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Leaders Are Made, Not Born

Daily Stoic Emails

Marcus Aurelius did not come out of the womb a leader. Nor was he an emperor ‘by blood.’ In fact, when first told he was to be king, he wept—thinking of all the bad and failed kings of history. 

So how did he get from there to philosopher king? Book 1 of Meditations shows us. The first ten percent of the book—Debts and Lessons—thanks people who groomed him into one of history’s greatest leaders. He knew it—without his philosophy teachers and rhetoric teachers and, most importantly, his mentor Antoninus Pius, he wouldn’t have became who he became. 

The few pages of that part of the book are deceptive too, as they compress a process that took twenty-three years. Yes, it was nearly a decade and half between the time Hadrian first set in motion his plan for Marcus to one day be the Emperor of Rome that he became the Emperor of Rome. 

That’s what it takes. Because leaders aren’t born. They’re made. Some of us recoil at that idea. Of course, we understand that athletes and doctors and dentists and lawyers and engineers and accountants and contractors and cooks go through a process to master their profession. But leadership? Leaders don’t do that, we think, you either got it or you don’t. 

Ah, but a quick look at some of history’s great leaders is all you would need to realize that leadership is a process, not a position. The Pulitzer-prize winning historian Thomas Ricks would talk about how becoming a valiant leader was “George Washington’s work of a lifetime.” 

While few of us will be plucked by someone who has charted a course for our rise to a position of leadership the way Marcus was, we all need to think of leadership as the work of our lifetime. Because we’re all leaders in one way or another—of families, of companies, of a team, of an audience, of a group of friends, of ourselves. So we could all benefit from a carefully thought out and tested process from which we come out the other side a better leader.

That’s why we created The Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge: Ancient Wisdom For Modern Leaders. 

We designed this 9-week course to mirror the kind of education that produced historically great leaders like Marcus Aurelius. Specifically, we built it around one of the key lessons from Marcus’s own development: the idea that leadership is less a position and more a process. Indeed, Marcus worked at it day after day, as you would do when perfecting a skill or getting in shape. 

Which is exactly what we’re going to do with this—the longest course ever built at Daily Stoic—because becoming a great leader takes time. You’re going to spend 9 weeks in a dedicated effort to become the best leader you can be. 

Each week is distinguished by a theme:


[*] Week 1: Becoming a Life-Long Student of Leadership

[*]​ Week 2: Mastering Your Emotions

[*]​ Week 3: Dealing With People

[*]​ Week 4: Preparing For and Getting Through Adversity

[*]​ Week 5: Decision Making

[*]​ Week 6: Problem Solving

[*]​ Week 7: Culture

[*]​ Week 8: Leadership Philosophy

[*]​ Week 9: Leadership Challenges

Each day you will receive an email (63 total emails, over 30,000 words of exclusive content) that helps you take the right steps along that week’s path. Not only have we assembled the best Stoic wisdom on what it takes to become a great leader, we’ve also assembled some of today’s great leaders to be for you what Antoninus was for Marcus.  

Once a week, there will be a Leadership Deep Dive*—a live video session where Ryan Holiday, the bestselling author and creator of the course, will be joined by a guest with expertise on that week’s theme. Their backgrounds vary—from a Major General, to a pioneering businesswoman, to one of the top 1% most cited scientists in the world, and a leadership coach who has been studying and advising some of the world’s best leaders for more than two decades. But we picked each of them for the same reason: they are proven leaders with hard-won wisdom. Ryan will first interview each guest to extract some of that wisdom, and then they will take questions from course participants.  

There will also be three Leadership Q&A’s with Ryan—again a live video session, but entirely dedicated to questions from course participants.  

The Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge is a masterclass in leadership with the cadence and rigor of a boot camp. It is also a live course, which means all participants will join the course together and move through together at the same pace to their own version of the same goal—to be a great leader. 

Registration is now officially open over at

Registration will close on Saturday, July 31st at midnight CST.

And the course will begin on Sunday, August 1st.

We’re really excited about this course. We think it’s going to be one of our best. We hope to have you join us!

*Due to the limited availability of the guests we selected, the day of week and the time of day of the Leadership Deep Dives will vary week to week. If it is ever the case that you cannot attend, we will be recording all of the live sessions to be watched and rewatched at your convenience.