Introducing the Stoic Letter: A Weekly Reminder to Focus on the Right Things
I discovered Stoicism in early 2015, right around the time my grandmother passed away, and I was dealing with a breakup and a career switch — everything happened at the same time. Stoicism helped me remain resilient during that difficult time. I’ve been studying the philosophy ever since.
Inspired by Seneca’s renowned letters, I’m starting a weekly column here on Medium, that I call the Stoic Letter.
Roughly speaking (and highly generalizing), there are two philosophies to base your life on.
- Seeking pleasure: Think of Hedonism and some ideas from Epicureanism
- Finding pleasure in duty: Think of Stoicism, Zen, and other philosophies that promote self-reliance
I believe seeking pleasure is the current philosophy of the world. We live in a society that revolves around pleasure, consumption, and escapism.
Most of us simply want to be comfortable in life. While there’s nothing wrong with making our lives better, there’s major risk in taking this philosophy too far.
When you’re primarily driven by pleasure, you risk ending up on the hedonic treadmill. This is not new information. We all know social media makes us feel unworthy and depressed. We know we can’t buy our way to happiness. We also know that seeking pleasure turns us into slaves of our desires.
And yet, we fall for these traps every day.
Enter Seneca’s moral letters to Lucilius
One of my favorite philosophers is Seneca. He was not only a thinker, he had a long career in politics, serving as a senator and later as the advisor to Nero. His works show how practical he was. Towards the end of his life, he started traveling and writing letters to his friend, Lucilius.
The goal of these letters was to share Stoic thoughts with Lucilius, who had hedonistic tendencies and lived a busy life. At the time, Seneca himself took a step back from public life and left Rome.
From the quiet countryside of southern Italy, he wrote 124 letters to Lucilius. I’ve been a long-time fan of these. You can tell that Seneca subtly tries to convince his friend to be more stoic, to pursue tranquility, and to focus on what’s inside his control.
These letters serve as reminders to focus on the right things in life. The Stoics believed that, to live a happy life, you need to go against the herd. In a letter to his brother, Seneca wrote this:
“Let us enquire what is the best, not what is the most customary, thing to do, and what establishes our claim to unending happiness.”
The weekly Stoic Letter: Focus on what’s important
I love Seneca’s letters to his friend because it feels like he could’ve written them to you and me, living in the 21st century. Seneca successfully stepped away from the busy life of Rome and gave Lucilius an outside perspective. Sometimes, that’s all you need to get out of your own head.
Every Friday, my followers will receive a new letter that deals with today’s problems and concerns using practical Stoic thoughts. The format and feel will be the same as Seneca. The goal of these new letters is to help you focus on the things that matter most in life. The things that you value — not the herd.
If you want to read these letters every week, simply follow me here on Medium. I’m looking forward to corresponding with you. All the best.