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Jocko Podcast

394: Lessons from the Stoics. Discipline, Leadership, Life. With Ryan Holiday.

Wed Jul 12 2023
Self-disciplineStoicismAmerican ApparelFake newsLeadership


This episode covers various topics including self-discipline, personal journey, creative pursuits, writing process, career choices, manipulation, fake news, conspiracy theories, leadership lessons, emotional awareness, stoicism, and discipline. The chapters provide insights into the importance of discipline in achieving success and personal growth. The speakers share their experiences and lessons learned from their careers and personal lives. Stoic philosophy is discussed as a practical guide for dealing with challenges and finding inner peace. The downfall of American Apparel is examined as a case study in ethics and leadership. Overall, the episode emphasizes the value of discipline and self-control in all aspects of life.


Discipline Equals Freedom

The concept of discipline is central to achieving freedom and success in life. By practicing self-discipline, individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

Stoicism as a Practical Philosophy

Stoicism offers practical advice for dealing with life's challenges and finding inner peace. It emphasizes the importance of controlling one's emotions and focusing on what is within one's control.

The Downfall of American Apparel

The collapse of American Apparel was attributed to a lack of ethics and discipline in leadership. The CEO's ego-driven decisions and failure to delegate effectively led to the company's downfall.

The Impact of Fake News and Manipulation

The spread of fake news and manipulation through social media has had a significant impact on public perception and trust in news reporting. It highlights the importance of critical thinking and fact-checking.

Leadership Lessons from Stoicism

Stoic philosophy offers valuable insights into effective leadership, emphasizing the importance of humility, self-control, and taking ownership of one's actions. It encourages leaders to prioritize the well-being of their team and admit mistakes.


  1. Self-discipline and Temperance
  2. Personal Journey and High School Experience
  3. Creative Pursuits and Career Aspirations
  4. Writing Process and Apprenticeship with Robert Greene
  5. Career Choices and Lessons Learned
  6. Success and Downfall of American Apparel
  7. Ethics, Sustainability, and Longevity in Fashion
  8. Downfall of American Apparel and Lessons Learned
  9. Manipulation, Fake News, and Media
  10. Conspiracy Theories and Social Media Impact
  11. Cyber Warfare and Growth Hacking
  12. Writing Books and Stoicism
  13. Stoicism and Personal Growth
  14. Courage, Discipline, and Stoic Philosophy
  15. Leadership Lessons from Marcus Aurelius
  16. Lessons from Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus
  17. Ego, Leadership, and Decision-Making
  18. Discipline, Leadership, and Success
  19. Emotional Awareness and Stoicism
  20. Stoicism and Personal Resilience
  21. Writing Books and Stoic Practices
  22. Open-mindedness and Stoic Virtues
  23. Discipline Equals Freedom

Self-discipline and Temperance

00:00 - 07:17

  • Self-discipline is the ability to work hard, say no, practice good habits, and set boundaries.
  • Temperance is not deprivation but command of oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  • Discipline ensures success or failure and colors who you are.

Personal Journey and High School Experience

06:50 - 13:05

  • The speaker's parents had regular jobs as a police detective and a school principal.
  • The speaker did not relate to their parents' professions and had different interests.
  • The speaker was into literature and heavy metal music in high school.
  • They ran cross country and track instead of playing football.
  • The speaker was afraid of trying too hard because of the fear of failure.
  • They engaged in mischief with friends, including stealing things and throwing them off bridges.
  • Americans tend to destroy things like electrical scooters, while other cultures embrace them.

Creative Pursuits and Career Aspirations

12:50 - 19:17

  • Desire to not have a traditional job, but do what one wants to do
  • Meeting college professors made pursuing creative endeavors seem possible
  • Realization that childhood interests can become careers
  • 'Nepo babies' backlash against famous people with famous or wealthy parents

Writing Process and Apprenticeship with Robert Greene

24:32 - 31:00

  • The process of writing a book is different for each author, with some books being more research-driven and others more personal.
  • The author learned a lot from Robert Greene's research system and the discipline of writing.
  • He would read books that Robert Greene didn't want to read and present the key information to him.
  • Robert Greene trusted the author to find interesting stories or eliminate dead-ends in his research.
  • The author's apprenticeship with Robert Greene taught him how to do what he ultimately wanted to do - write books.
  • The author knew he wanted to be an author like Robert Greene and pursued this career for about six or seven years.
  • Even after publishing his first book, the author continued working with Robert Greene until he was told to stop.

Career Choices and Lessons Learned

30:32 - 36:31

  • The speaker dropped out of college to work for a talent agency.
  • Most life decisions are not permanent and can be undone or adjusted.
  • The speaker's parents were not happy about the decision to drop out of college.
  • The boss at the talent agency was absent when the speaker arrived, causing confusion and uncertainty about their position.
  • The speaker had a disagreement with one of the partners at the talent agency, leading to their departure from the company.
  • The speaker recalls an incident where they were caught listening in on a conference call and faced confrontation from their boss.

Success and Downfall of American Apparel

36:02 - 42:42

  • The speaker recounts a story about being fired from a talent agency and then getting an offer to work for American Apparel.
  • The speaker attributes the job offer to their perceived understanding of computers and online culture.
  • The speaker eventually becomes the director of marketing at American Apparel.
  • The podcast host admits to being unaware of the American Apparel phenomenon.
  • The speaker describes the success and controversy surrounding American Apparel's advertising campaigns.
  • The CEO of American Apparel, Dove, is praised for his ability to do multiple roles but criticized for his lack of delegation skills as the company grew.
  • The speaker highlights how Dove built a successful garment manufacturing business in the United States despite industry norms favoring overseas production.
  • The importance of creating cool products that people want, rather than focusing solely on price, is discussed.

Ethics, Sustainability, and Longevity in Fashion

42:21 - 48:34

  • Most fashion companies prioritize low prices, but creating cool and desirable products can overcome price consciousness and ethical compromises.
  • Automation is not feasible for sewing due to the unique nature of cloth, so human labor is necessary.
  • Factory work can be rewarding and provide good career opportunities for those who enjoy working with their hands.
  • Many companies engage in greenwashing by claiming environmental contributions while manufacturing in countries with lax regulations.
  • American Apparel's vertically integrated model allowed them to bypass middlemen and reduce costs.
  • By focusing on timeless and evergreen designs, American Apparel avoided planned obsolescence and customer exploitation.
  • Creating perennial products widens the target market and allows for better decision-making based on long-term demand.

Downfall of American Apparel and Lessons Learned

48:16 - 54:59

  • The downfall of the company was due to a collapse of ethics and discipline, including inappropriate relationships with employees.
  • The CEO started trying to copy other fast fashion companies instead of sticking to their own successful business model.
  • They abandoned selling classic items and tried to ride trends, which led to unsold inventory.
  • The CEO lacked personal discipline and boundaries, working excessively and calling people at odd hours.
  • He became a performer who wanted to be heard more than he wanted success.
  • His leadership style repelled talented operators, leaving behind unqualified or unstable individuals.
  • The company fell apart around 2014, with the CEO making impulsive decisions and losing touch with reality.

Manipulation, Fake News, and Media

54:48 - 1:01:55

  • Foreign actors use tactics like creating fake Facebook groups to promote certain ideas and generate media attention.
  • American Apparel used controversial ads to gain publicity by creating fake ads that would be written about.
  • The author realized that no one was fact-checking these ads, leading them to question the integrity of news reporting.
  • The author wrote a book warning about the dangers of misinformation and fake news, but it was initially received negatively.
  • The author also participated in a service called 'Help a Reporter Out' where they pretended to be an expert on various topics for media interviews.
  • The book became popular with bad actors who wanted to learn guerrilla marketing techniques.
  • The author started receiving questions from sleazy individuals looking for advice on scams.

Conspiracy Theories and Social Media Impact

1:01:28 - 1:07:39

  • The book is irreverent and discusses how people's reputations can be ruined by rumors or things taken out of context.
  • The author received feedback from many individuals who have been accused of misconduct, and initially believed they were innocent but later realized that some were guilty.
  • The author wanted to expose the tricks used by scammers, thinking that revealing them would make them ineffective, but this was not the case.
  • Social media has become the main news source for most people, and it is easy for fake accounts or bots to spread extreme ideas and pit Americans against each other.
  • Friction within a team can lead to its downfall, as seen in America's current divisive climate.
  • The author experienced firsthand how conspiracy theories can spread through social media and impact public perception.

Cyber Warfare and Growth Hacking

1:07:19 - 1:13:50

  • Conspiracy theory about federal government planning a takeover of states spreads through social media and news outlets
  • Governor Greg Abbott sends National Guard to observe the exercises, potentially leading to conflict
  • Cyber warfare involves spreading false information to rile people up
  • Book 'Growth Hacker Marketing' discusses how Hotmail used growth hacking to go viral
  • Growth hackers focus on testable, trackable, and scalable methods like emails, data targeting, blogs, and platform APIs
  • Companies that grew rapidly without traditional marketing inspired the book
  • Marketing has fundamentally changed from the Mad Men era
  • Facebook had a growth department instead of a marketing department
  • Traditional marketing may be cool but its effectiveness is uncertain

Writing Books and Stoicism

1:20:28 - 1:27:07

  • The speaker got an agent who was also Tim Ferriss' agent.
  • The speaker wrote a book and it sold at an auction for a large sum of money.
  • The speaker announced a higher advance for the book to generate more press.
  • The book sold well but received more attention than actual copies sold.
  • The speaker approached their publisher with the idea of writing about an obscure school of ancient philosophy for their next book.
  • The publisher was initially surprised by the idea but eventually agreed to publish it.
  • The speaker worked on marketing Tim Ferriss' books and learned a lot from him.
  • Tim Ferriss' book, 'The Four Hour Chef', faced challenges with traditional publishers due to its release on Amazon Publishing.
  • To overcome this, they gave away a large portion

Stoicism and Personal Growth

1:32:56 - 1:39:27

  • Stoicism is popular in academic life because it is simple, accessible, and practical.
  • Stoicism focuses on what it means to be a person in a world where most things are outside of our control.
  • The passage about getting out of bed early in the morning struck the speaker as relatable and powerful.
  • The speaker did not read many books in high school but later realized the importance of reading and writing in his military career.
  • Reading military history books helped the speaker relate to his own experiences in war.
  • Becoming a good writer was important for the speaker's role as an officer in the military.
  • The speaker started reading more when he went to college and took multiple English classes.
  • People started recognizing the stoic elements in the speaker's writing.

Courage, Discipline, and Stoic Philosophy

1:39:09 - 1:46:09

  • Discipline equals freedom, applies to life and teams
  • Stoicism and Buddhism share the idea of controlling our response to events
  • Philosophy offers practical advice for dealing with life's challenges
  • Absolute power corrupts, as seen in the case of Caesar
  • Marcus Aurelius wrote about overcoming obstacles and finding opportunity within them
  • To overcome obstacles, be objective, control emotions, focus on what can be controlled

Leadership Lessons from Marcus Aurelius

1:52:03 - 1:59:09

  • Marcus Aurelius faced numerous challenges during his reign as emperor, including a plague, floods, and constant warfare.
  • Despite the difficulties, Marcus saw these obstacles as opportunities to practice stoicism and grow as a person.
  • The idea that the obstacle is the way does not mean that everything will magically work out in your favor, but rather that you can find virtue and excellence within difficult situations.
  • Taking ownership of problems is essential for leaders, even if the issues are not directly their fault.
  • Successful companies are often humble enough to admit mistakes and make adjustments when necessary.
  • On the other hand, failing companies tend to blame external factors instead of taking responsibility for their own actions.
  • Marcus Aurelius learned valuable lessons from his predecessor Antoninus Pius and had a close mentorship with him.

Lessons from Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus

1:58:49 - 2:05:45

  • Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus had a unique relationship of apprenticeship
  • Marcus learns valuable lessons from Antoninus on leadership and being a great human being
  • Marcus names his stepbrother Co-Emperor and gives away half of his power
  • Meditations was written during a plague, showing the timelessness of philosophy
  • Ego is a common theme in Greek plays, tragedies, and superhero movies
  • Stoic philosophy helped the speaker stay out of trouble at American Apparel
  • Ego-driven decisions in military history have caused many casualties
  • Lack of humility leads to implosion and terrible leadership
  • Having an ego prevents learning and personal growth

Ego, Leadership, and Decision-Making

2:05:18 - 2:12:06

  • Having ego can lead to getting fired and being destroyed.
  • Confidence allows for growth, while ego hinders progress.
  • Life and progress involve bumping up against limitations and the unknown.
  • Struggling with growth can threaten one's identity and self-worth.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower prioritized organization and delegation as president.
  • Eisenhower trusted his staff to handle important tasks.
  • Running a tight ship allowed Eisenhower to have leisure time.
  • Moving up in life requires organizing and growing up.
  • John DeLorean's mismanagement led to the failure of his car company.
  • DeLorean's ego hindered discipline, organization, and strategic planning.
  • DeLorean couldn't delegate effectively or focus on one project at a time.

Discipline, Leadership, and Success

3:44:15 - 3:50:58

  • Discipline is a form of greatness even in the face of loss.
  • Seneca emphasized that everyone is a slave to something, whether it be sex, money, ambition, hope, or fear.
  • The first step to overcoming dependency is to pull oneself out of ignorance and recognize the source of dependency.
  • Cleanliness from addictions and unhealthy habits is crucial for personal growth.
  • Even socially acceptable habits can be harmful if they are not good for an individual's well-being.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower quit smoking by giving himself an order to do so after realizing the harm it was causing him.
  • A man who was addicted to video games stopped playing them after hearing someone else's success story with quitting a different habit.
  • Self-mastery is essential for effective leadership and true power lies in self-control.
  • Leaders

Emotional Awareness and Stoicism

3:50:39 - 3:57:12

  • Discipline is essential for making good decisions, leadership, and navigating through life.
  • The paradox of masculinity is that crying or being scared is seen as weakness, while anger and aggression are seen as strength.
  • Emotional vulnerability can be beneficial, as suppressing emotions can lead to negative consequences.
  • Stoicism is about having emotional awareness and self-discipline to not be controlled by emotions.
  • There's a difference between feeling an emotion and acting on it. Seeking help is important if emotions become overwhelming or debilitating.
  • Controlling emotions becomes more possible with age, but there are times when emotions may feel uncontrollable after a significant loss.
  • Suppressing all emotions is not healthy; some should be expressed while others should be stifled depending on the situation.
  • Being aware of the

Stoicism and Personal Resilience

3:56:43 - 4:03:04

  • The Boy Who Would Be King is a children's book about Marcus Aurelius and stoicism.
  • The author wrote the book during the pandemic to teach his kids about stoicism.
  • The Girl Who Would Be Free is another children's book based on Epictetus.
  • The author wanted to tell a female version of the story to show that stoicism is not just for boys.
  • Epictetus' story resonated with Stockdale, a fighter pilot who was introduced to stoicism in college.
  • Stockdale tapped messages to other POWs referencing Epictetus' teachings.
  • Epictetus taught that we have freedom of choice and should focus on what is within our control.
  • Living with cellmates in the Hanoi Hilton, POWs would learn everything about each other

Writing Books and Stoic Practices

4:02:41 - 4:09:26

  • Living with a cellmate in prison provides an opportunity to learn about each other's lives and practice stoicism.
  • Stoicism teaches that we choose to be offended or annoyed by others' actions.
  • Taking ownership of our reactions is key in stoicism.
  • Setting a low bar for positive contribution can make writing easier.
  • Reading what was written the previous day helps maintain momentum in writing.
  • Saving ideas for the next day's to-do list keeps excitement and motivation high.
  • Ryan Holiday has a website,, where he shares daily stoic practices through email and podcasts.

Open-mindedness and Stoic Virtues

4:08:59 - 4:15:57

  • Ryan successfully avoided the negative aspects of fame and fortune in Hollywood.
  • The advertisements for American Apparel were visually appealing and contributed to its success.
  • Choco Live shows in Ann Arbor and Chicago were powerful and well-received.
  • Upcoming Choco Live shows in Boston and Philly are almost sold out.
  • Jocko is approachable and willing to meet fans, sign books, and shake hands at his events.
  • Jocko Fuel energy drink provides a boost during live events.
  • Jocko Fuel protein powder is convenient for travel and offers a tasty alternative to airport food.
  • Ready-to-drink Jocko Fuel protein shakes are popular among consumers.
  • Jocko Fuel products can be found at various retailers including Wawa, vitamin shops, military commiss

Discipline Equals Freedom

4:22:30 - 4:23:12

  • Unmitigated daily discipline in all things.
  • Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses.
  • Do what you're supposed to do?
  • Freedom isn't secured by filling up on your heart's desire, but by removing your heart's desire.
  • Discipline equals freedom.