The Daily Stoic was a year-long experiment for me. I have never liked self-help. I am not ever going to be a consumer of self-help books, but there was some appeal to looking to the Stoics for guidance–of all philosophies, Stoicism has a strong appeal to me. My mother subscribed to the Harvard Classics when I was in junior high and I was captured by the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. So when I saw The Daily Stoic I thought it would be impossible for it to be trite and banal because it was rooted in serious ideas.
Okay, so I was wrong. There’s something about the self-help form that just goes straight to banality. I stuck it out for the entire year, but perhaps not as I should. I tended to read it a week at a time rather than each day. The quotes were grouped thematically, so reading several at once probably made it less effective and less compelling.
In its defense, there’s nothing in this book that will cause harm. It’s banal and ordinary, but it tells you that family matters, that what you value matters, that seeking fame and fortune is less important than seeking value, that it’s fruitless to care about what other people think, care about what you do. That’s good advice. It won’t hurt anybody. It’s just porridge instead of the full meal you get from the original.
Stoicism is still appealing. It’s a lot like Buddhism in its advice to care less about what does not matter and care more about what does if you can only figure out which is which. There’s freedom in not obsessing on what other people think. There’s power in deciding what matters to you and knowing when to say IDGAF. There is peace in knowing what matters to you and what should not. The truths of Stoicism are there, but they are stronger on their own without the banal explanations. There’s a devotional quality to the accompanying daily thoughts that reduced the effect and impact of the quotes from the Stoics.