Letters from a Stoic 20 – Summary and Key Takeaways

               In letters from a stoic 20, Seneca talks about practicing what you preach. “philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak; it exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his word”. Unlike other philosophies that are highly academic, Stoicism has a unique appeal because it’s very helpful in real and challenging life situations such as when one experiences panic, anxiety, and anger. Stoicism has always been dubbed as a “philosophy in high-stress situations”.

              Consistency is also important. “highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom—that deed and word should be in accord, that a man should be equal to himself under all conditions, and always the same” Whether people are  looking our deeds or we are living out of isolation, our actions should always be in accord with what we say at all times. The ultimate goal of which is to develop hard-coded habits. Habits are mental muscles that can be strengthened with repetition.

              In the next part of the letter, Seneca talks about poverty. He said that losing wealth can reveal people who are there because of who you are and those who are there for something else. It’s better to live a simple life because you will be more assured that people who stick around are not there for superficial reasons. “Poverty will keep for you your true and tried friends; you will be rid of the men who were not seeking you for yourself, but for something which you have. “

            In the last part of the letter, Seneca talks yet again about preparing setbacks for simulation. He talks about this in letter 18. The idea is to expect and practice hardships so that when they happen they become more bearable and endurable. For example, to practice poverty Seneca recommends setting aside several days of eating with nothing but bread and water. Tim Ferris, a famous writer and stoic practitioner, does this with days of fasting.

*****   Letters from a Stoic Key Takeaways is a collection of short key takeaways from the letters sent by Seneca to Lucilius. Read each letter’s key takeways here .

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