There are many ancient Stoics but three stand above the rest because of their writings – Seneca, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. Epictetus was a slave turned-teacher who didn’t actually write anything down. His words have been passed down to us by one of his students in the form of Discourses and The Enchiridion, the latter being more like a Cliff’s Notes version of Stoicism.
Earlier this year I devoured Seneca and Marcus Aurelius quickly. In fact, I’ve already read Meditations by Aurelius twice more since. It is the one book that remains in my bag at all times. Epictetus on the other hand I took in slowly. I read a page each day for three months, meditating throughout the day on what I read.
Like I wrote in my review of Seneca and Aurelius, it’s hard to describe a book so life-changing and so full of advice that fundamentally evolves the way you think and act. So instead of trying to summarize this book, I will simply let Epictetus speak for himself and strongly urge you to read this book, along with those of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius:
Keep the prospect of death, exhale and all such a parent tragedies before you every day – especially death – and you will never have an abject thought, or desire anything of excess.
It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.
It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgments concerning them.
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things that are beyond the power of our will.
Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.
Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.
Freedom is secured not by the fulfillment of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire.
If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.
There is so much more in this book. I will be digesting it for years to come. You should definitely read this.