The Daily Stoic: Fortitude and Resilience

Please note: Most of the text in these notes is owned by Ryan Holiday. I am posting them here for purely educational purposes. I condensed the book myself, but I don’t own any of the content. Some of my notes are paraphrased, but most are written verbatim.

You can buy the book ‘The Daily Stoic’ by clicking here.

The book is sectioned into three parts:

  • Part 1: The Discipline of Perception
  • Part 2: The Discipline of Action
  • Part 3: The Discipline of Will

Note: The date following each block of text indicates the source from the book, which is organised into a ‘message a day’ style.

In this post, I will share my condensed version of the most important take-away messages and instructions from:

Part 3: The Discipline of Will

Fortitude and Resilience

  • “The rational soul is stronger than any kind of fortune—from its own share it guides its affairs here or there, and is itself the cause of a happy or miserable life.” – Seneca
  • Make your soul stronger and more resilient. by learning indifference – an attitude of “let come what may”. (01/09)

  • “Men, the philosopher’s lecture-hall is a hospital—you shouldn’t walk out of it feeling pleasure, but pain, for you aren’t well when you enter it.” – Epictetus
  • Some stoic observations or excercises will touch one of your pressure points. It’s nothing personal, it’s supposed to hurt. That’s how you’ll develop the will to endure and persevere through life’s many difficulties. (02/09)

  • “We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.” – Epictetus
  • In Epictetus’ time, armies disbanded during the winter. Hence the idea of ‘a hard winter training’ is used to dispute such as thing as part-time soldiering.
  • We can’t live life halfheartedly. There’s no time off. We are always preparing for what life might throw at us – and when it does, we’re ready and don’t stop until we’ve handled it. (03/09)

  • “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca
  • Most people who’ve gone through difficult periods in their lives later see them as formative experiences – they made those people who they are.
  • Having experienced and survived misfortune, we walk away with a better understanding of our own capacity and inner strength.
  • Passing a trial by fire is empowering because you know that in the future you can survive similar adversity. (04/09)

  • “Remember, then, if you deem what is by nature slavish to be free, and what is not your own to be yours, you will be shackled and miserable, blaming both gods and other people. But if you deem as your own only what is yours, and what belongs to others as truly not yours, then no one will ever be able to coerce or to stop you, you will find no one to blame or accuse, you will do nothing against your will, you will have no enemy, no one will harm you, because no harm can affect you.” – Epictetus
  • Focus on what is yours alone. (05/09)

  • “You can bind up my leg, but not even Zeus has the power to break my freedom of choice.” – Epictetus
  • Someone can throw you in chains, but they don’t have the power to change who you are.
  • Even under the worst torture and cruelties that humans can inflict on one another, our power over our own minds and our power to mak our own decisions can’t be broken – only relinquished. (voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up.) (06/09)

  • “Consider who you are. Above all, a human being, carrying no greater power than your own reasoned choice, which oversees all other things, and is free from any other master.” – Epictetus
  • When Viktor Frankl was imprisioned in Auschwitz and had lost everything, he still retained one thing: the ability to determine what the suffering meant.
  • He found positives in his situation – exploring psychological theories, being of service to others.
  • Your hidden power is your ability to use reason and make choices, however limited or small.
  • Think about the areas of your life where you’re weighed down by obligation. You’d be suprised at how many choices are available to you there each day. Are you taking advantage? Are you finding the positives? (07/09)

  • “No one is crushed by Fortune, unless they are first deceived by her . . . those who aren’t pompous in good times, don’t have their bubbles burst with change. Against either circumstance, the stable person keeps their rational soul invincible, for it’s precisely in the good times they prove their strength against adversity.” – Seneca (08/09)

  • “But there is no reason to live and no limit to our miseries if we let our fears predominate.” – Seneca
  • “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (09/09)

  • “Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress scantly in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you feared. It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead, for when Fortune is kind the soul can build defenses against her ravages. So it is that soldiers practice maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes they won’t grow tired.” – Seneca
  • “It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress … If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train it before it comes.” – Seneca (10/09)

  • Overconfidence is a great weakness and a liability. But if you’re already humble, no one will need to humble you – and the world is much less likely to have nasty suprises in store for you.
  • If you stay down to earth, no one will need to bring you – oftentimes crushingly so – back down.


  • The Stoics gave us the concept of the Inner Citadel, the fortress that protects our souls.
  • Although we might be physically vunerable, our inner domain is impenetrable.
  • “Stuff cannot touch the soul.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • But impenetrable fortresses can still be breached if betrayed from the inside. When we lose our nerve and give into fear, it is alike the citizens inside the walls opening the gate (after falling prey to fear or greed), and let the enemy in.
  • You’ve been granted a strong fortress. Don’t betray it. (13/09)

  • “Try praying differently, and see what happens: Instead of asking for ‘a way to sleep with her,’ try asking for ‘a way to stop desiring to sleep with her.’ Instead of ‘a way to get rid of him,’ try asking for ‘a way to not crave his demise.’ Instead of ‘a way to not lose my child,’ try asking for ‘a way to lose my fear of it.’” – Marcus Aurelius
  • It’s so revealing in these moments, when we’re privately, powerfully yerning for something, just how nakedly selfish our requests usually are.
  • We want divine intervention so that our lives will magically be easier. But what about asking for fortitude and strength so can do what you need to do?
  • What if you sought clarity on what you do control, what is already within your power? You might find that your prayers have already been answered. (14/09)

  • “First practice not letting people know who you are—keep your philosophy to yourself for a bit. In just the manner that fruit is produced—the seed buried for a season, hidden, growing gradually so it may come to full maturity. But if the grain sprouts before the stalk is fully developed, it will never ripen. . . . That is the kind of plant you are, displaying fruit too soon, and the winter will kill you.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Just because you agree with Stoic philosophy, it doesn’t mean that the roots have fully taken hold in your mind.
  • Reading books so you can sound smart or have an intimidating library is like tending a garden to impress your neighbours. But growing one to feed a family? That’s a pure and profitable use of your time.
  • The seeds of Stoicism are long underground. Do the work requred to nurture and tend to them. So that they – and you – are prepared and sturdy for the hard winters of life. (15/09)

  • We want the easy life – or so we think. But is the easy life really that admirable?
  • Anyone can get lucky. There’s no skill in being oblivious, and no one would consider that greatness.
  • But the person who perseveres through difficulties, who keeps going when others quit, who makes it to their destination through hard work and honesty? That’s admirable, because their survival was the result of fortitude and resilience, not birthright or circumstance.
  • A person who overcame not just the external obstacles to success but mastered themselves and their emotions along the way? That’s much more impressive.
  • The person who has been dealt a harder hand, understood it, but still triumphed? That’s greatness. (16/09)

  • “What if someone despises me? Let them see to it. But I will see to it that I won’t be found doing or saying anything contemptible. What if someone hates me? Let them see to that. But I will see to it that I’m kind and good-natured to all, and prepared to show even the hater where they went wrong. Not in a critical way, or to show off my patience, but genuinely and usefully.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • When someone has a strong opinion about someone, it usually says more about them than whomever the opinion is about.
  • Stoics do two things when encountering hatred or ill opinion in others:
    • They ask: Is this opinion within my control?
    • If there’s a chance of influence or change, they take it. But if there isn’t they accept the person as they are. (17/09)

  • “Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “Nature is merciful, and does not try her children, man or beast, beyond their compass. It is only when the cruelty of man intervenes that hellish torments appear. For the rest – live dangerously; take things as they come; dread naught, all will be well.” – Winston Churchill (18/09)

  • “Remember that to change your mind and to follow someone’s correction are consistent with a free will. For the action is yours alone—to fulfill its purpose in keeping with your impulse and judgment, and yes, with your intelligence.” – Marcus Aurelius (19/09)

  • “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, because an artful life requires being prepared to meet and withstand sudden and unexpected attacks.” – Marcus Aurelius (20/09)

  • “When forced, as it seems, by circumstances into utter confusion, get a hold of yourself quickly. Don’t be locked out of the rhythm any longer than necessary. You’ll be able to keep the beat if you are constantly returning to it.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • We often get caught off guard, not just by massive events like terrorist attacks, but by everyday occurances such as dead car batteries and friends cancelling on us.
  • These situations have a way of throwing us into confusion and disarray. We’ve made an assumption about the world, and built plans on top of those assumptions. Now that the assumption has collapsed, so too might our organisation or understanding.
  • This is ok. It happens. But you must not allow chaos to reign. You must simply get back into position as quickly as possible. Get a hold of yourself and find your way back. (21/09)

  • “Difficulties show a person’s character. So when a challenge confronts you, remember that God is matching you with a younger sparring partner, as would a physical trainer. Why? Becoming an Olympian takes sweat! I think no one has a better challenge than yours, if only you would use it like an athlete would that younger sparring partner.” – Epictetus
  • Do we see the challenge as a chance to learn and become stronger? Or do we complain and get fustrated? Or worse, do we call it off and find an easier game to play, one that makes us feel good, not challenged.
  • The greats don’t avoid these tests of their ability. They seek them out because they are not just the measure of greatness, they are the pathway to it. (22/09)

  • “Remember that your ruling reason becomes unconquerable when it rallies and relies on itself, so that it won’t do anything contrary to its own will, even if its position is irrational. How much more unconquerable if its judgments are careful and made rationally? Therefore, the mind freed from passions is an impenetrable fortress—a person has no more secure place of refuge for all time. – Marcus Aurelius
  • When Marcus says that a mind can get to a place where “it won’t do anything contrary to its own will, even if its position is irrational,” he means that proper training can change your default habits.
  • Train yourself to give up anger, and you won’t become angry at every fresh slight.
  • Train yourself to avoid gossip, and you won’t get pulled into it. (23/09)

  • “Being unexpected adds to the weight of a disaster, and being a surprise has never failed to increase a person’s pain. For that reason, nothing should ever be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent out in advance to all things and we shouldn’t just consider the normal course of things, but what could actually happen. For is there anything in life that Fortune won’t knock off its high horse if it pleases her?” – Seneca
  • We must prepare our minds for the possibility of extreme revearsals of fate.
  • The next time you go to donate to charity, think not only of the good you’re doing, but also that one day, you may require charity, also. (24/09)

  • “Show me someone who isn’t a slave! One is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to power, and all are slaves to fear. I could name a former Consul who is a slave to a little old woman, a millionaire who is the slave of the cleaning woman. . . . No servitude is more abject than the self-imposed.” – Seneca
  • We’re all addicts in one way or another: addicted to our routines, coffee, comfort, to someone else’s approval. These dependencies mean we’re not in control of our lives – the dependency is.
  • “Anyone who truly wants to be free, won’t desire something that is actually in someone else’s control, unless they want to be a slave.” – Epictetus
  • The subjects of our affection can be removed from us at a moment’s notice. Our routines can be disrupted. We might be ordered by a doctor to quit coffee. We can be thrust into uncomfortable situations.
  • This is why we must strengthen ourselves by testing these dependencies before they become too great – going without something for a day, dieting, resisting the urge to call that person, taking cold showers, living below our means.
  • Make yourself invunerable to your dependency on comfort and convenience, or one day your vunerability might bring you to your knees. (25/09)

  • “Leisure without study is death—a tomb for the living person.” – Seneca
  • You deserve a day off. You work hard. You sacrifice. But take a meaningful book with you.
  • Enjoy your relaxation like a poet – not idly but actively, observing the world around you, taking it all in, better understanding your place in the universe.
  • Take a day off work every now and then, but not a day off from learning.
  • Maybe your goal is to earn enough so you can retire early. But remember that the purpose of retirement is not to live a life of indolence or to run out the clock. Rather, it’s to allow for the pursuit of your real calling now that a big distraction is out of the way.
  • To sit around all day doing nothing? To watch endless amounts of tv or simply travel from place to place so you can cross locations off a checklist? That’s not life. It’s not freedom either. (26/09)

  • “Money doesn’t corrupt, it reveals.” – Robert Caro
  • If your mind has developed the habit of panicking, then it won’t matter how good things get for you. You’re still primed for panic. Your mind will still find things to worry about, and you’ll still be miserable.
  • This is why it’s foolish to wish for good fortune. You should actually hope for the strength of character that’s able to thrive in good fortune.
  • Or better, work for that kind of character and confidence. Consider every action and every thought – think of them as building blocks of your indestructable character. (27/09)

  • We don’t control many things: other people, our health, the temperature. But we do have the ability to decide what any event means.
  • This is the ultimate power – a true and fair form of control. While you don’t control external events, you retain the ability to decide how you respond to those events. (28/09)

  • Consider how little you used to have, and think about how they were not only enough, but felt great at the time!
  • But today, those conditions hardly feel sufficient. When we become successful, we forget how strong we used to be. We are so used to what we have right now, that we half believe we’d die without it.
  • Remember today that you’d be ok if things suddenly went wrong. Your actual needs are small. There is very little that could happen that would truly threaten your survival. Think about that – and adjust your worries and fears accordingly. (29/09)

  • “I didn’t acknowledge the existence of the prison. It didn’t exist for me.” – Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly convicted of homicide.
  • Of course, the prison existed, and he was physically inside it, but he refused to let his mind be contained by it.
  • Remember that no matter what happens to your body, no matter what the outside world inflicts on you, your mind can remain philisophical. It’s still yours. It’s untouchable – and in a way, then, so are you. (30/09)


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