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Diogenes on Excellence and How to Be Unstoppably Happy

Surrounded by snow and ice, in the middle of Winter, I’m sitting in a half-frozen river at 8am in Wyoming.

And I think to myself: How did I get here?

I’m writing you from Austin today, but I just got back from a small private writing retreat I organized for some of our most active members. It was held at The Wagon Box Inn, and it was awesome. You’ll be hearing about more IRL events coming up soon.

Over the past 5 years, I didn’t always know it, but all this time I’ve been growing a network of the country’s most thoughtful and intrepid readers, writers, hackers, founders, and investors. We are building new kinds of lives at the end of the institutional era.

Other Life is not just a little media company. It is something much weirder, and bigger: it’s a breakaway private society comprised of elite human capital defecting from old centers of power. We all believe in freedom enough to take chances for it, and we believe in the pursuit of excellence anchored in lifestyles of deep reading and writing.

All the stuff we do online—the community, the seminars, the courses—are really just stepping stones to our living and breathing network of educated, uncorrelated, and high-agency individuals and families building other lives. We are a private republic of letters, and our membership is just the price of entry.

But what this means for you… It depends. I believe now in a reckless commitment to excellence. I believe in the rectification of standards. If your knowledge and ideas are not developed, no amount of money will ever convince me that they are, and you might not have a seat at every table. If you are poor but brilliant, you might find yourself invited to exclusive events gratis.

I don’t believe in online “activity” for the sake of “being active in a community,” but if you’re not somehow making your work known to members then I might just not remember to invite you to things. This is not some newfangled elitist system I’m announcing, it’s simply how social networks function. All I’m sharing is that I’ve become more conscious of what we’re really doing here.

That said, I want to help anyone who is called by the scholarly life. It has nothing to do with IQ or how many books you’ve read. All of my writing and the online events are there to help you learn and cultivate your own excellence.

“Many men compete in digging and kicking, but no one at all in the pursuit of human excellence.”

—Diogenes

As you get more involved in the community, you'll get to know some truly impressive individuals building singular and creative lives, projects, and businesses. You'll make a new set of friends, distributed around the country, and then you’ll actually get to know them in-person and over time. It all starts by becoming a paid subscriber.

But let me tell you about the seminar tomorrow morning, which is a great time to jump in.

Diogenes on the Straight Path to True Happiness

Diogenes of Sinope was the most distinguished of the Ancient Cynic philosophers. He adhered to an austere ethics, believing that the study of philosophy cashes out exclusively in the conduct of one’s life.

His style of thinking and living is unique in the history of philosophy: He spoke and acted out his signature ideas with a degree of spirit and humor that today we would be inclined to call it “performance art.”

It’s unknown whether Diogenes produced any writings, but no writings have come down to us. His philosophy survives only because his sayings and antics were noted and reported widely around Greece.

The volume entitled Sayings and Anecdotes is a compendium of those ideas and actions, including their reputable ancient sources.

Tomorrow morning, we will read together Part 1, Section 4: Self-Characterization. You can find it for free online (email me if you can’t). I’ll say a few words about what I find most important and interesting, then we’ll spend most of the time discussing. If you can’t make it, a replay will be available to members.

One of Diogenes’ most stunning ideas is that one should be happy at all times, no matter what happens.

First, notice that the Stoics steal this idea but water it down! The Stoics teach you to be neutral instead of consistently happy and enthusiastic like Diogenes, because they did not have the same courage as Diogenes. Stoicism is Diet Cynicism, and Ryan Holiday is McDonald’s! I’m sure he’s cool but The Daily Stoic is a trash newsletter built for selling ads. If you like that Diet Coke from McDonald’s, reading Diogenes will be like snorting pure cocaine from the hacienda of Pablo Escobar.

If you are ever not happy, you’ve either made a philosophical error or you’ve succumbed to a vice.

Bulletproof happiness is achieved through a two-track process: Philosophy and training. Philosophy involves unconditional attack on error and hypocrisy. Training is the everyday practice of whatever philosophy reveals to be the truth of life.

Tomorrow we’ll unpack what these ideas mean, and how to apply them. A replay will be available to members.

Sincerely,

Justin

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