On Stoicism


“If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth . . . if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today, or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.”


Jerry Seinfeld advised young comic Brad Isaac to maintain a calendar and mark an X for each day he writes jokes. By forming a chain of X’s, the goal is to never break it, thereby harnessing the power of momentum for success. Similarly, Epictetus suggested using the chain method to eradicate negative habits. Like approaching sobriety “one day at a time,” start with a single day focused on managing issues such as anger, distraction, or procrastination. Repeat this process consecutively, building a chain, and diligently avoiding its rupture. Preserve your streak and avoid undermining your progress.

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