The Urgent Need for Stoicism with Ryan Holiday
Hey, buddy, what's up? It's Chase. Welcome to another episode of the show. Today's guest is Ryan Holiday. You probably know Ryan. He's been on the show a couple times. In case you don't, you've been living under a rock because Ryan's work is so popular these days. Ryan Holliday dropped out of college at 19 to Apprentice under Robert Green, the author. He then was a marketer at American Apparel. He went on to found a creative agency and then started writing books on his own, where he has written, I think, 10 books, most of them bestsellers, including Obstacles Away Ego is the enemy. The daily stoic and stillness is the key, which has sold millions and millions of copies around the world. 30 languages. Something like that. I consider Ryan a dear friend, and today we're having him on the show to talk about how to live the life that you want on your terms by being incredibly practical. And the book in particular, is about the stomachs. It's called Lives of the Stoics, and right now you're ...
thinking, Wait a minute. I don't even know what stoic philosophy is. This is a great primer, and more importantly, it is a an amazing way of thinking. It's not telling you how to think. You're sorry what to think, but it's telling you how to think. And I think you're gonna get a treat out of today's episode. Ryan. Not only is he super smart and talented at writing books, but he's an incredible communicator. Uh, so please join me in welcoming Ryan to the show. Let's get into it. 321 Take it away. Yeah. Mm. No. How's it going? I'm good. I'm good, man. Nice to see your face on the screen here. It's been a little bit. Describe what's happening. Where are you? What's what's going on in your world? I'm you know, I'm hanging out. I'm in my office. Uh, just wine winding down the day winding down another week. What? Has it been fucking nine months? Oh, God, I I had a weird thing. So, like, I have an apple watch, and you know it. Like records like, Hey, you have, like, a 10 day streak or whatever, you know, and, uh, I I noticed. So it's gotten It's I don't know. It's like 100 and 50 days or 200 days or something like that, I was going to say, You're discrediting yourself. I saw your insta story that the day it was like a 1 62. Okay, but so here's the crazy thing. It's actually like 200 but it's something Glitches on the watch, and it started counting and, like, it started losing days like it was going in the wrong direction. And I didn't even notice because all the days have blurred together and I lost all track of time. Well, I don't know, man. I don't know if that's something that Stork would say. This would've stoke stay that the watch glitch, or would the Stoke own it? Well, what I'm saying is that when When when you're so locked into a routine, it doesn't matter what's going on and you even lose track of the passage of time. And that's that's where I am Well, for those who, uh, if you haven't gathered right and I go way back and, um, he's been on the show, I think it's your fourth time, but and each of these has been timed with, uh, one of your epic book releases and we've had you on. I think not all because you got 10 books now, right? Is that true? I think it's 10 or 11 again. I've also lost track of that as well. It all comes together. It's like losing you. Don't tell me you've lost track of how many kids you have to write. That's, thankfully, a small enough number that I can't easily forget. Awesome. Well, good to have you on the show and for the listening, the the We'll probably do a little bit of a recap because, believe it or not, there are a handful of people on the planet who haven't read your material. Um, it's our goal today to reach some new folks, but we're going to start by retracing my my little outline for our conversation. Today starts way back with the book that, well, actually want to start before you were an author, and then we'll go to the book that has come back in a weird way. So there was a time when you weren't an author and when you worked for authors and you were the vice president of marketing or director of marketing Rather, um, for fancy clothing brand or a gritty clothing brand and you cut your teeth in a I think a really interesting way. So why don't you give me, like, the 62nd or give the folks at home 62nd version of that, uh and then I want to figure out how you made this jump from not being an author to being one, because that is the task of a lot of the people listening and watching right now is that they're doing something they don't want to be doing and they're trying to go to the thing they want to be. So help us understand your journey in both of those, I think I was in a similar place where I I sort of vaguely understood that I wanted to be a writer. But I also knew that no one was lining up to give, you know, college students in your book deals. And I didn't have anything to say. And so I sort of set my sights on just doing interesting stuff and sort of preparing eventually for a career where I could be a writer. And so I dropped out of college was about 20 and I worked for a bunch of different authors or doing Internet marketing stuff, and I ended up ultimately being the director of marketing at company the people used to be familiar with, but so no longer so familiar with called American Apparel, which was at the time one of the biggest fashion brands in the world. And and so there was this period where I was sort of training and learning and experiencing things and ultimately moving towards being able to write a book someday. My first book came out in 2012, which is sort of an expose on on how the world of marketing really works. Um, but But for me, it was the idea that to write a book that people would want to read, it has to be based on real experiences and an interesting life, and it's going to draw on all your connections and relationships. So there was a, you know, basically from 19 to 26 when that book came out, that was me, sort of paying my dues, cutting their teeth as you said, setting up the stage so that I could make what seemed like an abrupt transition to some people. But in fact it's sort of been been pretty strategically laid out. What about income? Like I want to go, like, very tactically, because right now, most people are well, aside from the pandemic which is ravaged the economy, the people who are doing the thing that they don't want to be doing, uh, they mostly are stuck there. The reasons that I hear our financial I'm like I can't can't put enough money in the bank in order because I don't make enough in order to save up enough to take the lead to do the thing. So give me a tactic on how you did that first. And I think what I'm trying to do right now is at the table for again the handful of people who aren't familiar with your work that you actually didn't You weren't born a writer. You weren't, you know. You know it didn't come out of the womb with a keyboard in your hand. Well, I was. It's funny. I was thinking about this this morning. I had I had Matt Berninger on my podcast, the lead singer of the National, and I was reading about his story, and he had a similar story where he had been like an ad exec up until the band had put out, like, I think, two or three different albums. Um and and that was actually very similar to what I did. So, yes, I took this lead to be an author, and I sort of partially walked away from the job. But it was a similar thing where one it's like, I was ready to make the leap. But it turned out because I had a skill set and a set of skills that were in demand. I didn't I didn't I guess you don't have to blow up your life to become an artist. And in fact, that the the that I had a day job and that I cultivated and ultimately the building a little bit of a business, a side business and all this stuff put me in a position to actually take bigger creative risks. Like not only was I writing about what I learned in my job, but then also for my eye, I left American Apparel in the fall of 2014, and and so I'd actually put out three books before I left. Um, so I'm not, I think Look, I dropped out of college. I didn't stay in college and then, you know, do all this other stuff. So I definitely am a proponent. Sometimes you got to take that big leap. But you don't always have to burn the boats behind you. Um, and and for me, being able to write the books while having a day job allowed me, You know, my first book. I got paid. I got a nice, you know, chunk of chains for. But my second book, which is actually really my third book, which is trust, which was the obstacle, is the way the publisher, uh, you know, was not super excited about a book of ancient philosophy, as you can imagine. And so part of the I think I would have done it anyway. But the point is, I wasn't that concerned with, you know, up front what that project was going to earn, because I didn't. It's not that I didn't need it, but it's that I didn't need it to live, you know? And so the starving artist position can be actually, although creatively liberating in some ways, I think also creatively constraining in other ways. Yeah, and that's, you know, we've had a similar conversation before not recorded, but just, you know, over, uh, tacos. And and I think this is a you know, this is part of the journey. Now you're You know, I don't know how many best sellers you got out of that. That 10, uh, daily stoic, you know, that has been on the list forever. Lives of the Stokes, when we're going to talk about today, has been obviously hitting. And I think you're maybe north of a million copies now on ego or or the trifecta, at least so to say that you're successful in your area of focus and passion is an understatement. And the thing that is just it repeats itself over and over in pop culture and especially when shit gets hard with the economy and life is people get down, people get frustrated. And there's this understanding or there's a sorry, a lack of understanding of how you know, someone got from point A to point B. And I know it's hard for people out there who are already large fans of yours because when your name pops up on the podcast, when it's in someone's feed and they're going, I'm going to go listen to this. They think they're knowing what they're getting. But the fact that you had to actually start from zero and go to one Yeah, I think it's healthy for people to figure out. So I mean, I I started from zero in the sense that, like none of my parents' friends were artists. None of my parents' friends wrote books. I don't think I was thinking about this. Probably not until college. Uh, did I ever meet a single? Uh, did I meet a single person who, like adult who didn't have a job? And in fact, I grew up in Sacramento, which is a government town. So almost everyone had, like, government jobs, you know, it wasn't wasn't like my My dad was a police officer. My mom was a school principal. You know, I not even like, oh, this this person is an executive at a at an entertainment company. You know what I mean? Like like I remember. Yeah, I I don't remember anyone having jobs having anything but jobs. Right. So? So it was very unfamiliar in that sense. On the other hand, you know, like I left college without any debt I'm I'm a white male like I had all sorts of advantages in that sense, but I think I think so. Look, is it hard to be an artist? Is it difficult? Or they're all sorts of institutional and cultural barriers, of course. But I would also say there's this barrier that I think deters a lot of Let's just call it normal people who who really shouldn't be intimidated or scared at all who think that like, Well, I can't you know, I I've got a mortgage or I have you know, uh, I can't afford to do it. It's It's like being a writer is hard, no question. But like it was only until somewhat recently I would say that it even began to consume the all of my time. You know what I mean? Like, it's very it's very possible to do these things while you're doing other things. Especially now. I mean, even like, even when I started, my first book came out in 2012, just like nobody had podcasts where you had your own audience, like like you. But you didn't call it. I feel like it was a show. I mean, you have used show like you had to record. I mean, you had you had to fly on a plane. You had a set with camera operators in an audience Like it. What you're doing now is 1000 times cheaper than what you were doing years ago, if not $12 today. Yeah, so, like, um, what all that means? It's not just that it's more affordable. It's that it it actually takes fewer waking hours to do it. You know what I mean? Like just all of it is easier in that sense. And so I think it's very possible to do. And not only is it very possible to do it it's like think about all the people who managed to do it 100 years ago with kids and no childcare worrying of dying of, you know, this or that. I mean, I used to joke like people used to worry about dying of the plague, but unfortunately, that's no longer such a distant concern. But I just mean, like, people have had it harder than you for almost all of history. If you can't if you want to be a photographer, a writer and musician and you can't make it work at least enough on the side to generate some momentum. I am very skeptical that you will be able to do it if all those things went away and you didn't have to worry about money or supporting yourself. Yeah, that that's part of to me. Why, This is a question that perplexes me. Why I wanted to spend time with you want it? I know you've written at length about, you know, creative blocks and, you know, you talk to remember joking with you once about a run. I think I put this in my book, right Holiday talks about a runner's block. Hell, no, you're gonna get outside, You're going to go running right And I think that's it's surprising to me, but also still not surprising because as humans, we have this multi million year old organ in our skull that's not there to actually make us fulfill. That's there to help us survive, and we have to actually train it. And the most important part of that training, I think, are the world's words. We say to ourselves, and you know that in a pretty cool way. I think that goes that harks back around two. The the bent that you have been on for now I'm going to call it. I'm just going to put my finger in the air and say, Seven years that you've been really focused on stoic philosophy. I mean, I would I would say it predates the other stuff. I just didn't really publish books about it. But that's actually an interesting point, right? So, um, like when? Trust me, I'm lying came out. A bunch of my fans were surprised because what I've been writing about online was philosophy like, That's what I was writing about on my blog. So they're like where this marketing stuff come from, and it's like, That's That's what I do every day. I just do this stuff on the side. And then when? When the marketing book succeeded in Built an audience. Then when I did a stoicism book, people were like, Well, what's the transition here? And it's like actually, there's been no transition, So it's interesting, like all all consult with the authors, like people are like, Hey, you know, I'm thinking about doing a book or, you know, I've always wanted to do a book or I have a book coming out in a year I just started or whatever, and I'll go, Um, okay, like so what have you written online? And they're like, Well, nothing. And you're like, So let me get this straight, Like your goal is to publish a book of writing. And you It would be like my goal is to do a standup special. And I'm like, Oh, well, when can I see you perform your like I've never done it before Like, you know you, The way you would succeed on stage and then on television would be to be doing the thing constantly and to build an audience and to build a relationship with that audience. And there's, uh there's somehow a reluctance to do that with people like, I want to be a professional photographer, and it's like, Well, where's your photography? And you're like, Oh, it's all in my phone. I've never shown it to anyone, you know, like okay, yeah, that's not how this works, right? It's not. You have to be taking your licks and be very public about it. I mean, the concept of a Netflix special for a comedian is a great one because, you know, we've had neighbor got see on the show, you know? You know Joe Rogan and Kevin Hart, and, like they, uh, neighbor gets, he's been on the show and he said, I performed seven days a week in New York for almost 10 years, and right now, there and there are people saying like, I don't want to get my material out there before I get my Netflix special. Like, that's the mentality, which is exactly the opposite. And I think that, you know, that make paints a very absurd picture. But what you've done, I started my first. I I started a block. I remember I had a friend set up a website for me the day I graduated high school, which was June of 2005. And my first book came out in June of 2012 July of 2012. So that's, uh, you know, uh, many years of writing for which I received zero compensation. Uh, but but there's no way that when the book, like, who bought the first 10,000 copies of that book, it was the people that I've been writing for for seven ish years. You know, Um and so, uh, you know, it was funny. I always heard about comedians that like, Yeah, you know, I was performed in the clubs for 20 years, and then I got a T V show, and I remember as a kid, thinking like, That's impossible. I could never do that. And it was actually only like a few years ago that I did that. It was like, Wait, when did I start writing online? When did my first book come out? That's that's That was a long period of I wrote almost every day for seven years before I got my first check for writing and and honestly, that book Didn't you know, I I feel like I really hit my stride on my third book and so you know, it took a long time. It does. But I think when people think like, oh, seven years or 10 years or however they go, I can't do that. And I was thinking that I was only thinking a to Z, but there's a bunch of letters in between there, so I wasn't getting paid, But there were certainly moment like I wasn't I didn't shout into the void for seven years. You know what I mean? Like I wrote and I had built up an audience and I had an interaction with that audience and and I got a sense of what was working and not working like I didn't think. I mean, in retrospect, I was a nobody, but in my head, I was writing. I had fans, you know what I mean? Like, it wasn't it. I was doing the thing like I was I I was a writer, you know, I didn't call myself one, but I was a writer, and I was writing. And that was what was setting up to eventually be a published author. Yeah, you've got to do the verb in order to be the noun. Totally. And so, having shifted gears or maybe realigned and try and speak the way that is aligned with the way you just you just laid it out for us. Which is, you know, speaking about writing about stoic philosophy. You were doing that before you did some marketing books in the middle. There you're back in a group of your lane. The thing that interests and is a focus and passion for you. How would a stoic approach, this problem that we just sort of unpacked this idea that there's a gap between where I am and where I want to be, And rather than most of us are just sitting there on the couch, twiddling our thumbs, thinking about it or in the Netflix example. Like, I'm saving up all my material. For what do my Netflix special, which doesn't happen. So what would What would a stoic philosophers say about that? I mean, I think the Stokes would go okay like, Is this in your controller? Is it not in your control if you're not where you like to be? Because you're currently in prison, you know, like there's a certain amount of adjustments you're going to have to make for the reality of your position. Right. Um, if you're not where you want to be, because, uh, yeah, like, look, I can't quit the job because I signed up. I can't get out of the military. I have a four year to, you know, commitment. Right? So you have to go. Okay. What can I do with inside this? But it's still like I think would also go. How much of This prison that I'm in is in my own head, and I think for a lot of us, that's what it is like. You go, Oh, I can't. Of course you can. You know what I mean? Like, of course you can. You just don't want to or that it's hard. It's beautiful. You might want to, but there's like the pain factor. The price of pain outweighs how much you wanted, but this is were, you know, I'd like to pat myself on the back here because we're following the script that I've sort of sort of had some notes here about. It just seems to me, and I'm trying to make two points at one once. Sorry, one is how practical stoicism is, and to that it's all around us, and we're you know, it's It's very, very helpful to be able to understand through the lens of either practicality or stoicism, that most of the things that stand between where you are right now and where you want to be, they are largely if they're not a product of your head, then you are in the military or you are fill in the blank that is an actual. Ah, hurdle, that's that's one thing. But most things aren't I'll give you another example that I talked about in the lives of the Stokes book. So Seneca is this brilliant philosopher that I know you've read his stuff. Our friend Tim Ferriss is a huge fan. He's a big subject of my books. So one of the interesting things about Seneca is that historically up until relatively recently, um, historians So So they're Seneca was a politician as well, and and and historians found it inconceivable that Seneca the politician, like one of the most powerful men in Rome, could be the same person as Seneca, the philosopher, writer, playwright, right? So we did all these things and they thought, There must be Seneca, the politician. And And then And then there's the Seneca the writer, like it was inconceivable that they were the same. And and I was reading a great writer recently, and he observed, he was like it be like if Ralph Waldo Emerson had also been Lincoln's vice president. You know what I mean? Like, but But it was possible he actually he was a do er and an artist and and and so that when we talk about stoicism being practical and real, it's like here you had, like one of the busiest people in the entire world in his own time, also on the side, writing these plays in these letters in these essays, which ultimately far eclipsed his political accomplishments. But he would have had every reason to say, I don't have time to do that. He would have had every reason to say People aren't going to take me seriously. I'm a politician who wants to read my my poetry or whatever, but he did it and and and it's, I mean, humanity is is the greater for it. But a lot of these limitations about what we think is possible and not possible is just totally. It's totally artificial, and it's artificial until somebody breaks it. You know, it's like you can't play football and baseball and then somebody does it, and it's like, Oh, shit, it is possible, you know, like you can do it. It's just as you said most of the time, the reason people think you can't because it's actually really, really hard or in the sense of, say, working remotely, which is the world that we're all completely immersed. And it was thought to be absolutely unfathomable for all kinds of sectors. Is now a real because you fucking had to, because it's that or or is that a disease? Or it's that or illness or And as soon as you can start to wrap your you know, it's like the Roger Bannister four minute mile like it's always impossible until somebody does it. So Robert Green talks about like a death ground strategy. You know, it's like if your back was to the wall, you'd be able to do it right and and are like The worst thing is like the worst thing armies can do is put their opponent in a position where they have to fight to the death, right? If if the if the If the opposing army has an escape route, they'll take it. If you're like standard die, that's when people are, you know, capable of incredible things. And so sometimes it's about putting yourself in a position like that, right? Um, and so we were talking about leaping. You don't always have to do, but sometimes one of the benefits of like no, I fucking quit This job and I'm finally going to do it is that now you're like shit. If I don't do it, No food, no food. And so, yeah, it's hard and you don't think it's possible. But in fact, if you could reframe it in some way or see it from another perspective, of course it's possible. Yeah, I think it's interesting. Also, a little corollary to that is right now most people who are stuck are winding about how hard it is to um, do both to have two jobs and to get up early and right or to get up early and draw or paint or whatever their mode of expression is, or build that M V P product that they're going to put out there in the world. But alternatively, like what if it was your only chance? Doesn't that make the current problems seem pretty luxurious? Like if you had no other opportunity, you had to actually go sell a photograph this month or you were not going to eat? Doesn't it make it seem pretty good that you have a roof over your head and that you can do things at your own pace because you've got some creature comforts and you have another job and I think, you know, in their lives I just keep bringing it back to stoicism. There's just certain practicality. And if you can reframe an argument and you know and you already cited how prolific Seneca was in so many different areas of life and career and what not like and and to be fair, like saying how hard other people have it doesn't always work to motivate or inspire. But I just I'm looking for ways that we can rid ourselves of the stories that we're telling ourselves and or at least recognize that 90% of them are stories. And to your point earlier, there are people for who are this are we are speaking from a place of privilege. You and I are both white and male, and I want to make sure that we include the same thing could be true, but through a different lens from virtually anyone like there are areas or are factors that life that unequivocally are huge barriers that we can't possibly consider everything in our discussion right now. But the reality is that people have overcome huge obstacles, and the one that you're struggling with right now is probably overcome a ble as well. So not only have people overcome like I think it can be almost not direct enough to go like people have overcome horrible obstacles, but yeah, sure. First off, think about the things you've overcome in your own life. But But you are a direct descendant of those people. Or you wouldn't be here like you come from an unbroken line of successful ancestors who endured things that are worse than whatever we're going through right now. I mean, like, look all of your ancestors. Sorry. At least one of your ancestors survived the Spanish flu. At least one of your ancestors survived. World War Two survived. The Black death survived anything you can imagine, right? Were we are descended from those people, right? So every like you don't come from an unbroken line of losers by definition, evolutionarily, that doesn't make sense. You come from an unbroken line of people who have been through real shit. The human species has, uh if you take for granted that humanity is progressing right, which we clearly are. I'd rather be alive now than 500 years ago and despite what you read from the news is the safest time to be alive by orders of magnitude. Yes, but so you're descended from those people that got through that shit to now. And, you know, I think that can put some of the the self pity that you feel in in perspective. You know, um and that that's what I That's what I try to remind myself of, if you again. Let's go back to stoicism for a second, because we haven't gone deep there, but part of so much. Rather of what? Not just parts so much. What we're talking about has a very crisp place to in stoic philosophy. And I mentioned it being very utilitarian and practical and all these things. And I want to understand when you either I don't know if you would call it fell in love or were inspired by, or when you tell us you know how it first captured your had heart and, um and you know, I remember reading personally. I when I decided that I wanted to be a professional artist, I wanted to make things for living. I wanted to make photographs and books and businesses and So I started reading biographies of my favorite artists, and I'm wondering what your experience was with stoicism. And so tell us about that first sort of fire and how you think of it. Now, are you still reading those things too? Be inspired. I mean, I think this is my like, uh, 15 year old copy of meditations right here. Um, so I was introduced to the Stoics at about years old when I was still in college. And, uh, I read this book and it was just like, this is it, You know, like, this is what I needed. This is the advice that I needed. Um, it's obviously been a journey since then. I mean, the Stokes even talked about this. The the idea that you don't step in the same river twice. Like, I imagine if you reread today some of those formative biographies of artists that you read that got you inspired when you started. You have a totally different reaction to be like, Oh, shit. Picasso was awful. Like I don't want to be like him at all or whatever. You know, whatever it is. Um uh, but but but I think there's something to, you know, just getting the stuff straight from the source, and then you go and you experience things, and then you return to the source, and it's sort of this sort of, uh, feedback loop between the inspiration and experience, inspiration and experience. And so I don't know why it struck me the way that it did, but I think I think I've been reflecting on this recently. It's like when I first read it, I really got a lot of the productivity benefits out of it. And then as I got a little bit older, I got more of a resiliency side of it. And then it was the ethical formulations. And like, you know, uh, every time I've gone back to that well, I've I've drawn something different back out of it. And so that's that's been the journey that I've been on. Um, I never want to put a pin in that just for a second, okay? And I'm going to. So I'd like to cover the ground of your latest book, which is the lives of the Stokes, and we're doing it indirectly here. Um, I want to go into a couple of specific chapters one in particular Seneca. This driver Senecas Such a a factor in your world but the fact that if we put a pin in the actual book which I loved, The Daily Stoke which it was an earlier book by Ryan and our mutual friend Stephen Handelman shout out to Steve. Um, Steve was actually the driving factor behind both books. Steve was like, Hey, I think you should do Steve is my agent is your agent For people who don't know, he was like, you should do a book of one page a day of the Stones of the Stokes And I said, But I don't I don't know how to translate And he said, I'll do that part And I said, But I don't know who reads those. And he was like, he was like, You will have fun writing it and it will be your best selling book. And I was like, Okay, this sounds like something your ancient would tell you. Uh, you gotta know steam and he's very convincing and the most like he just says something and then looks wide eyed at you and waits for you to respond. You're like fuck and and and And he's right. It's been, uh, it's been The book is It's not quite my best selling book, but it's close and and it's you know it will have a better year this year than last year and the year before and the year before. So it's been this really strange, surreal journey. And then afterwards he said, You know, I think we should do a biography of all the Stoics And I said, Uh, I don't think anyone will read that. It's like, No, we'll figure it out and we ended up doing that. It's like it's like the first book is like, What did the Stoics say? You know what is stoicism? And then the second book is like, But who were the Stokes did? How they actually live to these ideas end up. It's been really cool to do both of them. It's a fascinating, um, area to hang your hat because I most people don't know this, but I was in a PhD program in philosophy and had, you know, my undergraduate degree was in philosophy and having read a lot of philosophy, including Stoics Historic philosophy, it is fascinating to me your ability to translate that philosophy and make it, um, relatable and valuable and connect it to modern popular culture, which clearly again you sold. I'll call it millions, but we don't need to fill in the actual number of books. And in an area of ancient wisdom and its application to current times. Why is that true? Why is that possible? I don't know. It doesn't mean it's one of those things that feels very natural to me. So it's somewhat, uh, baffling to me that it's not all like that all the time. Do you know what I mean? Um, like, I don't I don't get what? The purpose of writing philosophy that's not accessible to people is. You know, um, it's It's funny, too, because like some people get mad about the books and they'll say what we'll know, like people say, Oh, you're you're monetizing philosophy, right? Uh, your and and and And at first that sort of that was like, Is that true? And then and I thought, you know, you're a tenured university professor. You're also monetizing philosophy. You're just monetizing it. 200 students a semester, uh, in while their parents are paying $50,000 a year for them to attend your classes, and I'm selling it to people in the form of books that cost $15 on Amazon. I'm not sure I'm the one that has to look in the mirror with any sort of shame about what I'm doing, you know what I mean? Like to me, the purpose of philosophy is that it's supposed to reach people and make their lives better. It seems, in retrospect, quite strange to me that philosophies should be ghetto ized in academia and only accessible to people who speak this ridiculously artificial language of of sort of, you know, academic philosophy, like tweet patches on their elbow tweet tweet elbow patches right at our eternal neck or whatever. Well, this makes me want to bring up a quote from Seneca, which is all Study of philosophy and reading should be for the purpose of living a happy life. So is it Is it truly that simple? I think so. I mean, I I opened the book, so I went, I went, I was trying to figure out like I wrote a bunch of different versions of the intro. I wrote a version I was really happy with that. My editor didn't like it, and so I redid it that she was very happy with. And then I really didn't like it. And right as the book was about to go to print, I was I was, uh, walking along the Colorado River, Uh, right before the pandemic and in this Fraser circuit and I went back to my desk and I tore up the intro and I opened the book with. The only reason to study philosophy is to become a better person. And I think when Seneca is saying happy, you know, the stoic definition of happy doesn't just mean, like, feel good all the time. So that word can be difficult to do that the way he's expressing it can be a little bit confusing to me. It's like philosophy is supposed to make you better, Better, ethically, better, morally better. You know, uh, strategically, every sense. Yeah, why is like, like the four virtues of stoicism or courage, justice, wisdom and temperance. So it's supposed to make you better in those four areas, which, to me, it creates a well rounded person. So I think Yeah. I mean, what what like Here's so Elon Musk has sort of popularized this philosophical question of like, How do we know that we're not living in a computer simulation? Right? And that's like, That's a philosophical question, right? Uh, philosophy, my philosophy philosophy, when I was a sophomore in college, were considering that How are how are we not in a giant simulation? Yeah, so I mean, here's a better question. What the fuck would that change if it were true? Like what? Like, what are you supposed to do? You do with that information? It's a totally It's almost It's like a math problem. But the answer doesn't mean anything. Do you know what I mean? Like, it wouldn't change anything. I mean, uh, it doesn't It doesn't change a single thing. Uh, except maybe if you are, you should kill yourself, which is already a philosophical question. You know what I mean? Like like that's already a problem of life. So So I think I think to me the purpose of philosophy, the purpose of stoicism is so much more urgently necessary than what a lot of people assume. Philosophy is. That's part to me. What is so extraordinary about this arc? of books that you have written over the past half a dozen years and in particular, the one that I'm holding up right now. Those of you are listening and watching. You know the benefits. Um, the lives of Stokes is re trade going was talking about going back to the stores or like, what is? What is the life of a stoic what you know, what was it like? And this was really interesting for me because I hadn't studied As I mentioned, I sort of gravitated toward artist biographies rather than philosopher biographies, even though I come from a background of philosophy. So in the process of dissecting and devouring the lives of stoic philosophers, were you so let me say not. Were you surprised because I'm guessing there had to be some surprises? Let's say what what surprised you the most about the lives that they lead. So I I present Cicero and Seneca is too interesting philosophers that I think are feel very modern and how ambitious they were. They had this sense of like if I could just get like famous enough or powerful enough for important enough, then everything will be good. Maybe it's like, then Dad will be proud of me, you know? Then then, uh, then I can make a difference, you know? And this this drive really gets them both into trouble in a lot of ways. Driver. Yeah. Yeah. And Cicero was like, sister was kind of a guy who talked about it but didn't believe it, you know, and started using it as a means to an end. So, uh, it was just interesting with, like, people or people like people have always, you know, it's, uh I think that's another interesting part. It's like, you know, when you study philosophy, you spend a lot of time thinking about what people say. You don't spend much time examining how that looks in the real world. You know, um and if the purpose of philosophy is to live a better life, we really need to We really do need to think about, you know, how is this worked? Historically, and and so that was kind of the premise of the book is like, Well, what did Marcus Realist look like? How did the philosophy help him? And how did it hurt him? You know, how did it help Kato do some good things. And where did he fall short of his own advice in other places. So that that's I just wanted to look at who these people were as human beings, which is not something we do very often like, um, like nobody thinks. Like if you if you are a Harvard philosophy professor, you know, you're judged on the books that you publish or the papers that you write. No one would ask like, Well, what have you ever done? You know what I mean? Yeah. And have you lived your life, according to the philosophers that you the spouse, right? Well, that's one thing that the reason my line of questioning here is around, it's it is surprisingly modern. That's the lens that the lives of the stoic and you know it. Maybe it's like niches. Eternal return, like everything you know, comes you know, is historical and comes back again. Part of you know, when someone's sitting there like Okay, cool. I really like Ryan stuff. Ego is the enemy. Well, that's cool. That's really about ego. And that's the thing that I have to put in check for myself or anything else. But the biographical this is absolutely historical, and yet it's repeating itself in real time, right in front of you at every moment of your day. It is unbelievably contemporary, uh, to dissect the lives of so many of the smartest people in our past. I was thinking about this this morning. Like, people are like, Well, when will things go back to normal? And it's like, this is normal. Uh, this is normal. Like, uh, like, pandemics are normal. You know, civil unrest is normal. I mean, I was like, Look at the last 20 years. In 2000, we had a contested election where a candidate lost the popular vote we had and we had a terrorist attack where thousands of Americans died. Then there was SARS and Ebola and other pandemics. Then we had a major financial recession. Uh, you know, like like it. This is normal to try to find me a decade in which this the kind of stuff that have happened over the last three or four years are not the norm. Like this is what life is. Um, it's I mean, Marcus Aurelius was writing meditations during what we now call the Antonin Plague, which was a pandemic that originated in the Far East and then spread throughout the Empire, the Roman Empire. And it brought the most powerful country in the world to its news. You know what I mean? Like, I was thinking about this with the Spanish influenza. Like the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson cut the Spanish flu just like Donald Trump did. Like like history is the same thing happening over and over and over again. Uh, you know, there's nothing new under the sun, as it says in the Bible. Um, it's not that what I'm writing about is modern. It's that this stuff is timeless. Talk to me about the female stocks because I believe that most, uh, stoicism Historically, for obvious reasons, when I say history, there's so, uh, gender biased. Um, but you share about, like, poor giocato and, uh, the Roman senator. Is that right? And he said that Thrasher, he's a man. Uh, but but but his wife is sort of a promised. His wife is badass, But no, that was something that was really important in the book, because stoicism can feel like a very male philosophy. Um, obviously, you know, when when the interesting things about having a platform is you see, like, sort of who the fans actually are and and, you know, I can see what percentage of the readers and the Facebook fans, except for women. And it's a much larger percentage than people would think. And I think I think the real reason is I think anyone obviously anyone that that's that's married to a woman or anyone that spent time around women knows that of of the two genders, Uh, women are actually probably much more stoic as a rule than than men are. Um, you know, I was thinking about that, too historically, and I put it in the book. It's like, you know, the fact that women are, I think, as a rule, more stoic than men, Um and then, you know, didn't complain about men. Taking all the credit for 2000 years is probably the ultimate testament of it. Um, but but my wife likes to joke, um, in our relationship, one of us is a stoic and then one of us writes about stoicism. So it was very important to me to put a female, uh, Stoke in the book. There obviously historically not as many of them as, uh, sort of with with enough material around it that I could crap the chapter. But but But Kato, one of the famous, uh, towering Roman Stokes, teaches his daughter philosophy, and and she's integral in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar, Um, and is a well known stoke and then another. Stoke. Macedonia's Rufus, Um, writes a few 100 years after Kato that he's like, Look, you don't care whether a horse is a male or a female or a hunting dog is a male or a female like what matters is, Do they fulfill the qualities that you're looking for in a dog or a horse? And he's like, virtue doesn't care If you're a man or a woman. It's Are you the? Do you have the components of that thing? Yes or no? That was interesting, and I it jumped off the page that that that was part of the book and I found it, uh, timely and and very, um, interesting, especially grounding it in the way you have there with who's actually living the philosophy. So I'm going to step away from the specifics of the book again like what floored me is how modern and how contemporary, Uh, the extract, you know, what was what I was able to extract from the book, But I want to talk about the process because as someone who has written 10 books, there's so much to, um, to dissect about 10 books that is like, that is a Herculean effort and you don't look like you're slowing down anytime soon. So what I like to do in the same way our mutual friend Tim that you mentioned he doesn't want to look at an ultra marathoner. Healing wants to look at an ultra marathoner that's like £220 and has no genetic like, How have they done this? Because that will tell you some of the real secrets rather than someone who was born into a culture that running was whatever or they have a different physical disposition. So what I go to in those situations, this process like, how does the person achieve those results consistently? And that's what I'm hoping you can share with us because 10 books, my God, having, you know, written one myself, it's a lift. You know, it's it's monstrous So what's your process? Um, I was talking to I had Michelle Waterson on my podcast, The m m a fighter, uh, recently and and we were talking about, like, the hardest thing to be a fighter is like, you have to train for a fight, right? And you have to get to like, your fighting weight. Part of my sort of writing creative philosophy is like, I don't do the ups and downs of it. Like I'm just always doing it, You know what I mean? So instead of like, I think part of the reason that the book was hard for you is one you have a day job, and then you're like, Okay, I'm going to go write a book, right? You didn't You didn't say Like I am a writer. This is what I do now. Do you know what I mean? So it's like you had to do all the work that I I have to do on a book. But you did it almost like What do they call the mandala where it's like you build it and then it just all goes away. I Yeah, I set up. I have a permanent system you know what I mean? Like for me, it's system and I'm always writing, always working and like when lives. When lives came out in September the end of September, I was putting the finishing touches on the next book. And now that book is starting to go and like, I'll probably turn that book in in the next week or two and and then I'll probably take, like, you know, a slight break for the holidays or whatever. Um, but I'll still be thinking about the next idea, but like, I'll probably get very serious about the next book, like around the beginning of the year, like early January. Probably So, like, for me, I just I just don't I am. You're never not at your fighting weight. Yeah, exactly. Exactly, exactly. So. Staying in creative shape, you know, that's in part, what my book and what this audience knows to be true from me, at least, that creativity is a habit more than it is a skill and this idea of doing something every day in the case of in your case writing every day, or in the case of someone who is a fitness trainer or like the idea of never getting out of shape. Of course, life happens and things wax, wax and wane. But can you tell us a little bit about your daily? Like, what's the daily look for you? I've heard you talk about it a lot, and I'm sure it's evolving. But many of the things stay the same. So what are the constant, constant sort of non negotiables in your creative practice? Because saying I write every day is you know, that that says a lot in itself. But there are people right now, like Alright, when does when does Ryan, right? Yeah. I mean, you can definitely take days off, but for me, it's like I'm always working on a project and I'm always doing something that will get me a little bit closer. But I'm a big get up early. I don't go straight into phone or social media, and then I try to do my writing as early as possible. Like I try to go right into that and whether it's for 20 minutes or it's for four consecutive hours. The point is like I'm putting in work every day, and I think I think people have trouble conceptualizing that that's really the only way to do a book. I mean, you wake up every day and you put in some work like today. The work I was putting in was I had I had to note cards to note cards of stuff that I'd written down the night before, of little things that I was tweaking on a book that's, you know, probably 95% done. So it was okay. Pull up. Go to that page, grab the stuff from the notes. Work on that. That's what I was doing today. I mean, flashback. Six months. The stuff I was tweaking today didn't exist, and I was having to make it up from scratch. But it's it's you know what? What's the small part of the large task that you're tackling today? That's really my writing philosophy, and you do it early in the day so that things can't steal your time. Yeah, well, it's not still the time. It's like, you know, Stephen Press Field or is it the war of art, which everyone should read? Um, you know, press field talks about the resistance, and I think it's more like the resistance gains power throughout the day and so early in the day. You know, it's like you cross a river at the source, not at its widest point, and early in the day there's less resistance because there's less things to feel resistance about. There's less opportunities for it. And so I just try to get it done, you know, And then if other things happen, other things happen parallel to creative process. I'm an advocate of creative cross training, so I try and have a number of projects going at the same time. One might be my job that is, you know, either building creative, live or or any any major task that's not leaving the building anytime soon. And things like writing books and making videos for social. This podcast is a great example. Um, and I usually have a half it as another personal projects that are going on that are maybe not going to be so public, like remodeling my house or designing a new fill in the blank and what I have noticed as, uh, your friend, that you are also branching out. You're doing more video work. I was just gonna say that, and I am seeing this expression sort of manifest in different, uh, different media. And I'm wondering if you can have you haven't here to talk about this before, so I'm curious. So I've always been a big believer that, like so I like books and I like That's ultimately I'm a writer. That's why I identify with That's what I want to do. I want people to read my writing, but I also understand that's not like the medium that everyone defaults to. And so we have a podcast or you have articles or you have, uh, videos or talks or what you have all these other things that bring people into that. But video, for whatever reason, was something I was intimidated by. I don't know why. I think so. One of the things I realized about myself is like I have trouble doing stuff for for nobody. So like like, um, so So like we started. I started investing in video maybe two or two or so years ago, and I was kind of like someone would come and fill me talking about some stuff, and then that would go up, and then we take clips from my talks, and I would go up. And as the YouTube channel grew to be like, you know, now we have about 250,000 subscribers. Now, I'm just now, like in the last month or two. I felt some sort of transition where I'm like, Oh, there's an audience here. I can I can put creative energy towards speaking in this medium. Do you know what I mean? Like like uh, like I don't know, there's and that's probably not the healthiest attitude, but I guess what I'm saying is, like, just now, like, now that I know that it's not a waste of time. I feel more comfortable, like I got some different cameras and I'm like, really teaching myself how to use the cameras. And I'm starting to think about like, Okay, like, I got to put the camera here in camera here, and then I'll walk like I'm actually thinking in that medium, which I was never doing before. It was just like, Oh, we have to do some videos like, tell me where you want me to stand. You know what I mean? Uh, what do I have to say again, you know, And and so, um But it's been fun and it's been going, really, It's been going better and better, and I don't know. Now I'm I'm sort of into the challenge of it. And it's been fun. Um, so, yeah, I'm definitely doing more video and and hopefully it, you know, it's sort of brings more people into the end of the universe. But it's been also just creatively interesting. Yeah, it's. Do you have a process of bouncing back and forth between a couple of different you know, media? Or is it all in service of one thing? And is the the media just a downstream effect of where audience lives like how you know, I'm curious. The way you think about it, I think it's, uh, it's for me. It's like, Look, at the end of the day, I think you want to be very clear about what you're doing, what you're doing it. So it's like for me, it's like books. That's that's what I feel like I can do better than anyone were really good, and that's why I'm doing it. So, um, at the end of the day, it's about driving people back towards that thing. Um and then that also helps define my schedule, which is like writing in the morning and then, like, Yeah, then I'll do podcasts like now or I'll do you know, after this there's a video thing I was going to shoot really fast, so I'll do it like that. You know what I'm It is important that, you know, if you're everywhere, you can be nowhere. So it is really important that you kind of have some clear prioritization. I've definitely seen writers get sort of corrupted by or broken by Twitter or something where it's like this medium is so much easier that you're just like pursuing it at the expense of the really hard skill you should be practicing. That's fascinating. Say more about that. Well, it's like writing books is really fucking hard, like it's really hard, um, writing the tweet. I'm not saying writing the tweet is easy, and there's definitely people who are masters of it. I'm just saying, like if you want the dopamine hit, the validation of being seen and heard, Instagram and Facebook and Twitter are much, much easier than spending two years of your life on the book. So if you're really just doing this for the attention, you know, I think Look, I think a lot of the reason people are like people are suddenly making podcast. Is there, like, Oh, shit, you can make money doing this and it's so much easier than the other thing. It's just you just get a microphone and you talk In reality, it's hard to do it well, but I think I think it's like, Look at the end of your life. Are you going to be proud of the thousands of hours of podcast interviews you did? Or is there going to be, You know that you did on, like, a one off basis or you're gonna be prouder of, like, the real works of art that you made? Yeah, fascinating. I I want to talk about writing So you're a writer? And what a lot of people don't know about me is that I saw myself as a writer long before a photographer, and I was just very impatient. And so I went from writing to painting, too, from oil painting to acrylic painting and ended up at photography because it was so immediate and it served the need that I felt as a creator. I just wanted to be able to create. Volume was important because that's feedback. The feedback loop was just, you know, as high reps and the feedback loop. But there's something that I cannot ignore, and I got away from writing, and that's part of the reason that I wrote. Creative calling is because there was so much material and it was it needed to be packaged in a different way. It was required that I put it out there. I mean, for me personally required to put it out there that way. And in doing that, writing became a habit again, and it was amazing. And what I've found is that it provided a certain clarity for me that I did not have without it. So I am here trying to get your opinion on the value of writing, for there's people who are listening right now that are from Needle Point to ceramist to CEOs to you know, athletes. I try not to be prescriptive, but I am at a point right now where I would like to prescribe the act of writing, and I'm curious what Ryan Holliday, a writer, would say to that and if there is a disproportionate value, or why, why writing should be done by more people. Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, to me, it's the most challenging of the mediums, and it's the most durable and and meaningful. I don't know. I just I there's something about sitting down and trying to marshal your thoughts into sentence form. That is, I mean, it's, I mean, obviously painting and sculpture and these other forms of art are really old. But I mean so much of the great works of human history. Our stories, like, are writing and and and it's, you know, it's the right, you know, Like Twain said, that the difference between the right word and the wrong word is like lightning and lightning bug. You know, it's just like when you fucking nail it. It's just like so good, you know, and and to have that experience of like, oh, here's what it looks like when you really articulate your thoughts exactly as they were in your head. There's just you wake up every day. I wake up every day excited about that challenge, and I think if you haven't done it or you're scared of it. You should try it well, just the way that I have started to think about it. And I'd be curious to get your take on my take. Is that like writing is so seminal? Think about films or TV shows. They're all written first, Like you know, it's further upstream in the process. And there's this sort of immediacy of and clarity of what's in my melon, getting it into a way that's terrible, and it forces to things that forces a just getting out. But be getting out in a way that you can try and or make someone else feel or experience. You want to get as close as you can to what's going on in your brain and mastering the language and structure and syntax and and even just the immediacy of the idea, because our brain is it's impermanent, right? The things that oh, that's a great idea. What do you say? I'm going to remember that for later and then an hour later you're like Fuck, What was I thinking? What was that thing again? It's like getting it on the page somehow takes it from this fuzzy ethereal to something concrete. I totally agree there's something magical about it. I mean, look, I'm always jealous of musicians because there's an immediacy and a power to music that writing doesn't have, but, um, I mean, look at that. There's a reason books are really special to people. Books have have occupied a place in culture for, you know, a couple 1000 years, and I don't think that's going anywhere. And I just It's It's what I like. It's what I feel like I was born to do. So that's that's what I That's what I spend my time on it. Weirdly, I don't spend that much time thinking about this question because it just seems like it's like No, no, yeah, To me it's just like of course, it's Of course, it's like intrinsically, uh, undeniably the best. Uh, you know, uh, but I'm sure that says something more about me than it does about writing. What about morning pages, for example, like Julia Cameron, the prescription like this? I do journaling, but not morning. I mean, I guess the morning page I do journaling, but it's not really part of my creative exercise at all. It's more like my mental health exercise, but Um, I think it's time to unpack that a little bit because I think your your mental health and the things that you do to take care of yourself, I'm That's part of why I'm hanging my hat on writing because it's so the the It manifests in lots of ways as a you know, as a sort of foundational, and it is a form of mental health or can be, if you know, it's it's just like it's so there's so many virtues to it that I'm starting to, as you know, whether it's his maturity or wisdom. Or maybe it's ignorance. I don't know. I'm starting to find more and more value in writing things down, but help me understand your your mental health part. For me, it's about getting out of my head and onto the page. That's really what it is, because then once it's on the page, it's not in my head anymore. And then it's not my problem, you know, I think I think there's just something powerful about getting it out, and I think that's the in some ways, that's the creative urges, like I got this thing inside me. I want to get it out. Maybe for some people, that's a painting. Some people, that's a song. Some people, that's a poem. Some people, that's a that's a movie, you know, For me, it's it's writing or it's in the journal or whatever, but it's about it's just just about getting it out. Speaking of getting it out, Is that what Stoics did? I think so. I mean, meditations is Marcus A really is talking to himself, you know? And Senecas plays are clearly commentaries on the tyrants of his time, you know? So I think there's always a personal element to it, and then there's like what you're trying to say. You know, there's a personal and the philosophical I think I think it's fascinating that I believe all of them were writers. Yeah, pretty much, pretty much, yeah, Maybe that's why I like it so much. What what is the What's next in stoicism for you? Clearly, you know, just I want to build out a little bit of the structure and I'll probably have a couple of missteps in here. You can correct me, but I want to lay this out and let you respond to it. So you've been writing about stoicism from, you know, ego and the daily stoic lives of the stoic, the book that we're talking about here, which I cannot recommend enough against incredibly modern contemporary. And it's so practical. Um, you've got the daily stoic newsletter. You've got the podcast, which is, uh, tied to the newsletter, separate, different media, but similar. And so you've got this entire an entire ecosystem now. And is that is that the marketer in you that's trying to build the surround sound? Or is this a little? There's a little bit of that. I mean, I I also can see, you know, sort of the opportunities in it and how, like the different things all support each other. And look, it's that easy, like it's not. I think sometimes people go. Why are you doing all this stuff? It's like, Well, you know, it's not free to host a like I mean, it's cheap in some ways, but it's like, you know, like the podcast and the videos and the stuff. The the whole ecosystem supports itself, right? And the videos drive people to the books, but the videos aren't free to make. You know I have to pay someone. Uh so So it's like there's a whole ecosystem there. I think for me. Next, I've got sort of a series of books that I'm working on that would be inspired by stoicism. I'm not really talking about him yet, but, um, yeah, I just I think at the end of the day, it's about the writing. It's about the book. So it all supports the ability to do the books and then to bring the books to as many people as as they can. They can help your thoughts on mastery, focusing on one thing to get good enough that you might be able to understand what it feels like to have command of medium. Or, uh, what's your thoughts on it? Yeah. I mean, uh, I think it's just I mean, writing is the thing. I'm trying to master the other things I'm doing to drive my mastery of writing. You know what I mean? It's like I was saying, you got to know what what you're doing it all for. And if you don't, I don't think you'll end up getting there. Well said Now, for those of you out there who, uh, for for whom this is your first exposure experience to Ryan. Welcome to the party. Um, Ryan, I want to just give you a shot that you've been doing this at a very, very high level for a long time, and it's fun to see all the success. Indeed, we share a book agent and lots of friends, but it's also it's been really fun to see this this explosion of your work and to have it being read by pro athletes and senators. And, uh, you know, world leaders and business leaders. Um, has that been Has that been joyful for you? Yeah, it's been really awesome, man. And no, I appreciate you. I think you were like, the first interview I ever really did. So So I appreciate your help kicking it all off. Yeah, that was back in 2012. The first book. Trust me, I'm lying which was so present, so ahead of its time. And here we are, in a world where people are truth is, actually I don't want to think about the people I know we don't need to go back to that, but I just I think there's so much career arcs are fascination of mine. And it's just been so fun to see the work that you've been putting out there. And it's not slowing down anytime soon and thankful for those of us who are not just friends but fans that we get to keep seeing your work out there in the world. So I want to say thanks a lot. Congratulations for those who don't have it yet. Lives of the Stoics. Uh, it's the latest must have from Ryan and our mutual homie. Steve Councilman, Um, anything where you're going to steer people like, if you of course from, you know, picking up a copy of the book. But what? Is there anything else where you'd want people to get into your your orbit a little more? Where would they go? Uh, let's do daily stoke dot com. That's the That's the hope for all of it. Cool. Congratulations. But thanks again for being on the show. Always happy to have you. Mm. Yeah, yeah. Mhm.