Book Notes: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius is my favorite Stoic Philosopher. He along with Seneca and Epictetus are at the top of the list for you to check out. You must also read to works from the world’s best living Stoic Philosopher, Ryan Holiday.

Ryan introduced me to Marcus and Stoicism years ago through his epic book, The Obstacle is the Way (book and my book notes can be found inside the Inner Circle.) 

What I find most fascinating about the book Meditations is that this was never meant to be a book in the first place. The wisdom shared by Marcus came directly from his personal journals. (Are you writing in your journal – daily?)

How incredible is that?

Let’s kick these notes off with some amazing quotes from the book:

“Your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.”

You’ve heard of YOLO, right? Well, it is true – you only live once. So in order to avoid the deathbed dilemma you must close the gap between who you are today and who you’re capable of becoming.

“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.”


It was in the 2nd Century, during battles against Barbarian tribes in the Danube region near Hungary (not unlike the opening scene of Gladiator), when Aurelius wrote Meditations.

Imagine the powerful Roman Empire: Encompassing vast territory from England to Spain and Africa, to Egypt, Arabia and Turkey. This is the Empire that Marcus Aurelius defended from barbarians and pestilence and plague at every border.

Now, you can imagine Aurelius, the Emperor of this vast empire, trained in the Stoic philosophy, reminding himself to live the philosophy during some of the most trying times of his rule—in the battlefields of war.

Interestingly, the literal translation of the title is “To Himself”—as Aurelius was simply jotting notes to himself in his private journal.

His intention was not to publish anything; rather, he used his journal to remind himself of the lessons he learned as a young nobleman being groomed to one day rule the empire.

The book is broken down into bite-size nuggets of wisdom that you can enjoy a few minutes at a time. I highly recommend you start enjoying!


We’ll begin with the basics. The modern word “stoic” is derived from the calm demeanor of the stoic philosopher. The philosophy itself, however, was named “stoicism” because its founder, Zeno (344-262 bce), taught in a well-known stoa: a colonnade or porch.

Stoicism is one of three prominent philosophies of the Hellenistic era (the other two: Cynicism and Epicureanism). The philosophy was founded by Zeno about 300 bce. (To put it in perspective, Plato founded the Academy in 385 bce.) Although relatively obscure today, Stoicism was the dominant philosophy of the Western world for several centuries. It lost its prominence when the emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century.

As the historian Lecky points out, “Stoicism became the religion of the educated classes. It furnished the principles of virtue, coloured the noblest literature of the time, and guided all the developments of moral enthusiasm.”


“Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what future time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.”

I like that advice.

Imagine this: You just died.

Bam! You’re gone.

And… You got the good fortune to come back starting… Now!

OK. Now live as if every moment is a gift. (in the present… get it, lol)

And, know this: “Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses… This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.”

This ideology is one of the foundational linchpins of the Real Estate Good Life. Which calls for the conscious decision to avoid the Deathbed Dilemma at all costs. When you’re lying on your deathbed about to croke and in walks the person you could’ve been… the person you should’ve been… that’s the deathbed dilemma. 

Real Estate Good Life is the version you should’ve been yelling back to you from the future, “Please!!! I’m beggin you… get you sh*t together right now and start living your best life!”

This goes along with what Abraham Maslow told us, “What one can be, one MUST be.”


“Never confuse yourself by visions of an entire lifetime at once… remember that it is not the weight of the future or the past that is pressing upon you, but ever that of the present alone.”

This is brilliant.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by “visions of an entire lifetime at once,” eh?

As Aurelius reminds us: What really matters is THIS moment. So, while we go out and pursue our highest visions, let’s remember to put all of our energy into impeccably taking the next step… and the next step and …

And, let’s forget:


“The approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes, has no value for him.”

I love that. It’s amazing how easy it is to worry about other people’s opinions of us, right? The irony is, as Aurelius points out here, that most people don’t even have a favorable opinion of THEMSELVES and yet we worry about their opinions of us.

“You should banish any thoughts of how you may appear to others.”

This reminds me of the incredible book by Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. This book is a must read. You can find the greatest books notes ever written for this book inside the Inner Circle. You can also check out the original blog post that Mark wrote which led to the writing of the book (which has now sold over 15M copies!)


“Men seek for seclusion in the wilderness, by the seashore, or in the mountains – a dream you have cherished too fondly yourself. But such fancies are wholly unworthy of a philosopher, since at any moment you choose you can retire within yourself. Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul; above all, he possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind – the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit. Avail yourself often, then, of this retirement and so continually renew  yourself.”

I love the tranquility of retreating into my own soul. (of course, I’m also an introvert which contributes to this love)

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom comes to mind here: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

How about you? Are you practicing retreating into yourself regularly throughout your day?


“O world, I am in tune with every note of thy great harmony. For me nothing is early, nothing late, if it be timely for thee. O Nature, all that thy seasons yield is fruit for me.”

Remember, all of these quotes are from notes that Aurelius wrote TO HIMSELF in his journal—reminding himself of the values in which he believed. Reading his private journal, we see the commitment and humility with which arguably the world’s most powerful man of his era faced his challenges. It’s quite remarkable to see this Emperor from nearly two thousand years ago struggling with the same challenges we face and reminding himself of the same truths we all strive to embody.

One of the many reasons I love to read old philosophy, the works of Emerson, personal development books like Think & Grow Rich, and quotes from our forefathers… we’re all the same in our thoughts, our struggles, and our yearning for peace of mind.


One prominent theme in Aurelius’ notes to himself is the idea of change. He says: “Time is a river, the resistless flow of all created things. One thing no sooner comes in sight than it is hurried past and another is borne along, only to be swept away in its turn.”

And: “Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away.”

“Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be.”

Change. The one constant we can rely on. Are you fighting it or flowing with it in your life today?


“Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

As you know if you’ve read any of these Notes, we come back to the idea that we all have a unique purpose again… and again… and again!

From Martin Seligman’s science of happiness (know your strengths and use them often!) to the Buddha’s admonition to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.

So, the constant question: For what were you created?!?

What makes you feel most alive? If you had all the money and all the time in the world, what would you do? What are you doing when time simply evaporates for you? What are your greatest gifts and how are you giving them to the world?!?

Let’s look at those questions and discover the true delight of doing the things for which we were made!!

… And, while we do that, let’s combine that with:


“Let your one delight and refreshment be to pass from one service to the community to another, with God* ever in mind.”

(*Insert: God, the Universe, Buddha, whatever you believe in here)

Combining knowledge of what you’re here to do with service to the community is pretty much EXACTLY Martin Seligman’s science of living a meaningful life. Let’s get on that!


“When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.”

This one makes my face tingle.

When I first read it years ago, it inspired me to create what I call the “equanimity reset.”

The rules of the reset are simple: Notice when you’re off-balance (when you start to lose your patience with someone or something), and see how fast you can catch yourself —bringing yourself back to equanimity.

As Aurelius says: “Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.” 

btw: equanimity from the Latin: aequus, (even) + animus, (mind), the word means “balanced mind.” A balanced mind is REQUIRED in order to live the Good Life.


“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

The golden rule. Well, one of them, anyway.

NOTHING outside of ourselves has power over us.

We ALWAYS (yes, always!) have the power to choose our response. So, we need to quit being victims, blaming a circumstance or a person for our ills. They’re not the problem. We are. Let’s choose to create a new response.

“Take me and cast me where you will; I shall still be possessor of the divinity within me, serene and content.”

Remember what Viktor Frankl told us, “Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our POWER to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


“I seek the truth… it is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance that does harm.”

What do you seek? Know that only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance does harm. (Strong words.)

Are you deluding yourself? Me, too, way too often. How about we make seeking the truth our primary objective from here on out? 🙂

We know that in pursuing Personal Greatness we must create Self-Mastery. Inside of Self-Mastery is a magical combination of self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-love. Marcus agrees with us that self-awareness is a superpower.


“Nothing is worth doing pointlessly.”

Reminds me of the Buddha’s comment: “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”

Do it. Or don’t do it.

But if you do it, do it with all your heart.

And know this: “Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for a man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity.”


“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.”

This thought is worth repeating and it makes me want to reach back in time and give Aurelius a big hug and a high five. Seriously. He’s saying that thoughts are things. He’s saying, what you think about – you bring about. Which is exactly what Napoleon Hill told us in Think & Grow Rich.


“Think often of the bond that unites all things in the universe, and their dependence on one  another.”

I like to think as often as possible of the incredible bond I share with you and with everyone and everything on this beautiful planet of ours. I especially enjoy the love and bond I have for the agents that join the Inner Circle, lol!

Thanks for reading my book notes for the incredible works of Marcus Aurelius. Please take the time soon to read the entire book.

Have a great day my friend,

Bart “book notes” Vickrey