How the Stoic Mindset is the Key to Success in Life

🤔 This new article is huge and it’s got a lot of great ideas especially for newbies to Stoic philosophy — great lists of resources.

What do you think? Would you recommend this to your friends if they wanted to learn about Stoicism?

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Last Chance: Modern Stoicism Virtual Conference

Tomorrow, Saturday 17th Oct, is Stoicon 2020, the 8th international Modern Stoicism conference. We originally had a limit of 1,000 attendees but have managed to extend our capacity by creating an overflow feature. So we’re now anticipating over 1,500 attendees, making this the largest Stoicism conference ever.

Ticket price is by donation – you choose the amount. We have 24 speakers in total, including some well-known authors and academics. See the event listing for full program details. Our keynote this year is from William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy.

Don’t worry if you’re in a different time zone or can’t make the whole event for some other reason. All presentations will be recorded and available afterwards to registered attendees to watch at your leisure.

Book now to avoid missing out. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!


How I wrote Verissimus

I’ve been immersed in writing a graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius for the past couple of years now.
I get lots of questions about the project so I’ve decided to finally break my silence and write about the whole experience of creating Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. From what I’ve learned, people approach writing comics and graphic novels in lots of different ways. This article is about how we went about things and what our experience has been like so far.

The book will be available in roughly a year’s time, published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s going to be about 250 pages, full colour. The illustrator, Ze Nuno Fraga, has just started inking and colouring the pages. So I figured it was a good time to pause and reflect on the experience as we’ve reached a crucial stage.

Read the rest of this article free on Medium.

Books Stoicism

Book Review: Lives of the Stoics

The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman is a new book that explores the teachings of Stoic philosophers by telling the stories of their lives.

Holiday and Hanselman are well-known to many as the authors of the bestselling The Daily Stoic. Holiday is also the author of a trilogy of successful books inspired, among other things, by his interest in Stoic philosophy: The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and Stillness is the Key.

Lives of the Stoics is due for publication in the US on September 29th, by Penguin Random House, and will be available in audiobook and ebook as well as hardback format. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy. I’m an author myself and so I receive a lot of new books to review but I can honestly say this is the one I was most looking forward to reading.

Read the rest of the review on Medium.

Marcus Aurelius Stoicism

How Marcus Aurelius wrote The Meditations

The Art of Paraphrasing Philosophical Maxims

If thou would’st master care and pain,
Unfold this book and read and read again
Its blessed leaves, whereby thou soon shalt see
The past, the present, and the days to be
With opened eyes; and all delight, all grief,
Shall be like smoke, as empty and as brief.

This epigram is found at the end of a Vatican manuscript of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, one of the most widely-read spiritual and philosophical classics of all time. Readers of The Meditations are usually aware that Marcus was a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. However, they often don’t realize how much more we know about him.

Marcus studied rhetoric under Fronto for many years, and learned certain techniques from him that appear to have shaped the writing of The Meditations.

In my recent book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, I drew upon the surviving evidence to make connections between Marcus’ life and thought. We have three main contemporary biographical sources: The Historia Augusta, Cassius Dio’s Historia Romana, and Herodian’s History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus.

In addition to these, one of our most important sources is a cache of letters belonging to Marcus’ family friend and rhetoric tutor Marcus Cornelius Fronto. These were discovered in the early 19th century by the Italian scholar Angelo Mai. They give us a remarkable window into the private life of the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher.

We learn, for instance, that Marcus was, in private, an exceptionally warm and affectionate man. He also shows evidence of being adept at diplomacy and at resolving conflicts between his friends. As we’ll see, Marcus studied rhetoric under Fronto for many years, and learned certain techniques from him that appear to have shaped the writing of The Meditations.

“It is that I learn from you to speak the truth. That matter (of speaking the truth) is precisely what is so hard for gods and men…” — Marcus

Read the rest of this article on Medium.

Stoicism Video

Zoom: Stoicism and Anger

Come and join our free Zoom webinar hosted by Matt Sharpe at Deakin University, Melbourne.

The Stoics considered anger to be the main focus of their therapy of the soul. We’re lucky enough to have an entire text by Seneca, On Anger, but Marcus Aurelius also talks extensively about anger in The Meditations. In one key passage, he lists ten distinct cognitive strategies for coping with anger, which can be compared to strategies employed in modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

When: Friday August 28th, 10.30am (Melbourne, Australia time)

Interview Stoicism Video

Video: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness Interview


  • How Donald Started Writing About Stoicism 01:50
  • What Is Stoicism and Its Main Principles 07:55
  • Stoicism VS Epicureanism 14:15
  • Voluntary Hardship 21:32
  • Stoicism and the Art of Happiness 24:45
  • Who Was Marcus Aurelius 32:04
  • How to Think Like a Roman Emperor 38:30
  • Remembrance of Death 45:00
  • Premeditation of Evils 58:22
  • Marcus Aurelius and Commodus 01:04:55
  • Donald’s New Graphic Novel About Marcus Aurelius 01:14:10
Books Stoicism

NEW: Paperback of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

I’m very pleased to announce the forthcoming release of the paperback edition of my latest book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, published by St. Martin’s Press. It is due out in the US on 4th August 2020 and will be available in most other countries around the same time.

If you don’t already have a copy, check it out, as the paperback is almost half the price of the original hardback edition. Amazon are also currently offering a discount off the price. In fact, if you order now you’ll benefit from the Amazon pre-order price guarantee, which basically means you’ll get it for the cheapest price offered between now and the publication date. So you might get a bargain!

When it was released in April last year, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor became the #1 top-selling book on philosophy in the US. It’s recently been #1 new release on Amazon for Greek and Roman philosophy. It’s already available in eight different languages, with more to follow. It’s since been reviewed/rated by over 340 people on Amazon, and over 2,370 people on Goodreads! The audiobook has also been reviewed/rated by over 1,550 listeners on Audible.

Hope you enjoy reading or listening, and, as always, please feel free to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.


Donald Robertson Signature

The Stoics on How to Stop Doing Things

The Stoic Way to Find More Time in Your Day

Philosopher Marcus Aurelius urged people to get rid of ‘needless actions.’ Here’s how to do that today.

“I just didn’t have the time.”

That’s one of the most common phrases I hear from my psychotherapy clients who’ve neglected to do the exercises we talked about — things like keeping a record of upsetting thoughts or practicing a mindfulness meditation technique. Over and over again, people call me and apologize uncomfortably for ignoring their homework, as though I’m there to scold them instead of help them.

I can certainly understand being stretched thin right now. We’re all living under pressures we’ve never experienced before. But in my own clinical practice, I’ve found an effective way to help my clients find more time, and that’s to challenge them to stop doing the things that do not serve their deeper goals in life.

It’s a tool I borrowed from the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius. In Meditations, his collection of writings, Marcus cites a quote from the Greek philosopher Democritus: “Do little if you want contentment of mind.” However, Marcus puts a Stoic twist on this ancient maxim, suggesting that we should do only what is necessary for achieving our fundamental goals in life:

For this will bring not only the contentment of mind that comes from acting aright, but also that which comes from doing little; for considering that the majority of our words and actions are anything but necessary, if a person dispenses with them he will have greater leisure and a less troubled mind.

Marcus describes a very simple technique for achieving this, one that we all can practice: Before engaging in an activity — at least one that might be of questionable value — ask yourself:Is this really necessary?Pause and consider whether doing it will actually be good for your well-being. He writes:

And we should dispense not only with actions that are unnecessary, but also with unnecessary ideas; for in that way the needless actions that follow in their train will no longer ensue.

It’s a powerful strategy that’s not unlike ones we use today in cognitive-behavioral therapy. (I recently wrote about Marcus’ influence on cognitive psychotherapy in my book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.) Here’s how to do it in practice.

Read the rest of this article on Medium.


The Virtue of Being Wrong

How Stoicism Teaches us to Welcome Refutation

Nobody likes being wrong, we’re told. Least of all those individuals who suffer from pathological narcissism. They have to believe that they were right all along, even when it becomes obvious they are very much in the wrong.

Figures who live in the public eye, such as celebrities and politicians, if they become overly-incentivized by praise, risk turning this into a habit. As Aristotle once said, habits become our “second nature”. They solidify into character traits if we’re not careful.

Perhaps sometimes the person who gains the most is the one who loses the argument.

So do we always have to be right? The ancient Greek philosophers — who loved paradoxes — said the opposite: maybe true wisdom requires the capacity to delight in being proven wrong. My favourite expression of this idea comes from Epicurus:

In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most. — Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 74

How crazy is that? Perhaps sometimes the person who gains the most is the one who loses the argument. The one who wins the argument gains nothing, except perhaps some praise — but what does that matter? The one who loses, though, gains knowledge, and perhaps gets a step closer to achieving wisdom. It wasn’t just Epicurus who had this paradoxical insight. The rival Stoic school of philosophers taught essentially the same thing.

Read the rest of this article on Medium.