The Definitive List of Stoicism in History & Pop Culture

As Stoicism has seen a cultural resurgence we wanted to compile a list of the people who have embraced or admired the philosophy and in the process explain why many of them have embraced it and found within it a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry. While scholars and academics often see Stoicism as an antiquated methodology of minor interest, it has been the doers of the world who found that it provides much needed strength and stamina for their challenging lives.

Today, Stoicism has found a new and diverse audience, ranging from the coaching staffs of the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks to rapper LL Cool J and broadcaster Michele Tafoya as well as many professional athletes, CEOs, hedge fund managers, artists, executives, and public men and women.

But this is not a modern phenomenon. Many of history’s great minds such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others read, studied, quoted, or admired the Stoics.

This is not surprising. The ancient Stoics themselves were no slouches. The names of the three best known Stoics—Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca—belonged to, respectively, a Roman emperor, a former slave who triumphed to become an influential lecturer and friend of the emperor Hadrian, and a famous playwright and political adviser.

Below is the full list, broken down by category as well as helpful links (where possible) to help you further explore the connection.

If you feel we’ve forgotten anyone, please let us know. We’d love the community’s input. Enjoy!

Politics/Military

 

Bill Clinton — The former president reads Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations every year. You can read more in this New York Times story.

Theodore Roosevelt — Theodore Roosevelt, one of history’s most resilient leaders, brought Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius on his deadly “River of Doubt” expedition.

George Washington — The first President of the United States was inspired and influenced by Stoicism and you can more in this academic paper and listen to this interview on NPR.

Thomas Jefferson — The Founding Father had Seneca on his nightstand when he died.

James Mattis — The current Secretary of Defense, carried with him Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations while on deployment.

Sam Sullivan — The former mayor of Vancouver credits Stoicism for the inspiration to get engaged in politics.

Wen Jiabao — The former Prime Minister of China has read Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations over 100 times.

James Stockdale Admiral Stockdale has credited Stoicism—and Epictetus in particular—for giving him the strength and resilience necessary to endure his time as a POW in Vietnam.  

Cory Booker — The U.S. Senator from New Jersey is a fan of Marcus Aurelius.

Arnold Schwarzenegger — The former Mr. Olympia, Conan, Terminator, and Governor of California is a fan of the Stoic philosophy.

Toussaint Louverture — The leader of the Haitian Revolution studied Epictetus as he rose up against Napoleon’s armies.

Beatrice Webb — creator of the concept of “collective bargaining” referred to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations as her “manual of devotion.”

Professional Athletics

 

New England Patriots — Bill Belichick and New England Patriots have won five Super Bowls in the past 16 years. You can read more here about the team’s connection with Stoicism: “The Patriots 2014 secret weapon may have been a book

John Schneider — The GM of the Seattle Seahawks first heard of the Stoic-inspired The Obstacle is the Way and became an instant fan while at Marcus Mariota’s pro day workout in 2015 as outlined in this ESPN article: “Author’s influence has GM John Schneider focused on obstacles, ego”

Joe Maddon — John “Joe” Maddon is the Chicago Cubs manager. Joe has been mentioned in this Sports Illustrated article, which explores the popularity of Stoicism and The Obstacle Is the Way with professional athletes.

Nick Saban — Nick Saban is the head football coach at the University of Alabama. You can watch this segment on ESPN titled “Marcus Aurelius helps Nick Saban prep for Trojans” as well as read this popular article from Ryan Holiday on how Stoicism can help elite athletes that is also inspired in part by Nick Saban’s coaching philosophy.

Antonio Brown — Antonio Brown, a Five Time NFL Pro Bowler for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has tweeted about his appreciation and inspiration from Ego is the Enemy, a book inspired by Stoicism.

Ben Roethlisberger — The quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been mentioned in this article from ESPN, “Author’s influence has GM John Schneider focused on obstacles, ego.”

Tom Brady — The New England Patriots superstar quarterback (the one of two players to ever win five Super Bowls) has also been mentioned in the same article from ESPN.

Pete Carroll — Pete Carroll is the the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and you can read more about him in this Entrepreneur article, “5 Epic Leaders Who Studied Stoicism — and Why You Should Too”). You can also read this longer profile on Pete Carroll in Sports Illustrated.

Chandra Crawford – Chandra Crawford is an Olympic gold medal winning cross-country skier.

Michele Tafoya — Michele Tafoya is an American sportscaster, best known as the sideline reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football. You can read more in this Sports Illustrated article.

Shaka Smart – Shaka Smart is the University of Texas Basketball coach and is also featured in the Sports Illustrated article.

Michael Lombardi Michael Lombardi is one of the most influential executives in the NFL and is also responsible for bringing Stoic philosophy to the NFL (detailed here in this Sports Illustrated piece), and in the process popularizing the book, The Obstacle Is The Way.

Music

 

T-Pain — The 6X Platinum selling, Grammy Award winning American R&B artist has recorded the “Stoic” mixtape as well as the “Stoicville” album.

Lupe Fiasco — The Grammy Award winning rapper has mentioned Marcus Aurelius in a song: “Emperor is his alias, but not Marcus Aurelius”. He has also tweeted this: “If u want to speak with me Go read Marcus Aurelius Meditations So we can start on the same page until I can’t help u”

Twista — One of the fastest rappers in the world has mentioned Marcus Aurelius by name in song.

LL Cool J — The rapper, actor, author, and entrepreneur is a fan of Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle Is the Way.

Young & Sick – The Dutch musician/illustrator collaborated with Daily Stoic to create a print of Marcus Aurelius’s timeless quote “Waste No More Time Arguing What A Good Man Should Be. Be One.”

Movies/Television/Actors

Anna Kendrick — In an interview with the New York Times, the actress and singer (and now a published author) has found Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations as comforting and soothing.

Tom Hiddleston — The English actor (movies include “Thor” and “Avengers”) is a fan of Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life.

Brie Larson — The actress (who has appeared everywhere from “Community” to “21 Jump Street”) is a fan of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and has tweeted a paragraph from the book.

Gladiator — Most people know Marcus Aurelius from this popular film, where he is the old and wise emperor at the beginning of the film played by Richard Harris.

“Reign of Blood” on Netflix — This Netflix docuseries tells the story of Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius.

Authors

John Steinbeck — As Donald Robertson has written, John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize winner and author of East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath and others, mentions Meditations in East of Eden and it was also one of the two books that have been most influential to him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson — This academic paper explores all the ways in which Emerson has appropriated bits and pieces from Stoicism into his own ideas.

JK Rowling — The superstar author of Harry Potter is a fan of Marcus Aurelius.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb — The author, philosopher and former trader has expressed his respect and admiration for Stoicism—and Seneca in particular—in both The Black Swan and Antifragile.

Robert Greene — The author of 48 Laws of Power, Mastery and several other prominent bestsellers, who we interviewed for the Daly Stoic, calls Stoicism “just a beautiful philosophy.”

Ambrose Bierce — The journalist and Civil War veteran once advised a young writer that studying the Stoics would teach him “how to be a worthy guest at the table of the gods,”

Neil Strauss — The author of 7 New York Times bestsellers, including The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists lists one of his favorite books as On the Shortness of Life by Seneca.

Business

Jonathan Newhouse — The CEO of Condé Nast always takes his favorite Stoic books with him when he travels and you can learn more from this interview with him.

Kevin Rose — The prominent entrepreneur and investor strongly recommended the Stoic-inspired book Ego is the Enemy on his monthly newsletter, The Journal.

Tim Ferriss — The author, podcast host and angel investor, has been one of the best known and strongest proponents of Stoicism. He recently published an audiobook of Seneca’s letters, The Tao of Seneca and you can listen to excerpts on his popular podcast.

Jack Dorsey — The co-founder of Twitter is mentioned among other Silicon Valley public figures who are fans of stoicism in this article on Quartz.

Blake Irving — The CEO of domain registrar GoDaddy is a fan of the stoic-inspired Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday.

Brad Feld — The renowned venture capitalist at Foundry Group is among the figures mentioned in the article “Silicon Valley tech workers are using an ancient philosophy designed for Greek slaves as a life hack

David “DHH” Heinemeier Hansson — DHH is the creator of Ruby on Rails, founder and CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), and the best-selling co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required. As he discussed on the Tim Ferriss podcast, he also admires the Stoics.