The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master + On Groundless Fears (Letter 13) (#134)

The Tao of Seneca

“It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence.” Seneca the Younger

After 10+ years of fantasizing about it, I have turned my favorite writing of all time (Seneca’s letters) into an audiobook series! The title of the series is The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master.

This podcast episode gives you a sample, one of my favorites: On Groundless Fears (Letter 13). I listen to it at least once a quarter. Here it is:

#134: The Tao of Seneca

And here’s a description of the full audiobook series:

The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master is an introduction to Stoic philosophy through the words of Seneca.

Thought leaders in Silicon Valley tout the benefits of Stoicism, and NFL management, coaches, and players (Patriots, Seahawks, etc.) alike have embraced it because the principles make them better competitors. If you study Seneca, you’ll be in good company. He was popular with the educated elite of the Greco-Roman Empire, but Thomas Jefferson also had Seneca on his bedside table. This philosophy is a no-nonsense system designed to produce dramatic real-world effects. Think of it as an ideal operating system for thriving in high-stress environments.

The Tao of Seneca is your guide.

My suggestion: get Volume One, listen to my Preface (the origin story is fun), then skip to one of my favorite letters, several of which I list off in the first 10 minutes.

I love listening to one letter per day — they average 10-20 minutes in length — as I walk to get coffee or go to the subway. It’s the perfect way to prime yourself for better results with less stress each morning. Warning: the first “On the Shortness of Life” version is an essay and LONG (1-1.5 hours); I suggest skipping that and sampling the shorter letters to get hooked.

These letters have repeatedly changed my life, and I wish the same for you.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#134: The Tao of Seneca

Want to hear another podcast related to Stoicism? — Listen to my conversation with Ryan Holiday. In this episode, we discuss the “big three” stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):

Episode 4: Ryan Holiday

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What philosophy or philosopher has had the biggest impact on your life or business? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • Why do some of us have negative associations with philosophy? [07:32]
  • What is Stoicism, and why are thought leaders in Silicon Valley and the world of sports suddenly interested in it? [08:27]
  • What is the benefit of rehearsing worst-case scenarios in times of “immunity from care?” [09:48]
  • With so many choices, why is Seneca Tim’s go-to philosopher? [11:36]
  • How can you make time to apply Seneca’s wisdom to your own life? [13:26]
  • How is Stoicism like cognitive behavioral therapy? [13:55]
  • What are Tim’s three favorite selections from Volume One? [14:40]
  • How did John A. Robinson become the voice of The Tao of Seneca? [15:32]
  • Letter 13: On Groundless Fears [16:32]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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153 Replies to “The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master + On Groundless Fears (Letter 13) (#134)”

  1. Hi Tim. I’m fascinated with your interest in stoicism, given your heavy education in East Asian studies. What do you find in Seneca that you don’t find in Lao Tse or Chang-Tse.



  2. Dear Tim,

    I could explain why your work is so incredible important to me, but here is something I’m not so happy about. In my audible player, the chapters of the Tao of Seneca are only named chapter 1, chapter 2, and so on. This makes is very difficult to quickly find a letter that I really, really need. If you know what I mean. Thank you very much for everything you have given me and millions of others. Much love, Sybren Richardson

  3. Tim (or anyone else you knows the answer) — I remember from somewhere about Tim releasing a free audio or ebook of the letters from Seneca. I can’t seem to find it. Maybe I dreamt it? 🙂 Does anyone know?

  4. I am so grateful I found your podcast, Tim. I am totally addicted to it – listening all the time in my car, on my way to and fro my kid’s school…

    This episode reminds me of the best two weeks of my life – spent in India, celebrating the 25th anniversary of a volunteer-based organization. The diarrhea started on the plane and never stopped, we slept on the simplest foam mattresses mounted on wooden frames, there was one power socket for twenty men in the whole shed made of gyps-carton. The “showers” were just pipes coming out of black metal tanks heated by the sun. We never slept more than 3-4 hours a night, had to trek for hours in pre-WWII buses to the sight where the celebrations were… I did not shave for two weeks. But we were with the most benevolent crowd that could ever exist from all over the world. The cause was the noblest one I could ever imagine and we were just constantly on different vibes. Then on our way back we changed planes with a sleepover in Bahrain – luxury beyond imagination everywhere. And I still liked good ol’ India better. An experience like this changes one’s whole perspective on life.

      1. Thanks for the reply Paul, but the PDF version doesn’t work well for me. I’ve tried reading it via the Kindle and iBooks, but even when trying to convert to those formats the experience isn’t a good one. Wonder why Tim doesn’t at least make a Kindle Version.

  5. My only complaint about this audio book is that the titles aren’t the letter titles in iTunes. Just makes it hard to find the episode where you left off 😀 thanks for making it at all tho!