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Stoicism 101

How to Apply the Ancient Wisdom of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to Your Modern Life

I love Stoicism. In this class we take a quick look at the cast of characters (from founder Zeno to Seneca + Epictetus + Marcus Aurelius) and then dive into the ultimate goal of Stoicism (hint: become bff’s with your inner daimon so you can experience a state of well-being and flourishing) along with the practices that help us apply this wisdom to our lives. We’ll create energized tranquility and equanimity as we have fun becoming our own ideal sages.

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The Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle's writings have been extraordinarily influential since ancient times. This treatise is named after his son and is a collection of his lecture notes--imagining attending his Lyceum and listening to him teach 2,300 years ago! Of course, it's packed with culture-changing Big Ideas. Some of my favorites we cover include the ultimate end: eudaimonic happiness (vs. "happiness" as most of us think about it!), how to achieve that eudaimonia (hint: "virtuous activity of the soul" aka areté), how to win the Olympic Games (hint: you can't just show up; you need to ACT!), the doctrine of the mean (and the vice of deficiency + excess) and the virtue of magnanimity: meet YOUR great soul.

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Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor-Philosopher of the Roman Empire and one of the most enlightened leaders ever. Meditations is a collection of journal entries he wrote to himself and in this Note, we'll explore some Big Ideas of his Stoic philosophy—from the importance of never confusing ourselves with visions of a lifetime all at once, to not worrying about what others think of us and living a life of purpose and service.

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Epictetus is known as one of the world’s leading Stoic philosophers. (Along with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, the three make up a very interesting bunch.) Epictetus was a former slave turned philosopher who lived from 55-135 (a little later than Seneca and before Aurelius). This book is a transcription of the informal lectures Epictetus gave to his students. It’s awesome. Big Ideas we explore: why Hercules needed challenges (and so do you), what figs can teach us about greatness, the good + the bad + the indifferent and how to tell the difference, “impressions” and the tricks they play, and the fact NOW is the time to live this stuff.

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On the Shortness of Life

Life Is Long If You Know How to Use It
by Seneca

Seneca was an old-school Roman statesman and one of history’s leading Stoic philosophers. In this book he tells us that life is only short if you don’t know how to use it and also gives us some tips on how to deal with challenging times and cultivate tranquility. Big Ideas we explore include making T.O.D.A.Y. the day, how to deal with being exiled (never know when it could happen ;), and why flexibility is the virtuous road to tranquility (and how to avoid the detours).

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The Bhagavad Gita

A Classic of Indian Spirituality

The classic text of Hinduism is *packed* with wisdom. In the Note, we take a super quick look at the context for the book and then jump into some powerful wisdom—including the importance of meditation, the fact that making mistakes is an inherent part of our growth process and the uber-importance of letting go of our attachment to results.

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The Dhammapada

The Sayings of Buddha

A core text of Buddhism, The Dhammapada literally means something along the lines of "the path of truth and righteousness" and is packed with wisdom. In this Note, we'll take a quick look at some central tenets of Buddhism (like the Four Noble Truths, nirvana, and the eightfold path) and soak up some Buddha mojo on how to rock our wisest lives.

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The Way of the Bodhisattva

The Way of the Bodhisattva is one of the classics of Buddhism that teaches us the key elements of the Bodhisattva—one who has dedicated his or her life to serving the world and releasing all sentient beings from suffering. In this Note, we’ll check out the importance of cultivating bodhichitta (an “awakened mind”) and how we can do it. (Hint: It’s all about “diligence in virtuous ways”! :)

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Rumi Daylight

A Day Book of Spiritual Guidance
by Rumi

Rumi's poetry is stunning. In this Note, we'll explore some inspiring wisdom from the Sufi mystic and have fun applying it to our 21st century lives—from the importance of having patience and seeing challenging times as God's way of strengthening us to working hard and going for it.

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The Analects of Confucius

Confucius. Talk about old school. I’ve waded through some of the arcane stuff from his classic "Analects" to bring us some highly practical wisdom for our 21st century lives. We'll take a look at a bunch of Big Ideas on the importance of being a passionate (and patient!) student of life while striving to do our best. Good stuff.

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The Tao Te Ching

The Tao te Ching. It's the core text of Taoism and one of the top old school classics of all time. In this Note, we'll take a look at everything from making use of solitude to the fact that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step (heard that before, eh?!). We'll also learn to let go of our attachment to future results and gracefully roll with the ebbs and flows of life.

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Trying Not to Try

Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity

Edward Slingerland is one of the world’s leading experts on both ancient Chinese thought AND modern cognitive science. This book is a melding of those two realms. It’s a truly fascinating read. I read it in a day and felt like I was spending the day hanging out with a brilliant thinker—getting privileged access to twenty years of deep thinking. If you’re into ancient wisdom and modern science I think you’ll love the book as much as I did. Big Ideas we explore include defining wu-wei + de (one of the coolest words/concepts ever), what Confucius + Lao Tzu + Mencius + Chuang Tzu have to say about wu-wei, and the spontaneity of mirrors.

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The Jefferson Bible

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

The Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson created it for himself and never intended it for broad publication. Jefferson *literally* snipped out the passages and parables (from four different translations of the Bible) that he felt best captured the essence of Jesus’s moral philosophy and conformed with his sense of reason. Big Ideas we cover: Love your enemies (+ everyone else), seek ye first the kingdom of God, take the beam out your eye, use your talents, and build your life on the rock of wisdom.

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The Daily Stoic

366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

This book combines two of my favorite things: Stoicism + Ryan Holiday’s wisdom. Stoicism was one of the most influential philosophy of the Roman world and has continued to influence many of history’s greatest minds. As Ryan says: It’s time to bring it back as a powerful tool “in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom.” This is one of the my favorite books ever. Big Ideas we explore: the #1 thing to know about Stoicism, how to create tranquility, a good answer to “What’s the latest and greatest?!,” the 2 essential tasks in life and the art of acquiescence (aka amor fati).

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The Enchiridion

Epictetus is one of three Stoic philosophers we profile (Marcus Aurelius and Seneca are the other two) and this former slave turned leading philosopher of his era is incredible. He echoes the wisdom of all the great teachers as he reminds us that, if we want to be happy, we've gotta realize the only thing we have control over is our response to a situation. We'll have fun tapping into a lot more of his vast mojo in the Note.

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The Inner Citadel

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Pierre Hadot was one of the most influential historians of ancient philosophy. In this book, he gives us an incredible look at Marcus Aurelius and his classic Meditations. You can feel Hadot’s incredible intellectual rigor and equally incredible passion for engaged philosophy. It’s inspiring. Big Ideas we explore include spiritual exercises, your inner citadel, your daimōn, amor fate, turning obstacles upside down and carpe areté.

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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Donald Robertson is one of the world’s leading thinkers, writers AND practitioners of Stoic philosophy. He’s also a therapist who integrates Stoicism into his work with individuals. This is our second Note on one of his great books. The first Note was on The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which he connects the philosophical underpinnings of CBT (one of the most empirically-validated, effective modern therapies) to ancient Stoicism. This book is part biography and part philosophy. It’s all awesome. If you want to know how to think like a Roman emperor, start here. I think you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did.

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How to Be Free

An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers)

A.A. Long is professor emeritus of classics and affiliated professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also one of the world’s most respected scholars of Stoicism. As per the inside flap, in this beautiful little (hand)book, he provides “splendid new translations and the original Greek on facing pages, a compelling introduction that sets Epictetus in context and describes the importance of Stoic freedom today, and an invaluable glossary of key words and concepts. The result is an unmatched introduction to this powerful method of managing emotions and handling life’s situations, from the most ordinary to the most demanding.” Big Ideas we explore include freedom vs. slavery, the ultimate target (progress!), wisdom daggers (ready at hand), Rule #1 of Stoicism, how to win at life and using our full powers.

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How to Be a Stoic

Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life

Massimo Pigliucci is a Professor of Philosophy at City College of New York. He has three PhDs—one in genetics, another in evolutionary biology and a third in philosophy. And, most importantly for our purposes, he’s a practicing Stoic philosopher. In this book, Professor Pigliucci teaches us how to be a Stoic via an imaginary dialogue with Epictetus, one of the leading Stoic teachers of the ancient world. It’s a wonderfully written, super-smart look at how we can use “ancient philosophy to live a modern life.” Big Ideas we explore include an introduction to our guide Epictetus, Rule #1 of Stoicism (some things are in our power, others are not), the cardinal virtues (of Stoicism + Science + Optimize), the power of role models (and the Stoic Paradox), and the ultimate how to be a Stoic practice question: How can I use virtue here and now?

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The Practicing Stoic

A Philosophical User's Manual

Ward Farnsworth is the Dean of the University of Texas School of Law. As you can imagine, he brings a logical precision to his discussion of Stoicism that is distinct and powerful. (Seriously. It’s actually ASTONISHINGLY powerful.) I really enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it for the aspiring Practicing Stoic. Big Ideas we explore include Principle #1 of practical Stoicism (Judgment!), the good life vs. the good mood (virtue for the win!), what others think (<- pro tip: ignore it), preferred indifference (committed but not attached), and using adversity as fuel for our Optimizing (use Hermes' magic wand!).

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The Obstacle Is the Way

The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Ryan Holiday is brilliant. So is this book. The ancient Stoics taught us how to not only accept challenges but to thrive on them. Ryan brings their wisdom to life with compelling stories of great peeps who have rocked it in the face of adversity. In the Note we'll take a quick look at the three keys to making obstacles work for us: Perception + Action + Will.

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The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Got problems with your soul? These days, you’d see a psychotherapist. But, back in the day, it was the philosopher who’d help you optimize—they were the preferred physician of the soul. This book is about the philosophical roots of modern psychotherapy. Specifically, it outlines the connection between cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Stoicism. Big Ideas we explore include being a warrior of the mind vs. a librarian of the mind, your highest human purpose, getting on good terms with your inner daimon, practicing the reserve clause and modeling your ideal sage.

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Musonius Rufus

Lectures and Sayings

Musonius Rufus was one of the four great Roman Stoics. In fact, he was known as the “Roman Socrates.” To put him in historical context with the other three great Roman Stoics: He was born in AD 30, about 34 years after Seneca. He taught Epictetus (who was born in AD 55). Epictetus died in 135 but taught the guys who taught the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who was born in AD 121) his Stoic philosophy—which is why Aurelius refers to him more than any other teacher in Meditations. Big Ideas we explore include: Theory vs. Practice (which is more important?), practicing philosophy (is where it's at!), vice vs. exile (free yourself from vice!), food (it's the medicine of life), and stoic love advice (competing in kindness).

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The Stoic Challenge

A Philosopher's Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient

William B. Irvine is a professor of philosophy at Wright State University. He’s also a fantastic (and prolific) writer. And… Unlike many of his academic, professor-of-philosophy peers, he is a practicing Stoic philosopher. In the words of Donald Robertson (another Stoic author and practitioner; see The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), he is both a librarian AND a warrior of the mind. We featured another one of Professor Irvine’s great books on Stoicism called A Guide to the Good Life. I enjoyed that one quite a bit but I REALLY (!) enjoyed this one. Like, jumbo loved it. In fact, I’m going to put this one right at the top of our growing collection of books on Stoicism—along with the must-read classics by Aurelius (Meditations), Seneca (Letters from a Stoic, On the Shortness of Life), and Epictetus (Discourses, Enchiridion) plus the modern classics like Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way and The Daily Stoic. If you’re looking for “A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient,” I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I HIGHLY recommend it.

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Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Vice Admiral James Stockdale is an American hero. Stockdale spent nearly eight years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He spent four of those years in solitary confinement and was repeatedly tortured. He was the commanding officer of hundreds of other U.S. soldiers and received the Medal of Honor for his service beyond the call of duty. This is an incredibly inspiring look at the powerful mind and equally powerful moral commitment of a hero. Big Ideas we explore: Being our brother’s keeper, chiseling our integrity to achieve delight with life, courage as endurance of the soul and heroes vs. bums.

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Courage Under Fire

Testing Epictetus's Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior

James Stockdale spent 7 1/2 years as the highest ranking prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. 4 years in solitary confinement. 2 in leg irons. This book is about how he endured all of that with the wisdom of Stoic philosopher Epictetus in mind. In the Note, we explore the key tenets of Stoicism, the Stockdale Paradox, playing your role well and mastering your emotions.

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Ego Is the Enemy

Meet the enemy: Your ego. Our guide, Ryan Holiday, wrote one of my favorite books of 2015: The Obstacle Is the Way. Ego Is the Enemy is now one of my favorite books of 2016. It’s fantastic. Big Ideas we explore include: defining ego, becoming more than a flash in the pan, finally answering the question of whether it takes 10,000 or 20,000 hours to attain mastery, the virtue and value of staying true to your own path and making it rather than faking it.

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Stillness Is the Key

This is our fourth Note on one of Ryan Holiday’s books. Ryan is one of my absolute favorite writers. One of the testimonials in the front of the book perfectly captures my sentiment. Screenwriter and director Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen and Billions) puts it this way: “I don’t have many rules in life, but one I never break is: If Ryan Holiday writes a book, I read it as soon as I can get my hands on it.” (btw: Cal Newport’s the first testimonial. He says: “Some authors give advice. Ryan Holiday distills wisdom. This book is a must read.”) Penguin Random House sent me an advance copy of this book. As I knew it would be: It’s fantastic. Of course, the book’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

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Letters from a Stoic

by Seneca

Seneca. He was born around the same time as Jesus and was one of the leading figures in his Roman Empire. He was also one of history's leading Stoic philosophers (along with Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus who we also profile) and has some powerful wisdom to share. In this Note, we'll explore the purpose of philosophy, the importance of focusing our attention and the mojo that comes from facing our fears.

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A Guide to the Good Life

The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

Stoicism. I love it. Although pretty obscure today, Stoicism was once the primary philosophy of the Western world. (We’ve done Notes on the three leading Stoics: Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations, Seneca and his Letters from a Stoic, and Epictetus and his Enchiridion.) In this, Note, we’ll cover some of the essential ideas of the Stoic philosophical approach along with some Big Ideas on the art of living, the true meaning of virtue, how to visualize and the fact that we’re living in a dream world.

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The Stoic Art of Living

Inner Resilience and Outer Results

This is our fourth Note on one of Tom Morris’s books. As we discussed in our Notes on True Success, The Art of Achievement, and Superheroes and Philosophy, Tom Morris got a dual Ph.D. from Yale in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Then he taught at Notre Dame for fifteen years before lecturing widely. This book combines two of my favorite things: Tom Morris’s practical, philosophical wisdom with Stoic philosophy. Big Ideas we explore include: Inner Confidence (and how to build it; remember: "Disaster is virtue's opportunity."), philosophy and what it's really about, how to deal with stress (pro tip: put it in a cosmic perspective), authentic living (and how to train it), and an emperor's wisdom for the battles of life.


#2 The #1 Key to Happiness + Flourishing

Hint: Become BFFs with your Inner Soul
Imagine your ideal self. Smiling and waving at you. See ‘em?! (Seriously. Take a deep breath/10 seconds and bring that epically awesome
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Man's Search For Meaning

An Introduction to Logotherapy

Viktor Frankl survived the horrors of the holocaust and describes his Logotherapy in this classic book. In the Note, we'll explore the fact that our attitudes determine our happiness and that *no one* can ever take away the freedom for us to choose our response to any given situation. We'll also look at the importance of having a mission in life and that as we serve something bigger than ourselves, our happiness and success will follow.

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Plato’s Lemonade Stand

Stirring Change into Something Great

Tom Morris has a joint Ph.D. from Yale in Religious Studies and Philosophy and is one of the most popular teachers in Notre Dame’s history. He’s one of my favorite teachers. In this book, he distills decades of wisdom into the ultimate philosophical lemonade-making recipe. Big Ideas we explore include lemon alchemy (Antifragility for the win!), the Big 3 + 1 (Socrates + Aristotle + Ockham --> Self-knowledge + Ideals + Courage + Simplicity), Plato’s Ideals (and yours), “I’m Getting Nervous!” (--> “I’m getting ready!”), and The Alchemy of Life (fuel for the second mountain).

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Superheroes and Philosophy

Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way (Popular Culture and Philosophy)

Tom Morris is one of my favorite modern philosophers.
He has a dual Ph.D. from Yale in both Philosophy and Religious Studies. He also taught at Notre Dame for 15 years before becoming one of the most sought-after practical philosophers. We’ve featured two of his other books in which he brings ancient wisdom to our modern lives: True Success and The Art of Achievement. (He’s also the philosopher behind Philosophy for Dummies and wrote If Aristotle Ran General Motors and If Harry Potter Ran General Electric.) I got this book after he and I had an electric chat about Optimize 2020 and the role of The Modern Hero. It’s a collection of essays written by some of the smartest and wisest academic philosophers out there. Tom edited it with his son, Matt—which makes me think of *another* book we’ve featured on the wisdom of superheroes written by a dynamic father-son duo: Deepak Chopra and his son Gotham who wrote The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes. I loved diving into some of the deeper philosophical questions inherent to our modern superhero tales. If that sounds like fun, I’ll think you’ll enjoy it as well. Of course, the book is packed with Big Ideas so, KABAM! Let’s throw on our spandex tights and capes and jump straight in.

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Beyond Religion

Ethics for a Whole World

I got this book after Ray Dalio strongly recommended it in Principles. It’s always a joy to read the words of a wise master. The Dalai Lama’s incredible thoughtfulness, humility, and grounded wisdom is inspiring. Big Ideas we explore include how to rethink secularism and create an ethics for a whole world, moving from knowing to doing, emotions (helpful or not vs. feel good or bad), contentment (material vs. mental), plus some meditation tips.

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The Miracle of Mindfulness

An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Written in 1975, The Miracle of Mindfulness is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s earliest books. It was originally written as a long letter to one of his main staff members in South Vietnam—encouraging him during very challenging times to continue their work of “engaged Buddhism.” It’s beautifully written and packed with wisdom. Big Ideas we explore include what qualifies as a miracle (hint: it’s ALL a miracle), choosing to sit or stand but avoiding the wobble, how to balance on top of a bamboo pole and three questions to ponder.

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No Mud, No Lotus

The Art of Transforming Suffering

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the world’s leading Buddhist monks. He is a true master and it’s a joy to connect with his powerful wisdom. I picked this book off the shelf after fires nearly burned down our town. It felt like a good time to remind myself of the fact that the good life is not—and cannot be—exclusively “good” times. Want a beautiful lotus flower? Embrace the mud. No mud, no lotus. Want a wonderful, flourishing life? Embrace the challenges. No challenges, no flourishing. Big Ideas we explore include: suffering goes with happiness, lotus flowers don’t grow in marble, feed the good stuff, the first thing to do when suffering strikes (breathe!), billions of funerals/b-days every day, the two arrows, and why the Buddha meditated after becoming the Buddha.

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Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

A Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh is, essentially, a living saint. In this great little book, Nhat Hanh delivers his essential wisdom on how to navigate the storms of life with more grace and poise as we cultivate fearlessness/nonfear. Big Ideas range from breathing in the moment, reflecting on interbeingness (= huge), and enhancing our energy of mindfulness and concentration.

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Peace Is Every Step

The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

A humble Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most revered spiritual leaders on the planet. This book is a collection of wisdom from his talks and private conversations and is packed with peaceful wisdom. In the Note, we’ll explore Big Ideas ranging from the importance of our breath and what he calls “mouth yoga” (aka smiling :) to how we can practice engaged mindfulness.

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Buddhism Day by Day

Wisdom for Modern Life

Buddhism Day by Day is a collection of thoughts from Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of Nichiren Buddhism and one of the most respected Buddhist philosophers alive whose work has inspired millions around the world. It’s a very ENGAGED form of Buddhism that I love. Big Ideas we explore include: True enlightenment, making a vow, the real optimism, repaying debts of gratitude, nourishing our soul and how to measure our true worth.

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The Places that Scare You

A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

We've all got places that scare us and in her great book, Pema Chodrön helps us shine a compassionate light on them. We'll explore some Brilliant Ideas including the fact that being mad at someone and holding a grudge is kinda like eating rat poisoning thinking you're going to hurt the rat. Not so much. We'll also look at idiot compassion and the practice of rejoicing in others' good fortune and other wonderfulness.

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The Diamond Cutter

The Buddha on Strategies for Managing Your Business and Your Life

The wise Michael Roach was an undercover Buddhist monk who used a classic sutra from Buddhism (called The Diamond Cutter) to build a diamond business. In his book, he describes how he successfully applied this classic wisdom to his modern business and in the Note, we'll take a look at some of my favorite Big Ideas—including the fact that the world is "empty" of meaning and we always have the ability to see its hidden potential.

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Big Mind Big Heart

Finding Your Way

Zen Master Genpo Roshi spent decades figuring out how to best help people develop enlightened awareness and came up with his revolutionary process called "Big Mind." In this Note, we'll take a peek at some Big Ideas from the Zen Master including how the root of suffering (dukkha) is getting stuck in one perspective and how that's about as effective as having a Maserati stuck in first gear. We'll also explore the place beyond idiot compassion as we become integrated human beings giving ourselves joyfully to the world.

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Everyday Zen

Love and Work

Charlotte Joko Beck was the founder and former head teacher at the Zen Center in San Diego. I bought this book 10 years ago but it wasn’t until Eleanor recently pulled it off the shelf and dropped it on the ground that I picked it up and read it. (Very Zen, eh? lol) The book is a collection of edited talks Joko gave at her Zen center. It was published in 1989 when she was 82. (She passed away at 94 in 2011.) Fun fact: Joko started practicing Zen at 48. She went on to become an influential figure in the American Zen movement, founding her own approach called Ordinary Mind. So… If you feel a little “behind” in any aspect of your life, take heart! :) The book is packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share a few of my favorites with some practical wisdom we can apply to our lives TODAY.

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The Buddha in Your Mirror

Practical Buddhism and the Search for Self

Looking for the Buddha? Cruise on over to your mirror and you'll find him (or her). YOU are the Buddha and this book shows us how to realize that fact and live from that awareness. Big Ideas range from rockin' your swan legs and cleaning your face to become who you are truly are.

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Passage Meditation

Bringing the Deep Wisdom of the Heart into Daily Life

This book could have been called “The Eight-Point Program for Daily Living” as Eknath Easwaran walks us through not just his approach to “passage meditation” but also the other key tenets of spiritual living. Big Ideas we explore include deciding whether you *really* want to get over your problems, how to tame your mind (and why it’s like an elephant’s unruly trunk!), making your mind one-pointed, swimming upstream and doing the work (vs. just attending lectures).


#3 How to High Five Your Inner Daimon

My Philosophy in One Word
To the extent that there’s a gap between who you’re capable of being in any given moment and who are actually being in that moment, you
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#18 Deo Volente + Thy Will Be Done

Wisdom from Apollo, the Patron God of Philosophy
Deo volente. It’s Latin for “God willing.” The ancient Stoics told us that it’s important to have clear goals but we need to qualify
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#53 Little by Little

The Buddha on How to Optimize
One of my favorite gems from the Buddha is this wisdom: “Little by little one becomes evil, as a water pot is filled with water. Little by
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#184 The Ultimate Jihad

Winning the Battle with Ourselves
Continuing our theme of Sufi wisdom via the great 13th century Muslim poet Rumi, let’s talk about the ultimate jihad. First, we need to

#98 The Equanimity Game

How to Play It Like an Emperor
In our last +1, we talked about getting really good at recovering from our inevitable glitches. My favorite way to do that? I like to think
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#133 The Serenity Prayer

Serenity + Courage + Wisdom = A Winning Combo
In our last +1 we talked about Byron Katie’s idea that you can be in one of three businesses: someone else’s business, God’s business
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#100 Euthymia

How to Live with Energized Tranquility
First: Welcome to our 100th +1. It’s a special milestone. Kinda excited about it. 😃 Let’s celebrate it with one of my favorite words
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#200 The 5 (Greek) Keys to Optimizing

Areté + Eudaimonia + en*theos + Hērōs + Euthymia
We’re hitting another exciting milestone in our +1 series today: #200. Let’s celebrate in style. We celebrated #100 with one of my
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#398 The Parable of the Talents

Using Yours?
In our last +1, we talked about a wise daughter-in-law who planted her seeds and reaped a bountiful harvest. Another great teacher once told

#229 Virtuous vs. Vicious

Which Are You?
Here’s another interesting etymological distinction. We all know that when we live with virtue we are virtuous. But, what about when we
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#466 Aristotle’s Doctrine of the (Virtuous) Mean

vs. The Vices of Excess and Deficiency
Continuing our “What does Aristotle have to say about Optimizing?” theme, let’s chat a little more about HOW Aristotle tells us we can
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#431 Going the Second Mile

Jesus Says: It's the Way to Roll
Do you know where the whole “go the second mile” concept comes from? Many of you probably know that it’s from the Bible where Jesus
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#438 Jesus Said: Who Shall Inherit the Earth?

Was It the “Meek” or the “Disciplined”/”Tamed”?
Once upon a time, an extraordinary teacher gave a little Sermon on the Mount. Among other things, he told us: “Blessed are the meek: for
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#472 Confucius Says

The Original Optimizer on Intensity
Continuing our old-school theme, let’s move back a couple hundred years before Aristotle, and, according to Google maps, let’s go east
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#473 Confucius on the Long Game

Play It with Intensity
In our last +1, we spent time trying to keep up with Confucius and his Optimizing intensity. Today we’re going to focus on the time
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#474 Confucius's #1 Tip

The Way of the Master Consists of…
While we’re enjoying our time with Confucius, how about we ask him what his #1 tip is for Optimizing? Let me Google Hangout Confucius
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#477 Virtuous, Charismatic Power

via Effortless Effort (Wu-Wei + De)
I hope you enjoyed our time with Confucius. Today we’re going to invite a modern philosopher-neuroscientist named Edward Slingerland to
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#503 For Whom the Siren Wails

Don’t Ask … It’s for You
The other day as I was driving to the mountain for my sunrise Trail work, I passed an ambulance in front of a house and saw two paramedics
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#578 Creating a Confident, Dignified Life

Running into Buddha and Confucius at the Local Grocery Store
The other day I was waiting in line at our local grocery store. It’s kinda like a mini-Whole Foods. Note: There were no horses tethered in
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#620 Spiritual Sports

Scoring Touchdowns with Rumi
With all this talk about sports heroes and scoring touchdowns and winning forever, I think it’s time to remind ourselves that sports
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#714 Noli Timere

<- “Be Not Afraid” (= The #1 Phrase in the Bible)
In our last +1, we spent some time hanging out with my friend Katherine Collins who is, I am quite sure, the only human on the planet who
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#862 You, Seneca and Alexander the Great

On Philosophy
In our last couple +1s, we had some fun hanging out with Alexander the Great as we watched him bust out his sword and slice the Gordion Knot
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#863 A Disposition to Good

Pleasant + Honorable = the Same = Blissipline
In our last +1, we got some advice from Seneca. He encouraged us to remember that philosophy “tells all other occupations: ‘It’s not
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#864 Fortify Your Pertinacity

Seneca Says: “Until the Will to Good Becomes a Disposition to Good”
In our last +1, Seneca taught us how awesome it is to pursue the straight course to reach the destination where doing the right thing is the
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#906 Hanging out with Confucius

Learning from the Good and the Bad
A few +1s ago, we posed the question: “How is this making me stronger?” Specifically: How is this challenge I’m facing Today making me
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#1017 Theory vs. Practice

Musonius Says: One Is More Important Than the Other
In our last +1, we got some great marriage advice from the Roman Socrates, Musonius Rufus. He told us that: “When this mutual care is
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#1128 The Optimize Compass

And How to Make One
As I was preparing for our Mastery Series Module on Hero-ology (aka: The Study of a Good Hero), I was having fun thinking about how to
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#1181 Jesus, Tolle, You and Your House on the Rock

The Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders
The other day I ran into my friend Michael on the Trail. Well, technically, we did a 6-feet-apart virtual elbow tap as it was the start of
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#1182 Changing Times

Call for Unchanging Principles
In our last +1, we talked about Jesus, Tolle and You and your House on the Rock. I mentioned the fact that Tom Morris leaned on Jesus’
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#476 How to Make Progress

Confucius Says It’s Simple: Just Keep Going
Confucius is back for a little more wisdom. Today he’s going to teach us about how to make progress. Me: “Thanks for joining us again,
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#475 Want Recognition?

Focus on Being WORTHY of It
Continuing our good times with Confucius, here’s one of the gems from his Analects that has tattooed itself on my brain since I read it a
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#478 Trying Not to Try

4 Different Approaches to Wu-Wei + De (Yours?)
In our last +1, we spent some time with Edward Slingerland who helped us wrap our brains around the Chinese concepts of wu-wei and de. Our
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#488 The Golden (+ Platinum!) Rule

How’re You Treating Others? AND… Yourself?
We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule. But, today I have three quick questions: 1. Do you know just how ubiquitous that Golden Rule is across
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#1287 Numbing Our Souls

Let’s WAKE UP and Stop Doing That (Today!)
In our last +1, we took a quick trip through the purgatory of the idiot (lol) that is the crowded and busy world of incessant inputs
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#892 Stoic Shipwrecks

And Kids at the Park Biting You
In our last +1, we had fun reflecting on a new ritual Emerson and I are having fun with. It’s been super fun to reflect on ancient Stoic
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#379 Stoic Spas

Are More Like Hospitals (Check Yourself In Yet?)
In our last +1, we talked about how to give advice Seneca-style. Recall that he didn’t do it from a soapbox. He did with the humility of a
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#851 Stoic Negative Visualization

A Practice in the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
In our last couple +1s, we talked about a couple of ways to reframe life’s lemons into a little more Optimizade. We started with “At
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#1016 Stoic Love Advice

Musonius Says: Compete in Giving Care
As we discussed not too long ago, I recently had an epic party with some Stoics. And, by party, I mean, I hung out with some of the
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#1002 The Stoic Paradox

The Stockdale Paradox - Part 2
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having fun hanging out with some Stoics—some modern guys and some ancient ones. It started with
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#891 The Daily Stoic Kid

What Coin Will YOU Pick Today?
In our last +1, we talked about going deep to serve profoundly. Immediately after finishing that +1, I went downstairs to hang out with the
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#1059 Your Most Profitable Journey

Stoic Antifragile Origin Stories
In our last +1, we hung out with a couple of Zenos—Emerson’s leopard gecko and the founder of Stoicism. Side note: Every single time I
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#1004 The Cardinal Virtues

Of Stoicism + Science + Optimize
The other day we chatted about my recent staycation with my Stoic friends. (btw: Laughing as I type this but you know what I do when I’m
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#1152 Disaster =

Virtue’s Opportunity
If you haven’t noticed, I can’t quite get enough of Stoic wisdom. In fact, I can’t quite get enough of ancient (Stoic) wisdom AND
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#1142 Memento Aristotle’s River Creatures

Getting Perspective on Life and Death
Today we’re going to revisit Ward Farnsworth’s great book The Practicing Stoic. Chapter 4. It’s on “Death.” We’ll turn
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#404 Caterpillars, Butterflies and You

(And Maslow, Aristotle, Stoics and Others)
In our last +1, we talked about Abraham Maslow’s wisdom and the ancient etymology of the word clamor in the context of your capacities
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#860 You and Your Gordion Knots

Conquering Our Super-Tricky Challenges
Skipping the longer philosophical chat about the ethics of being a conqueror, Today we’re going to chat about Alexander the Great. More
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#1018 True Philosophy

Is the Practice of Noble Behavior
In our last +1, we talked about Musonius’s thoughts on theory vis-a-vis practice. Recall his wisdom: “Theory which teaches how one must
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#409 It Is What It Is

The Power of Loving What Is
Byron Katie wrote a great book called Loving What Is. We talked about her before in the context of making sure you stay in YOUR business
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#211 Chiseling Character

Another Greek Etymology Lesson
In our last +1, we spent some time with Michelangelo—seeing our heroic potential within a block of marble. Then we got out our chisel and
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#504 Rehearsing Your Death

As a Way to LIVE (Seneca Says…)
In our last +1, we talked about the idea that the siren you might hear today wails for YOU. Then I suggested you actually IMAGINE yourself
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#452 The Space

Between Stimulus and Response
Viktor Frankl was a remarkable human being. He was a leading psychotherapist before suffering the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. He
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#850 Aurelius on Death

And Appreciating the “Uncovenanted Surplus” That Is Life
In our last +1, we reflected on the idea that little (and big) oopses provide us with opportunities to appreciate that we’re still alive
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#209 Memento Mori

Want to Live? Remember Death
As you probably know by this point, I’m a big fan of Stoicism in general and of my favorite living Stoic philosopher Ryan Holiday in
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#378 Seneca on How to Give Advice

Like One Patient to Another
I recently interviewed Donald Robertson. Donald is one of the world’s leading thinkers on Stoicism. He wrote The Philosophy of Cognitive
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#1019 Pythagoras’s PM Review

Via His Golden Verses
In our last couple +1s, we retraced my steps through the Optimize Stoic library of wisdom—going from Musonius Rufus’s Lectures and
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#380 Seneca Says: Be Harsh with Yourself at Times

(With Self-Compassion, of Course)
In our last couple +1s, we had some fun at the hospital with our Stoic friends Seneca and Epictetus. Recall Epictetus’ wisdom that
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#381 Seneca: The Worse a Person Is the Less He Feels It

Aurelius: Don’t Like Yourself? Why Would I Care Whether or Not You Like Me?
Continuing our good times with our Stoic friends, how about couple more gems from Seneca and Aurelius? Seneca once said, “The worse a
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#1032 The Big 2 Virtues

Can You Guess What They Are?
Not too long ago, we talked about the four cardinal virtues of ancient Stoicism then connected those virtues to the six core virtues of the
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#1060 Facing a Challenge?

What Virtue Can You Practice?!
In our last +1, we left Zeno the leopard gecko in his terrarium and hung out with Zeno the founder of Stoicism. As we discussed, Zeno was a
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#1036 The Choice of Hercules

Vice Dressed up as Virtue
Hercules. Did you know he was one of the favorite mythical heroes of Socrates and the ancient Stoics? Yep. In How to Think Like a Roman
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#1020 Learning Cycles

And How to Optimize Them
In our last +1, we talked about the PM ritual Pythagoras came up with 2,500 years ago (!) that the Stoics liked to follow: Allow not sleep
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#898 Antifragile Fuel

Aurelius on How to Make Flame and Brightness
Have you ever had an experience that annoyed you? (Hah.) Or, perhaps, a particular person who seems particularly skilled at annoying you?
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#1073 Memento (Time) Flies

28 Days Later
In our last +1, we talked about the science of Memento Mori. And, for the courageous among us, we actually walked through the “death”
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#1047 Zeno’s Paradox

Time to Reverse It
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been getting our riddles on with Ellen Langer. How about another quick pop quiz?! Two parts. Four questions.

#82 Suffering = Pain x Resistance

An Important Lesson on How to Reduce Suffering
In her great book Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff shares a little equation that can help us reduce our suffering. It goes like this: Suffering
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#415 Your Grand Purpose

How to Turn Apparent Misfortune into Great Fortune
One of the themes we come back to again and again is the basic idea of loving what is — whether that’s via Byron Katie’s wisdom or the
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#1072 Memento Privilege

The Science of Memento Mori
Let’s continue our exploration of the science of gratitude for another moment (or three). In his great book Gratitude Works!, Robert
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#1108 The 1, 2, 3 of Antifragility

How to Operationalize OMMS
This morning I was out on the Trail enjoying (yet!) another stunningly beautiful Ojai morning. I was thinking about our Mastery Series
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#997 Eudaimonology

The Study of a Good Soul
Somehow we’re approaching Optimize +1 #1,000 and we have yet to discuss one of my favorite Ideas and the very first thing we teach our
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#1166 Eudaimonism vs. Hedonism

Don’t Want to Be Depressed? Science Says…
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that when we go after accumulating more and more “stuff” (whether that’s the latest gadgets
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#894 All Roads Lead to Eudaimon

Antifragile Optionality - Part II
In our last +1, we chatted about my Gordion knot and the Orison Swett Marden wisdom that most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds
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#465 Virtuous Activity of the Soul

Aristotle on How to Be Happy
In our last +1, we talked about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the fact that his word for “happiness” was VERY different than our
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#1208 The Neuroscience of Seneca

Pleasant + Honorable = The Same
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been talking about the power of Celebration to help us hack our brains to accelerate the process of creating
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#887 Lightbulbs in the Temple of God

Less Graffiti, More Shining
In our last +1, we talked about Joseph Campbell’s koan: “What am I? Am I the bulb that carries the light, or am I the light of which the
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#886 You, the Lightbulb

Turning Up Our Wattage
In our last couple +1s, we’ve chatted about a couple of my favorite ideas from the Mastery series lecture on The Fundies: How to Energize
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#1050 Galileo on Optimizing

Measure What Is Measurable
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out with Emerson, playing the “I Love You!” game and taking a quick look at the story of
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#464 Aristotle’s “Happiness”

Isn’t Quite What You Think
Aristotle was born in Greece on the border of Macedonia in 384 BC. His father was the court physician to the Macedonian king. At the age of
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#1126 The Good Life

vs. The Good Mood
Not too long ago, we had fun revisiting some Stoic wisdom as we mined some goodness with a range of books—including Musonius Rufus’s
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#635 Daimon, Meet Genius

High Fives All Around
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a bit obsessed with Aristotle’s idea that the whole point of life, the ultimate
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#951 Deepak on Superheroes

The Buddha, Bodhisattvas and You
In our last +1, we reminded ourselves of the fact that the ancient Greek word for hero didn’t mean “tough guy” or “killer of bad
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#556 How to Live with Radiant Enthusiasm

Hint: Create a Nice Home for God
In our last +1, we talked about our ego vis-a-vis our id and superego. I made the case for why having a STRONG ego that can effectively
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#808 Aurelius on Life’s Great Harmony

And How to Stay in Tune
In our last +1, we talked about Mister Rogers’s wisdom on the symphony of life and the wonderful joy of harmonizing our uniqueness with
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#927 Aristotle’s Yoga

Which Way Do YOU Need to Bend?
A couple years ago, we chatted about Aristotle’s Virtuous Mean. Then, a year ago, we dusted off that wisdom and approached it from a
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#247 Aristotle’s Virtuous Mean

Versus the Vices of Excess + Deficiency
In our last +1, we talked about Seneca’s take on flexibility. Quick recap: Too much flexibility and you’re fickle. Too little and
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#826 Aristotle (+ Adam Grant) on Anger

And Channeling It Virtuously
In our last +1, we met an enraged Mister Rogers channeling his love in service to his ideals. (You watch this video yet? I challenge you to
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#353 Entelechy

Aristotle Says: It’s the Life Force Pushing You to Actualize
As we’ve discussed, if I had to summarize my entire philosophy in one sentence, one of Abraham Maslow’s gems would probably do the
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#1146 Cosmic Math

28 Days vs. 28,000 Days vs. 6,825,500,000,000 Days
Not too long ago, we hung out with Aristotle’s Little River Creatures to get some perspective on the brevity of life. Recall: “Aristotle
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#469 We Are What We Repeatedly Do

Excellence, then, Is Not an ACT but a Habit
Today we have the final installment in our What Would Aristotle Do? +1 series. We’ve gotta talk about habits. You know that E P I C
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#468 Are You Pusillanimous?

Much Better to be Magnanimous
A couple +1s ago I promised to chat about Aristotle’s thoughts on magnanimity. It’s one of the “Other Moral Virtues” he talks about
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#467 Buddha on: Making Arrows Straight

Carving Wood and Irrigating Water
In our last +1, we talked about Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean. With diligent, patient, and persistent practice, virtuous activity of
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#678 A Quick Trip to Hell

How to Avoid That As Frequent/Ultimate Destination
In Greatest Year Ever 2019, we kicked the party off by reminding ourselves of the ultimate game we’re playing—leaning into Aristotle’s
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#505 Solvitur Ambulando

Latin for: “It Is Solved by Walking”
Today we’re going to talk about walking. Walking is awesome. In fact, it’s so old-school epically awesome in helping thinkers think that