What is Stoicism and How Can it Turn your Life to Solid Gold?

A few weeks ago, I got a really interesting email from a guy in Norway that said something like, “Hey Mr. MM.. What you are preaching is Pure Stoicism, with a great twist and perception on today’s world … I love it!!” *

“Stoicism?” I asked, “You mean like the Stoics in Shakespearean plays that show no emotion of any sort? That doesn’t sound quite right to me.

But it turns out I had fallen into a common misconception. The Clever Norwegian pointed me to a book on the topic, which I immediately checked out of the library and read completely. It was called “A Guide to the Good Life, The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy“.

From reading the book, I learned that Stoicism was actually a shockingly advanced old philosophy that found many followers in ancient Rome. Although it has fallen widely out of favor in modern life, people in today’s society would probably identify the central ideas as “Hardcore Mustachianism”.

Stoicism, in short, is a series of mental techniques and ways of life that allow you to decrease and then virtually eliminate all negative emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, while simultaneously building up a tide of pure Joy inside you that eventually starts to make you jump around and boogie at unexpected moments, and occasionally shout out “AHH YEAH!!” as discreetly as possible to yourself when the Joy overflows.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But over the past few years, this is exactly the transformation that has been happening to me. As I learned from the book, every good Stoic is a work in progress, and I still have much to learn and I’m not free from all negative emotions. But compared to a normal person, things are getting pretty unusually joyful up in here.

So let’s see what it’s all about.

The core of the philosophy seems to be this: To have a good and meaningful life, you need to overcome your insatiability. Most people, at best, spend their lives in a long pursuit of happiness. So today’s successful person writes out a list of desires, then starts chasing them down and satisfying the desires. The problem is that each desire, when satisfied, tends to be replaced by a new desire. So the person continues to chase. Yet after a lifetime of pursuit, the person ends up no more satisfied than he was at the beginning. Thus, he may end up wasting his life.

The solution, the Stoics realized, is to learn to want the things you already have, rather than wanting other things. The most interesting technique that will help you achieve this is Negative Visualization.

For example, suppose that you currently have a good working set of eyes. Imagine carefully what it would be like to live your life as a blind person. You would have to work very hard to rearrange your life to remain functional — learn braille, take special precautions when walking around town and when cooking eggs at home, etc. — but in the end, you could surely survive and even become happy again if you were blind. But now open your eyes. SURPRISE!! YOU HAVE THIS BONUS OF SIGHT!!!. Wow, you were already doing just fine in your blind life, but now you have working eyes too? What an incredible life – you are truly blessed with more than you even need.

It turns out that if you practice negative visualization on a regular basis, you learn to both appreciate your current life much more, and to be mentally prepared in the event of any changes in your life as well – loss of health, fortune, a loved one, etc. You have replaced negative emotions with satisfaction and even joy.

The next great trick is the one that allows you to eliminate anxiety about the present and the future. That can be done by separating your worries into things you can control, and things you can’t. Some people worry endlessly about politics and world events – so much that it affects their ability to lead a happy life, even when in reality, world politics barely even affect their lives here in the cushioned and prosperous rich world! The Stoic solution to this is to realize that politics and the actions of other countries are completely outside of your circle of influence – so you can breathe easily and completely drop all worry about them. There is a smaller subset of these events that you CAN influence – who you vote for, and possibly where you donate your money or time. To eliminate the rest of your worry, make the votes and take the local actions, and then you can be 100% worry free.

Similarly, instead of worrying about your health as many people do, you simply work to the best of your ability to optimize the body you’ve been given, and the matter is completely closed – you can confidently move on!

As an unexpected bonus, we now know that it is the act of worrying itself that causes many of a modern person’s mental and physical problems, so by eliminating worry AND taking action, you are providing yourself with a double boost.

Moving from the mental to the physical, Stoics actually enjoy experimenting with Voluntary Discomfort. As a contemporary Stoic, you might make a point of seeing how long you can leave the air conditioning off on a summer day, or try hiking in bare feet instead of shoes occasionally to feel the land and force your feet to adapt to tougher conditions than a moisture-wicking merino wool hiking sock.  It sounds absurd by modern standards, until you realize that by doing this, you are actually broadening your comfort zone, even while you eliminate your fear of discomfort. Thanks to the practice above, you are now able to enjoy yourself in a much broader range of temperatures, and appreciate the comfort of shoes when you do have them. Meanwhile, a person with the extreme opposite philosophy might become irritated if he ever has to travel in less than a first-class airplane seat or stay in less than a five star hotel or drink sub-$500-per-bottle wine. By experimenting with voluntary discomfort, we  learn to appreciate far more of our life, and can be content with a much simpler and more wholesome one.

“The more pleasures a man captures, the more masters he will have to serve”

Nature Itself told the Stoics what conditions they should learn to appreciate as humans – since they realized we are all in fact an integral part of Nature. In Mustachian terminology, all of these thoughts relating to adapting your comfort level to embrace Nature are collectively referred to as Badassity.

But there’s much more to the philosophy than sitting around trying to be happy with what you’ve got. Stoics believe that the main purpose of our productive energy is to fulfill all of our life’s obligations to our best ability, and to help our fellow humans. So a stoic is actually a hard-working person who enjoys the feeling of hard work – even extremely hard work, as it just falls into the “Voluntary Discomfort/Badassity” category described above.

Rewarding social interactions are a specialty of the Stoic. They believe that humans are social animals at the core, and thus we must exercise this part of our personality to maintain a balanced happiness. But at the same time, it is not rational to have any interest in fame or social status, since these are fleeting indulgences rather than sources of true happiness.

When we encounter insults from other people, we must deal with them with reason rather than anger. Either the insult is true, in which case we should be grateful for the insulter for pointing out this area in which we could improve, or it is false, in which case we should pity the insulter for his lack of accurate perception. Either way, an insult is nothing to get upset about. In the case of a True Fuckwit who not only insults us, but manages to commit major injustices to us, the best revenge is simply to live an even better life while refusing to be like that person. I have actually been through a major encounter with one of these TFs, and I while my initial anger took over a year to subside, I am happy to report that I am now exacting my “revenge” more thoroughly each day.

The core of all of these tricks and techniques is to let reason triumph over your reflexive emotions. By understanding human emotions and motivations as thoroughly as possible, Stoics are able to bend our evolutionary programming and use it for the purpose of attaining a ridiculous amount of happiness, rather than its original purpose, which is to survive and reproduce successfully.

For example, our insatiable desire for MORE of everything is not a moral failing on the part of humans. It’s a natural evolutionary program, just as simple as the programming that makes even YOU raise an eyebrow when you see an unusually curvaceous and sexy butt. Ancestors of ours who were insatiable, and always wanted more mates, more children, more food, more social standing, and more security against predators and enemies were quite simply the ones who got to produce the largest number of surviving children. But while insatiability did historically lead to more children, it does not lead to more happiness in a modern life. For happiness, you have to trick yourself into being happy with the things you’ve got.

Last in my own miniature summary of Stoicism, I’d like to point out the difference between Pleasure and Happiness. An alternative philosophy called Hedonism suggests that to have the best life, you simply maximize pleasure. But Stoics reject that, since pleasure is just one dimension of true happiness. Eating cupcakes is pleasurable, as is sex, sleeping in, drinking wine, and watching TV. Higher level pleasures might be had by driving a fancy car for the first few times, receiving compliments from important people or having millions of people ask for your autograph. But each pleasure very rapidly wears out if overused, and the Hedonist is left scrambling desperately higher up the pyramid of earthly pleasures until he runs out of money or health. Meanwhile, by focusing on Happiness – the underlying signal delivered by Pleasure, the Stoic can make it a much more consistent and tranquil companion in his life. In our society as well as those thousands of years ago, the Stoics is truly the one who has Got It Goin’ On.

And these days, he ends up becoming much richer as an almost-trivial side benefit.


* — Thanks Rolf!

  • Rula December 28, 2014, 1:40 pm

    MMM October 9, 2011, 1:58 pm

    “Yup, you and various other commenters are right. The greatest ideas of today were already invented, and forgotten, and re-discovered, many times in the many generations that preceded us. But since we’re in one of those “largely forgotten” stages, sometimes it helps to have a bearded face from a fifty dollar bill with a hand-drawn mustache remind us all using an unusual writing style.”

    Yes, all reminders – any reminders help. But then one has to realize and understand what it is that one is being reminded of. The problem, I feel, is that the the mind is always attempting to resolve the problems which the mind (thought)/belief systems) has created to begin with. This, obviously, is a serious conflict of interest. How can I walk out of a dream by doing more dreaming? Haha :-)

    Mr. Money Mustache, perhaps, has stumbled upon the secret to happiness by making the effort to LOOK and LISTEN. It’s a conscious act which bypasses the ancient and forgotten (or misinterpreted & misused) teachings or philosophies which may have originally sprung from true Realization – All original Realization is independent of the world which thought has created (which is always selfish, dysfunctional, and repetitive) and which has manifested into the ugly and cruel world we currently see and experience and yes, contribute to on a daily basis (though we claim to want peace).

    In any case, calling MMM’s approach to Life stoicism, Buddhism, Taoism, Mysticism, Sufism, Krishnamurtism, Tollism, or even Jesus-ism (not Christianity) is really just a way of speaking to each other about something that can’t truly be spoken of – REALITY/Truth/Realization – whatever you want to call it can never actually be calculated, it simply DAWNS regardless of one’s history – experience, education, religion, nationality etc.

    MMM’s plan was intelligent and strategic, but I bet that initially it was not the intellect (world of thought) which SAW, it was not the kind of intelligence which comes from conditioned responses – from repeating history. That is not intelligence, that is only the accumulation of knowledge which one begins to identify as ‘the truth’. How can Truth have more than one perspective – my truth vs your truth?

    MMM seems to have realized with great clarity (maybe initially without much thinking or words), that the life we are all living is mostly rotten – and he must have realized the horror of our (human) situation. Then he simply ACTED, and fearlessly – using the skills he acquired from his past experiences – without becoming attached to those skills as a measure of his self worth.

    That is not an “ism” or a philosophy that has been “revived” (though on the surface it may appear this way), but something completely NEW because he discovered it all by himself anew. That is what makes it original. That someone else may have realized the same Fact now or 100 centuries earlier is irrelevant to the originality of any true realization which can only happen NOW.

    Because actually this very moment is absolutely NEW isn’t it? Only we see it through the eyes of past memories and therefore we make it old, stale, repetitive, dull, lifeless and then from this lifelessness we try to escape and we feel hateful and greedy and envious and so on. We are trying to escape a world which exists only in our minds, and not here and Now.

    MMM’s approach is, perhaps, a kind of a perfect storm (genetics/environment/all the active Laws) – one in which the most essential ingredient (which we all have) – ATTENTION – was used CONSCIOUSLY. And yet…though I haven’t read all 300 articles (yet), I suspect that intellectually there isn’t quite as much clarity as there is in original realization which simply DAWNED on him.

    I know I may be totally wrong about all of this, and I’m sorry this is so long, but writing here is helping me so much.

    The mind is a terrible place to live and being HERE means I’m not “there” in my assumed reality. :-)

  • Diego April 27, 2015, 1:53 pm

    A nice article about the science of hedonism vs stoicism (though they don’t mention philosophy):


  • Carlos July 1, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Excellent explanation. Thanks! Just like yourself, I learned about the Stoics from reading Shakespeare in high school. And, I thought a stoical person what just someone who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. For example, a really tough football player or an MMA fighter who can endure pain without complaining. Or, an optimist who just never worries about his problems. I remember a long time ago when I was young, about 21 years old. I used to see this guy asking for money in the street. He would always do it with a smile. The guy was asking for money, but he seemed to be the happiest guy on Earth. I was curious, so I asked him, “Why are you so happy when you are begging for money. What’s your reason for this happiness?” He said to me that he was a Vietnam vet and used to work in and was making a lot of money. But, he had an accident, fell from 3 stories high. He said this, “After surviving Vietnam, and having 4 major back surgeries, I can still walk, think, and make something of myself and I will.” That is one of the greatest lessons that I could have ever learned in my life. Happiness is truly a state of mind!

    Thanks again!

  • David Rudge July 29, 2015, 7:24 pm

    After reading Irvine’s book I’ve found myself wondering whether part of why the Stoic philosophy resonates so well with a frugal life style has to do with risk management. Common sense financial planning recommends we anticipate risks to our investments, take steps to protect the principal, and diversify assets so that a loss in one asset class does not spell disaster. Perhaps part of the reason why one might want to explore a wide range of interests and talents, following MMM’s lead, is to ensure that your sense of self worth and meaning is not anchored in any one activity, such as your job.

  • Sean July 31, 2015, 4:08 am

    I read this ages ago and liked it but took something different away from it. I have come back to it and a great take away for me this time is from the negative visualisation aspect; “imagine the choice to work on a project is taken away from me, open my eyes, the choice is still there so i need to do it the best i can or ditch thinking about it and move on”.
    Thanks MMM

  • Shaun August 19, 2015, 1:16 pm

    Hello good sir,

    I love your website and your POV on life, it is 100% how I try and am living my own life. That being said, as a young person who aspires to be a physician, I would like to see you write an article about careers that have large amounts of debt. I mean, for the most part nearly all students who go to law school, medical school, dental school , etc are faced with large amounts of debt. How can I still follow my preferred way of life and not get sucked up into the machine that is society and economic slavery?


    • TheHappyPhilosopher December 24, 2015, 3:39 pm

      This is a good question. Certainly something like medical school will be very difficult to get through without at least some debt, but presumably an above average to spectacular income and frugal lifestyle should allow someone to wipe that out pretty quickly. My simple advice would be this.

      1. When choosing a medical/dental/graduate school be mindful of the costs. There is a big difference between 15k and 60k in fees and tuition every year.

      2. Become a frugal badass like MMM teaches here.

      3. Live your life like a frugal resident even when your income increases 3-10 times that much after residency – until your student loans are re-payed.

      4. (most important) Before you enter a career with large amounts of debt like medicine answer this question: If all jobs paid the same would I choose this one? If the answer is no, and you are doing it because it pays a lot of money, run away and do something you love instead.

  • Damn Dave September 12, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Been reading the blog for the past couple years but have never left a comment. I’ve always used the word stoic for someone with lack of emotion so I appreciate the insight and though-provoking blog. The first thing that came to mind as I started to read this blog was a movie I just saw last week, “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a quirky, thoughtful, English comedy that can be summarized in “learn to want the things you already have”. In the story, rather than “Negative Visualization”, the main character actually had experiences that made him appreciate the things he had although the final scenes have “Negative Visualization”. I’m really interested in reading the book now. The interesting part about the movie was that rather than being a coherent story-line, it was a series of experiences that were strung together to make him appreciate what he already had. The wife wasn’t interested but it had an emotional impact on me. :) Thank again, Dave

  • Alex C September 16, 2015, 3:03 pm

    sometimes coincidences are a little too strange to go unmentioned:

    two minutes ago, i just recommend this exact book to a friend, and then i suggested she check out YOUR website as you take a ‘stoic approach towards personal finance.’ when she brought up your webpage, i did a classic looney-tunes double-take when i saw irvine’s book on the screen!


  • StatiStachian December 23, 2015, 7:08 pm

    As a couple MMM Forum members have noted, Oliver Burkeman’s “The Antidote: …” from a couple years ago heavily emphasizes themes raised in this post (e.g., Stoicism, negative thinking). Recently I started listening to this podcast that seems inspired by Burkeman’s book, is hosted by two amateur comedians, and is so far more interesting than its episodes’ succinct titles might suggest (e.g., obstacles, loss, goals, hope):


  • Greg February 11, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Sounds just like the basic teachings of the Buddha re-worded nicely a few thousand years later. I.E like 99% of self help books released today.

  • Ms. Ready to Retire March 15, 2016, 8:52 am

    This article was perfect timing. I was just going to send you a question about how you were able to switch your mind from the “work your whole life and have everything” mode to being at peace mentally with the idea of not having everything. My husband and I are working toward early retirement. We could be done in 6-10 years at age 52-56, depending on when we feel we can really give it all up. My daughter is starting college in the fall so we feel a responsibility to get her through with as little debt as possible. Once she is done with college our plan is to concentrate on getting all areas ready with in the following 2-6 years. I own a financial planning and investment firm which would have to be sold. This takes about two years to successfully transition clients. Over the past several years we have been able to save about 20%-30% of our income (some more, some less). We should have about 1.2-1.8 Million at the time we are ready to stop working and start really living. This is less than the financial planner in me says I should have, by almost half.

    My biggest struggle is getting my mind to let go and walk away from the money we are currently making. We have not always made this kind of money so it is hard to walk away from. Everyone thinks we are crazy for even considering it. Both our jobs are very stressful and our parents either died in their 50’s or were extremely ill during their retirements. I have seen many clients who worked so hard and saved their whole lives become ill or die before they had the chance to go enjoy it. So we both feel that time is the most valuable thing but there is this nagging in the back of my brain that says don’t do it.

    It does seem to me the younger you adopt this idea the easier it may be to successfully transition your life and mind. Once you are in your 40’s too many fears can create roadblocks. Once children and aging parents are in the picture it certainly can make this decision harder. I never want to be in the position where I can’t help them if truly needed.
    And, maybe selfishly, we still want our retirement to be wonderful. We want to be able travel and not struggle. We already did the struggle part in our 20’s and early 30’s.

    I look forward to continuing on with your blog as well as picking up the book mentioned. Thanks so much.

  • Will Bloomfield April 29, 2016, 9:34 am

    I enjoyed this post on stoicism and will add a comment on something I have not yet seen mentioned.

    I’m currently re-reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and Augustine famously states that “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” That is, we seek in vain for joy and happiness in created things; true joy and happiness can only be found in the Creator, i.e., God, who reveals His goodness in the created things of the world. The created things of the world should point us toward God and not be ends in themselves. Other Catholic saints have echoed this wisdom, which truly comes from Christ in the Gospels (“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”), throughout the ages.

    It’s interesting to me that the Stoics (who I have not studied much, but whom I appreciate for components of their philosophy) also embrace a spirit of gratitude for the things that we have and see the value of mortifying the flesh. These are also both points encouraged in Catholic spirituality, which encourages thanksgiving to God as one of the principal parts of prayer, and encourages fasting, poverty, and almsgiving as a way of making us less dependent on things and pleasure and more dependent on God. And at the same time, Catholicism encourages feasting (i.e., rejoicing in good beer and wine and liquor, good food, and good company all for the glory of God) at appropriate festive times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

    So I find it interesting that you (and the Stoics) come at frugality and many of these same principles from a completely secular perspective, whereas I embrace it as part of my attempt to follow Christ more perfectly. Regardless of these two very different perspectives, I agree completely that happiness is not found in materialism and consumerism and hedonism, and that much of America could benefit from Mustachianism. Keep it up.

  • Maroz June 8, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Thank you for posting this article. First thank you to Betsy Megas for answering a quora question, that led me to this website through her link – very very happy I came here :) I am now doing the stoic week ! Let’s hope for the best.

  • Licoi June 9, 2016, 3:15 pm

    “The more pleasures a man captures, the more masters he will have to serve”

    I want to chime in with yet another parallel. The above dictum is reflected in the main reason behind the collapse of complex societies according to Joseph Tainter: it’s not corruption, invaders, or natural historical cycles. Problem-solving in society tends to compound complexity, which is costly to support. There comes a point of diminishing returns, when the costs of complexity, having exponentially accumulated, overshoot the returns.

    For instance, the Roman Empire expanded through bountiful conquests. This surplus wealth was poured into growth – more population and higher living standards. Later as the military expansion ground to a halt, the demands of those extra people could no longer be sustained without the spoils of war.

    Interestingly, some Bronze and Iron Age peoples would put a dent in this cycle by diverting some of their labor away from growth (more food, more children) and into crafting prestige metalwork destined to be ritually deposited at the bottom of the lake. When’s the last time your culture’s system of beliefs tackled such core problems?

    I make sure to keep this little story in mind. Or as the late sage Bill Hicks put it, “wake up at noon and learn how to play the sitar!”

  • Tony July 3, 2016, 11:11 am

    I’m a little late to the party (53, and only now discovered MMM) but this post sealed the deal. I became interested in Stoic philosophy about 22 years ago: a recent furlough from my job, and a newborn baby at home. Two books dropped in my lap at the time: A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, and Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh (not Stoicism as such, but Zen philosophy, which I think of as a kind of cousin.) The main character of the Wolfe book finds himself up against a wall in life, and himself stumbles upon Stoic philosophy, which in turn steels him to weather his trials with a kind of serene confidence. I loved it!

    Accordingly, finding MMM has been like finding a long-lost philosophical brother! I’ve been enjoying the blog enormously, and am putting to use many of the tools herein (some of which I’d already arrived at.) I am aiming (with my wife and two now adult sons, plus a step-daughter) for financial freedom and a less consumerist, more world-friendly life. Thanks, hoss!

  • Matt (Semper Fi) July 13, 2016, 12:39 pm

    I live in southern Utah, where for several months out of the year it is hotter than Satan’s crotch. But extremely dry,too. Anyway, being a total pussy, I usually have kept my central A/C at 73 degrees (sometimes 72) all day and night. 2 weeks ago, enter badass MMM into my life!

    14 days ago, I programmed the thermostat for 74 degrees. A few days later, I bumped it to 75. For the last few days, the thermostat has sat at 76 degrees. And guess what? I didn’t die! And the A/C only runs a fraction of the time it used to. In a couple of more days, I’ll see what 77 degrees feels like. It is amazing to feel my body acclimating to these new indoor temperatures. The wife and kids are fine with this arrangement, since up until recently I would frequently find them huddled under blankets in the house when it’s 106 degrees outside, lol.

    We have not used the clothes dryer in over a week. Seems stupid to use it, now that I think about it, since we have dry, warm-to blistering-hot temperatures for most of the year, haha.

    So I am feeling more and more stoic with each passing day, knowing that the comforts of much cooler air and soft, artificially-scented clothes are available, but not partaking of either (and not even really suffering in the absence of those luxuries. So we have to wear crispy pants – big deal! They soften up after a while of wearing them). It will be interesting to see how much my electricity usage is affected on the next bill. Hell, even if it is only a savings of 30 bucks per month it’s worth it to be less of a total pussy, haha! And I will be liberating 30 little employees that can be put to work elsewhere, where it really matters. Thanks, MMM – I haven’t been this energized to make changes in my life in years!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 13, 2016, 2:58 pm

      Good work, Matt. I’m still a little queasy from the shock of reading about your past habits (72 indoors in a dry 100 degree climate!? Right next door in Colorado I don’t even OWN an air conditioner and my house is completely comfortable at its peak of 82 indoors!)

      But anyway, you’re on the right path. You have probably cut your power bill by far more than $30/month. But do me a favor: walk over and set that thing to 80 right now.

  • Julie July 19, 2016, 5:28 pm

    Think mindfulness is more useful, since we are both emotional and intellectual beings, not to mention spiritual and physical. While it makes sense to be rational and use reason over reflexive emotion, we are emotional beings and sometimes it’s difficult. For example, we know it’s not useful to feel left out of conversation, but say we still do. Mindfulness addresses when we feel it’s out of control and we can’t be completely stoic or rational-how to create space and what to do when we keep thinking about something that isn’t useful.

  • Erin October 15, 2016, 8:55 am

    MMM, thanks for all of the great messages in your posts! I tried to share this post with family and friends but the use of the word “fucktard” makes me hesitate to do so since it has negative connotation related to using the word “retard.” Would you consider replacing the latter part of the word with anything other than tard? Perhaps F-head or F-turd?

  • Liz Hagen October 15, 2016, 8:56 am

    “Fucktard” is a derivative of “retard.” It equates people with cognitive disabilities to people who are jerks. And while in this case, it is not aimed at people with cognitive disabilities, it’s a word that has historically been used to belittle an already marginalized group.

  • Harald February 25, 2017, 2:24 pm

    Lke it or not you’re an Epicurean more than a Stoic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irornIAQzQY

  • Mikl March 4, 2017, 10:44 pm

    I love this post and it got me on the path to reading that book a couple times through. Ultimately it fits well with my beliefs in Zen Buddhism and minimalism. Cultivating awareness has produced some rather amazing gains and I wish this ultimate pleasure to anyone. Thanks for sharing this and the rest of your stuff MMM. It’s changing the world!

  • Joel March 21, 2017, 1:47 pm

    Bounced over here after reading an awesome Stoicism article at raptitude.com.

    At 18 years old I wanted everything that money could buy. There was nothing that wasn’t within my grasp and as a consequence, I bought it all. Fast forward 12 years and I entered my 30’s unfulfilled and unhappy. All the things that I thought would bring me joy (the stuff I bought) only brought me sadness and heartache.

    I decided to sell it all, opting to live a simpler life that focuses on living in the now and not worrying about tomorrow. It no longer was about what I could do for myself but what I could do for others. Don’t know if that is the path to stoicism, but it is a path that I am excited to be on.

  • Brittany July 14, 2017, 4:38 pm

    I just read this years after it was written. I just wanted to mention that I just recently learned about Stoicism. I’ve been through some pretty rough things as a child and even adult. I was in great depression and very unhappy. A friend of mine sent me a video about stoicism and since then I’ve been really researching it. It has helped me sooo much. Although I so still have times where I am stressed, sad, or my anxiety levels are high. It doesn’t last long and overall I am happy and thankful every day of my life. I am no longer having these feelings for 3,4, or 5 days in a row. My happiness outweighs every other feeling I have. This is something I wish as a child I was taught and I will definitely teach my children this. This way of thinking could help so many people. Although I do a lot now to have a better future as someone mentioned is more of Epicureanism , I still go about my days in a stoic way. I’m not labeling myself as anything. I’m just living my life how I feel is best for me. I look at an array of religions, teachings, and people or ways of living from our history. It all helps to see how others lived and how it worked for them. I take bits and pieces from every thing I learn and add it into my daily life.

  • FrustratedBillionaire October 4, 2017, 8:27 am

    Hey MMM thanks for this post on stoicism – I found about Stoicism via a TED Ed video during a tough time and I just wished there was a way we can buy Stoicism to make us more positive in an instant. Ha!

  • Ashutosh Pathak December 7, 2017, 8:53 am

    If I’m not wrong, that fuck wit might be your colleagues/boss :D

    A man is known by the company he keeps, and I’m happy to keep company of all wise men who have passed before me and stoics like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus :)

  • Domen May 10, 2018, 2:58 am

    “try hiking in bare feet instead of shoes occasionally to feel the land and force your feet to adapt to tougher conditions than a moisture-wicking merino wool hiking sock”

    That’s exactly what happened to me. When I was in college I was running a lot and developed a habit of buying expensive running shoes (120-130 euros) that would only last for a year or two. But when I was in my second year I lost my state scholarship (my older brother just graduated and our income per person rose so I didn’t qualify for state scholarship anymore). I had some savings because I worked during summers and was working on my father’s sawmill during weekends.

    And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford those pricey running shoes anymore. But one day during a trail run I remembered that I have heard that some elite African long distance runners had ran barefoot when they were children. I thought to myself – if they can do it, so can I. I immediately stopped and took off my shoes and socks. I planned on running barefoot for only 5 minutes, but it felt so good that I ran for 15 minutes. Except mild numbness in my feet I felt awesome. Only when I came home and went to take a shower, I noticed that three bloody blisters had formed on each of my soles. That same day I went on the internet and typed into Google search bar: “barefoot running”. Ken Bob Saxton’s webiste poped up and I found his advice was extremely useful. I fell in love with barefoot running and I have been running barefoot for almost 8 years now.

    A short video of me running barefoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E3q9EUxhM0

  • Kim July 9, 2018, 1:15 pm

    This is how I strive to live. It is the reason I enjoy endurance sports and activities including hiking, cycling, and long-distance running. I found similar advice from Catholic author, Matthew Kelly, in his books ‘Resisting Happiness’ and ‘Perfectly Yourself.’

  • DocNorth July 9, 2018, 8:44 pm

    MMM — I have been following your website for a while and I will agree with some of the previous posters: Mustachianism (and the FIRE movement in general) much more closely resembles Epicureanism (in its true Ancient Greek form) rather than Stocism. Both philosophies had as their goal the reaching of a state of ataraxia (freedoms from all fears and anxieties). Epicurus said to do this we must dispel our fears of the gods and death (when death is here you are not and when you are here death is not) and realize that desires can be split into three categories: 1) The natural and necessary — these are the desires if unfulfilled would cause pain and suffering. For example we need food, water, shelter. Without these hinges we would suffer. So it is good to work to achieve these and he had the insight to say that these are actually very easily achievable. The other necessary and natural desires were friendship and living a reasoned life — free things! 2) The natural and unnecessary. This is basically when you take category 1 to unnatural levels. Instead of just wAter now you desire champagne, and instead of simple food you need feasts and fancy food and instead of simple shelter you need a mansion. Well Epicurus said this category was not worth pursuing. If a bottle of champagne happens to come across you during your life, enjoy it! But don’t work your tail of for these fancy things, he said, because they don’t give pleasure in proportion to the work, stress, and angst required to get them. 3) The unnatural and unnecessary desires — These are not found in nature but are based solely on others opinions — social status, fame, political power. Epicurus said to avoid these desires like a plague because they bring only unhappiness. Live a simple self sufficient existence with friends and happiness as your core! Epicurus and you, I think, would get along a lot more than Epictetus and you!

  • Chris July 11, 2018, 11:16 am

    As a practice in stoicism, I shaved my hair off last month. I’m very vane about my hair, so it was a good place to start. I’d do it again.

  • Karl August 10, 2018, 11:26 pm

    Thank you for the great review, and bringing this book to our attention. Given the angst in the country today, it’s very timely. It’s funny, until reading your review, I forgot some of the instances in my life where I found myself in extreme conditions which for an extended period changed my outlook. During the Gulf War I was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the end of the summer. I have never experienced such heat. Airmen who didn’t keep walking on the Tarmac, found that the soles of their boots would melt. The only thing I could think of to describe the heat was to turn up your oven all the way , then open it and put your head in and for short period you got the sense of what it was like. The heat hurt your lungs to breathe. I never complained about heat again. Similarly, during a scheduled takeoff from Ottowa, Canado one morning, the air was so cold the electronics refused to come on in the aircraft, you could feel the moisture on your eyeballs trying to freeze, and the fog from your breath crystallized into a cloud of ice. I never thought of myself cold again. And finally , as a commercial pilot, I once had a passenger who I watched disembark. He had no legs, one arm was disfigured, it was shortened with 1 finger about where the shoulder was. He refused assistance. He hopped off the airplane to a waiting wheel chair and to the amazement of the crew, somehow hurled himself on to the chair,turned around bid us all a good day, and wheeled himself away in the special wheel chair which had a locking axel. It’s all relative. For months I never complained about anything again. This person, whose body’s limbs consisted of a single normal arm , was fully functional, desired no assistance, and was nearly completely independent.

  • SC April 3, 2019, 2:43 pm

    This sounds somewhat like Buddhism from my understanding. eliminating unhealthy desire from your heart.

  • Alison October 23, 2019, 9:48 am

    I would second checking out Ryan Holiday’s books, as well as his website Daily Stoic. You can sign up for a newsletter with daily thoughts on how to apply stoicism in your life – I’ve really enjoyed them!

    • Married to a Swabian April 30, 2020, 5:27 am

      Thanks, Alison! Just like MMM, the dailystoic offers a refreshing perspective and approach to life! I may have to start reading up on Seneca and Epictetus. ;)

  • Sharon April 28, 2020, 4:30 pm

    I prefer the teachings of Epicurus, but they are similar in some regards, and both have similarities to budhism.

    Epicurus makes the following claims about human happiness:
    Happiness is Pleasure; all things are to be done for the sake of the pleasant feelings associated with them
    False beliefs produce unnecessary pain; among them, that the gods will punish us and that death is something to be feared
    There are necessary and unnecessary desires. Necessary desires, like desiring to be free from bodily pain, help in producing happiness, whereas unnecessary desires, like desiring a bigger car or a more luxurious meal, typically produce unhappiness
    The aim is not the positive pursuit of pleasure but rather the absence of pain, a neutral state he calls “ataraxia,” which is freedom from all worry, often translated simply as “inner tranquility.”
    This state of ataraxia can be achieved through philosophical contemplation rather than through pursuit of crass physical pleasures
    Happiness is not a private affair: it can be more readily achieved in a society where like-minded individuals band together to help inspire one another’s pursuit of happiness

  • Kevin April 29, 2020, 11:00 am

    That’s, awesome. This would also help eliminate the burning question of how much is enough? It’s like you said, one desire leads to another. It turns into a life time pursuit of happiness that still leaves you dissatisfied. At some point, you just need to make the very intentional decision to stop chasing those desires and be satisfied with what you have. I love this concept. I’ll definitely check out the book. Thanks for the recommendation, MMM.

  • NewReader April 30, 2020, 12:34 pm

    Ha, I’m going through the old posts (recently discovered this blog) and this made me think of this hilarious article I recently read: https://www.getbullish.com/2020/04/letters-from-a-motherfucking-stoic-stay-chill-and-dont-try-to-do-too-much-shit/ .
    Definitely a lot of similarities between MMM and the stoics! And quite a lot between MMM and getbullish too (the swearing for starters :D)

  • Steve Brophy NYC July 5, 2021, 10:45 am

    One of my fav posts of yours MMM. I discovered the Stoics recently and am reading The TAO of Seneca, forward by Tim Ferriss, which is free btw if you google it as a PDF. Thanks again from NYC.

  • Steve Brophy January 16, 2022, 2:05 pm

    Yes, this is a terrific book. It explains the Stoics in plain English. The problem with reading the Stoics themselves is that some of it can be rough going. Epictetus and his handbook are easy to read. Try Marcus Arelius and see how long you last. He’s a tough slog. I embrace this philosophy wholeheartedly and work on it daily.

  • Camillo Craft July 28, 2023, 8:00 am

    In my life, I decided to embrace Stoic philosophy, and it worked wonders for a while. The principles of appreciating what I have, overcoming negative emotions, and focusing on what I can control brought a sense of tranquility and contentment. I felt like I was on the right path to finding true happiness.

    However, as I encountered different people, it made me realize that my passive approach could be taken advantage of. Fool me once, shame on them, right? That’s when I decided to adapt to modern times. Stoicism taught me to control my reactions, but I also know I have to stand my ground when needed. This fusion of Stoicism and a modern approach enabled me to face challenges with a resilient spirit and an unwavering determination. I became more adaptable, ready to navigate through the unpredictable currents of life while still keeping my inner sense of calm. It’s like a modern stoic, strong in principles, and unyielding against those who want to deceive. In the end, it’s not about clinging to a rigid philosophy, but rather about using the wisdom of the past to inform our actions in the present.

    Sorry for becoming sort of “philosopher” myselft. Anyway, great article.

  • WealthandFIRE September 18, 2023, 2:33 am

    MMM, as always, a great article and a mind bender for sure. In this current work full of negativity and consumerism, this is a nice fresh breath of air. Its true that most people seek pleasure in one form or another, achieve it, then look for the higher form or next type of pleasure. Therein, they enter what I like to call the Pleasure Rat Race. Never is the pleasure going to be enough. Most of us have the focus wrong and you have helped re-focus us on the right kind of happiness.


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