Understand Ancient Wisdom

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Locked PhilosophersNotes

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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 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 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.


#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

#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

#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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#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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#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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#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
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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

#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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#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
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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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#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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#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’