You Become What You Practice

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Jan 02 2020 4 mins   503

The Stoics were all about routine and repetition. It wasn’t just about knowing what the right thing was, it was about doing it daily. Fueling the habit bonfire, they said. It was about creating muscle memory. 

Epictetus said that philosophy was something that should be kept at hand every day and night. Indeed, the title of his book Enchiridion actually means “small thing in hand,” or handbook. Seneca, for his part, talked about repeatedly diving back into the great texts of history—rather than chasing every new or exciting thing published. We quoted him on that exact idea last week. “You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works,” he said, “if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.”

One of the reasons we wrote The Daily Stoic was to help accomplish just that. We thought it was pretty remarkable that despite more than two thousand years of popularity, no one had ever put the best of the Stoics in one book—let alone one that was easy to carry, read and study. It’s been pretty incredible to see the success it’s had since its release in 2016, having now sold well over a half million copies in more than a dozen languages. The book has spent more weeks on the bestseller list than any other book about Stoicism ever. In celebration of that—to help encourage another year of Stoicism for you and everyone you know, the ebook is $1.99 in the US (and on sale in the UK) for the next week if you haven’t picked one up yet!

Of course, the success of the book is a reflection of the power of Stoic teachings more than anything else. But it’s also a testament to the power of combining the right idea with the right medium. Marcus Aurelius was a brilliant mind and a beautiful writer, but his Meditations is not organized in any coherent way. While Marcus acknowledges many other Stoics, including Epictetus, neither Marcus nor Epictetus acknowledge Seneca in the writings they left, even though Epictetus was also in proximity to Nero’s court at the same time. What we have from Epictetus is really a collection of quotes and highlights from his lectures jotted down by his student Arrian, and what we have of Arrian’s work is only half of what originally existed. Just ploughing straight through those writings is, for many, not the best way to digest the philosophy—it’s almost un-Stoic in its disorderliness. 

Good practice is not random. It is organized. Stoicism is designed to be a practice and a routine. It’s a lifelong pursuit that requires diligence and repetition and concentration. (Pierre Hadot called it spiritual exercising). That’s one of the benefits of the page-a-day (with monthly themes) format we organized the Stoics into (and the weekly themes in The Daily Stoic Journal). It’s putting one important thing up for you to review—to have at hand—and to fully digest. Every single day over the course of a year, and preferably year in and year out. It's something you’re supposed to keep within reach at all times—which is why a collection of the greatest hits, presented daily, was so appealing to us.

So here we are, beginning 2020, and we hope you’ll give The Daily Stoic a chance, in print or with this discounted ebook. And that you’ll pick up journaling with The Daily Stoic Journal or some other notebook. Because if 2020 is anything like 2019, you’re going to need it.