Tag: Stoicism

Book Notes – Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

Book Notes – Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu


  • 1: Always without desire we must be found, if its deep mystery we would sound; But if desire always within us be, its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
  • 4: We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others.
  • 7: Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is because they do not live of, or for, themselves. This is how they are able to continue and endure.
  • 7: The sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved. Is it not because he has no personal and private ends, that therefore such ends are realised?
  • 9: It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full. If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness. When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe. When wealth and honours lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.
  • 12: Colour’s five hues from th’ eyes their sight will take; Music’s five notes the ears as deaf can make; The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste; The chariot course, and the wilde hunting waste make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange, sought for, men’s conduct will to evil change. Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former.
  • 13: Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honour and great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind). What is meant by speaking thus of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favour). The getting that (favour) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):- this is what is meant by saying that favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.
  • 16: All things alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them return (to their original state).
  • 16: When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that stillness may be called reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end.
  • 22: The sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of humility), and manifests it to all the world. He is free from self- display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
  • 23: A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day. To whom is it that these (two) things are owing? To Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long, how much less can man!
  • 25: There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of all things. I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao.
  • 26: Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness, the ruler of movement.
  • 29: The course and nature of things is such that what was in front is now behind; What warmed anon we freezing find. Strength is of weakness oft the spoil; The store in ruins mocks our toil. Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.
  • 37: The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do.
  • 38: Those who possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show, and when men did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marched up to them.
  • 42: The violent and strong do not die their natural death.
  • 43: The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).
  • 48: He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge); he who devotes himself to the Tao (seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing). He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.
  • 49: To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good;- and thus (all) get to be good.
  • 57: In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are.
  • 63: It is the way of the Tao to act without (thinking of) acting; to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great, and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
  • 63: The master of it anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small.
  • 64: That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; that which is brittle is easily broken; that which is very small is easily dispersed. Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance; order should be secured before disorder has begun.
  • 67: I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honour.
  • 76: Man at his birth is supple and weak; at his death, firm and strong. (So it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early growth, are soft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered. Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.

It’s been a while since my previous post, but I haven’t been sitting still. I really enjoyed the inspiring nature of the texts in this book. Expect no hands on tools on how to live, but do expect to find wisdom in the collection of age old virtuous texts.  If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on:
Bol.com: Early Retirement Extreme on Bol.com
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 4 out of 5.
Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson


  • The secret to Charles Bukowski’s success: the simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself—especially the worst parts of himself—and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.
  • Conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack.
  • “The smallest dog barks the loudest.” A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident.
  • You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick.
  • Companies want you to give a fuck: giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business.
  • The problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction.
  • The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
  • Very few animals on earth have the ability to think cogent thoughts to begin with, but we humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts.
  • We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious.
  • By not giving a fuck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell (feeling bad for feeling bad).
  • Say to yourself, “I feel like shit, but who gives a fuck?” And then, as if sprinkled by magic fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.
  • We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.
  • Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.
  • The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
  • Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
  • Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
  • To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
  • You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon.
  • In the short amount of time between being born and being dead, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.
  • Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent;
    • It means being comfortable with being different.
    • People who are indifferent are lame and scared.
    • It’s about not caring about pissing some people off to do what he feels is right or important or noble.
  • You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.
  • To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  • “Life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about.
  • Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
  • Most things in life have little lasting impact on our lives.
  • Become comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.
  • Life itself is a form of suffering.
  • The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.
  • We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.
  • Our brains don’t register much difference between physical pain and psychological pain.
  • Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of the next one.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.
  • Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you.
  • Many people fuck things up in at least one of two ways:
    • Denial, and/or;
    • Victim Mentality
  • If you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.
  • Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better.
  • Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.
  • The Hedonic Treadmill: the idea that we’re always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different.
  • You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You know what else three-year-olds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
  • You don’t REALLY want something if you want the reward and not the struggle, if you want the result and not the process.
  • People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness.
  • If we have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we’re either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we’re somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us. Put simply: we become entitled.
  • Entitlement plays out in one of two ways:
    • I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment.
    • I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
  • The more exposed we are to opposing viewpoints, the more we seem to get upset that those other viewpoints exist.
  • The vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.
  • Millennials often get blamed for this cultural shift, but that’s likely because millennials are the most plugged-in and visible generation.
  • This constant stream of unrealistic media dogpiles onto our existing feelings of insecurity, by overexposing us to the unrealistic standards we fail to live up to.
  • Because social media only shows unrealistic standards, it becomes better to be at the extreme low end of the bell curve than to be in the middle, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention.
  • Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
  • The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.
  • There are a handful of common values that create really poor problems for people—problems that can hardly be solved.
  • Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose. And yet, pleasure is what’s marketed to us, twenty-four/seven.
  • Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.
  • We consistently make poor assumptions, misjudge probabilities, misremember facts, give in to cognitive biases, and make decisions based on our emotional whims. As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly.
  • Material Success: Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor’s.
  • If your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.
  • Sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.
  • Constant positivity is a form of avoidance.
  • One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.
  • Good values are:
    • reality-based,
    • socially constructive, and;
    • immediate and controllable.
  • Bad values are:
    • superstitious,
    • socially destructive, and;
    • not immediate or controllable.
  • When we have poor values we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter.
  • Self-improvement is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about.
  • Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.
  • If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control.
  • There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
  • We are always taking an active role in what’s occurring to and within us.
  • The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.
  • The real question is, What are we choosing to give a fuck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life?
  • Example of bad values: “a man felt that he was too short, he didn’t often go out and try to meet women. The few times he did, he would home in on the smallest behaviors from any woman he talked with that could possibly indicate he wasn’t attractive enough for her and then convince himself that she didn’t like him, even if she really did. As you can imagine, his dating life sucked.”
  • There are also problems that we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them. For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that the baby had been put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility.
  • Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense.
  • Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you.
  • One side effect of the Internet and social media is that it’s become easier than ever to push responsibility—for even the tiniest of infractions—onto some other group or person.
  • The moment you change your values, your turnaround will reverberate out through your relationships.
  • Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong.
  • A certain man works his ass off and believes he deserves a promotion, but he never explicitly says that to his boss. He is therefore never rewarded for his hard work.
  • We don’t actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating.
  • We experience something. Then we remember it slightly differently a few days later, as if it had been whispered and misheard. Then we tell somebody about it and have to fill in a couple of the plot holes with our own embellishments.
  • By linking our present experiences with that imagined past, our mind allows us to maintain whatever meaning we already established.
  • Not only is certainty unattainable, but the pursuit of certainty often breeds more (and worse) insecurity, because the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel.
  • Before we can look at our values and prioritizations and change them into better, healthier ones, we must first become uncertain of our current values.
  • Manson’s Law of Avoidance: “The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”
  • Buddhism argues that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all.
  • If you assume that your plane is the one that’s going to crash, or that your project idea is the stupid one everyone is going to laugh at, or that you’re the one everyone is going to choose to mock or ignore, you’re implicitly telling yourself, “I’m the exception; I’m unlike everybody else; I’m different and special.”
  • Aristotle wrote: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
  • Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
  • If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have.
  • Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
  • If I measure myself by the standard “Make everyone I meet like me,” I will be anxious, because failure is 100 percent defined by the actions of others, not by my own actions. I am not in control.
  • For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity.
  • Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
  • VCR questions: From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex.
  • Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. A series of VCR questions. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy.
  • Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
  • Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
  • Trick yourself into action (by Tim Ferriss): Promise yourself to write two hundred crappy words per day, that’s it. The idea was that you force yourself to write two hundred crappy words, more often than not the act of writing will inspire; and before you know it, you’ll have thousands of words down on the page.
  • Do something. That “something” can be the smallest viable action toward something else. It can be anything.
  • Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
  • The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.
  • The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things:
    • How well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility, and
    • The willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.
  • Wherever there is a healthy and loving relationship, there will be clear boundaries between the two people and their values.
  • People in a healthy relationship with strong boundaries will take responsibility for their own values and problems and not take responsibility for their partner’s values and problems.
  • A healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.
  • The setting of proper boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t help or support your partner or be helped and supported yourself.
  • People with strong boundaries are not afraid of a temper tantrum, an argument, or getting hurt.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that it’s unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 percent and fulfill every need the other has.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that they may hurt someone’s feelings sometimes, but ultimately they can’t determine how other people feel.
  • There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime.
  • When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing.
  • If there really is no reason to do anything, then there is also no reason to not do anything.
  • By spending the majority of your short life avoiding what is painful and uncomfortable, You essentially avoid being alive at all.
  • Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
  • Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly.
  • Because of this unique mental ability, Becker says, that we all, at some point, become aware of the inevitability of our own death.
  • Death terror: a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
  • We are all aware on some level that our physical self will eventually die, that this death is inevitable, and that its inevitability—on some unconscious level—scares the shit out of us.
  • To compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. This is why people try so hard to put their names on buildings, on statues, on spines of books.
  • All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects: the cities and governments and structures and authorities in place today were all immortality projects of men and women who came before us.
  • All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.
  • We’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about something is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death.
  • Mark Twain: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
  • You too are going to die, and that’s because you too were fortunate enough to have lived.

This book contains some serious life lessons, sometimes on the boundary of stoicism.  There is a reason these notes turned out to be over 3.000 words. I highly recommend this book for everyone, especially in this day and age of entitlement and victim mentality, but also this time of unlimited options and infinite possibilities. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Early Retirement Extreme on Bol.com
Amazon: Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.
Gratitude is the best combatant of fear

Gratitude is the best combatant of fear

The concept of being alive may be overwhelming at times. The fact that your time on earth is finite can be both debilitating and motivating. The same thought may cause you to realize that you want to do so much in a limited timespan, urging you to pick up on that book you always wanted to read, make the trip you have had in your head for years, or cause you to say: “Fuck it!”, and move your livelihood abroad. It incentivizes you to make the best of your time on earth and decrease the amount of meaningless crap that occupies your days

On the other hand, your limited lifespan may provoke anxiety. The fact that by age 25, you probably have somewhere around merely 2 times of your already spent time left. Time which in hindsight flew by. The realization that one day you will be dead forever, the realization that you won’t be around to experience what the future will look like in one hundred years, the realization that nobody will even know of your existence after a couple of generations. Thoughts like these make you wish you could stop or reverse time. Churning on these thoughts may lead to existential dread. Though I believe that not everyone experiences these thoughts in the same manner.

In light of these morbid thoughts, you do well to be grateful. Ryan Holiday, author of the Daily Stoic, provides us with an early morning exercise that can repel dark thoughts:

Firstly, be thankful that you have actually woken up, many people will not have this privilege today.

Think about the immense luck you have of actually being able to experience everything around you. Your parents just happened to meet at the right place and moment for you to even exist. Not just that, every person in your entire family lineage aligned impeccably to lead to your birth. Even before that, your genes can be traced back to a primordial soup in which scattered simple molecules formed the first proteins. Over thirteen billion years of the most improbable of circumstances in an immensity of chaos that randomly came to order and formed you.

Without making too many assumptions: if you are able to read this on a computer, connected to network of servers and computers all around the globe, you were born in the best time to be alive yet,  in one of the more favorable places on earth. While you get to experience all this, you are being immobilized by thoughts, even though it is so intensely unlikely of you even being able to think. Wouldn’t it be better to just let gratitude flood out your heinous thinking and simpy enjoy it all?

Cut the crap, you’re not busy!

Cut the crap, you’re not busy!

Take a walk in any office and ask how people feel. I bet that people claim to be busy more often than not. Especially in an environment where people are dealing with a constant flow of e-mail requests and an unending amount of meetings, it is hard not to be overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, there is always more to do. That’s not necessarily bad though. As Jacob Lund Fisker writes in Early Retirement Extreme:

“Busyness is seen as a virtue.”

Cal Newport explains in his book Deep Work: In an environment where productivity is hard to judge, for example in creative endeavours or in knowledge work, looking busy is the only proxy of being productive and valuable.

But also in personal life when trying to make plans, everybody seems to be in a rush. There is just so much to do and there isn’t enough time. Literally, consider all the options you have in a given moment to spend your time. By choosing to do one thing, you have to discard thousands of opportunity’s to spend your time. (That’s why I find it hard to believe that people can be bored, that’s another topic). But if you “mistake busyness for importance – which we do a lot – you’re not able to see what really is important.” – Michael Lewis.

Though it is not always a very pleasant thought, Marcus Aurelius insists you to remember that your total time is limited. This is not just a life and death matter, but you also can’t tell whether your mind is clear enough at an old age to enjoy all the things you want to do (book 3-1, Meditations). So it is not just good to have a sense of urgency in life, moreover, you should make a concious effort to critically examine whether what you are doing is really important to you.

If you are feeling busy, life is controlling you. You have to accept that some things can’t be changed, but how you spend your time isn’t one of them. Are you mindlessly browsing Facebook and YouTube? Are you catching up with people who aren’t actually your friends? Are you doing work that isn’t moving your company forward? It is time for you to cut the crap and take control of your life.

Book Notes – Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Book Notes – Meditations – Marcus Aurelius


  • It’s easy to put your own life and death in perspective when you consider them relative to the eternity and vastness of the universe.
  • 1-4: Value of education: spend lavishly on good tutors.
  • 1-6: Write essays from a young age.
  • 1-8: Moral freedom, the certainty to ignore the dice of furtune, and have no other perspective, even for a moment, than that of reason alone. To be always the same man, unchanged in sudden pain.
  • 1-12: Never use: ‘I am too busy’ as an excuse for the constant avoidance of the proprieties inherent in our relations to our fellows and contemporaries.
  • 1-16: Regulate abstinence and enjoyment where many people are too weak-willed to abstain or enjoy too indulgently.
  • 1-17: Marcus is grateful or being able to have found no lack of suitable tutors for his children.
  • 1-17: Express gratitude.
  • 2-1: Morning ritual: say to yourself: ‘Remain unaffected by and cooperate with all the malicious people you will meet during the day.’
  • 2-4: There is a limit circumscribed to your time.
  • 2-5: Every hour of the day give vigorous attention to the performance of the task in hand.
  • 3: Focus on the tasks at hand and do not let yourself get distracted by the casual. Do not make a drama of your life.
  • 3-1: Not only is our time limited, but if we live longer, there is no guarantee our mind will retain all power to comprehend. Have a sense of urgency.
  • 3-12: If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigour and good will, if you admit no distraction, – then you will live a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.
  • 3-16: Body = sense perceptions
    Soul = impulses
    Mind = judgement
  • 4-2: No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.
  • 4-3: In faring obstacles, consider the immeasurable time before and after and the whole earth as a minute point in space.
  • 4-3: Instead of seeking external retreat, give yourself the retreat of your own mind.
  • 4-7: Remove the judgement, and you have removed the thought: ‘I am hurt.’ Remove the thought: ‘I am hurt’, and the hurt itself is removed.
  • 4-11: When someone does you wrong, do not judge things as he interprets them or would like you to interpret them. Just see them as they are, in plain truth.
  • 4-18: Look only at your own actions.
  • 4-19: Fame is worthless as it and when it is no longer remembered, but even if it was by some immortal, what does it matter?
  • 4-24: “If you want to be happy, do little” – Democrites
    – Remove the superfluity, all unnecessary action.
  • 4-42: Change: nothing inherently bad in the process, nothing inherently good in the result.
  • 5-2: How easy it is to drive away or obliterate from one’s mind every impression which is troublesome or alien, and then to be immediately in perfect calm.
  • 5-5: Integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnamity. Do you see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude?
  • 5-11: To what use, then, am I now putting my soul? Ask yourself this question on every occassion. Examine yourself.
  • 5-13: Every part of me will be assigned its changed place in some part of the universe, then another part, on to infinity. A similar sequence of change brought me into existence, and my parents, and back so in another infinity of regression.
  • 5-16: Your mind will take on the character ofyour most frequent thoughts.
  • 5-20: “The obstacle becomes the way.”
  • 6-6: The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.
  • 6-13: The practice of showing things naked:
    – Roast meat = dead animal body.
    – Falernian wine = juice of grapes.
    – Sexual intercourse = friction of a membrane and a spurt of mucus ejected.
  • 6-51: How to understand your own good:
    – The lover of glory takes it to be the reactions of others.
    – The lover of pleasure takes it to be his own passive experience.
    – The intelligent man sees it as his own action.
  • 7-7: Do not be ashamed of help. It is your task to achieve your assigned duty.
  • 7-14: Let any external thing that so wishes to happen to those parts of me which can be affected by its happening- and they, if they wish, can complain. I myself am not yet harmed, unless I judge this occurence something bad: and I can refuse to do so.
  • 7-18: It makes no sense to be afraid of change, because NOTHING can happen without it.
  • 7-64: When complaining of drowsiness, oppressive heat, loss of appetite, say to yourself: ‘You are giving in to pain.’
  • 7-73: When you have done good and another has benefited, why do you still look, as fools do, for a third thing besides – credit for good works, or a return.
  • 8-36: Do not let the panorama of your life oppress you, do not dwell on all various troubles which may have occurred in the past or may occur in the future. Just ask yourself in each instance of the present: ‘What is there in this work which I cannot endure or support?’
  • 8-47: If your distress has some external cause, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgement of it.
  • 8-50: Deal with minor obstacles immediately:
    – Bitter cucumber? Throw it away.
    – Brambles in a path? Go around them.
  • 9-5: There can be wrongs of omission, as well as commission.
  • 9-12: Work. Don’t work as a miserable drudge, or in any expectation of pity or admiration.
  • 9-27: When someone blames or hates you, see what people they are. You will realize there is no need for anxiety about their opinion about you. (Though be kind to them)
  • 9-33: There are many barriers or impediments in the way. But mind and reason have the power by their nature and at their will, to move through every obstacle.
  • 9-40: Instead of dealing with minute impulses, deal with the judgement of these impulses.
    – One prays: how can I be rid of that man?
    – You pray: how can I stop wanting to be rid of him?
  • 12-10: See things for what they are, analyzing into material, cause and reference.

Even though the content of this book are nearly 2000 years old, it reads as if it was written today. There is a reason this book stood the test of time so well. I provided my favorite outtakes in these book notes, but the book contains an immense amount of wisdom. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Meditations on Bol.com
Amazon: Meditations on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.
Book Notes – The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday

Book Notes – The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday


  • Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?
  • In the face of obstacles, we do nothing because of our attitude and approach.
  • Within an obstacle is the opportunity to improve, learn, test ourselves and try new things.
  • The steps to overcoming obstacles are:
    • Perception
    • Action
    • Will
  • In the face of an obstacle, we must try:
    • To be objective
    • To control emotions and keep an even keel
    • To choose to see the good in a situation
    • To steady our nerves
    • To ignore what disturbs or limits others
    • To place things in perspective
    • To revert to the present moment
    • To focus on what can be controlled
  • “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare
  • Obstacles make us emotional (panic), but the only way we’ll survive or overcome them is by keeping those emotions in check (apatheia).
  • Perspective determines how an obstacle appears. Take what you are affraid of and break it apart. Reason it away.
  • Accept what can’t be changed and focus only on what you can control (even when odds are low).
  • Don’t waste time on false constructs: It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best. What matters is that right now IS right now.
  • Example, your rival at work may be an obstacle, or they:
    • Keep you alert
    • Raise the stakes
    • Motivate you to prove them wrong
    • Harden you
    • Help you appreciate true friends
    • Provide an instructive antilog: an example of whom you don’t want to become.
  • Action creates momentum for success.
  • Obstacles become bigger because of made-up reasons instead of action.
  • If we’re to overcome our obstacles, this is the message to broadcast – internally and externally. We will not be stopped by failure, we will not be rushed or distracted by external noise. We will chisel and peg away at the obstacle until it is gone. Resistance is futile.
  • Persistence: finding the new way through trying all the wrong ways. The solution is never a flash of insight.
  • Failure brings 2 options:
    • Quit
    • Going back to the drawing board (action)
  • Persistence is not insanity (doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome).
  • The Process: don’t focus on the ultimate goal, but break it down and do what you need to do right now. Do it well and move on to the next thing.
  • The Process: we are A-Z thinkers:
    • Fretting about A
    • Obsessing over Z
    • Forgetting about B-Y
  • To whatever we face, we respond with:
    • Hard work
    • Honesty
    • Helping others as best we can
    • For it is our job!
  • There are a lot of ways to get from A to B. It doesn’t have to be a straight line, it’s just got to get you where you need to go.
  • Doing more is often doing less.
  • Example of using obstacles against themselves:
    Russia defeating the Nazi’s and Napoleon by retreating and luring the opponent into the fierce winters of Russia.
  • Turn a crisis to your advantage, for example: Obama reframed a scandal into a ‘teachable moment’.
  • Although you have tried your best, you can still fail. Accept that this is an opportunity to practice acceptance and forgiveness.
  • Be patient, because difficult things take time.
  • Some things you can’t control. Be ready for the worst, then be prepared to make the most of it.
  • We can always 100% control our will.
  • In adversity we can always:
    • Prepare ourselves for more diffucult times.
    • Accept what we’re unable to change.
    • Manage our expectations.
    • Persevere.
    • Learn to love our fate and what happens to us.
    • Protect our inner sel, retreat into ourselves.
    • Submit to a greater, larger cause.
    • Remind ourselves of our own mortality.
    • Prepare to start the cycle once more.
  • Are you ready for obstacles, are you prepared?
  • You’ll have far better luck toughening yourself up than you ever will trying to take the teeth out of a world that is at best indifferent to your existence.
  • Sometimes the only answer to “What if…” is: it will suck, but we’ll be okay.
  • Things will go wrong, so anticipate.
  • Acquiescence: accept and move on.
  • Amor fati: whatever happens, love it.
  • Perseverance = persistence. Love the long game.
  • If you can’t make something better for yourself, make it better for others. That way you are drawing purpose from adversity.
  • Everyone is being part of a whole. Contribute your little bit to the universe before it swallows you up.
  • Life is a series of obstacles, when faced will lead to the best version of yourself.
  • The long game is about gathering strength as you go.
  • Philosophy was meant to be in your hands.
    • See things for what they are.
    • Do what you can.
    • Endure and bear what you must.

      “What blocked the path now is the path. What once impeded action advances action. The obstacle is the way.”

This book is by far one of the most accessible books on stoicism and this can all be attributed to the effort Ryan put into this book. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: The Obstacle Is The Way on Bol.com
Amazon: The Obstacle Is The Way on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.