Money Management

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Information of the Ages

Learn wisdom from extra-ordinary leaders of the ages.

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Wednesday

Peace is in Staying the Course



In Seneca’s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.” It is this state of mind, he says, that produces tranquility. Clarity of vision allows us to have this belief. That’s not to say we’re always going to be 100 percent certain of everything, or that we even should be. Rather, it’s that we can rest assured we’re heading generally in the right direction that we don’t need to constantly compare ourselves with other people or change our mind every three seconds based on new information. Instead, tranquility and peace are found in identifying our path and in sticking to it: staying the course making adjustments here and there, naturally but ignoring the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks.
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Tuesday

You Don’t Have to Stay on Top of Everything

One of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in our hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: “I don’t know.” Or, more provocatively: “I don’t care.” Most of society seems to have taken it as a commandment that one must know about every single current event, watch every episode of every critically acclaimed television series, follow the news religiously, and present themselves to others as an informed and worldly individual.

But where is the evidence that this is actually necessary? Is the obligation enforced by the police? Or is it that you’re just afraid of seeming silly at a dinner party? Yes, you owe it to your country and your family to know generally about events that may directly affect them, but that’s about all.

How much more time, energy, and pure brainpower would you have available if you drastically cut your media consumption? How much more rested and present would you feel if you were no longer excited and outraged by every scandal, breaking story, and potential crisis (many of which never come to pass anyway)?
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Monday

The Big Three

Perception, Action, Will. Those are the three overlapping but critical disciplines of Stoicism (as well as the organization of this book and yearlong journey you've just begun). There’s more to the philosophy certainly  and we could spend all day talking about the unique beliefs of the various Stoics: “This is what Heraclitus thought..” “Zeno is from Citium, a city in Cyprus, and he believed .”

But would such facts really help you day to day? What clarity does trivia provide? Instead, the following little reminder sums up the three most essential parts of Stoic philosophy worth carrying with you every day, into every decision:

Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control. That’s all we need to do.
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Sunday

Clarify Your Intention

Law 29 of The 48 Laws of Power is: Plan All The Way To The End. Robert Greene writes, “By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.” The second habit in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is: begin with an end in mind.

Having an end in mind is no guarantee that you’ll reach it no Stoic would tolerate that assumption but not having an end in mind is a guarantee you won’t. To the Stoics, oiêsis (false conceptions) are responsible not just for disturbances in the soul but for chaotic and dysfunctional lives and operations. When your efforts are not directed at a cause or a purpose, how will you know what to do day in and day out? How will you know what to say no to and what to say yes to? How will you know when you’ve had enough, when you’ve reached your goal, when you’ve gotten off track, if you’ve never defined what those things are?

The answer is that you cannot. And so you are driven into failure—or worse, into madness by the oblivion of directionlessness.
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Friday

What We Control and What We Don’t


Today, you won’t control the external events that happen. Is that scary? A little, but it’s balanced when we see that we can control our opinion about those events. You decide whether they’re good or bad, whether they’re fair or unfair. You don’t control the situation, but you control what you think about it.

See how that works? Every single thing that is outside your control the outside world, other people, luck, karma, whatever still presents a corresponding area that is in your control. This alone gives us plenty to manage, plenty of power.

Best of all, an honest understanding of what is within our control provides real clarity about the world: all we have is our own mind. Remember that today when you try to extend your reach outwardthat it’s much better and more appropriately directed inward.
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Thursday

If You Want To Be Unsteady

The image of the Zen philosopher is the monk up in the green, quiet hills, or in a beautiful temple on some rocky cliff. The Stoics are the antithesis of this idea. Instead, they are the man in the marketplace, the senator in the Forum, the brave wife waiting for her soldier to return from battle, the sculptor busy in her studio. Still, the Stoic is equally at peace.

Epictetus is reminding you that serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility other people, external events, stress you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.
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Wednesday

The Truth About Money

The author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who often glamorized the lifestyles of the rich and famous in books like The Great Gatsby, opens one of his short stories with the now classic lines: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” A few years after this story was published, his friend Ernest Hemingway teased Fitzgerald by writing, “Yes, they have more money.”

That’s what Seneca is reminding us. As someone who was one of the richest men in Rome, he knew firsthand that money only marginally changes life. It doesn’t solve the problems that people without it seem to think it will. In fact, no material possession will. External things can’t fix internal issues. We constantly forget this—and it causes us so much confusion and pain. As Hemingway would later write of Fitzgerald, “He thought [the rich] were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren’t it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him.” Without a change the same will be true for us.
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Tuesday

Reignite Your Thoughts

Have you had a bad couple of weeks? Have you been drifting away from the principles and beliefs that you hold dear? It’s perfectly fine. It happens to all of us.

In fact, it probably happened to Marcus that may be why he scribbled this note to himself. Perhaps he’d been dealing with difficult senators or having difficulties with his troubled son. Perhaps in these scenarios he’d lost his temper, became depressed, or stopped checking in with himself. Who wouldn’t?

But the reminder here is that no matter what happens, no matter how disappointing our behavior has been in the past, the principles themselves remain unchanged. We can return and embrace them at any moment. What happened yesterday what happened five minutes ago is the past. We can reignite and restart whenever we like. Why not do it right now?
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Monday

If You Want To Be Steady

The Stoics seek steadiness, stability, and tranquility traits most of us aspire to but seem to experience only fleetingly. How do they accomplish this elusive goal? How does one embody eustatheia (the word Arrian used to describe this teaching of Epictetus)?

Well, it’s not luck. It’s not by eliminating outside influences or running away to quiet and solitude. Instead, it’s about filtering the outside world through the straightener of our judgment. That’s what our reason can do it can take the crooked, confusing, and overwhelming nature of external events and make them orderly.

However, if our judgments are crooked because we don’t use reason, then everything that follows will be crooked, and we will lose our ability to steady ourselves in the chaos and rush of life. If you want to be steady, if you want clarity, proper judgment is the best way.
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Saturday

Seeing Our Addictions

That we consider to be harmless indulgences can easily become full blown addictions. We start with coffee in the morning, and soon enough we can’t start the day without it. We check our email because it’s part of our job, and soon enough we feel the phantom buzz of the phone in our pocket every few seconds. Soon enough, these harmless habits are running our lives.

The little compulsions and drives we have not only chip away at our freedom and sovereignty, they cloud our clarity. We think we’re in control but are we really? As one addict put it, addiction is when we’ve “lost the freedom to abstain.” Let us reclaim that freedom.

What that addiction is for you can vary: Soda? Drugs? Complaining? Gossip? The Internet? Biting your nails? But you must reclaim the ability to abstain because within it is your clarity and self-control.
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Friday

Never Do Anything Out of Habit

Worker is asked: “Why did you do it this way?” The answer, “Because that’s the way we've always done things.” The answer frustrates every good boss and sets the mouth of every entrepreneur watering. The worker has stopped thinking and is mindlessly operating out of habit. The business is ripe for disruption by a competitor, and the worker will probably get fired by any thinking boss.

We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do and do it for the right reasons.
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Thursday

The Day In Review


In a letter to his older brother Novatus, Seneca describes a beneficial exercise he borrowed from another prominent philosopher. At the end of each day he would ask himself variations of the following questions: What bad habit did I curb today? How am I better? Were my actions just? How can I improve?

At the beginning or end of each day, the Stoic sits down with his journal and reviews: what he did, what he thought, what could be improved. It’s for this reason that Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is a somewhat inscrutable book it was for personal clarity and not public benefit. Writing down Stoic exercises was and is also a form of practicing them, just as repeating a prayer or hymn might be.

Keep your own journal, whether it’s saved on a computer or in a little notebook. Take time to consciously recall the events of the previous day. Be unflinching in your assessments. Notice what contributed to your happiness and what detracted from it. Write down what you’d like to work on or quotes that you like. By making the effort to record such thoughts, you’re less likely to forget them. An added bonus: you’ll have a running tally to track your progress too.
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Tuesday

A Morning Ritual

Any successful people have a morning ritual. For some, it’s meditation. For others, it’s exercise. For many, it’s journaling just a few pages where they write down their thoughts, fears, hopes. In these cases, the point is not so much the activity itself as it is the ritualized reflection. The idea is to take some time to look inward and examine.

Taking that time is what Stoics advocated more than almost anything else. We don’t know whether Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations in the morning or at night, but we know he carved out moments of quiet alone time and that he wrote for himself, not for anyone else. If you’re looking for a place to start your own ritual, you could do worse than Marcus’s example and Epictetus’s checklist.

Every day, starting today, ask yourself these same tough questions. Let philosophy and hard work guide you to better answers, one morning at a time, over the course of a life.
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Monday

Cut The Strings That Pull Your Mind

Think of all the interests vying for a share of your wallet or for a second of your attention. Food scientists are engineering products to exploit your taste buds. Silicon Valley engineers are designing applications as addictive as gambling.

The media is manufacturing stories to provoke outrage and anger. These are just a small slice of the temptations and forces acting on us distracting us and pulling us away from the things that truly matter. Marcus, thankfully, was not exposed to these extreme parts of our modern culture. But he knew plenty of distracting sinkholes too: gossip, the endless call of work, as well as fear, suspicion, lust.

Every human being is pulled by these internal and external forces that are increasingly more powerful and harder to resist. Philosophy is simply asking us to pay careful attention and to strive to be more than a pawn. As Viktor Frank puts it in The Will to Meaning, “Man is pushed by drives but pulled by values.” These values and inner awareness prevent us from being puppets. Sure, paying attention requires work and awareness, but isn’t that better than being jerked about on a string?
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Sunday

Where, Who, What, and Why

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg had a funny story he told in his act. Sitting down for an on-air interview, a radio DJ asked him, “So, who are you?” In that moment, he had to think, Is this guy really deep or did I drive to the wrong station?

How often are we asked a simple question like “Who are you?” or “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” Considering it a superficial question  if we even consider it at all we don’t bother with more than a superficial answer.

But, gun to their head, most people couldn't give much in the way of a substantive answer. Could you? Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?
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Saturday

See The World Like A Poet And An Artist

There are some stunningly beautiful turns of phrase in Marcus’s Meditations—a surprising treat considering the intended audience (just himself). In one passage, he praises the “charm and allure” of nature’s process, the “stalks of ripe grain bending low, the frowning brow of the lion, the foam dripping from the boar’s mouth.” We should thank private rhetoric teacher Marcus Cornelius Fronto for the imagery in these vivid passages. Fronto, widely considered to be Rome’s best orator besides Cicero, was chosen by Marcus’s adopted father to teach Marcus to think and write and speak.

More than just pretty phrases, they gave him and now us a powerful perspective on ordinary or seemingly unbeautiful events. It takes an artist’s eye to see that the end of life is not unlike a ripe fruit falling from its tree. It takes a poet to notice the way “baking bread splits in places and those cracks, while not intended in the baker’s art, catch our eye and serve to stir our appetite” and find a metaphor in them.

There is clarity (and joy) in seeing what others can’t see, in finding grace and harmony in places others overlook. Isn’t that far better than seeing the world as some dark place?
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Friday

Wherever You Go, There Your Choice Is


The Stoics all held vastly different stations in life. Some were rich, some were born at the bottom of Rome’s rigid hierarchy. Some had it easy, and others had it unimaginably hard. This is true for us as well we all come to philosophy from different backgrounds, and even within our own lives we experience bouts of good fortune and bad fortune.

But in all circumstances adversity or advantage we really have just one thing we need to do: focus on what is in our control as opposed to what is not. Right now we might be laid low with struggles, whereas just a few years ago we might have lived high on the hog, and in just a few days we might be doing so well that success is actually a burden. One thing will stay constant: our freedom of choice both in the big picture and small picture.

Ultimately, this is clarity. Whoever we are, wherever we are what matters is our choices. What are they? How will we evaluate them? How will we make the most of them? Those are the questions life asks us, regardless of our station. How will you answer?
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Thursday

Watching The Wise

Jeneca has said, “Without a ruler to do it against, you can’t make crooked straight.” That is the role of wise people in our lives to serve as model and inspiration. To bounce our ideas off and test our presumptions.

Who that person will be for you is up to you. Perhaps it’s your father or your mother. Maybe it’s a philosopher or a writer or a thinker. Perhaps What would Jesus do? is the right model for you.

But pick someone, watch what they do and what they don’t do, and do your best to do the same or even better.

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Push for Deep Understanding

The first book of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations begins with a catalog of gratitude. He thanks, one by one, the leading influences in his life. One of the people he thanks is Quintus Junius Rusticus, a teacher who developed in his student a love of deep clarity and understanding a desire to not just stop at the surface when it comes to learning.

It was also from Rusticus that Marcus was introduced to Epictetus. In fact, Rusticus loaned Marcus his personal copy of Epictetus’s lectures. Marcus clearly wasn’t satisfied with just getting the gist of these lectures and didn’t simply accept them on his teacher’s recommendation. Paul Johnson once joked that Edmund Wilson read books “as though the author was on trial for his life.” That’s how Marcus read Epictetus and when the lessons passed muster, he absorbed them. They became part of his DNA as a human being. He quoted them at length over the course of his life, finding real clarity and strength in words, even amid the immense luxury and power he would come to possess.

That’s the kind of deep reading and study we need to cultivate as well, which is why we’re reading just one page a day instead of a chapter at a time. So we can take the time to read attentively and deeply.
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Wednesday

The Power of A Mantra


Anyone who has taken a yoga class or been exposed to Hindu or Buddhist thought has probably heard of the concept of a mantra. In Sanskrit, it means “sacred utterance” essentially a word, a phrase, a thought, even a sound intended to provide clarity or spiritual guidance. A mantra can be especially helpful in the meditative process because it allows us to block out everything else while we focus.

It’s fitting, then, that Marcus Aurelius would suggest this Stoic mantra a reminder or watch phrase to use when we feel false impressions, distractions, or the crush of everyday life upon us. It says, essentially, “I have the power within me to keep that out. I can see the truth.” Change the wording as you like. That part is up to you. But have a mantra and use it to find the clarity you crave.
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Tuesday

The Three Areas of Training


Today, let’s focus on the three areas of training that Epictetus laid out for us.

First, we must consider what we should desire and what we should be averse to. Why? So that we want what is good and avoid what is bad. It’s not enough to just listen to your body because our attractions often lead us astray.

Next, we must examine our impulses to act that is, our motivations. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Or do we act because we haven’t stopped to think? Or do we believe that we have to do something?

Finally, there is our judgment. Our ability to see things clearly and properly comes when we use our great gift from nature: reason.

These are three distinct areas of training, but in practice they are inextricably intertwined. Our judgment affects what we desire, our desires affect how we act, just as our judgment determines how we act. But we can’t just expect this to happen. We must put real thought and energy into each area of our lives. If we do, we’ll find real clarity and success.
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Monday

The Only Prize


Warren Buffett, whose net worth is approximately $65 billion, lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500. John Urschel, a lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, makes millions but manages to live on $25,000 a year. San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard gets around in the 1997 Chevy Tahoe he’s had since he was a teenager, even with a contract worth some $94 million. Why? It’s not because these men are cheap. It’s because the things that matter to them are cheap.

Neither Buffett nor Urschel nor Leonard ended up this way by accident. Their lifestyle is the result of prioritizing. They cultivate interests that are decidedly below their financial means, and as a result, any income would allow them freedom to pursue the things they most care about. It just happens that they became wealthy beyond any expectation. This kind of clarity about what they love most in the world means they can enjoy their lives. It means they’d still be happy even if the markets were to turn or their careers were cut short by injury.

The more things we desire and the more we have to do to earn or attain those achievements, the less we actually enjoy our lives and the less free we are.
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Sunday

Philosophy As Medicine of The Soul


The busier we get, the more we work and learn and read, the further we may drift. We get in a rhythm. We’re making money, being creative, and we’re stimulated and busy. It seems like everything is going well. But we drift further and further from philosophy.

Eventually this neglect will contribute to a problem the stress builds up, our mind gets cloudy, we forget what’s important and result in an injury of some kind. When that happens, it’s important that we tap the brakes put aside all the momentum and the moment. Return to the regimen and practices that we know are rooted in clarity, good judgment, good principles, and good health.

Stoicism is designed to be medicine for the soul. It relieves us of the vulnerabilities of modern life. It restores us with the vigor we need to thrive in life. Check in with it today, and let it do its healing.
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Saturday

Keep It Simple

Each day presents the chance to over think things. What should I wear? Do they like me? Am I eating well enough? What’s next for me in life? Is my boss happy with my work?

Today, let’s focus just on what’s in front of us. We’ll follow the dictum that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives his players: “Do your job.” Like a Roman, like a good soldier, like a master of our craft. We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.

Marcus says to approach each task as if it were your last, because it very well could be. And even if it isn’t, botching what’s right in front of you doesn't help anything. Find clarity in the simplicity of doing your job today.
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Friday

Circle of Control

This is important enough that it bears repeating: a wise person knows what’s inside their circle of control and what is outside of it. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to remember what is inside our control. According to the Stoics, the circle of control contains just one thing: YOUR MIND. That’s right, even your physical body isn't completely within the circle. After all, you could be struck with a physical illness or impairment at any moment. You could be traveling in a foreign country and be thrown in jail.

But this is all good news because it drastically reduces the amount of things that you need to think about. There is clarity in simplicity. While everyone else is running around with a list of responsibilities a mile long  things they’re not actually responsible for you've got just that one-item list. You've got just one thing to manage: your choices, your will, your mind. So mind it.
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Thursday

The Law of Divine Flow

By living in the moment, centering ourselves in love and being in service to others (as opposed to service to self), we live in the law of divine flow. We stay in the moment by moment flowing of our higher self, creating actions which reflect love and allow it.

When we are able to do this, we notice how we say just the right things, do what is best for all, and refrain from doing that which we previously disliked in ourselves or others. We maintain a stronger connection to our God self. The more we do this, the more we are able to do this. To a degree, the deliberate letting go of this flow is the allowing of our spiritual integrity to be compromised.
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