The Practicing Stoic | Ward Farnsworth

The Practicing Stoic

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

🎨 Impressions

How I Discovered It

Who Should Read It?

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

«By the aid of philosophy you will live not unpleasantly, for you will learn to extract pleasure from all places and things. Wealth will make you happy, because it will enable you to benefit many; and poverty, as you will then have few things to worry about; and glory, as it will make you honored; and obscurity, for you will then be safe from envy.»

Plutarch, On Virtue and Vice.

📒 Ideas


  • The stories and problems of humanity don’t change, but just put on a new mask.
    • The same stretched to humans, we don’t change with time, we only get worse. The modern technological progress, substitutes our natural way of living in the wild with artificial, air-conditioned office open spaces. We don’t seek difficulties and hardships. We are afraid of them. Furthermore, we lack complex simplicity but have in abundance over complication.
    • As a result we get more concerns, stress and fewer stories. And we constantly complain about them.
      • On social platforms, to friends, in the queues and bus stops. We don’t consider them in depth. For us, posting something on social media is equivalent to solving.
      • But being Stoic, means to suffer without complaint.
        • That attitude towards hardships often lead to innovation and high adaptivity to changing circumstances of life. In the end, Stoic adapted himself and sometimes environment to ordinary life.
      • It only means that humans’ irrationality could be tamed.
  • Reason infuses the universe.
    • Stoics way of living will be beneficial to many students of the philosophy as it brings them to the path of logic, reflection and expands the knowledge of humanity.
      • If you walk the path of practicing Stoic, you must always keep in mind the wisdom of the original Stoics when dealing with life and thinking about thinking.
        • Consider the Stoicism as a source of valuable counsel and a form of psychological hygiene.

Principles of practicing Stoic


Do not react to the events.

  • We usually do not react, what takes place is our judgment about the occurrence. ^4201ff
    • And judgment is up to us.
    • All events involve three stages, not two, which is believed the case.
      • Event.
      • Judgment.
        • Understand frequent irrationality.
        • Control through patience and reason.
      • Reaction.
    • We need to notice the middle step.
  • Stoicism doesn’t care about tasted, desires, preferences, likes and dislikes. It only cares about how detached we are from the storms of everyday lives.
    • Stoics must stand outside passions and desires in order to control them, not even them but reaction to them.
    • It’s not easy, but quite feasible.
    • Our ability to change experience about an event by changing our thinking is much greater than we suppose.
    • Many judgments, not so deeply rooted. They are just habits and conventions.
  • The practice is an activity, not a theory or tradition.
    • Treating thought and judgments as matters of choice is a central practice of Stoicism. Though it’s rarely done, if at all.
      • Learn to discern foolishness and misjudgment.
      • If reaction to an event isn’t natural, or we think that it is but can’t find anywhere, maybe it’s unnatural, but up to us.
    • The task of philosophy is to take responsibility for the way we think and thus free a person from misjudgments, attachments and individual experience.

Great thought from [[Antifragile Things that gain form disorder]]
Stoicism makes you desire the challenge of a calamity.
![[Antifragile books 2 and 3#^90615b]]

  • Take notice of a reaction you have on a certain event or saying.
    • If the reaction you find natural isn’t natural outside your conscious, then maybe it’s not natural at all?
    • Convention and habituation have remarkable power over our judgement.
  • Usually everything we experience not difficult or painful at all.
    • Our cowardice to accept and weakness to withstand them make them so.
  • Stoics are aware of how appetites for certain things affect our experience, but what’s more important, they notice how choices affect appetite.
    • Don’t spend time on avoiding or getting something.
      • Take into consideration why we want (or don’t) and how we think about it influences everything.
    • This is the ultimate goal of philosophy, to liberate from thinking patterns and biases.
      • Get rid of attachments, misjudgments that in other circumstances dictate our experience.


  • Externals are there to enslave us. As in fight club. Or how hunters catch monkeys in India.
  • The first principal is to regard external things without attachment.
    • But Stoic would rather have wealth that not.
      • What is wealth? Taleb formulated perfectly ![[Antifragile book 6#^0e8afd]]
    • And prefer to do without adversity, if it can be helped.
  • Simplify everything that has just happened with the following formula: It’s just … spilt milk (bad mark, fucked up project, etc.)
    • Stoics reach equilibrium based on the quality of their thinking and actions.
      • Things that depend on individual control, not external factors. Such as weather or currency exchange rate.
  • The second general view on externals is that we have a hard time seeing them in the first place.
    • Seeing them accurately.
    • ![[Antifragile books 2 and 3#^2f62fb]]
  • The Stoic tries to see thing as they are.
    • [[Thinking Fast and Slow]] too bad I haven’t written this book in a manner I do now. Can’t find the idea of not thinking beyond the givens. [[What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG)]]
    • If by many chances you are not able to manage events as they occur, you still can govern yourself, and are able to adapt to them.
      • Drop attachments to external and not controllable things, listen to your experiences and feelings.
      • Everything is the choice, the rest just consequences. [[выбор и решение]] and ![[Antifragile book 7#^e4d30f]]
      • Choices are based on our understanding of externals, so we must be delighted with or not (depends on), with the quality of understanding and depth of knowledge.
  • Two techniques of removing inessential.
    • Adding nothing when external presents itself. ![[Antifragile book 6#^07cb46]]
    • Thinking must be slowed down, imagination put under strict control.
      • Not the creative potential of it, but in a way it assumes things and terrorizes consciousness. Narrative potential, it could be said.
    • Another thing we should use, when we consider externals, is subtraction. Via negativa.
      • ![[Essentialism The Disciplined Pursuit of Less#^a6df3c]]
  • Often Stoics are seen as a reclusive type of person, but it’s not true.
    • Opposite to that, Stoicism call for involvement in social life.
    • However, Stoics separate decisions that are up to them form those that aren’t.

[!NOTE] Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
Human life the Stoics appear to have considered as a game of great skill; in which, however, there was a mixture of chance, or of what is vulgarly understood to be chance…. If we placed our happiness in winning the stake, we placed it in what depended upon causes beyond our power, and out of our direction. We necessarily exposed ourselves to perpetual fear and uneasiness, and frequently to grievous and mortifying disappointments. If we placed it in playing well, in playing fairly, in playing wisely and skillfully; in the propriety of our own conduct in short; we placed it in what, by proper discipline, education, and attention, might be altogether in our own power, and under our own direction. Our happiness was perfectly secure, and beyond the reach of fortune.


  • How to dissolve an illusion?
    • Analytical: use reason to subtract the unnecessary and show a true nature.
      • Primary way of correction the perspective.
      • BTW, we all suffer from ![[The book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama#^c18988]]
    • Intuitive: look at the world from the POV that produce an automatic change in how we see it.
  • Time for the Stoic is something viewed from outside it.
    • This angle creates a completely different sense of scale.
    • ![[Вульгарный принцип понимания времени#^593455]]
    • If something new appears in life, don’t look at novel aspects, look at what stays the same.
      • [[Antifragile book 6#^60d2f3]]
      • Nothing is new, everything is both familiar and short-lived.
      • Events, inventions, novel gadgets must be viewed from a high ground and an object must be put next to a similar thing, so similarities might have a chance to stand out.


  • It’s external. It has nothing to do with inner world.
    • Except, when we maybe apply it to ourselves in a suicidal act, though I may be wrong.
  • We, literally, die every day, as time passes behind us.
  • Mortality is a defining feature of our existence.
    • We need to find a way to hang the imminence of it over our heads on an everyday basis, as a reminder of daily lives.
    • What we must overcome is not death itself, but the way we think about it.
  • Freedom from the fear of death is the central goal of philosophical work.
    • From this work, other good liberties follow.
  • The classic Stoic response to a question of death is to contemplate our condition before birth, the state of not alive yet.
    • We don’t find it difficult to think about yet unborn children.
      • Perhaps due to the fact that we know, that a child will be born. How our perception would change if we looked at the unborn child a living child and stillborn – not living?
    • Stoic should be concerned not with the longevity, but with quality of life.
  • Knowledge mustn’t deliver us from the peace of mind and calm. If it does, there is no use for such knowledge. ^56206f


  • Stoic teachers’ specialization.
    • Epictetus – externals.
    • Marcus Aurelius – perspective.
    • Seneca the younger – psychology.
  • The pursuit of things more pleasing than possessing them.
    • We are the monkeys on the palm tree. Whom hunter catches because of its greed.
    • We talk about desires as if they are the leading force behind our lives.
      • The recent dialogue in the group another proof of that. We confuse desire for interest, and wish to substitute the discipline with the need. Continuation of the topic on the forum.
  • Stoics give us a chance to express ourselves more clearly about desires and wishes.
    • As well, some advice how to outwit the monkey of our brain, that is constantly monitoring surroundings in search of shiny things to lay hands on.
  • New desire appear when the other ones are spent.
    • We have an appetite for them.
    • And an illusion that, fulfilling them, brings happiness.
    • Natural desires, such as sleep, hunger, thirst are finite, those born from false opinion have no place to stop.
    • The road to what you wish, is always more pleasurable than the prize at the end of it.

Desires are judgments. Consider them as something external and not real for personal embetterment. Dismiss it as soon as it arises.

  • Or, as I do, time check it. Put it into the table and return to it from time to time, and evaluate your feeling towards the thing you wish. If it’s still there, go for it. If not, dismiss it.
    • Work not on the object of the desire first, but on the opinion of it.
    • Then, when you checked and aligned your expectation with an opinion, go for an object.
    • Instead of adding to the opinion and predict future usefulness, subtract. Do not add to his store of money, but subtract from the desires.
      • Strip on object of the desire of all gloss and look into the essence of it.
      • [[Antifragile book 6#^70f4b3]]
  • Stoics look down at comparisons that cause discontent.
    • They recommend another approach.
    • Instead of looking up to something, look down.
    • It’s better not to be influenced but somebody better of with a person with higher social status.
      • Look at those whom you surpassed, and enjoy your place in the world.
      • The same could be applied to any other aspect of life: money, habitation, food, health, etc.

[!NOTE] Good exercise on decision making. Requires future consideration
«If we were all to bring our misfortunes into a common store, so that each person should receive an equal share in the distribution, the majority would be glad to take up their own and depart.»

Wealth and Pleasure

  • Basis thought on wealth and pleasure.
  • From it everything is built.
    • One – we overrate pleasure.
    • Two – we underrate the cost of trying to gain it.
  • Stoics suggest that we:
    • Rethink what we want, by reformulating, e.g., look into creativity techniques [[Как быть креативным приемы для развития]]
    • How much of it we really want?
    • Why do we want it?
  • Thinking is the highest virtue should strive for.
    • Stoics associate pleasures connected with understanding and wisdom, the most crucial ones.
    • You can enjoy them immoderately without fear of recoil.

What others think

  • Stoics hate conformity. They express contempt toward the opinion of the majority. An individual, following Stoics tradition, disdains the habit of looking to others when thinking about what to prefer and how to act.
    • Much of what people do is a product of convention.
    • Most of Stoicism is the effort to see the truth out of noise, listen to the quietest in the room, which usually is yourself, and learn a noble contempt for the consequences that follow one’s actions.
      • ![[Antifragile book 1#^ed987f]]
    • Evaluate things not with what everyone is thinking about them, but with your own opinion.
      • Have respect for personal opinion.

[!NOTE] Seneca, Epistles 123.6
Many of our troubles may be explained by the fact that we live according to a pattern, and, instead of arranging our lives according to reason, are led astray by convention.

  • In modern days we look for popularity, acceptance and praise by others.
    • Stoic’s way is not looking for a praise, but the art of not needing it in the first place.
    • Marcus Aurelius provides a universal approach to the problem of seeking praise.
      • Why do we worry more about what others think that about what we think?
      • What others think is just a noise inside and echo chamber. The distraction from one’s own thoughts and from tasks he should be doing instead of listening.
      • Thought and ideas of others about you are usually insults or abuse in one way or another. A rare person provides honest and useful feedback.
        • [[Навык обратной связи 4A]]

[!NOTE] Epictetus, Enchiridion 20
Remember that you are insulted not by the person who strikes or abuses you but by your opinion that these things are insulting. So whenever another provokes you, be assured that it is your own opinion that has provoked you.


  • Stoics redefine the past and the future.
    • The regard time spent in daydreaming in the future or rumination in the past, the time ill-spent.
    • But it’s not always like that, there are exceptions.
  • A regular human being usually overrates the importance of money and undervalues the significance of time.
  • The same could be said about material things and the approval of others while undervaluing gains that could be attained by forgoing, and not doing,
    • [[Antifragile book 6#^70f4b3]]
  • Look at something bad as if it’s the greatest opportunity.
    • Because usually it is.
    • Looking at everything from the position of gains and losses help Stoics even keel in turbulent waters of everyday life.
      • Always look at balancing yourself in both circumstances: bad and good.
  • Neglect for the present, is the greatest misunderstanding of our times.
    • We discussed how something we wished for losses its appeal as soon as we get it. Somewhere above.
    • The same happens to the present, as soon as we get, we lose interest in it.
      • We worry and plan for the future, forgetting about the present.
      • Somehow, future looks more attractive to us, though we are looking forward to acquiring yet unexisted thing.
    • It happens because the present is elusive, though it is the only things that really there for us.
      • Another positive thing about present, is that it always tolerable, wherever future unreachable and past is, well … past.
      • Look at the present that we wish to pass so much or don’t notice at all from the position of the next question:
        • What is there about this that is unendurable and unbearable?
      • If you are as the majority of population, then most of your time is spent in speculation about the future.
        • Where will I work in 5, 10 years.
        • What will I do on a long awaited vacation.
        • Who my children will become.
        • You are not a living thing, you are about to live.
      • Life is here and now, not there and then.
      • Fear, desire and hope, push us toward the future, but by doing this they rob us of the experiences of life.
        • It confuses things for what they are with what they will be, in the “will be” at certain point in time we stop to exist.
  • We entangle ourselves in material things.
    • We are sad when we lose some petty cash, but we are happy to lose some time in trivial and inessential activities.
    • It’s known to most, but noticed by few.
  • We fail to grasp that the time is more valuable than money, consider a person who is running out of both, what is distressing this person more?
    • Money or time?

[!NOTE] Seneca, On the shortness of life. Rhymes with my experience from a status position in GPN
«When you see someone often wearing the robe of office, or someone whose name is famous in the Forum, do not be envious; those things are bought at the cost of one’s life»

  • Material wealth brings nothing but unhappiness.
    • As we mentioned before, the more we have, the more we want.
    • The more we want, the less happy we are with each new acquisition.
    • The pursuit of wealth costs us freedom. We would belong to ourselves if not for these things that belong to us.
    • High value on liberty puts a discount price tag on everything else.


The main question of this part is which feelings are welcome by the Stoics, and which do they detest and avoid?

  • It is useful to see anything that might spur the emotional response as if it has already happened to you for a thousand times.
    • Look at it from the perspective of experience, you’ve already experienced something similar.
    • It’s not uncaring or unfeeling, or even detachment. It’s the posture of a veteran.
  • Stoics trouble themselves with analyses of three main emotions.
    • Anger.
    • Fear.
    • Grief.
  • Stoicism as a discipline uses taxonomies to describe emotions, and they are not easy.
    • We are not into taxonomies themselves but more into practical aspect of them.
  • Stoic’s goal is to make reason the basis of choices, not emotions.
    • Remain detached from the externals and have a sense of equilibrium.


  • It multiplies any problem.
    • Effects of something bad are going only way, when we face it with fear, up.
    • We outline the effects more vividly if we pull fear in front of the event. Under the spotlight.
    • Why suffer twice? If something bad is deemed to happen, there is no point in fretting beforehand.
      • Or as in Russian proverb. If the rape is unavoidable, then relax and enjoy.
    • Fear as all the other negative emotions have cumulative effect, once they get going.
      • You spin and spin and look from different unpleasant angles at something bad.
      • We have to indulge emotions moderately.
    • All fearful things must be examined carefully and straight away as soon as they happened, and the realism of the event severely tested.
      • Idea strangely in accord with
      • ![[Harry Potter and the methods of rationality#^9ab9be]]
      • ![[The book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama#Meditation Sevenfold analysis practice by Dalai Lama]]


  • Anger takes its life in our beliefs about the subject of it.
  • Sense of humor is a one way of avoiding anger in one’s life.
    • Redirect mind from unproductive ideas.
    • Everything we do is absurdity.
      • Look at views of Heraclitus. Hateful.
      • And Democritus. Ridiculous.
      • But don’t laugh at the expense of others. Laugh at yourself.
      • Stoics don’t commend this kind of laughter.

Stoics mindset is born with time and from effort.

Another maxim might be useful.

[!NOTE] Seneca, on Anger.
Don’t want to be irritable? Don’t be inquisitive.

  • You have to think about when it’s better not to know than to know.


  • Adversity is death.
    • It’s external, we misjudge.
    • It’s resources we put to use.
  • Adversity is constantly viewed from a psychologically parochial point.
    • Defining better, worse, size, value it terms of our immediate wishes and conveniences.
    • Step away from them and see for what they really are.
      • As you do, you’ll notice, that it’s not so monstrous as you think it is.
      • It also might bring with hardships certain benefits.
      • Both, hardship and benefits are inevitable byproducts of adversity.
    • Stoics are cautions with their evaluations of the events, and make predictions carefully.
      • They are slow to assume that an apparently unwelcome event will be for the worse
      • Look for subtractive epistemology ![[Antifragile book 6#^1323f4]]
      • We must look for what there is, not wish to see green things instead of red. you do, you’ll notice, that it’s not so monstrous as you think it is.

Adversity is a building block for something strong. In best traditions of [[Antifragile Things that gain form disorder]].

  • If her majesty chance dealt us with something unpleasant instead of complaining ask yourself, “Now what?” or “Let’s see what can be done with this.”
    • The impediment to action becomes part of the action; the obstacle in out way becomes the way forward. Aurelius
    • In the face of adversity, turn to yourself and ask, what power you have for dealing with it?
      • Self-control, for vices.
      • Moderation, for abundance.
      • Endurance, for labor and work.
      • Patience, for toxic people and unpleasant circumstances.
    • But don’t forget about the point of view that you a contemplating the events.
      • Art of perspective is crucial to any Stoic.
      • Find the right vantage point, useful point of view from which to look at anything that happens.
      • See things from angles more helpful than the self-centered position that we are prone to use without reflection.
    • Wise man knows that everything is in store for him. When something happens, he says “I knew.”


  • What is virtue?
    • Stoics consider everything reasonable thing virtuous.
    • The use of reason is the distinct gift that sets us apart from animals.
    • Thus, the purpose of life must be found is in acting reasonably wherever one can.
  • It subsequently brings happiness, which in turn valued the most by Stoics.
    • The condition of eudaimonia or well-being, which in turn is not a good mood but the good life.
    • This state of mine can’t be achieved by chance. It is a byproduct of effort applied purposefully.
  • Embrace virtue for its own sake, and it will inadvertently lead to a good life.
    • Naval’s notion about working for its own sake [[Работа ради работы]]. Do whatever needs to be done and be happy with that.
  • There are three pillars that virtue stands on.
    • Honesty. Not just speaking the truth, but living without necessity to hide anything.
    • Consistency. Never deviate from what you think is right. Think and act the same, in public, at home, alone.
    • Kindness.


Stoicism among other things is a regimen for training the mind.

  • Consider it as a demanding martial art.
    • Martial art trains the body.
    • Stoicism offers the peace of mind. It takes practice, and you get fearlessness, well-being, and wisdom in as a packaged offer.
  • Another feature of Stoicism is that it offers meta-technique, for getting better at approaches you use to become Stoic.
    • It reminds of [[Метакогниция главенствующая функция критического мышления]]
    • It does it by setting philosophical goals, and tracking the progress in reaching them.
  • Nightly review of the day. Seneca used this technique.
    • It looks similar to any diary practice done in modern days. Self-observation model.
    • You look at the past day and ask yourself questions.
      • Which of the wrongs did I correct today?
      • Which fault did I resist?
      • I what way am I better?
    • I don’t suppose that he kept written accounts of his thinking. Furthermore, I would like to peek into his train of thought.
    • If it was all done in mind of his, it had been indeed the mighty mind. I can’t keep track of everything that happened in the head, for me pen and paper are required.
      • Though I don’t keep a diary, maybe I should try to do it first without writing?
  • Watching oneself as if another person.
    • Correlates with [[Harry Potter and the methods of rationality#^cbca16]]. It enables doubleness of mind.
    • Observe yourself through the eyes of an imaginary other.
    • Establish an external point of view, and personifying it is a way of seeing yourself more objectively and holding yourself to higher standards.
  • Great thought on the modern retreat practices, done by numerous yoga gurus.

[!NOTE] Marcus Aurelius, Meditation 4.3
«They seek out retreats for themselves – places in the country, seashores, the mountains – and you too are accustomed to crave such things especially. All this is utterly amateurish, since it is possible to retreat into oneself any time you like.»

  • As a consequence of that idea, Stoics claim that no ignorant person must be left unmoderated, left to design bad plans, create future trouble, either for himself or others. It happens when they are trying to organize their ignominious desires.
  • Stoics mustn’t avoid crowds or companies of others.
    • They should maintain a careful relationship to it.
  • Stoicism mustn’t be admired, it has to be practiced and absorbed.
    • Entwined into the fabric of one’s life.
    • Everyday activities need to be done with Stoics practice in mind.
    • Don’t talk that you are a Stoic, act as if you are one.
      • Learning to be Stoic should be shown.
    • They consider progress in philosophy not in words or knowledge of precepts, but measured by thought and action.

[!NOTE] Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures (48c-48d)
The mind is not like a bucket that requires filling, it is like wood that needs igniting – nothing more – to produce an impulse to discovery and a longing for the truth. Imagine that someone needing fire from his neighbors, and finding there a big blazing one, just stayed warming himself until the fire burned out. It’s the same if someone who comes to another man to get his thinking does not realize that he ought to strike some light of his own and kindle his own ideas, but – delighted by what he is hearing – just sits there enchanted.

  • The closing thought on knowledge.
    • Our lack of confidence comes not from difficulties. The difficulties come from our lack of confidence.

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