Several months ago wrote a blog post recommending the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I described it as a book that changed the way I viewed the world. After reading the book I wanted to know more about Ryan’s philosophy and the philosophy of the stoics. So, I reached out to Ryan on Twitter looking for a suggestion on where to start with reading some of his source material on stoicism. He replied recommending Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and after finishing Meditations, I would like to do the same for you.
Meditations is a loose collection of personal thoughts, lessons and ideas written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius who ruled Rome from 161 to 180 AD. He did not write this book for anyone to read or for publication. This is his own personal journal. His private thoughts that have somehow, amazingly, managed to survive the almost two thousand year journey to today.
The lessons you can pull from this book are incredibly profound. The depth and, at the same time, the simplicity of the concepts is astounding. I’m sure people will ask how well thoughts from almost two thousand years ago can really hold up and be applied in the twenty-first century, and the answer is surprisingly well. This is because the concepts haven’t changed, just the implementation. People are still cruel and deceptive. Life doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes we are driven by impulses. These were all relevant in the time of Marcus Aurelius, just as they are today. I do want to mention that this is not light reading. Almost every entry needs a moment of reflection and digestion, but how often do you have the chance to read the personal journal of an emperor? I mean, how cool is that!
If you are looking for a little more motivation to pick this book up consider a few things. This is one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books. Regardless of your politics, you have to respect the position and the influences that shape anyone who attains that position. Additionally, according to Ryan Holiday, Wen Jiabao claims this is one of two books he travels with, and Teddy Roosevelt took this book as one of eight he chose to take when he explored the Amazon Rainforest.
This is a book that has shaped history. The lessons put forth are applicable to people from world leaders to bloggers and everyone in between. I can’t recommend this book enough, and, personally, I look forward to reading it again next year.
What books have shaped your life? Leave a comment or follow up on social media!