7 Life Lessons to Learn From ‘The Daily Stoic’ By Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic By Ryan Holiday

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Although stoic philosophy is almost 2000 years old and was successfully ignored as we moved towards a more modern approach towards life, yet successful people like Tim Ferris, Ryan Holiday think stoicism provides a structure to live a content life. Stoicism was followed by Romans 2000 years ago in the pursuit of happiness. 

As our world is growing more competitive with each passing day, stoicism has found its lost place yet again in the modern world. Now, it’s followed by everyone who wants peace and happiness in their life despite the problems the world throws at them. 

One such person who has found the shadow of stoicism fruitful, Ryan Holiday is a great follower of stoicism and encourages others too for following stoicism. Probably, this is the reason Ryan has written so many books on stoic philosophy. One of the most famous among all is The Daily Stoic which consists of 366 concise yet impactful stoic lessons that can change your life. The book is absolutely beginner friendly which means even if you don’t have any clue about what stoicism means you can still understand the book and follow stoicism in your day-to-day life.

Note: Before we jump into the article you can buy The Daily Stoic on Amazon through this link.

Let’s break down the book into 7 short lessons that I have learned from ‘The Daily Stoic’ by Ryan Holiday:

Before I actually jump on the lessons, let’s first understand what exactly ‘stoicism’ means in simple words

What Is Stoicism?

“The philosophy asserts that virtue (meaning chiefly, the 4 cardinal virtues of self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom) is happiness and it is our perception of things- rather than the things themselves – that cause most of our trouble. Stoicism teaches that we can’t control or rely on anything outside what Epictetus called our “Reasoned Choice” – or ability to use our reason to choose how we categorize, respond, and reorient ourselves to external events.”

Stoicism is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry. The purpose of stoicism is to teach us how we can remain unharmed no matter what is going on on the battlefield of life. 

Some people believe that stoicism makes you heartless but the reality is stoicism makes your heart ‘hurt-less’. A stoic knows that ‘nothing and no one can hurt him without his choice’ and this is precisely what stoicism is about. 

For example: When you want to reach somewhere urgently but you lose your car keys, it sucks, right? But stoicism says that it’s not the car keys that sucks, it’s how you perceive the situation and react to that makes it suck”

A normal person in this situation would have cursed their fate, or blame someone else for the misery but a stoic doesn’t panic. A stoic would have remained calm like water and would have thought about other ways that can help him reach the destination on time.

7 Things To Learn From ‘The Daily Stoic’ by Ryan Holiday:

1. Direct Your Efforts

Each of us wants to be successful and productive in our lives, don’t we? But hardly any of us know what we want to achieve with our efforts. Besides, the pressure of achieving success in the early 20s that social media has put on our little shoulders has made matters worse. 

For example: Let’s say that you have an exam next week and you know that you know nothing because you didn’t study the entire year. Now, instead of studying for the exam, you start cleaning your room, and helping your mom with household work so that you can satisfy your definition of staying productive. But in reality, all your efforts are worthless as you didn’t do what is most important at the moment i.e, studying for exams.

If you don’t know where to direct your efforts, you will always feel worthless irrespective of the amount of work you have done. Ryan says that ‘having no direction, you are driven into failure or worse into madness by the oblivion of directionlessness’ 

Now, you must be thinking that I don’t know what I want in life. Well, don’t worry! You are not the only one who feels clueless at times. But what you need to remember is you have to think before working on something so that you don’t end up wasting your time and effort. However, it is not advisable to just think on your bed and feel confused. If you can’t decide whether you should do something or not, I would suggest doing it because it would be better than nothing.

2. Know Thyself

Although we live in a pretty advanced world, everyone knows each other. If I ask one of my friends to tell me something about her ex, my friend might print a book but still will be left with something to say. However, if I ask the same friend to tell me something about herself, she might feel tongue-tied. 

This is not the case with my friend only but with each one of us. We are so busy running behind the ‘society’s definition of success that we never even sit and ask ourselves ‘what do we want, what do we like, what defines me, what is important to me, what are my principles and values, and most importantly, how am I different from others?”

Ryan says in his book that knowing what you like, dislike, your weaknesses, and your strengths allow you to live a better life. And for that, Ryan suggests the technique of self-reflection that you must practice time-to-time. 

For example: After my self-reflection, I realized that I am not good at the technical stuff but I am a good writer and I must practice writing daily to sharpen my skills. You can see the relation between the first and second lessons now. Once you know what you are good at, you can direct your efforts towards that. 

3. Change Your Expectations

I am actually laughing while writing this contradicts the reality of us, humans. We knowingly create all those perfect moments in our minds where we are all happy, we watch a movie on love, and expect our partner to behave in a certain way. While the second we come out of our heads and see the reality, it hurts. 

Marcus says, “No person has the power to have expectations to have everything they want. But it is their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have”

As I said, when reality doesn’t match the level of your expectations, you feel disappointed.

Stoicism suggests that “By wanting nothing, we can have everything.”

4. Expect The Unexpected

We just talked about how we all imagine a happy ending to our life and end up hurting ourselves. Now, it is quite obvious that we wouldn’t imagine anything adverse for ourselves however, Ryan has suggested that we be ready to expect the unexpected. 

You may lose your job, get kicked out of home, break-up with your partner, death of a friend, or anything else for that matter, life happens. These are things that you cannot control but what you can control is your:

  1. Opinion
  2. Choice 
  3. Desire

The stoic philosophy says that when you keep your mind calm and accept the situation as it is, you prepare yourself for becoming tough like a stone. In your day to day life, there are going to be some small incidents that might shatter you and make you restless but what you need to remind yourself is ‘that life never goes as per the plan, you need to change your plans as per the life’s expectations from you”

5. Nothing Is Inherently Good Or Bad

The only difference between being happy and angry is how we categorize the events as good or bad. Once we label it as bad, we give the event the power to influence our mood and make us sad. 

For example: Let’s say that someone sent an abusive email to you for no reason. But you never sent back a reply, instead, you deleted the email and forgot all about it. After a few minutes, it will feel as if you never even received any such email. Do you know why? 

Because you didn’t label the email as bad or good, hence even after being abusive in nature, the email sender couldn’t do anything to you which basically means it’s not the things that are good or bad but our perception.

Once we perceive something as good or bad, we then are tempted to take action on it and action always has consequences. If you take action on bad things, you will yield only bad in return. If we take the above example ahead, if you had replied to that abusive email with abuse, what would have been the result?

You might have received another abusive reply and the chain of replying with abusive words would have continued until your entire day was ruined. The choice is in your hands of deciding whether things are good or bad. 

6. Dealing With Haters

No matter who you are and what you do, you are always going to receive hate messages and comments. Sometimes these haters would be strangers while the other times, your own friends and family members. One of the common responses to hate is hate, obviously. 

When someone says something adverse to us or about us, we tend to give it back with our words or actions. 

But the Stoic says that there are 2 two ways of dealing with haters:

  1. Ask yourself, ‘Is this opinion inside my control?’ If yes, then do what you can to influence and change the response.
  2. If the answer is No, accept it and ignore it.

I always follow the second rule. I am a book blogger and have an Instagram blog page too with over 30k followers. Among all the love that I receive, some people also send hate messages, in fact, my own cousins talk behind my back and say things like ‘she doesn’t deserve it’ or ‘she is a girl that’s why she could attract all those people’

When such things rang in my ears, it surely hurts but what I have realized is you can’t change people’s haters towards you. I would rather listen to my favorite song than waste my time and energy on explaining to people why I am a good person.

Besides, as Steve Jobs once said in his speech, If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream! 

So, what do you want to be, an expert in your field or an ice-cream seller?

7. Your Actual Needs Are Small

There is a common habit of, surprisingly, all of us, dreaming about what we don’t have. We think once we have an iPhone, a big house, and tons of money in our bank account, we will be happy. 

I used to think similarly until I visited a small village in India. In the village, there were barely 70-80 houses, people were living in small huts, they didn’t have smartphones, they didn’t even have the luxury of a proper bed yet somehow all of them were happy. 

When I say happy, I don’t mean merely a smile on their face. I mean when you look at them, you can feel the contentment and satisfaction in their eyes, you can tell that they are living in the moment. I spent around 3 days in that village and honestly, I didn’t want to come back to my boring city life where everyone is running as if at the end of the race, they will be happy.

Stoic says a similar thing, ‘if you are not happy with what you have, you will never be happy with what you get’

You might feel extremely happy once you unbox your brand new Macbook but after a few weeks, it would be completely normal to you. The stoic, that’s why, says your actual needs are way smaller and simpler. 

To sum it up, I would say that “You don’t need an expensive glass, you need water to quench your thirst”


These are the top 7 lessons that I learned from ‘The Daily Stoic’ by Ryan Holiday. Not only did I enjoy reading this book but I could feel the change in my mindset after finishing the book. I would also suggest you check out Ryan’s other wonderful book, The Obstacle Is The Way here on our site.