Practicing Stoicism

My favorite stoicism podcast – #10 Podcast of the Week

Welcome to the tenth blog post of: Podcast of the Week. Thanks for reading this post! If you have not yet: please check out the other Podcast of the Week blog posts: link. This blog post is about practicing stoicism, more specifically about a stoicism podcast that can help us achieve this. How can we adopt stoic principles in day to day life? What can we learn from the old Stoics? In this post we will explore these questions.

Introduction

Stoic Coffee Break

Several years ago Erick Cloward discovered stoicism, he came to understand that it is not just someone that is emotionless and cold. But that it is a framework to test your opinions against, which give events and circumstance their proper weight.

“Being a stoic simply means that you choose how you want to let things affect you, rather than being at the whim of life circumstances. ” – Erick Cloward

He found stoicism helpful in his life because he could use his reasoning to calm his brain, to prevent unintended consequences, rather than giving in to rash impulses. Practicing stoicism offered him a way to stay in control of his emotions. As a 2018 new year resolution he set out keep a daily stoic journal, alongside this he would record what he was journaling for his stoicism podcast. The Stoic Coffee Break was born. Before long his podcast took off, up until today he is producing weekly episodes. In every episode he cites a famous stoic and puts it in a modern context. Erick’s podcast helped me to apply stoic principles in day to day life, because it bridges the gap between stoic ideas and modern life. The podcast can help you to become a modern stoic, it is definitely my favorite stoicism podcast.

Why Do I recommend this podcast?

I recommend the Stoic Coffee Break because it can help you learn about stoicism within a modern context. The episodes are short and you can listen to them in a short break, for me this is an attractive format. Since I can listen to an episode during a lunch break or in between work. Every episode contains a stoic principle, this gives an opportunity to better understand stoicism in an uncomplicated way. It also gives concrete advice on how you can apply these principles.

Famous Stoics

There are many Stoics that formed the philosophy. In this paragraph I will give a short introduction to influential Stoics. Because these are referenced often in the Stoic Coffee Break. For more information about Stoics I refer to the World History Encyclopedia. They have a lot of background information on the these influential stoics, I provide sources to their website for each one.

Zeno of Citium – 334-262 BCE

Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy in Athens, which he taught established around 300BC. He believes in universal reason as the means for a worthwhile existence. He argues that pleasures could never satisfy a human, since this means chasing after what one desired or trying to hold on to what one had already obtained. Central to his thinking is that one only needs himself. Contentment can be found in self awareness.

Zeno is simply saying that animals pursue pleasure because they are governed by instinct which drives them to impulse; but human beings, since they have been given reason, ought to be governed by rational thought and live reasonably.

” Which taught that the Logos (Universal Reason) was the greatest good in life and living in accordance with reason was the purpose of human life.”

Zeno of Citium

Source: https://www.worldhistory.org/Zeno_of_Citium/

Seneca the Younger – 4-65 CE

Lucius Annaeus Seneca. He was a Roman author, playwright, orator and tutor and advisor to Roman emperor Nero. He was influenced by Stoic philosophy. His most famous work; “Letters from a Stoic” are 124 letters on mostly moral issues he wrote to an aspiring Stoic. Most of these are ethical dialogs on how to live a life based on Stoic beliefs.

Central to Stoic believe is; living in accordance with nature. In practice this means humans should conform to the laws of nature and accept these as given.

A leading principle in this is thinking is the acceptance of fate. Nothing is durable, destinies move forward. There is not much a human can do about this. A logical conclusion derived from this is to accepts ones fate and make peace with it. The only thing a human can do is to be unbothered about fate and move on. Seneca believed people are capable of enduring adversity. We merely need to look within, to find the strength to do so.

Seneca has been a great influence on the stoic philosophy. His work is known up to this day. He put in writing the Stoic principles to lead a good life. The lessons we can learn from Seneca are still relevant to this day.

Source: https://www.worldhistory.org/Seneca/

Marcus Aurelius – 121-180 CE

Another influential stoic, not only because he was a roman emperor from 161-180, but because of the written legacy that remains. He is mostly known for writing; Meditations, in this series of thoughts he describes important life lessons which are strongly influenced by stoicism. A central theme is his inner struggle, he wrote down his ideas about how to remain at peace with one’s self in a world which is constantly changing. Central to his stoic view on life is the idea that everything that happens in life is natural, only one’s interpretation of events is what can trouble a person. This means that a person always has the freedom to choose how to respond to circumstance.

His life lessons are still applicable to this day, this is why I think Meditations is a great source for stoic principles. This is also the reason he is referred a lot in content makers, among those the Stoic Coffee Break.

Source: https://www.worldhistory.org/Marcus_Aurelius/

Key takeaways for Stoicism Podcast

Normally the key takeaways contain the most valuable lessons that I have distilled from a single podcast episode. This Podcast of the Week will be slightly different. Because it will contain my three favorite and most applicable Stoic Coffee Break episodes, I will give a short description of the episode and explanation why I recommend it. The episodes are in a non specific order.

1. Stuck in the past

What is your biggest regret from the past? Were there circumstances that you had no control over? Holding onto the past is something that can spoil the present and future. We can get stuck in thinking “If only”, we made a different decision or acted differently in a situation. This doesn’t help us, because it doesn’t change the past.

“Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape.”

Seneca

Since you can’t change the past, how do you let go of it? It is easy to get stuck in negative thoughts about the past, but changing your perspective can go a long way. By changing the meaning of events by focusing on the bright side. This helps re-frame the bad things and allow you to move past the negative. One could argue that this is a form of denial, but it is not. Since accepting and acknowledging our past gives it less power over our current lives.

” We can make dark memories feel awful, or we can look at them as things that we survived, and how we got through them.” – Erick Cloward

My experience with this principle

This stoic principle is certainly relatable for me, I tend to get stuck overthinking past events. An example for me would be failed interviews for an internship for my degree. Looking back at it with a positive perspective allows me to see how my conversation skills improved and that I wouldn’t have ended up in my current job (which I very much like). If it wasn’t for this failed interview. A short subjective conversation like this could have influenced my mood for days. It helps me to remember this stoic principle and try to approach it from a different perspective, allowing me to be unbothered by the past and look ahead.

Stuck in the past

2. Ask for help

“Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?”

Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics remember us that we are part of a human community. This means that we cannot be one hundred percent independent, since we rely on an interconnected society. This is a basic principle of modern life, but why is it so hard for us to ask for help? There are many reasons; mainly asking for help is being vulnerable, putting ourselves in a place of possible rejection. Therefore we like to trust others before asking for help.

It is important to ask for help, not only because it makes us interact with others, but because it can compensate for areas where we lack. Everyone has blind spots or flaws that others can see and help us with. Sharing our lives with others gives us the chance to support others and be supported.

But how do you ask?, well it is simple; we ask. This doesn’t mean the person you ask has to help you, they can refuse. This can help you get better at asking. The important lesson is that you ask when you need something, the reply may not be what you want to hear, but it will help you get further solving your problem, chasing your dream or getting feedback.

My experience with this principle

Being afraid to ask others for help is relatable for me. I have experienced this especially in the first year of my career. In this period I was afraid to ask others for help because I thought it would expose my lack of knowledge, which would reflect badly. But I have learned to ask for help, simply by doing it. Also by realizing that my questions aren’t short sighted, but making assumptions is. What certainly helped me was learning how to ask; I use the following structure:

  • Explain the context — “I have been trying to write a blog post without spelling mistakes”
  • Tell what you did so far — “I have not been successful using the WordPress spell checker, since I always find spelling mistakes after writing the blog post”
  • Your request for help — “What do you recommend to reduce the amount of spelling mistakes in my blog posts?”
Ask for help

3. The long ride

“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

Epictetus

Modern life is built around convenience. It extends to many areas, the way we eat, shop and find entertainment. Most things sold to us are aimed at providing this convenience. This breaks down our ability to deal with adversity. Therefore we should strive for challenge and embrace difficulty, to get progressively better.

Erick experienced this during his long bike rides, where he would challenge himself by riding 72 miles in a few hours. He would get stronger over the course of years, by gradually increasing difficulty hence the effort.

This long ride could be anything. What is the thing you want to get better at? Whether it is physical of mental, you should be pursuing it, instead of leaving it for “someday”. Because there is always an excuse. There is never a perfect time to get started. You can start small and gradually build it out. It is not about making big moves, but with every step you take you should get further outside of your comfort zone. This will help you get better in the thing you do, outside your comfort zone you will find growth.

My experience with this principle

The idea of the long ride is something that I have experienced while writing this blog. In October 2020 I set an ambitious goal to write a weekly blog post. Over time I realized this was too much for me, alongside work/exercise/social activities. I rather write a bigger piece less frequently. Nowadays I put aside 15 minutes each day to write blog posts. This helps me to produce content every now and then. Instead of setting enormous goals early on. I will gradually build out the time I spend on my blog and get better in the process.

The long ride

How is this stoicism podcast related to Know Act Invest?

The Stoic Coffee Break, is related to all phases of Know Act Invest. The stoic philosophy gives concrete ideas on how to lead your life. It clearly differentiates between circumstances within and outside of our control, this can help you shape your behavior to be the best version of yourself. The stoics also teach us to approach life from different perspectives, to broaden our understanding of events. It gives us principles to think (Know), change our behavior (Act) and develop ourselves through practice (Invest).

Further reading

Unfortunately I haven’t read a book specifically about Stoicism. I am planning to do so, suggestions are welcome (since there are many books around). I will make sure to mention it here when I do. But I do have a great recommendation when you are interested in learning more about philosophy: The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

This book gives a broad introduction to all prominent philosophies, I was pleasantly surprised it also contains eastern philosophies. I think it does an outstanding job at explaining difficult ideas in layman terms. The book can serve as jumping board to discover and explore philosophy. Which I certainly will do in the future of this blog.

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