Practicing What You Preach (#185)

practice what you preach

“Prove your words by your deeds.” – Seneca the Younger

My job is usually to deconstruct world-class performers and tease out their routines and habits you can use.

But in this in-betweenisode, I present some short nuggets of practical, tactical philosophy about practicing what you preach.

This is a letter from Stoic heavyweight Seneca the Younger — who lived a mere 2,000 years or so ago — to his friend Lucilius. It’s from a collection of letters that comprise, effectively, my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it dozens of times, and I loved it so much that I turned it into The Tao of Seneca, a three-volume set of audiobooks. If you prefer a written version of the Tao of Seneca, you can find it here for free.

This is a letter you’ve not heard on the podcast before; it’s worth the listen just for the definition of wisdom, incredible quotes from Epicurus, and discussion of having riches without riches having you.


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

#185: Practicing What You Preach

Want to hear another segment from The Tao of Seneca? — Listen to How to Avoid the Busy Trap. In this episode, I dig deeper into useful philosophy and how we think of riches (stream below or right-click here to download):

#147: How to Avoid the Busy Trap (And Other Misuses of Your Time)

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • Letter 20: On Practicing What You Preach [04:11]
  • Prove your words by your deeds. [04:32]
  • Philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak. [05:04]
  • The highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom. [05:21]
  • The philosopher may not always be able to keep the same pace, but he can always travel the same path. [05:46]
  • Are your words and deeds in accord? Here are ways to tell (and why it matters). [05:54]
  • What is wisdom? [06:56]
  • What can be learned by the bounty of poverty? [07:44]
  • It means much not to be spoiled by intimacy with riches. [09:29]
  • The mark of a noble spirit. [10:35]
  • The merits of practicing poverty. [11:01]

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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25 Replies to “Practicing What You Preach (#185)”

  1. “Wisdom is always wanting the same things and always refusing the same things.” Had a similar conversation with myself just yesterday. Thank you for reinforcing it.

  2. Hi Tim, love the podcast and I look forward to your new book. I always enjoy how Seneca ends his letters so my favorite quote here was “No man is born rich. Every man, when he first sees light, is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning, and yet kingdoms are all too small for us.”

  3. Hey Tim! Thank you for this precious share. I have always been a fan of ancient philosophy, but it is often hard to apply it to real life (nobody teaches that in school hehe). Thinking that some 200-year-old thoughts are still so suitable for us in our present is astonishing! So then, what I will keep from these letters is: be present; have courage; be true to yourself; travel light and always follow your path.


    Happy weekend everyone. Cheers!

  4. Hey Tim,

    My name is Brennan Goodson, and recently I started a new job in sales. I haven’t ever done this type of sales before and went to my new boss who I had heard listened to a few podcasts about sales. I was just going to get on and find some but I was scared to listen to the wrong thing for me. He immediately said your show, and also the art of charm. It’s good but it’s not you. I realized after listening to you for a few weeks that I am just not where I want to be at all in life. The new job is epic and I love it so that’s a start. I eventually got to the Tony Robins show. I sat in my car and listened (walked in late to work because I couldn’t stop listening, told boss and he thought it was awesome, still not gonna do it again though), I am grateful to you and Tony, I have started losing weight again, my love life is better than it has ever been, my whole mindset has shifted. I feel like I have been only thinking one move ahead my entire life and now I can see ten moves ahead.

    Thank you from a new fan,

    Brennan Goodson

  5. Tim, my mind and body crave your podcasts like the needed antidote they provide me at the end of a busy day. I listen to each and every one (each episode often times more than once) on my afternoon runs and love everything about them – the guests, the topics, your questions. They give me an elevated perspective – truly enriching… but I have a suggestion for these audio versions of the Stoics.

    The voice – and I don’t necessarily mean the person doing the reading – but the voice he uses is off-putting. It’s a “philosophy voice” or a “poetry voice,” and after many hours of listening to you, I don’t think that’s what the Stoics are to you. You convey that they are practical (not lofty) voices that live in and make the best of the real world.

    I’ve listened to this particular in-between-isode about 4 or 5 times because when I really concentrate on the lesson (and to do this I have to work hard to get past the voice) I find some real nuggets of practical wisdom. This stuff is amazing! When I visualize the voice that I want these letters to be read in it is one that is warmer, softer yet more masculine. This writer is taking his student under his wing and gently pointing out a beautiful way to live. I imagine a coach speaking man to man. The way it’s recorded it sounds pointy and angular and a bit snobby.

    I’m just saying that I get why you’re sharing this and why you’ve put the effort into making it accessible to us – thanks for that. More guy-to-guy like your other podcast conversations and less lofty. This is amazing stuff.

    Keep up the great work.

  6. Hi Tim, huge fan of your podcast! I have really begun digging into the practice of stoicism in the past few months and it’s been helping me out in coping with this fiasco of an election season. I know I personally have very little personal control over the outcome for the 2016 presidential race, but I figured I could make a request and do my part. Would you consider reaching out to Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, for an interview? I feel like you would have some great questions that other commentators simply wouldn’t even consider.


  7. Hey Tim, thanks for all that you are doing. You keep me feeling inspired. I know you are a fan of Kurt Vonnegut as am I, you should be a part of Vonnegut’s world here in Indianapolis, we are debuting Happy Birthday, Wanda June this weekend. Just a fun fact for you. Thanks again for sharing the knowledge.

  8. My favorite quote from this piece is “Philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak.” It is always great to get a reminder of how easy it is to study and talk great philosophy in comparison to the courage it takes to introspect and make a real effort to apply it in your actions.

  9. Hey man. Love the podcast, always great guests and great convos! I believe it was the most recent episode with Jamie Foxx where you discussed needing a word to use when people are quick to label people in order to marginalize or minimize what they are saying. (Basically an effort to push back against hyper political correctness.) My suggestion is use a term that is straight forward that needs no explaining. For those quick to use labels why not simply refer to them as “labelists”. You are definitely correct that they can throw out all kinds of terms and then hide because there is no term for what they are doing. Anyways just wanted to throw that out. Keep up the good work!

  10. Hi have you wondered in the book “A guide to the good life” by Willian Irvine. He brings a lot of Joy into Stoicism, if that is possible, better he brings a more Joyful way to present Stoicism to us. Would you consider these as manuals, better the ones you’ve been giving from and to, as manuals for life? In any case have you interviewed some people that went in other ways and paths and are also truly happy?

  11. Great podcast! I believe that talking and overthinking it is bad for business. We all have that friend that always says that this is his year and he’s going to do this or that, but never does.

  12. Hi Tim- long time follower. I have to share with you that my ten and fifteen year old daughters and I listen to your podcasts and this one was extra special as we are studying philosophy as it helps us to better understand ourselves and the world we live in. Please keep putting out awesome content!

    “Let no one when young delay to study philosophy, nor when he is old, grow weary of his study. For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul.” – Epicurus

    p.s Alain de Botton from the School of life would make for an awesome interview podcast!

  13. Hello Tim,

    Of the four steps you in the four our workbook, step two is what has changed my life forever.

    I have eliminated everything and now I am dedicating myself into learning.

    I have even find the new meaning for my name! can you imagine…..

    E = Eliminate

    M = My

    M = Man

    A = Automate

    N = Now

    U = U

    E = Earn

    L = Liberty

    That’s it Emmanuel…