A list of things I’ve learned the hard way

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The great Admiral Hyman Rickover used to say that success teaches nothing; only failure is educational. I don’t know if that’s completely true, but I will say that my own short time on this planet has had its share of teachable moments rooted in mistakes, usually of my own making.

For going on 10 years now, I have written a piece on my birthday around the idea of lessons learned. This year, at 34, I thought I’d focus exclusively on my failures and what they’ve taught me. …


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There’s nothing like a global pandemic to sap your motivation. When you’re locked in your house, working from home, when your routine is disrupted, when everything that’s happening in the world seems to be negative, it’s easy to say, screw it. Or, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll get back on track when things go back to normal. I’ll start eating salads for lunch when I’m back at the office. I’ll stop snacking when the kids are back on a schedule. I’ll get back to working out when I can safely go to the gym. …


The best pieces of wisdom gathered from a body of work that spans 2,000 years

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What is the job of a philosopher?

“When the standards have been set,” Epictetus said, “the work of philosophy is just this, to examine and uphold the standards, but the work of a truly good person is in using those standards when they know them.”

Pretty straightforward then: Define your rules. Live by them.

But the Stoics were not quite so direct in practice. While they spoke, wrote, and debated, nowhere did they put their “commandments” down in one place. Not in any form that survived, at least. …


If you’re wondering why you’re not happy, why things are always hard, try this thought experiment from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius

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We can imagine that Marcus Aurelius was a busy man, perhaps the busiest man in the world. He had 14 children. He was living through a pandemic. He had a nagging stomach ailment. He was taking philosophy classes.

Oh, and he was the emperor of Rome. His domain stretched some 2.2 million square miles and included some 120 million people for whom he was both responsible for and in charge of.

How did he manage it all? How did he get it all done? Without losing his mind? Without falling behind?

We know that one question played a huge role.


A list for anyone struggling to see beyond this pandemic moment

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Over the past year, we’ve all been tested. Many of us have failed.

The pandemic made some of us callous. It infected others with conspiracy theories. Too many of us gave into apathy and chaos, losing all sense of structure (and spending who knows how many hours watching Netflix). Now, with the pandemic in the home stretch, but still with us, we have to get serious. We have to get serious about the tried and tested way to wisdom: reading.

Books are an investment in yourself — one that can come in many forms: novels, nonfiction, how-to, poetry, classics, biographies…


Stress is part of life. But suffering because of stress? To the Stoics, that was a choice.

Graphic of a person standing on top of a hill/mountain overlooking a red sun.
Graphic of a person standing on top of a hill/mountain overlooking a red sun.
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“It’s normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if you’re using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal — if he’s living a normal human life. And if it’s normal, how can it be bad?” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.33

Life has always been hard. Even in the ancient world, there were children to raise, debts to pay, and terrible bosses. People got sick. They committed to too much.

Stress was a fact of life. But suffering because of stress? …


Ryan Holiday’s favorite lessons on success, relationships, and being a good human

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In his essay On the Happy Life, the philosopher Seneca makes an extended list of rules for living a good life. It’s everyone’s wish to live better, he says, but we are often in the dark on how to do so.

Except… we’re not. At least, we don’t have to be. So many people have struggled in the dark before us, and their experiences and lessons have created light. Living a good life starts with learning from one another.

With that in mind, here are 100 rules that have helped me live the life I want. Some have come from…


Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for a better understanding of the year ahead

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I will say this about 2020: It provided plenty of inspiration to read more. Every month, it seemed, there was a new or deepening crisis in a subject that became vital to learn more about: leadership, pandemics, civil rights, elections. It was one of those years that sent you to, well, I would say “the bookstore,” but you know.

Actually doing the reading, of course, was a different story. I read a lot in 2020. But I know a lot of people who couldn’t, who found their focus too shot and their mental energy too drained to actually make it…


As history tells us, there’s no such thing

Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
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We’ve all heard it at some point this year, and have probably even said it: “When things go back to normal… ”

I found myself having such a thought this very morning as I took my sons for our daily walk. It’s understandable, of course. Life right now feels very strange. A pandemic has disrupted our lives. The country seems more polarized than ever. There’s little sign that the economy will rebound soon.

But any student of history knows that 2020 is hardly abnormal.

A hundred years ago, we had a pandemic — the Spanish flu — in the middle…


Seven tactics from the ancient world that have stood the test of time

Marcus Aurelius writing philosophical advice to his son. Photo: Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The Roman-era Stoic philosopher Seneca once joked that the one thing fools all have in common is that they are always getting ready to live but never actually do.

That was 20 centuries ago. For tens of thousands of years, people have been procrastinating just like you do today: They put things off, delayed, made excuses, and wished their deadlines would disappear. And just as it does with you, this caused them anxiety, made them piss off their colleagues and families, and, worst of all, wasted time.

Fortunately, unlike our ancient counterparts, we have ages of wisdom to help us…

Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ http://amzn.to/24qKRWR

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