#1836 – Ryan Holiday | Joe Rogan Experience

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Key Takeaways

  • Even though Meditations was written roughly 1900 years ago, many of Marcus Aurelius’ personal reflections are surprisingly relevant in modern times
    • “The specific is universal…he was so unflinchingly honest with himself that he was touching something universally human.” – Ryan Holiday
    • Philosophers of ancient times were kings, warriors, and athletes—not turtle-necked professors
  • “We treat the body rigorously so that it will not be disobedient to the mind” – Ryan Holiday quoting Seneca
    • Physical challenges are ‘an assertion to show who’s in charge’
  • The Stoic Practice of Stillness: freedom from disturbances, the ability to slow things down
    • “Be like the rock or the cliff that the waves crash over and eventually fall still around”Ryan Holiday quoting Marcus Aurelius
  • People like to get involved in pursuits where the burden of performance is not on them
    • Example: It’s easy to get wrapped up in political debates, but very little of it is in your control
    • Spend more time and energy on things that directly impact your personal growth, not uncontrollable distractions
  • “Podcasting, I think, is better than most of the other online tech-focused mediums”Ryan Holiday
    • The incentives of podcasting are designed to get you closer to the truth
    • Things like blog posts, clickbait headlines, and singular tweets are rewarded for getting you further from the truth
    • “I think if there was even a hint of bullshit, people wouldn’t trust me anymore” – Joe Rogan
  • The issue with the phrase “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” is that many people don’t even have boots
    • “Poverty is like a 500-pound man trying to do box jumps” – Joe Rogan
    • Not everyone starts at the same place: In order for the man to do box jumps, you must first teach him to lose weight.
  • “Any industry that has gatekeepers is inherently susceptible to being corrupted because those people have a certain unearned power” – Ryan Holiday

Intro

Key Books Mentioned

  • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
    • Ryan tells a story of how he always kept this book on his desk at the Hollywood talent agency he previously worked for—his boss correlated the book to him being up to something. At the first opportunity, his boss screamed at him for making a mistake and blamed the book. Ryan got up and never came back.
    • Robert Greene is one of Ryan Holiday’s favorite people; Ryan worked as a research assistant for him
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    • The most powerful man in the world, writing notes to himself—it was never intended to be published
    • Ryan thinks the Gregory Hays translation is the most consumable
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
    • A book from the 1980s that compares television to the printing press, but the narrative is extremely applicable to the progression of social media
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel J. Boorstin
    • 1960s book tha t analyzed events that have no other use than to get media attention—a press conference, for example
  • The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism by Upton Sinclair
    • Book from the early 1900s that was an exposé on the media industry
  • Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
    • Follows elderly people who played by the rules their whole lives but ended up living in an RV and working odd jobs to survive

Who was Marcus Aurelius, Actually?

  • Even though Meditations was written roughly 1900 years ago, many of Marcus Aurelius’ personal reflections are surprisingly relevant in modern times
    • “The specific is universal…he was so unflinchingly honest with himself that he was touching something universally human.” – Ryan Holiday
    • We should not be able to relate to his experience at all, he was the ultimate ruler of his era—but somehow, his words transcend his power.
  • There were five roman emperors in a row that did not have a family male heir—often referred to as the five good emperors
    • Hadrian saw the potential in Marcus very early on but decided he was too young to be named emperor. So, he named Antoninus Pius emperor under the condition he adopts Marcus Aurelius and makes him heir to the throne.
    • Antonius ended up living for 19 more years, giving Marcus one heck of an apprenticeship
    • Marcus writes a thank you letter to Antoninus at the beginning of Meditations
  • Marcus Aurelius lost seven children before they reached adulthood—leaving the heir to Commodus, who marked the end of the Roman golden period of peace.
    • “Every one of the sons he wanted to succeed him, died” – Ryan Holiday
    • The irony of the movie Gladiator is that Joaquin Phoenix probably underplays how awful Marcus Aurelius’ son was

Resiliency is a Muscle

  • Philosophers get a bad rep. Today, you visualize them as turtleneck professors. But in ancient times, philosophers were kings, warriors, and athletes.
    • Joe thinks there is a problem of intellectual elitism: mental intellect is held in higher regard than physical
  • “We treat the body rigorously so that it will not be disobedient to the mind” – Ryan Holiday quoting Seneca
    • Physical challenges are ‘an assertion to show who’s in charge’
    • Physical challenges help you practice and cultivate the skill of resiliency
  • “Your life is dyed by the color of your thoughts”Ryan Holiday quoting Marcus Aurelius
    • If you think it’s impossible, it’s impossible for you
    • If you constantly visualize making a better life for yourself, you will get there more often than not
  • Stillness: freedom from disturbances, the ability to slow things down
    • “Be like the rock or the cliff that the waves crash over and eventually fall still around”Ryan Holiday quoting Marcus Aurelius
  • Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to balancing exposure and resiliency
    • “Take a little bit of it and you’ll develop a tolerance. But if you get too much of it, it’s going to fucking kill you.” – Joe Rogan
    • The everyday person probably has access to more information than the president did 20 years ago—it’s overwhelming and unprecedented
  • The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday takes this topic to the next level

Comparison

  • “Comparison is the thief of joy” – Ryan Holiday quoting Theodore Roosevelt
    • If you didn’t have what you have, and someone else did, you would be jealous of that person
  • People like to get involved in pursuits where the burden of performance is not on them
    • Low-risk uncontrollable distractions suck your time and energy away from high-reward controllable personal opportunities
    • Example: It’s easy to get wrapped up in political debates, but very little of it is in your control; and therefore, not worth your time.

Mediums of Communication

  • Our communication conforms to the present medium of information
    • Twitter broke people’s brains. We are not designed to communicate in 240 characters.
    • See the Key Books Mentioned section for resources on how communication has changed with different forms of media (oral traditions, printing press, radio, TV, social media)
  • “Podcasting, I think, is better than most of the other online tech-focused mediums”Ryan Holiday
    • The incentives of podcasting are designed to get you closer to the truth. Things like blog posts, clickbait headlines, and singular tweets are rewarded for bringing you further from the truth.
    • “I think if there was even a hint of bullshit, people wouldn’t trust me anymore” – Joe Rogan
  • Journalism is inherently manipulative
    • Anything tied to compensation is predicated, at least partially, on ulterior motives

Gatekeepers & Writing

  • “Any industry that has gatekeepers is inherently susceptible to being corrupted because those people have a certain unearned power” – Ryan Holiday
    • Deep down, gatekeepers probably know that they don’t really do or create anything—but they’re drunk on the false layer of power over truly talented people.
  • The New York Times Best Seller list isn’t actually an objective list of best sellers, it’s an editorial piece
    • It does eliminate fraud (a billionaire buying 100,000 copies of their own book) and filters out perennial sellers (Harry Potter), but it does open the door to unfair subjectivity
    • Also, if they don’t like your book, they’ll incorrectly categorize it as ‘how-to or miscellaneous’ so that it doesn’t top the charts
    • “All the games are rigged…all of these gatekeeping organizations are inherently about keeping some people out and other people in” – Ryan Holiday
  • Writers must live interesting lives, you can’t just be good at the craft
    • “You have to go earn having a point of view” – Ryan Holiday

Poverty & The Student Debt Crisis

  • The issue with the phrase “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” is that many people don’t even have boots
    • “Poverty is like a 500-pound man trying to do box jumps” – Joe Rogan
    • Not everyone starts at the same place: In order for the man to do box jumps, you must first teach him to lose weight. This is a metaphor for why we need to provide resources to disadvantaged people and communities.
  • When you see a homeless person do you ask: how did they fail? or how did the system fail them?
    • When you ask how did they fail, you purposefully avoid the opportunity to change any of your habits or viewpoints
    • Ryan references Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, which analyzes elderly people who followed the system their whole lives but ended up living in an RV and working odd jobs to survive
    • “You can’t individually hold someone responsible for something that is a collective failure—they are a symptom of a huge problem.” – Ryan Holiday
  • Student loan debt completely changes career paths and purchase decisions—we are told to take on this large unforgivable loan and figure it out later
    • “The reason they didn’t buy a house is that they have a house that they are carrying around on a bank balance” – Ryan Holiday
    • College graduates become Wall Street brokers instead of teachers because they have no other choice
    • Some people are so deep in their loans that they are getting their Social Security docked

The History of Violence

  • “We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the progress that we’ve made collectively away from cruelty” – Ryan Holiday
    • “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice” – Ryan Holiday quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Sure, there are still problems in the world. But, we’ve never had a better quality of life than we do right now.
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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