about a negative thing.
Practice the ability of having absolutely no thoughts about something.
Act as if you had no idea it ever occurred.
Or that you’ve never heard of it before.
Let it become irrelevant or nonexistent to you.

You have all the reason and intelligence you need.
The tough part is deferring to it and using it.
Make sure that your mind is in charge, not your emotions, not your immediate physical sensations.

As pleasurable as these activities might seem, they ruin your chance at happiness here and now:
* anticipating some future event
* passionately imagining something you desire
* looking forward to some happy scenario

You are invincible if you want nothing, because nothing lies outside your control.

Speak only when you’re certain that what you’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.

Harm comes from your own belief about the abuse, not the abuse itself.

If someone sends you an angry email but you never see it, did it actually happen?

Situations require your participation in order to be considered “bad”.

Seneca was wealthy and famous - yet he was a Stoic.
He had many material things yet he was indifferent to them.
He enjoyed them while they were there, but he accepted that they might someday disappear.

Indifference is solid middle ground. It’s not about avoidance or shunning, but rather not giving any possible outcome more power or preference.

The good are virtues.
The bad are the vices.
The indifferent include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, and pain.

Don’t set your heart on so many things. Focus. Prioritize.

You become a philosopher when you exercise your guiding reason and start to question the emotions and beliefs and even language that others take for granted.

Even what you get for free has a cost, if only in what you pay to store it - in your garage and in your mind.

You hand your mind over willingly to social media, what other people are doing, thinking, or saying.

Choose whether to be loved by these friends and remain the same person, or to become a better person at the cost of those friends.

You can remove most sins if you have a witness standing by as you are about to go wrong.
You should each have your own Cato - a great and noble person you can allow into your minds and use to guide your actions, even when they’re not physically present.
The indifferent spectator can stand witness to your behavior.

Whenever you find yourself blaming providence, turn it around in your mind and you will see that what has happened is in keeping with reason.

All things are guided by reason - but that it is a vast and universal reason that you cannot always see.
Notice how often you look for more.

If you are wanting the past to be still here, you’re neglecting the present moment.

Work can’t overwhelm you. This is impossible.
External objects have no access to your mind. Those emotions you feel come from the inside, not the outside.

What you willingly generate in your mind, that’s on you.
You can’t blame other people for making you feel stressed

People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, or in the mountains.
You can, at any moment, find such a retreat in yourself.
For nowhere can you find a more peaceful and less busy retreat than in your own soul - especially if on close inspection it is filled with ease, which is nothing more than being well-ordered.
Treat yourself often to this retreat and be renewed.

Study, yes, but go live your life as well. It’s the only way that you’ll actually understand what any of it means.
It’s only from your actions and choices that it will be possible to see whether you took any of the teachings to heart.

Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.

Unnecessary things are not worth it at any price.

A dog that’s allowed to chase cars will chase cars.
A child who is never given any boundaries will become spoiled.
An investor without discipline is not an investor - he’s a gambler.
A mind that isn’t in control of itself will be jerked around by external events and unquestioned impulses.

Put in place training and habits now to replace ignorance and ill discipline.

If you shove your feet into tiny shoes each day, your feet begin to take on that form.
The same is true for your mind.
If you hold a perpetually negative outlook, soon enough everything you encounter will seem negative.

Drama, combat, and terror wipe out your sacred principles, whenever your mind entertains them uncritically or lets them slip in.

Stop and ask: OK, what do I really want? What am I actually after here?
Notice the contradictory and inconsistent wishes

Prepare yourself for negativity when you first rise in the morning, because you’ve prepared for it, you’ll be able to act with patience, forgiveness, and understanding.

Our inner fortress is impenetrable.
Stuff cannot touch the soul.

Instead of asking for a way to sleep with her, try asking for a way to stop desiring to sleep with her.
Instead of a way to not lose your child, try asking for a way to lose your fear of this.

Practice not letting people know who you are - keep your philosophy to yourself for a bit.

Fight your biases and preconceptions: because they are a liability.
You’re not as smart and as wise as we’d like to think you are.

Honor what you do not know, and then set that against the knowledge you actually have.

Act on nothing that is untested.

Test your impressions.
Test whether it belongs to the things in your control or not in your control.
And if the latter, be prepared to respond, “It is nothing to me.”

Step back and analyze your own senses, question their accuracy, and proceed only with the positive and constructive ones.
Sure, it’s tempting to throw discipline and order to the wind and go with what feels right.
But if your many youthful regrets are any indication, what feels right right now doesn’t always stand up well over time.

Students claim to want to be taught but really secretly believe they already know everything.

Who would reject the flood of fortune’s gifts?
Anyone who has experienced how easily they flow back.

Everything you do has a tax attached to it.
For example, the tax on traveling is all the waiting around.
Disagreements and occasional frustration are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships.
Theft is a tax on abundance and having things that other people want.
Stress and problems are tariffs that come attached to success.
Simply pay the taxes in life, and enjoy the fruits of what you get to keep.

Do away with the opinion I am harmed, and the harm is cast away too.
Do away with being harmed, and harm disappears.

Set your mind upon things that are unquestionably good - wisdom, self-control, justice, courage.
No one who achieves these quiet virtues experiences buyer’s remorse.

When you let your attention slide for a bit, don’t think you will get back a grip on it whenever you wish.
Instead, bear in mind that because of today’s mistake everything that follows will be necessarily worse.
Be a person always stretching to avoid error, by never letting your attention slide.
Letting your attention slip and wander builds bad habits and enables mistakes.

Use cynical or contemptuous language as a way to dismantle some of the fanciest or most coveted parts of life.
It will provide some much-needed objectivity.

Feel free to change your mind - that’s what the mind is for.
Live from one day to the next.
If something strikes you as probable, say it.
That is how you remain a free agent.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Turn it inside out and see what it is like - what it becomes like when old, sick, or prostituting itself.
Situations are easier to understand from different perspectives.

Indifference turns the highest power into no power.
Looking at the beautiful expanse of the sky is an antidote to the nagging pettiness of earthly concerns.
Lose yourself in that as often as you can.
Adjust your preconceived notions of the rational and irrational in harmony with nature.

Apply the rule of what is in keeping with one’s character.
Question our own opinions.
The more you subject them to the rigorous test of your education, the more you’ll be your own compass.

Character is a powerful defense in a world that would love to be able to seduce you, buy you, tempt you, and change you.
If you know what you believe and why you believe it, you’ll avoid poisonous relationships, toxic jobs, fair-weather friends, and any number of ills that afflict people who haven’t thought through their deepest concerns.

First tell yourself what kind of person you want to be, what’s important to you, what your priorities are.
Then do what you have to do. Work toward that and forsake all the others.

If you wish to be beautiful, then work diligently at human excellence.
If you want some good, get it from yourself.

Where is Good? In your reasoned choices.
Where is Evil? In your reasoned choices.
Where is that which is neither Good nor Evil? In the things outside of your own reasoned choice.
Not whether something is rewarded.
Not whether something will succeed.
Only whether it is the right choice.
The right thing to do always comes from your reasoned choice.
Ignore everything else. Focus only on your choices.

You will only get one shot at today. You have only twenty-four hours with which to take it. And then it is gone and lost forever. Will you fully inhabit all of today?

Your ancestors set up those trophies, not that you may gaze at them in wonder, but that you may also imitate the virtues of the men who set them up.

Peace of mind is doing nothing wrong.
Those who lack self-control live disoriented and disturbed lives.

If you want to do something, make a habit of it.
Take pleasure in taking the right actions - rather than the results.

How you do anything is how you do everything.
How you handle today is how you’ll handle every day.

Don’t be satisfied with mere learning.
Add practice and training.
As time passes you forget what you learned.

Read the few great books deeply instead of briefly skimming all the new books.

Proper human work:
* acts of kindness to other human beings
* disdain for the stirrings of the senses
* identifying trustworthy impressions
* contemplating the natural order and all that happens in keeping with it.

Don’t get upset. Do the right thing.

Remember the purpose and principles you value most.

Your progress can be impeded or disrupted, but the mind can always be reverted - it retains the power to redirect the path.

Whenever talking about people, take a bird’s-eye view and see everything all at once: gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent spaces, every foreign culture, holidays, memorials, markets - all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites.

You can choose whose children you’d like to be.
Great people have recorded their wisdom in books.
Be the promising children of these noble parents.

Focus on doing the smallest things well: practicing with full effort, mastering a specific task.
Don’t worry about winning championships, or the opponent’s lead.

Build up your life action by action.
Be content if each one achieves its goal as far as possible.

Every emotion is at first weak. Later it rouses itself and gathers strength as it moves along.
It’s easier to slow it down than to supplant it.
Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.

Instead of, “Tell me what to do!”, a far better request is, “Train my mind to adapt to any circumstance.”
Then if circumstances take you off script, you won’t be desperate for new advice.

Manage expectations: consider both the best and worst case scenarios.

Don’t just think about what you wish to happen, but also what very realistically can happen if things were to suddenly turn.

Prepare for that to be exactly what they want to happen - it is an opportunity for excellence and virtue.

Thinking of everything that lies ahead is usually counterproductive and overwhelming.
Focus exclusively on the present to avoid or remove those intimidating or negative thoughts.

Calm is contagious.

Ask most people what they’re working toward: become a millionaire? get discovered? become famous?
Ask “Why are you doing that?”: want freedom? want happiness? want the respect of their peers?

You put immense effort and expense you put into chasing things that are simple and straightforward to acquire.
It’s as if you prefer to spend years building a complicated machine instead of just reaching out and picking up what you want.
Freedom? That’s easy. It’s in your choices.
Happiness? That’s easy. It’s in your choices.
All of that is right in front of you.
No need to take the long way to get there.

Paradoxical intention:
If a patient couldn’t sleep, the standard therapy would be relaxation techniques.
Frankl instead encouraged the patient to try not to fall asleep.
He found that shifting focus off the problem deflected the patient’s obsessive attention away from it and allowed them to eventually sleep normally.

CEO of Charles Schwab, when hiring, takes a candidate to breakfast and asks the restaurant’s manager to purposely mess up the candidate’s breakfast order.
He’s testing to see how they react.

Use negative circumstance as an opportunity to practice an unintended virtue or form of excellence.

Never shirk the proper dispatch of your duty.
Make the most of your resources to do well the duty at hand.

Morality can be complicated - but the right thing is usually clear.

Our duty is rarely easy, but it is important.
It’s also usually the harder choice. But you must do it.

Bring your will into harmony with whatever happens, so that nothing happens against your will and nothing that you wish for fails to happen.

A TO-DO list seems burdensome, but a GET TO DO list sounds like a privilege.

Don’t try to impose your will on the world.
Instead see yourself as fortunate to receive and respond to the will in the world.

Good people will do what they find honorable to do, even if it requires hard work.
They won’t do what they find base, even if it brings wealth, pleasure, or power.
Nothing will deter them from what is honorable, and nothing will lure them into what is base.

Were you made for pleasure?
To be coddled or to exert yourself?

A good king is from the outset and by necessity a philosopher.
Philosophy is essential in his role as a leader and warrior.
Leadership offers an unending series of ethical decisions that require priorities, balance, and clarity.
Either philosophers should become kings, or those now called kings should truly and sufficiently undertake philosophy.
The philosopher is a kingly person.

Philosophy cultivates your reason and ethics so that you can do your job well.
Don’t just wing it.

Love the humble art you have learned, making yourself neither a tyrant nor a slave to any person.

Make the time.
If you put in the effort, the rest will take care of itself.
Love the craft, be a craftsman.
Delight in attending to your own improvement, day by day.

News can never be relevant to your reasoned choice.
Can anyone break news to you that your assumptions or desires are wrong?

Getting angry is a weakness.
Be gentle with those who would obstruct your path or create other difficulties.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

You find yourself thinking, “Why can’t they just do things right?”
But not everyone has had the advantages that you’ve had.
You had a head start over some people.
That’s why it is your duty to understand and be patient with others.

No matter what happens today, shift to what lies within your reasoned choices.
Ignore the distracting emotions that pop up.
Don’t get emotional - get focused.

The inexperienced and fearful talk to reassure themselves.
The ability to listen, to deliberately keep out of a conversation and subsist without its validity, is rare.
Silence is a way to build strength and self-sufficiency.

Don’t tell yourself anything more than what the initial impressions report.
You hear that someone is speaking badly about you, but not that you’ve been harmed.
You hear your son is sick, but not that his life is at risk.
Stay within your first impressions.
Don’t add to them in your head.
Stop, courageously, at the surface.
See things in plain, objective form.

Strength should not go against strength.
Don’t try to beat your opponent where they are strongest.

When you try to undertake some impossible task you haven’t bothered to think through.
Or you let someone put you on the spot.
Or you say yes to everything that comes your way.
You are trying to play a losing game.

The vast majority of your words and actions are unnecessary.
Corralling them will create an abundance of leisure and tranquility.
At each moment, ask if this is one of the unnecessary things.

Endless pleasure becomes its own form of punishment.

There are plenty of misfortunes one can practice, plenty of problems one can solve in advance.
Don’t just think about these things, but live them.
Do it now, while things are good.

If you are already humble, no one will need to humble you.

Proper training can change your default habits.
Train yourself to avoid gossip, and you won’t get pulled into it.
Train yourself on any habit, and you’ll be able to unconsciously go to that habit in trying times.

Being unexpected adds to the weight of a disaster.
For that reason, expect anything.
In advance, think of all things that could actually happen.

Make yourself invulnerable to your dependency on comfort and convenience, or one day your vulnerability might bring you to your knees.

Enjoy your relaxation like a poet - not idly but actively, observing the world around you, taking it all in, better understanding your place in the universe.
Don’t take a day off from learning.

Money doesn’t change people, it just makes them more of who they are.

Reflect on what you used to accept as normal.
Consider your first paycheck - how big it seemed then.
Remember your first apartment.
Today, as you’ve become more successful, these conditions would hardly feel sufficient.
You probably want even more than what you have right now.
Yet just a few years ago those paltry conditions were not only enough, they felt great!
When you become successful, you forget how strong you used to be.

The work of living is to set standards and then not compromise them.

Do good in this particular instance, right now.

If you have to preface your remarks with indicators of honesty or directness, what does that say about everything else you say?
If you say you’re being honest now, does that mean you usually aren’t?

The best revenge is to exact no revenge at all.

Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.
Yet if you’ve ever accidentally stepped on a dog, you know that the first reaction is usually a bark or a yelp or a quick snap of the jaws.
In the instant, there is no distinction - just pain.

A virtuous person is generous with assumptions: that something was an accident, that someone didn’t know, that it won’t happen again.

A wolf should not befriend sheep.

You could hope that goodness comes your way - good news, good weather, good luck.
Or you could find it within your own thoughts, and make it with your own actions.

Philosophy attracts introverts.

Each person acquires their own character, but their official roles are designated by chance.
Invite some (with other roles) to your table.

Philosophy shouldn’t have to accept what time or energy is left over from other occupations.
Instead, make time for those other pursuits only once your philosophy study is finished.

If real self-improvement is what you’re after, don’t leave your reading until those few minutes before you shut off the lights and go to bed.

There is hardly an idea in Stoic philosophy that wouldn’t be immediately agreeable to a child, or that doesn’t jibe with common sense.
You were born with an attraction to virtue and self-mastery.
If you’ve gotten far from that, it’s from a nurturing of the wrong things and the wrong ideas.
Philosophy is a tool to strip it all away - to get back to your true nature.

“Amor fati” = a love of fate = not just accepting, but loving everything that happens.

“This man has conquered the world! What have you done?”
“I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”

To have a great empire, rule over yourself.

Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.
Hope and fear are the same.
Both hope and fear contain a dangerous amount of want and worry in them.
The want is what causes the worry.

Adapting yourself to present circumstances.
Don’t send out thoughts too far ahead - projections into the future about things you do not control.

Let philosophy scrape off your own faults, not the faults of others.
Leave other people to that task for themselves and their own journey.

When you experience happiness or wisdom, don’t try to grab that moment and hold on to it with all your might.
It’s not under your control how long it lasts.
Enjoy it, recognize it, remember it.
Having it for a moment is the same as having it forever.

Luxury destroys both the body and the soul, causing weakness and incapacity in the body, and lack of control and cowardice in the soul.
Luxury breeds injustice because it also breeds greediness.

Always shun that which makes you angry.
It’s not a sign of weakness to shut it out.
Instead, it’s a sign of strong will.
Remove this stimulus from your life.
What follows is peace and serenity.

Postpone nothing.
Be like a dying person - as if you’ve come to the very end of life.
Balance life’s books each day.
The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.

The number of people who stand ready to consume one’s time, to no purpose, is almost countless.
No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do you hand out your life?
You’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time: the one thing about which you should be a miser.