The Stoics were philosophers, mostly Greek, who sought a practical path to happiness.
Most philosophers–especially the modern ones–fail to give actionable advice. They discuss reasons and norms. They talk around a subject.
For example, if you asked most modern philosophers, “What should I be when I grow up?” they might answer:
“Well, it depends on your definition of “I”.”
Or, “It depends on your definition of ‘Be’.”
Or, “It depends on your definition of “grow up”.”
Stoic philosophers gave directives: “You should do this.”
Ask a Stoic philosopher “What should I be when I grow up?” and they would have told you the answer.
Stoic philosophy has risen in popularity recently; mostly as daily admonition to expect the worst and celebrate the best. That’s useful. But that’s not the core message of Stoicism. The real message is that for advice to have value, it must be directive.
I built our mentorship practice–and wrote each of my books–with that principle in mind.
Early in my writing career, a reader pointed out that I often said “don’t do this” or “this is wrong” without providing the right answer. I immediately realized that I’d been taking the easy path: any idiot can take shots at a strategy, and that’s what I’d been doing. But a great mentor can take that complex topic; teach it in an understandable way; and then have the courage to say “Do exactly this.”
That’s not easy, because giving directives means accepting responsibility for the outcome. But it’s the only thing that has value.
Critics get attention on Instagram. Authors fill entire books with arguments about one topic or another. Low politicians attack others’ platforms. Speakers deliver long summaries of research. Some of those things are even true. But none of them have value unless they can say “Do exactly this.”
In a world overflowing with ideas, arguments and noise, the principles of Stoic philosophy are clear. They’re not opinion; they’re directives. The value of “Do exactly this” is so big that it’s usually the difference between success and failure.
Ryan Holiday wrote “The Daily Stoic” to provide clear daily directives for life.
I wrote “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” to provide clear directives for business.