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 eightdifferent 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.
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.
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.
I’m pleased to announce that the paperback of my latest book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, is now available for pre-order and will be published on 4th August by Macmillan. When it was released last April, the hardback remained at #1 in Greek and Roman philosophy on Amazon for several weeks. It’s already available in hardback, ebook (Kindle/EPUB), and audiobook formats, and has been translated into seven languages so far.
If you order the paperback now, you’ll benefit from Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee, which means you’ll pay the lowest price offered for the book between now and the publication date. (It’s currently 10% off on Amazon US.)
Hope you enjoy the book. I’m currently working on a graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius for Macmillan, which will be available some time next year – stay tuned for more info!
I run several online groups, including the largest Facebook group for Stoic philosophy — it currently has over 78k members. I’ve been running large online discussion forums since way back in 1999, when I created my first Yahoogroup. Since then I’ve written several books on applying Stoic philosophy to modern life. The most recent was called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. A good Stoic would follow Epictetus’ famous slogan when on social media: endure and renounce. So when it comes to getting sucked into arguments online or wasting too much time on Twitter and Facebook — I should probably know better by now.
I am convinced that Stoicism is especially relevant to the challenges of coping with social media.
I guess I do have the excuse that social media has been an important part of my job for as long as I care to remember now. So maybe I can’t avoid it completely. I’ve been thinking for a long time now, though, that I should be applying the teachings of Stoicism more consistently to my own online behaviour and the way I deal with trolls, etc. I get plenty of practice. If you write books trolls will eventually come after you online. Also, if you run forums often you’ll have to ban people for becoming abusive, usually following complaints from other group members. Most of the time they’ll be angry and you’ll get quite a few abusive messages from them, etc. In this article, I’m going to explain why I think this is really just a modern version of an age-old problem and how some specific techniques from ancient Greek philosophy can help us.
Comparing the Lyrics of Imagine to Zeno’s Republic
People often tell me that they’ve heard a song the lyrics of which seem “kind of Stoic” to them. Usually they’re referring to songs about enduring hardship heroically, and so on. However, there’s a very different type of song that strikes me as uncannily reminiscent of ancient Stoicism. It happens to contain some of the most famous lyrics ever written by one of the most celebrated songwriters in recent history.
Imagine by John Lennon describes a shamelessly Utopian vision of society. I’m going to discuss the lyrics below, comparing them to the Utopian dream described in Zeno’s Republic, the most influential early Stoic text. The Republic was, in part, a scathing critique of Plato’s book of the same name, written while Zeno was aligned with the Cynic philosophy. Unfortunately, it has long been lost but we do have several fragments and commentaries, which allow us to make a comparison, as you’ll see.
I recently had the pleasure to talk to Kasey about her passion for Stoicism and how it helped her both personally and in her career as a comic book writer and editor.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Absolutely! First I would like to thank you for this interview. This is truly an honor. I’m a writer from the Metro Detroit area and my prose horror novella, Pieces of Madness (Rocket ink Studios), gave me residency on the comic convention circuit in 2015. This book of short horror stories (about the insane, cultist, and paranormal) picked up a bit of a subterranean following.
Shortly after, I joined the ranks of Source Point Press and created the Norah comic series (illustrated by Sean Seal). I’m so grateful to say this hand-painted sci-fi noir was met with great reception, became film-optioned, and made me one of flagship creators of the company. Pieces of Madness saw a deluxe rerelease in 2018 and my Viking witch one-shot series, Seeress, was released in 2019 (illustrated by Jay Jacot). This year, we introduced the next four-issue arch to the Norah series, illustrated by Kelly O’Hara.
Up until this book, I was only familiar with the term “stoic” with a lowercase “s”; an adjective to describe someone as strong and silent. As I listened, I realized what was being said was reinforcing an overall perspective I’ve exercised in my own life.
However, a large part of my brand was built on inspiring fellow comic creators. I’ve presented my panel on direct selling in indie comics, Good Luck with That, at many shows in the US, Canada, and overseas. This talk gives insight into not only how to sell your work, but how to summarize and pitch it to both the con-goer and potential publisher. Part memoir, it also sheds light on many misconceptions new creators have coming into the industry.
Currently, I run editing company, Red Pen Media; offering editing, copywriting, and creative advising.