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The Enchiridion in Plain English

The Enchirid­ion is a short man­ual writ­ten by the an­cient Greek Stoic philoso­pher Epicte­tus. Even though it was writ­ten al­most 19 cen­turies ago, the wis­dom in it is still as rel­e­vant today as ever.

I’ve de­cided to rewrite the Enchirid­ion into plain Eng­lish. I don’t speak An­cient Greek, so this isn’t a trans­la­tion. In­stead, it’s a para­phras­ing of other I read through both the Eliz­a­beth Carter and George Long trans­la­tions when writ­ing this doc­u­ment.trans­la­tions: a nec­es­sar­ily And this is hardly the first stage of in­ter­pre­ta­tion the Enchirid­ion has been through. First, the other Sto­ics in­formed the opin­ions of Epic­ti­tus, who taught a class to Flav­ius Ar­ra­nius, who com­piled his lec­ture notes into a sum­mary, which was then trans­lated by one of sev­eral trans­la­tors into Eng­lish.in­ter­pre­tive process, based on my own ex­pe­ri­ences and thoughts, and in­formed by other sources. (Though some parts I like how they are, so they won’t change much.)

The orig­i­nal was writ­ten by some­one much older and much wiser than me, but I hope that what I lack in sagac­ity I make up for in being a denizen of the 21st-​century: the way I say things — in plain Eng­lish — might be eas­ier for you to in­ter­pret.

So, with­out fur­ther ado...

1. Con­trol

Some things are in your con­trol (like your thoughts and ac­tions), and some things are not (like your health, prop­erty, and rep­u­ta­tion).

If you try to con­trol things which aren’t yours to con­trol, you’ll fail, and you’ll be hurt and bit­ter. But if you only try to con­trol your own thoughts and ac­tions, you’ll be con­tent: If some­thing is in your con­trol, sim­ply ex­er­cise that con­trol, and your prob­lem is solved. If your foot hurts be­cause you have a rock in your shoe, you only have to re­move the rock to get re­lief. If some­thing isn’t in your con­trol, neg­a­tive emo­tion won’t solve your prob­lem. If your foot hurts be­cause you stubbed your toe, then time, not mis­ery, will re­lieve your pain. Mis­ery is just more pain.

If you think you have con­trol over some­thing, but upon at­tempt­ing to ex­er­cise that con­trol you fail, then you were wrong after all.

It’s okay to want things like riches, but only so far as it doesn’t im­pact your abil­ity to think healthy thoughts and take healthy ac­tions. Oth­er­wise, you’re giv­ing up some­thing which makes you happy for some­thing which doesn’t, which is clearly a mis­take.

Emo­tions are not caused by sit­u­a­tions di­rectly: they’re caused by our in­ter­pre­ta­tions of sit­u­a­tions. If a sit­u­a­tion is caus­ing you a neg­a­tive emo­tion like anger, re­al­ize that it’s not the sit­u­a­tion mak­ing you angry, but rather your own thoughts about the sit­u­a­tion. Most likely, you’re upset by try­ing to con­trol things which are not yours to con­trol, and if you want to be happy you have to be pre­pared to let them go.

2. De­sire and Aver­sion

Peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed when they don’t get what they want, and they’re upset when they get what they don’t want. So, to avoid being dis­ap­pointed or upset, you should only want things which are in your con­trol to ob­tain, and you should only avoid things which are in your con­trol to avoid. For ex­am­ple, try­ing to avoid things like poverty, sick­ness, or death is point­less.

3. Neg­a­tive Vi­su­al­iza­tion

Neg­a­tive vi­su­al­iza­tion is a men­tal tech­nique you can per­form with any­thing you value, from your fa­vorite ce­ramic cup to your own child. All you have to do is re­mind your­self of the frag­ile na­ture of the thing you value. Think of the cup as al­ready bro­ken, or the child as al­ready dead. Then, every minute you get to spend with them will be pre­cious, and when they fi­nally per­ish, you’ll sim­ply say, “Of course.” Only if you ig­nore the frag­ile na­ture of the things you love will you be shocked when they break.

4. Set­ting Wise Goals

When­ever you’re going to do some­thing, re­mind your­self what your goal is. If you go to bathe, re­mem­ber that your goal isn’t to get clean, it’s to try to get clean while keep­ing your mind in a healthy state. So, if you run into some trou­ble while try­ing to bathe — say, the hot water is bro­ken — then you won’t be frus­trated, as you’ve not failed in your goal, since your goal was only to try to bathe while main­tain­ing healthy thoughts.

5. Blame

Neg­a­tive emo­tions are not caused by things that hap­pen to us, but by our in­ter­pre­ta­tion of those things as “bad”. For ex­am­ple, you may think of death as bad. But, if death it­self is bad, then why is the death of your neigh­bor’s child so much more dis­turb­ing to your neigh­bor than it is to you? The same event oc­curred for both of you. The dif­fer­ence is your dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the event. Since emo­tions are caused by our own thoughts, it’s ir­ra­tional to blame some­one for your neg­a­tive emo­tions. Some­one un­e­d­u­cated in the ways of Sto­icism is the An­cient Greek phi­los­o­phy em­bod­ied in the Enchirid­ion (this text).Sto­icism will blame oth­ers for their own neg­a­tive emo­tions. Some­one par­tially ed­u­cated will blame them­selves. Some­one who is fully ed­u­cated will blame no­body, as blame it­self is just an­other neg­a­tive emo­tion under the con­trol of the Stoic.

6. Pride and Free Will

Only be proud of ac­com­plish­ments which are ac­tu­ally your own. If you have a son and you say, “I have a hand­some son,” you’re proud of some­thing which be­longs only to your son. Like­wise, if you say “I am hand­some,” then you’re proud of some­thing which be­longs to your ge­net­ics (you had no hand in mak­ing your­self hand­some). It only makes sense to be proud of things which are under your con­trol, that is, your thoughts and ac­tions.

But aren’t your thoughts and ac­tions also the re­sult of your ge­net­ics and up­bring­ing? Yes, but this is a level of analy­sis of free will which isn’t con­struc­tive when think­ing about how to live your life. Your thoughts and ac­tions may all be the re­sult of a num­ber of things out­side your con­trol, but ask your­self, does that mean I shouldn’t be proud of them? What is the na­ture of pride? Does pride have to be an emo­tion which only arises when some­thing is 100% under your con­trol (never)? It’s more rea­son­able to use pride tac­ti­cally as a re­ward for good thoughts and ac­tions, and leave the dis­cus­sion of free will aside. As long as the thing you’re feel­ing proud of is the re­sult of your thoughts or ac­tions, your pride will never be frus­trated by some­one else. That is what is meant by con­trol in the Stoic sense: some­thing which some­one or some­thing else can’t take away from you.

7. Be Ready to Die

Imag­ine you’re on a cruise which has an­chored at shore. If you leave the ship, you might have some fun by swim­ming in the water or build­ing sand cas­tles. How­ever, you should al­ways have one ear bent to­ward the ship, lis­ten­ing for the cap­tain’s call. When the cap­tain calls all-​aboard, you should im­me­di­ately leave be­hind the water and the sand, oth­er­wise you risk being sep­a­rated from your be­long­ings and hav­ing to make your way to the next port at your own ex­pense — not a de­sir­able end to a nice day.

So it is with life. If, in­stead of water and sand you have a ca­reer and a child, that is fine. But when the cap­tain calls, you should leave these things be­hind and re­turn to the ship, oth­er­wise you may bring on a ter­ri­ble end to your life. And, if you’re old, never stray far from the ship, oth­er­wise you may fail to make it in time.

8. Seren­ity

Don’t want things to hap­pen as you wish, but wish things to hap­pen as they do.

9. Per­ceived Ob­sta­cles

Sick­ness hurts your body, but not your abil­ity to con­trol your thoughts and ac­tions. Para­ple­gia im­pairs the legs, but not your abil­ity to con­trol your thoughts and ac­tions. Poverty low­ers your abil­ity to pur­chase things, but not your abil­ity to con­trol your thoughts and ac­tions. This logic can be ap­plied to most things, which will teach you that most per­ceived ob­sta­cles are ob­sta­cles not to you, but to some­thing else.

Some things, like some psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders, or even just cer­tain moods, do im­pede the willpower and so they im­pede your abil­ity to con­trol your thoughts and ac­tions. In these cases, the size of the steps you can take may be out of your con­trol, but whether or not you take them at all is within your con­trol; And if you keep tak­ing steps, even­tu­ally the length of your stride may begin to in­crease.

10. Strength Within

When you’re faced with a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, look for what re­sources you have in­side you to han­dle it. If you see some­thing or some­one you want but shouldn’t have, then you’ll find that self-​restraint within your­self. If you’re in pain, you’ll find for­ti­tude. If you hear some­one say some­thing you think is stu­pid, you’ll find pa­tience. If you search for re­sources within your­self, you’ll usu­ally find some­thing.

11. Loss

Don’t say of any­thing, “I’ve lost it”, but, “I’ve re­turned it,” be­cause you were re­ally only ever bor­row­ing it. Is your child dead? They’re re­turned. Is your spouse dead? They’re re­turned. Is your house taken away? You mean it’s re­turned. “But the per­son who took it away is a bad per­son.” What dif­fer­ence does it make to you who the uni­verse as­signs to take it back? While it’s yours, take care of it, but don’t view it as your own, just like how trav­ellers view a hotel.

12. The Cost of Peace of Mind

Don’t think like this: “If I don’t work, I’ll have no in­come; If I don’t cor­rect my em­ployee, they will be bad.” Be­cause it’s bet­ter to die with hunger, free from grief and fear, than to live rich and mis­er­able. And it’s bet­ter that your em­ployee be bad than you be un­happy. And if their dis­obe­di­ence can ruin your day, then who’s the boss and who’s the em­ployee?

Start with the lit­tle things. Is a lit­tle milk spilled? A lit­tle wine stolen? Say to your­self, “This is the price I pay for peace of mind. I can’t have peace of mind for free.”

13. Re­spect and Praise

Be okay with being thought of as fool­ish. Don’t wish to be thought of as knowl­edgable or im­por­tant, and be dis­trust­ful of praise. Your goal is to main­tain healthy thoughts and healthy ac­tions, not to be re­spected by oth­ers; The two are often at odds.

14. Free­dom

If you wish for your wife and kids to live for­ever, you’re stu­pid, be­cause you wish to be in con­trol of things which aren’t yours to con­trol. Like­wise, if you wish for your em­ployee to be per­fect, you’re stu­pid. But, if you wish to never be dis­ap­pointed and get every­thing you want, this is in your con­trol. All you have to do is de­sire only those things which are in your con­trol to ob­tain.

If some­one can give to you or take away from you what you want, then they’re your mas­ter. If you want to be free, then, wish for noth­ing which de­pends on oth­ers.

15. Mod­er­a­tion and As­ceti­cism

Life is like a din­ner party. If some­thing comes around to you, take your share with mod­er­a­tion. If some­thing has not yet come, don’t stretch your de­sire to­wards it, but wait until it reaches you. Do this when it comes to ro­mance, chil­dren, ca­reer, riches, and you’ll even­tu­ally be wor­thy to dine with the Gods. And if you don’t even take the things which are set be­fore you, but you can re­ject them, then you’ll not only be wor­thy to dine with the Gods, but share in their di­vin­ity, as in the past have as­cetics like Dio­genes of Sinope, Her­a­cli­tus of Eph­esus, Jesus Christ, Ma­hatma Gandhi, and many oth­ers.

16. Sym­pa­thy

When you see some­one cry­ing be­cause their child has gone abroad, or is dead, or they’ve lost their sav­ings, re­mem­ber to think, “It’s not the event that makes this per­son sad, oth­er­wise it would make every­one sad. In­stead, it’s their judge­ment of the event which dis­tresses them.” How­ever, offer them sym­pa­thy, not lec­tures. Just be care­ful that if you moan with them, you don’t also moan in­ter­nally.

17. Play­ing the Hand You’re Dealt

Imag­ine you’re an actor in a movie. If the writer has writ­ten a long movie, your movie will be long. If they wrote a short movie, then short. If the di­rec­tor says so, you’ll play a poor man, a dis­abled per­son, a gov­er­nor, or a doc­tor. What­ever your role, see that you act it nat­u­rally. Your busi­ness is to do a good job act­ing the role as­signed to you; to choose it is an­other’s.

18. Bad Omens

Don’t worry about bad omens like cross­ing paths with a black cat or walk­ing under a lad­der. Even if they truly do sig­nify bad things to come, those bad things con­cern only your body, or prop­erty, or rep­u­ta­tion, or fam­ily. They can’t af­fect the things which are im­por­tant to your hap­pi­ness: your thoughts and ac­tions. How­ever things turn out, you are lucky, be­cause you can de­rive ad­van­tage from any sit­u­a­tion.

19. Envy

When you see any­one who is rich, fa­mous, or well-​liked, don’t as­sume they must be happy. There are plenty of un­happy rich and fa­mous peo­ple, and there are plenty of happy peo­ple liv­ing in poverty. Hap­pi­ness comes from within. Given this is true, how can you envy some­one else? There’s noth­ing they have that you need. Don’t wish to be rich, fa­mous, or re­spected: wish to be free; and the only way to do this is to let go of the things you can’t con­trol.

20. Anger

When some­one in­sults you, it’s the prin­ci­ple “I should not be in­sulted” which both­ers you, not the in­sult it­self. There­fore, when you’re in­sulted, know that it’s your own prin­ci­ples which bother you. Don’t allow your­self to be hur­ried away into anger, be­cause if you can dis­tance your­self from the sit­u­a­tion for a mo­ment, you’ll more eas­ily re­mem­ber the true cause of your anger.

21. Trans­lates to: Re­mem­ber DeathMe­mento Mori

On a daily basis, re­mem­ber death and re­jec­tion, and every­thing else which seems ter­ri­ble. But most of all, re­mem­ber death, and you’ll have an eas­ier time avoid­ing un­healthy thoughts and harm­ful de­sires.

22. Being Ridiculed for your Prin­ci­ples

If you want to learn If not, then why are you here?Sto­icism, pre­pare to be laughed at and mis­un­der­stood. Get ready to hear peo­ple crit­i­cize you for being smug or over­bear­ing about your phi­los­o­phy. For your part, don’t be smug or over­bear­ing. But don’t let the fact that Sto­icism is un­usual to oth­ers talk you out of it. If you stick to your prin­ci­ples, even­tu­ally those who at first ridiculed you will ad­mire you. But if you give in to their crit­i­cism, you’ll re­ceive a dou­ble ridicule.

23. The Opin­ions of Oth­ers

Don’t wish to please any­one, as you shouldn’t de­sire things which are ex­ter­nal to your­self. Also, don’t wish to be seen as wise by oth­ers, but wish to be wise.

24. What if you don’t chase money and power?

“I’ll be a no­body. No one will re­spect me.”

So what? Is an award, a fancy car, or an in­vi­ta­tion to a party more im­por­tant than liv­ing a life of virtue? And how can you be a no­body when you’re a some­body when it comes to things in your own con­trol, where you can ac­tu­ally have an ef­fect?

“But I won’t be able to help my friends.”

What do you mean by help? They won’t have any money or gifts from you, true. But what’s more valu­able, some money, or a friend of in­tegrity and virtue? A good friend would re­quire that you gain this char­ac­ter rather than re­quire you to do the things which would make you lose it.

“But I won’t be able to help so­ci­ety.”

Again, what do you mean by help? “I won’t be able to build hos­pi­tal wings and li­braries in my name, to im­prove our so­ci­ety.” Sure, but also a farmer won’t help so­ci­ety by pro­vid­ing it with shoes, nor will a shoe­maker help so­ci­ety by pro­vid­ing it with run­ning water. It’s enough that every­one works hard at their own busi­ness. And wouldn’t an­other cit­i­zen of in­tegrity and virtue be use­ful to so­ci­ety? You can aid so­ci­ety how­ever you wish, but if it means you have to sac­ri­fice your in­tegrity and virtue, then you’re de­priv­ing so­ci­ety of an hon­est and good cit­i­zen.

25. The Price of Things

Was some­one else cho­sen be­fore you, or did they get a com­pli­ment in­stead of you? If these things are good, then you should be happy for the per­son; and if they’re evil, then you should be re­lieved that you avoided them.

And re­mem­ber that, un­less you’re will­ing to pay the same price as oth­ers for these things, you can’t ex­pect to get them. If you don’t flat­ter a pow­er­ful per­son, how can you ex­pect the same re­wards from them as some­one who does?

If you’re un­will­ing to pay the price of things, then you’re greedy. If bread costs a dol­lar, then you can ei­ther have the bread or the dol­lar. You can ei­ther have your cake for later, or you can eat it now. You can’t have both. It’s greedy to say of some­one “I wish I had their bread” while you still have your dol­lar and they don’t. Like­wise, it’s greedy to say “I wish I had re­ceived the din­ner in­vi­ta­tion”, when you didn’t pay the price of that in­vi­ta­tion: it was sold for praise, and for lick­ing the boot of the host. What do you have in­stead of the in­vi­ta­tion? You have the not prais­ing of some­one you don’t like to praise, and the not bear­ing their be­hav­ior.

26. Ob­jec­tiv­ity

When a neigh­bor’s kid breaks a cup, you’re ready to say, “Shit hap­pens.” When your own cup is bro­ken, you should be af­fected the same way. Apply this logic to greater things. When the child of your neigh­bor dies, you’re ready to say, “Every­body dies.” But if your own child dies, you say, “How could this hap­pen to me?” Re­mem­ber the ob­jec­tiv­ity you feel when ac­ci­dents hap­pen to oth­ers, and apply it when they hap­pen to you.

27. Evil

Just as a tar­get isn’t set up to be missed, the uni­verse isn’t set up to be evil.

28. Re­silience to In­sults

If some­one gave your body to any stranger they met, you would def­i­nitely be angry. So don’t you feel shame in hand­ing over your mind to any­one who hap­pens to in­sult you? And if you don’t value some­one’s opin­ion, why should you care what they have to say about you?

29. Com­mit­ment

Don’t begin every pur­suit you think of. First, con­sider fully what’s needed in the un­der­tak­ing. Oth­er­wise you’ll begin in high spir­its, but since you didn’t think things through, when con­se­quences show up you’ll shame­fully give up. Like a mon­key, you would mimic all you see, but never stick with any­thing for long.

“I will win in the Olympics.” But con­sider what’s needed to be an Olympic ath­lete. You have to lis­ten to the rules, sub­mit to a diet, give up un­healthy snacks, ex­er­cise your body, whether you like it or not, in a strict reg­i­men; You can’t drink al­co­hol or take other recre­ational drugs. You have to give your­self up to your trainer as you would to a doc­tor. Then, in prac­tice and in com­pe­ti­tion, you’ll be thrown into a ditch, dis­lo­cate your arm, sprain your ankle, swal­low dust, and, after all, lose. When you’ve thought of all this, if you still want to be an Olympian, then go to war.

“I will be a Stoic.” Con­sider, first, what is needed in that pur­suit. Do you think you can act as you do now, and be a Stoic? That you can eat and drink, and be lazy, angry, and dis­con­tented as you are now? You have to watch your­self care­fully, you have to labor, you have to con­trol your de­sires, you have to get rid of friends who hold you back, you have to be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than oth­ers in every­thing, in wealth, in ca­reer, in ac­co­lades, in fame. When you’ve con­sid­ered all of this, then de­cide if you want to be a Stoic.

Con­sider what is needed in a pur­suit be­fore you com­mit to it. Once you’ve con­sid­ered it in de­tail, if you’re ready to com­mit, then give it your all. If not, then don’t start. Don’t, like a child, be in one mo­ment a philoso­pher, then a politi­cian, then a wrestler, then a mu­si­cian, and then an actor, while being noth­ing with your whole soul. You must be one per­son, for bet­ter or for worse. And, ul­ti­mately, you have to de­cide whether to apply your­self to things within you or ex­ter­nal to you; that is, to be ei­ther a Stoic, or one of the vul­gar.

30. Duty

Du­ties are uni­ver­sally de­ter­mined by your re­la­tions with oth­ers. Is some­one your fa­ther? If so, you should take care of him and pa­tiently lis­ten to his ad­vice. “But he’s a bad fa­ther.” Are you nat­u­rally en­ti­tled to an amaz­ing fa­ther? No, only to a fa­ther. Is your brother un­just? Well, don’t just con­sider what he does, but what you have to do to keep your thoughts and ac­tions in line with what’s in your con­trol and what’s not. Be­cause oth­ers can’t hurt you un­less you allow it — you’re hurt if you think you’re hurt. But if you don’t allow it, then your brother can’t hurt you, and so he isn’t a bad brother after all. You can find, from the idea of a brother, a neigh­bor, a cit­i­zen, the cor­re­spond­ing du­ties if you ac­cus­tom your­self to think­ing about re­la­tions rather than about the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved.

31. Re­sent­ment

Don’t curse fate. Act like the uni­verse was made by an in­tel­li­gent and well-​meaning God. If you act this way, you’ll never curse your fate, nor find fault with the na­ture of the uni­verse.

To act this way, you have to con­strain the con­cepts of good and evil only to things which are in your con­trol. Be­cause if you con­sider things you can’t con­trol to be good or evil, then when you fail to get what you want you’ll in­evitably blame the uni­verse and hate This pas­sage doesn’t re­quire be­lief in a lit­eral God. It’s just talk­ing about re­sent­ing who­ever is re­spon­si­ble for your cir­cum­stances. In the case of the uni­verse that may be God or fate or logic or noth­ing at all. Gen­er­ally, the logic of this pas­sage can be ap­plied to the cre­ator of any sit­u­a­tion you find your­self in. If some­thing at work both­ers you, you may be tempted to re­sent your boss.God.

All liv­ing crea­tures are pro­grammed to avoid what is harm­ful and to pur­sue what is help­ful. There­fore, it’s im­pos­si­ble to be happy about what’s hurt­ing you, just as it’s im­pos­si­ble to be happy about the hurt it­self. So, if you feel like you’re being harmed by the uni­verse, you will curse the uni­verse. Be­cause of this, the farmer, the sailer, and the sales­per­son all curse their fate. But it’s not healthy to live in re­sent­ment, so you should yeild to the uni­verse and ac­cept it as per­fect — ex­actly as it should be, nei­ther good nor evil.

32. The Fu­ture

Be­fore some­thing hap­pens, you don’t know in ad­vance what the event will be. But you do know the na­ture of the event, at least if you’re a Stoic. Since the event isn’t in your con­trol, it can nei­ther be good nor evil. There­fore you shouldn’t fan­ta­size about the fu­ture, nor should you fear it. It’s not con­struc­tive to bring de­sire or aver­sion into thoughts about your fu­ture. And you can only deal with the fu­ture once it be­comes the present any­way, so wor­ry­ing about it now, or look­ing for­ward to it now, is a waste of time and en­ergy.

33. Var­i­ous Rules of Con­duct

Be the same per­son, whether you’re alone or with oth­ers.

Stay mostly silent; say what’s nec­es­sary, and in few words. You can enter into con­ver­sa­tion when the oc­ca­sion calls for it, but avoid vul­gar top­ics like sports, movies, or the news. If you allow your­self to be dragged into a point­less con­ver­sa­tion with a vul­gar per­son, you will be­come vul­gar too. Es­pe­cially don’t talk about peo­ple, ei­ther to blame them, praise them, or com­pare them. Don’t speak ill of the liv­ing or the dead.

When it comes to food, drink, cloth­ing, house, and fam­ily, take what you have use for, but don’t take more than what you need just for show or lux­ury.

Avoid ca­sual in­ti­macy out­side of com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ships. But don’t crit­i­cize those who en­gage in ca­sual sex, nor boast that you don’t.

If some­one crit­i­cizes you, don’t make ex­cuses, but an­swer: “You don’t know my other faults, or else you wouldn’t have only men­tioned these ones.”

It isn’t nec­es­sary to go to sports, the­atres, or other shows often, but if you do, re­main your­self rather than a mem­ber of the au­di­ence. Only wish for who­ever is wor­thy of vic­tory to be the vic­tor. Ab­stain en­tirely from shouts, loud laugh­ter, clap­ping, or vi­o­lent emo­tions. And when you leave, don’t talk a lot about what has hap­pened, ex­cept what may lead to your own im­prove­ment. If you talk too much about it, it’s clear that you ad­mired the show more than you should’ve.

If you’re going to meet with some­one, es­pe­cially an au­thor­ity fig­ure, ex­pect that they’ll ig­nore you; that the doors won’t be opened to you; that they’ll take no no­tice of you. Bear what­ever hap­pens, and don’t react neg­a­tively if you’re not ac­cepted, be­cause if you do it re­veals that you are a vul­gar per­son eas­ily over­come by ex­ter­nal things.

Don’t speak about your­self un­less you’re asked, and then only enough to com­plete a re­sponse. No­body else is in­ter­ested in your ad­ven­tures; if they were, they would’ve asked. In­stead, ask oth­ers about them­selves, and make your na­ture known through your con­ver­sa­tion about the other per­son. Like­wise, when mak­ing jokes, don’t fall into point­less vul­gar­ity. And if some­one is point­lessly crude to you, make it clear to them that you don’t ap­prove.

34. Plea­sure

Don’t im­me­di­ately give in to plea­sure. First, con­sider how en­joy­able the plea­sure will be. Then, con­sider how you’ll re­gret it af­ter­ward. Thirdly, con­sider how happy you’ll be if you re­sist the temp­ta­tion and con­quer your de­sires. If, once you’ve con­sid­ered all three fac­tors, you still want to do the plea­sur­able thing, then do it. But main­tain your com­po­sure and don’t let your­self be de­based while doing it.

35. Au­then­tic­ity

When you’ve de­cided to do some­thing, don’t be afraid of being seen doing it. If you’re ashamed, don’t do it in the first place. But if you’re not, then why are you afraid of those who fault you wrongly? Like­wise, if you’ve de­cided some­thing is true, don’t be afraid to say it. Ei­ther it’s right to say, or it’s wrong to think in the first place.

36. Con­sid­er­ing Oth­ers

To take more than your share at a din­ner is suit­able to your ap­petite, but ut­terly un­suit­able to the so­cial spirit of the oc­ca­sion. When you eat with oth­ers, re­mem­ber not only the value of the food to your body and your de­sires, but also the value of your be­hav­iour to­ward oth­ers at the din­ner. And, if a con­ver­sa­tion arises, don’t just think about the value of what you have to say, but also the value in let­ting oth­ers speak and let­ting them not have to hear what you have to say.

37. Ego

If you’ve acted like you’re bet­ter than you are, you’ve both failed in this role and ne­glected the role you should’ve played.

38. Pro­tect­ing Your Ra­tio­nal­ity

When walk­ing, you’re care­ful not to step on a nail or sprain your ankle; Like­wise, be care­ful not to hurt your ra­tio­nal mind.

39. Ex­cess

The func­tions of your body de­ter­mines what pos­ses­sions you need for it. If you don’t stop at this, you’ll be car­ried for­ward, as if down a cliff. In the case of your shoes, if you go be­yond their func­tion to your feet, they will be pur­ple, then gilded, then stud­ded with jew­els. Be­cause once you ex­ceed the ne­ces­sity cre­ated by your body, there’s no bound to your ex­cess.

40. Young Women

Women are flat­tered by men for their ap­pear­ance start­ing in pu­berty. There­fore, see­ing their ap­pear­ance as a pow­er­ful asset, they begin to dec­o­rate them­selves to at­tract the at­ten­tion of men, and place their hopes in get­ting a good man. There­fore we should take care to let young women know they’re val­ued for more than just their ap­pear­ance, but also their sen­si­bil­ity and de­cency.

41. Body vs. Mind

It’s stu­pid to spend a lot of time on things re­lated to the body, such as ex­er­cise, eat­ing, drink­ing, dis­charge, and sex. These things should be done in­ci­den­tally and slightly, and your focus should be on your mind.

42. Re­fram­ing the In­sults of Oth­ers

Re­mem­ber that some­one who speaks badly of you does it be­cause they think it’s their duty. It’s not pos­si­ble that they speak what seems right to you, be­cause every­one can only speak what seems right to them­selves. There­fore, if some­one judges you in­cor­rectly, they’re the per­son hurt, be­cause they’re the per­son de­ceived. Be­cause if you think a true fact is false, the fact isn’t hurt, but you are. Keep­ing this in mind, you’ll eas­ily bear in­sults from oth­ers, as you’ll sim­ply think, “It seemed so to them.”

43. Con­sid­er­ing Al­ter­nate Re­ac­tions

Every­thing has at least two han­dles, one which can be used to carry it, and the other which can’t. If your brother acts un­justly, don’t hold on by the han­dle of in­jus­tice, be­cause that can’t carry the sit­u­a­tion. Carry it by the op­po­site han­dle: that he is your brother, and that he was brought up with you; Then you’ll carry it.

44. Com­par­ing Peo­ple

These thoughts are un­con­nected: “I’m richer than you, so I’m bet­ter than you;” “I’m more elo­quent than you, so I’m bet­ter.” The cor­rect con­nec­tions are these: “I’m richer than you, so my prop­erty is greater than yours;” “I’m more elo­quent than you, so my style is bet­ter than yours.” But you, after all, are nei­ther prop­erty nor style.

45. Mak­ing As­sump­tions about Oth­ers

Does some­one eat a lot of sweet foods? Don’t say that they eat un­health­ily, but that they eat a lot of sweet foods. Do they drink a lot of wine? Don’t say that they drink badly, but that they drink a lot. Be­cause un­less you per­fectly un­der­stand the prin­ci­ples guid­ing some­one’s ac­tions, how should you know if they act badly? There­fore, you won’t run the risk of claim­ing knowl­edge of things you don’t fully com­pre­hend.

46. Os­ten­ta­tion

Don’t call your­self a philoso­pher or a Stoic, nor talk a lot among the un­learned about the prin­ci­ples of Sto­icism. At a din­ner, don’t talk about how peo­ple should eat, but eat as you should. In this way Socrates, for ex­am­ple, avoided os­ten­ta­tion: Peo­ple would come to him and ask to be taken to a philoso­pher, and he would take them to a philoso­pher: so eas­ily he al­lowed him­self to be over­looked. You, too, should allow your­self to be over­looked. If any con­ver­sa­tion comes up among unin­structed peo­ple about phi­los­o­phy, gen­er­ally re­main silent, since there’s great dan­ger that you might throw up what you haven’t prop­erly di­gested. And when oth­ers say you know noth­ing, prove them wrong by not car­ing what they think and re­main­ing silent. For sheep don’t throw up the grass to show the shep­hards how much they’ve eaten; but, in­wardly di­gest­ing their food, they out­wardly pro­duce wool and milk. There­fore, un­less you’re asked, don’t share prin­ci­ples of Sto­icism with the un­learned, but in­stead share the ac­tions pro­duced by them after they’re di­gested.

47. or, On Ve­g­an­ismBoast­ing about As­ceti­cism

When you sup­ply your body with what it needs in­ex­pen­sively, don’t be proud. And if you only drink water as a bev­er­age, don’t tell every­one, “I only drink water.” Con­sider how much more fru­gal and tol­er­ant of hard­ship the poor are than you. And, if you want to toughen your­self by ex­er­cises in strength and en­durance, do it for your own sake, and don’t share it with the world. Don’t Hug­ging cold stat­ues in freez­ing weather was a prac­tice ad­vo­cated by the Cyn­ics, who prac­ticed as­ceti­cism. It was viewed by Sto­ics as un­nec­es­sar­ily showy. One an­cient joke says that a Spar­tan saw Dio­genes the Cynic hug­ging a bronze statue on a cold night. The Spar­tan asked Dio­genes if he was cold. Res­olutely, Dio­genes said no. “Then how is what you’re doing im­pres­sive?”grasp stat­ues, but, when you’re very thirsty, take some cold water into your mouth and spit it out in­stead of drink­ing it, and tell no­body.

48. How a Stoic Acts

A vul­gar per­son never ex­pects ben­e­fit or hurt from them­selves, but from things ex­ter­nal to them­selves. A Stoic ex­pects all hurt and ben­e­fit from them­selves. Some­one who’s mak­ing progress in Sto­icism will blame no­body, praise no­body, ac­cuse no­body, and say noth­ing about them­selves as if they were some­body that knew some­thing. If they fail, they blame them­selves; If they’re praised, they laugh to them­selves at the praiser; If they’re blamed, they make no de­fense; They move with cau­tion, care­ful not to move any­thing that is set right; They sup­press all de­sire, and avoid only those things which are within our con­trol to avoid and which are con­trary to a healthy mind; They’re gen­tle in their ac­tions; They don’t care if they seem stu­pid or ig­no­rant; Es­sen­tially, they watch them­selves as they would watch an enemy while lying in am­bush.

49. Tak­ing Pride in In­ter­pret­ing

When some­one is proud be­cause they can un­der­stand and ex­plain the works of the an­cient Sto­ics, say to your­self, “Un­less the Sto­ics have writ­ten ob­scurely, Note to self: I have done noth­ing im­pres­sive.this per­son has done noth­ing im­pres­sive. But what do I de­sire? A healthy mind. And who un­der­stands the prin­ci­ples which lead to a healthy mind? For one, the Sto­ics do. There­fore, I seek to in­ter­pret the Sto­ics. But what if I can’t make sense of their writ­ings on my own? I will seek an in­ter­preter.” When you find some­one who will help you to in­ter­pret the works of Sto­icism, then you have to make use of their in­struc­tions — this alone is the valu­able thing. If you focus on and value the act of in­ter­pre­ta­tion rather than the act of im­prov­ing your mind, aren’t you more of a gram­mar­ian than a philoso­pher?

50. Pro­cras­ti­nat­ing Sto­icism

What­ever moral rules you’ve given your­self, abide by them as if they were laws — as if vi­o­lat­ing them would be a crime. How long will you put off doing this? You’ve learned enough Sto­icism to begin. What other in­struc­tion are you wait­ing for? You’re no longer a child, but a grown per­son. If you’ll be neg­li­gent and sloth­ful, like a child, and al­ways add pro­cras­ti­na­tion to pro­cras­ti­na­tion, and put off im­ple­ment­ing the ideas you’ve learned, you’ll be one of the vul­gar until the day you die. This in­stant, then, think of your­self as wor­thy of liv­ing as a grown up, and as a Stoic. Let what­ever seems best to you be an in­vi­o­lable law. And when you come across any in­stance of pain or plea­sure, or glory or dis­grace, re­mem­ber that now is the com­bat, now is the Olympic games, and this can­not be put off. In every de­feat you lose progress; In every vic­tory you move to­ward per­fec­tion. You are not yet per­fect, but you should live as some­one who wishes to be­come per­fect.

51. Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds

The first and most nec­es­sary part of phi­los­o­phy is the lessons, such as, “Do not lie.” The sec­ond part of phi­los­o­phy is the demon­stra­tions, such as, “What is the ori­gin of our oblig­a­tion not to lie?” The third paLose Sight of the Pur­pose of Sto­icisms, “What is the na­ture of the demon­stra­tion of the ori­gin of our oblig­a­tion not to lie?” For what is demon­stra­tion? What is con­se­quence? Con­tra­dic­tion? Truth? False­hood? The third topic jus­ti­fies the sec­ond, and the sec­ond jus­ti­fies the first. But the most nec­es­sary, and where we should spend the most time, is on the first. Oth­er­wise, we will be im­me­di­ately pre­pared to show how it is demon­strated that lying isn’t right, at the same time that we lead a dis­hon­est life.

52. These, too have been (slightly) al­tered by me. The orig­i­nal au­thors of the quotes which have been para­phrased are the Stoic Clean­thes, Eu­ri­pedes, and Plato (from the per­spec­tive of Socrates), re­spec­tively.Three Use­ful Quo­ta­tions

Hold these max­ims ready at hand:

Con­duct me, God, and you, Des­tiny,
Wher­ever you de­mand I go,
To fol­low I am ready.
If I am not,
I make my­self mis­er­able,
And still must fol­low.

Who­ever yields to fate is deemed wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven.

If it so pleases the Gods, so let it be: They can kill me, but they can­not harm me.