I used to be an asshole. Some would say I still am (and they’d be right, but I’m markedly less of an asshole now). I used to talk shit about people, blame them for my unhappiness and be an all round geebag. I was also an asshole to myself, anxious and extremely self-critical. I had absolutely zero self-confidence, and resigned myself to the fact that life was shite and that was it. That all changed with a little bit of help from Seneca and the lads.
The Daily Stoic is a book written by Ryan Holiday. Each day there is a quote from a famous Stoic, and a small reflection to go with it. Normally, a huge personal attack, but that’s for later on. During my time of great distress, when I thought I was the world’s worst person and that I was a sack of shit, these readings were a glimmer of hope, and the kick up the arse I didn’t realise I needed. I had heard of The Daily Stoic, having seen it mentioned on social media. Having read The Power of Now and other similar books (did not enjoy, thought it was for hippies), I was a bit more hopeful that something like this would be a bit more up my street.
I thought I would get some value from this book, but I didn’t realise just how much. Over the last year, this book has seen me through some dark shit and I will carry a few key lessons with me from my first trip round the world with our lord and saviour, Marcus Aurelius.
Lesson #1: Dealing with Control
I fucking love control. Give me all of the control. It’s for the best I wasn’t born into power, because Jesus I’d have killed someone. The need to control everything is something that I have struggled with all my life. I like knowing how things will turn out, and feeling like I can influence it in some way. This is obviously not possible in life. Not being able to control other people’s opinions, thoughts and desires is hard for me to accept. You can’t force people to like you or act how you wish they would. Nor can you control the circumstances of life.
It was hard for me to let this go and sometimes I still struggle with this, but the book opened up my eyes to what control we do have. You can’t control other people’s opinions. You can control your own. You are all you have, and that is something no one can take away from you. Just because you can’t force things to be different, doesn’t mean you can’t be.
Lesson #2: Get Active in Your Own Rescue
This is my favourite quote from darling Marcus. Get active in your own rescue. No one is coming to save you. There is no magical solution. You don’t just wake up with all the pieces of your life in place. This is where the book metaphorically kicks you up the arse, a lá Bishop Brennan. You can bemoan your fate, say everyone is an asshole and take everything personally. That is your choice. But it is not your only option.
You can demand better for yourself. Your relationships. Your career. Your values. It’s all up to you. No one truly gives a fuck about you, the way you give a fuck about you. Unless you decide to change and do better, of course your life will be shit. It is also where we see the great Stoic quote from Tyra Banks (née Aurelius): Take responsibility for yourself.
Lesson #3: Nothing Is Personal
This was a big Oprah Winfrey-style “aha” moment. Nothing in life is personal. But thinking makes it so. Most people don’t do things with the intention to hurt others. It is an unfortunate by-product of life. The person that ghosted you? Not personal. The person who snores all night keeping you awake? Not personal. The person who cannot see just how hurt they made you? Not personal. Can you see the common theme?
The good old its-not-you-its-me. But it’s true. We have no idea what someone’s thought process is. The second you stop playing the victim is when this all changes. Taking things personally is futile and only hurts yourself. Any time I did something that hurt someone (heyi 2019) and I think back and reflect on it, I realise that I never meant to hurt them. It was never about those people. Yes, it is so awful that people were hurt. But it wasn’t anything to do with them. It is always you.
Lesson #4: The Obstacle Is The Way
Life is full of setbacks, knocks and hurdles. But they can only keep you down if you let them. This is a lesson drilled home in The Daily Stoic, and I think it is one of the most important lessons in life. You can use any situation to your advantage. To learn and to grow. Yes, it is shit how some things turn out. But everything is a lesson, be it good or bad. We can use awful events to benefit us, to push us to do things we only ever dreamt of.
Lesson #5: Marcus Aurelius or Dublin Girlo?
Countless times throughout the book, I found myself completely in agreement with the passage. Most notably from our friend darling Marcus. Marcus A constantly preaches about controlling your mind, keeping a calm head and generally not being an asshole. So much so that I often wondered how he could be inside my head, some 2000 years later. How on earth do a Roman emperor and a mid-20’s hun have so much in common? I suppose it just goes to show about how similar the human experience is, and one can draw many parallels between Roman life and hun life.
A Final Thought
I cannot fully describe how much value I got from this book (although anyone who has ever spoken to me for more than 10 minutes probably received a copy from me). I would implore anyone to read it, regardless of circumstance. It is really easy to read, and takes sub-5 minutes of your day.
Books come to you when you need them most, and during my time of absolute misery, Epictetus and the lads were there to life me back up. Girls just wanna have stoicism. Or words to that effect.
I now realise I sound like the hippies I imagine to enjoy The Power of Now, so perhaps I should give that another bash.
If you read The Daily Stoic, I would be super interested to hear your thoughts and interpretations.