Book of the Month: Stoic Wisdom


As every month in 2016 I am sharing with you some books I like and think improve my life, understanding or view of the world.

This month it’s A Guide to a Good Life, by William B Irvine. It’s a simple and easy to read summary of what Stoicism is all about. Stoicism is a philosophy for living. Originating from Athens in the 3rd century BC and founded by Zeno of Citium. Some famous Stoic philosophers were Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.

Stoics believed in finding Tranquility in life. A word that has special meaning for me as it’s the ’T’ in my Leadership B.E.A.T. Model. They meant it in a similar way. The Stoics pursue a tranquil life.

They have different mechanisms for achieving this and some popular methods for going about this, which may also be controversial are:

Negative Visualisation

The practice of seeing what you have disappear one day. For example it might be a material good that you Now possess but imagining one day losing. Maybe it’s a relative and imagining them moving away or passing away. It’s believed by Stoics that doing this will help you appreciate it more in the moment. And I believe this to be true too. Often we only value what we have when we don’t have it any more. Why wait for that to be the case. Using our imagination – perhaps our greatest gift as humans – we can get that sense without actually losing it and be happier in the process.


Another practice of Stoics is to deliberately get uncomfortable. So that you can experience the worst and actually see it’s not that bad. It will take away the fear. Seneca practised poverty from time to time so that fear of being on the bread line actually diminishes as you realise that you can survive anyway. Perhaps if would be entrepreneurs did the same they would be more happy to take chances and really go for it, knowing that they can still get by if the worst happens.

Control the Controllable

OK, so they didn’t put it like this, but the Stoics – Epictetus in particular – would teach that there are things that you can control in your life, and things over which you have no control. Many people spend their time worrying about things that they have no control over, really. What people think of them, the economy, the weather, whether the train will be on time or not. Concern yourself with what you do have control over. Whether you are a nice person, your own finances, being prepared for all weather, leaving enough time and back up plans for travel. It’s a similar, if not identical concept to one I’ve already talked about in my video and article on Circle of Concern, Circle of Influence. See article here:

These are just some of the philosophies of Stoicism. I encourage you to check out this book as it’s a good introduction to Stoicism and you might find adopting some of the principles helps you create a Good Life for yourself.

What do you think? Are you familiar with Stoicism? Let me know below.

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