Before you have a wet dream over these stoic ideas, I have something to share.
One of the most quoted historical figures in stoicism, Marcus Aurelius, also called the godfather of self-improvement, was an opium junkie.
I tell you this so you remember that all ideas and advice come from people who are simultaneously good and bad in one area of their life. As they say, there are no cookie-cutter church boys in real life.
Even the stoics had a dark side to their past.
Let’s get to the stoic ideas that’ll turn your world upside down.
“Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth”
I’ve built my whole life around this quote.
Laptop life, entrepreneurship, digital nomad, side hustles, personal freedom — there are all just modern terms for an old stoic idea.
The unfortunate thing is self-sufficiency has been glamorized by Insta-Glam influencers, which has distorted its message. The goal in life isn’t to show off or take selfies by the beach with the caption “my work day.” No.
Self-sufficiency is the greatest wealth of all because you’re not dependent on anyone. It’s where you have an income no boss or employer can take away. It’s where you spend time how you see fit.
Basically, it’s a life without permission slips.
The reason this idea is so out of reach for the average person is because they’re afraid to take a risk. But what they’re really afraid of is courage.
They want to fit in. They don’t want to poke the bear. They want to be admired by those around them, which means being less than they can be so they don’t get kicked out of the wolf pack.
To rebel against all of this takes courage. At first you’re a loser. Then later, people worship you like a sort of god. It’s weird.
Use the internet not to be flashy. Use it to become self-sufficient.
“Wealth is the slave of a wise man and the master of a fool”
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “make money work for you.”
This is an old idea from the stoics. The slave life is to use money to become a consumer — that is, to play the white picket fence keeping up with the Joneses game.
What the stoics taught was to make money your slave by putting it to work. This just means becoming an investor. Investing money in stocks, a side business you might start, crypto, etc.
The more modern version of what the stoics taught is to invest in creating digital assets you can sell — books, education, communities, software, NFTs. These assets produce digital leverage.
The original effort used compounds over time to make you the master of money rather than be its slave.
“Being poor is not having too little, it is wanting more”
The consumer mindset teaches us to always want more when a lot of us already have enough.
This idea is what fuelled the minimalism trend of the last decade. If you can control your wants then you don’t need as much, therefore, you can work a lot less.
The other key to this idea is you don’t need to think about money as much. Money is a virus that drives so many human brains. It’s all many people can think about because capitalism forced us to.
Use frugality and minimalism to work less and have more life experiences.
“No one has it worse than the person who is deprived of randomness”
(Seneca — quote translated slightly)
The common narrative of happiness is misunderstood. The idea for many is to work less or get lucky and then do what they love. This romantic idea sounds steamier than the 50 Shades of Gray novel. It’s a lie though.
What many people are missing isn’t fame and fortune. It’s randomness. They work jobs with zero creativity and do repetitive tasks that are the definition of going insane.
A modern term for this is “being stuck in the Matrix.”
This, too, is a stoic idea. It comes from Plato’s book Allegory “The Cave.” Plato describes a group of people who’ve had to stare at a blank wall while chained to it for their whole lives.
The Matrix movie modernized this ancient stoic idea.
What this group of people are missing is randomness.
The joy of not knowing what’s going to happen today. The fun of doing work and having no idea what the outcome will be (it’s part of the addiction to the creator economy — no one knows what content will blow up).
If life sucks or feels boring, what’s missing is randomness. Stop being so predictable. Wear a weird freaking shirt. Go for coffee with a stranger. Take a different route to work. Say random stuff in a meeting.
Just don’t let every day feel the same anymore. Punctuate days with randomness.
“You can also commit injustice by doing nothing”
You’ve no doubt seen the trends of virtue-signaling, politically correct culture, nanny state rules, the woke movement, and the coddling of the American mind.
I’ve studied it a lot over the last few weeks. One pattern emerged:
These movements say we’re not doing enough. The truth is the movement itself is often just a way to seek status and show off. It gives us “thoughts and prayers vibes.”
It all sounds great. It’s saying the right thing … but it’s doing 1/10th of bugger all. Anyone can change their profile pic to a flag. Few people can go to countries that need help … and … help. Or shut up and put their money where their mouth is.
Doing nothing is the real pandem!c.
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property. But as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy”
Time is easy to piss up against the wall.
I do it sometimes too. The stoics valued time differently. They saw time as worth more than money. This idea has been lost over the centuries.
Now it’s making a comeback. The fastest way to reclaim time is to attend less meetings and learn how to say no like a badass.
Once you value your time, others value it too.
“We suffer more in imagination than in reality”
In Australia, we like to say “when you’re in your head you’re dead.”
It’s because when you get trapped by thoughts inside your head you suffer more than you need to. Our imaginations are great at taking tiny inputs and turning them into big, scary boogie monsters that prevent sleep.
It’s our imagination, after all, that produces nightmares while we sleep.
The easy solution is to have wise people in your inner circle. When you’re dead in your head just reach out to one of them and share your thoughts. Chances are they’ll help you snap out of it.
People aren’t thinking about you as much as you think.
“If you seek tranquility, do less”
Hustle p*rn taught us to always be busy being awesome.
It’s a lie. It’s a trap. Being overly productive is a nightmare. It teaches you to treat other humans like transactions and to try and overdo everything.
When I’ve done less in my life, I’ve felt better. Over the last few weeks I’ve taken every weekend off to spend with my ball-of-snot daughter.
The less we do together the more fun we have. When we do less time feels as if it slows down, so we feel like we have more of it. And we get to experience time in its fullness.
A slow perception of time is true wealth.
“Dogs bark at what they cannot understand”
I feel like Heraclitus said this for online writers centuries into the future.
When a random barks at you in the comments it’s often because they have no clue what’s happening. They got triggered because social media makes us trigger happy. Once they pull that trigger someone’s head is gonna get metaphorically blown off in the comments. We’ve all seen it happen.
The cure to barking dogs is this final stoic idea:
I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make them think — Socrates
If your goal is to make people think it’s hard to go wrong. This idea has become the mantra of my entire writing life.
It’s how I’ve written 5000+ blog posts and not gotten offended by trolls and haters looking to throw a pie in my face and laugh. Make people think.
Or live like you’re at the same stage of life as Keanu Reeves where he stays out of discussions. He says:
Even if you say 1+1=5, you’re right. Have fun.