Seneca wrote a lot of letters to his friend Lucilius. We don’t know a lot about Lucilius, only that he was from Pompeii, he was a Roman knight, he was the imperial procurator in Sicily then its Governor, he owned a country villa in Ardea. For all his success though, we get the sense that he struggled with many of the things we all struggle with: Anxiety. Distraction. Fear. Temptation. Self-discipline.
So it’s good that he had a friend like Seneca, someone who cared about him, told him the truth, and gave him advice. One of the best pieces of advice from Seneca was actually pretty simple. “Each day,” he told Lucilius, you should “acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well.”
Just one thing. One nugget. And that’s what most of Seneca’s letters to his friend are about. They have a quote in them. Or a little prescription. Or a story. One little thing to make Lucilius stronger, smarter, wiser, calmer.
This is the way to improvement: Incremental, consistent, humble, persistent work. Your business, your book, your career, your body—it doesn’t matter—you build them with little things, day after day.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, author, former Governor, professional bodybuilder, and father of five. He’s also a fan of the Stoics and said in a recent video to people trying to stay strong and sane during this pandemic: “Just as long as you do something every day, that is the important thing.”
Whether it’s from Seneca or Arnold, good advice is good advice and truth is truth. One thing a day adds up. One step at a time is all it takes. You just gotta do it. And the sooner you start, the better you’ll feel…and be.
P.S. This was originally sent on May 11, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.