10 Stoic Principles – How to live life to the fullest

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic’s Guide to the Art of Living by Ronald Pies.

Brief Summary:

Ronald Pies is Professor of Psychiatry and Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities at S.U.N.Y Upstate Medical University, N.Y. along with being Editor in Chief of the Psychiatric Times, author of several textbooks, short stories, poems.
Ronald’s book shares with us principles from the ancient Stoics. He utilizes specific quotes and stories from Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius who are three of the founding fathers of Stoicism. The writings of these three men can be difficult to understand, so Ronald does a great job of putting his own thoughts around each of the lessons taught by these men. I like to think of this book a modern-day guide to implementing stoic principles in your life. Today, I share with you the 10 principles I took away from the book.

Principles I learned from the book:

Things do not touch the soul

Think about a time when you have been upset. Ask yourself was it your opinion of those external events that caused you to be upset or the actual event itself. The Stoics would say the former. Others might disagree which is fine. It would be borderline crazy to think that we can indeed control the way we feel, but the Stoics believe that we have much more influence over our emotions then we are led to believe.
When feeling frustrated or upset follow this ancient stoic practice: Ask yourself how important is this issue going to be hundreds of years from now? The answer is probably not very likely. It is only your perception of the problem that makes you feel as if it is important. As referenced in the book Shakespeare once wrote in his play Hamlet “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Don’t be bewildered by appearances

This is the classic line “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The ancient stoics urge us to see beyond and beneath our first impressions of anything. Be careful not to instantly make a judgment. Take a step back. Think it through, and remember that the other person might be dealing with something that might be causing you to misinterpret them.

If you once gain time for thought, you will more easily command yourself

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about something and you realized you were wrong? Happens all the time. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a deep breath, processing the information and then deciding on what to do next.

Death creates meaning

The Stoics saw no difference in “the one who lives longest” and “the one who will die soonest.” Our society thinks in terms longevity, not depth and quality of life which leads us to believe that we have time. It is the reason you think you can start that diet tomorrow, or push that goal back a day or so. The stoics remind themselves of this: Hundreds of thousands of years from now, how big of a difference will it matter whether you lived 20 years or 100 years. People do not remember you for how much time spent, but the impact you made on them. So in short, your time is valuable. Live each day like it is your last.

The art of living resembles wrestling more than dancing

Why would you want to wrestle with life vs. dance with it? Marcus Aurelius teaches that we must always be prepared for whatever comes in our way whether good or bad. As you know, life can be diffucult at times. And what can make it even more difficult is our society’s obsession to praise the winners and quickly forget about the losers. It all comes down to perception. We see the champions dancing at the end, but we never got to witness the wrestling they went through. So, if you want to live a good life follow Marcus’s advice don’t be afraid to wrestle with both the good and bad of every situation.

Focus on what you can control

“Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in doing everything according to the right principles; but when you have failed, return back again – Marcus Aurelius

“If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously…calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure….if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activities according to nature…you will live happily” – Marcus Aurelius

Before you decide to start something, don’t think about failure. Think about everything that is in your control. If you follow through on the parts you control, then you can’t fail. You either are satisfied, or you learn where you can improve.

Live in the here and now

As the Stoics would say, You can’t change the past. You can’t control the future. But you can learn from your past and help dictate a better future by living in the now. This is what a day one mindset is all about. You get an opportunity every morning to reset your life.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must first achieve self-love and self-sufficiency

In our society, we tend to blur the lines between what we want and what we need. According to the ancient Stoics, to truly find happiness in life, we must realize the difference between the two. As Seneca puts it, ” What is my object in making a friend.” Do I need to have a friend, or do I want to have a friend? The difference between the two will determine how you go about a friendship with someone depending if you believe you need or want that friendship.

Remember, someone is always dealing with it worse

Straightforward practice here. When every you feel mad or upset about anything remember that someone is probably dealing with a worse situation.
“Seneca imagines nature saying to us, “ Those things you grumble about are the same for everyone. I can give no one anything any easier. But anyone who likes may make them easier for himself. How? By viewing them equanimity.”
If you can not control or fix it, then don’t worry about it.

Everything has two handles

Marcus Aurelius believed that we control two things: our attitude and behavior. In any situation bad or good you must realize that no one is stopping you from acting with kindness, gratitude, or integrity. You control what you do next. We are always faced with two choices or how the Stoics saw it two handles. You can choose to view the situation as positive, or you can choose to view the situation as negative. You always have a choice one which handle you choose.

How has this book impacted me?

The last few years I have been on a journey to understand what truly makes someone a great leader. I have sifted through many biographies and researched a ton of past and present leaders. The most common theme I found is that they all studied or were very familiar with the ancient philosophy of stoicism. It amazed me. Some of them were natural leaders, and some learned how to be leaders. But at the end of the day they are not any different than you and I. They just simply followed principles like the ones you read above. I am sure as you read them you thought to yourself, “Wow. This is common sense.” I thought the same thing at first. Then, I thought to myself how many of these principles am I actually following on a daily basis. The answer was 0. I decided to change that and try my best to implement as many of them as I could. It has changed the way I think and live my life. I challenge you to truly try to apply one of the principles above. You will be shocked by the results.
Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick; and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us be thankful.” – Ronald Pies

Learn how to become a modern stoic here

WAKEUP! It’s Book Review Monday – The Miracle Morning

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8 a.m. by Hal Elrod.

“Life isn’t about wishing you were somewhere or someone that you’re not. Life is about enjoying where you are, loving who you are, and consistently improving both” –

Brief Summary of The Miracle Morning:

Hal Elrod was no different than any other professional trying to make a living. At age 20, he was the #1 sales rep at his marketing company breaking every single record there was. But then that year he had a horrific accident where a drunk driver hit him head-on. He was pronounced dead for 6 minutes. Miraculously, he came back to life, though he spent 6 days in a coma and woke up to the news he would NEVER walk again.

After 11 fractured bones, permanent brain damage, and necessary rehab to walk again he used these challenges to motivate and inspire himself. He did not back down or give up. A few years later, he is walking, talking, and sharing his story with the world. He has become a keynote speaker, author, ultramarathon runner, and the creator of The Miracle Morning routine which thousands of people use every day. He shares with you the Miracle Morning routine, and how this accident changed his life for the better, and how we can all persevere through the toughest moments of our lives.

Things I learned from this book:

  • New Ideas and methods to add to my morning ritual

  • A good morning routine can be 6 minutes or 60 minutes. Both are very powerful.

  • A morning routine can change your life and be the #1 reason for being happy and successful.

  • Everything happens for a reason. You must find the deeper meaning of a situation good or bad because you can learn from every moment.

  • Be grateful for what you have in life. Reading this book re-confirmed one of my beliefs, “give it all you have every day.”

  • If you are going to try to change a habit, you must have a well thought out plan prior to trying to improve.

  • Morning rituals or routines should fit your lifestyle. It is not a one size fit all.

  • Waking up tired has nothing to do with how many hours you get to sleep. It is actually your belief of how many hours YOU NEED to feel rested. So before you go to bed, think about how many hours you truly need to be rested. The average person at age 30 needs about 6 to 7 hours.

Other learnings I took away:

The 95% Reality Check:

Step 1: Acknowledge that 95% of society will never create and live the life they really want

The challenge for most people is that they don’t want to take ownership of anything. They do not realize that to accomplish anything in life, it starts with themselves. Instead of looking at people you admire and saying, “I can’t be like them”, you need to start realizing that you can. And you need to realize YOU are in control. No one is responsible for your success, only YOU.

Step 2: Identify the Causes of Mediocrity

  1. Rearview Mirror Syndrome:

Staying present and moving the conversation forward is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially in the world we are in today. The way we were raised in school was all about pass or fail, which gives us a false perception of what success truly is. It is not always about winning or losing, it is about effort.

To review the past is ok as long as you take something away from it- regardless of success or failure. However, you must continue to look forward and not stop moving. Like I mentioned in my last post, wake up today and think different or you will never move forward towards your goals.

2. Lack of Purpose:

We all have a purpose. You need to ask yourself, “Why do I wake up every day?” Trust me, there is a reason, and that is your purpose.

3. Isolated Incidents:

We tend to believe that each choice we make only impacts us at that specific moment, but unfortunately, it all adds up. As you know, I believe every day it is day one so I am 50/50 on this point he makes here. I believe sometimes you just need to move on rather than spending unproductive time worrying about if a choice you made yesterday was wrong.

4. Lack of Accountability:

This is extremely difficult for most people, and where a lot of us fail. It starts though with you. If you can follow my methods of building a day one mindset you will start to hold yourself accountable. I do agree with Hal that the best and easiest way to hold yourself accountable is finding an “Accountability Partner”. For me, my wife and son are my accountability partners. I can’t and won’t let them down.

5. Mediocre Circle of Influence:

This is simple. Hang out with people who share your interests and inspire you. You are who you hang out with. Look around at your friends. If they are not motivated to do anything, you most likely will be the same way.

6. Lack of Personal Development:

When I interview people for my team, I always hear the standard phrases “I love learning and I want to grow”. My response to that? “Wow. That is great. So, tell me what have YOU done in the past year personally or professionally to grow your skills and develop yourself?” Easy answer here: READ BOOKS.

7. Lack of Urgency:

One of the best pieces of advice my dad has ever given me was this: “Jeff, as a salesperson all you got is time”. I have taken that and applied it not just to sales, but life. You cannot waste time doing things that will not move you towards your goal.

Step 3: Draw your line in the sand

Today is your day. It is your moment. No more BS. We are going to change who we are today. It’s that simple.

5 Step Snooze Proof Wakeup Strategy

Step 1: Set your intentions before bed

Step 2: Move your alarm across the room

Step 3: Brush your teeth

Step 4: Drink a full glass of water

Step 5: Get dressed in your workout clothes

Life S.A.V.E.R.S a morning routine for anyone to use:

  1. S – Silence
    • Meditate
  2. A – Affirmations
    • Write down how you want to live each day. Check out my affirmations here: www.wakeupitsdayone.com/day-one-ritual/
  3. V – Visualize
    • See your day ahead and visualize the success you’re going to have
  4. E – Exercise
    • Run, do sit-ups, do push-ups, running in place, lifting weights, treadmill, running outside, lifting a 5-pound dumbbell. Just do something to get your body moving.
  5. R – Reading
    • Read a book, article, blog, or anything that interests you.
  6. S – Scribing
    • Write your thoughts about anything. It is an excellent way to see your progress, capture ideas, gain clarity

How has this book impacted me?

I have been getting up early for work since I started my first job. For me, this book cemented what I had been doing for quite some time but also taught me how valuable a morning routine is. I used to get up early just because I didn’t like to work out at night. Now, I have a purpose to get up. I built out my own routine based on the strategies in this book which includes reading, reflection, and a motivational video. The result has been amazing. My colleagues have wondered why I seem to have so much energy, and I owe a lot of that to Hal’s book. I am so grateful I read it because as I get older it is harder and harder to get up which makes my morning ritual more important than ever.

Check out my step-by-step morning ritual on www.wakeupitsdayone.com/day-one-ritual/

Now, WAKEUP! It’s Day One. It’s time for you to build your morning routine! Purchase the book here!