The 16 Greatest Lessons From 16 Years With Marcus Aurelius

Ryan Holiday
7 min readNov 2, 2022

Just over sixteen years ago, I bought Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations on Amazon. Amazon Prime didn’t exist then and to qualify for free shipping, I had to purchase a few other books at the same time.

I was 19 years old. I didn’t know what Stoicism was. I didn’t know who Marcus Aurelius was (besides the old guy in Gladiator). I certainly didn’t know who Gregory Hays, the translator, was. I’m not even sure why I got that translation — it just came up first in the searches. But if I hadn’t ordered that book, if it hadn’t shown up at my college apartment a few days later, I’m not sure who I would have turned out to be.

It was for me what Tyler Cowen would call a “a quake book,” shaking everything I thought I knew about the world (however little that actually was at 19). I would also become what Stephen Marche has referred to as a “centireader,” reading Marcus Aurelius well over 100 times across multiple editions and copies.

In fact, just recently I started reading a new copy…because my 16-year-old copy was starting to get a little worse for wear. The cover has been taped back on. Nearly every page is marked with different pens and highlighters, nearly every page has been folded or unfolded at one time or another.

So I went out and created an edition with a level of quality not possible with mass produced books. First, I reached out to Gregory Hays, the translator of the Modern Library edition of Meditations, and bought the rights to my favorite translation. Then, I found the best Bible manufacturer in the United Kingdom and worked with them to produce editions with a gold foil-stamped cover, gilded-edge pages printed on premium-grade paper at their factory in London. I found a great designer to create custom illustrations to delineate each section. And finally, I found a packaging company to make a gold foil-stamped box for another layer of protection in preparation for this edition to stand the test of time, just like the…

Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’