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If You’re Going To Make Something, Make It Beautiful

Daily Stoic Emails

Fifty years after he helped his father build a fence around their house in Mountain View, Steve Jobs took his biographer Walter Isaacson to see it. Jobs skimmed his hand along one of the fence panels and told Isaacson the lesson his father instilled in him that day all those years ago. “He loved doing things right,” Jobs said as he directed Isaacson’s attention to the back of the fencel. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.” A great carpenter, Jobs learned early, wouldn’t use an ugly piece of wood, even on the back of a drawer.

Even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.

This was the defining characteristic of Jobs’ career and every product he brought into the world: craftsmanship. If you’re going to make something, Jobs’ father taught him, make it beautiful. That’s why even the insides of Apple computers—which 99.9% of customers will never see—have their own aesthetic. It’s why so many features on Apple computers, even the minor ones, seem oddly satisfying and intuitive. 

The Stoics would have nodded in agreement. Marcus talked about seeing the beauty in the things easy to overlook, like the ordinary way that “baking bread splits in places and those cracks, while not intended in the baker’s art, catch our eye and serve to stir our appetites.” It’s why Meditations, which was never intended for another set of eyes, is still perfectly written. In Greek no less! “Beautiful things of any kind,” Marcus explained, “are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves.”

This is a philosophy we try to follow at Daily Stoic. While it’d be cheaper, for instance, to produce our challenge coins overseas, each coin is handcrafted in the United States by a custom mint that has been operating in Minnesota since 1882. Why? Because they make them better, because they’ve perfected a formula over the last century and a half. When we did The Daily Stoic, it would have been cheaper and faster for the publisher to produce it like every other book. Instead, the lay flat binding and the ribbon took extra time, even a specialty printer. 

Our new leather edition of The Obstacle is the Way—the book that introduced millions of readers to Stoic philosophy—was equally painstaking. We found the best Bible manufacturer in the United States and worked with them to produce an edition of Obstacle with a gold foil-stamped cover, gilded-edge pages printed on premium-grade paper at their factory in Belarus. We found a great designer to create all-new illustrations to delineate each section of the book. It took