Discipline Is Destiny: A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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The women in this parable are Vice and Virtue, and I’m sure you can guess which path Hercules chose, given how awesome he became. Has this story ever happened? Probably not. But is it still important? Yes, because it’s a story about us. At least, that’s what Ryan Holiday thinks — and why heopens his book Discipline Is Destiny, the second of four in a series about the cardinal virtues of Stoicism (courage, discipline, justice, wisdom), with this metaphor. Most kids like to play sports. Lou Gehrig saw in the game a higher calling. Baseball was a profession that demanded control of, as well as care for, the body-since it was both the obstacle and the vehicle for success.
The inscription on the Oracle of Delphi says: 'Nothing in excess.' C.S. Lewis described temperance as going to the 'right length but no further.' Easy to say, hard to practice - and if it was tough in 300 BC, or in the 1940s, it feels all but impossible today. Yet it's the most empowering and important virtue any of us can learn. He talks of ‘managing the load’ (ie to rest so that you can work when it counts) after giving a chapter talking about Gehring who didn’t rest and worked with broken bones and seemed to praise this absolutely insane desire for winning and disregard for the long term effects….just one contradiction in a book of many. Ryan Holiday is one of those life-changing writers. I received a review copy of The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph when things were going well. A few years later, I found myself homeless. During that time, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living gave me insights I could use in how I thought about and acted in my situation.Focus. Ludwig van Beethoven was known for drifting off in social conversations. Are you even listening to me , a friend once asked. Sorry, Beethoven replied, “I was just occupied with such a lovely, deep thought, I couldn’t bear to be disturbed.” They called this his raptus . His flow state. His place of deep work. His profound concentrated periods of focus. The source of his musical greatness. We can all develop this skill. As Steve Jobs, speaking to his top designer Jonny Ive, would explain, “focus is not this thing you aspire to…or something you do on Monday. It’s something you do every minute.”
Be kind to yourself. The Stoic philosopher Cleanthes was once walking through the streets of Athens when he came across a man berating himself for some failure. Seeing how upset he was, Cleanthes–normally one to mind his own business–could not help himself but to stop and say kindly, “Remember, you’re not talking to a bad man.” Discipline isn’t about beating yourself up. There’s a firmness involved, for sure. Ultimately, after a lifetime of study of Stoicism, this is how Seneca came to judge his own growth—“What progress have I made?” he wrote. “I have begun to be a friend to myself.” It is an act of self discipline to be kind to the self. To be a good friend. To make yourself better. To celebrate your progress, however small. That’s what friends do. The Buddha was born in a palace, yet he still felt miserable. The poverty he later experienced outside wasn’t any better. It was only once he learned to practice patience, to sit with suffering, and to not lose it when things went awry that he found he could calmly manage — even enjoy — both life’s ups and downs. He makes Stoicism about work success but it should be about self improvement, which can then lead to work success.The afterword was particularly helpful to me but I also really appreciated the soft delivery by the author/narrator.
Get the leather-bound edition ) The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living why are we so damn unhappy? Because we mistake liberty for license. Freedom, as Eisenhower famously said, is actually only the “opportunity for self-discipline.” I'm including part of it here; mainly for my own future reference. I've covered it with a spoiler, for those not interested:
Quit being a slave. On an ordinary afternoon in 1949, the physicist Richard Feynman was going about his business when he felt a pull to have a drink. Not an intense craving by any means, but it was a disconcerting desire for alcohol. On the spot, Feynman gave up drinking right then and there. Nothing, he felt, should have that kind of power over him. At the core of the idea of self-mastery is an instinctive reaction against anything that masters us. We have to drop bad habits. We have to quit being a slave—to cigarettes or soda, to likes on social media, to work, or your lust for power. The body can’t be in charge. Neither can the habit. We have to be the boss. It’s not a palace or a throne that makes someone impressive, the Stoics would say, but kingly behavior that does. It’s discipline, self-control. He wasn’t after power or status, he said, but, “perfection of character: to live your last day, every day, without frenzy or sloth or pretense.” He was after becoming the best version of himself possible, putting a fine polish on top of everything he did, no matter how humble or impressive. Be hard on yourself. “Take the cold bath bravely, ‘’ W.E.B Dubois wrote to his daughter. “ Make yourself do unpleasant things so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.” By being hard on ourselves, it makes it harder for others to be hard on us. By being our own tyrant, we take away the power of tyrants over us.