Letters From A Stoic Book Summary

This is quite a wonderful philosophy book that has provided great value to my way of thinking. I will include my favorite passages from the book along with personal reflections and antidotes. Enjoy!

Letter II

“You do not tear from place to place and unsettle yourself with one move after another. Restlessness of that sort is symptomatic of a sick mind. Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

Social media is highly addictive. On average, this technology is negatively influencing it’s users. It’s so easy to pull out our phones getting lost in the likes or shares of content you may have published at a previous date. This endless feedback loop keeps most people alien to a quite, unadulterated life.

“You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

Letter V

“Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob. Otherwise we shall repel and alienate the very people whose reform we desire; we shall make them, moreover, reluctant to imitate us in anything for fear they may have to imitate us in everything.”

“Our motto, as everyone knows, is to live in conformity with nature: it is quite contrary to nature to torture one’s body, to reject simple standards of cleanliness and make a point of being dirty, to adopt a diet that is not just plain but hideous and revolting.”

“Finding wealth an intolerable burden is the mark of an unstable mind.”

To live a good life a person needs to build up their wealth. I favor the real estate, private equity, and career spaces as I believe these are the best vehicles to build wealth without working 70 hours per week. Index funds are good wealth vehicles, however I know I can make a better return in my other asset classes than the average 7% return in the stock market.

“Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. ‘Cease to hope,’ he says, ‘and you will cease to fear.’ ‘But how,’ you will ask, ‘can things as diverse as these be with on another, unconnected as they may seem. Widely different though they are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope. Nor does their so moving together surprise me; both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present. Thus it is that foresight, the greatest blessing humanity has been given, is transformed into a curse. Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.”

These ideas echo the virtuous practice of meditation. A skilled meditator can meditate 24/7 for this practice is simply observing the mind. Not adding any more thinking, but watching the mind bubble up thoughts from the unconsciousness with a grace of full awareness. The mind is in fact a tool – the mind is not who you are.

Letter VI

“I should very much like, then, to share this all so sudden metamorphosis of mine with you. Doing so would make me start to feel a surer faith in the friendship that exists between us, that true friendship which not hope nor fear nor concern for personal advantage ever sunders, that friendship in which and for which people are ready to die. I can give you plenty of examples of people who have not been lacking a friend but friendship, something that can never happen when mutual inclination draws two personalities together in a fellowship of desire for all that is honorable. Why cannot it happen? Because they know that everything – and especially their setbacks – is shared between them.”

I can account 3 true friends that know of my setbacks and tribulations. We share our stories when time allows for such conversation and omit deep, dark secretes or worries that we need a second opinion on. Such conversations are wonderous, enriching experiences more people should pursue in life. For what better way to grow a relationship with someone than by helping them in times of need with console.

“Personal converse, though, and daily intimacy with someone will be of more benefit to you than any discourse. You should really be here and on the spot, firstly because people believe their eyes rather more than their ears, and secondly, because the road is a long one if one proceeds by way of precepts but short and effectual if by way of personal example.”

“‘What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all.”

Letter VII

“Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach. And there is no reason why any pride in advertising your talents abroad should lure you forward into the public eye, inducing you to give readings of your works or deliver lectures.”

The cone of learning shows us human’s learn best by teaching, less so by reading. Action that grows a mind’s intelligence and experience is bolstered by teaching the wisdom you are acquiring.

“‘I am writing this,’ he says, ‘not for the eyes of the many, but for yours alone: for each of us is audience enough for the other.’ Lay these up in your heart, my dear Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure that comes from the majority’s approval. Your merits should not be outward facing.”

Letter VIII

“Spurn everything that is added on by way of decoration and display by unnecessary labor. Reflect that nothing merits admiration except the spirit, the impressiveness of which prevents it from being impressed by anything.”

“To win true freedom you must be a slave to philosophy. A person who surrenders and subjects himself to her doesn’t have his application deferred from day to day; he’s emancipated on the spot, the very service of philosophy being freedom.”

Quite a contrast of thought from the FIRE community. A better concept of this space should be found integrating both philosophy and financial independence. How many are the financial independent seekers hating their daily lives as they strive to build more and more wealth. Is this truly a good way to live? Philosophy would say, no. Pursing wisdom and skills in both domains – philosophy and financial independence – is The Way.

“If you pray a thing may
And it does come your way,
Tis a long way from being your own.

What fortune has made yours is not your own.
And I can’t pass over that even happier expression of yours:
The boon that could be given can be withdrawn.”

Letter IX

“The ending inevitably matches the beginning: a person who starts being friends with you because it pays him will similarly cease to be friends because it pays him to do so.”

“‘The wise man is content with himself.’…This applies to him so far as happiness in life is concerned: for this all he needs is a rational and elevated spirit that treats fortune with disdain; for the actual business of living he needs a great number of things. I should like to draw your attention to a similar distinction made by Chrysippus. The wise man, he said, lacked nothing but needed a great number of things, whereas ‘the fool, on the other hand, needs nothing (for he does not know how to use anything) but lacks everything.’ The wise man needs hands and eyes and a great number of things that are required for the purposes of day-to-day life; but he lacks nothing, for lacking something implies that it is a necessity and nothing, to the wise man, is a necessity.”

“Self-contented as he is, then, he does need friends – and wants as many of them as possible – but not to enable him to lead a happy life; this he will have even without friends. The supreme ideal does not call for any external aids. It is homegrown, wholly self-developed. Once it starts looking outside itself for any part of itself it is on the way of being dominated by fortune.”

“Not happy he who thinks himself not so.”

“It does not make any difference what a man says; what matters is how he feels, and not how he feels on one particular day but how he feels at all times. But you have no need to fear that so valuable a thing may fall into unworthy hands. Only the wise man is content with what is his. All foolishness suffers the burden of dissatisfaction with itself.”

Letter XI

“We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.”

This idea may reflect in the form of God, Buddha, and the like. It’s a wonderful mindset to carry all throughout life.

Letter XII

“To live under constraint is a misfortune, but there is no constraint to live under constraint.”

Letter XV

“We have good reason to say: ‘I trust this finds you in pursuit of wisdom.’ For this is precisely what is meant by good health. Without wisdom the mind is sick, and the body itself, however physically powerful, can only have the kind of strength that is found in persons in a demented or delirious state. So this is the sort of healthiness you must make your principle concerns.”

“Cultivate an asset which the passing of time itself improves.”

Examples are rental real estate, wisdom, fitness, relationships, peace.

“Continually remind yourself of the many things you have achieved.”

Letter XVI

It is clear to you, I know, Lucilius, that no one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings of wisdom make life bearable. Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflection; making noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already. You have to preserver and fortify your pertinacity until the will to good becomes a disposition to good.”

Philosophy is the best ideal to study if you wish to improve your wisdom. Philosophy will teach you what is truth and what is just. Life experience will be the other wisdom provider. Traditional education masks the realities of the real world from it’s participants. This is why so many young people are struggling to get a career foothold in their 20’s since they were never truly prepared for the real world. These same people on average are lazy and dumb so their struggle will continue for the remainder of their natural lives. The winners rise up, put in the world, get 1% better ever single day.

“Philosophy is not an occupation of a popular nature, nor is it pursued for the sake of self-advertisement. Its concern is not with words, but with facts. It is not carried on with the object of passing the day in an entertaining sort of way and taking the boredom out of leisure. It molds and builds the personality, orders one’s life, regulates one’s conduct, shows one what one should do and what one should leave undone, sits at the helm and keeps one on the correct course as one is tossed about in perilous seas. Without it no one can lead a life free of ear or worry. Every hour of the day countless situations arise that call for advice, and for that advice we have look to philosophy.”

Can you see the personal development advantages in studying philosophy? To be free of fear or worry in daily life. Calling upon the teaching of wise men when stoic advice is needed. Every man in today’s society needs personal development and philosophy if they wish to make something of themselves in this short life. The government is never going to take care of you.

“Whatever is well said by anyone belongs to me. If you shapre your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich. Natures wants are small, while those of opinion are limitless.”

“Give up pointless, empty journeys, and whenever you want to know whether the desire aroused in you by something you are pursuing is natural or quite unseeing, ask yourself whether it is capable of coming to rest at any point; if after going a long way there is always something remaining farther away, be sure it is not something natural.”

Letter XVII

“Still, my determination to put your moral strength of purpose to the test is such that I propose to give even you the following direction found in great men’s teaching: set aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it, and with rough, coarse clothing, and will ask yourself, “Is this what one used to dread?’ It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs. In the midst of peace the soldier carrier out maneuvers, throws up earthworks against a non-existent enemy and tires himself out with unnecessary toil in order to be equal to it when it is necessary. If you want a man to keep his head when the crisis comes you must give him some training before it comes.”

It’s always hard to remind yourself of the hard times you’ve surmounted when times are so good. When the gravy is flowing, the good life is vivacious, these are times when life has a tendency to smack you in the face with a serious problem to overcome yet again. The process is never ending and keeps our character humbled and our spirit’s elevating to higher level’s of consciousness. For growth cannot happen without the presence of pain that much be overcome.

Letter XXVII

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