Thursday, June 25, 2015

Four Hour Stoic

From guru to charlatan, much has been said of Tim Ferriss. And it's little wonder. His Four Hour books are best-sellers. He interviews some of the top minds of any given field (Arnold Schwarzenegger is a master of psychological warfare). And he does things to himself that most would count as crazy. To top it off, he claims we can do it, too, if we want.

Of course, this leads to a few questions. Can we? And, more important, should we?

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of Tim is that not everyone can have a Four Hour life. In the Four Hour Workweek, Tim suggests outsourcing paperwork to others, meaning someone is doing grunt work. Four Hour Body says a combination of working out and drugs (the legal kind) can produce the best body you've ever had, provided you can afford the drugs. And in The Four Hour Chef, he shows you how to learn anything in record time using the 80/20 method, provided you can somehow figure out the 20% you need to learn.

There's another layer as well that I think presents a problem. Tim is influenced by the Stoics. Seneca, too, was a rich Stoic, and his wealth and actions draw Stoics criticism. Could Tim, with his money and books, be painting a bad picture of Stoicism?

Let's address this second question first. Is Tim giving Stoics a bad rap?

No, not at all. In fact, if it wasn't for Tim, I wouldn't have found my interest in Stoicism myself. I read some parts of The Four Hour Body and found Seneca quotes here and there. This led to me to looking him up, which led me to Stoicism, Keith Seddon, and the rest of it.

And what about the money Tim makes? To be fair, I don't know how much the man makes. He claims in the Four Hour Workweek to make 40000 a month, which is a lot of money. He suffers what I call the Seneca problem: people try to use things outside of his character to judge his way of life. Seneca was a Stoic, one who admitted he struggled on the path. He knew the dangers of money because he not only saw it, there are good odds he gave into it every so often. And so it is with Tim. He writes aboutStoicism on his blog and gives some insight into his own life, which is less than perfect. Does that make him less of a Stoic? Anymore than it would make any of us less of one.

But what about these books he wrote? What about them? Of course they aren't perfect. But in essence, each one tackles something from the Stoic readings. The Four Hour Workweek? Seneca writes many of us waste our lives giving our time to people that will never be thankful for it, so why do we do it? The Four Hour Body is an attempt to make our bodies better, something any philosopher in Greece or Rome would tell us to do. And the Four Hour Chef? Marcus said, "Throw your books away and find a mentor." Well, Tim isn't telling us to throw our books away, but he tells us to find a mentor, because they beat books hands-down.

But what about the other criticisms? To be fair, outsourcing paperwork and taking drugs are only suggestions, not commandments. Tim writes how to do these things, but you don't have to do it that way. And if you want to 80/20 anything these days before jumping into it, the internet is a good place to help with that. And if the topics seem unrelated to Stoicism, think about some of Chrysippus's works: On How to Read Poetry and Against the Touching Up of Paintings, for example. Stoics weren't confined to just Stoicism. They saw everything and anything as a way to practice what they thought.

This, I think, is exactly what Tim is doing and is, in a way, the modern treatise. They have their holes, their naysayers. But that doesn't make him wrong, any more than disagreeing with On Anger would make Seneca wrong.

For full disclosure, no, I wasn't paid for this. I just admire the man, even though I'm jelly of his life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Memento Mori

Memento mori. As Stoics, how many times are we reminded to remember our mortality? A lot, if you consider all the readings. Perhaps too much.

See, there's this issue I've had with reminding myself of my own death. No, I'm not a depressed neurotic (at least, I hope not). It's that I've never actually took the time to actually do it. Hearing that we'll die — reading about it, hearing the phrase, saying to ourselves "I'm gonna die" — all this is meaningless without context.

What do I mean?

My step-father-in-law is dying. Right now. He's got tubes sticking out of him, pumping things both in and out. He's a shadow of what he once was. It's been a long while since I've seen this picture of death. The slow draw. My grandfather was the first death I saw like his, except his wasn't slow. The tubes weren't pumping anything. He was dead before my mom, sister, and I got to the hospital.

But this is different. I've watched this man waste away from cancer. I've seen the hopes given, the hopes denied. I've never seen death like this before. Keeping him alive to ponder everything he'll miss. We all suffer from this terminal illness, this slow draw of death. But his smacked him the face with an end date. What his mind must be thinking. If it can even process this information. And, though the doctors say it will be soon, he's still got time on his hands, and unable to do much with it.

As I was in there, it was the first time I actually understood memento mori. As he was in bed, I knew that one day, I could be there. Tubes running in and out of me, replacing my veins and organs because they just can't do it anymore. Unable to feel anything but pain. Watching a world around me carry on.

I could be him one day. Or I could be like my grandfather. Sitting in my favorite chair, calling out for help as something I don't understand happens to my body. Life fading from my body, not giving me any chance to even regret. Or worse, not get over my regrets.

It dawned on me that I didn't understand at all that I was going to die one day until I saw him today. Seneca says that most of us don't know that we are dying every day, that our past belongs to death. I'm dying. My wife. My son. You. We may not be in a bed, gasping for breath, having our waste pulled out of us. But that doesn't matter.

Memento mori, my friends.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Quick Update

Alright, I was going to do a video update, but that's being a pain in the butt because I've never done one before, so I guess for the time being, I'm going to have to write all that I want to tell you guys.

The Mad Stoics Plan for Living a Stoic Life

I know I've written a couple of posts on this, but now it's going into research mode. I might tell you bits and pieces about it, but I'm taking my time with this one. I'm aiming for a Stoic version of the Happiness Project, what with tracking charts for the actions and rules I want to live by. But now I've a lot of reading.

The Library

Speaking of books, I also want to branch into book reviews. I also want to keep track of what books I think you'd guys like. I'm also always looking for good book recommendations, so feel free to tell.


Yeah, sorry about that. I know I post for a little bit then take a long break, as it were. I'll admit my weakness: I get discouraged too fast. Very un-Stoic. But I hope to come up with new content at least once every week or so.

And there you go. An update.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Mad Stoic's Plan to a Stoic Life Part 2: Broad Goals

As a means of defining my mircogoals, I need to define my marcogoals. Why? Because without a big picture, all the little stuff would be aimless and more akin to my already messy life than a more Stoic one.

With that in mind, I have three broad goals in which to figure out all the small ones.


Perhaps the most obvious of the three, the mental aspect of life is very important. I personally feel that we all have a baseline mental state that, with it's own quirks, would make it impossible to fully gain the tranquility of the Stoic sage. That being said, we could all use more stability in our lives and, for me, Stoicism can help with that goal.


If the writings are trustworthy, all the Stoics believed in some sort of god or another. Now, I'm not saying I'm trying to find a god. I'm more an agnostic at this point. Some days I think there's a god. Other days, no. However, I still find life has qualities worthy of reverence. This is something I would like to cultivate.


I've come to the conclusion that – outside of medical conditions – a Stoic shouldn't be fat. I know. That sounds a bit, I dunno, unrelated? Whatever. But I have good reasons to feel this way and it's because of the other two reasons. Think about it: if I revere life, then maybe I should question eating those hamburgers, which can have a whole herd of cattle in one patty. And a wide girth doesn't reflect a calm mind, it reflects my uncontrolled desires for fattening foods. All around, I agree with Socrates: “No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” To that extension of the quote, the body is the physical of the mind.

On (Short and Most Likely Wrong) Thoughts About the Modern Stoic Schools

Recently, I’ve been working on not only gaining a deeper understanding of Stoicism, but also how to use in modern life, as well as attempti...