Seneca’s Letter VI or Why I Write This Blog

Recently, I had several happy experiences relating to advice I’ve given to other people.  The first was in a meeting on the topic of self development and  I shared my experience creating a “nurturing list” in which you list things that bring you joy,  so that it times of anxiety, fear, or depression you can look at this list and “remember” what things bring you joy and then go do one or more of them.  As I was describing this, I saw several heads nodding.  After the meeting, I had several people come up and thank me for this nugget of information.  That felt nice.

Another experience occurred while talking with a friend who was going through a divorce. She was very stressed about going to meetings full of of lawyers and uncomfortable negotiations.  Understandably, she felt some intimidation and anxiety from this impending situation for which she had no experience.  “Have you ever hear of Amy Cuddy and her TED talk on Power Poses?”, I asked her. She told me she hadn’t, but watched it right before her meeting and told me she felt much more in control and at ease.  Who knows what that one ripple effect may have caused in the universe.  Her kids and their kids my be better off for it.

These are small things in grand scheme of the life, but I like to think they have positive after effects, and it satisfies me greatly to know that I’m playing my part and not holding on to this things for myself.


I have 40 plus years of knowledge that I have taken in,  thought about, analyzed,  and stored away.  As I get older I occasionally use those memories and apply them and/or add additional meaning to them because I’ve learned something else that applies to it in a different context.  The cycle then repeats with the overall wisdom increasing each year as I learn more and have more experiences.  This is the beauty of aging, if you’re living right, and I suspect is why in general, older people report being the happiest .  For all things that are a drag about aging, I’m finding that the wisdom that comes it is ultra gratifying and special –and (almost) makes up for the loss of the physical.

And while this knowledge does me a lot of good in dealing with all aspects of life including career, financial, nutritional,  and especially emotional health, it’s ultimately unsatisfying if I don’t share it with others.  I think it gives me even greater pleasure getting positive feedback from people I’ve passed along knowledge to than actually using it myself.  Maybe some of it is my own ego gratification ( look how smart I am!), but I’d like to think much of it is stems from an innate human drive to help others — and that can’t be all bad can it?

In Letter VI of Seneca’s Letter’s From a Stoic, written 2000 years ago he had similar thoughts that he shared with his friend Lucilius:

And when you say: “Give me also a share in these gifts which you have found so helpful,” I reply that I am anxious to heap all these privileges upon you, and that I am glad to learn in order that I may teach. Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.


In that spirit, I want to share some of my favorite authors of self development content  — whether it’s from books, blogs, or podcasts — along with a very quick synopsis of why I it was life changing for me.  Reading or listening to any one of these will be make you a bit more antifragile, but they all have something unique and valuable to say.  I recommend all of them highly.

Nasim Taleb —   The reason I started this blog.  His most famous book is the Black Swan, but the game changer for me was Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, which asserts that things can actually get better from chaos and stress.  I apply these ideas to people in this blog.

Micheal Singer —  You are not your thoughts.  You can observe you thoughts and act on them, if you choose, but you don’t have to fixate on them and let them rule your life.   The Untethered Soul is most famous book. But I love this talk he gave at at a university.  Hearing these ideas in his own voice is most effective. I’ve watched it three times.

Seneca Letters From A Stoic.  Awesome, concise advice contained in a series of letters written 2000 years ago.  Just having the historical record is incredibly cool.  But getting into the mind of one of histories greatest mentors superb.  The advice is timeless and although coming from the heart of Western Civilization, I find it compliments Eastern philosophy very well.  This is one of things that makes it so powerful.

Lao Tzu — I  just started reading the Dao De Jing ( or Tao Te Ching) and am really liking it.  I feel very calm and centered after reading these very short and simple, but powerful tidbits of wisdom.  Yin and Yang….

James Altucher —  James’ honesty is addicting and he always interviews excellent guests in his podcasts. It’s where I heard of several of these on this list.

Sally Hogshead – How to Fascinate.  She opened my mind to the very simple idea that it was okay to be myself as it applied  to my career — and not to try to conform to what I thought my job description should be.  She advises accentuating the things that make you unique and play to your strengths (and stop trying to play to your weaknesses).  When you do this, you will start to “fascinate”.

Jack Canfield — I love this book because it’s divided up in 60 some chapters of great ideas on how to my more successful and happy.  He’s collected all of these ideas and put it into a reference book on success.   You can jump in and out as you please.  It’s another one that I’ve read or listened to several times.









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