Ryan Holiday’s favorite lessons on success, relationships, and being a good human

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Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

In his essay On the Happy Life, the philosopher Seneca makes an extended list of rules for living a good life. It’s everyone’s wish to live better, he says, but we are often in the dark on how to do so.

Except… we’re not. At least, we don’t have to be. So many people have struggled in the dark before us, and their experiences and lessons have created light. Living a good life starts with learning from one another.

With that in mind, here are 100 rules that have helped me live the life I want. Some have come from…

Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for a better understanding of the year ahead

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Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I will say this about 2020: It provided plenty of inspiration to read more. Every month, it seemed, there was a new or deepening crisis in a subject that became vital to learn more about: leadership, pandemics, civil rights, elections. It was one of those years that sent you to, well, I would say “the bookstore,” but you know.

Actually doing the reading, of course, was a different story. I read a lot in 2020. But I know a lot of people who couldn’t, who found their focus too shot and their mental energy too drained to actually make it…

As history tells us, there’s no such thing

Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
Woman walking down a leaf-strewn path.
Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

We’ve all heard it at some point this year, and have probably even said it: “When things go back to normal… ”

I found myself having such a thought this very morning as I took my sons for our daily walk. It’s understandable, of course. Life right now feels very strange. A pandemic has disrupted our lives. The country seems more polarized than ever. There’s little sign that the economy will rebound soon.

But any student of history knows that 2020 is hardly abnormal.

A hundred years ago, we had a pandemic — the Spanish flu — in the middle…

Seven tactics from the ancient world that have stood the test of time

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Marcus Aurelius writing philosophical advice to his son. Photo: Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The Roman-era Stoic philosopher Seneca once joked that the one thing fools all have in common is that they are always getting ready to live but never actually do.

That was 20 centuries ago. For tens of thousands of years, people have been procrastinating just like you do today: They put things off, delayed, made excuses, and wished their deadlines would disappear. And just as it does with you, this caused them anxiety, made them piss off their colleagues and families, and, worst of all, wasted time.

Fortunately, unlike our ancient counterparts, we have ages of wisdom to help us…

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Niaz Morshed

I still believe in the values you instilled in me. Do you?

Hey Dad,

Our relationship is strained.

It feels like it has been for a while. For the last four years, there has been an elephant in the room — I’d joke and call it an orange elephant, but I’m nervous that might end this earnest conversation before it even begins.

Have I changed? I mean, yes, of course I have. I’ve gotten older. I’ve had two children. I’ve tried to read and learn as much as possible, just as you taught me.

In fact, that’s sort of the weirdest thing. I don’t think I’ve changed much. I still believe, deep…

If you can’t find your way forward, try looking back — way back to 161 AD

Man walking into 2D maze.
Man walking into 2D maze.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

The reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was defined by a pandemic, civil unrest, interminable wars, cultural decadence, and income inequality.

As he would observe in Meditations, people have always been people, and life has always been life. The more things change, the more they stay the same. How true we’ve found this to be.

I’ve spent more than a decade writing about the Stoic philosophy, most recently with my book Lives of the Stoics and my research is filled with unique characters from unique backgrounds — from slaves to generals, lawyers to writers, artists to doctors. Despite all…

Everyone from the Stoics to the Buddhists knew the importance of this essential virtue

Young Black woman writing in her journal.
Young Black woman writing in her journal.
Photo: The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Perhaps it takes something as tumultuous as our current world to clarify what that word stillness means. When we hear it, we know the importance of it, intuitively and instinctively: The quiet. The gratitude. The ability to step back and reflect. Being steady while everything spins around you. Acting without frenzy. Hearing only what needs to be heard.

As Rome was being scourged by plague and war, the emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote about being “like the rock that the waves keep crashing over,” the one that “stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around…

Welcome to the pandemic

Two family members wearing masks quarantining in their home, sitting at their windows.
Two family members wearing masks quarantining in their home, sitting at their windows.
Photo: Justin Paget/Getty Images

One thing this pandemic has shown is that people have a problem facing facts.

I don’t mean facts in the sense of the scientific data (although that’s clearly a problem as well, judging by the litany of conspiracy theories that have become acceptable even in polite company). I mean “facts” in the more colloquial sense — of coming to terms with reality and accepting it on reality’s terms.

We’ve taken a merciless but increasingly well-understood virus and turned it into a divisive, partisan argument. We have somehow come to believe that what we think about the virus, or our own…

You don’t need to wake up at 5 a.m. every day, but you do need some building blocks for your life

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Photo: dusanpetkovic/Getty Images

In a world where everything is uncertain, where things are changing quickly, where chaos reigns, what we need is simple.

We need practices.

I’m not talking about routines. Although daily routines are important and many of us rely on them, the truth is that routines are fragile. Hasn’t this pandemic shown that? You’re no longer taking your kids to school, commuting to the office, or going to your favorite gym at your favorite time. All the parts of your routine that were triggered by those actions have shifted, like tectonic plates after an earthquake.

Practices are different. Practices are things…

Forget credit. Do the work

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Credit: Morsa Images/Getty Images

At the height of the financial crisis in 1975, Bill Belichick — the now six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach of the New England Patriots — was 23 years old and unemployed. Desperate for a job in football after an assistant position fell through, he wrote some 250 letters to college and professional football coaches, according to his biographer David Halberstam. Nothing came of it except a job with the Baltimore Colts that paid $25 a week.

The Colts’ head coach desperately needed someone to break down and analyze game footage. Most people would have hated this job — especially back…

Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ http://amzn.to/24qKRWR

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