The Rise of Modern Stoicism

Abundance Growth mindset


Key Point: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Of course those two sentences make up the famous maxim given to mankind by the legendary Roman Emperor and stoic, Marcus Aurelius. Lately I’ve been reading about the emerging popularity of “modern” stoicism, applying the 2,000 plus year old philosophy of stoics like Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus to today’s living. In fact, the great “academic” journal, Sports Illustrated, devoted its Dec. 2015 magazine to it. Here’s how the article starts

“At the center of perhaps the most unlikely Venn Diagram ever drawn, an even more unlikely group of humans overlap. There’s a former governor/bodybuilder/actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip-hop star (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NFL lineman (Garrett Gilkey, Bucs), a renowned sideline reporter (Michele Tafoya, NBC), an Olympian (cross-country skier Chandra Crawford), a performance coach (Andy McKay, Mariners), a baseball manager (Joe Maddon, Cubs) and a college basketball coach (Shaka Smart, Texas). That’s just to start. They’re connected by a book, The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book they’ve digested, drawn inspiration from and applied to their careers. It’s a book about stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy and its principles, and it has sold more than 100,000 copies, been translated into 17 languages and reverberated in one place not even Holiday expected it to—the wider world of sports.”

By the way, executives and players throughout the NFL devoured the book this season. And successful coaches like Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Nick Saban are considered modern stoics. So what is modern stoicism? The author Nassim Nicolas Taleb defines it as, “the domestication, not necessarily the elimination, of emotions. It is not about turning humans into vegetables. My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”  That view is likely a good start to understanding the modern stoic principles. Hmmm…. How do you and I connect with modern stoicism? 

Right now the economic environment facing the company where I’m an executive leader is facing somewhat of a crises. It is very much impacted by the rapid and severe decline in the price of oil. Andy Grove, the respected former CEO of Intel famously noted, with a sense of modern stoicism; “Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” Essentially back to Aurelius: “What stands in the way is the way.” That’s exactly how I feel and how I intend to lead! I’m going to promote taking advantage of the crises and recognize its elements as the path to become even greater as a company!!

Character Moves:

  1. Join me in learning more about the principles and maxims of modern stoicism, finding I’m out what the emerging “fuss” is about and how they connect with character, leadership and work. The next three blogs will be a series focusing on modern stoicism and hopefully its relevance to you and me.
  1. If you want a great read and to get ahead of me, download Holiday’s book, which focuses on Marcus Aurelius as the prime inspiration. If you want an audio book that is informed by Seneca’s famous letters, go to Tim Ferriss. Let’s learn together.

Modern stoics in The Triangle


One Millennial View: In a world that seems to be trying to separate itself more and more from the “old school,” I’m more inspired than ever to modernize some of these tried and true mentalities. In 2016, there aren’t many ways for us to be Gladiators anymore, but don’t act like you don’t want to find a way to brandish a proverbial sword and make some applicable stoic moves in today’s world. Let’s learn how.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis