2017 is the year of everything.
But what is the right path to everything? Humans do not inherit an operating system for life, we instead are a hodge podge of instincts & emotions.
I have realized this, not only in a year of managing the content for this blog, but also in the many years I have spent contemplating my life and its forward or backward projections.
The right way to do things, or do anything, has never been transparent. If you read, and you should, you’ll quickly realize that the world’s most successful people choose to go against the common way of doing things.
Take a deeper look into Western society and you’ll realize again that the suicide rates for this part of the world are astronomical, despite our cushy lives and our endless opportunities.
The way we are told to live our lives is based on a false premise. It is peppered with hedonistic thought, perhaps the worse way for a person to live is what we strive for everyday.
Read More: The Outwork Book Club
The Journey of Optimal Living
I decided that the best way to figure all of this out was to reflect upon history and upon the present, to see what persists among those that are successful and happy.
It seems that a life philosophy, or a guiding principle, is necessary to steer the day to day ups and downs that will plague me for as long as I draw breath.
For many, religion fills this purpose. But experience ensures that it won’t work for me.
How about an ancient philosophy that has stood the test of time?
A way of thinking that has humbled a Roman emperor, a slave, an imprisoned fighter pilot, a modern marketing superstar, the author of the most popular lifestyle book ever, and Tom Brady.
“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.” ― Seneca
William Irvine, in A Guide to the Good Life, notes that stoicism has been misunderstood. Its dictionary definition does not do it justice. Stoics were masters of their emotions and they worked every day to keep the hodge podge of thoughtful expression under control. They were not void of emotion, but instead aimed to banish negative emotion.
The Stoic Summer Reading List that is below combines ancient wisdom with modern circumspection that I hope will bring me closer to understanding and applying the powers of a stoic mind.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius
It begins with the Outwork Book Club’s review of Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life. I thought about starting with something by one of stocism’s founding fathers, but I opted instead for a more general overview that Irvine provides.
It will also give me a solid anchor moving forward as I zero in on deep introspection.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays translation)
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
- Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot by James Stockdale
This list is by no means a complete exhaustion of all stoic philosophy. There are some classics that are not on here but my goal is to optimize my thoughts and emotions and this selection meets that demand in the simplest way possible.
But for added measure, I am mixing in two books that are not of stoic origins. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker is more a leadership book originally published in the Harvard Business Review. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Teach Yourself) by Christine Wilding is a modern psychological technique that grows from stoic roots. Both additions are again aimed at the grandest of all goals: self-mastery and how to live one’s life.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius (wiki)
In Pursuit of Excellence
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