Today I am reviewing “The Daily Stoic” and “The Daily Stoic Journal, 366 days of writing and reflecting on the art of living.” These two books written by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman are companion pieces originally released in late 2017. Stoicism was and is a philosophy popularized first by the ancient Greeks then more prominently by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and fellow Romans Seneca and Epictetus. Marcus book “Meditations,” is the blueprint from which the modern stoic movement draws from and it’s featured heavily in “The Daily Stoic,” and other works from the author.
Let me summarize stoicism with this one sentence; while you cannot control what happens to you, you can control how you respond to it. In short master your emotions to master your life. Holiday’s book is a day by day guide through stoicism as he sees it. It’s important to understand that key point. These books are stoicism according to Ryan Holiday. Let me be clear I have enjoyed them immensely and as a guide for learning to look at your life with clear objective eyes, they succeed. However Ryan, a young wealthy man, has a certain way of turning phrases to fit his current world view regardless of what the quoted philosopher may have meant. In some ways this is deeply ironic given that Ryan’s love of Seneca, a philosopher whose own life was often at odds with his own teachings and philosophy.
Each day you are presented with a quote from a famous philosopher along with Ryan’s interpretation of the meaning behind it. In the journal you are then given the opportunity to explore that day’s lesson so to speak through a morning and evening writing assignment. The writing assignments are usually presented as a question from the author to the reader. How far you are willing to explore the answers to these questions depends entirely on you. Though if its more than a few sentences you’ll need to finish your writing in a separate journal with more room. The author does not allocate much space for your writing assignments. I have some of the smallest writing I’ve ever seen and I frequently ran out of room on the page.
The only other real issue I had with the set was that while “The Daily Stoic,” itself can stand on its own and the reader need not purchase the journal, the journal is keyed to the calendar as it was when these books were first released, for 2018. In 2019 the lessons were all off by one day and being that they are broken down by weeks, the weeks were now beginning on Tuesday instead of Monday. In 2020 they will be further off, now beginning on Wednesday.
I’ve decided not to purchase another journal for 2020. It is in the journal where I’ve run into trouble with some of Ryan’s views on philosophy and life and not been in agreement with his conclusions. While I recognize that this is mostly an issue of my own ego and conditioning, I also think Ryan makes the assumption that his readers are living just as prosperous and free a life as he and thus free to make decisions without lasting ramifications and consequences. I advise you if you’re currently unhappy with your life and its direction these two books may just be the kick in the ass you need to realize life is short and should not be wasted on that which truly does not matter. Just make sure you’re in a position where you can afford to fail before doing anything rash.
What these books do really well is what they were designed to do, make you think, about your life, your perspective, and where you fit into the world. Critical thought and discussion is sadly lacking in our digital screen modern society and it’s hurting us as a culture. Many of us lack any kind of depth and introspection and it’s showing in what we care about and pursue with the little amount of time given to us on this planet. One question I have often asked in life is “what is my purpose, and what will I leave behind me when I’m gone?” While Ryan’s books and stoicism have not answered these questions they did allow me to help quiet the noise of my mind so I could find the answer.
If you’re looking for a shift in your thinking for 2020, I’d give these books a read and start the year off by looking within yourself for the answers. Ryan has authored several other books that I feel will turn into perennial sellers and soon grow to the stature of his mentor Robert Greene’s books on human interaction and psychology.
Further Reading: Ryan Holiday
- Stillness is the Key
- The Obstacle is the Way
- Ego is the Enemy
Further Reading: Robert Greene
- The 48 Laws of Power
- The 33 Strategies of War
- The Laws of Human Nature