The Daily Stoic Summary (Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman)

The question is…

Do you want more wisdom, perseverance and skill in the art of living?

If so, start with The Daily Stoic summary.

Derived from the teachings of famous Greek and Roman philosophers such as the Seneca, Epictetus and the great emperor, Marcus Aurelius, this book offers 366 daily meditations to get you through a year.

Despite Stoicism being the most popular discipline of its day, it’s timeless and highly applicable in our brave new world.


Stoicism contains three critical disciplines:

  • The discipline of perception – how we see and perceive the world around us
  • The discipline of action – the decisions and actions we take and to what end
  • The discipline of will – how we deal with the things we cannot change, attain clear and convincing judgment, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world

The book dedicates for months to each discipline, with a defined trait for each month.

The discipline of perception

January: Clarity

“The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. What we have influence over and what we do not.”

By focusing solely on what’s within our control, we reclaim our personal power.

AS the Stoics said, “You don’t control the situation, but you control what you think about it.”

Life throws us curve balls every day. Think annoying colleagues, rain and general misery.

However, this approach allows us t control our responses to every situation that’s not of our own making, like a cool cucumber.

Then we possess much more energy to focus on what is within our control, like our daily habits and actions.

While most people are wasting time getting mad about that which they can’t control, we’ll be making progress.

February: Passions and emotions

“Imagine all the power you’d have in your life and relationships if all the things that trouble everyone else… didn’t matter so much. What if, where others were upset, envious, excited, possessive, or greedy, you were objective, calm, and clearheaded?”

Controlling our passions, rather than being controlled by them is a superpower.

Always think before you act, as that which you’re afraid of can form a self-fulfilling prophecy, the very source of the disasters you fear.

Is your anxiety really doing you any good? Remember that if you’re anxious about creating a better future, the true path to contentment lies in the present moment.

Those anxieties may also be unfounded, not rooted in reality and open to interpretation. As Bill Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

March: Awareness

“Cultivate the ability to judge yourself accurately and honestly. Look inward to discern what you’re capable of and what it will take to unlock that potential.”

It’s essential to objectively evaluate our minds, questioning our “instincts, patterns and assumptions.

We should not be led astray by our ego, which can easily delude us.

We have always, at our disposal, the use of logic and reasoning to navigate the choppy waters of life.

[My note – Seneca apparently use to journal and reflect every night, thus improving self-awareness]

April: Unbiased thought

“If you bend your body into a sitting position every day for a long enough period of time, the curvature of your spine changes… The same is true for your mind. If you hold a perpetually negative outlook, soon enough everything you encounter will seem negative.”

Humans are full of contradictions and biases.

Therefore, we need to be careful about how we interpret and act upon the information we consume.

While we should trust our instincts we should validate them and regularly challenge them to mitigate errors in thought and action.

This will allow us to select the optimal response for every situation.

The discipline of action

May: Right action

“Our perceptions and principles guide us in the selection of what we want—but ultimately our actions determine whether we get there or not.”

Stoics were the masters of focussing on the process over the result.

After all, we can’t control the outcome and therefore our ambition should not be to win, but to play with our full effort.

All we can do is take the right action today and take contentment in that.

June: Problem solving

“How you handle even minor adversity might seem like nothing, but, in fact, it reveals everything.”

Obstacles are an unfortunate part of life, but where some people see them as problems, others regard them as opportunities.

Rather than playing the victim, seize the opportunity to practice your Stoic philosophy.

After all, “Every impediment can advance action in some form or another.”

July: Duty

“It’s not enough to just not do evil. You must also be a force for good in the world, as best you can.”

The Stoics believed that everything has a purpose and place in nature.

As humans, we must be good and aspire to virtuousness, the highest calling.

So what are you committing to today which fulfils your duty?

August: Pragmatism

“Seneca was well aware that there was a lot of borrowing and overlap among philosophers. That’s because real philosophers weren’t concerned with authorship, only what worked. More important, they believed that what was said mattered less than what was done.”

Conditions will never be perfect and future opportunities may be illusory.

So, stop waiting and take whatever action you can right now.

Move the ball forward and aim for progress, not perfection.

The discipline of will

September: Fortitude and resilience

“No one is crushed by fortune unless they are first deceived by her…” Seneca

Present misfortune empowers us to face future adversity.

We can use it as a formative experience to develop resilience and strength of character and a fortress of mind.

October: Virtue and kindness

“Wherever there is a human being, we have an opportunity for kindness.”

We always have the choice to let virtue shine and respond to situations with empathy and love.

However, it takes work:

“Goodness isn’t something that’s going to be delivered by mail. You have to dig it up inside your own soul. You find it within your own thoughts, and you make it with your own actions.”

November: Acceptance

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will then your life will flow well.” Epictetus

External events are objective, but we colour those events with our subjective interpretation.

With the right mindset, we can choose not only to accept whatever we encounter, but actually enjoy it.

We can choose to make the most of every experience.

December: Meditation on mortality

“We don’t own anything and that even our lives are held in trust.” Marcus Aurelius

Reflecting on our own mortality, rather than depressing, can be a powerful motivating force for positive action and change.

Like the Stoics, we can choose to live our lives fully, in the knowledge that they can easily be taken from us without prior notice.

So how will you choose to use this day?

Like this? Then browse more book summaries.

Also, check out my article on Stoicism for more philosophical goodness.