The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master


The Tao of Seneca

“It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence.” Seneca the Younger

After 10+ years of fantasizing about it, I have turned my favorite writing of all time (Seneca’s letters) into an audiobook series! The title of the series is The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master.

This podcast episode gives you a sample, one of my favorites: On Groundless Fears (Letter 13). I listen to it at least once a quarter.

Here’s a description of the full monty:

The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master is an introduction to Stoic philosophy through the words of Seneca.

Thought leaders in Silicon Valley tout the benefits of Stoicism, and NFL management, coaches, and players (Patriots, Seahawks, etc.) alike have embraced it because the principles make them better competitors. If you study Seneca, you’ll be in good company. He was popular with the educated elite of the Greco-Roman Empire, but Thomas Jefferson also had Seneca on his bedside table. This philosophy is a no-nonsense system designed to produce dramatic real-world effects. Think of it as an ideal operating system for thriving in high-stress environments.

The Tao of Seneca is your guide.

My suggestion: get Volume One, listen to my Preface (the origin story is fun), then skip to one of my favorite letters, several of which I list off in the first 10 minutes.

I love listening to one letter per day — they average 10-20 minutes in length — as I walk to get coffee or go to the subway. It’s the perfect way to prime yourself for better results with less stress each morning. Warning: the first “On the Shortness of Life” version is an essay and LONG (1-1.5 hours); I suggest skipping that and sampling the shorter letters to get hooked.

These letters have repeatedly changed my life, and I wish the same for you.



Want to hear another podcast related to Stoicism? — Listen to my conversation with Ryan Holiday. In this episode, we discuss the “big three” stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What philosophy or philosopher has had the biggest impact on your life or business? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • Why do some of us have negative associations with philosophy? [07:32]
  • What is Stoicism, and why are thought leaders in Silicon Valley and the world of sports suddenly interested in it? [08:27]
  • What is the benefit of rehearsing worst-case scenarios in times of “immunity from care?” [09:48]
  • With so many choices, why is Seneca Tim’s go-to philosopher? [11:36]
  • How can you make time to apply Seneca’s wisdom to your own life? [13:26]
  • How is Stoicism like cognitive behavioral therapy? [13:55]
  • What are Tim’s three favorite selections from Volume One? [14:40]
  • How did John A. Robinson become the voice of The Tao of Seneca? [15:32]
  • Letter 13: On Groundless Fears [16:32]

People Mentioned

Posted on: January 22, 2016.

The Tim Ferriss Show is generally the #1 business podcast on iTunes, and it was selected for iTunes' "Best of 2015." Each episode deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. If you want to 10x your productivity, click here.

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144 comments on “The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master

  1. This excites the hell out of me. You’ve suggested in a few podcasts that you had some big Stoicism thing coming up and I’ve been super curious about what it is. This is awesome! I’m going to pick up the audio today.


    • What type of phone (or laptop) and application are you using to listen to the audiobook? And when does the static appear? I’m having trouble replicating this issue. Will ping Audible and the team as soon as I hear back from you, so I have more complete info.


      • Hi Tim, I’m also getting static on the podcast episode (not the audiobook). I’m using pocketcasts. Not complaining, just wanted to give you a heads up🙂


      • Bummer it’s not working for me either (on iPhone 6 plus) plays (time runs) but with no sound. Tried an older podcast to test and same thing, no sound! Weird 1st time that’s happened. Might be related to the new iPhone update, I got prompted to update it yesterday 😬


      • Yesterday I got nothing but static for this podcast also, not the book (hadn’t heard the podcast or read the show notes yet). Today it’s fine. This morning I streamed it instead of downloading to start but did that too and works now. I’m using an LG G4 with Doggcatcher on Tmobile & maybe wifi (didn’t notice).


      • The distortion comes in and out. It clears up and then it comes back in. I don’t have specific times when this happens. I am using the iPhone 6 with the Audible app to listen to it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m having the same audio issues. In chapter 2, there is severe distortion and line repetition every 6-10 minutes. I downloaded the program from Audible; listening to on an iPhone 6. I love the narration. But, I need to return it to Audible. Guess it is the only way to ultimately get a clean copy in the future. Look forward to listening to the revised version.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Tim, the version I download from Audible to their app (and the version downloaded to itunes) sound like unfinished versions. Example video linked below of the first audible distortion in chapter 2 at 13:46 (using itunes) or 04:00 (audible app). The narrator repeats a sentence, during which the audio distorts, restarts a sentence mid-sentence. Then you hear a page turn and audio returns to normal. Happens every 10-20 minutes in ‘On the short-ness of life’ . I am in the UK so not sure if the file versions on audible are the same for every country. [Moderaor: Link removed,]
        Hope that helps


  2. The quality of the audio book is terrible. It’s full of badly distorted sound, and multiple takes which should have been edited out! I think someone’s uploaded the wrong version.


      • From the Audible download. Bought on their website, listened via their app. Sounds like the unedited version, plus the audio randomly distorts. Not sure what else would cause it?


      • I am having the same issue. I have already spoken to Audible about it. The issue appears to be only in “On The Shortness Of Life”. It happens multiple times. Specifically, around 30:50 where the performer starts to repeat the line about a man having all his days laid out before him. I have listened to a dozen other letters without issue.


      • I’m getting it as well. It seems to be happening at intervals I haven’t figured out yet. One place specifically is Chapter 2 at 24.31 it starts. It’s staticy, distorted, dragged, and a bit of echo for about 20 seconds. I’m listening on an android.


      • I have this problem to, through the audio book. For example on minute 57.40 to 57.51. I cant understand anything. I have a I-Phone 6 plus and download it yesterday on itunes.


      • Listening to the first part of Tao of Seneca via Audible on iPhone 5 I also hear occasional distortions, maybe 1 every 20-25 minutes. Didn’t record exact timestamps, but it’s there.


      • Hi Tim, Nik in the UK here, I am getting the issue on the Audiobook from audible. e.g. Chapter 2 at 11 mins 8 seconds. (21m13s into book) I have downloaded in std format.


      • I am also getting static, garbled playback and repeated lines from my Audible download. So far, this has occurred while listening to On the Shortness of Life (downloaded from Audible on an iPhone 6). Do I need to return the book and wait for a new release to fix these issues?


      • I have the same issue. Bought through Audible and using the iPhone app. I get static and repeat takes throughout the first letter. An example is 17m45s into what on audible is the second chapter. The static is uncomfortable enough to make it really hard to listen to.

        I’ve tried deleting and re-downloading the book but the same issue reappears.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As an audiobook narrator for audible, I would bet that this is an issue on audible’s side. The narrators on the site are VERY thorough, and then they have to go through a quality control check after that. I’m getting these mistakes as well, but there is no way that these problems would have slipped by the narrator and QC.


  3. First off, thanks for the audio version of a book on this topic that I am relatively unfamiliar with. I feel a bit illiterate in that the only way I can actually “read” a book nowadays is through audio.

    I suppose this is not really answering the question, but your philosophies and practices have had significant impact on me these past few years, morning routines being one example.
    If meditation and mindfulness count as a philosophies, Andy Puddicombe and his Headspace app – which I’d gotten into through you and Kevin Rose about a year ago – have also influenced my behaviors and mindset tremendously.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ayn Rand.

    Jack London – John Barleycorn – Social Drinking

    Hate to skew off into left field, Tim, but I always wanted to throw this out: Whenever I undergo a phaseshift I need to eliminate social drinking to achieve a successful metamorphosis. I just finished reading Jack London’s autobiographical account of alcoholism – it’s a helpful catalyst that reinforces the irrelevance of alcohol to our natures, while exposing its illogical power it imposes on us. The theme of social drinking seems under examined today.

    London deconstructs the role John Barleycorn plays in our social ecosystem; that role is intriguingly identical and applicable today as it was 100 years ago. He gives an account of his struggles to become a writer and the struggles that followed from success – amplified by John Barleycorn. Eloquently written, and based in SF, this would seem to fit in your wheelhouse, if you haven’t read it, and perhaps a worthwhile podcast episode later this year (near the 100th anniversary of London’s suicide – November 22, 1916).

    Thanks for tackling Stoicism – look forward to studying up-


  5. I can’t seem to find an index of chapter names anywhere – anyone know where to find this in the Audible version?
    Would be super handy to have with how many chapters there are.

    (P.S This trilogy of audible books is awesome by the way. A real kickass project. Very much appreciate the work put into this xx(

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t find a list of chapters (letters) covered either. Is there an index somewhere?

      I’d assume all 124 of Seneca’s letters aren’t covered in the audio book, but which are and which aren’t? Penguin Classics only includes 40 letters, Oxford World’s Classics covers 80 letters; just for reference. Thanks


  6. Congrats Tim, on getting an amazing job done! I can truly say that you are contributing more to the cause of Philosophy (in it’s original sense of a spiritual exercise) than all the boatloads of academic professors who have taught it so far.
    Which translation did you use? BTW, this is how Seneca actually looked:)


  7. 1. Podcast played fine in Overcast

    2. Bought first Vol @ Audible. Thought I’d follow along & mark-up my Kindle version. However, the translation I have is quite different from the audiobook version, both in style & syntax but also arrangement of letters (chapters).

    For instance in my version, Letter l is on Saving Time & Letter and XLIX is On the Shortness of Life, but is not the letter that begins your audio, which is often a seperated volume entirely (my copy of Shortness happens to be the Stephenson translation, which is too modern for me, frankly).

    Which translation did you work from? I’d like to follow along as I listen.

    Oh, Robinson is an excellent talent for this project, just he right voice.


  8. Hey Tim,

    User of itunes podcast here. What is with the redirect to the libsyn website while listening to the tao of seneca podcast? I prefer to download the podcast onto my device where i can listen on the go without streaming or using my data.


  9. Tim, it seems like the wrong version of the audiobook was uploaded. Every 10 minutes or so there’s a “mistake” where the narrator re-reads a section. Audio distortion happens during these sections as well.

    They last about 5 seconds, and you can also hear the narrator scratching his beard and turning pages.

    It’s pretty fun, but people are leaving bad reviews🙂 I thought it was done on purpose as a Meta-mistake for the listeners to have to try to practice the art of stoicism while listening🙂

    Chapter 2 11:03
    Chapter 2 17:44
    Chapter 2 24:23
    Chapter 2 30:50
    Chapter 2 37:01
    Chapter 2 48:44
    Chapter 2 57:45
    Chapter 2 1:02:32
    Chapter 2 1:10:55

    I stopped listening there. I was listening at speed 1.25X …

    Hope this helps.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m experiencing the same thing on both the iPhone and iPad Audible apps, same times as Brad notes above. Also noticed some repeated lines in Letter 13. I haven’t listened beyond letter 1 and 13. I’m listening at 1x speed.


    • I’m getting distortion at the same times as listed above during “The Shortness of Life” – iPhone 6s Plus, Audible app. 1x speed.


  10. Hi Tim,

    The podcast had problems for me too on iPhone 6s, it was presented as a “document” in the Podcasts app unlike usual and so opened as an MP3 in Safari instead of playing in Podcasts directly.

    The real issue though is in the Audible recording of The Tao of Seneca which I’ve just purchased. Every ten minutes or so it devolves into static and repetition making some parts hard to listen to. I’ve tried using headphones, Bluetooth audio, also both standard and high quality downloads, and finally single part and multipart downloads in the Audible app settings so I presume it is a corrupted recording/source file. Any update on this would be great (perhaps in your next podcast). Thanks in advance.


  11. Tim,
    I am extremely touched that you are raising money and awareness for psychedelic medicine. My name is Justin, and I am one of the future Co-Presidents for the Naropa Alliance For Psychedelic Studies. We are one of the few active college clubs oriented toward psychedelic discussion of all sorts. We are on a super limited budget, however it is worth asking – would you be willing to speak at a meeting, or perhaps as an event?
    Many Thanks


  12. Hi Tim,

    I was excited for this as well, but I am also experiencing the audio issues (static, repeat takes, etc). I am listening on the Audible iPhone and IPad apps and can recreate the errors every time in the same spots on both. I recognize the 11:03 mark in the post Brad Mills made. i noted some down prior and tried contacting Audible but was passed around too much to different CSRs so I gave up after 30 minutes or so.
    It is distracting, and if it wasn’t produced by you, I would have returned it. I’ve seen you aggressively fix issues before, so I expect a new version will eventually be uploaded so I can download again sans errors. I’ll leave a review then.
    I haven’t checked the other two yet – I will get those with next month’s Audible credits.

    Happy hunting!🙂


  13. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes – This book has changed the way I look at the world. I have read it 4 times in the last 15 years. Very dense but presents a theory of how religion and beliefs developed. He does a fantastic job of describing consciousness, how functional humans can be without being conscious, how language was a necessary predecessor for consciousness, the historic record and how patients with schizophrenia can be a modern day example of bi-camerality.


  14. I enjoy the thought of having an operating system or default mode for life. Seems like stoicism protects the downsides people face. I can’t seem to use this for the everyday, as life fluctuates. Seems like optimism,stoicism, and sometimes a supreme confidence/ “do nothing half effort” approach works best personally. Anyone else feel this? Possibly a Seneca meets Tony Robbins meets Henry Rollins?
    As always Tim, thanks for the recommendation on excellent content.


  15. I’ve been really excited for this, as Tim has been giving teasers about the Seneca material that was coming. I listened to the podcast and the audio was fine for me. (Maybe the problem was fixed?) I have an iPhone 6 plus and listened through iTunes.

    I also have an account with Audible and was going to download the first book, but noticed the negative reviews, which all seem to have to do with the audio quality. Hope this gets straightened out soon, as I’d love to get the Audible version!
    Thanks for all your hard work Tim and for bringing us this centuries old wisdom!


    • I downloaded volume one today and can concur that there are audio issues still present. At several points throughout the narration, there are significant interruptions that I can describe as sounding like static. I’m hoping this can get corrected soon.


  16. I get static and weird delay effects when an important quote is being stated. It’s almost like some effects are being applied to emphasize the quote. It seems deliberate so it seems like a clue for your trouble shooting, Tim. Regardless, I’m powering through it. It’s mostly nice but it may likely drive others nuts.

    I have an iPhone 6 Plus and using the Audible app.


  17. Any Rand.
    Not her full philosophy. But the Fountainhead premise about sticking to your own path and vision regardless of others. And success and happiness can be found doing this even if commercial success is lacking.


  18. Disappointed. I was so excited about this project I bought all three from Audible. But they’re defective. I just returned them (had to get special dispensation because I’m not a plan member. The limit is 2 but they accepted my argument that since I bought them as a single purchase set they should count as one).

    I had really high hopes for this project. Nothing wrong with Robinson’s reading. He was skunked by low production standards and bad editing. Lots of repeated phrases (do-overs) and stammers in the first 30-minutes of Vol 1. Also lots of buzzy noises, which may have been deleted segments (I thought I could hear Robinson’s voice in there).

    Anyway, not up to Audible’s standards. Over priced and under good.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You asked what philosopher was most influential on me.

    Hands down… Edwin Friedman. He was a therapist and counselor to Cabinet members before his death. He was brought in on matters of national security at times.

    His book absolutely changed my life.

    “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix”

    Part therapy, part philosophy, part social commentary… he basically boils down many problems in families, society, companies, and government to a lack of “nerve”.

    It’s only 200ish pages, but it is dense.

    I have read and re-read this book many times.

    HIGHLY recommend it.


  20. Syd Banks was a great philosopher who influenced a new paradigm in psychology referred to as “The 3 Principles” which over the last 40 years has had an expansive powerful impact in many areas. I encourage anyone to study him. All the “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” books by Richard Carlson were influenced by Syd.


  21. Hey Tim ~ Great project, love Seneca!!! Thanks for doing this… Regrettably, similar audio quality issues. Listening at 1.5x on iPhone 6, Ch 2 (my current location), many garbled/static areas, multiple re-starts / retakes of sentences, heard a couple of physical book page turns along the way. To be honest, none of this really bothers me to the point of not continuing, but wanted to provide feedback in hopes you can defend and protect your brand and Audible’s brand — big fan of both. Not sure where the QC issues lie, but no reason to give the flamers fodder for their rants…

    Keep plugging, and let us know when fixed if you would so we can all re download. Again – thanks, awesome addition to your growing awesome content inventory!!! Congrats!


  22. Seeing all the negative reviews regarding sound quality on Audible, I am going to wait until they are resolved. Is there any way to be notified by email when the sound quality is improved?


    • According to my OED, either Is acceptable. But it is confusing why. T is more British, D is more American.
      We are undergoing a shift in systems to phonically illustrate in English the way Chinese is actually spoken. And in the future D will be the accepted pronunciation. Right now, it is in flux. The real confusion all started with a white guy making stuff up. You can read about it here


      • It’s pronounced “Dao” in Mandarin Chinese. The two different spellings are a result of two systems of romanization. As rhkennerly mentioned, the first, called the Wad-Giles system, was developed by British sinologists. The more recent is referred to as Hanyu Pinyin and is now the international standard. Mainland China uses Hanyu Pinyin when typing on a computer keyboard to first spell out a word phonetically then select the correct character.

        As far as I can tell, Wade-Giles system was created primarily to romanize Cantonese, a dialect spoken in South China and Hong Kong and completely unintelligible to someone who only speaks Mandarin, like myself. If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, the T used for the romanization of “Tsim Sha Tsui” is right on. But if you try to use the system for Mandarin Chinese, no one will be able to understand you.

        “Tao” is acceptable in writing, but will not translate in spoken Mandarin.


  23. Not two hours went by after I listened to this that I got a difficult-to-read email from an unhappy client. I accepted and responded to it in a way I never would have have without letter 13 fresh in my mind. Sold.


  24. Is the Tao of Seneca, Vol. 1 essentially a re-release of Moral Letters to Lucilius, Vol. 1 by Robinson? What’s in the Tao of Seneca that’s not in Moral Letters? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hey Tim,
    Yeah, the audio issues that everyone is mentioning are correct. I bought it off of audible and am listening on an iphone 6s+ There are several parts where the audio becomes distorted and the recording has the reader repeating the same line several times. At other points, you can hear the reader turning the pages. Was the wrong recording somehow posted up? I’ve bought and loved all of your books, but this audiobook is unfortunately not quite listenable at this point…. Please let us know if this is going to be fixed!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Tim,
    I obtained the audiobooks via Audible in Australia. So far I’ve listed to part of Volume 1. During the first 90 minutes, there is periodic episodes of static and echoing. Occurred 4 times during first 90 mins I listened to. This only last about 10-20 seconds each time. As I was in the car listening I didn’t get the exact timing, however first issue occurs approx 14 minutes in.


  27. Up until now I was most influenced by the yoga philosophy, especially by the non-dualistic approach Advaita Vedanta.

    Thanx for Seneca, Tim! Will listen to it!!


  28. I’m sure the tech issues will work our on the Seneca project. Question: I really like the translation you are using. The Stevenson Ed. I have is a bit too modern in language for my tastes. Which one are you reading?


  29. I saw the ratings for this were very low and decided to search Youtube. I did find a playlist of these letters and wondered why Tim had mentioned he couldn’t find any such material. I don’t want to discourage others to not look into what Tim has put out on Seneca, but I did find these letters in audible format via search. Or maybe I just misunderstood the last podcast and this blog.
    A serious question: Would I be gaining something buying Tim’s audible files vs what I found on Youtube? (Such as notes, interpretations, etc?)


  30. Hey Tim,
    Big thanks to you and John for doing these letters in audio format!

    In this letter, I think the thing that hit me the most was that point about foolish people “laying down new foundations every day”.

    To me, this rang a bell of someone (me) who continuously says to themselves, “Okay! Todays the day I’m going to CHOOSE success in every endeavour!”

    I’m troubled in the idea that I’m just dangling a carrot… every single day.

    Like many others here I’m sure, I want the authentic, sustainable success that you have embodied with all your works – prior and present. Yet often I get caught stirring and naval gazing about my “true” intentions.

    Anyone here struggling to “enjoy the journey”?
    Anybody have any success in converting from a whiny mindset to an appreciative mindset?

    Thanks again Tim for everything you do. The book recommendations, the candidness, and the fact that you make the everyday mindsets of the most relevant and awesome people (including yourself) so easy to access for us, your audience.

    Seriously man, you’re the best.

    Gauge Lev
    Victoria, BC Canada


  31. I’m a new fan and haven’t gotten to this episode yet. I am listening to an episode each day and I’m currently on episode 5. Great stuff! I am also reading the 4 hour body and was wondering what your take is on raw honey? Thanks


  32. Listenting to part one on iTunes (The Tao of Seneca: Volume 1) … the audio recording is faulty and does strange things after 20 minutes… you may want to have it looked at!
    Can you please let us know when it is fixed so we can redownload?
    Thank you and thank you for all you do!


  33. I’m sad to say I’m finally pulling your blog from my reader feed. Unfortunately, your blog has turned into just summaries/advertisements for your podcasts. Nothing wrong with podcasts, but they do not fit into my life the way a blog post does. So I have no use for them. Which is a shame, because your blog is what drove me to purchasing most (all?) of your books.😦


  34. In general I would say Friedrich Nietzsche but as for business I found very interesting Idries Shah: the chapter about attention on his book Learning how to learn is a real must


  35. Audio Download Static…
    The audio in The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master Volume 1 has issues.
    Simply go to 21:22 on the iTunes download of this title to hear the glitch.

    -Any thoughts as to when it will be fixed?

    Already working with Apple on a refund (hope to purchase when it’s cleaned up!)

    Tim – thanks to you and your staff for all you do!


  36. Tim, Thanks for providing this. I’m excited to get into it. I have a question on a different topic. I listened to a podcast from June of 2011. You mention how helping your 65 year old father lose weight and regain strength despite overcoming severe physical injuries served as inspiration for “The 4-Hour Body”. I want to help my father in a similar fashion. Can you share any research or references related specifically to the fitness and nutrition methods required for a 60 plus year old man with injuries? Thanks.


  37. Not sure what is up, but the quality of the audible recording is really poor. Was this done in a proper studio or a random living room somewhere? It sounds terribly compressed and a bit clipped. It reminds me of the low quality settings Audible used to use for smaller file sizes back when they first started. Any chance we could see some improvement at some point? The reader is excellent, but I can only listen for 10 minutes before the sound fatigues my ears… : (


  38. Tim,

    The podcast is not downloading to my iPad as usual. First time this has happened. No problem with other shows. It just starts and then immediately stops.




  39. Another vote for Ayn Rand as most influential philosopher. I’m also a big fan of the Stoics, of course. But Rand is the only one to have solved some of the technical problems of philosophy that have existed since the time of the Greeks, i.e., the nature of concepts, the problem of universals, etc. In the future, she will be regarded as one of the giants of philosophy.

    P.S. I’m also having audio problems with the Seneca book on Audible on iPhone. Looking forward to the fixed version. Love Seneca!


  40. thanks Tim fantastic. I wish the publisher didn’t have to call it ”The Tao..” . though – another obnoxious case of cultural misappropriation. And, as if demeaning the Tao by borrowing it so carelessly and so out of context wasn’t enough – why confuse one Way with the way of Stoicscm – The Stoics can stand alone thanks very much. Maybe you can work on getting that title changed for the audio version. Anyway, thankyou!
    One question: what is a monty?
    You said : ‘here is the full monty here…”
    i looked it up in the dictionary and the only reference was it being short for Montgomery, which is a name, a noun.
    so I thought you are making a reference to Montgomery being a person somehow involved with this work?
    Can you be less obscure – or, given your passion for this project, explain to us how this character named Montgomery fits in with the works of the Stoics?


    • Jennifer, “the full monty” is a British expression which could be translated as “the whole nine yards,” or basically “the whole thing.” I’m not sure of the context, but FYI, the full monty is also a colloquialism meaning being naked or in your birthday suit, which arose after the film of the same name. That’s what I usually think of when I hear “the full monty,” but it sounds like Tim is using it in its more traditional sense. Hope that helps.


    • Although we don’t have much written documentation of interaction between ancient Eastern & Western philosophies, TF would not be the first to draw lines between the two intellectual traditions. Essentially, two peoples grappling with the same questions & working their way to about the same conclusions from different directions at roughly the same time. Tao merely hints at the similarity for those only familiar with the, until recently, more popular Eastern thought. I thought it a good hook.


  41. Tim,

    Love the audio book! I’ve been reading the Stoic 6 pack on amazon, and its great, but I spend so much time listening to garbage while I’m doing financial analysis at work that i’m glad I can now spend my time digging through Seneca instead!

    However, there are some issues in the audio in the book. It seems to double over on itself and distort about once every 5 minutes in the recording. Seems like you’re getting hammered on audible for reviews too… Let me know if you can get this fixed. If not I have a friend whose an audio master that can make it right for you in no time.


  42. I actually wrote a blog post following this podcast with the philosophies that had the biggest impact on my life. It’s called “The Universal Truth About Anxiety”. Would love to get your take on it Tim and friends


  43. As a long time follower of the 4-Hour Work Week – and Tim’s amazing Podcasts… I’m really surprised there’s been no follow up to the audio issues. No explanation – no nothing – we’re just left with finding out how to get our own refunds.

    I don’t want to take anything away from the rest of the good work, but Tim and his company’s reaction to this anomaly has cracked a bit of the facade.

    What say you?


    • Dunno, man. I returned mine with a call to Audible, which is who I paid. I’ve returned things to Apple iTunes as well, with no problem. Did you pay some guy on a street corner cash?

      I imagine TF has heard some rumor of the issue by now. When he has something to report, I’m equally sure he will tell us when we can buy a corrected copy.


  44. Getting static in Chapter 2 (Letter 1) about 5 minutes in. Otherwise great content and great narration! This is like ancient Robert Greene, really enjoying it.


  45. Note from Audible this morning:

    ” Dear Audible Listener,

    You recently wrote a review on the website regarding an issue with the quality of the audio for the title “The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master, Volume 1”. We would like to apologize for any inconvenience this issue might have caused.

    This email is to let you know that we have successfully updated this audio and is now fixed so we have removed the review that you have written for this title from the website. Please delete this title from your computer/mobile device and re-download and it will have the updated audio. If you have received a refund for this title, you are able to repurchase it and it will have the updated audio.

    Again, we are sorry for this hiccup in our services, but if you have any further questions or concerns about your purchases, please reach out to our customer support group. We are here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

    I haven’t tried again yet, but they say the matter is resolved. If you have a bad copy, do as instructed in this note.


  46. I downloaded the audiobook again on the Audible app and the first essay is now just gone. On my iPhone, the new copy is 8 hours 46 minutes long. On my iPad, the old copy is 10 hours and 11 minutes long. The original Chapter 2 (1 hour 25 min) is gone. It is disappointing that Audible’s “fix” is just to abridge the audiobook and delete one of Seneca’s most important letters. Tim, is that the fix you supported?


  47. The translations used is the Gummere for the Letters & Basore for the Shortness of Life. If you are a Kindle reader, I suggest the three volume set of Gummere: Moral Letters to Lucilius Vol 1,2 & 3 (only a buck a piece). As they are annotated and add a lot to the reading. There is no Kindle version of Basore.

    I was not a fan of the Stevenson editions. They updated the Gummere language to be too modern for my tastes. They are quite readable, but lack the majesty & richness of language that Robinson really brings out in the Audiobooks. Which is what sent me in search of the translations Robinson is reading from in the first place. I wanted to follow along & highlight.


  48. Since the errors seem to be happening when it sounds like the narrator is “re-taking” a line that he wasn’t happy with, it’s probably the metadata in the audio production software that is borked. Instead of deleting the stuff between the in-out points of the cut it is outputting the garbled stuff.


  49. I can see I’m not the only one having trouble with Audible, but my issue isn’t the sound quality. Its actually not even being able to get the audiobook delivered, even though I have the email receipt from Audible. Just back and forth with Audible support and really I’m only writing here now as I just don’t know how to get resolution and have wasted so much time already just trying to get access.


  50. Hey I am fan who is also an audiobook narrator who would love to work with you on transforming these ancient stoic wisdoms into audio. Please hit me up if you are interested in working together! [Moderator: Email address removed]


  51. Stoic philosophy seems like a great way of life and includes practical tips for living. But what it lacks I think it seems to me the passion and wonder. I mean creating something that you don’t know about yet. Someone said sometime that philosophy is about making life surprising again. Socratic method is good for that I guess.


    • Or, you could see Stoicism as the means for getting off of society’s treadmill so that you can actually find wonder or create something new. Finding time to think, reflect, notice is the challenge. Stoicism prevents you from falling into the trap of “when I get enough money & can retire, I’ll”… Write a novel, travel, …. You get the idea.


  52. Stoicism has had a huge influence on my life. It gave me a set of tools to help distinguish between what I should prefer, what I should be indifferent towards, what I should care less about or shun, and ultimately what I should hold in absolute value. The stoics, in a very practical sense, can be a good guide for fleshing these things out.


  53. One of the challenges I grapple with is how I can apply a lot of what is said to myself as a family man with kids. For example, I can develop my thinking such that I am not afraid to die, or I can live on nothing for a while but what I can’t reconcile is how my kids benefit from this. Given my life is pretty much for them, I struggle with some of the concepts often discussed because whilst they could help me individually to operate better I’m not sure they could help my kids. Not sure what the answer is or even if I’ve got my thoughts across clearly !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read your note several times & thought about it some. First, finish it out & let it really sink in. A good guide to begin to understand Stoicism is . I have the hardback, kindle & audiobook of it & listen or read it once a year. It might be a better place to delve into Stoicism.

      To answer about kids, I’m a little unsure what your concern is. If your worry is about instilling an underachiement ethos, both Senica & Marco Aurelius, the last good emperor of Rome, were accomplished & wealthy. MA actually started with the most severe form of Stoicism, the Cynics ( of whom Diogenes is probably the best known. It is said that when D saw a boy drinking with his hands, he threw away his cup as unnecessary.) MA spent some time as a boy sleeping on the stone floor of his palace until his mother convinced him to sleep on an animal skin.

      You do not have to inculcate your kids as Stoic’s, but they will learn much by you example.

      But first, you have to get Stoicism “right.” Taking the wrong lesson from Seneca is as bad as never reading it. The point of the exercise of living on nothing is not to do that for life, unless you take up the Cynic’s creed. Seneca’s point is to imagine the worst possible outcome, poverty, and because you have experienced it beforehand through ocassional practice, you will not fear it. Therefore (the theory goes), by facing & experiencing what you fear most, you will not be afraid to try something new & chancy because you’ve experienced the worst. Not putting words into Tim’s mouth when I say it is this lesson that allows him to be bold, but not reckless, in what he attempts in business. He’s been at the bottom & knows he can fight back.

      The Serenity Prayer just about sums up Stocism perfectly. The very first Stoic, Epictetus, said: there are some things you can control & somethings you cannot. Spend your time, therefore, working on the things you can control. And stop worrying about things out of your control.

      As a Stoic you are working on your inner being, becoming a full & independent person, immune to chance & fortune.

      Another principle of Stoicism is having a rational view about what is important. Stoics have little sympathy for people who love deeply, but never fully interact with their children, spouses, or friends. The classic example is the man who puts off playing with his child because he has other things to do. Maybe this works out for awhile, but then the child dies. Stoic’s anticipate the death of everyone, including themselves, & strive to act accordingly.

      So, a Stoic expects a child to die (something he has no control over) and so makes the most of their time together (something that he does have control over).

      The parent who puts off being with their children or spouse, are open to especial ridicule by a Stoic. First, nothing in this life is ours to keep. When my dog died after 15 years, I was comforted knowing that she wasn’t taken from me, I merely gave her back. I also felt we’d made the most of our years together. So, like a good Stoic, while I was sad about her loss –it is a misconception that Stoicism trains one to have no feelings. The goal is to have appropriate feelings–we got another dog right away, with a full & grateful heart for having known her.

      I by no means am attempting to set myself up as a paragon of Stoicism. First of all, that would be very anti-Stoic of me. But, as Seneca says, philosophy is useless unless it is shared & taught. There is no point in studying philosophy otherwise.

      As the self proclaimed Epicurean (A branch of Stoicism: they all stole like crazy from each other) Thomas Jefferson wrote: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

      I hope this helps.


  54. Spending 4 weeks in Rome, and listened to this episode while watching the Colosseum.
    Outside of the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme they are currently displaying some quotes of Marcus Aurelius:

    Associate with those who will make
    a better man of you. Welcome those
    whom yourself can improve.
    Men learn while they teach.

    Loneliness is for the spirit
    what food is for the body.

    There is nothing the busy man
    is less busied with than living:
    there is nothing harder to learn.

    Of all men they alone
    are at leisure who take
    time for philosophy.

    Most powerful is he who
    has himself in his own power.


  55. It’s a disaster on iTunes. Failed to download several times even though I was charged. Apple reversed the charges, but it took a lot of time. The track numbers don’t correspond to the start/stop of the letters. That is, a new letter might start with 10 seconds left on a track, continuing into the next track. It makes it impossible to find specific tracks. What a dog this is. Disappointing to say the least.


  56. This is awesome. Hands down… Seneca and Marcus Aurelius have been a huge influence in my morning routine. In addition to these letters, The Meditations by Aurelius are really inspiring.


  57. Thank you so much for introducing me to Seneca Tim! I’ve been listening to his letters while I meal prep/ cook, or while I do yoga! Keep interviewing amazing people! So glad I found your podcast; starting with rich roll to dr Rhonda Patrick, to you! Thank you for all the recommended reads; just got a hold of your book and I’m excited to read it!!
    Yours truly, Sean


  58. Tim- I was originally turned onto you by a fellow podcast nerd who recommended your Jocko episode, and I’ve since enjoyed a number of podcasts including Sivers Reloaded and Alain de Botton in particular. Full disclosure I have not read your books; ironically my wife purchased the Four Hour Workweek over a year ago. I’ve enjoyed learning from all your recommended sites, interests, and people. I had not considered writing you until I listened to the Stoicism preview podcast about Seneca. You mention stoic principles as habits or relatable to cognitive behavioral therapy. Have you ever heard of Rod Hairston or the 45 Day Challenge? The program helps challengers re-frame their habits and patterns by raising awareness to unconscious conditioning and by practicing disciplined emotional intelligence (plus a healthy dose of visioning and clarity). From one lifelong learner to another, check it out. Thanks!


  59. Tim

    Have listened to just about all your podcasts and appreciate your work. Thanks for Seneca. I have lived much of the stoic life but didn’t have a name for it until I read Seneca.


  60. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for the intro to Seneca- I was taken by the lines “we suffer more in imagination than in reality” and “There is nothing so certain than the things we dread sink into nothing, and the things we hope for, mock us.”

    Made me think of Chris Hadfield’s TED talk where he talks of fear in the line “So next time you walk through a spider web, you don’t need to panic and go with your caveman reaction, the danger is entirely different that the fear.

    I’d love to hear a conversation with you two!


  61. Hello Tim (or whoever answer’s Tim’s messages),
    I haven’t experienced any issues with the audio….however, I do have something to say about the narrator. He has a very difficult voice to listen to for this type of literature. I think he reads too fast and his tone is allover the place. I think he could’ve slowed it down slightly and read the book in a more relaxied way. In summary, I really have to TRY to listen to what is being said. I feel like I have to close my eyes and focus intensley.
    Otherwise, great book, you’ve done Seneca proud!

    P.S: Hit me up if you’re looking for narrators😉


  62. This is great! I’ve been reading some of the letters in Latin, but for language practice and research on the early Roman empire. Since the ones I’ve been reading are more rant and less philosophy, they aren’t a great guide to modern life. This will definitely make Seneca easier to digest and implement! A friend of mine who’s an independent scholar has been asking me for English versions of Stoic and Epicurean thought, so I’ll send this his way too.


  63. Holiday’s really interesting but his speaking skills are painful. His speaking cadence sounds like a California girl. And all the “like” and “you know” … wow!


  64. Hi Tim, I could not stop smiling nor putting the book down ever since reading the lines about your achievements “National Chinese kickboxing champion – MTV break-dancer in Taiwan …” more than 5 years ago.

    Finally my life has a quite moment to savour the essence and philosophy of Seneca. Have always loved those quotes in the book, I’m deeply inspired by your work and life. I don’t do wrestling or muythai, but love languages, philosophy, photography, films, sailing, sea diving, salsa, dog walking, baby sitting, business, and more …

    One day I hope to find a partner to tango with, until then, I’m living the promise of ‘4-Hour Work Week’. Thank you for living out loud and kicking hard!

    Xie Xie Ni ; ) Cheers from Hong Kong, Connie ~