52 in 52 Book Summaries

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

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forces of habit book summary journal of letters of a stoic by Seneca

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca


The Essence

Classic text from the Hellenistic Greek philosophy known as Stoicism. It is an application of the core tenets of Stoicism from the perspective of one of the acclaimed practitioner, Seneca. These letters are a set of essays written as to a friend about how to live a more virtuous life. Humans have what they need within themselves and anything else ought to be taken in moderation. Stoicism is a practical guide to harness the power of our minds to attain a life revolved around intentional living.

Letters from a Stoic Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of Letters from a Stoic. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

  • These four qualities enable a man to be ‘Self-Sufficient’, immune to suffering, superior to the wounds and upsets of life.
    • Wisdom, Courage, Self-Control, and Justice
  • “A wise man is content with himself”
  • “Appoint certain days on which to give up everything and make yourself at home with next to nothing. Start cultivating a relationship with poverty.” This has been a very useful exercise for me. I find that by fasting of sleeping on the floor occasionally I have developed a tolerance for when the occurrences arise in my daily life. Living on less makes me prepared for a life where nature strips me of everything I’ve worked for.
  • Refusal to be influenced by one’s body assures one’s freedom.
  • Now I bear it in mind not only that all things are liable to death but that that liability is governed by no set rules.
  • Drunkenness is nothing but a state of self-induced insanity.
  • Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.
  • The utmost benefit comes from talk because it steals little by little into the mind.
  • Live in conformity with nature.
  • “Part of my joy in learning is that it puts me in a position to teach; nothing, however outstanding and however helpful, will ever give me any pleasure if the knowledge is to be for my benefit alone.”
  • Rehearse Death.
  • Avoid: A mass crowd.
  • Wisdom does not lie in books.
  • IT is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.
  • Your merits should be outward facing.
  • Refrain from following the example of those whose craving is for attention, not their own improvement.
  • Indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. Treat it strictly to prevent it from becoming any more disobedient to the spirit.
  • Not happy he who thinks himself not so.
  • The things of greatest merit are common property: Universal.
  • The outcome of violent anger is a mental raving, and therefore anger is to be avoided not for the sake of moderation but the sake of sanity.
  • Why does no one admit his failing? Because he’s still deep in them. WAKE UP. Let us rouse ourselves, so that we may be able to demonstrate our errors.
  • No one can lead a happy life if he thinks only of himself and turns everything to his own purposes. You ought to live for the other person if you wish to live for yourself.
  • Refuse to let the fear of death bother you; it is only a thought. Nothing is grim when we have escaped that thought.
  • A man is unhappy as he has convinced himself he is. And complaining away about one’s sufferings after they are over is something I think should be banned.
  • We must really want to learn how to lose the lost and still keep smiling.
  • Nature does not give a man virtue: the process of becoming a good man is an art. Character is built not born.
  • But let us face up to the blows of circumstances and be aware that whatever happens is never as serious as rumor makes it out to be.
  • What good does it do you to go overseas, to move from city to city? If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.
  • It’s not because they’re hard that we lose confidence; they’re hard because we lack confidence.

Reading Recommendations

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in Letters from a Stoic.

  1. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
  2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  3. Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus

Find the book on Amazon: Print | Audio

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