Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure
A Stoic demonstrates exercises in self-governance and peace of mind through mental discipline.
A collection of meditations in the Stoic tradition. Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure provides access to the ruminations, practices, and applications of ancient Stoic philosophy as deployed by a contemporary professional philosopher with twenty five years of experience teaching, researching, and publishing articles in academic journals. Each meditation is presented in the second person, encouraging the reader to examine their struggles and failures in the pursuit of self-improvement and enlightenment.
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It is evident that the author has fully absorbed the Stoic tradition and now presents it with a modern voice that nevertheless echoes the Stoic view. The result is a bracing and valuable practical wisdom. ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer
In writing this book Dr. Ferraiolo has clearly walked the hard road of Epictetus and his philosophical descendant Marcus Aurelius. Like Marcus, Dr. Ferraiolo wrote his Meditations for himself primarily. But where Marcus was writing only “ta eis heauton” (to himself), Dr. Ferraiolo has deliberately chosen to share these Stoic exercises with the rest of us. What you get is in the tradition of Marcus’ Meditations, if Marcus were being coached directly by Epictetus, in the gym with him, urging him to crank out another rep. This is a book that promises upfront to challenge its readers by confronting and provoking them: “Do not be frightened by the unpleasantness, and try not to take the criticism personally.” (Introduction). Iron weighs what it weighs. The only way to make the iron feel light is to lift it, over and over. Meditations consists of 30 “books”, each comprised of 10 meditations. In this sense, a “meditation” is a one paragraph exploration of a theme or area of focus. Think of it as a specific type of exercise: this is a deadlift, that is a back squat; these are ring dips, that is a power clean. Book I focuses directly on what the Stoics call “the dichotomy of control”: what is up to us; what we can actually control in our lives. We start with our own “attitudes, values, and efforts directed at mental discipline”, and then widen outward to our family, friends, acquaintances, society at large… Book II continues in this vein, but rather than talking about control directly, focuses our attention on how we react to not only the world around us, but also our own internal representation of the world and demonstrates that all of these mental wounds are self-inflicted. This is bog standard Stoicism, but presented in modern, uncompromising language that is as simple and effective as a squat rack, a straight bar and plenty of iron plates. Everything you need to get mentally strong is here, you just need to get under the bar and move the weights. Subsequent books circle through Stoic concepts, frequently reiterating and elaborating on ideas we’ve already encountered. Like a properly designed weight routine the “same but different” approach imposes greater demands on us and allows us to get stronger by rising to the challenge. On the one hand, you don’t need to come to Ferraiolo’s Meditations with any understanding of Roman Stoicism. On the other hand, if you do know your Epictetus and Marcus, and if you’re truly paying attention, you will realize that reading this book and doing each exercise with focus and attention requires a Stoic approach. Are you upset or “offended” by something Dr. Ferraiolo has written? Does it hit too close to home, or disagree with your opinions? Does it slaughter one of your sacred cows, or maybe just make fun of you for curling in the squat rack? What causes this upset? The very act of reading Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure will demand that you pay attention to and identify where the source of those reactions really lies. This book is a well planned, gym-tested, properly periodized approach to developing the only strength that really matters. It’s right there in your path. Pick it up. Get stronger. ~ Chris Tygesen, Goodreads
Disclaimer: I was a given a review copy of Meditations in exchange for a honest review. I have been an avid follower of Stoicism for quite some time and have taken great delight in reading classics like the original Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Enchiridion, and Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca. Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure draws inspiration from the original Meditations and within it's pages, we are given the rare opportunity to see William's internal dialogue. William hits on several of key Stoic concepts throughout his book such as focusing on the things you can control in Book 8.4, and not minding too much what happens to others. He writes, "Offer your counsel when it is appropriate to do so. Offer your protection insofar as you are able. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to anything that might threaten their safety. Do not, however, insist that all must go well for them at all times." We also get a glimpse of a man who judges himself to have fallen short of his own values as echoed in Book 9.9. In this section , William acknowledges the number of times that he has been looked upon unfavorably. He writes, "You have met with disapproval more times than you can count. On each such occasion, you should consider whether the condemnation is warranted. If so, learn from it and make the requisite alterations to your behavior." In spite of his own recognized shortcomings, we see a man that is determined to live virtuously, no matter what circumstances life may throw at him. We can draw a direct parallel to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations where we see time and again his willing acceptance of whatever Nature bestows upon him. While knowledge of Stoicism may be helpful, it is by no means required. I will end by saying that this book is not for the faint of heart. It's designed to "wake you up", and get you to focus on what really matters. In the last few sentences of the introduction, William gives us a few questions to ponder as well as some timeless insights to assist you on life's journey. "What do you, and you alone, control? What kind of person do you want to be? Get started becoming what you want to be. You never know how much time is left. Turn your attention inside. The truth is there. You just have to be willing to look for it. Good luck." (less) On Goodreads ~ James Writtenhouse, Goodreads
How You Can Learn and Apply Eternal Wisdom This is a book of advice, planning, instruction, mentality, perception, and self-control, and so much more. Meditation is used as the title because it means to comtemplate, to self-examine. The initial question is why are you unable to handle your life? The answer lies in simply reading the meditations and considering whether it applies to your life and struggles. I found myself amused at how eloquently the author expresses himself within the opening introduction. He reveals the common predicament that most people find themselves in at some time throughout their lives. The author encourages you to think for yourself. He expresses that it is not an easy read, but nothing worthwhile ever is. He asks, "what kind of person do you want to be? You just need to look inside yourself." This message repeats itself in a plethora of examples. Other people are not yours to control. You may speak to them, cajole them, debate them, show them evidence, present them with the dictates of reason, you may even threaten them—but their minds are their own. You invite needless frustration, anger, animosity, and discontent every time you insist that they must agree with you, respect you, love you, or adopt any particular cast of mind. Their will is beyond your direct control. Another important statement made was "Do not allow your contentment to depend upon anyone else’s mental state or other measurement of wellbeing." (My friends would love that!) Focus on understanding the world around you, your place in it, and your duties as a rational and decent human being. The rest is theater. Leave it to the actors. (Now there's a great quote!) There are a lot of thought-provoking questions that struck a chord in me and I'm sure you will find trigger some emotions and opposite answers in your own mind as well. One of my favorite meditations is Number 6. (You need not pet every snake and porcupine you encounter. A skunk is not entitled to an embrace, and a lion has no desire to sit content in your lap.) So true! Number 8 talks about how you will encounter stupidity, lies and corruption daily. You must do everything in your power to ensure that it does not originate with you. He says their character is their punishment. So many excellent references and points are made that you will be remiss to argue with the reasoning. Funniest line in the book is - If you wish to live as a clown, there are still circuses that may take you in. In conclusion, we are admonished to accept what is or look for a way out. We can only change and control ourselves. The wisdom to become a decent and honorable human being is our ultimate goal. I highly encourage you to read this book as if your life depended on it. There are many reasons within these pages as to why I could say this. Look inside and discover the gems of wisdom for yourself! ~ Lorraine Price, Co-Author of My Big Idea Book
In this wonderful book of bracing thoughts, questions, and guidance, William Ferraiolo provides a modern version of the challenges presented to us in the ancient past by such philosophers as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. You can read just a few pages at a time, and have much to ponder about your life, day-to-day. ~ Tom Morris, bestselling author of If Aristotle Ran General Motors, The Stoic Art of Living, The Oasis Within
Ferraiolo offers a provocative contemporary adaptation of his reading of the Stoic philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus and other ancient philosophers of similar minds. The book is well-organized and easy to read. It will be welcomed by anyone fascinated with or open to meditative philosophy of the Roman Stoic variety. An interesting and worthwhile read. ~ Dr. Hugh Benson, author of Socratic Wisdom: The Model of Knowledge in Plato's Early Dialogues
Written in the spirit of Epictetus' Manual, Bill Ferraiolo's Meditations exposes the common human fallacies that lead to depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, and other toxic emotions. From the self-defeating desire to control the minds of others to the unrealistic demand that politicians tell the truth, Ferraiolo challenges the most insidious human tendencies to undermine one's own peace and solemnity. Read it, and always keep a copy close at hand. ~ Elliot D. Cohen PhD, author of What Would Aristotle Do? Self-Control through the Power of Reason
"This short book is packed full of useful reminders, reflections, and exhortations, drawing upon and digesting resources stemming from classic Stoic philosophy and other sources of wisdom. The real test of Stoicism lies in its application to specific problems, situations, and challenges faced by particular people. That is precisely what Ferraiolo offers to the reader, a wealth of advice separated out into paragraphs, each of which focuses on one timely topic." ~ Gregory Sadler, editor of Stoicism Today and author of Reason Fulfilled By Revelation
Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure will make you pause and reflect, whether or not you agree with any or all of its contents. Written in the style of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and with a strong flavor of Epictetus, it confronts the reader with what happens if one looks at reality in the eyes and considers regulating his life accordingly. To do so takes both wisdom and courage, but Ferraiolo argues that it is well worth the effort. ~ Massimo Pigliucci PhD, author of How to Be Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life