Every year, I try to narrow down the hundred plus books I have recommended or read down to just the three or four best. I know that people are busy, and most of you don’t have time to read as much as you’d like. There’s absolutely no shame in that–what matters is that you make the time you can and that you pick the right books when you do.

They are books that I and the 70,000 readers on my reading list email have enjoyed and learned from. If they had been all that I had read over the last twelve months, I’d have considered 2016 a successful year of reading.

Anyway, let’s get to it. Read these books!

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (4 Volumes) by Robert A. Caro and The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (3 Volumes) by William Manchester

In January, I picked up my first book in this Caro’s series on Lyndon Johnson. It wasn’t until June that I finished my fourth, but I consider finishing all of them to be one of my proudest reading achievements. (FYI, I started with The Passage of Power, then read The Path to Power, then Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. The order didn’t seem to matter.) It’s unquestionable to me that Caro is one of the greatest biographers to ever live. His intricate, complicated, sprawling investigation into Lyndon Johnson will change how you see power, ambition, politics, personality and justice. If there is one line that sums up the whole series it’s this: It’s that power doesn’t only corrupt. That’s too simple. What power does is reveal. It’s also easy to be disillusioned by politics right now but for me, getting lost in these Lyndon Johnson books has been a helpful and educational process. Because you learn two things 1) that things have always been complicated and confusing but they tend to turn out alright 2) that our system, whatever its flaws, can still produce good results from bad men.

After the Caro series, I started William Manchester’s equally epic three volume set on Winston Churchill (Visions of Glory, Alone, Defender of the Realm) which Robert Greene gave me as a wedding present last year. Like all truly great long reads, you learn not just about the subject but every intersecting one: the history of British peerage, the Victorian era, the British Empire, Colonialism, modern warfare, international relations, evil, the nature of genius, the effects of absent parents. The book is masterfully written about a masterful man—Churchill was a soldier, a writer, a politician, a statesman, a strategist and a true great man of history. Each book in the series is equally distinct and interesting. The first is Churchill as a young, ambitious man. The second is his time in the political wilderness, when his ego has driven him from power and into writing and thinking. The third is his time back on the world’s stage, in what was perhaps the finest hour of any empire in any era. The last book is probably the best. It features the famous bulldog version of Churchill: rescuing the troops at Dunkirk, persevering through the Blitz, vowing to fight on the landing grounds and the beaches and in the streets, whatever the cost may be. The sheer determination of this man, to take an entire country on your back and defy a horde which had overrun the European continent in a matter of months…it’s almost breathtaking to think about.

As I said, if you were to only read one thing in the next year, you could do a lot worse than either of these series. They contain dozens of books within them and will teach you about so much more than just the man they are ostensibly about. Please, please read them.

(Two bonus related recommendations: I also read Lincoln’s Virtues by William Lee Miller which was heart wrenching and amazing. I truly loved both books he wrote on Lincoln. I also wrote a paean on the joy of reading really really long books which you may enjoy)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

As a general rule, most new memoirs are mediocre and most business memoirs are even worse. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is an exception to that rule in every way and as a result, was one of my favorite books of the year and favorite business books ever. I started reading it while on the runway of a flight and figured I’d read a few pages before opening my laptop and working. Instead, my laptop stayed in my bag during the flight and I read almost the entire book in one extended sitting. Ostensibly the memoir of the founder of Nike, it’s really the story of a lost kid trying to find meaning in his life and it ends with him creating a multi-billion dollar company that changes sports forever. I’m not sure if Knight used a ghostwriter (the acknowledgements are unclear) but his personal touches are all over the book—and the book itself is deeply personal and authentic. The afterward is an incredibly moving reflection of a man looking back on his life. I loved this book. It ends just as Nike is starting to turn into the behemoth it would become, so I hold out hope that there may be more books to follow. In terms of other surprising memoirs, I found JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to be another well-written gem and despite its popularity, When Breath Becomes Air is actually underrated. It’s make-you-cry good.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I thought I’d read this book before but clearly they gave me some sort of children’s version. Because the one I’d read as a kid wasn’t a 1,200 page epic of some of the most brilliant, beautiful and complicated storytelling ever put to paper. What a book! When I typed out my notes (and quotes) after finishing this book, it ran some 3,000 words. I was riveted from cover to cover. I enjoyed all the stuff I missed as a kid: the Counts struggle with his faith in light of what was done to him, the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s return, his rants against technology, the criticism of newspapers, the influence of ancient philosophy, ultimately, a warning against being consumed by revenge. Please—if you’re going on a long trip or looking to check out of modern events for a while—get this book. I recommend the Penguin Classics edition.

Revenge books seemed to be a trend for me this year. I loved Michael Punke’s The Revenant, about a man who bravely challenged his fate in the wilderness just as Edmond Dantes did in prison. This year I also re-read Walker Percy’s Lancelot, a dark story of revenge and an attempt to go to the heart of evil. Less dark, but equally epic, I also loved (and raved about repeatedly) Aaron Thier’s new novel Mr. Eternity. If you read a lot of non-fiction, do yourself a favor this year and set aside some time for some serious fiction reading. You can learn just as much and be changed just as much by a truly great story as you can by any business or self-help book.

Misc.

I loved Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. There’s a reason this book is blowing up. It’s that good. Same goes for Cal Newport’s Deep Work—this book has changed my priorities and confirmed a lot of my life and work decisions. If you haven’t built up the ability to sit quietly and work with great focus to develop deep, creative insights—the next few decades are going to be very difficult for you. I really liked John Seabrook’s study of the future of music industry (and really, all creative businesses) in his book The Song Machine; Cass Sunstein’s book The World According to Star Wars is another interesting look at the economics of creative work. If you want to be scared about the next four years, pick up Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (because, well, it may have just happened here). To balance out that depressing book, I highly recommend David Brooks’ The Road To Character, Sebastian Junger’s Tribe and Chuck Klosterman’s What If We’re Wrong.

And of course, I’ve also got lists of my favorite books from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011

Enjoy and looking forward to reading with you in 2017!

Strategy isn’t something that’s taught well in school. Hell, most people probably couldn’t tell you the difference between “strategy” and “tactics” (or even know there is a difference.)

This is unfortunate, because strategy is something that is critically relevant to all of us – not just those with careers in the military. We all have goals, we all have obstacles to those goals and we all live in a world we do not control. Those things combine to create the necessity of strategy.

The better we are at it – the better we are at doing what we want and need to do.

How do I accomplish what I need to accomplish? How do I find my way, deliberately, instead of stumbling around, in a reactionary fashion? Too many of us live our lives in a sort of haze, acting without a plan or guidance. Too many of us make unnecessary mistakes (costly ones at that), because we lack the ability to craft a strategic vision and a plan.

Like I said, this isn’t exactly our fault. No one taught us explicitly how to do things differently. But the good news is that such instruction is out there. Wise thinkers have been writing and teaching strategic expertise for thousands of years. The problem is knowing where to start.

In this list I want to give you some of the best (and most accessible) books, essays and documents about strategy. Used properly they will help you craft your strategic mind. You were born to be a strategist, it’s up to you to become that destiny.

1. History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

History of the Peloponnesian War

This book – of a long forgotten war – really functions as a biography and strategic analysis of some of the greatest minds in the history of war. We have Pericles, Brasidas, Alcibiades and many others.

The anecdotes and the stories in this book are timeless. If you make your way all the way through it, I promise you will not forget it. Because the war was so long, involved so many different countries and was so varied (sea, land, siege, politics), it basically covers every type of situation you can think of.

Think of this book as a textbook. Read it. (But it is dense so if you need some help, try this.)

2 & 3. Rules for Radicals, Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

Rules for Radicals

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama studied Alinsky extensively as they mapped their individual paths to power. He is the real originator of the concept of community organization.

Alinsky was also a die hard pragmatist, a man who had ideals but also a sense for working with and through the system to get what he needed. In fact, his best examples in these books is actually how to use the system against itself to get what he needed. These two books are classics and woefully underrated. Read them now.

4. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

This is probably the most definitive and comprehensive narrative of power ever written.

It maps the entire career of the city planner Robert Moses. I know that doesn’t seem like a particularly illustrative case study for power and strategy but Robert Moses lived power. He controlled the expansion and the building of civilization’s most advanced and important city–and he did it because he was a strategic genius (and of course, a power addict).

This book will take weeks to read but it will stick with you forever. After you are done, I promise you will not forget or ever underestimate the importance of hidden influence, power and levers again.


4 & 5. The 33 Strategies of War, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

The 48 Laws of Power

Of course, I am biased because I trained under Robert. But if I had not, these books still would have given me a priceless education (as they have for millions of other people).

Robert is a crack researcher and storyteller – he has a profound ability to explain timeless truths through story and example. You can read the classics and not always understand the lessons. But if you read Robert’s books, I promise you will leave not just with actionable lessons but an indelible sense of what to do in many trying and confusion situations. Also the extra benefit of reading Robert is that you get mini-bios of strategic geniuses like Napoleon, Edison, Machiavelli, Caesar, Cortez, and others.

6. How To Profit By One’s Enemies by Plutarch

This short essay from Plutarch is about an important strategic (and life) lesson. Our enemies and our obstacles are always teaching us. There is always some lesson or advantage we can derive from them. But we must make ourselves open to this. We must cultivate an attitude that welcomes these lessons rather than fights against them.

7. The Works of BH Liddell Hart

I recommend ALL of Hart’s books, from Strategy to Why Don’t We Learn From History to his excellent biographies of strategic geniuses like William T. Sherman.

Like Greene, Hart has the ability to communicate and explain timeless truths about strategy and power. Reading one of his books is the equivalent of reading many other primary texts because he so expertly synthesizes and communicates what lies within them. He is also eminently quotable–which makes the lessons that much easier to recall. For instance, he reduced Sherman down to a simple line: Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.

8. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

Boyd was a world class fighter pilot who changed warfare and strategy not just in the air, but on the ground and by sea. His concepts pioneered the modern concept of maneuver warfare (and were used for the First Gulf War). His method of problem solving and problem analysis – known as the OODA Loop – is now used in boardrooms and everywhere else. He also perfected the art of “Getting Things Done” whether that was in war or in the bureaucracy of the Pentagon. You need to know and understand John Boyd.

9. The Book of Five Rings by Musashi

The Book of Five Rings

Musashi was a different kind of strategist, which is why his book is so important. Most of us won’t find ourselves leading armies anytime soon. As a swordsman, Musashi fought mostly by himself, for himself. His strategic wisdom, therefore, is mostly internal. It’s about the mindset, the discipline, and the perception necessary to win in life or death situations. He tells you how to outthink and outmaneuver your enemies. He tells you how to fend for yourself. And isn’t that precisely what so many of us need help with everyday?

10. The Prince by Machiavelli

The Prince

Of course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who withstood heinous torture and exile with barely a whimper.

Machiavelli is a glimpse into a time when power was literal and out for public viewing–when he talks about making an example of someone, he doesn’t mean calling them out, he means putting their head on a pike. Don’t let that scare you because we’re not as far from that world as we’d like to think. Deny that at your own peril.

11. The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It) by Michael Raynor

The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It)

I don’t have a lot of modern books on this list, but this is an excellent one.

We tend to wrongly think that strategy is about coming up with a genius plan and then committing to it. In fact, this is often a recipe for disaster, particularly in business.

Though success often requires a total investment in a particular strategy, this is also the recipe for extreme failure. It’s a paradox.

Michael Raynor’s book has important thoughts on this inherent paradox as well as approaches for mitigating and avoiding it.

12. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

Phil Jackson is a master strategist and leader. You don’t win 13 championships in multiple cities if you’re not.

What’s interesting about Jackson’s approach is how eastern it is–he guides by giving up control, he leads by encouraging other leaders, he favors movement over resistance. He has articulated these concepts in an incredibly accessible way in his most recent book and I strongly suggest everyone read it.

13 & 14. Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate — The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff and Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right.

Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming.

Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.

15. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Washington: A Life

I just finished this book and, goddamn, Washington’s status as an icon shamefully understates his genius as a strategist.

The man had an impeccable intuition for timing, for gestures, for politics, for the moment to strike, not just on the battlefield but in relationships, in office and in his private life.

We must study Washington not only for his nearly unbelievable military victory over a superior British Army, but also for his strategic vision which quite literally was responsible for many of the most enduring American institutions and practices.

I admit this book is long, but it is so good. It is packed with illustrative examples, analysis and stories. Read it.

16 & 17. The Art of War by Sun-Tzu and On War by Carl Von Clausewitz

On War

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer.

While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society.

On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.

18. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard B. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

This might feel like a weird book to include, but I think it presents another side of strategy that is too often forgotten.

It’s not always about bold actors and strategic thrusts. Sometimes strategy is about subtle influence. Sometimes it is framing and small tweaks that change behavior.

We can have big aims, but get there with little moves. This book has excellent examples of that kind of thinking and how it is changing politics, government and business. My favorite example is about the bumblebee that they started putting on urinals–which drastically reduced the amount of spray and spillage because it changed where men aimed when they peed. It’s not exactly the coolest strategy but it solved a problem. So we can learn from it.

19. Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Past 25 Years by Paul B. Carroll & Chunka Mui

Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years

I am putting this book on here as a cautionary tale for all the supposed business strategists out there. Because it turns out that most (if not all) genius business strategies are totally misguided and lead to catastrophic failure.

Your planned merger, roll up, pivot–it’s probably got glaring strategic flaws in it. Why? Because you’re too caught up in your own vision to see what can go wrong, to see where you’ve been overly optimistic, to accept how little you control.

Pairing this book with some of the books on war is a good idea. It will humble you and keep you conservative–which all good strategists are. “Boldness” should be used sparingly because it’s often actually just stupidity in disguise.


20, 21 & 22. The Big Con: The Story of Confidence Men, Whiz Mob: A Correlation of the Technical Argot of Pickpockets with Their Behavior Pattern by David W. Maurer and The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss

It probably seems weird to recommend books on pickup artists, pick pockets and con men (nor am I necessarily equating the three groups) but it fits.

Though I would accept that most of what these guys do is tactical rather than strategic—they are still quite excellent at identifying opportunities and weaving such flawless, enveloping plans that the marks often have no idea that anything is actually occurring.

A favorite con example is the one where the con man sets up a fake boxing match that he agrees to “fix” with his mark. Taking the marks money, he then fakes the fake boxing match so that it appears that one boxers kills the other in the ring. He and the mark then flee the scene in opposite direction to avoid the police–the mark thinking he got away with murder, when really he was robbed.

The Game is about seduction, literally, but the other two books are about seduction in their own way as well. These books are all classics and will help you, no matter what you do.

23 & 24. The Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant and Williams T. Sherman(Library of America)

Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

These two men won the Civil War despite numerous obstacles.

In many ways, the war was the South’s to lose–they possessed all the territory they wanted at the beginning of the war, they faced a divided enemy, and all they had to do was wait the North out.

The America we live in today is what it is because of the strategic genius and partnership of the Grant and Sherman. Sherman understood the grand strategy of the war–that it depended on crushing the morale of the Southern cause. Grant understand and held the determination required to muddle through battle after battle (along with the destructive politics).

Sherman’s march through the South was a masterwork of planning and vision. Grant’s slow maneuvering of Lee, meant that Lee (who I think is massively overrated) could do nothing to stop it. These two books, written by the men themselves, are about totally unique and priceless historical documents.

***

Strategy is a rabbit hole that never ends. I am not saying that my list is conclusion–I know it doesn’t even come close. I am just trying to get you started.

I hope these books help. I hope they begin to bring out the strategist inside you. Because there is one there–and whatever you’re working on it will benefit from cultivating that side of yourself.

Now get reading and then get working. Because every word you read in these books become more valuable the more experience you combine it with. Don’t just read about strategy, live it.

This post appeared originally on Thought Catalog



The image of the Zen philosopher is the monk up in the green, quiet hills, or in a beautiful temple on some rocky cliff. The Stoic, on the other hand, is the antithesis of this idea. The Stoic is the man in the marketplace, the merchant on a voyage, the senator in the Forum, the soldier at the front. In other words, they are like you.

Those jobs might not seem like ones well-suited for “philosophy,” but they are. And so are you. For in even the most modern seeming professions, a Stoic is able to achieve peace and clarity. For thousands of years, Stoicism has been a tool for the ordinary and the elite alive—from slaves to emperors—as they sought wisdom, strength and the ‘good life.’ It was a philosophy designed for action—for doers—not for the classroom.

Which is why it has been popular with everyone from Marcus Aurelius and Seneca (one of the richest men in Rome), to Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick the Great and Michel de Montaigne. More recently, Stoicism has been cited by investors like Tim Ferriss and executives like Jonathan Newhouse, the CEO of Condé Nast International. Even football coaches like Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and baseball managers like Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers have recommended Stoicism to their players.

How can we follow in their timeless footsteps? How can we reap the benefits of this operating system in our own workplace? It’s simple. Go straight to the sources. Below are 7 Stoic exercises and strategies, pulled from the new book The Daily Stoic (and daily email at DailyStoic.com), that will help you navigate your workplace with better clarity, effectiveness, and peace of mind.

DON’T MAKE THINGS HARDER THAN THEY NEED TO BE

“If someone asks you how to write your name, would you bark out each letter? And if they get angry, would you then return the anger? Wouldn’t you rather gently spell out each letter for them? So then, remember in life that your duties are the sum of individual acts. Pay attention to each of these as you do your duty . . . just methodically complete your task.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.26

Here’s a common scenario. You’re working with a frustrating coworker or a difficult boss. They ask you to do something and, because you dislike the messenger, you immediately object. There’s this problem or that one, or their request is obnoxious and rude. So you tell them, “No, I’m not going to do it.” Then they retaliate by not doing something that you had previously asked of them. And so the conflict escalates.

Meanwhile, if you could step back and see it objectively, you’d probably see that not everything they’re asking for is unreasonable. In fact, some of it is pretty easy to do or is, at least, agreeable. And if you did it, it might make the rest of the tasks a bit more tolerable too. Pretty soon, you’ve done the entire thing.

Life (and our job) is difficult enough. Let’s not make it harder by getting emotional about insignificant matters or digging in for battles we don’t actually care about. Let’s not let emotion get in the way of kathêkon, the simple, appropriate actions on the path to virtue.

IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT

“Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.13

On tough days we might say, “My work is overwhelming,” or “My boss is really frustrating.” If only we could understand that this is impossible. Someone can’t frustrate you, work can’t overwhelm you-these are external objects, and they have no access to your mind. Those emotions you feel, as real as they are, come from the inside, not the outside.

The Stoics use the word hypolêpsis, which means “taking up”—of perceptions, thoughts, and judgments by our mind. What we assume, what we willingly generate in our mind, that’s on us. We can’t blame other people for making us feel stressed or frustrated any more than we can blame them for our jealousy. The cause is within us. They’re just the target.

A PROPER FRAME OF MIND

“Frame your thoughts like this—you are an old person, you won’t let yourself be enslaved by this any longer, no longer pulled like a puppet by every impulse, and you’ll stop complaining about your present fortune or dreading the future.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.2

We resent the person who comes in and tries to boss us around. Don’t tell me how to dress, how to think, how to do my job, how to live. This is because we are independent, self-sufficient people.

Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Yet if someone says something we disagree with, something inside us tells us we have to argue with them. If there’s a plate of cookies in front of us, we have to eat them. If someone does something we dislike, we have to get mad about it. When something bad happens, we have to be sad, depressed, or worried. But if something good happens a few minutes later, all of a sudden we’re happy, excited, and want more.

We would never let another person jerk us around the way we let our impulses do. It’s time we start seeing it that way—that we’re not puppets that can be made to dance this way or that way just because we feel like it. We should be the ones in control, not our emotions, because we are independent, self-sufficient people.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

“At every moment keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand, as a Roman and human being, doing it with strict and simple dignity, affection, freedom, and justice—giving yourself a break from all other considerations. You can do this if you approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint over your fair share. You can see how mastery over a few things makes it possible to live an abundant and devout life—for, if you keep watch over these things, the gods won’t ask for more.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.5

Each day presents the chance to overthink things. What should I wear? Do they like me? Am I eating well enough? What’s next for me in life? Is my boss happy with my work?

Today, let’s focus just on what’s in front of us. We’ll follow the dictum that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives his players: “Do your job.” Like a Roman, like a good soldier, like a master of our craft. We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.

Marcus says to approach each task as if it were your last, because it very well could be. And even if it isn’t, botching what’s right in front of you doesn’t help anything. Find clarity in the simplicity of doing.

NEVER DO ANYTHING OUT OF HABIT

“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing receiving over giving.”—Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5–11

A worker is asked: “Why did you do it this way?” The answer, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done things.” The answer frustrates every good boss and sets the mouth of every entrepreneur watering. The worker has stopped thinking and is mindlessly operating out of habit. The business is ripe for disruption by a competitor, and the worker will probably get fired by any thinking boss.

We should apply the same ruthlessness to our own habits. In fact, we are studying philosophy precisely to break ourselves of rote behavior. Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do—do it for the right reasons.

YOUR CAREER IS NOT A LIFE SENTENCE

“How disgraceful is the lawyer whose dying breath passes while at court, at an advanced age, pleading for unknown litigants and still seeking the approval of ignorant spectators.”Seneca, On the Brevity of Life, 20.2

Every few years, a sad spectacle is played out in the news. An old millionaire, still lord of his business empire, is taken to court. Shareholders and family members go to court to argue that he is no longer mentally competent to make decisions—that the patriarch is not fit to run his own company and legal affairs. Because this powerful person refused to ever relinquish control or develop a succession plan, he is subjected to one of life’s worst humiliations: the public exposure of his most private vulnerabilities.

We must not get so wrapped up in our work that we think we’re immune from the reality of aging and life. Who wants to be the person who can never let go? Is there so little meaning in your life that your only pursuit is work until you’re eventually carted off in a coffin?

Take pride in your work. But it is not all.

PROTECT YOUR PEACE OF MIND

“Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadi- ness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”Epictetus, Discourses, 4.3.6b–8

The dysfunctional job that stresses you out, a contentious relationship, life in the spotlight. Stoicism, because it helps us manage and think through our emotional reactions, can make these kinds of situations easier to bear. It can help you manage and mitigate the triggers that seem to be so constantly tripped.

But here’s a question: Why are you subjecting yourself to this? Is this really the environment you were made for? To be provoked by nasty emails and an endless parade of workplace problems? Our adrenal glands can handle only so much before they become exhausted. Shouldn’t you preserve them for life-and-death situations?

So yes, use Stoicism to manage these difficulties. But don’t forget to ask: Is this really the life I want? Every time you get upset, a little bit of life leaves the body. Are these really the things on which you want to spend that priceless resource? Don’t be afraid to make a change—a big one.

For a bit of Stoic wisdom every single day right in your inbox, sign up for the Daily Stoic email. Over the first 7 days you will also receive a number of bonuses including an introduction to Stoicism, the best books and resources to read, Stoic exercises and much more!