The Stoic Challenge: Top 10 Takeaways

Terri Hanson Mead
Terri Hanson Mead
Published in
4 min readFeb 13, 2024


My college freshman philosophy class (a requirement) covered red herrings and slippery slopes and until our son Adam became a philosopher, I was not familiar with Stoicism. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t until I read The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer and More Resilient by William B. Irvine that I even began to understand some of the fundamental principles of Stoicism.

After talking to Adam, I have more Stoic homework in that he had me order Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Just what I needed, more light reading.

Fortunately, The Stoic Challenge was an easy read that I consumed in an evening. While the book could have been a 5-page paper, there are some good stories and suggestions for how to live a more Stoic, and thus more pleasurable, life. I think it’s worth reading and my highlighted copy is now in my husband’s hands to read by the pool.

In summary: see every setback as a challenge to find the best possible workaround without the interference of negative emotions. Laugh at the setbacks (so you don’t cry). Embrace the challenges. “The more challenges you successfully meet, the more confident you will become in your ability to meet them.”

For those of you who prefer my version of the Cliff Notes (can you even get these anymore?), here are my top 10 takeaways from the book.

  1. “Instead of simply enduring the moments of your life, you savor them to the greatest extent possible and thereby increase your chances of extracting every drop of delight that your life has to offer….you embrace and even celebrate the life you find yourself living.”
  2. “Imaginary Stoic gods are testing us with our well-being in mind. To pass this test–and thereby win the game–we must stay calm while finding a workaround for the setback. Instead of thinking about setbacks merely as unfortunate experiences, we can reframe them as tests of our resilience and integrity. By framing a setback as a component of a game, we can dramatically reduce its emotional impact.”
  3. “To employ [the Stoic test strategy], we assume that setbacks we experience are not simply undeserved tribulations but tests of our ingenuity and resilience, administered by imaginary Stoic gods. To pass these tests, we must not only come up with effective workarounds to setbacks but must also, while doing so, avoid the onset of negative emotions.”
  4. “Avoid getting angry. That way we will have no anger to deal with and therefore no anger to express or suppress.”
  5. “Setbacks and desires are interconnected; whether something counts as a setback depends on what a person wants, and how significant the setback depends on how much he wants it. If a person were incapable of experiencing desire, nothing would count as a setback.”
  6. “Resilience is not an innate trait; it is instead an acquired ability. [There is a] resilience continuum. At one end we find resilient individuals. When they encounter a setback, they bounce back quickly — or better still, they don’t get upset by the setback, meaning they have nothing to bounce back from. At the other end of the continuum we find fragile individuals. On being set back, they become flustered, angry, or even despondent. As a result, they tend to be unhappy and their friends and relatives many pity them rather than admire them.”
  7. “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
  8. “Different people have different comfort zones. Our life experience determines the size and shape of our comfort zone…if we make a point of exposing ourselves to things that make us either physically or emotionally uncomfortable, we can train ourselves to be comfortable with them and thereby expand our comfort zone…let us refer to it as toughness training. Toughness training will also intensify whatever pleasures you do experience.”
  9. “Dealing with your emotions and your subconscious mind is a lifelong challenge since unlike any children you might have, your emotions and subconscious mind are never going to grow up.”
  10. “The Roman Stoic has a reputation for being not just optimistic but positively cheerful. They were vibrantly alive [and had a] penchant for seeing the bright side of things. In art gallery terms, an optimist is someone who customarily places life’s paintings into frames that make them look beautiful, and a pessimist is someone who places them into ugly frames.”

Did any of these resonate with you? Are you inspired to change how your think, what you pursue, or how you operate as a result? If so, let me know in the comments or drop me a line at

Note: all bolded, italicized quotes are from the book. I’ve taken the liberty of making some minor changes for ease of communication and have kept the integrity of the author’s intent.

Next up: The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy.

This is not an endorsement for Bird scooters, especially since they just filed for bankruptcy. Such a waste of good VC money!

About the Author

Terri Hanson Mead is the multi-award winning author of Piloting Your Life, Managing Partner of Solutions2Projects, LLC, travel journalist, and an advocate for women through all of her platforms including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and this blog. Terri, the mother of a college sophomore and recent college graduate, is based in Redwood City, CA and in her spare time, loves to travel, cook, play tennis, and fly helicopters around the San Francisco Bay Area, especially under the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh, and she loves a good craft cocktail!



Terri Hanson Mead
Terri Hanson Mead

Tiara wearing, champagne drinking troublemaker, making the world a better place for women. Award winning author of Piloting Your Life.