Jonas Salzgeber is the author of The Little Book of Stoicism. He advocates an applied, self-reflective, and alterable life philosophy. He enjoys quiet time with a good cup of coffee, swimming in vast waters, and being around loving human beings.
How did you become interested in this area?
Through life itself.
As a young adult, I became interested in learning how to live well. How to make the best with the given circumstances. How to install healthy habits in order to improve my sleep quality, energy level, and athleticism.
Further, I developed this ideal of a well-balanced, calm spirit. My three brothers used to tease and test me – and whenever I reacted and became irritated, they’d say, “Hey, equanimity.”
Specifically my youngest brother was (and still is) best able to get me out of the calm, equanimous spirit. I learned to take him as a teacher who’s testing me and thus helping me practice my equanimity.
So, I became interested in philosophy without calling it this way. And it was this interest in learning how to live well that lead me to reading books, and through such books I stumbled upon the highly resonating Stoic philosophy.
What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?
Currently, it’s practice makes perfect.
If you don’t put what you learn into practice, you’ll forget it. Or rather, you haven’t really learned it. We only truly learn if we apply something in real life. Whether it’s baking a bread, swinging a kettlebell, or accepting a challenging life situation.
Yes, we might get a decent understanding of something in theory, but if we fail to put it into practice, we won’t really understand it. It’s something life has taught me again and again – probably because I haven’t really understood it. 😉
I believe this is an important idea because it’s something people forget about. People like to listen to podcasts, read new books, and watch videos, but fail to move to the most important step – to put what they learn into action.
So, what’s something you want to put into practice? Good. Now stop reading and go do it.
What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?
The Stoic Happiness Triangle. It gives a simple and visual overview of Stoicism, is easy to remember, and actionable.
At the center is the Stoic goal of life: Eudaimonia. For me, it simply means to flourish in life. That’s the goal. The Greek word directly translates as being good (eu) with your inner daimon, your soul, your highest Self. Basically, if you live in harmony with your highest Self, you’ll flourish in life.
How to get there? By living with Aretê. For me, this means to express your highest Self in every moment. You live according to your innermost truth, to your values, moment to moment to moment.
Now, expressing your highest Self in every moment can be challenging. That’s why the Stoics’ core principle comes in handy: Focus on what you control and accept the rest as it happens. You want to learn to accept what is, and make the best given the circumstances. For the Stoics, everything that is beyond your control is ultimately indifferent. Only what you do with it matters. Basically, you focus on expressing your highest Self despite the challenging life situation.
The third corner of the Stoic Happiness Triangle is to take responsibility. It comes with a twofold meaning. First, you are responsible for flourishing in your life because what matters is not what happens but what you do with it, and that’s precisely what’s within your control. Second, you are response-able as you have the ability to choose your response to any given outside situation. This is your responsibility: By challenging you with a certain situation, life is asking you, “How do you respond?” Do you respond by expressing your highest Self or do you fall short and do or say something that’s not according to your innermost truth?
Basically, that’s what Stoicism is all about. Being mindful of yourself, your values, your thoughts & behaviors, then being self-reflective to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your values, your thoughts & behaviors, and then take responsibility and live accordingly. And repeat.
Do you have a favorite quote that you use?
Suppose there are two men, one of whom has sailed many times and has already piloted many boats, and the other of whom has sailed few times and has never been a pilot. Suppose the one who has never been a pilot can speak very fluently about the theory of navigation, and suppose the other speaks poorly and incoherently. Which would you hire as pilot if you were sailing?
The one who has been a pilot many times.Musonius Rufus, Lecture 5
There are many quotes from the Stoics that I like. This one from Musonius Rufus fits the topic, practice makes perfect, really well.
He told his student that, yes, understanding the theory behind the action enables one to speak, but it is the practice that enables one to act. And thus, practice is more important than theory.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?
You can find countless articles on Stoicism, procrastination, and positive psychology and book summaries on my brother Nils’ and my blog NJlifehacks.
If you subscribe, you’ll get a PDF with 20 Stoic practices – let’s put what we learn into practice.
We’re not into social media, so you won’t find us there.
Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens. How would you feel about that?
Honored. Excited. Talking with people about a topic with mutual interest is most fun 😊