The Manual and The Meditations; Philosopher's Guides to Life and Mastery

The Manual and The Meditations; Philosopher's Guides to Life and Mastery

Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Sam Torode
Date Finished
Apr 5, 2021
PhilosophyLife Advice

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Old texts, from great philosophers, modernised.
  2. Condensed teachings delivered in simple bite-sized chunks.
  3. Perspective is key.

🎨 Impressions

Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are pillars of the Stoic school of philosophy. Stoicism doesn’t mean repressing emotion and shunning pleasure, I learned, but—in essence—focusing on what is in our power and letting go of everything we can’t control.

I grouped the books as I do believe they should be read together. One has a direct approach, while the other is more spiritual. Can you guess from the name which is which?

The author made it part of his daily routine to “study a passage from an old translation of their words and rewrite it in simple, contemporary language”.

The Manual is not changed a lot, where the Meditations is modified quite a bit as it is originally a series of journal entries written down over years.

There is no order or meaning behind the chapters (books) in Meditations, just scattered thoughts.

The books are a quick read, around 30 minutes for the first and an hour for the second. They are the type of books that you re-read every so often, just to remind your self of what is important in life, to stay “true to yourself”.

I would say the books are good and worth a read, especially given the low time commitment, there is, however, a lot of repeating the same ideologies.

A relatable book is Tao Te Ching (focuses on Taoism) by the same author, who translated the writings from Lao Tzu, but it was a bit too philosophical for me... I did find one quote I like from there:

All the world’s problems arise from slight causes, and all great achievements have small beginnings. The wise stay out of great affairs, and so establish their greatness. Many things that appear easy are full of difficulties. This is why the wise consider everything difficult— so, in the end, they have no difficulties.

How I Discovered It

I have a friend who has been poking me to read the two books for a while now, I recently had some time off so decided to finally take a read.

Who Should Read It?

Hmm... this is a good question and I am not sure how to answer this. I believe the books are worth a read at any point in your life, for everyone. However, as with any change in life, reading it once won’t do much, you will forget most of it in a few weeks (at least I tend to).

Hopefully, Readwise (ref link) will help me not forget and apply as much as many “tips” as possible from these books in my day to day life.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me


How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

I am trying to do less, make more time for my self to have more time to reflect and be grateful.

The books made me realise how much time I waste on non-productive thoughts.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes from The Manual

  • “People who are ignorant of philosophy blame others for their own misfortunes. Those who are beginning to learn philosophy blame themselves. Those who have mastered philosophy blame no one.”
  • “Whenever a challenge arises, turn inward and ask what power you can exercise in the situation. If you meet temptation, use self-control; if you meet pain, use fortitude; if you meet revulsion, use patience. In this way, you will overcome life’s challenges, rather than be overcome by them.”
  • “Everything has its price. How much does lettuce cost? If you are unwilling to pay a dollar for lettuce, yet you envy the man who has a bagful of lettuce because he paid five dollars, you are a fool. Do not imagine he has gained an advantage over you—he has his lettuce, you have your coins.”

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes from Meditations

  • “Imagine your ideal future and how you will feel when you’ve “arrived.” It’s in your power to feel that way today—to think the same thoughts and have the same attitude that you would if your surroundings were ideal.”
  • “From the fundamental elements, the creative power of the universe builds a horse, then breaks it down. It uses the same materials to build a tree, then a person—each form subsisting only for a short time. There is nothing to fear or bewail in this process. Nature is like a potter, shaping one thing from clay, returning it to the pile, then shaping another.”
  • “My soul, will you never be simple, serene, and satisfied? Will you never enjoy a kind, generous, sunny disposition? Will you never be happy with life as it is, desiring nothing more? Will you never stop seeking entertainment and longing for pleasure? Will you never be grateful for all that exists and occurs, knowing everything comes from nature and the gods? Will you never live in harmony with others, without finding fault in them?”