Join 300,000+ other Stoics and get our daily email meditation.

Subscribe to get our free Daily Stoic email. Designed to help you cultivate strength, insight, and wisdom to live your best life.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    So What Do We Do?

    Daily Stoic Emails

    It’s hard to argue that we are not beset by many problems as a society. Depending on where you sit, those problems might be different, and that’s its own problem in and of itself. But the good news is that the path to solving those problems is the same, regardless of what you sit. 

    What? How? 

    We have to turn to the Stoics, or at least their method of problem solving. Like us, the Greeks and Romans faced crises and conflict, they faced tyrants and natural disasters, political gridlock and complex situations in which it seemed like no individual alone could make a difference. Here are some strategies which they provide us that can help guide us forward today, whether we are trying to address systemic racism or environmental issues, foreign threats, political polarization or a pandemic. 

    • Start small. As Zeno said, well-being is realized by small steps but it is no small thing. Marcus Aurelius said we assemble progress action by action.
    • Turn to leaders with character. Character is fate, the Stoics believed. It’s not about voting for or supporting politicians that tell you what you want to hear or that you always agree with. What matters more is: Are they honest? Are they competent? Are they committed to respecting norms and institutions (what the Romans called the mos maiorum)? 
    • Work for the common good. That phrase—the common good—appears in Marcus’s writing dozens and dozens of times. Because that was the job of the Stoic, to care about and serve the whole. When people are fighting only for their own interests, democracy doesn’t work. When people come together in coalitions for a common good, there is no better system. 
    • Don’t be naive. Marcus reminds himself in Meditations not to go around expecting Plato’s Republic. The fight for public opinion, for votes, against evil is not easy and rarely pretty. Self-righteousness doesn’t help either. You have to learn how things get done and how to get them done. 
    • Get informed. The Stoics understood history. They read widely. They didn’t just led their emotions lead their opinions. Wisdom is a critical virtue. “You can’t learn that which you think you already know,” Epictetus said. Issues are complicated and anyone that thinks they are is not informed. 
    • Be willing to change your mind. Often what we thought was right, turns out to be wrong. Often what we disagreed with, we find, as the facts come is, is less disagreeable than we thought. A Stoic doesn’t flip-flop—they grow and improve. 
    • Find allies and experts. Marcus Aurelius deferred to Galen during the Antonine Plague because he was the smartest medical mind in the ancient world. Conversely, Cato allied with Pompey, his former enemy, because it gave him a chance to stop Caesar. 
    • Communication is key. There is no leadership, no change without effective communication. Diogenes, an early Stoic, swayed Rome to Athens’ side with a beautiful speech about justice. Marcus swayed his soldiers and the senate during an attempted coup by Avidius Cassius. 
    • Nothing is more important than what is right. Remember Marcus: No excuses for not doing what you know to be right. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard, it doesn’t matter if it’ll cost you friends or a job, it doesn’t matter if people will yell at you. Just that you do the right thing. 

    There are many more strategies we can take from the Stoics, of course, but they all revolve around those core values: Courage. Justice. Moderation. Wisdom. No one is saying that moving forward will be easy. No one thinks solutions will be quick or painless. But they are possible. 

    If we do the work. If we insist on what’s right. If we stay at it with pertinacity and commitment.

    P.S. This was originally sent on July 2, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.