One of the wonderful perks of having a platform is getting to share stuff that has improved your life with other people—knowing that it may well improve theirs. In fact, pretty early on in my writing career, I decided I wasn’t going to be precious about my own work but instead be an active cheerleader for stuff that I loved.
Who cares who made it?
If something is good, it deserves an audience.
Anyway, I decided to put together a list of recommendations that hopefully answers some of the most common questions I get about the best books, podcasts, products, etc.
– I can’t tell you how hooked I am on Ramit Sethi’s podcast about couples and their financial issues. Sometimes it’s a couple crawling out of debt, sometimes it’s a couple worth $8M who comparison shops for deals on strawberries. It’s riveting and also super educational—because we all have scripts about money (usually not helpful or healthy ones) and seeing other people wrestle with theirs helps us with our. I find pretty much every episode is, in the end, about communication…Highly recommend this show!
– I’m going to give you three narrative non-fiction books that will rip your face off. The first is The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. Every person I have told about this book has loved it. If you haven’t read Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (a gripping, unbelievable story about the clash between Comanche Indians and white settlers in the late 1800s over an empire of millions of square miles) then you are punishing yourself. It is SO good (we also have some signed copies at the Painted Porch). I also love, love, love The River of Doubt by Candice Millard (Teddy Roosevelt’s insane exploration of an Amazon river after his presidency) and interviewed her about it a while back.
– The daily read/daily devotional genre was a game changer for me. It’s just something to chew on in the morning, an intention, an inspiration. Three favorites I pick up every day: A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy. A Poem For Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri (we read this one as a family). The Daily Laws by Robert Greene. People ask me all the time, Where should I start with Robert Greene? This book is where.
– Another everyday favorite—my wife and I take a scoop of AG1 by Athletic Greens in the morning. It’s got a ton of vitamins and minerals and other good stuff (it’s basically a multivitamin, multimineral, probiotic, and greens superfood blend). I first met Chris the founder like 11 years ago? It’s been a part of the routine for a long time. I reached out and they said they’d offer a FREE 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D AND 5 FREE travel packs with your first purchase.
– There is no blog I have read longer or more consistently than Marginal Revolution. Tyler Cowen is one of the G.O.A.Ts. If he’s not in your life, you’re missing out.
– To me, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is the greatest book ever written. I’ve read it a couple hundred times. For me, it was what Tyler Cowen calls a “quake book”—shaking everything I thought I knew about the world. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength. Usually I introduce people to Marcus through Gregory Hays’ translation, which I think is lyrical and beautiful, but a recent annotated edition by Robin Waterfield is right up there. With almost every passage, Robin provides the necessary context, gives insight into what Marcus was referencing, draws connections to other passages, etc. If you have not read Meditations, Robin’s translation might be the one to start with.
– Speaking of Marcus, in my left pocket, I carry a coin that says Memento Mori, which is Latin for ”remember you will die.” On the back, it has one of my favorite quotes from Marcus: “You could leave life right now.” I firmly believe the thought of our mortality should shadow everything that we do.
– In my other pocket, I carry a medallion with a custom-designed seal with four elements representing the four Stoic virtues: Courage, Temperance, Justice, and Wisdom.
– My three favorite novels of all time: What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg, Ask the Dust by John Fante, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you don’t read a lot of fiction, these three are the place to start. They teach you just as much as any non-fiction book.
– Another “book” I pick up each day is a journal. It’s a small blue gold leafed notebook called the One Line a Day journal, and it has spots for five years. I’m four years into the journal, where I write about what happened yesterday, so I can see what’s been going on for four years. It’s great. After, I pick up The Daily Stoic Journal, where I prepare for the day ahead by meditating on a short prompt, then set an intention or a goal for the day—just something to give myself something I can review at the end of the day, that I can evaluate myself against.
– With two young boys, I also pick up a kids book every night. Our favorites: What Does It Mean to Be an American?, Her Right Foot, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Most People, and Here We Are. And it was one night as we were getting ready for bed that my oldest asked me to tell him the story of Marcus Aurelius. This is something I had been thinking about for a long time because a lot of people ask me how they should teach Stoicism to their kids. I started to tell my son a story that we came to call, The Boy Who Would Be King.
– I’m a big fan of newsletters, as well. Here are some that I subscribe to: James Clear’s “3-2-1 Thursday,” Mark Manson’s “Motherfucking Monday,” Tim Ferriss’ “5 Bullet Friday”, Maria Popova’s “The Marginalian”, Emily Oster’s “Parent Data”, Matt Levine’s “Money Stuff”, and Billy Oppenheimer’s “SIX at 6”.
– I’m not a big fan of the “solve a device problem with another device” logic, but the Apple Watch has substantially reduced the amount of time I spend on my phone, and helped me curb the desire to always have it near me. Airpods too—they are as magical as anything Apple has ever made.
– MagicSpoon Cereal. LOVE this enough to have invested in it. My favorite dessert is MagicSpoon + wild blackberries we pick on the farm. My father in law is hooked on them too. (use code RYANHOLIDAY at checkout for $5 off).
– Something I use and have used daily and weekly for going on three years: ButcherBox. ButcherBox delivers high quality, grass-fed meat to your doorstep once a month—my wife and I basically haven’t bought meat from the store since we started using it.
– Sad that I have to put this but…here we are, two years into a pandemic with a new, hyper contagious variant. If you’re still using a cloth mask, you’re doing it wrong. You need an N95 or KN95. You can get them basically anywhere at this point, but it’s good to check the manufacturer with Project95 to make sure you’re not getting scammed. Considering Marcus died of the plague, I think it’s safe to say he’d wear a mask…Also these at-home COVID tests we use when getting our employees together or meeting people who have been traveling, etc. $12 a test roughly…it’s not cheap but if you can afford it, safe is better than sorry (and it helps others too).
– I run just about every day. I have different loops I do depending on where I am and La Sportiva’s have been my main shoe for the last 5-6 years. I usually push the kids in a side by side running roller on our walks and run but even though I have 3 of them…I wouldn’t recommend any enough to give you a name (you’ll see why here).
– My two favorite charities are Feeding America (we just raised almost $200k for them) and Against Malaria (which can save a life for $3,340). I also love GiveWell, which helps you rate and evaluate the ROI of various causes. Another cause close to my heart is the Uyghur Human Rights Project, which has been at the forefront of drawing both resources and attention to the plight of millions of people in Xinjiang. I had Uyghur activist Ferkat Jawdat on the Daily Stoic podcast—if you don’t know about the horrendous situation in Xinjiang, give that conversation a listen.
– One decision I’ve eliminated from my life is what to have for lunch. Across the street from The Painted Porch is Base Camp Deli, and if I am not bringing something from home (usually leftovers)I get a Turkey & Havarti sandwich or the Chicken Pesto, and salt & vinegar chips with a Topo Chico.
– Whenever someone visits us in Bastrop, I like to take them to dinner at Store House Market & Eatery, which is just down the street from The Painted Porch. With eighteen 18-wheelers, Chef Sonya Cote and her husband David Barrow moved their Eden East farm from Austin to Bastrop. We love to start with the butternut queso and the pork terrine & pickles, then I always get the Grass Fed Burger or the steak.
– When I find a song I like, I listen to it over and over again. Alone in my office or on my phone, I play songs on repeat over and over and over again. Loudly, as my wife and anyone who works for me can unfortunately attest. Here’s some all-time favorites I picked when I was a guest DJ recently on KUTX.
– Instapaper is how I save and read articles.
– Being able to wear and dress as I please is important to me—at least the freedom of it is. So I am in a T-shirt most days. I basically live in an American Apparel Power Wash Tee, which is the standard American Apparel T-shirt but treated so it mimics a shirt that has been washed roughly 50 times. If I’m not wearing one, I usually wear vintage concert t-shirts, either that I bought myself or I found on Etsy.
– We shoot everything for Daily Stoic’s YouTube Channel on a Sony A7 III with a Rode VideoMicPro as well as two more Sony a6400’s when recording a video podcast. When I’m traveling I always bring along a couple of the GoPro HERO9’s to shoot b-roll, also most of the clips I record for TikTok are using one of these.
– When I’m recording for the Daily Stoic Podcast or the Daily Dad Podcast I use a Zoom H6 with a Shure SM7B running through a Cloudlifter for some added gain. When I do virtual podcasts or online talks, I use a Rhode USB mic and Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm headphones.
– My kids are obsessed with Brent Underwood’s ghost town YouTube videos and we watch one before bed each night.
– For years, I’ve advocated keeping quotes on your desk. Something to chew on. A thought to guide the day. Now I keep the Daily Stoic page-a-day calendar on my desk, so I can have a new quote for every day of the year.
– Everything I do, I do on index cards. They are the building blocks for my whole life. Notecards are where I sketch out ideas. They’re where I record quotes that I want to save for later use. It’s how I outline my own writing and where I take notes. They’re where I jot down stories, and where I workshop points I want to make. They’ve helped me create talks and articles. For a while, I used generic ruled 4-by-6 notecards. But now I print my own specific to the project I am working on.
– I carry books, notecards, and pens everywhere I go. I use this Carhartt bag that is actually a tool bag, but also happens to be perfect for the tools of my craft.
– Nothing. Is there anything better than sitting down, doing nothing, holding nothing and just being? Sometimes the best things are the things you get rid of or say no to. Remember...the things you own should not own you.
I’ve written before about one of my favorite quotes from Robert Louis Stevenson: To know what you like is the beginning of wisdom. I make a point to find the stuff I like and stuff that lasts (it’s a basic thing you can do to reduce your footprint, if you care about the environment) because when you stock your life with things you can depend on, it frees up precious resources.
But I also always like to remind myself with all of these things that—much like existence—they are transitory. The Stoics talk a lot about not getting too attached to anything, loosening the hold that possessions have on us, embracing the truth of uncertainty, having the ability to enjoy whatever is in front of you. “He is a great man who uses earthenware dishes as if they were silver,” Seneca wrote, “but he is equally great who uses silver as if it were earthenware.”