Applying Stoicism To COVID-19 | Ryan Holiday on The Drive with Petter Attia

Check out The Peter Attia Drive Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Stoicism is the philosophy that you can’t control what is happening to you, but you can control how you respond
    • It’s about letting go of the things that you’re not in control of in favor of what you can control 
  • The famous stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, actually lived through the Antonine Plague in Rome which lasted for 15 years and wrote much of his book, Meditations, in the exact scenario that a lot of us are in right now 
  • Use your extra time to:
    • Re-energize: Detach, get some rest, and rejuvenate yourself
    • Re-evaluate: Question your business and life goals
    • Experiment: Try new things (read books, paint art, etc.)
      • “Like you can create things to throw yourself into that allow you to feel some momentum and accomplishment and purpose…rather than wallowing in your resentment or anger or boredom” –Ryan Holiday
  • COVID-19 has shown us that the world lacks true leaders
    • “Very rarely has there been such a failure in leadership at essentially every level, from the geopolitical level to specific world leaders, to the governors…it’s been quite horrendous”Ryan Holiday
  • The US and the world, must learn from the crisis and come out on the other side better and stronger
    • “Where I think philosophy really comes in, what it’s actually about is emerging from this better and stronger…The worst thing we could do to those people [that will die from this] would be to emerge from this and essentially learn nothing, to go back to business as usual.” Ryan Holiday

Intro

  • Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) is a media strategist, public speaker, and one of the most prolific writers of our generation
  •  Host: Peter Attia (@PeterAttiaMD)

Books Mentioned

  • Meditations, by the famous stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius  
  • Ryan is currently enjoying reading Leadership: In Turbulent Times by  Doris Kearns Goodwin 
  • Peter has read Ryan’s book, Stillness is the Key four times
  • Ryan recommends his book, Obstacle is the Way if you have been “knocked on your ass and you’re trying to figure out ‘what next’
  • To learn about the consequences of the socially isolating, Peter recommends reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger  

Thoughts on COVID-19

  • Almost every negative event has some type of silver lining–with the coronavirus, Peter and Ryan are using their extra time to reflect on life
    • If you’re relieved about an event being canceled because of the virus, it may be a sign that you didn’t actually want to go to that event
      • “A lot of the things we think are non-negotiable, we’re just actually not willing to negotiate, but of course they aren’t non-negotiable” – Ryan Holiday
  •  If you’re an artist, writer, or any type of creator, everything that happens to you is all material you can use in your work
    • “I think deciding that you’re going to experience this in a way that you emerge from it at least sort of wiser and better at what you do to me is sort of the way to think about it.”Ryan Holiday
  • The two big problems with COVID-19: 
    • 1) The physical risk to people and the uncertainty around the fatality rate
    • 2) The economic damage 
  • The famous stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, actually lived through the Antonine Plague in Rome which lasted for 15 years and wrote much of his book, Meditations, in the exact scenario that a lot of us are in right now 
    • When Rome was running out of money, Marcus went to the palace to find items he could sell 
      • “People are really struggling with how to sort of temper themselves and how to limit themselves and have self-discipline and put other people’s needs above their own..these are sort of timeless struggles that we’ve always had.” – Ryan Holiday
  • COVID-19 has shown us that the world lacks true leaders
    • “Very rarely has there been such a failure in leadership at essentially every level, from the geopolitical level to specific world leaders, to the governors…it’s been quite horrendous”Ryan Holiday

Stoicism

  • Stoicism is the philosophy that you can’t control what is happening to you, but you can control how you respond
    • It’s about letting go of the things that you’re not in control of in favor of what you can control 
      • Stoic philosophy was actually born from a time when pandemics were very real 
  • Don’t spend time focusing on who’s to blame, instead, focus on how to move forward and make things better
  • People love stoicism because it’s a practical philosophy that you can apply to reduce suffering today
  • Stoics were a big proponent of journaling

COVID-19 Through The Lens of Stoic Philosophy 

  • Stoicism emphasizes being prepared for the worst-case scenario
    • Murphy’s Law says what can go wrong, will go wrong
      • It’s not pleasant to imagine all the things that can go wrong, but what you really don’t want is to get caught off guard
        • The U.S. wasn’t prepared for the COVID-19 and the impact it would have 
  • The US and the world, must learn from the crisis and come out on the other side better and stronger
    • “Where I think philosophy really comes in, what it’s actually about is emerging from this better and stronger…The worst thing we could do to those people [that will die from this] would be to emerge from this and essentially learn nothing, to go back to business as usual.” Ryan Holiday
  • US citizens should take some responsibility for the failed response to COVID-19
    • Ryan stresses that we need to do a better job of selecting our world leaders with higher character and not just about if they agree with the same policies as us
      • “We put leaders with enormous character flaws, people with genuine bad character, in charge and we knew it” Ryan Holiday

Alive Time vs. Dead Time

  • Since many people are either working from home or not working at all, people have a lot more time than now than ever before
    • You can either let this time fly by (dead time) or use this time productively (alive time)
    • “You don’t control the fact that you’re stuck in your house. You don’t control that…but you do decide what you’re going to use this time for.”Ryan Holiday
  • Take control of your life: Ryan uses an alarm clock to wake up early every morning even though he could ‘kill’ the day by sleeping in 
  • Use your extra time to:
    • Re-energize: Detach, get some rest, and rejuvenate yourself
    • Re-evaluate: Question your business and life goals
    • Experiment: Try new things (read books, paint art, etc.)
      • “Like you can create things to throw yourself into that allow you to feel some momentum and accomplishment and purpose…rather than wallowing in your resentment or anger or boredom” –Ryan Holiday

Keep Exercising

  • Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from exercising: take 20 minutes every day to workout
    • Exercise is really important for mental and physical health
      • There are countless free workout apps and you don’t need any fancy gym equipment to get a full-body workout 

Lessons From Winston Churchill

  • Churchill’s life was a wild journey, he was a prisoner of war, politically exiled, a world leader and a Nobel Prize winner
    • Churchill managed to keep pushing forward and went on to do amazing things
      • After helping win WWII, he was then thrown out of office shortly after
        • “The great ones don’t seem to dwell on that because there really isn’t a lot of benefit that comes out of that backwards looking thing” –Peter Attia
  • Churchill was one of the most well-known and highest-paid writers during his lifetime
    • He wrote about 10 million words during his lifetime
  • Churchill was a fan of routine and discipline
    • He would write at the same time of the day, and took walks daily
  • Even with mountains of work, Churchill made time for hobbies, such as painting
    • Working too much can backfire because it’s important to step back and evaluate the big picture instead of constantly reacting without really thinking
      •  “It’s not necessarily clear to me that you’re going to do a better job of those things if you neglect that sort of self-care that comes from being in nature, being still, you know, detaching from it” Ryan Holiday

Ryan’s Thoughts On The Future

  • Ryan hopes this pandemic will redefine the role of the President 
    • We should rethink how we do business with other countries and perhaps bring our manufacturing back to the US instead of relying on China
      • “I think this is a wake-up call in a lot of ways…I think it sort of knocked people out of the stupor or the slumber that we are in” –Ryan Holiday
  • This pandemic may have killed the “woke” culture
    • The pandemic also hurt a lot of people who were about to retire and millennials who were just starting to get their lives together

Additional Notes

  • To learn about the consequences of the socially isolating, Peter recommends reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger  
  • Ryan is a fan of Tyler Cowan’s blog
Drive with Dr. Peter Attia : , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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