Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage is a self-help book that packages up the wisdom of Aurelius with inspiring examples of great men and women who embodied the same Stoic principles.
Here’s a ten point plan to implement stoicism in your life.
1. Next time someone inimidates you, imagine then having sex, as Epictetus advissed. See them in your mind, grunting and sweaty and human, just like the rest of us.
2. Take away the ornamentation in life to see things as they are, not as we’ve made them in our minds. Marcus Aurelius had an exercise where he stripped things of their euphemisms, so roasted meat is a dead animal and vintage wine old fermented grapes.
3. If someone is rude, realise that they are underestimating you, which is a huge advantage. If they question your abilities, their low expectations are easier to exceed.
4. No one is going to save you. If you really want to accomplish those goals you’re always talking about, there’s only one way: meet your problems with energy, persistence, savvy, resilience and pragmatism.
5. While you’re sleeping, messing around online or taking long holidays, someone is working 18-hour days coding the start-up that will destroy your business. Keep moving forwards — always. At its most basic, courage is simply taking action, whether or not you’re scared.
6. Flip your obstacles upside down and see them as windows of opportunity to test yourself. All great victories, whether in work, love or politics, involve resolving difficult problems with creativity and courage.
7. Don’t be “positive”. Instead learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic.
8. Just because your mind tells you that something is terrible or a disaster doesn’t mean you have to agree. We decide what stories to tell ourselves.
9. Being terrified by a presentation or a confrontation with a client is a luxury and an indulgence of your lesser self. Just say: “I can’t afford to panic.”
10. If an emotion can’t change the difficult situation you’re dealing with it’s an unhelpful, destructive one. Don’t conflate emoting a problem and dealing with it.