Summer with a Roman Emperor; an introduction to Stoic Philosophy

Published: August 6, 2017
Author: Steven Thomas

“Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it - Epictetus.”

Part of my summer reading this year has focused on Stoic Philosophy.  It's a school of thought that dates back to the 3rd century that has now become popular with artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs all over the world.  Notable figures such as Bill Clinton, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson have all used the words of ancient stoics like Marcus Aurelius, Cato, Seneca, and Epictetus to guide them through the best and worst of times. I started pulling on this particular mental thread after picking up on it a few times on Tim Ferriss's blog and podcast.  He describes it as "a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort." High praise indeed from one of the leading minds in performance and lifestyle design.

The Roman Emperor guiding modern-day politicians, creatives and entrepreneurs

I also enjoyed reading Gregory Hays's translation of 'Meditations' by the last of the great Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius.  Marcus's wartime journals have been described as one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written.  It's accessible and surprisingly applicable to the world we find ourselves in here in the 21st century.  Pretty much in tandem, I read Ryan Holidays 'The Obstacle is the Way'.  Ryan draws on the philosophy of the Stoics to show that what blocks our path actually opens one that is new and better - challenging us to turn adversity into advantage.  On my quest to find out more, I'm happy to say I also found an enlightening and useful podcast by my fellow altMBA alumni, Scott Perry called 'Meet the modern Stoics'.

(Stoic Philosophy)...a simple and immensely practical set of rules for better results with less effort - Tim Ferriss

My own interpretation is that it is a philosophy for people who are interested in applying a set of principles to their lives that are anchored in action, realism and the true definition of nature.  This isn't a practice for navel gazers, this is a system that encourages you to take ownership for your own thoughts and actions and to set your ego to the side.

A Brief Guide to Stoicism by steven.thomas8


Check out my poem: Stoic 101

This New York Time piece by Scientist and Professor of Philosophy, Massimo Pigliucci is a great place to start.  He also writes an "evolving guide on how to be a stoic in the 21st century" over on his blog.

Ryan Holiday's books  The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy are both highly recommended and go deep on applying the philosophy to creative, work and personal challenges. He also has a great site called The Daily Stoic and I recommend signing up to his newsletter.

If you want to go deeper, there is also a load of information and discussion over on the Stoicism channel on Reddit.

Scott Perry has a great podcast and video series called 'Meet the modern Stoics' where he interviews leading advocates who share the value and virtues of modern Stoicism.

Jonas Salzgeber has also gone deep on his site and has accompanied his work with some smart illustrations.

Man image: Jace Grandinetti