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Review: Art of the Good Life

Early on, it wasn’t clear that Art of the Good Life was going to be much different than countless other self-help books that promise the nirvana of disproportionate self-driven improvement that eventually leads to, well, the good life. In fact, I was ready to write off the entire book as another variant in the vein of You are a Badass at Making Money, wherein most of the value seems to be instilling a placebo effect on the reader by virtue of having spent real money buying the book that of course they are awesome and are capable of anything and everything.

Fortunately, Art of the Good Life has a bit more substance. The author seems to be a student of Stoicism, particularly of the belief of accepting things in life you cannot control but still acting morally and practicing those actions to facilitate intrinsic happiness and worth. The philosophy has also found its way into the startup world as a possible technique to ground otherwise high-flying companies and founders who experience overnight success—though its roots in the ancient Roman elite suggest a worldview which has its modern, wealthy practitioners staying exactly that way.

The book provides 52 short chapters of advice for its reader. A bit like Principles, the sheer quantity makes all the advice blend together after a while, so my strategy is to take a step back and think about the overarching themes. True to its Stoic influences then, the author consistently looks at the rough outlines of what he repeatedly refers to as living the good life1, points out where it’s illogical to stress out over less important areas, and to double down on areas that end up making a difference to how you feel. The lessons are oddly obvious and logical, but adorned with enough stories and pieces of history to make the entire read entertaining and sound authoritative, or at least learned.

So really, my actual takeaway from Art of the Good Life is that I should aspire to get to a point in my own life where I feel like I can sit down and write down a bunch of life lessons. Perhaps, enough to fill an entire book.

  1. Complete with italics, every single time.

By allen
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